Leadership & Behavioral Science | Kayshia Kruger

"Leaders must be able to show that it's okay to tap into one's emotional center in the workplace." Kayshia Kruger, Episode 123

How can leaders create positive changes in the workplace using behavioral science? 

Kayshia Kruger, organization development practitioner and executive coach, is here to share her expertise. 

She’ll cover:

  • Why leadership is a verb

  • The meaning of psychological safety

  • How to have difficult conversations

  • The boundaries effective leaders implement

  • Why rest is productive

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Kayshia Kruger: Here’s where the responsibility of leadership comes into play is that they have the obligation in my perspective to model that behavior, right? To be able to show that it’s okay to tap into that emotional center in the workplace.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach. And I have got a special guest on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast today. Her name is Kayshia Kruger. Let me tell you all about her because she’s amazing. She is an organization development practitioner, an executive coach and the host of the Paradigm Shifts podcast. 

She has over eight years of experience and she helps leaders create positive changes in the workplace using behavioral science. She holds an MS in organization development and an executive coaching certificate from Queen’s University of Charlotte. We’re like little twins that way. And she also is a certified senior professional in human resources. So all of my SHRM listeners, you know what that means. 

She studied and studied and studied and got those letters after her name, SPHR and she is a PROSCI change practitioner. She also has a wonderful relationship with Dr. Will Sparks, as do I and she is an Actualized Performance Cycle Certified Facilitator and a Workplace Big Five Administrator. I’ve got some serious genius on the show. Welcome to the show. I’m so glad you’re here.

Kayshia: Thank you so much, Nicole. Such a pleasure.

Nicole: Yeah, we’re gonna have a great time today. So she and I are like sisters from another mother. We love organizational development. We love helping leaders. We love helping build beautiful, vibrant cultures. And so I’ve asked her on the show today to share her genius. And one of the things that we’re doing is we’re collecting definitions of leadership. It’s so big. You saw it. It’s so important. What is your definition of leadership?

Kayshia: Yeah, such a great question to start off with, Nicole. So to me, leadership is more of a verb or an action. It’s about how we show up in the world, not just at work, but how do we model these positive behaviors in all areas of our lives. And to me, it’s how we do what we’ll say we’ll do. How we inspire others to action. But I also consider leadership from the perspective of an impact that you’re making in the world. 

I believe great leadership makes you feel something and it invites possibility not just solutions, encourages risks, make people feel safe, and it serves others, right. I also believe effective leadership holds space for diversity of thought. But here’s what I think that my definition of leadership is not. It’s not a title. It’s not status. It’s not a job or a role. There’s a significant responsibility in the realm of leadership, and rightfully so.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I love what you’re saying. Yeah. So, everybody write that down. It’s not a noun, it’s a verb. And it makes you feel something. I would like to just poke on that a little bit. Because I think that’s so important. You know, for a long time, I think people were kind of like, you know, there aren’t feelings in business. But to me, all there is in business is feelings, right? Like, am I feeling motivated? Am I feeling empowered? Am I feeling good about things? So will you share a little bit about feeling something. That leadership is making people feel something. I love that.

Kayshia: Yeah. So the typical misnomer about feelings when we’re talking about business is that that’s meant for outside of the workplace. You hit that on the nail, right? But we as humans are wired to have a sense or desire for connection, for belonging. So we only have one emotional center of the brain. We have one limbic system. But in organizations, we focus so much on operating from our prefrontal cortex, and we get stuck there. 

So regardless of whether we’re in the workplace, or we’re outside of the workplace, we are humans. And that’s where I feel like leadership should encourage feelings of psychological safety, and should inspire others to take action. But that requires a feeling right? It requires you to feel safe. It requires you to be open to ideas, and to believe that you have the confidence to do things.

Nicole: Yeah. And so I love what you’re saying. So feeling something we’ve got to use this limbic brain, and for those of you who know a little bit about emotional intelligence, we all know that, like, you know, when an input comes into a person, it hits their lizard brain or their amygdala first, and that’s where I kind of call it this funny thing. Kayshia, I call it getting highjacked. You get hijacked by your amygdala. 

