CC Coffee Talk Podcast → on How to Create a Responsibility-Based Culture

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Commercial Construction Coffee Talk host David Corson interviews Judy Ryan, CEO of Lifework Systems. Together they discuss a RESPONSIBILITY-BASED culture where you have buy-in from everyone at EVERY LEVEL. Judy shares how to connect the dots between current and future trends and the kinds of people and performance needed to succeed in today and tomorrow’s workplace.

Interview Transcript


hey there commercial construction Coffee Talk fans thanks for chiming in to uh today’s uh show my name’s David Corson I’m your host I’m also the publisher editor of commercial construction and renovation magazine we’ve got an awesome aome show tonight Our Guest is Judy Ryan CEO of Life work systems she’s a coach author jack of all trades and uh we’ve got a great discussion that we have in store for you so we we hope you stay in and listen because I think you’ll be able to take a knowledge nugget and apply to your business and daily activities so with that said let’s dive right into it Judy tell us about yourself where you from Etc well thank thanks first of all for having on me on this show I’m really uh grateful to be here and I also feel some kindred spirit with you David because my father and some of my cousins and uncles uh all ran construction companies and my father had a roofing business so I kind of know what some of those headaches and opportunities are in that industry I know it’s not the whole of what you’re you’re doing but I actually love working with organizations to help the people within the organization to fully engage with the work that they’re doing doing to take control of their relationships of their productivity of their engagement level of even their plan of how they’re going to go about growth and change and so that’s what I do and I really really love it because there’s always a big need for it and once people recognize that need and then learn the system it’s really incredible to see how many improvements can happen and how much people don’t even recognize how much they’re suffering beforehand they’re suffering because they don’t really know how to handle some of those things and they think they’re supposed to know how to handle them so mostly our my work is really all about any company that’s concerned with employee performance or healthy workplace culture and a lot of uh those those things are really being impacted right now I know because of the pandemic that’s on everybody’s mind but really these things have been going on for a long time outside of that it’s just right in our faces right now because of the stress of the situation has always been a test for how well people and their teams will perform and that’s really that’ll be before the pandemic now during the pandemic and even after the pandemic is over with people are going to still have stress and so what’s really important for business is leaders in particular is Are My People engaged are they resilient resilient meaning can they bounce back no matter what’s coming at them are they agile enough to shift and change as things cause them to have to do so so even before this epidemic we’ve had businesses having to change because of just the nature of business itself and how quickly things are changing so in the United States there’s been a really high I don’t know if everybody knows this but there’s really high disengagement in most companies year after year after year David I don’t know if you know that or not but it’s about 71% of people that are list I came from NE neelen so I was with a big Corporation I went out on my own and then I had uh my company 14 employees and and grew very fast and then when the economy fell off the cliff we uh downsized and figured out things and now I do things with five people we’re very tight-nit group uh we know what everybody’s aspects are but talking to people over the last couple of months during the shutdown I know that a lot of people have been furloughed and laid off and some will come back somewhat a lot of company uh just internally things are going to change uh how many people are going to come back some people are going to be wearing multiple hats and trying to figure out am I going to keep my people working out of the house am I going to bring them into the office so I want them out in the field uh I think a lot of organizations are going to go through major changes uh and you want to keep the best people with you but also they’re all going to have to do more with less and yes yes and most even sometimes your best people aren’t as expanded in their potential as they could be but certainly a lot of those that are sort of shut down are really in need of expanding their potential so it’s not that big of a jump to get people engaged it’s just that you have to start dismantling some things that are in the way right now and that’s kind of new to to a lot of people so what happens is that 2080 rule where you have 20% of the team doing the heavy lifting and so that’s always been and and those are the folks that are going to be retained but there’s going to be more expected of more people in a small smaller group so yes having that full engagement is everything having people that can get hit with something out of the blue and come back from it is everything and so for us what that means is how do you create the conditions and conversations where people are consistently those things that I mentioned resilient agile able to uh be stay engaged choose to be engaged that sort of thing so for us it’s about educating people especially leaders on what don’t even know that they don’t know because if I use the word culture culture is just like the word parenting you could have 20 different people in the room all with a different idea of what it’s supposed to look like and the culture model that we use is not yet fully mainstream all the top companies all of the most Progressive and successful companies are using that kind of culture that I’m talking about that we have or are moving toward it an agile compatible culture a culture where people the whole the most important priority is that they become personally responsible how do you do that how