Sean: I’m Sean and you’re listening to the Vozwin Leadership Podcast. So Micheline, I’m very happy to have you here today because one of the things that I’ve always been hearing recently, especially when I’ve been using this word, and I get this physical cringe from people when I mention it, is when I mention the word accountability for teams and for peoples in teams. I don’t understand why it has become such a negative word, dirty word in business.
Micheline M.: I think the word accountability is getting synonymous with, who can we blame if something goes wrong? So I think you’re right. There is now a negative connotation around the word accountability. Personally, it’s not a word I use that often either. I would say I like to use the word responsibility more, because I find, when you have a team or different people it’s what are you responsible for? I find it gives the person a lot more power as far as what their involvement is going to be.
Sean: You know what? It’s really interesting that you’re using the term responsibility, because I always thought that was part of the definition of what accountability is, is that I’m owning something I’m going to take the responsibility to either get an item, an action or a project to be done and I’m then therefore accountable to the members of my team, to the organization or to whomever. I need to get that done. And if I can’t get that done effectively, I need to then have ownership enough to say I need help to get this done. So, why is accountability just so weird? Is it because people are saying, « Well, now you’re to try to micro manage me to do something. »?
Micheline M.: I think you’re right. I think the word in and of itself isn’t negative. I think you’re right it means having ownership over something, being responsible for something. I think it’s just sometimes the way society uses a certain word can lead people to have negative perceptions over something, even if normally they shouldn’t be there. So, it could even be a question of culture, the way it’s been used. « You’re accountable for this. Get it done. » So, it can be very, almost, very directive in the way it’s used. So, I don’t think telling somebody, « You’re accountable for this. » Makes it sound like, « Okay I better get this done or I’m going to have Hell pay if it doesn’t get done. » So, I think it’s just the way people perceive the word.
Sean: Yeah, because I think that’s really interesting, because I think for a lot of teams, to at least have the word accountability be brought in, at least from what I saw, there has to be a certain level of trust.
Micheline M.: 100% yeah.
Sean: And from what I’ve been hearing from a lot of folks, or a lot of companies that I’ve helped out, in trying to establish a strategy and I noticed like, well you have no accountability structure. So, let’s fix that, because everybody’s just doing something and then everybody’s yelling at somebody when somethings late. It’s that nobody trusts each other around the room. Everybody is like, « Yep, that sounds great. » And they all go off and try to do the bad idea or the idea that was just brought forward by somebody. How do you think teams or organizations should try to develop that trust to get to accountability? Or at least get to, I think the term you’re using is, responsibility?
Micheline M.: I think I’d admit it can be semantics. I don’t have anything really against the word accountability, again, it’s more the use of the word over time, I think that’s led to this negative connotation it can have. Well, I really thinks it’s a question of having everybody working in the same direction. I think ultimately that’s what you want. If everybody has the same goal, or goals, that are tied in with each other.
Micheline M.: In a team everybody will have their part to play to reach this objective at the end. So I think that’s when responsibility comes into it, each person knowing clearly what part of it they’re responsible for to help the team meet their goals, ultimately. So I think a lot of it is around, first of all knowing clearly what that goal is, that we want to accomplish at the end day, so kind of what our purpose is as a team. But also, a certain amount of clarity around what each person’s role is, what their strengths are, what they’re going to bring to the team ultimately. So, yes, what they’re responsible for.
Micheline M.: I think a lot of it is around clarity, also following up, making sure people realize that what their contribution, that it is important, also to realizing this objective. Sometimes people they don’t take the responsibilities for different reasons. Sometimes because they just don’t really know if they’re responsible for it, for different reasons.
Sean: I’ve seen that quite a bit. And I’ll say, « Wait, I was supposed to do that? No, no, no, that was Julie. »
Micheline M.: Exactly, so that’s why I find a lack of clarity is often one of the culprits. Also, it could be, giving somebody responsibility, but a responsibility that they don’t really know how to accomplish. So, sometimes it’s just you can kind of dump something on somebody also, and so you’re responsible for this. And then you wonder after why it didn’t get done.
Micheline M.: It could be because the person doesn’t know how to do it and maybe they were too scared to ask. So again the issue of trust comes out of there too, like you mentioned before. It could be because they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing. It could be that they kind of know. They’re scared for some reason. So, that’s why the whole issue of trust, communication comes in to it a lot.
Sean: You know there’s a few things that came to my mind as you were saying that, was… So there was a few clients where I brought up the term accountability and one person just came up and said, « Well, no. Now you’re just trying to blame me for something. That’s what that word means. » And I realized I didn’t set, well, number one that there was a lack of trust within the group, which I thought there was trust. And so I had to work with them and say, « No, no, no. I want you guys to sign up for something, then we’re going to have a followup meeting. And it’s your responsibility and it’s also the teams responsibility to keep everybody else accountable on how we get something accomplished. »
Sean: But then there was, with another customer, where I was talking about accountability and somebody said, as soon as I said the word, they said, « I got anxious as soon as you said it. » And then they were saying, « Well, it was a term that they use here in this organization as being a negative, right, because it means that you need to be micromanaged. » Where people said, « I’m going to keep you accountable by looking over your shoulder. » In a sales team and dictating to you what you’re going to write to the client.
Micheline M.: Words are funny. They have all kinds of other meanings that probably if you looked in the Webster Dictionary, probably the definition of accountability is very normal and non-threatening.
Sean: Well, do you know what’s interesting? So when I went here and I said, « Well what is it actually? » so, I know what it means to me, but I said, « What does it actually mean to other people? » So in the UK by Cambridge it says, « The fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which it happens. » And then Webster says, « An obligation or a willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. » Which, I found the one from Merriam was so much more divisive and negative than the UK version. Which I’m pretty sure if you at it from the lens of a UK person being very passive, it could be quite divisive as well. But it’s funny on how that term has kind of augmented from it being, « Well you need this as part of a healthy team. » to it just being such a negative management word.
Micheline M.: The word obligation was in your definition, I believe.
Sean: For Merriam’s.
Micheline M.: Yeah. One of the first words. And I think that’s it, you know when you’re accountable it could sound almost like you’re obligated to do something. Maybe you are. I mean, it is your job. But it’s much nicer when people do something because they want to do it, not because they’re obligated to do it.
Sean: See, and I think that’s the big difference, because when I read that I said, « I don’t want to use that as part of my term. » And I think it was because of the word obligation versus something you sign up for doing it. Even though it’s part of your job, you signed up to do a job, and to be obligated to do something means that you have no choice of doing it. I agree with you. But I think that stems once again from a cultural point. It’s getting people to sign up to do something for the greater good of the team because they are able to do it, or they are the best person to do it. And it may no necessarily mean that they have to actually do the task. Just make sure that it gets accomplished and done.
Sean: And I think that’s part of a lot of that term. So you noticed that responsibility is a better term for people to use because it hasn’t has that connotation of negativity attached to it yet.
Micheline M.: Yeah. Again, it all comes down to how something’s said. So, often it’s not the word itself, it’s the context in which it’s used. It’s the, like you said, the trust, kind of the background, history behind what’s going on. You know, I could say, « You should get this done. I want you to be responsible for it. » It could also come across negative depending who it’s coming from. So that’s why I think there’s always a context that can come into it.
Sean: See, whenever I’ve tried to use it, not actually using the word but just invoking it, if you would, the spirit of what the word is, I usually ask my team, « Who wants to take this on? Could you get it done by this time? Put down the time and then just do the follow up the next day, « Where are you with it? Have you accomplished it? What do you need to get done? How can I help you to get that done? » And then follow up, just have a routine follow up just to make sure the actions getting done. But also, I let them know that, « If you’re going to slip or you think you’re going to slip, that’s up to you to let me know so we can help you as part of the team. » Because it’s about being accountable right?
Micheline M.: Well often I talk about open door policies. We can say, a lot of managers will say to me, « Oh, well, I have an open door policy. Everyone knows that they can come see me with questions. » But I find it can be funny in a way too. Because yes if your door’s open and you’re always willing and available emotionally available to receive questions from people, then yes they’ll probably come see you. If every time somebody comes to see you, you’re on the computer, the phone’s ringing, you don’t really look interested in answering their question, your door’s not really open even if the door is physically open to your office. It doesn’t always mean that you seem available to answer questions.
Sean: See actually I like that because I recently had to, I’ve been mentoring startup CEOs, and one guy told me, he said, and I found this was really funny, he told me, he says, « Well, you know, I got this product going. » and he was talking to somebody, one of his employees, and he says, « I’m too busy right now. I need to do something else. » As he was talking to him and I had to remind him, « No, no, no. You’re the CEO, you have a team, that was your job, was to take the time, listen to them, make sure that they feel like they’re being understood, and then follow up and discuss with them what it is. Your job is no longer to get the tech done. That is now their job. »
Sean: And he had to really disassociate and I then asked him, « How many, what’s your percentage of weekly time you’re spending talking to your employees, talking to your customers, and then doing sales calls? » He told me he said, « I don’t know. » And I said, « Well, so, what is your target? » « I don’t know » And I had to tell him, « Okay well doing sales and meeting your clients should be around 60% of your time. » You should be doing that. Listen to people, with your employees, probably about 10 to 15%.