But you could use your limbic brain to go how am I feeling right now? You know? And how can I use that feeling to kind of propel me forward, because whether I’m angry about something that might just push me right into overdrive and get something done, or I’m feeling happy about it. That same emotion, whether it’s good or bad still propels me forward. So I think, definitely, we have to use that limbic brain.

Kayshia: Yeah, absolutely, Nicole, and here’s where the responsibility of leadership comes into play, is that they have the obligation in my perspective to model that behavior, right. To be able to show that it’s okay to tap into that emotional center in the workplace.

Nicole: Yeah, for sure. And the other thing I love, what you said was that you’ve got to provide psychological safety and be open to ideas. So somebody was like, asking me, Nicole, I keep hearing this psychological safety, psychological safety. And I’m like, well, let me just really make it easy for everybody. You know, everything gets to be messy. If it needs to be. 

Like, sometimes we have to throw spaghetti on the wall and make a hot mess before we know whether or not an idea will work or not. What other thoughts do you have about psychological safety? I think people want to provide this, but this is kind of like a new OD thing we’re talking about. Organization development thing we’re talking about. So will you talk a little bit about how you leaders provide that?

Kayshia: Yeah, and psychological safety as a construct has existed for a long time, right. But of course, you know, we recycle these trending words and these trending constructs. And so I think it is important to talk about. Psychological safety is when you have the ability to express yourself without fear of retribution. 

Without consequences from the leadership team or from your direct or immediate manager. And what I like to, how I like to think of it from a leadership perspective is, does it feel good to my nervous system? So am I in an environment or on a team where I can suggest an idea, raise my hand and say something completely off the wall, and the leader be open to that and provide constructive feedback that feels good to my nervous system? 

It is not shaming me. It is not singling me out, it is not providing criticism in front of others in a negative way. But it’s saying, okay, that’s thank you for your idea. Or it’s, you know, talking about some of these other ideas offline, right. So I think it’s about the leader, again, going back to modeling those behaviors, but also checking in with the nervous system, too.

Nicole: Yeah, I love that. Yeah. So you got this beautiful body, you can bring it to your workplace, can’t you?

Kayshia: I do hope we do that.

Nicole: Yeah, bring your heart, body and soul to the work that you’re doing. That’s fantastic. All right. So you’re giving us a lot of great things. So you might have already answered this question to a certain level, because one couple of things she said so far, is that leaders need to inspire and they need to impact. They need to provide this psychological safety. But then also, there are other important skills of successful leaders, especially those trying to build what I call a vibrant culture. What important skills do you see out there in your work that leaders need to take a look at?

Kayshia: Yeah, so one of the most important that I would focus on would be self-awareness. In order for you to help others understand themselves, you have to be willing and take accountability and responsibility for understanding yourself. And what does that mean? So that means being aware of your strengths, but also your limitations. Being open to feedback being open to constructive criticism. And so I think that’s the first thing that leaders often need to dial into first. And then I would say accountability or responsibility for decision-making is probably another area. If I had to add a third, I would say developing better boundaries.

Nicole: So these are all very good. So self-awareness, taking accountability for decisions, and then develop. Do the last one for me again.

Kayshia: Develop better boundaries.

Nicole: Better boundaries. Oh my goodness. Okay. All right. So we’re gonna have to break this down. Break it down, break it down. Alright, so you talked a little bit more about self-awareness and I know that you are certified in a couple, if not even more, different assessments that leaders can use. And one of those I’m also certified in. We both love Dr. Sparks work. He’s over at Queen’s University. 

Everybody check him out on the web. Just dial in Dr. Will Sparks and all his goodies will come up. He’s got a wonderful profile called the ALP, Actualized Leadership Profile. And if you go to alpfree.com you can take the little fun short version. So how have you helped leaders with the actualized leadership profile in their self-awareness? It’s kind of an eye-opener for folks, don’t you think?

