Tag: Team Building

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr

The following is an interview of Rachel Burr by PICA, Professional Independent Consultants of America.

Q&A with Rachel Burr of Catamentum Leadership Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr of Catamentum Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

https://www.successfulindependentconsulting.com/rachel-burr-spotlight

Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business.

A: My name is Rachel Burr, and my company is Catamentum Coaching and Consulting (“Catalyze Momentum”). When we Catalyze Momentum, we can Unleash Potential. I’m an executive coach, leadership development consultant, and overall “people expert.” A big part of what I do is to help leaders step into their authentic potential. The way I see it, a lot of leaders may feel forced into a cookie cutter of leadership, either by what they think leadership is supposed to be or what they see modeled around them. My consulting approach is focused on getting leaders to explore who they are at their core, including their strengths and weaknesses, their values, and what they want to do as a leader. Then we look how they bring that core to their current role or the role they’d like to have. 

Q: Do you do a blend of coaching and consulting work or primarily just the coaching?

A: I do both. I do individual leadership coaching, I work with teams, and I facilitate tailored workshops. I also work with executives as a thought partner. I help them think through their people strategies, challenges, and opportunities.  Leaders will often have ideas and questions about their people and overall organization, but they may not be sure how to put these ideas into action. Leaders may not yet be ready to talk about these ideas with their boss, and it may not be appropriate at that point to talk with their team. I help leaders unpack their ideas and examine their options so they can make better decisions. 

Q: How long have you been independent now?

A: Four years, but it seems like so much has happened.

Q: How did you make the leap to independent consulting? 

A: It’s funny because I resigned from my corporate job without knowing what I was going to do next. There were a lot of things I appreciated about corporate, but I was also spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really leveraging my talents. I was comfortable but not happy. I’m a big believer that we have to make ourselves uncomfortable to catalyze change.  So, I quit.

I left not knowing what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to explore the possibilities.  Granted, I had the benefit of my husband being very supportive, and having good health insurance. So, that made the leap into the unknown a little easier.

Initially, I stared to look at other corporate jobs. I wasn’t even thinking about consulting. I applied for a job, and I didn’t get it, which turned out to be a good thing. Then, I agreed to do an interview for a second corporate position, but it just didn’t feel right. A friend who had her own consulting business asked me why I didn’t try going independent. Then, she hired me to work on a small consulting project to help me “dip my toe in the water.” I remember the first day I met with the client. We were discussing their objectives and needs, the outcomes they wanted, and brainstorming ideas. I loved it!  30 minutes into our meeting, I thought, “Why have I never done this before?” That was it. I finished the project, and that summer, I started my own coaching and consulting company.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you would have done differently?

A: I would have asked for help earlier. I think when you go out on your own you feel like you have to do everything yourself. But you have people around you who are really good at what they do. They’re talented and they’ve got their own work that supports the business you want to grow. So, reach out. Build your village.

Q: Once you decided to really go for it how did you get your own clients?   

A: I had a number of strong relationships with people I had worked with and whom I greatly respected. The people I knew in HR, talent management, and consulting were natural conduits for connecting me with leaders to help them address needs in their organizations. One by one, I had people take a chance on me. I continued to build relationships, and as people get to know and trust you, building your business begins to come more naturally. It’s important to connect with folks in a way that’s genuine and authentic. Understand their pain points, what they are managing or struggling with, and figure out how you can help them.

Q: You make it sound very easy, Rachel. What’s your secret sauce?