Micheline M.: Yeah. I mean, one side of that is I don’t think, because we all have to work, we all have to manage our time too, so everybody has responsibilities, if we use that word again. So I think at one point you also have to set some boundaries to a certain extent. You don’t want people walking into your office every two seconds with questions because it’s hard to get things done. So, I think having your door open to answer questions, but if really you are in the middle of something, that you can’t be disturbed, I think there’s nothing wrong with saying, « You know what? I have to finish what I’m doing. Come back in 15 minutes. » Or you go see the person in 15 minutes. But I think it’s that follow up that’s important. If you do that all the time, obviously that’s another story.
Sean: So, one of the companies I used to work with, the president of the company has a really neat system of how he would actually get work done and also award time for people to come by and visit him, is that from the hours of seven in the morning to about ten or eleven in the morning. That’s when he did all of his deep work. So it was already blocked in his calendar and everybody knew, if you were going to call him, you would need to text him and say it’s an emergency, or else he wouldn’t even look, he actually put his phone on silent sometimes.
Sean: So, that was the time for him to get the deep work done. And his whole mantra was, « It can wait and hour. It’s okay. It’s all right. Unless someone’s burning and you need my help get to the fire, then that’s a different story. » He would do that, and what was really neat is that then for the rest of the day he afforded all of his time to anybody that needed to do anything. I thought that was such a novel way of handling that. Now, that’s not going to work for everybody.
Micheline M.: Yeah, I think it’s a question of finding what works for you. Everybody’s job is different. Everybody has different demands. So I agree 100%, sometimes there can be so many distractions in the day, it can be hard to get through those big projects that are important, that you really need to get to. So, sometimes you do have to set certain boundaries and again that worked differently for everybody. But if you realize that you’re never available, again you know, in person, or even emotionally if you’re never available to the people on your team then I think that’s more of an issue.
Sean: Yeah, and I think that’s tough too because you keep on talking about emotionally available. And I think that’s true because we go to this default setting of anger. « Well so and so’s not getting something accomplished. They’re getting lazy. They’re just getting complacent. » Versus asking them, « So, what’s wrong? » Because we don’t know what’s happening in someones personal life. It’s not like you show up a nine o’clock, and it’s like, well, work so and so is here how. And then you go home. And you’re forgetting about what’s happening at home, whatever issues or crises is happening there, right?
Micheline M.: I mean, 100%. There’s a lot between personal and work life.
Sean: And you must deal with that a lot right?
Micheline M.: 100% the two are not completely exclusive, one from the other. But I think even if you look just in your work environment, you’re having a very stressful day, you’re stressed. Maybe there’s nothing you can even really do about it at that moment, but when somebody comes in and has a question, or need your help or support for something. It’s being able to take that mental deep breath and saying, « okay, I’m going to be really present to this person right now and listen to what they need and answer them. » Because people can tell how you’re feeling in different moments. So, even if you take the time to answer the question, they can tell from your tone, from your body language, whether you’re really present to them at that moment.
Sean: Yeah, like me right now as I was writing things down. No, but it’s true though. I think we think that the more things that we can do at once, we must be more productive. And I think that that’s such a falsity. So, I try to tell people, and this is something that I’ve learned recently, busy does not equal productive. It’s two different things, so if you’re talking to somebody, and sending an email, and texting somebody about something, you’re being busy. You’re actually not producing anything.
Micheline M.: Yeah, you’re probably failing at all three at the same time. Or not very efficient at doing them.
Sean: Yeah, that’s it too right. And I think that a little bit about those, I think going back to, even when we talked about accountabilities, about setting the right goals for the right people and making sure that it is achievable. And it’s really interesting, I was reading a statistics that more, though there’s not a lot of them, but more female run businesses do better because actually, number one, they listen. And this is something that I’ve been doing for about a year, where I tell people, « Are you listening? » He said, « Oh, yeah, yeah. Of course, I’m looking at you and my ears are open. » And I said, « No, no, no, but are you actively listening? Are you able to play back what I just told you? » « Well, I got an idea of what of your saying », « See so you’re not listening. » And its also
Micheline M.: And even listening kind of like with your heart a little bit too. What is the person really trying to tell me.
Sean: Being a little more open about what it is. But also they set reasonable targets versus men that will do targets that are really ambitious. And so, and it’s funny because, I think it was Harvard Business Review, noticed that when you set achievable goals and then you know you can make it within the year, your team is a lot more productive, and efficient in getting something achieved.
Micheline M.: I’m a big proponent, I mean, you talk about smart goals all the time, that’s something maybe a little bit overused. Everybody says, « Make your goals smart. Make your goals smart. » But I really believe in making your goals smart, but actually taking the time to do it. So not just saying, « Yeah, I did it. » But to really think through, is my goal specific? What are the steps that I need to get there? So often, by setting smaller goals to get to that big goal and getting to them one at a time, you’ll lead the person to having success, to gaining confidence through the process, which makes them more eager to get to that next goal, and to reach that big goal in the end.
Micheline M.: Part of smart goals is measurable, so how do you know if you’ve actually achieved it. Realistic is another one, so you’re talking about making them realistic as well. Also, sometimes people use the R for resources as well, so what resources do I need. But really take the time to think through all of these different elements, the time, the deadline, what’s going to happen? What’s the chance that you’ll actually get it done by then, on a scale from one to ten? To have the person think through is this realistic? You’re better off setting a small goal and making sure it gets done, then set a really big goal and fail at it.
Sean: You know it was really interesting, because you know, how can you get your team to go somewhere, if you don’t know how to get there yourself. Right, and I know that we can say, « Well, we’ll work on it and we’ll get there together. » But if you don’t have even a rational note that if I’m going to go to the arctic that it’s going to be cold. How can you really plan for that expedition to really get there? You know, and I think that’s what a lot of people did on it, and I agree with you completely is, you may not know what it’s going to look like, but at least you know what the goal at the end looks like. But at least set up some sort of a framework than work with the team to think about, so does this seem right? If not let’s work on it together in terms of getting that and then breaking it down. Because it may just be about, instead of it being one big goal, could we break it down to four or three and call it phases, or mini goals and milestones?
Micheline M.: Yeah, 100%. If we come back to what we were talking about, accountability or responsibility at the beginning, and I was saying how everybody has to be wanting to go on the same journey and what is their responsibility as part of it, is when you’re setting these objectives, is get the team involved in setting these objectives. So when somebody’s given an objective, yes you can consult hopefully on at least how we’re going to get there. But consulting the team and getting the team, more than consulting really, getting them involved in creating the objective itself. There’s so much more chance of having everybody really on board to want to get there.
Sean: And that’s one of the things I find really interesting, because I know that’s one of the reasons that a lot of plans, internally in business, fail. Because the people who do it, don’t actually have any say or ownership over how the plan got devised. So it’s like, « Oh, he just gave me more work. » You’re really, and I’ve seen this before where somebody says, « I need you to just fill out this one form for ISO. » And like this one form is going to take you maybe not even a second to fill out and people are like, « No, I don’t want to do it. No, you’re just adding more work to me. I don’t want to do it. »
Sean: And I remember that as a very junior person, I think I was like three months in, and they put this, all the other project managers were saying, « No way. I’m not going to do this. I’m done. You’re just adding more work. » And I’m like, « It’s just a sheet guys. » Literally, I think it was like five lines, and it was a yes or no.
Micheline M.: When people are refusing to do something, or even I call it like silent resistance, you see that sometimes, where something is supposed to be getting done. They give you all kinds of excuses why it’s not getting done, just try to like pretend that it was never assigned. At one point you have to question what’s the reason for this silent resistance. It’s because they don’t believe in what needs to be done, they don’t feel they have the skills, they’re afraid for some reason, they think it’s pointless. There’s all the different reasons, I think it’s really sitting down with the person and trying to figure out what the reason is for this silent resistance. When somebody actually says, flat to your face, « I’m not doing this. » It’s much easier to address it actually, because you can a discussion around it right there.
Sean: I think it also shows that at least they care a little. Right, I remember somebody telling me, « If your coach is still yelling at you, it means he cares. When he doesn’t yell at you, he’s just given up on you all of like completely. » He’s already checked out.
Micheline M.: When they’re just resigned to it.
Sean: Yeah, that’s it. He’s not going to be able to pass the puck, so I’m not going to try anymore. Do you feel that’s something that even employees kind of get? Like they get to the point of just being defeated and so like why even mention anything anymore?