Kayshia: Yeah, I love that you dialed into the ALP, because that is a great place to start. Especially when you’re trying to understand how you show up as a leader, what your significant style, your primary motive needs are, in terms of motivation and what your dominant drivers are. But also what are the blind spots that you have with that primary need or with that primary leadership style. 

So I think actualized leader profile is definitely a great place to start. But how I also help organizational leaders to build that self-awareness bridge or gap is to look at the lens, look at yourself through different lenses. And that might require different assessment tools as well. So it might require a 360. And you can utilize the ALP 360, or they have other versions as well. And a 360 just gets feedback from all different perspectives, right. 

You’ve got your upward, your downward and your peer reviews. And that helps to be able to hone in on getting feedback from different perspectives and different directions. And the other assessment tools that I use is looking at personality, like you had mentioned Workplace Big Five. How do we leverage our personality and who we are and compensate for what we do or need to do in an organization. 

Whether that’s leveraging our personality traits within a team to have better, you know, more coherent communication, or vice versa, and having that universal language or framework. So all of these tools are really helpful for building self-awareness. But that’s not where the work ends, right? You don’t just take an assessment, debrief the results, and then you’re self-aware.

Nicole: Yeah, good to go. Not happening.

Kayshia: That’s not how it works. Absolutely. You need to sit with it. You need to reflect on okay, what are the themes that I’m hearing that are coming up for me? Go check in with your nervous system? Why am I feeling defensive about this type of feedback? Why do I feel like this is resonating with me, maybe this is very, you know, coherent for me. So I think sitting with it, and then being able to process it, it takes time. Certainly their self-awareness tools that I’ve used, and I’m sure you have as well. And I’m still, years later, learning new things about myself because as humans we evolve.

Nicole: Yeah. And the reality is it until the day that they put us in a box or a jar, we pop off the planet, you know, there’s work to be done, people we’re not finished. You know, we’ve got places that we can improve. And dare I say this, I think you put another skill on the list, which is reflection.

Kayshia: Huge. Yes, that is a required skill.

Nicole: Yeah. So just sit quietly and kind of understand, you know, how am I doing? My favorite self-reflection question, Kayshia is what is it like to experience me? And I think that is absolutely huge. I think people need to do that. Okay. So you can look at yourself through different lenses, get feedback from the people around you. That’s one way to do self-awareness. And this is one of the key skills that Kayshia thinks successful leaders do. Then you said this thing about accountability for decisions. Hello, hello, who made this decision? I did. Okay, so will you talk a little bit about accountability for decisions? What do you mean?

Kayshia: Yeah, so what I’m talking about is the ability to make a really sound decision using information from different sources, different perspectives. That’s part of it, that’s half of the equation. And then when you make that decision, staying accountable to it. So oftentimes, I see when leaders make decisions that maybe there’s pushback or resistance, or there’s a fear of losing talent, so they might ebb and flow or become indecisive. And I think it takes a really special skill set. 

And it’s something that you have to practice to be able to hold yourself firm, and believe that the decision that you made for the entire team, the entire organization is a good one. And where I’ve seen this backfire when people do not hold themselves accountable or stick to decisions is then you have perhaps individuals who think that they can maybe take advantage right and that kind of goes to boundaries a little bit. Push against the ways that we are trying to do work, how we’re operating.

Nicole: Yeah. And I was just on a coaching call this morning with a young lady and we were talking about this very thing, where her personality, she’s hardwired, where she really wants to love on everybody. Right? And she cares deeply about you know, them feeling good about their work. Okay, that is a beautiful leader. But then on the flip side, sometimes we have to do things strategically to get a result. 

You know, it’s not as human-oriented as it is result oriented. But we know that makes good business sense. And it’s kind of being able to have one foot on the business sensibility and one foot, you know, in the court with your people. And being able to, like this old saying, you need to be gentle but forthright? 

Kayshia: Absolutely. 

Nicole: You know, like, I’m going to make this decision. I’m convinced I need y’all to help me. I’m not going to waver. I mean, really, we want to follow a leader like that, don’t you think?