A: It is not easy. There were so many times I was just overwhelmed because I had no idea how to run a business. Someone recently told me that you have to have a business plan before you jump in. I didn’t even know what a business plan was! I had moments that were these little highs from my wins. I also had moments of thinking I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

I specifically remember a friend of mine who had also decided to leave corporate. She left before I did, and I had been there to help her when she was figuring things out. After I had been out on my own for about six months, she called and said, “Hey, I’m going to this business accelerator program. Do you want to come with me?” I didn’t even know what that was.  We both signed up for the program, and as I went through it, I started to see all the things I didn’t realize. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also remember being overwhelmed worrying about money, which is totally normal, but then you have to learn to invest in yourself to move forward and get to that next level. I remember calling my husband before I signed up for the program, because we are very good about making financial decisions together. I told him, “I really need help. I think this program could help me but it’s a lot of money.” I told him how much it cost. He was completely supportive and said, “If that’s what you need to do, that’s what you need to do.” I think it’s really important to tell people there’s no magic formula. Some days it was really a struggle and I wanted to give up. Those were the times I had to pick myself back up, reflect on what I learned, identify what I was going to do differently, and also identify those things I would never do again. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s going to be a journey.

Q: Four years in, what has changed or gotten easier?

A: One thing was that when I first started I had a really negative misconception of what it meant to sell my services. The word “sell” was a real hang up for me. I had this idea that I was pushing someone into something or getting them to do something that maybe they didn’t really want to do. After talking with a number of consultants, coaches, and other people I trusted and respected, I realized selling isn’t about pushing. It’s about listening, understanding a client’s challenges and pain points, and hearing what they want to achieve. Then, we can talk about how I can support them to address their problems. With that new mindset, my idea of selling shifted from feeling like a push to feeling like a partnership, and I love that.

Q:  What’s next for you and Catamentum Coaching & Consulting?

A: I love that I am continuing to figure out the kind of work I really want to do, that place where passion and talent intersect. I’m also figuring out what I don’t want to do. To say Yes to some things, you have to say No to others. We only get 24 hours in a day, so we have to figure out how to prioritize that time.

I want to expand my executive coaching and team coaching. I also love tailoring and facilitating workshops for teams and other groups. I’m not one to just pull something off the shelf. I want to adapt the approach to each group.

I also want to do more guesting on podcasts. I’m an extrovert at heart, so being able to get out there and talk with others about people, leadership, and unleashing our potential, that really fuels my passion.

Q: If people want to learn more about you and or what you do, what would be the best way to do that?

A: They can reach out on my website and of course I’m on LinkedIn.

Three Tricks to Managing Virtual Teams

Virtual teams’ management requires leadership to use people skills and communication technology to build trust, teamwork and relationships.

Leaders want to know the “tricks” to managing virtual teams. We want better tools, systems, and processes that will take groups of people spread around the country, or even the world, and transform them into well-oiled high-performing teams. Here’s the secret: There are no tricks or shortcuts to building a team (virtual or otherwise). Even with the best processes and technology, virtual teams are still made up of people who need to build relationships, create trust, and collaborate to be a successful team. I know the blog title was a little misleading (a clickbait and switch), but now that you’re here, let’s move beyond the illusion of “tricks” to real people-focused ways to address virtual challenges: build relationships, communicate as human beings, and optimize time together.

Build Relationships

We may respect titles or acquiesce to hierarchy, but we build a relationship with a person, the whole person. We’re often encouraged to separate our personal life from our work life, which is a lot like asking us to cut off our right arm to fit through the office door (and I don’t type well one-handed). When we bring our whole self and connect with someone else as a whole person, we find more in common, build better connections, and increase trust. As virtual teams, we don’t bump into each other in the halls, or at the coffeemaker, to help us build these connections more casually. Our interactions are more limited and more formal, occurring mostly during meetings and…well…more meetings.  

In a virtual team, we have to create opportunities to make more informal connections. It sounds ridiculous to work that hard to create “natural” interactions, but when we don’t plan and protect this time, our attention will be hijacked by some fire-of-the-moment, and what’s “urgent” will consume what’s “important.” So, how do we purposefully create opportunities for connection?  

Use Existing Meetings

Carve out time at the beginning of team meetings to connect as human beings: share what we did over the weekend, discuss a favorite hobby, or talk about anything other than work. We can also use virtual meeting tools to create smaller breakout groups for more intimate interactions, and then come back together to share important points or a new tidbit we learned about a teammate. 