Micheline M.: I mean, if somebody is never listened to, or they feel that their work doesn’t serve any purpose, nobody ever listens to them, then, yeah, they’ll get to that point for sure. And at that point you really just have people’s body showing up for work, you know showing up everyday getting things done but without any willingness to really contribute.
Sean: And at the end of the day are they really getting anything done?
Micheline M.: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s sad if it gets to that point. Unfortunately, you’re right, it is the reality in a lot of places. But I find that a little bit sad.
Sean: You know I went to a military installation one time and I think it was the commanding officer for a new years gift gave everybody a clock and it counted down to when you were going to retire. And everybody had that on their desk. I was like, how defeated could you be as like, I’m here for another… What was it? I think one guy was like 2000 days, something like that. I was like, oh my god to see that.
Micheline M.: Yeah, I’ve the people in HR tell me that there’s employees that they have who know exactly in how many days and hours they’re retiring.
Sean: I has somebody come up to be who was about to retire and said, « Well how many more days Sean do you think you have until retirement? » I said, « I don’t know » I think at the time I was 30 and I said, « I might retire when I’m 75. So you know that many years. » I’m like, « I don’t know at this point. »
Sean: But I find it’s funny on how people look at their goal is retirement versus it being the quality of work that they can actually do. I don’t know, do you see that being a shift with millennials? That retirement is, that’s what’s your goal. I think it’s also maybe that they have the luxury of not being so close to being retired. Maybe that’s not an aspiration of theirs. But, what are you seeing?
Micheline M.: Well, I mean, I think when you are talking about people who feel defeated, I think one part of that is millennials are newer to the workforce than the generation X or Baby Boomer will be. So Baby Boomer may be at that point. And again I really don’t want to generalize because I really see tons of baby boomers who are super, you know want to contribute and what to change things and everything. But I would think that with age, when you’re getting closer to retirement, is it worth fighting this battle? Am I really willing to put things on the line and leave if I don’t get what I want at the end of the day? Or do I just want to stick around at this point and look forward to the next stage.
Sean: Do you know what’s really interesting, I’m getting more calls from people who are in the Boomer slash older gen X, because I’m more of the younger gen X end of things, but I’m getting a lot more calls from people who are setting up their businesses and asking them if I can help out with understand on how to map them out and to mentor them, than I am with millennials. Which I find is quite interesting, that there are people, and there are people who are in a very stable unionized job, let’s say at the hospital, and then they’re like, « Yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore. » Or their working for Revenue Canada and they said, « No, I don’t want to do this anymore. » And they’re like 10 years away from retirement, which
Micheline M.: That’s why I don’t want to generalize. There’s tons of people who are still willing for whatever reason, maybe their kids are older, so they don’t have a family to support as much anymore. There’s all kinds of reasons why somebody will get to the point where they’re willing to make a change in their lives.
Sean: Well, it’s funny. So, I asked people, « So why did you change? » Because I know when I was working at the hospital, putting myself though school, the whole goal was like, you’re here. It was a comfortable cushy job. And if you ever want to see a bunch of people being defeated… I’ve never felt more demoralized. But also told me I need to get out of this place. I need to get my degree and I need to get out of here because it wasn’t for me. That environment wasn’t for me.
Sean: And I asked them, « So why’d you leave that job with a pension, a good pension. » And a lot of them said, « Well, I’ve never taken a risk. I don’t have any kids anymore and we’re empty nesters so why not? » And he actually, one guy told me, « What am I going to do, build a canoe when I’m 65? » He says like, « I have ten years I can do something with this. » Even that lady says, « I wanted to just do something different. I did something a lit bit on the side when I was pregnant and when I gave birth and I loved, I enjoyed it, but I went back to work because it was steady. »
Sean: And so a lot of them yes, it’s because they’re empty nesters. Other’s it’s because they feel like they haven’t actually made a difference before. And a very small minority of them have just said it’s because they know they’re going to have a pension anyways and they could live off of it, plus with the RRSP, so why not do something now.
Micheline M.: That’s why, sometimes if you get to a certain point of more financial stability, it can allow you to take greater risks that if you have young children, or you’re a single parent, or something like that, then you don’t always have the financial means. I mean some people are willing to take the risk regardless. My father went into business on his own, with two young children. My mom didn’t work. So, some people do have that strong entrepreneurial drive, that they’re wiling to take risks. And I’m saying he went into it completely blind, but I think there’s different types of personalities. Some people are less, more risk adverse I guess, so maybe they needed that financial cushion to be able to go off and do that.
Sean: It’s always sunnier I guess, sometimes. Because I always sort of warn them, once they quit their jobs, I’m like, « You know this is going to be a long road. »
Micheline M.: It’s funny because my father was traveling all the time. He must have traveled 80, 90% of the time when I was young, working for a large corporation. And he started his own business thinking he’d have more time for his family. Actually we saw him less I think after. People should never underestimate how much time it takes to be entrepreneurial and start your own thing, if you really want it and you’re really driven to succeed.
Sean: No, that’s it. It doesn’t look as glamorous as it does on TV. I try to warn people. All the time. Because as much as I love being an entrepreneur, there are days where I like, I like getting the paycheck every two weeks, sometimes. But I’m actually happy to see there’s a lot more people getting into it, and a lot of them have actually looked at, how do I do this creatively and efficiently, to try to do it.
Sean: And a lot of times their not doing something new, but they’re doing something that their employers were already doing. And they said, « I think I can do it better. » Which is how a lot of businesses get started. « I understand the market. I know I can do this better. » So I thought that was interesting. But then they get a team and then they find out that it’s easier being by themselves than it is to work in a team a lot of times.
Micheline M.: Yeah. For sure. That’s the thing with entrepreneurs is they have their vision. They have their drive. It becomes their baby. So, it’s hard to get other people to see that vision all the time, of what they had in mind. You know they feel like everybody should feel like it’s their own baby too. And sometimes, some entrepreneurs are able to create that culture, but it’s not easy. For other people it’s a job that they go to. And maybe they love their job and they want to go in, but it’s never the same as it being their own business.
Sean: You know what? And I see people a lot of times that they’ve literally taken a hobby that they’ve done and try to make a business out of it, and then it hasn’t grown for three years. And I said, « Yeah, it’s still a hobby. » Unfortunately. But there’s a lot of times where you can have the creative person, but you need the business person to kind of complement that.
Micheline M.: Yeah 100%.
Sean: And I think a lot of people miss that, in terms of trying to find a partner, to try and get that done. So with Pvisio do you guys support the smaller clientele? Like, once they get to about 10 or so people or… ?
Micheline M.: Yeah. I mean 100%. Pvisio’s slogan is start, grow, excel. So we really work with businesses from the starting point all the way to companies that are at a point where they want to grow, and to add maybe more structure, rethink some of their practices. And excel, because we even work with larger organizations who really want to go in and fine tune certain practices, have experts come in and help them with certain aspects of their business. So we really help companies through those three phases.
Sean: And so, what are… so as we’re talking about accountability and responsibility, what are some of the growing pains that you’re seeing, or that’s more of a common thread through a lot?
Micheline M.: That’s a good question.
Sean: I’m going to say this in the intro, but we know each other because of the business that I helped start up, up here, in Canada. Actually we’re in the building where I had my first office, which is kind of neat. But it is, so I know some of the challenges that I went through and I think I’ve probably broken a lot of the rules, that now I realize I wish I knew now. But what are you seeing as some of the general things that you see and like well that’s, let’s say, people are just assuming people are either on board because it’s a paycheck, or… Could you share some of that?
Micheline M.: One thing I see often is companies didn’t always take the time to do things right from the start. And so they just needed to do things quickly, get things done. So, it could be HR, payroll. Sometimes it’s a lot of administrative stuff. So, the owners don’t really feel like they need to take the time, but the bigger they get, the bigger a pain it is to fix some of this stuff. That’s one thing I see often.
Micheline M.: You know when we work with startup companies and they’re coming to see us for very basic HR stuff, because they’re small at that point. They don’t need tons of structure in HR. We’re helping them with, how are they hiring people, how are they on-boarding them, could be working with lawyers to make sure they have good employment agreements setup, so really the basic structure. And some of them will say to me well… Because there’s laws in Quebec that regulate this stuff, so we want to make sure people start off compliant as much as possible. And sometimes they’ll say, « Well, that doesn’t suit me. I don’t want to do it that way. I want to do it my own way. »
Micheline M.: So I say, « Well, if you’re coming to see me as an expert and you’re paying for our expertise, I really, really, suggest that you do it right from the beginning. It’s going to save you so much headache down the road, by starting it right. » And it’s funny because I had one entrepreneur who said to me, « Okay I really respect your opinion and everything, but I’ve decided I’m going to do it my own way. »
Micheline M.: So I said, « Okay, do it your own way. » Then next day he called me back and he said, « You know I slept on it and I’m going to do it your way. »
Sean: You know what? So you’re talking about entrepreneurs but I know I try to bring you guys in on even bigger clients that I was working on and they were trying to get into Canada. And I remember it was about a year and a half ago, or actually two years ago now, when I got in and I did an evaluation of that company in Canada. They had four employees and it was okay that’s for one month and he got it paid on a monthly basis, which apparently was illegal for some provinces. But four people didn’t get paid. And that was an exception so that was okay.
