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Episode 46:

Love as a Happy Teams Strategy

Owner and Lead Teams Coach of Happy Teams, Catrina Ballard, joined us this week to talk about all things culture. Catrina has vast experience in coaching leaders and entrepreneurs on how to build effective teams. This episode felt like a bunch of old friends gathering around for a chat. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Host

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Catrina-1

Catrina Ballard

Owner & Lead Teams Coach at Happy Teams

ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Frank Danna
Director

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma
Hey folks, if you're enjoying the podcast, please be sure to check out our best selling book, we took all of our stories and learnings, the good, the bad, and especially the ugly and packed it into one easy read. Find love as a business strategy, the book on Amazon or at your favorite book retailer. Visit loveasabusinessstrategy.com for more info.


Jeff Ma
Hello and welcome to love as a business strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. Before we begin, I want to remind everyone to check out our best selling book. If you already listened to the podcast, the title should be pretty easy to remember. It's called love as a business strategy. Imagine that. It's not your typical business book. It's honestly just as chill laid back and honest as this podcast. So be sure to check it out on Amazon or your favorite book retailer today. But enough about that we're here to talk about business and we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from we believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I am your host, Jeff Ma, and I'm a director at Softway. We're a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offer services that help build resilience and high performance company cultures. I am joined today by fellow co authors, and co hosts Chris Pitre, Vice President Softway. Excuse me.

Chris Pitre
Hello.

Jeff Ma
And Frank Danna. Give you a title Director of Softway. There you go. What is what does that mean? if you're if you're watching video right now he's wearing his tie dye shirt. Like, looks like he just rolled out of bed? I don't know. I don't know what's going on.

Frank Danna
Like I run a shady, shady gym by the beach. That's how this what you're going for

Jeff Ma
when you walk out? Yeah.

Frank Danna
shady, shady beach. Adjacent gym owner is my vibe. camp counselor vibes. Okay, fair enough.

Chris Pitre
Now that doesn't like an arts and crafts project.

Jeff Ma
It certainly did

Frank Danna
You know, it was homemade. my kids made me this.

Chris Pitre
I had been thinking that the entire time but I didn't want to say anything. Because you know, people think that I throw shade and like, it looks.

Frank Danna
You're throwing shade. My gifts that my kids made me okay.

Chris Pitre
I didn't say that. It wasn't well done. I just said those are arts and crafts projects

Jeff Ma
let's. Let's welcome to this conversation. Our guest today she owns a company called Happy teams through which she consults with businesses to improve employee communication, culture and retention. And she also coaches entrepreneurs, helping them work through that fear and insecurity and prepare to hire and lead prepare them to hire and lead future team members and team leaders. She also is the DNI director for AMA Houston, which I'm sure we will get to very quickly here. Welcome to the show, Katrina Ballard. Hello, Catrina.

Catrina Ballard
Thank you guys for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Jeff Ma
Sorry about all this, like, early shade throwing before we've even gotten in the show, but it happens.

Catrina Ballard
I mean, I I'm, it's not bothering me. I'm fine.

Frank Danna
I'm gonna do a wardrobe change in a minute.

Chris Pitre
Please.

Catrina Ballard
Don't tell your kids. Like Daddy, I can change.

Jeff Ma
Oh, Chris. Well, since Chris is dishin' it , it will let him start with the icebreaker question. Catrina will go with you last you have time to prepare? Because we all have the same question. Chris, let me let me open up my little digital envelope. So I can see what Maggie has given us for this episode. Chris, if you could be a part of any band, what would it be? And why?

Chris Pitre
No, so I'm gonna take this loosely, loose interpretation of band. So I'm gonna go with Beyonce's background band, merely because I feel like everyone else would be so great that I can like hide in the background with my lack of skill, and still be getting the applause and the praise and the, you know, comforts of the tour environment. I know she does it up when they go on tour. So that would be where I would be.

Catrina Ballard
So wait, I have a question. Yes. Doesn't she only employ women in her band? I yes.

Frank Danna
wrinkle just a small man like

Catrina Ballard
I would be in Beyonce's band.

Chris Pitre
My answer is still the same.

Catrina Ballard
And yeah.

Jeff Ma
Catrina, this is already a hypothetical. Okay, there's already three scenarios so please don't crush.

Chris Pitre
But she she employs the twins, which are male dancers. So I might be you know, the exception.

Jeff Ma
well, that that's that that whole conversation has given Frank enough time to put a jacket on over his his shirt,

Frank Danna
no I'm out of for construction site.

Jeff Ma
We're moving to you. I hope you've you've thought about it. And you have an amazing answer for if you could be in any band. Which one would it be? Why?

Frank Danna
any part of a band?

Jeff Ma
Sure.

Frank Danna
I'd be I mean, listen, I'd be the lead guitarist man.

Jeff Ma
Well, which band Okay,

Frank Danna
I don't know.

Catrina Ballard
I was thinking the same thing. I was like, I know exactly what position I would be in.

Frank Danna
But not

Jeff Ma
that's how you that's how you translate the question. Perfect your answer stands and it's it's about

Frank Danna
You know what Foo fight Foo Fighters I be the lead guitarist and Foo Fighters. That's just sound that's just a fun, like, rock and roll band. That's modern. But still toes the line between classic rock and modern rock. Don't get me that side. I when I said modern, because they really are pretty good. They're pretty good. Okay, with the just,

Jeff Ma
I love foo fighters I love I wouldn't call modern but you know, they're, they're good.

