Does it ever feel as if your life has become mechanical or routine? Do you find that it’s becoming more and more difficult to find success in your career? This is the episode for you! Today, we speak with keynote speaker, CPA, yogi, technologist, TEDx speaker, Breaking Beliefs Podcast host, and CEO of the B3 Method Institute, Amy Vetter, who guides business professionals on their journeys to become happier, more engaged, and more successful.
As a CPA and a yogi, Amy has a unique perspective to offer on achieving work-life harmony, changing our thoughts and habits, becoming connected leaders, and more; all of which we discuss in this episode. Above all, Amy emphasizes the importance of doing the work, and she encourages listeners to step back, get still, and embrace new perspectives, especially when doing so feels like it challenges your existing belief systems. To discover some of the tools you need to overcome adversity, identify your personal purpose, and align it with the work you do, be sure to tune in to this insightful conversation with Amy Vetter!
Key Points From This Episode:
- A look at the B3 Method Institute and its methodology: business plus balance equals bliss.
- The importance of doing the work to change your thoughts, habits, and belief systems.
- Tips for taking the first steps on your journey to transform your work and life.
- Dispelling the myth that there’s never “enough time” for self-development.
- Why individual buy-in is essential for workplace transformation.
- Leadership, self-deception, and the importance of prioritizing people.
- What it means to become a more connected leader (according to Amy).
- Key elements of successful workplace transformation, including intentional culture.
- The role of empathy, mutual respect, collaboration, detachment, and mindfulness.
- Listening and feedback techniques for connected leaders.
- Finding the energy for iterative growth and the value of learning in real-time.
- Why firms need to evolve to continue to attract the talent they want.
- How organizations can benefit from allowing people to inform their strategy.
- Actionable advice for firm leaders: begin with self-assessment.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:20] AD: Amy, welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I’m excited for our conversation today.
[00:00:25] AV: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
[00:00:26] AD: Why don’t we just start off by having you share a little about yourself, who you are, and then we’ll take the conversation from there.
[00:00:31] AV: Sure.Well, I’m Amy Vetter. I am the CEO of the B3 Method Institute, and the B3 Method is business plus balance equals bliss. That is a methodology that overrides in all the work that we do at the B3 Method Institute, which is workplace transformation, business development, client advisory services, mindfulness training, all sorts of aspects of having a holistic, authentic life, and what I call becoming a connected leader.
I am a CPA. I am also a yoga instructor and have been a yoga studio owner as well. So, between all of that I’ve merged the learnings over time to create this methodology because I do believe that in this profession, we can achieve what I call work-life harmony. In order to do that, though, we have to do the work. It doesn’t just happen. It happens with the work and the self-discovery, as well as helping and nurturing others around us.
[00:01:35] AD: Two things I want to call attention to, for our listeners. Number one, workplace transformation. That’s where we’re going to take the conversation in a minute. That’s our ultimate goal. Now, everyone listening, hang in here with us. I want to dig into around is this idea of doing the work. If I’m hearing you, that’s the core message. No matter what, you have to do the work if you want to achieve the transformation. Take us through some of your thoughts around that.
[00:01:57] AV: Sure. So, I just launched a book in April, it’s called Disconnect to Connect: Tap Into the Power Within You to Create the Life You Desire. And this was actually a book that I was taking notes for probably 10 to 12 years before I had the guts to actually start writing the book and took me about five years to get it out. So, my original book that I put out was Business Balance & Bliss, and it’s all about creating work-life harmony. A lot of times I’d be asked, how did you get there? Where do you begin? Where do you begin is the self-work.
Disconnect to Connect is almost a prequel to Business, Balance, and Bliss, and it’s really about the self-journey and awareness and work. When you’re exercising, you have to intentionally do it. When you want to lose weight, you have to intentionally do it. This is no different. Changing our thoughts, our habits, and our belief systems over time takes work. There are little small ways that we’re able to do that over time. I talk about in the book, my own personal story, and the things I’ve learned over time in order to help others be able to identify that in themselves as well.
[00:03:14] AD: If you had to race to the top of the list, what’s the number one or two ways to really start that journey?