do you do that when people are used to being told what to do being incentivized to do it being shamed or praised to do it and sometimes just somebody else taking over for them because they’re not showing up so when we have all that going on how do we have fully engaged people and that’s really what we do is we we bring in something that many people have never even heard of or have really considered which is a responsibility based culture model my motto is the day I stop learning is the day I stop doing something else so I mean I learn something new every day uh whether it’s dealing with a client or dealing with one of my cohorts or dealing with my wife or dealing with my dogs whatever it might be you know commun communication is key but coming out of the pandemic a lot of companies are going to go through uh some might just stay to the to the status quo others are going to be uh aggressive on trying to figure out the best way to operate their organizations internally and you’re only as good as your people period well that’s that’s absolutely true and for whatever reason whatever’s happened in your life David you’re an Engaged person you’re a lifelong learner you just said I really like to keep learning there’s a lot of people that want to be like you but they haven’t been given the right set of guidance and support in order to become that I really believe that to be way more true than not uh you will have times when you have employees where you just really recognize they’re not Rising but a lot of times it’s a matter of giving them the right conditions for them to rise and that one of my favorite things that I love to hear from people is the saying I never thought that person would turn around or I can’t believe what we’re getting out of that person right now because we’re so unaware that the conditions we’re creating have actually caused people to shut down like we don’t know that we’re setting things up for them to kind of fail or sort of fail so uh in fact when you Saidi like to learn one of my favorite quotes this year is about change blindness and it’s a quote that says we have a problem with change blindness because what’s happening is people are either seeing new information but not wanting to go out of their way for it or they see new information and they don’t like to consider that what they’ve been doing or thinking is outdated and those two things alone keep people stuck so your hunger and your willingness to learn and row is not something that everybody’s comfortable or willing to do easily until they see a painted picture of something that uh that they they’re willing to try because they hadn’t heard it’s not a same old same old again and it starts to make sense I was a Dale Carnegie guy so I went into the Dale Carnegie way back when and um probably one of the best things that I ever did I wasn’t very uh excited to go the my old cor neelson said hey you should go take the class uh we want you we want you to be a leader and uh I was kind of a uh I was kind of tough on my people so I went in there and one of the greatest things I became humble and but but the coolest thing about Dale carneg was you you were in there with a room of all sorts of types of people and uh watching people who never have ever couldn’t speak in front of people or uh they weren’t able to comprehend uh if a task was given to them they were worried about failing and Dale car you tght me what what’s the worst that can happen and what’s the best that can happen so you actually know where you stand but watching a person in the beginning of the class who who couldn’t like Dreadful shaking to get up and just say a couple of sentences in front of a group and then through through the classes by the end of the course it was like no big deal and uh talking about stuff that you know you don’t have to be nervous about and I I love it that you’re using that example because one of the things we do with our culture change process is people go through and they learn new Concepts and tools but then they have to come together in a group and the group has to take turns leading a group and so that exact dynamic occurs but everybody’s supported in how do we encourage this person who’s taking the leadership role so that they can become get out of their own box of I’m only a follower you know and now today I’m the leader and people are there to to support and encourage me and and so everybody learns that agility of sometimes I do need to speak up and be the leader you also said that when you first went into that you had to learn humility because you were hard on people I think that the best leader is a is a powerful um firm leader but humble enough to say I want to develop you into a leader too that’s where I would say the humility is really needed not so much that uh some of the the managers I see that rule by intimidation need to be humbled exactly they just need to realize they’re even more powerful when they can create other leaders we see it in organizations where sometimes there’s one on the outside and he wants to hold on to that intimidation and yet he starts seeing the effects on the other teams and says maybe I should look at this I think a lot of leaders are scared about people you know taking their jobs the best thing that you can do as a leader or a CEO is to build your team up to be able to replace yourself because that’s the only way that your that your company’s going to grow down the road and the more the more that they know about all the different things that go on internally in your organization the better off you are I’m I’m a lacrosse coach at high at the high school level I’ve done wreck I’ve done it all when my kid was growing up but now I do I do high school and I just tell people look you’re gonna you’re gonna play as you practice and um everything that you that you do I’ve done 20 times over and I’ve made mistakes you learn from your mistakes I’d rather you fail pick yourself up learn from it so you don’t do it again and you got to stay positive but you have to be humble enough to know that hey you know the I’m trying to tell you that you you can improve but you got to practice at it too it’s not going to come overnight well you’re exactly right you’re talking about being a