Kayshia: Absolutely. If I am following a leader who is indecisive, who is not staying firm, I would question that, I think. I would definitely feel uncertain. And going back to nervous systems and how we’re hardwired, we seek safety, right? We seek predictability as humans. If a leader is making decisions, or kind of all over the map, how does that going to feel for you? And what kind of environment do you feel? Do you feel like you’d want, would you feel inspired to follow that type of leadership? Probably not, right. 

And I also think this talks to a little bit about the ability to have emotional intelligence and difficult conversations within the workplace. Because when you do take a firm stance on something, you have to also be able to have the conversations with individuals with an empathetic and compassionate way. We’re not saying make a results-oriented decision and then say, you know, forget everyone else’s opinions, we’re saying make it but also be able to have the conversations in a compassionate way.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, no, we’re not saying also that, like, no decision doesn’t require tweaking along the way. Yeah, yeah. And so it’s, again, it’s this whole balancing act that leaders need to do. That is so important. Okay. And so again, you did kind of put your toe in the water around boundaries. But what are the boundaries that really effective leaders put in place? I know that a lot of leaders are feeling like I am all over the place. 

I’m trying to make, you know, everybody from the stockholders, to the owners, to the Board of Directors, to my peers, to my employees. I mean, I’m trying to make everybody happy. Ah, I’m worn out. How do they how do they, put boundaries in place so that they can be effective? And they can also take care of themselves?

Kayshia: Yeah, so it’s going to lean on self-awareness, and it’s also going to lean on the skill of prioritization. So I am aware of what I value, what’s important to me, what’s the alignment of priorities. Now I need to prioritize those in such a way that makes sense for whatever the initiative, the team, myself. Whoever you’re making a decision around. And then in terms of setting better boundaries, now you have a roadmap for which boundaries you need to set, right. 

So if I know that rest is important to me, as a leader, then I’m going to set a boundary around not taking emails or calls after a certain time perhaps. And that boundary needs to be communicated. But in order for me to express those boundaries, and to create firm decision-making around it, I need to know what’s important to me, what’s important to the team, or the overall organization.

Nicole: Yeah, and I will tell you this thing of working around the clock, I don’t know what you see when you’re going in to do your consulting, but it is epidemic out there.

Kayshia: Scary. And I will admit I have I’ve participated in it. I still do, from time to time, participate in that culture and have to wake myself up and say, oh, you know, there’s more to it, right.

Nicole: Yeah, there’s more to life. Yeah. The other day, though, I did see something, I’ll share it with you. It was kind of fun. This gentleman sent an email, I am going to do some training with his team. And so I sent him an email and he sent me an email back but down in his signature line Kaushia, he said, if you’re receiving this email after hours, or at an odd time of the week, do not consider this a requirement to reply until it’s the right time for you to reply. 

But basically he saying like if I’m doing this at three in the morning, don’t think you have to email me back at 3:08 in the morning. But I thought wow, isn’t that a great way for him to allow to do his boundary which is I’m up I can’t sleep so I’m working. And but you don’t have to email me until you know, nine o’clock tomorrow, whatever. What do you think about his little thing in his signature line?

Kayshia: I feel called out. I have the exact same one in mine. In my work email. 

Nicole: Oh, that’s fantastic. 

Kayshia: Yeah.

Nicole: I had ever seen that.

Kayshia: Please do not feel responsible to have to reply to this if it’s not at a time that’s convenient for you. Yeah, because I do find myself also flexible in work and I work remote. So there are more hours that are best for my peak energy times. I might work later or I might work at five, four in the morning. Just because that’s the time that kind of speaks to me. And I think there’s an awesome ability to honor your own energetic, you know, peak times and performance times at the same time expressing those boundaries. That’s a fantastic way to do it.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I love what you just said about your peak performance times. So there’s a couple of great books out there about how we don’t manage time, but we manage our energy. And so you know, really, you know, if your peak time is four to seven in the morning, you should be up and working and making stuff happen. Not allowing some kind of timing situation, get in your way. All right, fantastic. All right. 