Sean: They had no manuals. They had no handbook. Nothing. Nothing. And I said, « you know how susceptible » They actually thought that because they knew how to do it in the US, it’s got to be the same in Canada. And that’s like, « No. »
Micheline M.: Yeah, we work often with companies that are coming, especially from the US, or from abroad and want to set up, often a small office here, and they to do things like they did in the US. But, no it is different. They have to set it up differently. So I’ve gotten pretty good at explaining to Americans how Quebec labor laws work.
Sean: But it’s surprising that even on the bigger scales they just want to do it their way as well.
Micheline M.: I can be pretty convincing.
Sean: You know, it’s funny, I think there was one client that said, « No, we’re not going to go with Pvisio. » And then went with the lawyer. And we got back this 900 page document. And I looked at it, because they try to capture every province across Canada, and I was like, « oh my god. » You know, I have to review this thing and I’m like, « I don’t know what I’m reviewing. » Just the exit clause for I think vacation pay was about ten pages and at the end of it I said, « I don’t know what applies to who. »
Micheline M.: I’m a very practical person, and I know entrepreneurs are extremely practical. So, I think you really have to look and see, ask yourself, is what I’m doing in their best interest? Is this something that they need? Is it something they’ll be able to use going forward? Because even, you know does it fit with their culture? Like an employee handbook for example, sometimes big American companies, even it they’re opening up a small division, they still want a handbook. They still want certain things if it’s their culture. They’re much more structured and they want to reflect that, even in the smaller division.
Micheline M.: Where, you have startups that are very informal. Maybe they don’t need a whole handbook. Maybe there is just a few, you know, policies, or things, guidelines, that they need to have in writing to make sure everybody’s on the same page. So, I think it really depends on the situation. So I think we really, one thing with really do is look at the culture, look at the organization, to make sure that we’re doing something that makes sense for them.
Sean: So would you say that, if someone were to bring in a service like you, or like you guys, it would actually help out with a lot less headaches down the line? Let’s say even with… because I know that you and I, we used to sit down a lot, once again in this building, talking about some employee issues that I had. My late twenties, when I became a director of that firm, about how to even manage employees. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? And I had a lot of value from that. But would you suggest that if people were to get you a little bit sooner it would kind of regulate some of these things? Or it all depends?
Micheline M.: Well, I mean, 100% I think we can. I mean entrepreneurship also can be very lonely. So, entrepreneurs can be very alone. They’re kind of at the head of the organization. There’s not always that many people they can talk to about any personnel issues they’re having. A lot of smaller companies tend to have a very family atmosphere also, and family atmosphere is very nice because it could be warm, and people know each other really well and are close. But it could be harder when you have to have difficult discussions with people. So, it’s to figure out the right distance to have. So, not to be distant, but to make sure that it is still, there is still a professional relationship there.
Micheline M.: Sometimes we have clients actually, yes to get setup, but actually use us afterwards as their external HR person but on an ongoing basis. And it helps them sometimes keep that professional boundary with employees. When they have to have a discussion, we can bring more objectivity to the situation.
Sean: No, I think that’s great. I know I actually had a lot of value when we used to talk, a lot. Because I remember, I think, at one point you called me a mother hen.
Micheline M.: Yeah.
Sean: Right? Because you said I got a little, I cares too much about the employees and I know looking back at it now, I get what you were saying at the time. Because I was like, « Well, of course. Why wouldn’t I be friendly with people? » But it was to the point where I did take it very personally. On how people were being treated and on how they were being integrated. I think I got to the point where it was even crippling me. And in fact getting something accomplished.
Micheline M.: I don’t want to say that you can care too much, but it’s sometimes, where sometimes I see people that are getting too involved in employees personal lives too. So, I mean, it’s to understand what boundaries you need to have and stuff like that.
Sean: Well and not to say that now I’m like a complete now. Like the people, and it’s not that but it’s, but I think I’ve found that balance in term of definitely mirroring, or walking that line in terms of being friendly, but then being able to tell them, « Listen, we need to get this going. We need to get this done. You’re not meeting a target of a goal. » Once again, going right back to accountability.
Micheline M.: 100%. It always goes back to that.
Sean: Well, I think it’s very much an essential part about creating a functional team. I don’t know how you can have a team, if you can’t hold other people accountable. For me, that’s just completely, it just blows my mind on how people are like, « Well I don’t want to be accountable. » I don’t understand, like I’m accountable to my wife if she asks me to wash the dishes. Right, no, but it’s… To that point it’s, I don’t know how you can get anything actually effectively done. If no one’s accountable to anything, why would you get it done?
Micheline M.: Giving responsibility to people lifts them up. That’s why I like the word responsibility maybe better than accountability, but I find it lifts them up. It makes them understand why their important. Why they are an important piece of the team. That’s why I think it’s… People need to know that they have a part to play. If they don’t then they could ask themselves, « Why am I here? »
Micheline M.: I once had somebody tell me that she worked at a company where at one point she realized that if she hadn’t of show up to work for the past three weeks, nobody would have noticed, or nothing would have changed.
Sean: I think, and that can be very demoralizing to people because everybody at the end of the day wants it known that they’re adding value. And I think this is also part about when we were talking about listening, people want to make sure that they’re being heard and that they’re actually making an active change internally at the company.
Sean: I say this to a lot of people. We are all hardwired, in term of, if you’re a baker and you bake bread and you see me eat the bread, you see how myself and my family are because of the product that you made. Likewise, if I was a builder and I built you a home, or I built you the bakery, I got to see your reaction of you being happy of the product of what I built.
Sean: We don’t have that anymore. It get removed. And I think a lot of people just think it’s like a line item, or someone’s just a number and they just need to get it done. Versus it being, making sure they know they’re adding value, and that they are a consistent member. And I think it’s a lot more than just saying it, because I know that it’s really easy for a corporation to just say, « Hey, we value, and here’s an employee appreciation hot-dog barbecue outside. » Versus actually having that as an ingrained culture with the managers actively listening and letting people know that they are being valued. Or that, even that, if they have an idea, that they actually workshop it, and bring it forward.
Micheline M.: Like years of service award. I’m not a big fan of years of service rewards. Like, congratulations you’ve managed to stay in this job, or this company for five years. It is nice to recognize the people stay within the organization, but to give an award just because you stayed in a job or in a, anyways, it’s…
Sean: In the US it’s a big thing because I know every US company I’ve worked with, it was either you got this huge paperweight that actually wrote the year in glass or crystal of how many years you were there. I remember at one other company it was a Tiffany lapel pin you got. It’s like everybody wanted one and I never understood it. That, for me I just don’t get. I don’t think I would ever advertise I’ve been somewhere for umpteen years because for me I don’t know what value that would add to anybody externally.
Micheline M.: So it comes back to the point you were making before, is that, people want to know where they’re adding value. So what have they done that add value? If not, we could get very task focused. I checked these 10 items off my list. Okay but what does that mean ultimately? What was the contribution? And you’re right there are some industries or positions where it’s more obvious what the contribution was than others. Sometimes you could be further away from the action or from the end product. So, it’s not always easy to see what your contribution was. I think it’s really a job of the manager, the leaders of the organization to make sure that it’s brought forth.
Sean: Yeah, because I think when we don’t know how we’re adding value we try to figure that out on our own. If I don’t feel like I’m being fulfilled in one are, I’ll do this because I’m adding value. I think one things come to mind, are people who like to play devils advocate. And I would say there’s been this sometimes when I have liked to play that role.
Micheline M.: Yeah. Me too.
Sean: But I think that that’s where if you see someone that does it consistently throughout a job, it’s almost like, « Okay do you not feel like your adding value somewhere else? » It’s like, « Well let me just play devil’s advocate here. » Even though we’ve gone to resolutions. We’ve had a really good debate. It just seems like those are the folks that are like, « Well I don’t like what I’m doing, so I feel if I’m causing a little bit of conflict then I’m adding value in that respect. » Which I still think constructive conflict is a healthy part of a team.
Micheline M.: Often when people want to play Devil’s advocate, I find that they want to make sure that the problem is looked at from all angles. And maybe whatever the solution is, if they’re continuously coming back to it, playing Devil’s advocate, then you have to ask yourself, « What part of the solution are they uncomfortable with? » If they feel they need to keep questioning it, there is obviously something, one layer underneath, that is telling them it’s not the right solution.