firm leader but also being one that develops other people I mean really and truly um like you said earlier in the sentences you said people are afraid they’re going to lose their position well the the reality of it is any leader who is worried about saving their own position is already in a bad place because they’re very transactional It’s All About Me protecting me one of the things I love about our culture model is not only does it deeply honor individuals it teaches side by side with freedom and individuals being important it teaches the importance of really being intentional about what you’re going to cause other people and being aware of it it’s called social interest social interest is when I’m thinking about what I’m doing and how it’s going to affect you like we had uh we talk about this sometimes in a in a social way like I remember one time seeing a little five-year-old boy say to his mom why can’t we park in this first spot at the grocery store where you know was the handicap spot and she said well see that $500 we’ll have to get a ticket and pay $500 I said a real good leader would say you know what’s so cool about our community son we watch out for each other we make sure that people that can’t walk well can get into the store easily isn’t it great that we’re that kind of community and so what happens is I remember seeing an experiment like that where they put an actual handicap picture on the sign and people that would pull in to just park there would see that f and somebody saying thank you for saving this for me and they’d pull right back out and the minute they’ take that sign down people wouldn’t give it darn because they lost sight of the other person and what they were causing them so social interest in a company is huge it it turns even a leader who is weak egoed enough to be all protective of him or herself and makes them into somebody that wants people to succeed and that’s just contagious and beautiful so our our sector we’re in the commercial construction sector so you’ve got retailers Hotel years multifam uh restaurants shopping center developers Architects engineer contractors vendor suppliers all different sizes companies public private big small so with companies that are in this sector and they’re trying to come out of the pandemic figure out the best way that they can run their operations who they’re going to bring back how they’re going to streamline how they’re going to get things done if a company wanted to reach out to you and with your expertise uh how would they go about it and what could they expect well I would say if I were a company even considering how do I get full engagement out of my people because right now I need it more than I’ve ever needed it right so I would be saying to them look take the time to go and look and see what your practices are and whether you’ve got all your practices in place I remember years ago taking a marketing survey and I thought oh my God I don’t have half the things in place that I’m supposed to have in place you know to do marketing well the same is true for most companies around their culture practices they don’t know what they have in place and don’t have in place and what they should have in place and so I would recommend that you go and you do an assessment that we have that’s free that allows you to start recognizing do I have these practices in place am I going through these kind of challenges do I want these kinds of leadership development skills in my people and then that’s something that you can do with little time no money and get back information about your organization what’s the score of your culture is it healthy what are the areas you should focus on first what are some of the suggested things you can do without ever even hiring anybody just to have a a baseline understanding um it’s kind of like we walk around with business sometimes as if we’ve never a person never going and getting blood work done it’s just not a good way to operate you don’t really know what’s going on so that would be the first thing that I would tell people in terms of me understanding them and them understanding what kinds of things they should have in place around culture and culture is uh one of those things putting time into helping people be emotionally and socially intelligent feels a little bit like slowing down to speed up but you don’t even have to slow down very long or very much to see the advancements that come from people becoming more self-aware and self-managing and more aware of their Dynamics so that they can manage relationships I mean even simple things like we companies where they don’t gossip anymore like are they rarely gossip because they have various guidelines in place that help them to do something other than gossip and to make commitments to not gossip and how do they do healthy venting and how do they have tools so that when they do want to go to each other they can do that safely and not worry about it blowing up in their face and so that’s why people it really is true if they know better they would do better so I would just suggest that people kind of get a read on where they are and be willing to look at get the models that are out there including the kind like we’re providing which is value based purpose-based personally responsible that’s a winning ticket we have a a client right now it’s a big huge physician owned healthc care IT company and they keep sending me the emails saying how good they’re doing because they paid their dues they have to literally create new things on the fly right now and they’re able to do it because they’ve um they’ve got such solid teamwork and they’re not wasting in their energy on gossiping and complaining and being against each other it’s really incredible to see what can happen under those conditions a lot of the companies that are coming out of the pandemic that are starting to well I saw one guy was getting on his plane he goes well let’s see how this goes work C he was flying from Houston to someplace I think Mobile Alabama but uh gradually they’re all going to come back and they’re going to start working and every company can improve internally I don’t care if you’re big small small even even my little firm uh even though we’re all