So three things she said to help you with your boundaries. One is know your values. Two is learn to prioritize and then get a roadmap laid out. Will you talk a little bit about values? I don’t think I ever have a conversation on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast without talking about what we value. So I’m just going to take us there one more time. What do you mean by know your values?

Kayshia: So personal values, right? What are what do you find important to you? What do you if you are designing your life? What are the things that would be a priority? Would it be health? Would it be time with family? Would it be achievement or success on certain milestones? So what are you valuing? And the hope is that you’re working for an organization that has some congruency with that, right? That would be the ultimate goal. So for example, the firm that I work for, one of the values that we have is knowledge and social responsibility. 

And those are two of my core values. And so there’s some congruency with that. And that makes it easier for me to align with the work that I’m doing. And also make sure that I’m staying accountable to my own values, right. So there are personal value systems, and then there’s value systems within a team. And then you also have value systems to consider at the organizational level.

Nicole: Yeah, and I think getting those things laid out and then having the dialogue around them. Because to your point, we need a roadmap on how to carry these out, right? So we could say we have a core value of knowledge and social responsibility, but we don’t know how we’re going to educate all of our employees. That would be the roadmap. Like how, who’s gonna go to what training or what get what degree or do whatever. 

And then also social responsibility, which I think more and more is also becoming like a leadership skill. Like, not only am I running a business, but you know, how does this organization contribute towards the greater whole of my community or the people in my community? Do you have something that you might share about the social responsibility that your organization is doing? I love to hear these stories, how companies are kind of paying it forward.

Kayshia: Yeah, so it goes back to impact, right. And we can do this on an individual level. And also, if you’re fortunate like myself to work for an organization that values it, the organization is hopefully putting forth some effort around that. And so we will generally go through different offices. We’re geographically distributed, and different offices will participate in different social responsibility projects, and they’ll vote or decide what that is at that office or team level. 

So we’ll often come together as a group and decide and we’ve done things with hope for humanity. And we do a lot of things around the holidays, lots of great, great organizations to support in local communities, and also just nationwide. So we generally do that, again, at the office level, and then we promote it, you know, throughout our website, or different social media networks. Not only is that saying, okay, this is important to us. 

And that one of the things about values that I forgot to mention is just because you say it’s important to you doesn’t mean that you don’t follow through with that right in some level of action. So what are you in terms of your values, are you saying is important to you and not also showing up in a real way in terms of action? 

That’s really important because that cognitive dissonance is going to be confusing for anyone who is looking at a leader as well. So I might be a leader saying, okay, knowledge is important to me, but I don’t allow my team to invest any time in professional development or learning and development. That’s going to be a problem right? I want to consider that aspect as well.

Nicole: Yeah, or worse, we don’t see the leader going to school. We don’t see the leader at the training. We don’t see the leader developing him or herself or sending out the 360 for us to give them feedback, right. So knowledge has to be from the tippy top all the way to the front. So I love that that’s perfect. All right. So those are some skills of successful leaders. She said you know, we got to do self-awareness. She threw another one at you. 

Reflection accountability for your ideas, then also, she talked about developing better boundaries. So four great skills that leaders need to have in order to be successful. Now, here’s just the truth of the matter, some leaders out there are uber-successful, and they do fantastic. And then there are others who are just not getting the job done. What do you believe makes some leaders successful, while others continue to struggle?

Kayshia: So what I see a lot in organizations, unfortunately, is the inability to bridge the gap between an individual contributor to a management-level employee or a leader employee. And so that transition, generally, a lot of training, knowledge, competence is missed or not put forth in terms of building those gaps. So what I generally see are individuals who are super technically competent in a manager position. 

And unfortunately, that’s a different skill set than the one that they were required to have previously, right. So as an individual contributor, my focus is on being really competent at this individual contributor work. And the work that I’m producing for myself, and moving to a management or someone who’s in a manager or leader position, my focus is different. I’m not worrying about my work, I’m worrying about getting the entire team’s work to meet our goals. 

And that requires a different skill set. So that’s generally what I see as the fall for individuals who are rising to management level is the lack of exposure to some of those more critical people skills. And here’s where I’ve designed some soft skill framework architectures around soft skills within our organization. 