[00:03:20] AV: Well, starting that journey is number one, and this may sound very simple, but it’s probably one of the hardest things is allowing yourself to be still and silent. Sometimes that is the hardest thing for anyone to do. I know. I’m a type A personality. This journey did not come easy for me, either. I was kind of, in essence forced into it, when I was 32. I got very sick from my pregnancy, and the only thing – I was always doing, hardcore workouts and the only thing that the doctor would let me do is yoga. So, I really had to reset my expectations and thoughts about yoga and go into a yoga class because it was the only thing I could do.
What I found just being silent, and being in tune with my thoughts, feelings, and energy, it was a very different experience. Because I think for most of us that are driven, we keep very busy. We don’t really want to think. So, we’ll distract ourselves from thinking. And that was my first experience of really allowing stuff that come up that I was very surprised that was coming up for me. From the outside, for all the outside things that I wanted to do and accomplish. I was doing that. But I wasn’t really assessing whether I was happy, whether those things were really serving who I am, not even knowing what my purpose was, passions were, not ever really stepping back and thinking about that. Not that I wasn’t doing it, but really putting it all together so that I could really truly understand myself.
I think people that I’ve worked with, whether it’s been yoga or accountants and CPA firms, or real estate professionals, all of the above, what happens is that we make our business goals. We do all of the things to make sure that we achieve these milestones. But we rarely step back and say, “What is our purpose? What is the value that we want to put out in the world and why?” Then make sure our business goals and everything else are aligned to it. Sometimes it’s just little pivots to make that right.
But what happens most of the time is when we’re not feeling good, or when we’re feeling off, or life comes at us in ways that we didn’t expect, we run away, quit, or do other things than actually sitting still. And sitting still is hard. And to really do that work to observe what’s going on inside of you, sometimes it’s the hardest thing we have to do.
[00:05:59] AD: The listeners can’t see. But I’m like smiling and somewhat grimacing, because in some ways, I’m like, “Okay, yes. What you’re saying makes sense. I feel that.” And the other way is like, “Whoa, yes. You’re right.” So, I want to talk about the sitting still part. My own journey in that, even just I’m a hyperactive person, I’m a very – anyone who knows me, I’m high energy, and I’ve worked really hard. I certainly have a long way to go in it. But just getting myself to really slow down at times and create capacity for both just – nothing for just blankness, for a level of calm and stillness, but also capacity for thinking, for truly processing through a series of thoughts and not trying to take any action.
You said that thinking is hard. Thinking is an incredibly hard thing to do when you actually put the energy into it. Someone’s listening and says, “Well, no, it’s not. I’m a good thinker. I’m great at being still.” What’s your kind of reaction, your thoughts around that?
[00:06:54] AV: Well, some people can be good at sitting still. Truly thinking about nothing, our brains are not necessarily set as humans to think about nothing. We have to train our brains. The goal isn’t necessarily nothing, but it is an observation. The way I look at it is it’s researching your mind and not judging. But it’s research, right? A lot of times in the day when we’re not taking time to pause and really allow thoughts to come up. When we just release our mind.
So, in Business, Balance & Bliss, I talk about this a lot is like sometimes – and maybe it’s not sitting still. It’s like going on a run. You go on a run without any objective. You just have to go out and run. A lot of times I’m solving problems that I wasn’t able to solve in the workplace because I gave my brain space. That’s really what this is, is giving your mind space to process on its own. Sometimes when we actually listen to it, and we’re open to it, we can be very surprised about what we’re holding in our bodies. What thoughts, what energy, what frustration, what stress.
The problem is when we never get still to observe that, then we go into an encounter, like maybe I just had a very stressful meeting with somebody, and then I go into my next meeting with you, Alex and I’m coming in frustrated, we don’t have a good conversation, and I walk away mad at you. But I didn’t really observe how I was feeling from that last meeting. What do I need to reset, so I get present just for my meeting with you, so that I can show up in the right way to really know, is it me? Is it him? I don’t know, a lot of times. Because we don’t take those moments to be still and really say, “What is our 100% responsibility during the day and different conversations and experiences that might be creating the outcome that we’re seeing?”
[00:09:06] AD: A common pushback I’m sure you hear at some level is I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for this. Tell me about that.
[00:09:14] AV: We’re all busy, right? But just with anything, we have to be intentional. If we really truly want to do this, it only takes two minutes to reset your central nervous system. So, what that might mean is that you’re scheduling a 25-minute meeting instead of a 30-minute meeting. A 50-minute meeting instead of a 60-minute meeting. We all know that no matter how long you schedule a meeting, people will take it all the way up to the last second even if they’re repeating themselves. So, shortening a meeting doesn’t mean you’re going to get less information out of that meeting. But knowing that you have that gap will help you to say, “Do I need to listen to music? Do I need to walk around before my next meeting? Do I need to just get still and close my eyes to reset whatever I need to do? So, that I can prepare myself for my next experience, rather than rolling from meeting to meeting to meeting and letting it snowball through the day.”