Create Virtual Cafes

Meet 1:1 or in small groups for an online coffee break or happy hour. –Even if we work in different time zones, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

We need to build in those human moments to stay connected even when we’re thousands of miles apart. 

Communicate as Human Beings

Continuous communication over technology does not mean communication is clear or effective. It just provides a digital trail to prove messages were sent. I won’t call out specific tools because I might get sued, but you know the ones. The tools that allow us to constantly ping each other with emails, instant messages (IM), texts, etc.  What we often forget is that even when we use these tools, we still need to communicate with the brains of human beings. Ongoing distractions interrupt our concentration, limit our focus, and reduce productivity. We need to use the right tools in the right way:

Email

Email is best used to confirm information (that has already been discussed), and share information that is clear, concise, and not inflammatory. To make emails more effective try some of the following: Use the subject line as part of the message– “FYI,” “Response Requested,” “Action Required” or even “Action Required. Otherwise, will send X by Y date.” (That last one usually gets a response. Whether or not it’s a “good” response, depends on your audience). Call attention to due dates in emails by putting them in red. Keep emails short and summarize key points. Short emails take more time to write, but long emails take more time to read. So, if we want emails read, we should keep them short.

The above examples are focused more on US corporate cultures. We may need to adjust our approach to the team, company, or country cultures in which we operate. Regardless of the approach, our goal is to be effective.

IM

IM is good for a quick back and forth chat or to align schedules for a meeting. When either email or IM goes on too long, stop the thread. Summarize the text and identify next steps, or jump on a video conference to discuss. 

Video

Video is better than both email and IM when we want to communicate more complex ideas. Only about 25% of communication is made up of the words we use. The rest is tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. That means text-based tools leave out 75% of our communication. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when our  meaning isn’t always clear.

Unplug

Technology tools are not just about sending information, but managing how and when we receive it. To improve our focus, we can block time on the calendar to turn off our email, IM, and phone. The book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport offers great insights and tips to help us improve our concentration and get work done. If you are really struggling to focus, then stop reading this post, and go read Cal Newport’s book instead.

We can’t let technology dictate how we communicate. We need to use the tools in ways that will improve our communication. When we assume communication has been read and understood just because we click “Send,” that’s when things fall through the cracks (and often fall apart).

Optimize Time Together

The goal is to meet in person as often as schedules, pandemics, and fuel prices allow. Once face-to-face, we don’t want to squander our time, squeezing too much content into back-to-back meetings or doing work we could have done remotely. We want to use this precious in-person time to connect with each other and build stronger relationships. Of course, work has to get done, but spending time on people is also essential. When we know and trust each other, communication is easier, collaboration is more effective, and our work will be more productive long after the in-person meeting is over.

No Shortcuts to Building Teams

There are no magic “tricks” to leading virtual teams. Virtual or not, we work with people, and that requires focus, communication, and intentionally building relationships. When we align our approach with how people “work” (inside and out), our communication and collaboration will be more successful. No tricks required.

What Makes Delegation So Difficult?

The art of delegation has never been more important. Organizations are larger, more complex, and have distributed workforces that span the globe. Individual leaders are not scalable, and that makes delegation essential.  So why is delegation still so challenging?

What gets in the way of delegation?

Three of the biggest challenges to effective delegation are time, trust, and history.

Time – VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) no longer describes only short-term crises, it’s become a reality for doing business. To make effective decisions in a VUCA environment, employees need leaders to invest their time to–

  • Clarify their vision
  • Set expectations
  • Communicate their intent
  • Coach people to learn and adapt

Time is precious and leaders have very little to spare. However, the alternative to taking time is to delegate work by “throwing it over the wall,” without clear expectations or intent. Throwing work over the wall is a recipe for disastrous results, and it reinforces the bias: “It’s faster if I do it myself!” This reactive micromanagement is a great way to lose talented employees who won’t feel valued, and won’t see opportunities to grow.