And for our manager-level employees, I say active or sorry, giving quality feedback, coaching, productivity and prioritization. Those are really, really critical skills. If you can’t coach or give quality feedback, we’re gonna have a tough time being really great leaders.

Nicole: Yeah, I agree. I couldn’t agree more. So listen to her framework. So you might want to jot this down, do you have your pencil handy while you’re on your treadmill? Whatever you’re doing right now. So she just said, you know, we’ve got to give quality feedback. We’ve got to learn to coach people and then prioritization, did I get that? Notice that’s twice for prioritization. So my guess is you keep bringing that up, because there’s a lot of opportunity out there for organizations more than ever. I mean, there’s a lot of things your company could be doing, but we really need to figure out the great strategic plan.

Kayshia: Yeah. And I say that, because and I’m sure you hear it as well, managers feel that they are being pulled in so many different directions. And it’s the capacity to be able to focus our energy and efforts on the things that matter. And that’s where we get it wrong is identifying what matters and when it matters, and who it matters to. 

So that’s why the productivity and the prioritization, I mean, keeps coming to the surface, is because that’s a skill. And you have to, at a manager level, be able to prioritize not only your needs, but the needs of the team and the needs of the organization. And that’s, that’s tough.

Nicole: Yeah. But I like your little thing you just threw in there, too. She’s throwing them at you like crazy people. So she says you got to figure out what matters, when it matters and to whom it matters. So gosh, that’s tweetable. So, Kayshia Kruger, right? That’s what we got to put down for that one. Tweetable. So I love that. Okay, so leaders really need to have these amazing soft skills in place and I don’t know about you, but I do not like the word soft skills. I know you didn’t invent it, it’s just out there. 

These are really the challenging skills or the boss skills. And when I mean boss, I don’t mean like bossy. I mean, like being a boss babe or a boss dude, right? You’ve got to have these skills in place. So giving feedback, learning to coach and knowing how to prioritize are huge. Absolutely. All right, well, you’re out there you’re like me, you’re running around like a crazy person. 

You were just down in Florida working. I’m headed up to DC next. You and I are making it happen out there. Lots of people who want to improve their leadership and don’t miss that everybody. You know, leaders have to have their teams meet. They got to get together, they got to work on things away. They got to work on the business instead of in the business every second. 

So when you go out and work with the teams, what are the biggest challenges for leaders today? What are you seeing? Things are shifting, we’re nosing our nose over the edge of COVID I hope and getting past that a little bit. But COVID has left have some challenges. What what are you seeing?

Kayshia: So retaining talent and improving or driving employee engagement is probably one. The other one, I would say, is likely the ability to have difficult conversations. That’s a skill, right? And, and leaning into that ability requires some support from the organization, some training from the organization, some cultural contexts from the organization. And going a little bit back to the previous question that you had mentioned. 

This is where our organizations can really support this opportunity is to be able to build these capabilities at the management level, prior to them getting into the management position. Can we can we do that? Because that is not only supporting the longevity and sustainability of those technical, competent potential leaders, those high performing individuals, but then it also is just having a really amazing contagion effect on the teams that are going to be coming into the environment with that leader.

Nicole: Yeah, I love what you’re saying. Yep. And so two things she says are what she’s seen out there that leaders are challenged by. So our guess is these might be your challenges. One is losing talent and employee engagement. And the other is how to have these difficult conversations. And you know, really what, I think puts like a big bear hug around those two things is the coaching piece you mentioned earlier. Right? So if Kayshia is my leader, and she sits me down once a week, once every two weeks, and she has a coaching session with me. 

I call that employee engagement. I mean, you could have a pizza party and invite me and give me some, you know, company swag, or something, which I will certainly enjoy and love. But really, if Kayshia spends time and energy with me and takes an interest in my career, I’m gonna stay somewhere a long time. What are your thoughts about coaching and talent, employee engagement?