Micheline M.: It’s important to listen to it because it’s not the right solution for them. Is there something that we’re not seeing, that’s important, that we’re missing? We can look at this type of behavior as being very negative, and often we want to just kind of ignore it. But often there’s value there. And often times, because they care, that their bringing it up and not just resigned to, « This is it. I’m not even going to bother saying anything. »
Sean: You know, that’s a good point. I think I did misspeak, because I do agree that having conflict is great. Having a great discussion about it, even if everybody says yes to a room about and idea, I usually am the one that gets nervous, because I’m like, « Okay I’m not that smart. » So there has to be something wrong. And if everyone’s just agreeing to it, we need to have a discussion. So I usually say, « So what are we not thinking about collectively. » Because it could be group-think and then the group has blind spots. So I do agree there are times, but it’s interesting how you put that. If somebody, if everybody else has agreed except for that one individual, it’s true so what is the issue that they have as resolve. Versus going like, « No, no, no, the group has already decided. We’re moving forward now. » even though we looked at four different options.
Micheline M.: It doesn’t mean that it’s to the point you can’t just say, « The decision is made. We have to move on. » Because some people are for whatever reason can get stuck on a point they feel very strongly about. But I think once it’s like, « Yes, we understand that point. We’ve looked at it, but we’ve decided to move on despite that. » Sometimes you do just have to move on from things.
Sean: I know a few lawyers and a couple of charities I’m with and it’s like every item, every item. Even when it’s a position that they brought up and everybody’s agreed to it, they’ll still have something to say about it.I’m like, « Oh, we’ve just got to move on. »
Micheline M.: I think that’s the nature of a lawyer right? To be able to look a things from different angles.
Sean: One person warned me, it’s like, « Well this person will actually argue with you that the color red isn’t really red. » Like that’s… « And he will actually yell at a wall. » So I was like, « Okay ». But no, I think that all these things are really unique into what it is to have a great team, to be involved, because there’s so many times, I think this is where a lot of people struggle, especially either as entrepreneurs, or as they’re growing a team, or as they’re growing up. Because I know you and I we have both moved up through the ranks in an organization, and I’ve always warned people, I said, « When you’re moving upward, you’re not getting less bosses. You’re getting more bosses. » Once again because you can become accountable to everybody.
Sean: And I thought that was one of the first things I know I received was that, and now I don’t have to worry about just me getting a paycheck, and making sure I’m still employed, and I’m doing a good job. I now am responsible for all these people, making sure they have a job and that they’re being employed still, for as long as they want to be here. And so what is the… Ultimately how did you, kind of work with that trapping? Did you feel that same type of weight, if you will, on your shoulders, as you were moving up?
Micheline M.: I would say my position developed over time, so it wasn’t like… I think I would have felt it more maybe if I had of gone from, maybe no employees or one to having a large team. So, in my case we added people progressively over time as this business grew. I didn’t necessarily feel the pressure. I don’t think about it that often. Every once in a while I do think like, « Oh wow. » But I guess I see it as a team effort and I think… You know I was talking before about how it can be lonely to be an entrepreneur, it can be lonely at the top sometimes of a hierarchy, but I think that’s why empowering and giving responsibility to everybody on the team, it actually takes a huge weight off your shoulders.
Micheline M.: For me it was actually my maternity leaves. I took maternity leave. I actually did stay in touch with the office throughout the leaves, but at the same time it really forced me to really trust the people that I was working with. Not that I didn’t trust them, but there can be, it could be your ego that plays into it where you think, « I’m so important. If I’m not there, if I’m not checking my emails while I’m on vacation, something horrible can happen. And it prevents you from actually bringing up people within your organization that are beneath you. So right now, when I go on vacation, I don’t check my emails. I put my out of office on. I have people on the team that I trust. And it’s actually, it takes a large weight off of your shoulders then to feel that you’re responsible for everything. So I think there has to be some shared responsibility as part of it.
Sean: Do you know what? You’re bringing up a really good point that not a lot of people realize is about empowering the front line or even powering people that are on your team. And that’s probably one of the best ways for them to now have ownership over initiatives, is that they know that they are empowered. And that they know that, if as long as I stay within the values or the objectives of what we’re trying to do, and I don’t overstep or go outside those guardrails, and I know what the path is, and I know I won’t get in trouble.
Sean: I think there’s a lot of organization and teams, they don’t set that up correctly. It’s basically, « Well, you’re just in accounting, so go do accounting work. » But nobody knows, like, « Can I be a little more creative? » Well, I wouldn’t say that with accounting you can be creative, but let’s say if you’re able to find out that somebody’s overspending somewhere. There are two types of people that are (A) well, this is my job so I’m just do it the same way that everybody’s always done it, because that’s the safe way. Or am I allowed to go out and say, « Hey, we haven’t looked at this type of a tax incentive, and we’re more than likely to get it, and so we can save X amount of dollars. » Right?
Micheline M.: Yeah, I mean there’s somethings that there is a right or wrong answer, but I’d say 95% of things don’t have a right or wrong answer. There’s a way I would do it, and there’s a way other people would do it and I can’t claim to have all the answer. I have my own preferences. I have my own experience in things, which leads me to make certain decisions, but I think when somebody else makes a decision that’s different than yours, there’s nothing wrong with having a discussion around it.
Micheline M.: As a leader, yes there are certain times when you can, have to maybe, impose your view on certain things, but honestly I can’t even think of a time recently that I’ve had to impose an unpopular view on something. I think when you have a culture of trust, when people disagrees with something that they’re seeing, that they’re doing, I can tell you in my team, and they’ll laugh when they listen to this recording I guess, but if they disagree with something, they’re not scared to come see me and say, « Hey, I see this is happening, and I don’t agree. » So I think there’s a culture of trust there.
Micheline M.: If people feel they’re listened to, they’ll come to see you when they see something, and you can have a discussion around that. So I think that helps, definitely helps meeting the goals, ultimately, of the team.
Sean: So how long does it take you to establish a trust or a cultural trust with your team? Because I can’t imagine that that was something that happened overnight. I know my experience never happens overnight.
Micheline M.: No, absolutely not. Like I said, my team grew over time, so it was easier. You have maybe one person that you have a certain relationship of trust with. You bring another person to the team. They kind of fall into that culture. They see that maybe their colleague trust you. So it’s a little bit easier to establish it.
Micheline M.: 100% if you’re coming in to a brand new team and you’re changing jobs, I think it does take time. Trust is definitely something that is earned. Some people will give you their trust easier than others. I think it’s just acting in a way that’s in everybody’s best interests, not being afraid to explain maybe, why you’re making certain decisions, your point of view. Like I said earlier, being emotionally available to listen to other people’s opinions too, and I think it is something you’ll be able to establish, but it is something that will take time.
Micheline M.: It depends on what their history is. If they have a history in the company where people didn’t listen to them and the people they worked for weren’t trustworthy, when you come in it’s going to be a much bigger hill to climb.
Sean: Do you feel that having that culture of trust actually removes a little bit more of the politics? Or like I guess the backstabbing that would end up happening sometimes in cultures?
Micheline M.: Yes. Absolutely. I would say if people are not afraid to speak their mind out loud, then they don’t need to go kind of whisper about it around the water cooler.
Sean: I’ve always worked for cultures where they said that they don’t have office politics, but then the bosses played the biggest office politics ever.
Micheline M.: I’m not saying there’s no office politics, obviously, because there is everywhere.
Sean: I just found that it was very irritating if you will on my end. But I know, even for entrepreneurs, if they’re growing from being one person, or being solely that individual, even groups and division that were just not there, and then they’re having to expand and even include five people. I think even the selection of people as you were mentioning is going to be key on whether they have issues or … What do they bring here? Because you could have some people that…
Sean: Do you feel that there are people who can poison a team’s culture if they’re brought in? Or do you feel that everybody is able to, kind of, integrate into something, just because, if they’re doing something that’s negative towards the team, it’s because they see something that they feel strongly about changing.
Micheline M.: No. 100% I think somebody who doesn’t have the right cultural fit could poison the team. They might feel uncomfortable themselves, a bit out of place and it’s nothing wrong with that individual. It’s just that they belong in a different culture. I think that’s why the manager can really play a role in identifying when that’s happening, to be able to deal with it as early as possible and to be close. Because sometimes it’s also hard for managers to really know what’s going on, because they’re not always on the floor, they’re not always hearing everything, people don’t always tell them everything too, so it’s not always easy. But the more that there is trust with certain individuals, then it could be easier to kind of figure out what’s happening before it’s too late.