Trust – Even with clarity, leaders may not trust people to execute to their standards. Ultimately, leaders are accountable for results, and when a leader’s neck is on the line, the impulse to “control” (vs. “coach”) easily rears its ugly head.

History – The old “What got you here, won’t get you there.”  Leaders often started out as talented individual contributors who were rewarded and promoted for their willingness to jump into action and swiftly solve problems. There’s no easy “off switch” for self-reliant behaviors. Just like there’s no easy “on switch” to immediately illuminate the “leadership light” that will refocus someone to coach and motivate others. We tend to hold on to what’s worked for us in the past, even when our role and environment have changed. It takes time, and often coaching, to help leaders make such a significant shift. 

What helps leaders delegate?

Build Trust – Leaders must invest their time and attention if they want to build trust with people.  We start by building a relationship with someone as a person, understanding their values, strengths, talents, and motivations. When we get to know the whole person, and they get to know us, it builds a deeper foundation for everything that follows. 

Invest in People’s Development – Talented people who see no growth path leave for better opportunities. During “The Great Resignation,” droves of talented people left organizations in search of greater purpose, growth opportunities, and a more meaningful connection with company culture.  When a leader invests in development, this investment is key to encouraging talented people to stay, grow, and continue to flourish.

Intentionally Create a Coaching Culture – The word “intentionally” may be overkill. Organizations don’t create a coaching culture “by accident.” Creating a coaching culture requires leaders to let go of “command and control” and, instead, develop their bench. Leaders who truly value a coaching culture require coaching as a core competency when they hire, develop, and promote people into leadership roles.

Keep a Finger on the Pulse – Doctors don’t control the details of how a human body works. They assess overall health and search for early warning signs that indicate problems. In the same vein, leaders don’t micromanage how work gets done, but they keep their finger on the pulse of progress. People will make mistakes as they learn. That’s part of growth. The key is to reinforce positive results and coach people to course-correct while mistakes and problems are small, rather than waiting for issues to build to a crisis.

Delegation is not easy. It’s a dynamic balance of knowing when & how to step in and when & how to step back.  Nevertheless, delegation is a skill that can be learned, and the only way to learn is to practice.

How to Communicate Company Culture

Fast-growing companies want to quickly hire and onboard people who are not only smart and capable but also a good “culture fit” for the organization. The question is, what does “culture fit” mean, and how do we communicate company culture in a way that is both clear and tangible?

Define the Culture

Company cultures have been described as “the way things get done around here” or “the water in which we swim.” Neither of which are particularly helpful when talking with applicants or onboarding new employees as they dive into the deep end. Leaders must explicitly define and set expectations for the company culture they want to create. 

One of the key ways to communicate company culture is through a company’s vision, mission, and values. Unfortunately, some companies create lengthy vision and mission statements or have a list of core values a mile long. The result?  None of it is useful. These cultural artifacts may be displayed on a website or flashed across a screen during meetings, but often people don’t even know where to find them, let alone how to embody them. Three things must be true to communicate culture effectively: Head-Heart-Hands.  

Head –  Are the vision, mission, and values so clear and concise people can easily explain them off the top of their head? Our brains haven’t changed in thousands of years. We may have a vast amount of storage space, but we have a very small working memory to process and retrieve information. Why is that important? If we can’t easily remember the vision, mission, and values of our company, then it’s unlikely they will influence our behavior.

Heart – Are the vision, mission, and values inspiring? People want to feel motivated by the purpose of the organization and connected to the values. They want to feel energized by the vision for their future and proud to belong to a successful work community.

Hands – Are the vision, mission, and values actionable? Culture is not just an idea. Culture flows through people’s “hands” in the actions they take, the work they do, and the relationships they build. 