Kayshia: Absolutely. So coaching at a manager level, I mean, there’s different levels and different types of coaching. But we’re talking about manager as a coach. Putting that hat on. It doesn’t mean that it’s required 24/7 as a manager, but it is a role that a manager can step into. And you make a great point that it does support employee loyalty and commitment to an organization to a manager. 

And we often see and we know from exit surveys, and we know from Gallup Organization studies that individuals are not leaving organizations, they’re leaving managers. And so here’s the rub with employee engagement. Employee engagement is when an individual is willing to put discretionary effort into the workplace. And that is, meaning that they are putting in more effort, then they’re volunteering effort above what they need to do at a minimum level. 

That means they are maximizing their capacity and their potential and capabilities. And that’s amazing. And in order to do that, it’s got to be volunteered from the individual. But the manager needs to provide that environment and the conditions that the employee wants to work in to be able to give their discretionary effort. And so again, going back to coaching, if I’m a manager, as a coach, I am leaning into the individual’s situation and their challenge with curiosity. 

I’m asking powerful questions. I’m reframing. That’s a technique of coaching. As you know, Nicole, I’m speaking to a peer, and you’ve had all of this experience. So these things are really powerful for managers to lean into. Because if I am going to a manager who then says I bring up, let’s say, a problem or a challenge to them, and they say, great, you know, and they just kind of shut down after that. 

But they’re not asking me to think critically, they’re not asking me questions. They’re not asking me to reframe. I lose the ability to develop critical thinking skills to be able to come to you with not only a problem, but also a solution. Wouldn’t we say we want our employees to do that, right? 

Nicole: Absolutely. 

Kayshia: So the benefits of coaching are just exponential.

Nicole: I know that’s right. You can 10 times your organization if you have coached happy, eager, discretionary effort-giving people. That’s what I know will happen. Yeah. All right. I love that. I love that. Okay. So out there, the biggest challenges again, is, you know, keeping these employees and having these difficult conversations. So, let’s talk about having difficult conversations. You know, I think a lot of us, especially my generation. 

Now, Kayshia is much younger than I am. But like, when I was growing up, I had a grandmother that would say this, she’d say, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Now, let’s check the generation or two, you know, behind me, is that what you got told when you were growing up? That’s what I did.

Kayshia: I did. I did get that as well. Yeah. Yes, I did.

Nicole: Okay, so parents, parents, parents, parents, stop doing this, learn to teach your children. Okay, if you know how to have a difficult conversation with people, you know. And I think having a difficult conversation with somebody is just about teaching them like the art of dialogue. You know, again, and a lot of the skills that are in coaching are in the skills of having the difficult conversation. But really what it takes is this character trait called courage. Yeah, you gotta have this courage.

Kayshia: And vulnerability as well, right.

Nicole: Talk about that. Yeah, yeah. 

Kayshia: So I think whenever we’re faced with having a difficult conversation with like, let’s say, a direct report, or even a peer, it does require us to be vulnerable. And vulnerability means, in my opinion, and just my perspective, like leaning into the hard stuff, and also being transparent about that, and where you’re coming from, what your perspective is. 

When we have difficult conversations, if we can frame it as an opportunity for setting the person up for success, clarifying expectations, then we’re going to see more alignment, whereas the other way, right, it backfires. We, we start to wonder, well, why aren’t employees understanding what I’m saying? Or why aren’t employees, you know, performing up to our expectations? What I often see in organizations is, we’re just not having the conversations. 

Those are completely not happening. And so when we come back to taking responsibility for our decisions, as a manager, we have to take that initiative to have the difficult conversations, we have to model that behavior. And we also have to create those spaces where we feel good, our nervous systems feel safe to have those conversations.

Nicole: And so I love what you’re saying. And she’s back up. And she’s talking about this idea, which are the skills of great leaders is accountability for your decisions. But here’s the other thing. If you don’t have the difficult conversations, that’s also a decision.

Kayshia: So critical.