Frank Danna
Modern compared to ZZ Top or AC DC. You know, I'm saying,

Jeff Ma
Okay, got it. Got it. Okay, cool. Catrina. If you could be part of any band, what would it be and why?

Catrina Ballard
Okay, so I think you're probably going to laugh at me, but that's okay. I'm just gonna put it out there. But I saw in concert, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie. And I was so like, dead excited about Mariah Carey. Lionel Richie embarrassed her that night like he may, he was so good. He put on the best concert, and I've seen Destiny's Child I've seen, but it was so good. So I think probably Lionel Richie. But if I was going to pick a position in the band, I would either be the drummer or a lead singer.

Jeff Ma
Nice, great answer. That's how you do it. Gentlemen. That's how you, that's how you answer icebreaker.

Catrina Ballard
And with that my answer was the best.

Jeff Ma
Just kidding.

Catrina Ballard
Remember how I ?

Frank Danna
Which is great.

Chris Pitre
So Katrina, the issue here is that historically, I get sort of dragged for my delayed responses or the overthinking on sort of these questions. And, you know, Frank, today was a little bit late, but it's okay, Frank, I support you. I'm willing to, you know, who are slower on the uptake? But I'm typically in that seat. And I no praise no credit.

Jeff Ma
No, it's my apologize. I take it. I mean, we redirect all the shade only a friend Chris, you did a great job.

Catrina Ballard
Chris is like y'all know what's.

Chris Pitre
You had it together today. I had it together today.

Jeff Ma
So let's dive into this Katrina. We're all dying to know and and hear about kind of your story, right? I want to start there. Can you tell me a little bit about and you can start anywhere you want to want to dictate this, but just tell me about how you got to where you are, where you're where your passions lie, and why.

Catrina Ballard
Oh, my goodness, um, I can give you a long version and go quickly. So it's not like too painful for anyone. Um, but I, I've two great loves in my life. Besides like, faith, and my family, and all of the necessary answers, but sports and people slash psychology, um, I've always been a sports junkie, I get that from my dad. And I love psychology. I took one psychology class in high school and knew that was what I was going to do with the rest of my life. So I have a psychology degree, and counseling and psychology master's degree. And I pretty much was one of those types of people that thought once I finished my master's, I was going to get a job. And I was just going to be done, like, end of story, put a bow on it, move on. And so I went into higher education for about eight and a half years and then had my son and basically started a path of the past six years in entrepreneurship. So I was a calligrapher for several years and the fate My favorite part of that job was meeting people. So that is a pretty clear indication that calligraphy was not for me. So then I moved on to doing mental health support for entrepreneurs because I was in the entrepreneur field and absolutely loved that. And then made a switch into doing teams coaching and have this company that I have now which I love. And so that is a really good marriage, if you will, of my love for people my love for entrepreneurship. My I love to watch something being built from nothing. And so in the entrepreneur field in the business field, I love talking strategy and I I have this deep value and appreciation for hearing people's stories and supporting them in their dreams and encouraging them in the story that is their life and the journey that they are destined to walk. And so I all of that kind of culminated into where I am now, the owner of happy teams, and just consulting with business owners to bring a little bit of humanity back into business and entrepreneurship. So I believe that you can have strategy and you can have heart. So that's kind of where I am today, I have I'm very open about this, that I have struggled a lot with feeling shame over such a windy path, because I just didn't think that that was how you achieve success. And so my personal traditional definition of success went against what my actual experience has been in business. And that was really difficult to kind of, to reconcile the two. So that aside, where I have landed, has been so fulfilling and so much fun. And it's just brought me a great deal of joy, and helps me to use the strategic analytic part of my brain to kind of combine the two. So that's where we are today. sports fan. So when I'm not talking about team things, probably watching a sport of some kind.

Jeff Ma
Amazing, and I really appreciate you opening with that vulnerability. I think, just hearing about, you know, something that I think we can all relate to, I don't know if I don't know what the traditional kind of career path of success really looks like. But I think it's definitely a myth and going different places, trying different things, I think builds us up and better ways. So that's amazing that that you can open with that. I love the tone. You've said there already. I wanted to dive in, more specifically about happy teams a little bit. Yeah, this, can you tell us about happy teams, what it is what you do, and you know what it's all about?

Catrina Ballard
Absolutely. So basically, it is a company that is why we provide coaching and consultation, to get to resolve the issues of employee retention, employee satisfaction, growth strategy, just just about anything that's in that umbrella is where I like to work. So employee retention, employee satisfaction, growth strategy. effect, employee effectiveness is a big deal to me, because I truly believe that you can come to your job, work hard, produce really good results, and have a good time. Like, those things are not mutually exclusive. So that's what happy teams does. I currently work with small to midsize businesses, I'm providing consultation services. And I also given kind of my history and entrepreneurship, I also really enjoy coaching people when they are when the circumstances tell them that they're ready to hire, and they are afraid to hire for whatever reason, they feel like they're not up to the task, they don't know where to start. They're not sure we're sure what next steps to take. So I really love joining people there as well to kind of start that road to expansion. So that's what happy teams does, in a nutshell.

Jeff Ma
Awesome.