[00:10:08] AD: This leads us right into the workplace transformation. What happens in an organization that is, organizationally, extremely busy, jam-packed, and doesn’t have any ability to have stillness, if you will?
[00:10:24] AV: Well, and that’s each person’s responsibility, right? So, what I have found is that many people feel like if they don’t have a certain title, they don’t have power. But we do have influence. And so, influence is something that we can actually achieve when we make certain personal decisions about ourselves, and people start noticing. Then they’re like, “Wow, that seems to be really working for her. Maybe I should try that or ask her what she’s doing.” There are little things we can do without being like this mandate, right?
That’s from the individual side. From the company side or the firm side, it is important that you are thinking about your people and allowing them to have work-life boundaries. That does not just happen. We actually have to put those in place and have standard operating procedures to make sure that people when they are off, are off. Because all the research, work-life balance is that we are more productive when we have space when we stop working. So, I think one of the research studies is we’re really most productive two to six hours of the day. If we’re working 10 hours a day, or 12 hours a day, we’re actually getting diminishing returns, because our brain just can’t push like that. So, it is important that we start thinking about and working with our team.
When I work with firms on this, we actually set up task forces on what should be the standard operating procedure and bringing people from all levels of the firm because, too many times, what happens is partners go into a room by themselves, think they can solve it, they don’t solve it, the staff is so frustrated, and then they’re mad at the staff. Because they’re like, “We did all this and they’re not happy.” But no one actually talked to each other about what would make them happy or how do we surface their ideas into this as well, and make sure that this is a workplace that everybody wants to be at.
[00:12:29] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.
[00:12:37] AD: The thought that’s coming to my mind is thinking is hard, as you said, doing this, and anyone listening, especially if you are, I guess, it is regardless of where you are in an organization. But if you work in an organization or a people-based business organization, I’m sure there at times, are pain points and conflicts that it’s very common in an organization, especially again, people-based organizations.
What you realized behind – what I’m trying to describe back to you is this idea that thinking about it, slowing it down, creating the space to understand what those challenges are, is hard, and then effecting the change, designing a plan, creating an actual, thoughtful approach to solving that is hard, time always being the most limited resource, right? Especially if you’re in any form of a billable situation. But in general, most people, I don’t know many people that say, “Well, I’ve got 15 extra hours in the week, I don’t know what to do with.”
How do you create that? Or why should I create that? Why should I prioritize what we’re talking about enough to create all of this time to make those changes?
[00:13:42] AV: Well, if you want a workplace for the future, it is important that you create that time. I think one of the things that I see, especially in firms is there’s not enough leadership and management happening. So, the definition of a manager or leader is just based on their technical skill set, their billable hours, what they’re bringing in for the firm, not necessarily on their people development, and retention, and employee happiness. As we rise through the ranks, more of our time should be spent with our people than less. What I see is the problem many times we’re at this crossroads, because for the CPAs I work with and accountants, they love the work.
So, to take time to do this was not why they became an accountant or a CPA. So, many people avoid it. in my book, Disconnect to Connect, I talk about this concept of leadership and self-deception. That concept, what it really means is, as a partner and a leader, I know intuitively, if I allow myself to listen to my gut, I should be spending time with my people. I should be getting to know them better. I should be understanding what they need in the organization, then really trying to figure out operationally how we can do those things. But my self-deception piece is, I don’t want to make the time to do it or I say, “I’m too busy,” instead of delegating work, right? There’s a difference. I would have to let go of some of the work so that I create that time to do this.
That self-deception piece is that I’m going to use excuses, like I don’t have time, or these people – it doesn’t matter what you do for them, they don’t appreciate it. Then all of these belief systems start being created. But if we actually thought about our first thought, when we’re listening to this conversation, our first thought is, “I really should,” even if I could spend an hour a day on figuring out people, organization, and operational things, I know, that’s the right thing to do, until my mind starts going, “But where would I make the time? And how would I do that? And every time I’ve done that, they haven’t appreciated it.” Then it just like, goes off into the abyss, and we can’t get back to, “My intuition told me as a leader, that’s what I should be doing.”