Sean: But I think it also goes back to even the conversation I had with that entrepreneur, where I told him, « You need to be finding time to be talking to your employees. More than just within a meeting. » Because gossip can also be… Today’s gossip can be tomorrows fact. Right? And you being able to critically think, if that’s actually truthful of not, is going to be really key to the effectiveness that they’re able to do in a job.
Micheline M.: I would just say normally managers are not the first people to hear the gossip often. You know?
Sean: Yeah. I know. But I think when we’re looking at like team dynamics and I know I’ve struggled sometimes with team dynamics, especially in the beginning of my career as a boss and a manager. And not setting the right tone, or setting the right, or not actually acting in the right way, but saying it.
Sean: I was speaking with one manager recently who wanted me to come in to evaluate the team. He thought there was a couple people that were bad apples, he was calling them. And it was basically, he was like, « Could you maybe come in just to see how the team works together and just what do you think. »
Sean: I think what he wanted me to do was say, « Yes I agree with you and yes you should probably get rid of them. » And so as I was reviewing on how they work, I sat down with him the next day and he said, « So was it them? How bad are they? » And I said, « You know when I was coming into this, I didn’t know the objective was to try to say these people are wrong, but I knew I was evaluating a whole team. » And I reminded him that also meant him. And I said to him, I said, « You know what? You’re probably more or less the issue because you’re not setting the example or you’re not creating a culture where the team itself at that point is a lot more in tune to wanting to have this type of a culture. » So, it’s funny because even though he built the team, he didn’t build the team that was right for him.
Sean: It was strange. I told him, « It’s like, either you fire everybody, or you have to change, or you have to leave, but those are one of the three options. » And the team, and the people they were very competent. There were just things where they were saying like, « I’m not efficient because of X, but I’m being told I’m not efficient. »
Micheline M.: Often it can be different communication styles. It can be all kinds of reasons why you’re having these issues in the team and I think again the manager shouldn’t always feel that they have to be the one to resolve all of it. They have to be able to put their finger on what the issue is, but I think in the entrepreneur you’re talking about, he was smart enough to get somebody outside who is more objective to come in and look at the situation.
Sean: Which is great, because if you don’t do any… And thank God he was willing to be introspective, because there’s so many times where I know that could have gone down to the point of, « Well, you’re wrong. » And I’d be like, « Okay great. Have fun. Let me know in about a month how this turn out for you. »
Micheline M.: Yeah. For sure.
Sean: I think it’s interesting on how these dynamics kind of go down and work. You do this with many different companies, all the time.
Micheline M.: Yup.
Sean: Does it ever get boring?
Micheline M.: Nope. It never gets boring that’s for sure. That’s why I’ve been doing this for such a long time. Every time I meet a new company I’m constantly learning new things. There’s always a new culture. There’s always something that has to be done differently. There’s always a new surprise. Employee issues, they’ll never… Situations will never cease to amaze me. There’s always a new situation that I’ve never ever heard of before and you have to kind of think, « What’s the best way to resolve this? »
Sean: I think a lot of people, they feel like there’s a one size fits all for everything, especially with the services based consulting that you and I, that we do. Even though we don’t do the same thing, we’re doing consulting. We’re more B to B and everything’s like, « Well, you guys are just so one size fits all, and you’re just going to try to make me fit into what your mold is. » And I try to tell people, « No, no, no, no, no. Everything has to be custom. » And I warn people, I say, » Even when you’re joining a company look at it like you’re going to date somebody because they’re going to have the quirks and personalities that you’re going to like, you’re going to dislike and you have to realize if you want to date them or not.
Sean: I think this is the same thing. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s not a one size fits all. Rarely have I seen where I can generically pick something out and say, « This is you. »
Micheline M.: No 100%. There’s always some… Often we’ll have a starting point for things. I mean, if we had to start everything from scratch every time… Sometimes we do though but often we have some kind of starting point, but yet we always have to customize things.
Micheline M.: And I thought it was amazing how people always think that they’re reality is the only reality. So, often companies will say, « Well, I’m the same as every other company. Just do the same thing that you did. » And once you start digging and scratching the surface a little bit, that’s when they start realizing, « Okay maybe we’re not that same as everybody else. » But, yeah, everybody thinks their reality is the reality across the board.
Sean: So how are you helping them break that? In terms of understanding that that is… or getting to that epiphany.
Micheline M.: I think a lot of it’s through… I mean some maybe will never realize it. But people don’t always realize the work that goes on in the background for certain things. But I think a lot of it’s constructive questioning. So when you start asking them questions and they’re like, « Oh, yeah we do it this way. You mean other people don’t do that way? » No other people can do it like A, B, C, and you do it like D. We can discuss that. Is it a best practice? But every company will end up being a little bit different in their own reality.
Sean: I think that’s really a key thing you said there was questions. I’ve learned recently that the quality of your question is going to give you such a high return, the better the quality of it is. And it’s funny on how we just think, well I’m just going to ask a question and that’s going to be it. But, even for this, even for my first question, I spent about a day, just trying to figure out how would I even phrase it. And I probably still screwed it up to how I wrote it down.
Sean: But, it’s true because even on how you place the words, actually gives it.
Micheline M.: Asking the right questions, it’s not always easy to know exactly the right question to ask. What I’ve learned is when you’re not comfortable with the answer you don’t feel that you completely got, if you’re not completely clear after on what the answer is, then to question further.
Sean: I think a lot of us has a fear of not probing further because it’s a fear of not being in the know. It’s like well I’m on the outside I guess, or I’m not smart enough.
Micheline M.: I should have understood.
Sean: That’s it you know. I fell into that trap first time being in a management position and it’s like, « Oh, I should have known this I guess. »
Micheline M.: I think that goes for everything. The problem is we’re often in the heat of the moment. We have pressures. We have to answer thing so quickly. Things go fast during the day. We don’t have a lot of time to reflect, so sometimes, and maybe it’s okay… Often in a meeting maybe you won’t have that right question, or you won’t know why you feel uncomfortable with something, so I think it’s to think on it after. For me a lot of my epiphanies come in the middle of the night. I’ll wake up with the answer to something, or with putting my finger on what the issue was. Going for a walk. So I think it’s times when your mind is a little bit quieter that the solutions will come out.
Sean: Do you know what? I recently, for the last eight months, whenever I wake up at the middle of the night, I’ll have a pad of paper down at my kitchen table and I’ll have a pen, just in case I do wake up. I’ll start writing whatever my mind’s trying to tell me, because that’s usually why I’m waking up in the middle of the night. And I’ll write it down and I probably have the most prophetic ideas or things I want to communicate to somebody at that time, at 3 AM, as I’m jotting this stuff down, then if I were to think about it for two hours.
Micheline M.: They say our brain does a clean up at night. It starts sorting the information it gained during the day, so it makes sense that at night, that’s where we have some of our greatest ideas.
Sean: I think that’s something that we need to learn is that we’re not going to be the sharpest all the time. And I think if we are the sharpest all the time, then we’re in a strength zone and a comfort zone, which is also not great, because we’re not challenging ourselves into growing, into moving forward.
Sean: At this point I want to ask you a series of questions I usually ask people at the end, if that’s all right?
Micheline M.: Yeah.
Sean: It’s ones that I got from John C. Maxwell and he usually asks these things and I’ve adopted doing this too during a learning session when I’m with a mentor. And so the first question I want to ask you is what is the greatest lesson you have learned?
Micheline M.: In my practice I would say, preparation. As much as possible, when you can, to be prepared. I find that makes things go better. You can think about the questions that you want to ask. So, taking the time to be quiet. I find rushing in to things often you won’t get the outcome that you wanted.
Sean: I think that’s really, that’s a great sliver of wisdom to give to people because even in the military they have this saying it’s called, « Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. » And they call it the six Ps. It’s true though because think about it, if you’re going to go into anything, you’re not going to have all the information, but if you properly planned and if situation A changes then you know what to do, then you’re okay. You can’t plan for everything, but if you know what you can plan for, plan for it. If you’re going to be in a boat, and you know there might be a fire, plan for fire.
Micheline M.: I’d say 80% of the situations that didn’t go very well for me, were times that were poorly planned.
Sean: I’ve realized the same thing, and so on my calendar I’ll put down what’s called the six Ps, for if in the military and that’s when I know I’ve got to do a planing session for myself for meetings. So for planning, if you’re planning for a meeting is there like a measure that you use in terms of how much time you spend planning versus being in a meeting?
Micheline M.: No. I would say I do it a bit instinctively. I think it’s really taking the time, when you’re quiet, to really think about what’s coming up? What do I need to have ready for it? What are some of the outcomes that I’d like there to be? And that can kind of guide you in the questions. What’s the general framework for the discussion?
Micheline M.: Obviously always being very flexible, and being able to dance in the moment while you’re in the meeting but I think if you have that general framework, at least I find you can come in to the meeting maybe with a little bit more confidence to start off with, which will generally lead to better outcomes.