Chris Pitre
I have a question for you. What is the, I guess, most common challenge? And I would, I would imagine that there's several things that you probably see, but you know, when you are encountering sort of businesses that already have existing teams, what are some of those common challenges you come across? Within teams? And I'm looking for the juicy stuff. I know, there's like, Oh, you know, alignment? I get those? Yes, like it does go to the real stuff. People want the real stuff?

Catrina Ballard
Well, really, it's, um, employee interaction and relationships. And so they're I've worked with a company that had a lot of issues. I was hired, essentially, to figure out what the issue was in terms of why people weren't motivated, and that led me straight to the leader, the person on top. And so that was a really interesting conversation to try to kind of identify ways that we could resolve the issue when the person that's running the ship is running it into the ground, so that was really fun. And then, you know, some of them do I have had situations where the, my work does also run into dei issues. And so those are some conversations that I've had to have as well. So really, it's a lot of helping when when a company has issues where their employees just aren't getting along, or they don't want to be there, or they're not motivated, and just kind of helping to get to the root of the issue. And a lot of times, it's because leadership has a disconnect with the the people who are working and doing the work. And so there's a lot of discontent there, there's gonna be a lot of anger and resentment. And so, yeah, the one I would say the one with the leader was pretty, that was pretty intense, for sure.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, I can imagine. That must be, I mean, bringing a leader into self awareness. You know, as they're also sort of the one cutting the check I can imagine is probably a really delicate balancing act, because you have to sort of tell the truth. But I also still have to sort of, you don't want to ruin that leader in a way that, you know, I know, there's a natural reaction to that kid sort of rejected and just be defensive. But there's also the other reaction where it hits them hard, and they don't know what to do and how to recover. And it can sort of be even more damaging to the team, because we went from sort of polar opposites, where you have this leader who, you know, could be toxic to a leader that's disengaged and absent and doesn't know how to parse through a lot of those things. Right. I don't know if there was a reaction there. But I'm curious to know, like, how did that leader handle at a conversation?

Catrina Ballard
Um, I took it, I tend to approach things with just with as much honey as I can. And so I definitely lead in the conversation with instead of being like, hey, so everybody hates you, I found the problem is you that route, I definitely was like, this is how your team sees you. This is what they wish you knew. They, they value, they respect you, and they look up to you. And so knowing this, let's, I shared that information in the hopes that we would maybe make a choice to change our behavior. That didn't happen. But that is a little bit outside of where, you know, that's a choice that you get to make. We're all adults. So

Frank Danna
I was like, what what happened next? Talking about that? We don't talk about that. Yeah, I did.

Catrina Ballard
We'll turn off the mics.

Chris Pitre
Yeah.

Frank Danna
I did want to ask you a little bit about, you know, your passion for psychology. And obviously, that's, that's, that's an area that you have expertise. And I'm wondering how that kind of is utilized. When you're having these conversations around employee engagement, employee retention? How are you able to utilize what you started with that that's you said, that single class in high school that kind of brought you to that place where you were like, I love this so much! How are you able to weave that into the work that you're doing in the consulting services that you offer?

Catrina Ballard
Well, my belief in psychology is that that, that has led me to view people as that we all essentially have pretty foundational desires, that we that motivate a lot of us. And I mean, I don't want to, I understand that I'm making it very overgeneralize. Please forgive me for that. But really, my motivation is the understanding that people at their heart, at their core, for the most part want to be understood, they want to be heard, they want to be shown that they are valued for exactly who they are today. And so that's something that has driven me. For years and years and years, I've always loved hearing people's stories. I've always valued people's stories. And I am always so driven to share the message with people that your story has brought you to where you are today for a reason. And there is so much value in that. And so that has really led me to be able to connect with people just on a foundational level. Because when I tell them that what they share with me is confidential. And when I tell them that I value what they're telling me and I am here to use it for their benefit, then I have found success in that because I really mean it. You know, that's something that is really important to me. And so just the cycle, just the psychology aspect of it that I'm number one, just to know that that's really what people desire. And so they will give you what you want as a leader in terms of meaning a goal or doing a certain type of work or doing work at a certain level. But at the same time, they also need to know that they're seen and they're valued, and they're heard when they share what is on their heart. And then I would say the second part of that is I'm so thankful for my counseling degree because it has also taught me how to interact with People and very essential foundational ways to connect with somebody in a conversation to let them know that what you're saying is important what you're saying has value. And that it's, it's, you're really being heard in this situation. And so I use just the some theoretical knowledge that I have in psychology just to kind of, in that drives how I relate to people one on one. And then practically speaking, I use a lot I take a lot from my my master's degree that helps me to connect with people in a conversation to help to give them non verbal cues that they're being heard, and that what they're saying is really valuable and of importance to me. So psychology does drive a lot of that, I would say, theoretically and practically.

Frank Danna
Yeah, that's fantastic, man. Good job.

Jeff Ma
You talked about being like, genuinely interested in genuinely invested. And I find, I find that to be a continuously kind of interesting, like, it makes a lot of sense, then yet, when we talk about the work that we both work in, you know, happy teams, Softway, and love is a business strategy, all of us are trying to make a change in the world, in the business in the workplace, then you come up, you're we're constantly facing a lack of like, genuinity, I guess, as a hurdle is what I've seen, right? Like, people, you know, companies will spend millions on changing the eye or addressing, you know, culture problems, but the spend the money but you know, the change comes from the genuine work, the genuine people really caring people really trying people putting in that work, just like that leader that you worked with, they have to genuinely want to be better, genuinely want, right? How do you, you know, how do you think how do we overcome that? Because as in our line of work, we're Our job is to come and give them the answer. But if they just want to spend the dollars and sit back and see the results, right, like, what's the approach? Like, how do we overcome that?