We must be able to know the culture in our Head, so it can inspire our Hearts, and be delivered through our Hands. Through this integration we connect with culture as a whole person, and this connection distinguishes true commitment from passive compliance. True commitment means we authentically give our time, attention, and talent to achieve results, and those results are aligned with the company culture we aspire to create. 

Explicit communication about mission, vision, and values is important, but it is not sufficient in how we communicate culture. As the old saying goes, people may pay attention to what we say, but they are far more likely to pay attention to what we do.

Live the Culture

Anyone can slap words on a wall and call them values. Organizations have “espoused values” (what they say their values are), and they have “values in practice” (the values they live day in and day out).  How closely aligned an organization’s espoused values are with the values in practice is a measure of cultural integrity, and it is palpable in “the way things get done around here.”

Leaders must actively seek feedback about where organizational values are aligned and where there are gaps. This takes courage and candor, both from the leadership who ask the questions and the people who provide feedback. Creating a culture of courage and candor is the topic for another blog post (and many, many leadership books).  We can start by asking a few simple questions:

  • “What are examples of how we live our values?”
  • “What are examples of how we are not living our values?”
  • “What is at least one thing we could do differently to close that gap?”

If we really want ongoing honest feedback, we must do at least three things:

Create Safety – People must feel safe providing honest feedback. Some leaders have created trust and safety among their teams. However, even more leaders think people feel safe when they don’t. Rather than assume everyone feels safe, assume everyone does not feel safe, and solicit feedback accordingly. One of the easiest ways to solicit “safe” feedback is through a brief, anonymous survey with open-ended questions like the ones above. Surveys are not a perfect mechanism for feedback, but they’re a start.

Acknowledge Input – Acknowledge people’s feedback and summarize the resulting themes. This helps people feel heard and connect the dots between their input and the feedback from the overall team or organization. 

Take Action – The only thing worse than not soliciting feedback is soliciting feedback and not acting on it. Sometimes the actions we need to take are clear. Other times, we may not know how to solve a problem, and we have to ask for help. It’s not about finding a “perfect” solution. It’s about taking action to experiment and try new things, so people see that we genuinely want to live the values we espouse. 

Grow the Company Culture

As companies grow, the culture naturally changes. The core values are still fundamental, but the diversity of perspectives and how those values are lived will grow and expand. Like an acorn that grows into a towering oak tree, values are the seed that will guide authentic growth. So, how do we grow a culture as we scale a company? One of the best ways to grow and keep people connected to the culture is to encourage stories about how people are living the values. 

Human beings are natural storytellers. We have passed on knowledge and understanding through stories for generations, especially knowledge that may be difficult to define, such as culture. Encourage people to tell their stories about how they are living the values, how they see others living the values, and the impact these experiences have on them, both large and small. Integrate a diverse range of voices into what the values mean to different people. Diversity of thinking and perspectives is critical to creating a strong, sustainable culture and overall organization. 

Culture is not just something that happens around us, it is something that connects us and becomes a part of us. As a result, the way a company culture is most effectively communicated is not through slides in a presentation or a list of values on a wall. The most effective way to communicate culture is through the thoughts, actions, and experiences of the people living it. 

Announcing the Launch of Newly Rebranded Catamentum Leadership Coaching!

I am so excited to announce the launch of my newly rebranded Catamentum Leadership Coaching (formerly known as The Practical Sage, LLC.)

Rebranded Catamentum means we catalyze momentum to unleash potential of leaders, their teams, and their organizations.

Here is our brand new website: https://catamentum.com/

My new business email address: Rachel@Catamentum.com

A huge thank you to Joanne Z. Tan and her team at 10 Plus Brand for all their help throughout a transformational rebranding process.  I could not have done this without you.  Joanne is an expert at helping you tap into the fundamental building blocks of your brand DNA to clearly express who you are at your core and the unique value you bring. Thank you, Joanne!

Please follow us on our new social media company pages: 

Linkedin:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/catamentum-leadership-coaching-llc/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/catamentum/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/catamentum

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Catamentum-Leadership-Coaching-103683172004444