[00:16:21] AD: How do we anchor ourselves back? What are the steps we need to be taking? I wholeheartedly agree. Even again, in my own mind, I’m like, certain things, like yes, you’re right, you’re totally right. How do you anchor back to that thought?
[00:16:31] AV: Well, number one, it is having these very transparent conversations with your leadership group, and being able to sit in a room and talk about why don’t we have time? What is causing that where we’re not with our people enough? Having that open, honest discussion and being like – you talked about Brené Brown before we got on here, vulnerable, transparent. These qualities are very hard to see in leadership in organizations because we have this idea or belief system in our heads of what a leader should be, how they should behave, what they should be doing, what they should say, what they should not say.
In my book, I talk about becoming a connected leader, and becoming a connected leader is being more transparent about even your struggles, how do you solve those struggles, and bringing people together to solve them together, not trying to solve them alone.
What I see a lot is maybe the managing partner or leading partners are trying to make all the decisions and they’re not even opening it up for that kind of discussion, all the way through the firm because “I don’t have the time, they just need to do this. Let’s just push it forward.” So, there are a couple of things at work. We know that no matter what the profession, there is an issue right now with getting staff, retaining staff, and making sure we have this great culture. We have this other thing happening in the accounting profession that everyone’s made more money than they’ve ever made.
So, it is very hard to make change when things are going good unless you are someone that understands that this is not going to last forever. We are seeing the bottom fall out. There’s not enough pipeline for the next partner, for people that want to stay in the organization and make this their career. Or even if I don’t want to be a partner, what’s my career path to stay and be able to retain that in my organization? I’ve got to think into the future. That’s part of being a leader. I’ve got to create the time to do that. But I have to understand that even if things are good, and I don’t mind working those hours, that is not the truth or the reality for everybody else in the organization.
[00:19:05] AD: I want to give a couple of reactions to that I think you hit on some really important points there. First off, for any organization that is a people-based organization, so CPAs, lawyers, bankers, consultants, advisors, up and down the spectrum of professional services, you are people-based businesses, which means that you are knowledge workers, your value is derived by the team of individuals that help operate your business.
Some organizations are starting to create some level of productized offering that has some scalability to it, where there’s maybe some more infrastructure, IT-type investments. So, I can see where there’s some of that starting to emerge. But beyond a small scope of that, it’s primarily based on the people you have. Even if you have some kind of a service, a productized element, you still need the intellect behind it to make it run, the horsepower.
If you agree with the idea that service firms are all about the people and having good people that are making smart decisions, smart decisions again and again and again, and having a high level of thoughtful output to help create, whether it be these ideas or this decision making, or to accomplish the high-value tasks for clients that you’re being paid to do. All of that’s about cognitive ability, as an organization, right? The human potential, if you will. All of that comes back to what you’re saying is, as a leader, it’s your job to focus on that. You should be focused on that and you should be wanting to invest in that. Just because it’s been good doesn’t mean that you should always be focused on improving that, right?
But also, the mantra of being willing to work a ton of hours. I work a decent amount of hours. I go back and forth. I don’t have – I don’t think there’s necessarily a right number for any individual. But to your exact point, is recognizing that people have different levels that they are comfortable with, and it takes the team, it takes the collective to be successful. So, you have to have that thoughtfulness in how you approach your leadership style.
How then, tying this back to the workplace transformation element of it, tell us a little bit about what is going through exercises to shift the thinking, what are the outcomes that you see within an organization?
[00:21:24] AV: So, first off, it has to start from the leadership. If everyone isn’t lock-and-step in believing that this is what they think is important to the organization, then it doesn’t work. The reason it doesn’t work is because you can put all the initiatives in place, if there’s a partner or leader, not buying into it, and then them not doing it with their staff, it starts blowing it apart, and the staff don’t believe in it. It’s really important that everyone comes to the table, what do they believe in? And why do they come every day to do what they do? And understand those belief systems. A lot of times the blocker in a belief system that I find, and these are things we have to assess in ourselves if I dare say, we can achieve a 40-hour workweek. The answer is, nope, this is just the profession, and that is just not true.