Catrina Ballard
Well, I think that it's, which is really funny, Jeff, that you would bring that up, because I also sometimes struggle with not being surprised that more people don't see it this way. Because to me, it just makes perfect sense. It's almost like being gifted a complete package. But I don't know, I guess somewhere along the late Oh, excuse me, somewhere along the way, we have made the decision, that the value is better on just driving behavior towards earning the dollar and not maybe helping to build people up. And, again, like I said, create the whole package within your company. But my I love entrepreneurship, I love just the vision and the dreaming and the planning and the creating of the goals and working towards those goals. And so, and I love the accomplishment, to be honest, I love when you can say we have accomplished this thing, this monumental task that was put in front of us. But I think that I find that I have more success, when I lead with the language of this improves your bottom line, your ROI is greater than you realize. Because when you start here, with the qualitative, then you in turn affect the quantitative.And so when you help show people that they're valued, and you know, have love as a business strategy, and you are honest, and you apologize when you're wrong, and you hear from voices that traditionally you may not have heard from before it, and it all compiles to make you in-turn a more successful business, in general is my belief and obviously a better leader as a result. Because your people, when they feel heard and seen and valued, they work harder because they now are bought into the goal. And so they're going to give you better work, they're going to work harder, they're going to be more invested in what it is that you ask of them. And that in turn, when you have people that do that it naturally spills into higher earnings and a stronger company and a better company culture. And I agree with you that people will throw money at company culture just to make it better. But sometimes they balk a little bit at the answer of you start here you start at this particular pace place and then you work up. So that's that's the way that I approach it is to say that this actually to kind of show the connection between satisfied employees and people who feel valued, that then gives you better work on the on The other end. So I mean, it's, I understand that it sounds a little bit pie in the sky. But that's just the approach that I use. And I tend to take that I apply that concept to this specific situation. And so they're not hearing this, like, oh, when you make everybody happy, then you make so much money, they don't hear that what they actually hear is, in your specific situation, if you are able to resolve this issue, it's going to lead to Xyz, which will give you the result of, you know, whatever it is that you're looking for. So I try to make it specific to the company and what their needs are or the organization and what their needs are.

Chris Pitre
What I like is that in many situations, and many organizations, as well as many conversations that I've had with people that are leading DNI a lot of times DNI is relegated to this corporate monolithic strategy that comes from above, or HR, or some other division. And it seems like you're really focused on making sure that DNI is a team thing. And it's not just sitting at the corporate level, but everyone can participate. Everyone can drive it, everyone can lead it, everyone can contribute towards it, and still have an effective sort of outcome, but also reap the benefits within their own team without waiting for the cue from some outside entity or other group or other silo.

Catrina Ballard
Absolutely. I was asked this question last week. And I think it's such an important question. What if my leadership is not bought? They don't care about di, what if they don't care? What do I do? You know? And I think that's such an important question. Because that's reality. Like, that's some people are dealing with that. And it's difficult because you look outside, and if you pay attention at all, how could you not be invested in Dei, but, you know, some people aren't, that's not important. And so, um, but, again, I think, Chris, what you're saying is absolutely true that you can, people can use where they are, and just make the effort to be inclusive, and to see the people that traditionally would be unseen, and you start there, you know, because maybe you can't change the culture of your corporation, maybe that's just is it's actually not feasible in any way. But what you can do is you can change the culture of your sphere of influence, no matter how big or small it is. And I think that even foundational at a foundational level is dei that's, that's making the effort that's doing the work to make a change, even there, that to me, that counts more than anything, you know, I'm much more than checking off boxes to say that you did.

Chris Pitre
Got it. So what I'm hearing is that I probably should not have made fun of Frank's t shirt, I should have let him wear that, and encouraged it, because that is who he is. And that's what he wants to hear. Break, I apologize.

Frank Danna
Well, I've been waiting for this moment for the past 24 minutes.

Catrina Ballard
He's like, This shirt is coming. In this,

Frank Danna
this is a great time to talk about this. I'm just kidding. But But I wanted to ask you a little bit because I think, from your perspective and the work that you've been doing, how do leaders typically show care? How do leaders typically define what culture is? Because he talked about, you know, applying money to culture and putting money into culture? But where are leaders coming from that you're working with in regards to like, what is culture to them? I'm interested to know that.