remote and so forth we’ve all kind of learned how to get along and get things but we know what we we we know what our silos are and what we need to get done but there’s a lot of bigger companies oh my God they take so much time to get stuff done it that it’s it’s uh it’s just a big old meat grinder that’s moving along really slow if they could become much more efficient they would be able you know how many times I I I I say hey let’s send me a press release well you know it’s got to go through the marketing department then legal Le and this and that I’m like by the time you get it to someone else is going to already have the pr out there and beat you to the punt that’s when you have too much too many uh cultures of control in place and not enough people that feel confident enough to take initiative and take something forward and and and that’s really why everything gets so bogged down I mean we can even see it politically right now there’s not a system where everybody don’t get me started oh I know I know don’t get me started you know it’s the interesting thing about businesses is a lot of companies still want to hold with this idea that you know emotional intelligence and culture are nice to have but there really need to haves when you have a culture problem it can take you down just like when your car has an engine problem and the engine light comes on we can’t say we don’t have time you know and really right now with this pandemic It’s actually an ideal time for companies to take time to learn what is this culture system and how do you implement it uh one of my clients told me I met you at a keynote I did your 18-month culture change implementation we love it they still use it he said but I never hear anybody else talking about an implementation that’s what a lot of companies are also struggling with they’re reading about these great culture models that should be happening but they don’t know where to get started and how to do it so part of it is I don’t believe that most leaders don’t care I just don’t think they either have the information or have the process for what to do so that’s that’s why I love what I do I’ve done it for over 30 years and this model is now coming into its own so I’m super excited you know my last my last podcast they’ve all been about well what are you doing with the pandemic and how you going to come out and how you going to handle this or that the reason why uh after we spoke on our conference call that I wanted you on here was that everybody out there that’s listening if you’re a business owner whether you’re private public or private this is an opportunity for you well not to worry about how you going to get the the sneeze s up or uh you know are we going to be able to get our stores open on time that we’re putting the pipeline that may we put on hold and so forth here’s an opportunity to invest into your personnel that you’re going to come out with the pandemic with and coming into it’s going to be kind of a new business world out there you know uh until they find a vaccine or a remedy therapeutic remedy things are going to change and you’re going to have to learn to adapt and you’re going to have to be flexible and I think Judy has an unbelievable array of courses uh guidelines knowledge that she could actually offer to your company to help you get through this post-pandemic build your team maintain them and not lose them the bit the worst thing that you can do is train someone and have them leave and they got to start at scratch once again right and and that’s just a waste of dollars and time and efficiency and I would even go a little bit further David and say we’ve had years of 70% or greater disengagement it’s always been time to do it but most of us have not put the time in on working on the business we get so caught up in the day-to-day working in the business we don’t have the excuse of that right now we can’t go to the football games we can’t go to the hockey games or whatever you know put your time in now and and just to clarify while we do have a lot of training it’s really more about how the whole team becomes owner of their own tasks and owners of the culture and it’s not laid on the shoulders of just the top people we have people in companies where everybody from CEO to janitor are part and parcel of keeping the culture going and being part of it and that is in itself very Paradigm shifting if you will I know that’s an old term but it really is something that you don’t have to say oh great another burden on me the manager or the owner or the top level this is really something that everybody shares equally and it’s set up to be that way and I can’t explain it all in a short conversation but it isn’t your traditional let’s go away and do some training it’s really about integrating a whole lot of things together on a month-to-month basis until it’s it becomes the way of doing things constru construction doesn’t change month-to month it’s drywall screws floor Roofing insulation HVAC uh security doors storefronts that stuff doesn’t change what does change are the people that actually are getting things done you know whether you you know the general contractor or the construction manager dealing with the subs dealing with May making your deadlines how am I going to get that done and what I think Judy can offer your to your firm is an opportunity to find out what you’re doing right what you’re doing wrong how to improve that efficiency with your communication uh your goals and most importantly developing your people so they know that you know they’re just not an employee that they have that they know that they can have pride and hey you know I’m in this too you know I’m one of the team members and so forth and that down the road you they might be the next CEO who knows yeah as want to know you care about them they want to know that you want to hear what they have to say and then they’re way more willing to listen to what you have to say to them and to do what you know what will make you happy and and what will make the customers happy so it’s just a we just don’t even realize how just some some things that we’ve been doing over and over again are just it’s time for them to go and once those go people are free to become