That is a belief system that’s been passed down and we have to break through those belief systems of why do we think that’s the profession, and that’s the only way. Well, a lot of times, that’s because I personally had to go through all of that. So, why shouldn’t the next person have to – they aren’t as bought in as me if they don’t go through it the same way I did. Or another belief system that I’ll hear from leadership is, “They don’t want to work as hard as me. This generation is different.” It’s just not true. It’s just working differently and being more flexible in how you do that.
Technology is a big piece of the building process because the second thing that happens, and we’ve definitely seen it with COVID, and then the hybrid work environment, is culture has to be intentional, whether you’re remote or not remote. The problem is, when you’re not spending time on it, when you’re not putting focus on it, you just expect culture to happen and it can’t. Then it starts getting splintered, then people feel like they don’t belong, and then the belief system is, “Well, it’s much better when we were all in the office.”
That’s not necessarily true for everyone. When you research the firm, that’s not how everyone feels. So, what do we have to do to now look into the future? It doesn’t mean that those things didn’t work at a certain period of time. But now we have to be open to thinking about new ideas and listening. Listening is one of the hardest skill sets once you become a leader. Because when we don’t open space for listening to happen, and that means at all levels without getting defensive, and this is where mindfulness practices come in. People get very afraid to give feedback because they think they’ll be harmed, their jobs will be harmed, whatever it is. Then, they might give feedback because they care. It gets shot down. Then they’re like, now it’s even worse because my feedback is not listened to. I don’t matter.
So, if I’m going to go into a workplace transformation process, I have to be in lockstep with the leadership team to be trained on how to listen, how to employ active listening techniques, and that is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present, accepting people as they are without judgment. So, I’m not thinking about past stories about them, my own belief systems, or whatever. I’m just accepting them as them, with compassion. And I’m going to accept what they have to say, as them, trying to put myself in their shoes, to try to understand what their experience is that’s different from my experience. This also expands to inclusiveness and all the other things we have to do in our culture because we have not walked in everyone’s shoes. Even if someone looks like us, this is a very different world. They have different demands and experience and expectations.
It is very important as a leader that we do that training so that we can break through what’s getting up in front of us. It will, it will keep coming up. And it’s just that awareness of like, “Oh, there it is, again. I need to let it go so that I can get through what my vision is, what my goal is, for where I want my firm to be.”
[00:26:01] AD: What’s interesting that you say there and I felt this in some of my own experiences, there’s a level of having that empathy, creating that space, taking the step back, taking yourself out of the center of your thinking, and trying to see it from a different perspective, is what I want to say is, it’s a very selfish thing to do. Not actually selfish, but it selfishly helps you usually accomplish a lot more. Usually very much, as much as it feels like you’re like, “Well, I want to see it through my way.” When you get out of the way, when you get out of your own way, and start seeing it that different way, exactly, as you said, as a leader, your ability to actually affect and influence the change and drive forward and accomplish the goals you want to get to, really in any dynamic that you find yourself and that requires some level of persuasion and influence. Especially as a leader, it is about getting out of your way.
Probably have thought about that in different contexts. But the way you describe that really, I think did a good job of highlighting how important that is to accomplishing and moving forward is really stepping back and having that empathetic, different perspective.
[00:27:00] AV: As far as influence goes, one of the key definitional pieces of influence is mutual respect. If I’m going to go into a conversation, even if that person doesn’t have the title, I have the experience, I have the background, I need to give mutual respect to what their experience is, what’s brought them here, and so forth, so that we can collaborate to come up with a new solution. It’s not just my idea that’s going to push forward. Now, maybe we end up where my idea was, but allow someone to go on the journey with you, and sometimes what you find in that journey is the idea becomes better. It may not be a different idea, but it’s a more expanded better idea that’s going to work for more people.
[00:27:49] AD: I would build on that and say that often one of the hardest parts of soliciting feedback to your idea is the fact that you have to defend it, and that can become exhausting when you’re defending your idea. But at the same time, if done in a healthy fashion, kind of a healthy structured way, it becomes forced thinking, right? It forces you to process through and articulate the specifics behind why your idea is what it is, and look at it from different angles. If you can defend your way through that, then ultimately, it’s a well-thought-out idea. But your point is, I think for most of us, our initial ideas are not that well thought out, and it takes a lot of beating them up to really get to that thought-out idea that has a much better effect, longer term.