Catrina Ballard
Well, I the way that I answer that question is I have, I want you to write out exactly like your top three to five things that are most important to you. What is it that's most important that drives what you do in your business? day to day, like, what what are the things that you always are coming back to? And I think that's a really good indicator of where your culture lies. It may not be the encompassing answer, but you're gonna have a lot of really big clues right there. So that's what I would say is ask your leadership team, ask your leaders when when you're having those conversations, what are the things that are most important to you? And it could be We have offices throughout the southeast, or we make, you know, our, our gross income is 20 million this year. That's fine. That's great. But so what are the values? What are the things that are most important to you to help you to reach that goal? So that's just that's where I start with and then I say, in within those, what makes that so important to you? Why is that such a high priority on your list, and then that kind of can, you can extrapolate from that to give an indicator of what the culture might be. And so if there's something we They say they have these goals for expansion or goals for growth, or, you know, they want to be the premier name in coaching and consulting or whatever it might be, then when you have that goal, and you have the things that are most important to you, then that's where I would kind of start there, take your list, understand why that's so important. And give yourself the, the, like a mission statement kind of thing to come from that, that stems from that. And then have the conversation to understand how that does affect your culture. And a lot of times, it may not necessarily be have happy employees, like maybe it's do it the best, do it the fastest, make the most money. Okay, well, then how do we make that realistically, something where you can attract an employee that's going to do that and also enjoy their job. So I, I see that is where I come in to help. That's kind of the right, stick right in that little area and help to have those conversations and facilitate those conversations. Because I think that you can have the goals, and you can have the visioning, you can make your one year plan three year plan, five year plan, but I view it as my job to come in and ask the questions of Okay, and what? And then what, okay, and how does this affect XYZ? When people may feel they may not think to ask those questions, or they may not feel that they can. So

Jeff Ma
can you? Can you kind of just high level kind of talk through kind of your approach, like just like when it comes to working with business and teams? Like what kind of things are you doing? What kind of ways are you tangibly kind of working through these problems and solutions?

Catrina Ballard
Sure. Um, so first of all, what I do is when I am approached by a company, I ask that I let them tell me, I said this recently, I'm kind of like, I'm not like doctor at all. But when you go to the doctor, they don't say, you look like this is wrong. They say, Tell me what hurts. Tell me what's bothering you. And so I give companies an opportunity to tell me or organizations or whatever, tell me what it is that what's your pain point? What do you think that it is? And so I start there. And I ask, I also ask, what is it that you if you could, if this would go away? Or if this problem would be resolved? What would that actually look like for you? What does success look like for you define success, define your pain points. And then I have no other questions. And so I get that before I meet with the people with with a client, right? So I get those answers to the questions that I have for my company. And then I go in, once I have all of that compiled, I put it together, because likely, if it's one person, then we just have one conversation. But if it's a team of five, then I get that from everybody put it together to say, this is what is most identified, these are your highest level of pain points, this is your highest level of frustration, this is what I've seen that you would most like to have resolved. And so then we have that we go in and have those conversations. And that's when I really give the the team the opportunity to kind of just talk it out, you know, I bring up these things, I give them an opportunity to respond. And that's where a lot of the magic happens. Because again, I'm bringing in practical tools that I've used, or I've learned through a counseling degree to kind of facilitate this group conversation and facilitate, you know, things are going to come up in those conversations that are very important to be addressed. They're not going to write it all on paper. And so then I can address dynamics, and relationships and levels of interaction. So once that's all done, if I'm there for leadership, then I would have that conversation. If I'm there to meet with team members, I would have the conversation with leadership and then have the conversation with team members that I identify with the leader or leaders that need to, it's important for me to hear from hear from them. And I always always say I don't mind telling you guys this, but I always say what you say to me, I will not it will not come back in a way that could harm you. And so it's very important for me that you feel safe in this conversation because if when you feel safe, you're going to be honest. And what I want is your honesty. And so then we have a conversation in which I hear from the appropriate employees. And then once I do that with everyone, then I go that I come home, compile all my stuff and then go back to the company and say this is a finalized for for it, that has the identified pain points that you gave me, your, your ideal solutions. This is what is actually a pain point. And what is actually keeping you from accomplishing the goals that you have in your company. This is my recommendation for resolution. And the reason that it works is because they may not be hearing from their employees, what is actually going on. And so they the leadership thinks it's one thing and the employees thinks that think that is something completely different. And so I come in to kind of integrate those two, and give them practical solutions based on what is actually happening in your company that you may or may not be aware of, this is what I would recommend to fix it. Um, it's important to me to give them solutions that don't necessarily involve me, because I would love to come in and do team building activities or consultation or meet with people once every quarter, you know, whatever. So while I would love to do that, I also think that it's important for them to know that to be empowered to, to build solutions on their own, and find a way to just fix these issues on their own, if that's something that they feel compelled to do. And so typically, I give a, if you were to do, if I were not to return, this is what I would recommend that you do these XYZ things, if you would like to continue working with me, here's what I recommend doing these XYZ things. And here's how I can help. So that's kind of the bird's eye. I mean, I gave a little more detail, but the bird's eye view of what my process looks like, when I come into a company or an organization.

Jeff Ma
I just really quickly I was wondering if you just had like a quick, you know, obviously anonymized example of like a problem you stepped into, and then, like the solution that, that you gave, just to give a little context to that process you just shared.

Catrina Ballard
Sure. Um, one was it again, it was di related. And there was a big pain point around race relations. And just coming into the situation and, and hearing the pain points and hearing what that looks like. And then being the one to say, A good example is that I was the one to say that this is where your pain point is, it is in race relations. And again, sometimes stuff does go over like a sack of bricks in the ocean. So that way, you know, it wasn't received very well. But we were able to I I am a good person, because I'm an outsider. And so you can be irritated with me, that's totally fine. I'm also equipped to handle that. But and my emotions aren't in this. So I feel comfortable saying this is what the issue is, because what are you going to do retaliate against me like? Um, but so I, then I can go in and say that and so it didn't go over? Well, I was able to push the issue to help this particular organization see that that was the issue, and then give them tools to address it. So I guess I mean, without sharing too much, that's an example.