Sean: I do something very, very, very similar, but I need to write it down. I’m a very visual person in that regard, so I have to write down what I know going into the meeting, then I talk about the desired outcomes, what I want to learn, what do I think they want to learn. Then I break it down to talking points and then to questions I want to ask. And then I get an agenda.
Micheline M.: Interesting.
Sean: But for me it’s so this way I know that there’s a structure and a framework, so this way if it deviates I know I can kind of bring it back to where I may want it to go based upon what I… But there’s also times where people come in and say, « Well this is what I want to get as an outcome. » And it’s completely different. So I look at it as a guideline. I don’t look at it as being very structured or I wouldn’t say rigid.
Micheline M.: Yeah. 100% yeah.
Sean: I think people fall into a trap of this is what it is and then when it doesn’t go down that route.
Micheline M.: I’d say also in a client service aspect, when you come to a client meeting, clients expect you to be prepared. So when you come and you don’t know what the business is doing, you didn’t check your notes, you don’t remember the information that they previously gave you, it already sets a bad tone for the meeting from the get go. So I think coming to meetings prepared, even from a client service perspective, even if it’s something that takes, only saves a minutes in the meeting. I think coming to the meeting ready with that information, the client knows how important they are to you.
Sean: That’s it. It’s about the care at that point. And it really shows that you’ve taken the extra time. Once again, going back to the, « It’s a tailor made solution. » It’s not so much of a like, « Oh, yeah, so here what the law says, so this is what you just have to do. »
Micheline M.: The worst question for me is, when somebody comes into a meeting and asks them what do you do? That’s why we have the internet. You could have checked, in your car, in the parking lot, what they did. So to me that’s to clarify around what’s on the website that’s okay, but to come in and have no clue who they are, for me, that’s not a good start.
Sean: So what are you learning now?
Micheline M.: I’m always learning. I’d say one of the biggest learning experiences for me kind of began… Two years ago, I started doing my coaching certification and I did it really with the mindset of, this is a service we start offering to clients, I want to increase my expertise, to be able to accompany clients better in doing coaching.
Micheline M.: One of the things I consciously knew, but I didn’t realize really what the impact would be, was that part of the training for coaching is that you get coached a lot by your peers as part of the training. For me it was really an eye opening experience. I think I’ve even changed my own management style quite a bit since I went through that training.
Micheline M.: I think I was ready for that at that time, to start kind of a new phase, and I think it really opened my eyes. Ever since then, I find I’m just more curious about everything around me, absorbing new information a little bit better. I was looking to see… We kind of read things passively, or we go to courses, or we listen to webinars, or Ted Talks, but really going into it with a curiosity about what do I find interesting about this and how am I going to try to apply it going forward.
Micheline M.: Like I said earlier, I’m very practical about things so information is nice but I always like to see, how could I apply it? How could a client? Who’s this making me think of that could use this information? How could I modify certain things that I’m doing to integrate this. I think it’s coming into it with a curiosity. So I think right now I’m at a phase where I’m really… I feel a bit like sponge right now.
Sean: You know I find that’s very interesting because I was actually mentoring one of my friends and he was saying… I told him, « We all fall into this trap, where at one point we think well, we know it now. » And we lose the curiosity. And we lose that… I know I actually found that out internally for myself too, that I was one of my biggest reasons why I felt disinterested with a lot of things, because I lost the curiosity. I stopped asking, « Well, why is it like that? » As an engineer I stopped asking why, which his a really scary thing for an engineer to do. But that’s how disinterested I became, and when I started mentally noting, why is this happening? Being curious, being open to how things are. I found I felt a lot happier. I felt people were a lot more receptive to me as well.
Sean: I love when how you were talking about how coaching has changed, and how you managed, because I think that’s something that’s important for a lot of managers to do. Not necessarily having to get a coaching certification, but under some, how to mentor. Or even how to coach people as part of their team. I think it’s a lot about building the trust, listening. That was one thing, I’m not, I looked at what it would be to become a certified coach, and God bless you for actually trying to go off and do that.
Micheline M.: Yeah. I got my certification almost a year ago now, so I was very happy.
Micheline M.: It was actually a much more difficult process than I though it would be, so I was very happy.
Sean: There are a lot of hours to go in there. To get that done.
Micheline M.: Yeah. Yeah. I was very happy to have accomplish that so.
Sean: But it’s interesting. But the value I think people would get, even like you’re talking about listening skills. That come from coshing right, being actively listening to somebody and asking the questions and then trying to ruminate, okay so what are we trying to get to, and help them get there.
Micheline M.: 100%. There’s a lot of misinformation about coaching. A lot of people think that coaching means telling people what to do. That’s really not what coaching is about, so it is a lot more listening than it is talking.
Sean: Actually I said that to somebody when they said, « What’s the difference for you between mentoring and coaching? » I said, « Coaching you should just ask nothing but questions and mentoring, it’s about asking questions then guiding them to getting the right answer. » Which is why I said I’m probably better as a mentor than I am as a coach.
Micheline M.: Mentoring is more like sharing your own experiences, your own wisdom that you’ve acquired, whereas coaching that’s actually a big no no.
Sean: I think I would climb the walls by saying, « Okay. » And then, « What do you think? Okay. » You need to get to this place. I’m just hoping that they’re going to catch it. I think that’s a very admirable thing, and I know that a lot of people who have taken on doing some sort of an understanding of what true coaching is, or even true mentoring is, that they end up getting a lot more value and people want to work for them more, because you’re listening to me. You’re helping me through something. Because the other thing is, not being judgemental about the individual, because they truly have an issue that they need to work through.
Micheline M.: Yeah. You have to suspend judgment as part of being a coach and if you’re not able to do that then you shouldn’t be coaching somebody. I’m talking about more of a professional coaching relationship, but, yes, acting as a coach to your own team, it’s not something you can do all the time, especially not in the official coaching definition version. So there’s times when you have to wear more of your monitor hat, or be more directive, so you have to be able to go through all these different management styles. But I find using a coaching approach to managing your team is definitely something that’s useful.
Sean: I know that there are people out there that are saying, « Well you can coach your team in 10 minutes. It doesn’t take that long. » I’m kind of wary about that because I don’t know who can resolve a problem in 10 minutes.
Micheline M.: Yeah. That’s what the problem is.
Sean: Every problem. I don’t know.
Micheline M.: For me I see it more as… I think the way that I’m using it is more in the helping people. When we talked earlier about responsibility and setting objectives, is helping them set objectives, so how it’s done, but also in the support to helping them reach it. Obviously with the desired outcome that will help the team as a whole, but that they will be happier, in everything that they do, if they have this one line that their following to get them further to where they want to go.
Sean: You bring up a very interesting point, because I know that there are people that can help and then there are people who you just can’t help. It doesn’t matter how much you try and stuff like that, but at least, I think through that methodology, you’ve given it a really good practical approach interns of how to support somebody. At the end of the day, if they don’t make the corrections, or they can’t do it then there is only so much you can truly do. The person’s probably just not happy.
Micheline M.: Again, you’re hoping you don’t have a team with people who are just showing up to work every day to get a pay check and are completely disinterested in what they do. I would think that it would show up somewhere in their performance, but yes people kind of just go show up at work every day and do what they have to do to get through the day.
Micheline M.: I have a firm belief that everybody likes to succeed. Everybody wants to be good at what they’re doing. If they’re going to show up to work every day, why not do it well, and do it in a way that will make you happy and contribute rather than doing the opposite of that.
Micheline M.: I’m a bit of an optimist in that sense. I actually do believe that everybody has a certain amount of potential. But I’m also a realist, so yes maybe it’s not the case 100% of the time, but I always come in with the hope that there’s a way to get around to somebody, to have them contribute or even ultimately, if person has to realize that maybe this is not the right place for them, that they’ll move on.
Sean: And that’s something I was trying to, I was thinking about too. It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person, they’re just not in the situation, or in the right place at that time. And if they’re not working out… I said this to another person I was mentoring, when I told her, because she was like, « No. »… and I know I fall into this trap myself and you suggested I did something similar a couple of years ago, which was, the person just wasn’t in the right situation, and they said, « Well they’re going to figure it out and they’re going to leave. » And I said, « You’ll be doing them more of a service by firing them. »
Sean: Because this way you’re not wasting their time and you’re not wasting your time by keeping them on board. Also, you’re not showing your team, setting that as a benchmark that that’s okay. I know it’s a tough situation to have, but at the end of the day, I think you’re giving them an opportunity to possibly be doing something that they would love to do at the end of the day. They may not even themselves realize how depressed they are, or how they’re not doing well.
Micheline M.: Some people don’t want to leave on their own, absolutely. I’m not saying, I don’t want to give people the impression that I think you should just fire anybody if they’re not doing well. I find there’s a lot of discussions I have with the person before obviously, depending on who long they’re been in the position and so on. I do like to come in and have hope that it’s going to work out, but if ultimately the person just doesn’t want to be there then there’s not really much you can do about it.