[00:28:31] AV: Yes. I may remove the defense, because it may be really well thought out. We might have put all this research into it. But if we go into meetings to defend our idea – I actually read a great book, and I’m going to have to get you the name of it. Something magic. I can’t think of it. But it was all about ideas. The fact that we don’t own an idea. Ideas find their home. So, if we don’t action an idea, someone else will action an idea, it will fall on someone else, because a lot of times people like, “Well, that was my idea.” And they did it. It’s like, “No, it wasn’t your idea. You did nothing with it.”
So, if we come up with an idea, we put it out for others to contribute and let it grow, or we’ve got to be detached enough to say, “Maybe I thought it was a good idea, but 10 other people didn’t.” Maybe I believe in the outcome of that idea, but I’ve got to find another journey there and see if that will work. It’s the detachment that becomes really important, and that this is a mindfulness teaching, and it’s definitely been something I’ve had to learn over time, especially if you’re a visionary, entrepreneur-type leader, I have ideas coming at me all the time. Next week, I’m going on vacation, and my team’s like, no ideas. Because the minute I go on vacation, I come back, I’m like, “Ah, solved it.” Then they’re like, “Ah, we’re just keeping up with your last idea.”
I have to understand that not everybody moves at that rate, or thinks that way. Or, the way I see things is very different than a very analytical process-oriented person. But what I have learned over time is number one, when I have to let go of things and say, “I’m going to put that on the roadmap for next year when they’re ready for it, they’re not ready for it right now. So, I’m going to let go of it for now. But I’m not going to say it’s over. It’s just, I need to get to it when I get to it.”
Then, also just understanding that I need that process person on my – so I might have had a really well-thought-out idea, but I need someone to fill the gaps and tell me what’s not going to work about it. What are the tweaks that we need to make in order to get there, and for me, I’m detached from it. I’m like, I don’t care how you get there. I just want to get to this goal. So, if you figure out a better way to do it, I’m happy. Yes.
[00:31:22] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.
[00:31:30] AD: You said outcome. I appreciate you highlighting – the way I described it was using the word defending, and that’s a – well, I could say, “Well, I didn’t mean it that way.” Well, no, I didn’t. But that was what I used and that that clearly speaks to my thinking, right? The words we use are important. They speak to what we’re thinking.
You highlighting that was saying, “Well, don’t say it that way.” It was saying, “Hey, just be thoughtful, step back, can we look at this maybe from a different lens, right?” I appreciate that. And I appreciate then the idea of the outcome because what we’re trying to get to is an outcome, to drive to really getting to that outcome. The idea that you referenced is this idea that ideas are not novel. Every thought is a derivative of another thought, they’ve all come from somewhere, right? We heard it, read it somewhere, listened to it somewhere, and took a piece, piece these things together. And while we may, for us, it may be novel, and hey, this is the first time I’ve heard it or seen it this way, and it may be novel to a lot of places, it takes a lot of iteration and ultimately action to bring something into real life, no matter what it is. That process of figuring out how to accomplish those actions is really the value driver under it.
You’re highlighting that if we are not attached so strongly to this idea, and rather trying to achieve this outcome in that process, and working with those around us, that’s often what helps us really vet out and figure out not only what actions need to be done, but also how to get them done, who’s going to be the best at getting them done, in the most seamless way of pushing through that. Is that kind of a fair way to tie that together?
[00:33:01] AV: Yes. I do want to say like, I think that’s so good, you highlighted the word defend in that interaction because these are the things that happen at work every day. As a leader, we’re saying things and like you said, it might have not been intended the way that came up, but someone took it that way. When we’re talking about listening techniques, and feedback techniques as a leader, I have to be open to hearing how my words land on people, right? Because if I say something that is closed language, then what’s going to happen is I’m not going to achieve the outcome, and everyone’s going to get quiet in the room. I’m like, “No one ever speaks up. That’s what I hear all the time.”
So, if I’m going to go through the process of transformation, those are parts of the transformation pieces, and they can be those little small things, right? And we all have them. I have them too. We all do. It’s just someone else listening, right? If we’re going to create a collaborative process, that’s part of the training. We think of training in a room, a lot of times it is actually within a room, and then asking people, “How does this feel?” And even asking in a meeting, like you’re trying to come up with this collaborative idea together and make it better, at the end of the meeting, what went well about this meeting? What didn’t go well? What should we do differently to make sure we get to the outcome that we want and continue to get feedback even on the process? Not just the idea, right? So, that we can keep making it better.