Chris Pitre
Oh, yeah. I was gonna take you back, you said something, when you're walking through your process that I thought was really sort of interesting, because we see this, the same thing happened, right. So you brought up, you know, the fact that sometimes employees are not always honest with their employer about the real issues, and with feedback and whatnot. And I know, I've been in a situation where talking with a leader, and you know, we're giving sort of what the team has shared with us. And they're like, that is a complete, like, 180, from what they just told us. Right. And, you know, they're sort of at this sort of a crossroads, so to speak, of which, which one is right, like, they both can't be right. And, you know, you're like, Well, here's what I will tell you. The lens in which you capture your feedback was around a 360 performance review for this particular leader. And I don't know what employee would want to ruin someone's career or livelihood, even if they aren't a great leader. Absolutely. Put them in this position where I'm sure if you read through and read between the lines, they're telling you everything that you probably should be picking up but that's a different conversation. Right? Absolutely. There's, there's use of that sort of dissonance between Wait, they were truthful with you, but not me. What's with that? And like that, sort of reckoning that if you have an environment that favors harmony over honesty, you're going to have situations where outsiders will get the truth before leaders open up Like, I was like, Oh, this is this is, you know, a telltale sign?

Catrina Ballard
Yeah, you're absolutely right. And I think my next step immediate, my immediate next step would be to ask the leader. Okay, so let's park a little bit on the fact that I was told one thing and you were told something else. What do you think is the reason? What is it about the company that you like this culture that you have fostered as the leader? Because it is your responsibility? What is it about the culture that you fostered that you make sure you feel like your employees can be honest? Let's have that conversation. You know, um, and I mean, I'm, again, I'm not there to like, blow it up, I am there to ask those questions. Because if the actual if the goal is this culture of if the goal of this is to have a culture where people feel respected and seen and valued, and we're all working towards the goal of actual company's success, ie doing the work that we're here to do, then that's an important question that needs to be addressed. You know, why is it that and what, uh, you know, to ask a leader, what is your response to that? Like, what, how does that make you feel? What is your feedback? Because that, to me, again, like you said, is a huge telltale sign. And it's something that, in my mind, like the flashers are on, this is where we need to park in, like, unpack What's going on here? Um, but no, I mean, I couldn't agree more with you.

Chris Pitre
And unfortunately, it's really prevalent in cultures that are nice. Right? So I think that that sometimes that could be the worst type of culture to live in, because everything is like a slow knife that just cuts deep. Yeah, I can't really see it. Right, right here, like, because everybody's so nice. It's super, right. Like, there's not this aggressive behavior, right. And typically, when we think of toxic cultures, we think of this sort of like, you know, assertive yelling, you know, high confrontational environment. But those are the ones that are I'm not gonna say easier to fix, but those like the problems are visible. So therefore, you can actually sort of treat those symptoms more, you know, quickly. versus those those ones where it's like, you walk in, it's like, oh, everybody's saying, Hi, everybody. everybody's like, nice and leaving and conversation. When you get into, it's like, oh, y'all are not nice. Nice, nice. Nice. Nice, nasty. Okay, that was that was shaped. That's you just through? Yeah, that was a smile, though. That was okay. I'm seeing I'm picking up, it's being put down. Right. Yeah, you go off into these environments. And I think those are sometimes when you're a leader, or when you're in a team where, again, camaraderie is high, but honesty is low, you find those situations where you're nice, nasty, with people, where you get away with saying exactly what you want to say, and cutting people deep, without ever having to be held accountable against it, or, you know, being called to the carpet. And if someone called you to the carpet, you can always switch it around. Like, I didn't mean that that way I was, this is what I was really saying, I got hurt, I can't believe right? You play that innocent thing. Right. And that was really attack right now. He's Exactly. And I think that those are, like, I'd imagine in your in your environment. And when you go into teams, when you when you get into those cultures, those sometimes the hardest to crack open and sort of have a mirror to the leader. So they can see like, just because you favor politeness doesn't mean that your teams are safe, valued, respected, etc. And so, you know, I'm curious to know, how you how you solve those types of those deeper issues. Because again, that's, that's sometimes the, again, the thing that's beneath the surface that most people will not pick up on, unless you aren't in it, and don't have power inside of it.