Nicole: And so and I have told many a leader, this, you know. You have great people that work for you, and you have some people that need your love and attention. So they become great. Or you could say you have problem children on your team. But don’t say that. That’s not right. What you gotta say is I’ve got people that need more of me. Need my coaching, need my attention, need to have the difficult conversations, you know, need self-awareness, all these things we’ve been talking about, figure out their values. 

And when your good people watch you not having the difficult conversations with the people who are not toeing the line, you are messing up your leadership. The respect level that you’re getting, you’re messing up. You know, really, and your ability to move anything forward, because people lose. You lose credibility.

Kayshia: You lose credibility. That’s right, Nicole.

Nicole: Yeah, it’s big. It’s really big. Well, we’re at the top of the hour, and people are like, wait, wait, hold on a minute. I like, listening to this gal. Kayshia is awesome. I’m like, I know, but don’t forget, she has a podcast. Will you share with everybody about your podcast? What it’s about and where they can find you?

Kayshia: Yeah, absolutely. So I am such a nerd about the work that we do, Nicole, that I decided that more people needed to hear from other organizational psychologists, other OD practitioners in what we’re doing for organizations and surface the science so that leaders can then take that into the workplace, and really do something incredible with it and make a bigger impact. But really, we’re all this got started was back when I first decided I wanted to be in this field. 

I recognized very early on that initially, I was doing clinical psychology, and I decided, well, you know, it, that’s a great field to be in, but where’s the biggest impact going to be made? And I thought about that and did a lot of research and it was, we spend 70% of our lifetime in the workplace. And so in my opinion, our obligation and responsibility is to build organizations that employees look forward to coming to and also that it creates this synergistic impact this carryover effect into our relationships and our other domains outside of work. 

If we can really make our organizations thrive and be a place where employees are getting what they need, it’s going to change everything else outside of that. So that is really the essence of the podcast is to really build those capabilities and also to shine a light on our skilled practitioners out there who are doing this incredible work.

Nicole: Yeah. And basically what she’s doing over on her podcast, Paradigm Shifts, everybody write that down, Paradigm Shifts, is she’s helping people build a vibrant culture so that we have healthy people in the world. See how it all comes together? That’s fantastic. Well, I know that people are out there, listening. I’ve got all sorts of little people, not little people, but amazing people who are like, oh, my God, one more special nugget. I need one more nugget of leadership advice from Kayshia before you let her go. What would be your final nugget, you would leave everybody with?

Kayshia: I will share a nugget that I recently have tapped into but I’m still working on right? Because we’re continual work in progress. And that is that rest is productive. And that’s my paradigm shift. Rest is and can be productive. And not to have so much shame around that, right. I mean, we see perpetual work, workaholic, type of cycle in our society, in our environment. You need to step back and take leadership on the fact that we can be productive while we rest as well.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got to rest so that you can get your body back because it goes all back to she keeps saying you know, your how’s it feel in your nervous system? Well, if your nervous system is overtaxed and undone, then believe me you’re operating out of your amygdala. You know, people, people all the time. There’s this old thing. Have you ever heard this one, Kayshia. HALT. People lose it when they’re hungry, angry, lonely and tired.

Kayshia: You’re in survival mode. Yes.

Nicole: Yeah. So it’s like you gotta go halt. I gotta go. I got to spend some extra time in Florida, which is what she just did, which I’m celebrating. That’s fantastic. I’m going up to Chicago next weekend, and people are like, Chicago. I’m like, have you ever eaten in Chicago? Have you ever shopped in Chicago? It is a fantastic town.

Kayshia: I will be there in April, actually. So I’m gonna have to find some, you know, places to go from you. Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole: Yeah. So we’re gonna go rest a little bit. That’s awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much, Kayshia for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. I know you totally downloaded all sorts of things from my genius guest. Would you please go down on the bottom of your computer on your phone and say I liked this episode and subscribe. 

And then of course, immediately go Google up on neural search thing on your Apple music wherever you’re at. Apple podcasts. And I want you to go in there and I want you to put Paradigm Shift. Find her and tune in and listen to one of her episodes next. Thank you so much for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Kayshia: Thank you.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email Nicole@nicolegreer.com. And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at nicolegreer.com.

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