really amazing people especially those that have been really you know just doing the bare minimum there’s a lot of people in mediocrity over 50% of Workforce n nationally are about uh 55% are mediocre they’re doing C minus they’re there for the paycheck even that’s a really expensive thing add that to the 16% that are costing you money by you know coming to work drunk or high or late or under performing to a terrible degree that’s a really big combined amount of money you’re losing so if you imagine you know everybody showing up yeah as a coach when you’re in wreck Everybody Plays when you get the high school level only the best players play and all the time is the parents would come to me why isn’t my son playing well he hasn’t gotten pra he has been practicing he has been throwing the wall enough and um when he does that we will give him the chance but at this point uh my job is to put goals on goals in the net and W’s on the scoreboard um even sports teams if you really see some of the better performers some of it’s natural talent but a lot of it they happen to get excellence in coaching excellence in support excellence in a lot of different areas that all created that excellence in the performance well that’s what’s missing with workplace it’s not that people don’t have a heart for what they’re doing they just haven’t been given the right support for what they’re doing and I don’t mean their construction support you know construction is kind of a good metaphor because even in construction you have phases for things and you have to have a lot of cross functionality and the same is really true for our business and those things if everybody’s waiting around for the boss to tell everybody what to do that’s not a good construction site right and so in in a fully engaged Workforce people are leaping to be accountable for what’s Theirs to do they’re not feeling held back they’re not feeling unable anymore and it’s it’s I just don’t think people realize when this work was done in a prison where repeat reincarceration is the same as uh like the engage disengagement in the United States has been around 71% that’s what it is for repeat reincarceration in prisons it’s around 70% when we used our model in a prison in Florida it went down to 4% and that’s what it’s like in companies when you change your workplace culture and you get it right the the change is so phenomenal that it’s hard for people to even believe it until they see it so that’s really we’ve settled a lot more for mediocrity than we even know so what we’re going to do coffee talk fans out there is that if you’re interested in uh having Judy actually maybe do a little analyzation of your firm uh we’re going to put together a uh survey for you and if you’re interested in pursuing trying to improve your internal workings of your firm as you come out of the pandemic how can they get in touch with you Judy they can go on my website at life workor systems systems is the only part of the title that is plural so it’s life work and there’s uh there’s lots of pages where there’s videos but there’s also lots of pages where there’s take our survey and that’s the free survey that I mentioned earlier we do other surveys too that are around your whole company’s engagement but this is really for you the business leader or owner or managers at the top just one person to kind of get a read on is our culture practice you know are our culture practice is healthy do we have everything in place we need are we addressing our challenges what’s the priority for us to be looking at and it just gives you a good read on all of that we have our e digest on there we’re going to put this podcast on Wednesday’s e digest that goes out and my plan would be to put that survey link on there for those of you that are uh going to receive our eblast and hopefully that you’ll take a look at it uh I I urge you to be inquisitive take a look see and take the survey you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain and uh like I said the day that you know you stop learning go do something else uh I’m going to take the server even though I’ve got a small firm but there are some big ones out there that probably could uh use this uh uh you know it might be eye openening uh after you take it and then if you’re interested in pursuing you know continue the education or uh going through the the the works that Judy offers in her in her curriculum um you can contact her directly and go from there any final thoughts before we sign off um I actually just want to say I’m really grateful I know that a lot of the industries that you’re serving right now David they’re all you know they necessity they’re necessary businesses and so there’s a lot of work to do without necessarily the usual support systems around them so I just I just applaud the people that are listening and I’m grateful that I was able to be on the show and hopefully offer a little bit of Hope to them and also get to know you better David thank you so much we really appreci you’re welcome like I said we had a great talk and that’s why I had you on here for those of you um that uh aren’t familiar with our magazine you can go to ccrm we would love to have you be a subscriber we’ll be uh having this podcast put on our Wednesday e digest we also have the survey link on there as well and if you want to get into uh contact with Judy I’m sure she has contact info up on her website uh and so forth so with that said we’re coming out of the pandemic some of the some of the areas uh it’s uh getting the the curves going down still got to wash your hands social distance wear the mask if you need to stay positive sun’s coming out summer we’re going to get through this all together and hopefully if you use Judy you’re going to be that much better and uh positive down the road and prosperity Prosperity is what it’s all about so thank you once again Judy for your time really appreciate it because I know you’re a busy lady thank you for all for signing signing in and we look forward to you seeing uh next time on commercial construction coffee talk and uh have a great evening we’ll talk to you later thanks Judy thank you David we’ll talk to you later all


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