Catrina Ballard
Well, and I think that that's a, that's a particular time where you would I would take a lot of care to foster a safe environment. So what have that conversation one on one? Or have it maybe two people and myself like, No, you know, because you don't want it to be. Because if it's something where it's like, in a room of everybody, or the whole team is there and you're calling people out, you're going to get nowhere, you know, but when you have a conversation one on one, and that's where you have the opportunity to essentially say, I hear this is what I hear. This is what's being communicated. And what I hear is not what's being communicated, these two things are not congruent. So help me to understand because I hear you say, Oh, is that what you got from that? But what that communicates to me is that you're not willing to accept responsibility, or there is I sense that there's a little bit of animosity in this situation. I would like to have you help me get to the bottom of it. That's another thing that I do that just like trigger that in my head. two approaches that I take are one, I always, always say, if I'm wrong, please correct me, correct me if I'm wrong, so I'm going to call you out. But I'm also going to give you the opportunity to say, Oh, that's not really what it is. And so then I say, Okay, well, if that's not if I'm not understanding what the situation is, then help me to understand. And I always, that's another thing that I do is I always put it in that person's court, to clarify, to elaborate to essentially give them empower them to be clear about what's actually going on. So I always approach it as you're the expert I'm trying to understand. And I find that that also helps to get a clearer picture. Because then when I say exactly what I'm seeing in the situation, if you don't like it, then I can also then say, Okay, well, I would love to hear from you. What it is that I'm missing, or I would love to get a better understanding from you of what's actually going on. And so there's ways to press and there's ways to do it a little deeper without being like girls now, would you say, yeah, we'll have to do that. But those, those are two really important approaches that I prefer to take, is that I want you to like, if at any time, anything I say doesn't jive with you doesn't sit with you and don't feel right. Don't sound right. Tell me I want to know, because I want to get it right. Um, and I have had, thankfully, so far, I don't want it to be like, I'm just missed, whatever. But so far, I have had a good response to that. And then also, can you help me better understand, or if I say something you don't like, Can you help me understand why that rubs you the wrong way. And so I'm always going to get, I'm always going to push on, you know, what I find like, I feel like people will lead you, they'll kind of tell you more than they think they're telling you. And I'm always gonna follow that trail. And just the way that I do it, I try to make it in a situation where that person, what they have to say, they feel valued by what they have to say to me, and that they feel empowered to say what it is as their truth. So yeah, I'm gonna address the uncomfortable because that's what I'm there for, if we're actually working towards a solution, instead of just check the box and glib, kind of whatever, everything's fine, everything's great and move on with your day. That's not what I'm here for, I really want to leave a place better than how I found it. And in my opinion, that means having difficult conversations, but there's a way to have a difficult conversation that doesn't make it into, you know, I think what people are afraid of, you can have difficult conversations that are still productive. And so I just take all of that, and I shoulder it on my end. So I I'm very clear about the fact that I could be completely wrong or completely misunderstanding, but I also am going to push you to help me fully understand what I'm missing.

Chris Pitre
So it's almost like so I compare it to like me growing up with my mom. If you ever said excuse me, that was your chance to re correct yourself. and clarify. Yeah, you repeat what you just said, it wasn't an invitation to just repeat like it was it was a loaded conversation. But you just unpack that so so beautifully and comfortably so that way, you know, there's not punishment on the other end. You know, growing up there was

Yeah, yeah.

Catrina Ballard
Actually, I was gonna say something earlier in our conversation that I you know, I don't know if you guys have heard of this company. It's called Softway. I don't know you might have. But I was really impressed. Like I was, um, I was impressed with the way that you guys have handled the niceness and the value of culture with a culture of honesty. That I think is super important. And, Chris, I think that you brought up such an excellent point a little while earlier, in saying that, yeah, nice is important. And that's good and all of that, but it's not as important as honesty and not brutal honesty, but like honesty in a way that you care. And I think that Softway, you guys really have modeled that in a really, really awesome way. So it is really exciting for me to join you because I think so much of our foundational viewpoints and mission is, I mean, it could not be more similar. But I think that you guys do that really well where you're honest and you can have fun and have a good relationship but also say when things are frustrating or difficult or hurtful, or, you know, so anyway,

Jeff Ma
it's like, I talk to people about, they asked me about my work and my my culture and stuff like that, because a lot of people have this conception that like culture or good culture just kind of exists. And like, it's like, everyone just comes and drinks from it. And they keep talking to me. I'm like, Well, I had to have all these crucial conversations, I got my feelings hurt, I got there. Like, I thought you had a good culture. I'm like, it's a great culture. They're like, they don't understand that, like, you know, when you, you know, think Chris said earlier, but just to rephrase, like, when you value comfort over progress, that's not a good that's not a good culture. You know, it's not culture isn't we just come in everyone's as comfortable as possible. That's all you get out of that is just a bunch of no fakeness half the time and just keep going with the flow.

Catrina Ballard
When a lot of complacency, I don't have to, then I want to say anything, you know, if I don't have to do the things that I'm paid to do.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, and Softway is not not perfect, for sure. But we'll have very tangible moments web meetings, where someone says something, someone does something and we have this, you can tense these moments like this, this happens often, where it's like, the end of the meeting is like five minutes left, and we have a choice to be like, Alright, everybody have a good night, or everybody have a good day, and then just log off? Or will someone stop and say, all right, I feel like what just happened here was, was very awkward. I don't know if anyone else senses it. And we face those little, those little moments every day, where if we do the right thing, it always comes out better, right, we always are able to be like, okay, thank God, you said something, because, yeah, I think I felt, you know, that, you know, and we don't have to, like, you know, Kumbaya every time and like, get emotional. But there's this trust that's built over time that we're we're that we will look out for each other's you know, like well being and things like that. So I'm glad you brought that up. Because because it's something that we try to get across, it's not easy to understand, for most people who think that they just want to like, again, dollars at culture and buy a good culture, and just have a culture placed in front of them when it requires really everybody to constantly work at it, to enjoy a good culture.

Catrina Ballard
Absolutely. I mean, it's just like any family unit, like you're not perfect, you're not going to love everybody all the time, like not even close. But it's it's less of all of the all of the cutesy things and a lot more of the commitment to doing the work, you know, commitment to doing the work that you're there to do, like paid to do, but also to do the work, to build the culture and to stay in that culture. And that requires vulnerability that requires honesty. But it also requires being willing to hear what's being said to you know, and it's not your right, it's not easy. But I think that what on the other end of that is so much success that people don't realize yet that a lot of the success that companies are actually looking for does exist, but it's on the other end of that process.