[00:34:40] AD: I wholeheartedly agree with you. What’s running through my mind is, “Well, that’s exhausting, Amy. That’s just exhausting.” How do we keep focused on that? Because I completely agree with you. But how do we keep that kind of that iterative growth, if you will, this kind of continuous thought behind it?
[00:34:55] AV: It’s little steps. It’s these little things we do. Maybe we start with one initiative, get a task group together, go through the process together, so that we get our legs under us of how we run this, and train the next person to do it. What I like to do is really be behind the leader, have them run everything, then this group has learned the process. Then you say, “You’re the next leader of the next initiative.” Right? Those people that have been part of the process, it becomes a train-the-trainer thing.
I really believe in learning in real time. I mean, there are many concepts that you’re taught before you go into each thing, and then it’s on-the-job training. It’s real-life training. If I sit in a room, and I take notes all day, and then I don’t apply it, and I haven’t seen how it feels in my body, or someone else reacting. When I run a group and I do that, and then I’m like, “Oh, that means it didn’t go that well.” And then we go and talk about it, what could we have done differently? Then go about it again.
But like you said, I have to make the investment of time. It’s not just money and I have to know why. Normally, when I do this with an organization, the leadership team has to understand the bigger why behind the workplace transformation. One of the things that we talked about prior to this is, do I want to stay independent? Or do I want to be acquired either by PE, another firm, whatever it is? What’s my goal? If my goal is to stay independent, it does not mean that there is not an investment to make in my culture, that means I’ve got even more investment to make so I can remain independent and a going concern.
If from a leadership perspective, I know why I’m doing this, then it’s easier to take these little steps over time, because I understand the outcome. If I am merging with another firm, then those leaders are saying, “We’ve got to create a combined culture in order for this to work.” Also, it’s always going to be this friction.
Even communication and speaking to one another, whatever it is, we have to decide on our culture, our remote workplace, whatever that is. I still have to understand the bigger meaning as a leader, so that I now know why I’m doing this one small initiative, that’s going to lead up to the bigger goal that I’m trying to achieve.
[00:37:32] AD: Because when we understand, not to steal from Simon Sinek, we understand our why when we start with why. When we have that clarity behind what we’re really trying to achieve, I think it often makes it not only easier to stay focused, to continue kind of the momentum towards it. But I think it also makes it easier if you’re continuously asking yourself why, and making sure you’re fully wrapping your mind around it, to bring greater clarity to help vet it out. Help it continue to evolve over time.
I want to highlight something you said about this idea of independent or merging and private equity, that just the evolutions that are happening in the marketplace right now. I think if we take all of that out of the picture, and we just go back to the point that we made earlier, that if you are in a people-based business, a knowledge-based business, the quality and caliber of people that you have in your organization and, ultimately, their cognitive output, and what you’re able to leverage in that is what’s going to drive the value of your organization, period.
That’s the kind of key. There are a lot of other elements that go around it. But that’s the core of it. That is what you are building. If that is the case, the reason why this should be a priority, and should have been a priority for even a longer period of time, is because that’s your asset, that’s your investable asset. Your organization should be investing in that continuously. I do think that one of the macro dynamics that we’re watching unfold is that there are just a lot of other careers out there that you can use your intellectual capabilities and work in a rigorous environment that you enjoy, but that you have balance in, than just professional services.
For a long time, it was like medical and professional services, right? Now, whether it be technology, I mean, influencers, creatives, there are so many different places you can go out and leverage and harness those skills as an individual that firms are going to have to realize they have to evolve to keep up with attracting that good talent.
[00:39:23] AV: And that you’re transparent about what that goal is. So, you decide about it as a leadership team, and as you go through these initiatives with other people, that you’re open enough with your people, this is why we’re doing this. We might be working on work-life boundaries, but the overarching reason is because we’re trying to make sure we have a culture that everybody wants to stay at. You don’t feel like you ever have to leave. That we are – this is where we’re going as a firm, and that this initiative lines up to that. But so many times, even if we talk about it in the room as leaders, then we don’t communicate it to anyone else and no one knows why we’re doing what we’re doing. Then, they think it’s just talk service or white noise, instead of truly understanding what the organization is doing so that they feel a part of it.