Sean: Well, I think other thing we also need to kind of preface here is that we’re talking about if there’s a singular individual on a team, but if it’s the whole team, and the manager is thinking well everybody else is just bad. Maybe the manager should be looking
Micheline M.: Look in the mirror.
Sean: Inside right because I’ve always said this to people, I said, « Success is a child of many, but failure is a orphan. » Nobody wants to own failure and I think that that’s what I lot of people need to really start realizing is that if you’re the only smart one in the room, maybe you’re the dumbest.
Micheline M.: It’s true.
Sean: So how has failure shaped your life?
Micheline M.: I’ve definitely been… I think I’ve had a lot of positions where I had a lot of autonomy in my roles. So, a lot of responsibility that went with it. So, yes I’ve definitely screwed up quite a few things. Things haven’t always gone the way I want. You can ruminate on it a little bit after. You can be disappointed.
Micheline M.: I’m somebody who’s very hard on myself, so I can be upset with myself for a while after, and I think it’s how do you get past it and think about the future? What did you learn from the experience? I try never to make the same mistake twice, I guess is what it boils down to, to look at it as a learning opportunity. I’m definitely harder on myself, I think than others. When others make a mistake, again, I’m assuming that they’re not coming in making the same mistake every day. I think I’m somebody, especially when I see somebody realizes and they care, then I’m very willing to help them more forward from mistakes that they make, and learn from them.
Sean: So you’re mentioning before, in the interview, about your own learning experiences and try to share the with people. I guess this is what that’s a little bit a part of right, is that you’re able to share with people, say, « No, no, no. I’ve been down that route. If you’re doing it in this way, you might get the same result. »
Micheline M.: That’s why I think doing the coaching certification made me open my eyes to certain things that I wasn’t handling correctly. I think it was humbling to know, to realize, kind of like what we said earlier, you don’t always have all the answers and it’s okay not to have the answers. Not that I thought I had all the answers before but maybe I thought I had more answers than I actually had. So, I think it’s a humbling experience and I think it makes you realize that the collective intelligence is always greater than just your own.
Sean: I think one of the most disheartening things I even got told was, I had and idea and I pitched it to them, to my peers and they all said, « No, no, we did this five years ago, or ten years ago it didn’t work out, so you’re going to get exactly the same result. » So well, « Have you tried it like this? » « No, no, no, no, no. I know what you’re trying to get too. It’s not going to work. » And I was just like, « But you don’t know, that was five years ago. It could work now. »
Micheline M.: Yeah. Things change really fast.
Sean: And so I think if we were going to cautious anybody, or at least I would, is to just evaluate, maybe they have a different take on how to do it. And you might get to the same result.
Micheline M.: Things change, companies change, the people in the positions change
Sean: Society changes
Micheline M.: Society changes 100%. I think even when you’re looking at people within the team, I seen this before also where people will have been in the same position for a long time, maybe they’ll be good at what they’re doing and so the people around them will kind of write that person off and saying that person doesn’t want to move up. They don’t want to do anything different. They’re happy doing what they’re doing.
Micheline M.: Maybe they had a discussion once with them 15 years ago where the person said, « No, I’m happy. » Maybe they just had kids. They just want stability. But maybe their kids moved out later and they’re in a new stage of life where all of a sudden they want a new challenge and nobody’s asking them or offering it anymore.
Micheline M.: I think it’s being in tune and not being afraid to have a conversation you’ve had before, sometimes not even realizing maybe it was 15 years ago that you had that discussion last time. But it’s funny how people’s memories of past discussions can really stay.
Sean: It’s like it’s on your permanent record forever now.
Micheline M.: Exactly.
Sean: So what have you done that you would suggest anybody to do?
Micheline M.: I would say being able to disconnect, taking time to disconnect every once in a while. It’s funny how many people I talk to who say they never take vacation. They go on vacation, they check their emails the whole time. They’re working. Personally, even if they say, « I can do it. It’s fine. » You can love what you do, but I think it’s good to disconnect, think about things differently.
Micheline M.: If anything it forces you to trust the people around you more and they understand that they’ve been given this amount of trust by you not having to check in all the time. And not everything’s on your shoulders all the time. That you’re kind of handing out more responsibility to the people around you. So I think disconnection is one of the biggest issues that we’re having today, that people are connected 24/7. We’re having more and more mental health issues in the workplace. I’m not a scientist in this area but I’m sure that the fact that people are connected to technology, connected to work, the pressures 24/7, 52 weeks I year, I’m sure that contributes to it.
Sean: So, when you’re talking about disconnecting, you’re talking a lot more than just going to a beach somewhere, but actually turning off your phone, not checking your emails.
Micheline M.: Exactly.
Sean: Making sure that you’re not, setting up like an hour in a day to just still do some work, but just completely just remove yourself.
Micheline M.: I even catch myself doing it. Sometimes I’m checking my email at like 11 or 12 at night. There’s no emergencies happening at that time of night. I don’t need to check my emails at that time, but we just have this… It’s become a habit of constantly checking our work emails to see what’s happening, to see did we get a new email, but it’s really not that important. I think it’s putting things in perspective a little bit about what’s important. When do we need to have those clear moments? Yeah, our minds probably always going, but maybe during that period when we’re alone, disconnected from the office, maybe we’ll have a great idea then, because all of a sudden our minds a bit quieter.
Sean: I think when we’re looking at it from a point of view in terms of how people are trying to disconnect. Once again, I think we were talking about this before, about how people feel like, maybe a little about ego but it’s like, « If it’s not me then it won’t ever happen, or it can’t be done as well. » And we all get into these trappings. I think it’s really about, number one, some people will say, « Well, if I were to explain it to somebody on how to do it, it would equally or double the amount of time than if I were to just do it. » I think that’s one trapping because you say that for one, then you’re saying that to 10 different items and now that’s your job and now you’re not getting your management or you’re not doing what you need to get done, and now you have someone that’s idle, that’s not able, and feels useless. But I think the other thing is, we don’t realize that if someone else can do it 80% as well as we can, give it to them. Just give it to them.
Micheline M.: What if we get sick tomorrow? I always say, « What happens if you get hit by a bus? Who’s going to take your place then? » So I think it’s good, even just from a business perspective, to have people that are versatile, that are able to replace each other, that you’re not counting fully on one individual for your business to run.
Sean: I say the same thing to people. If I have to relearn the alphabet because I got hit in the head, chances are I’m making really great decisions at that point. It’s true. If I were to leave a firm, the firm shouldn’t die because of me. And I know that happened to me once and I felt absolutely horrified that that happened because there’s a lot of great people that were there and they lost their jobs because I decided no I want to do something else.
Micheline M.: It is harder in a smaller team, 100%. So somebody’s who’s starting their own business, who has one or two people, for sure it’s going to be very difficult to do. But I think you have to help yourself. We’re very good at finding all the reasons why it’s not possible, instead of trying to find all the ways that it could be possible.
Sean: And I think this is some of the issues when a lot of people are talking about the succession planning and about how we’re going to replace the old guard with the new guard. This is a really interesting topic on well, what do you do? How do you actually do it? You know? But it’s interesting because I agree with you, if we were to just assume people can do it and let them fail, then they’re never going to move forward because they’re just going to continue to fail and they don’t know why. But if we were to spend maybe 10 to 15% of our time coaching them and supporting them and getting them to understand how to take over, even if it’s just slowly at a time, a certain task. They can do it, and then that frees up so much more bandwidth for an individual to get more done effectively.
Micheline M.: And after we think it’s so complicated to do, and we go to teach the person, it’s not that complicated.
Sean: That’s it. I think a lot of people what they don’t realize is that there’s a certain amount of bandwidth in terms of decision making that we’re able to do. I noticed that when I started a checklist for myself in the morning, I’m removing decisions I need to make, maybe 15 of them, but I feel a lot more refreshed when I hit the desk verses how I was before because I was like, « Oh, should I do this? What should I have for breakfast? What should I… » and I felt like by the time I got to the desk I’d made 100 decisions and I’m like, « Well, I’m tired. » This allows them to just say, « Take this, it’s yours to run with. I’ll check in with you or you can always come see me. » And I think that’s something that a lot, especially entrepreneurs, but also people that have grown and they’ve stay inside those organizations that they were in, that they run into that trap of like, « I’m the only one that knows how to do this »
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Micheline M.: It’s very dangerous for an organization to have people who, like I said, you can only count on that one person to get it done, then that’s a huge liability.
Sean: Oh yeah. Well Micheline, thank you so much for time you’re spending with us.
Micheline M.: Thank you.
Sean: All right.
Micheline M.: Okay, great. Thanks.