Chris Pitre
Yep. And I think a lot of times when we have these conversations, there's usually like the the middle managers or the individual contributors that are really leaned in and want this. And some leaders are just not wanting to listen, because one, they've been comfortable this entire time. And they don't understand why they have to be uncomfortable now. And they don't realize that when if you're a leader, and you're comfortable, and you've always been comfortable, chances are your team is paying for your comfort. Yes, and, and if you're not willing to listen and do this work, right, you're missing out on the opportunity to find that success, but how to be sustainable because that's the other part of it is like, you want sustainable success. Somebody wants to be able to say like, it's not just, you know, a few people hoarding all the work and getting all the success, but everybody's able to want to take vacations to enjoy life but also contribute. And so, you know, it takes that you know, eye opener, or that moment of maybe extreme discomfort from the leadership that has been so comfortable for a long time to be able to allow that burden to be lifted, at least temporarily from that shoulder them and and you know if you're listening and you're you're that leader who's always been comfortable and you don't understand why people are you know, frantic or frustrated or you know, quiet even chances are is because you have been sort of asking them to pay for your comfort for so long that if discomfort comes your way you're not ready for the work,

Catrina Ballard
right?

Jeff Ma
I want to freakin put down a billboard. Chris .

Catrina Ballard
But I think you put on a friggin t shirt like yeah, you know if you not hold longer term trouble. Sorry. Go ahead, Frank.

Frank Danna
I just said that entire that entire block of text. Yes. Have people come close to read it? You know what I'm saying? Yes. We know

Jeff Ma
that that's that's summarizes, I mean, why we even do like right guys like the why we do Seneca why we do anything every time, we're always coming to leaders and saying you need to have self awareness you need to. And it's not that nobody's perfect. That's the thing like so it's not we're not trying to say that everybody's inherently evil or any of that stuff, we're just saying no, you have to have to hold up a mirror and take a look at what's going on. And I think Chris, you just landed on such a succinct way to put it which is, so it just lands true 99.9% of time, if you're just totally comfortable in your leadership position, like every day is just rosy and perfect. Somebody, somebody is paying for that for sure.

Frank Danna
And so I think just to piggyback off what Katrina and Chris, were saying, the way that I've always viewed change is that real change starts where your comfort zone ends. And so we have to be comfortable with getting people out of this comfort zone. Because if any, any moment in your life that you've experienced real dramatic transformation, and change has been so far away from your comfort zone, when you've stepped so far over the line, to try something or have to do something bold. And that's really what what we're talking about, like what you've heard today, and what Softway's mission and vision is to do is, is to make change real, through helping people see that being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing.

Catrina Ballard
Right. And there's incredible results on the other side of it. But you have to walk through discomfort to get there. So and I mean, I think that's a challenge that we all can kind of share and understand and relate to, you know, that getting people to see the value in walking through discomfort, walking through growth, to get to the other side of that. And I just think it, it's been ingrained in us so much to just produce the result just produce the result. You know, I said this a while ago, and I think it's bears repeating, but that so much of our culture, specifically in a business environment, so much of our culture, celebrates the arrival, but does not value the journey. And so that I think, results in disordered thinking that there's a certain way to do things which actually can cause more harm than good.

Jeff Ma
Yeah. At all costs. With leaving a trail of bodies behind you, you got the you got the outcome. Catrina, it's it's talking to you today has been like talking to a team member talking to someone who's been with us throughout at all, I feel like, I feel like we we are trying to build happy teams and happy teams trying to put love in business strategies. So we're kind of all we're kind of all speaking the same language. It's been it's been a lot of fun. And I want to thank you for taking the time today to join us. Thank you so much,

Catrina Ballard
Oh, absolutely. It has been such a pleasure and an honor to be here with you guys. Thank you so much for having me. I really have had so much fun. We have to do it again.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, dude, again, for sure. Let's get some drinks. Let's do this over drinks, so you can make some more. But for our listeners, as always, as always, to our listeners. Thank you so much for listening. And please be sure to check out our book. It is available on Amazon everywhere you might find books. You can also check it out at loveasabusinessstrategy.com for more information. Frank's holding it up. Nice little hardcover version, and the softcover and probably more. In here love as business strategy, the podcast, we're posting new episodes every Wednesday. And if there's a business topic you'd like us to cover, let us let us know if it's someone some feedback you have for us, let us know. You can find us also at softway.com/laabs. If you like what you heard today, please do leave us a review Subscribe excetera. Catrina, if they want to get involved with you if they want to hear about more about Happy Teams, they want to work with you. How can they reach what's the best way to reach you? Two ways,

Catrina Ballard
my website which is happyteams.net. And my social media, you can find me on LinkedIn as Catrina Ballard, or Catrina with a C or on Instagram, catrinadballard. So any of those ways. I love to meet new people love to make new connections, and I would love to hear from you. So any of those sounds good to me.

Jeff Ma
Katrina says she loves he genuinely loves to hear your stories. Test, put it to the test. See if she put her money where her mouth is. Bring your stories. Bring it on. She's ready. And with that, thank you, Chris. Thank you for joining us as well. hope everybody had a great time. I know I did. And we will see everybody next week.


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