Most people do not want to leave where they work. Once you’re somewhere, you’re comfortable with the people that you know, you’re comfortable with the processes, having to change jobs is hard work. My goal, typically, as an employee, is to make that business better, because I want it to thrive, so I can keep thriving in the organization. When we don’t think of the people as enemies, that they’re really in it with us. But then we have to give them the opportunity to be in it with us, to allow them to inform the strategy, then that starts changing the culture, that starts changing how people feel about the organization because they can see immediate little tiny results that are happening, that they’re not having to wait for an initiative that might not be launched for a year, that they haven’t even seen you do it, so they don’t think it’s happening.
[00:41:08] AD: I’m thinking back to my own experiences, as you’re talking about this. It can very much feel like it’s just talk service, as you said, the small steps, and a lot of initiatives. A lot of these things take a long time to really implement and to make their effect in there. If there isn’t continuous communication around it, I actually just came with the great analogy, fitness. I want to get more fit. I know that going to the gym everyday eating the right things, all the work I need to put in is what I need to do, it’s really hard to stay focused on it, and believe in it if you don’t have some kind of results, or some tracking, something to help keep you focused, accountability, structure around it, and that kind of constant belief in why you’re trying to do it. Right?
This is any kind of transformation. I use fitness because I think everyone in one way or another can relate to a fitness journey, and organizationally making the changes. It’s like that, just on a macro scale.
[00:41:56] AV: Yeah. I even think taking it to the step of the organization, you are personally doing that, sharing that with the people you work with that you’re doing it. When I am blocking my calendar for an hour during lunch, this is why. It’s non-negotiable. I see my leader doing it, so I know it’s okay for me to do it. What I see a lot that happens is like the staff think that the partners work all the time. Then, you’ll be on the call giving them that feedback, and they’re like, “Well, I took Friday off to golf?” Did you put that on your calendar? Did anyone know you were golfing? You worked on Saturday because you took Friday off, but no one knew. We don’t have to hide those things. That’s important that people see that you have the freedom to go do that.
[00:42:42] AD: A 100%. I couldn’t agree more with you. So, Amy, one last question that I want to wind this down here with, if you had one piece of advice for a firm leader, someone who’s listening right now, what would be the main thing you want them to take away and go take action on?
[00:42:56] AV: I would say that first piece where we started is really doing that self-assessment of yourself. Because if we don’t, it’s just like an airplane. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t help the person next to us, right? Really go through that self-work, whether it’s a coach, whatever you need of that third party that’s going to help you separate from the business, of really try to pressure tests, some of the belief systems that you’ve been running the organization with, and start there.
So, there was a great video, I used to play many years ago. It was so goofy, but it was called the second follower. Now, I need whatever I want to do in the organization, I need to find who’s going to be in it with me. A lot of times, what happens is that I’m trying to push something by myself, but then I haven’t pressure-tested it with some people close to me. So, I’m going to go to my next partner and say, “What do you think about this? This is what I’ve been thinking about. I know we’ve been having these struggles. I’ve taken some time. I’ve been talking to some outside people. This is what I’m thinking about. What do you think?” That second follower starts the multiplication, right? It doesn’t always have to be you, but when you are surfacing other voices in the organization that are on your path with you, you are leaving.
So, if you ever see this video, it’s very funny, but it’s like this guy dancing on a hill. It’s like some music festival or whatever and he’s all by himself. There’s no music playing. Then, some guy ends up seeing the guy dancing and he runs up the hill and starts dancing, then three or four more people come, and then five people come, and then the whole hill is dancing soon. But you do need that next person or else you just look like the lone guy dancing.
[00:45:02] AD: It’s excellent advice. For someone who’s definitely been the loan guy dancing at times in his life, it’s really good advice. We’ll try to find that video. If we find it, we’ll link it in the show notes for listeners.
Amy, for listeners, where can they get your book and learn more about you and connect with you? Because I’m sure there’s going to be some good follow-up questions.
[00:45:18] AV: Yes. Amyvetter.com has all my books. I have a podcast, my keynote speaking, firm retreats, and all that kind of stuff. If you go to Amazon, my books are there. Disconnect to Connect, Business, Balance & Bliss. Then, we also have courses on this stuff as well. If you go to businessbalancebliss.com, we have mindfulness courses, we have client advisory services courses, other things to help you on that journey as well.
[00:45:45] AD: We will make sure that all of that is linked in the show notes below. So, make sure to reach out to Amy and check out what her offerings are there. Amy, I really appreciate you coming on here today. This was an excellent conversation and we went down a couple of different paths and I think it came together well and brought some really good insight.
[00:46:00] AV: Yes, thank you so much for having me on.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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