HDI’s SPOCcast is your single point of contact podcast for service management and technical support insights. For Episode 19, I interviewed Michael Kublin, the founder and president of PeopleTek, about getting organizations un-stuck and practicing leadership wherever you are. What follows is excerpted; for the full impact, I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast.
RA: Mike, you talk about learning how to get your organization out of the “mud puddle.” Can you describe the mud puddle and what typically gets organizations into it?
MK: A mud puddle can exist for any person, team, or organization, and generally it can take one person to make a difference and get everyone out of it. But what is a mud puddle and how do you get stuck in them? What I call the mud puddle is that we have an issue or a problem, and then we keep spinning around and spinning around, and it’s generally regarding our people skills and holding ourselves and others accountable to dealing with people in a healthy, honoring, and respectful manner.
So what are these things that happen? Well, different levels look at things in a little bit different way. If you’re a “senior senior” leader trying to impact a culture, a mud puddle is, “Why do they just not get it? Why aren’t they changing fast enough? Why aren’t they implementing this new way of thinking and this new innovation we’ve been working on implementing? How do I help people take accountability with this? And I’m not doing it.” So, instead of going and getting help in developing soft skills, what they end up doing is more complaining about it and knowing they’re stuck and they can’t get out.
If you look at middle management or people that had gotten promoted into management and have been there a while or maybe a year or two and they’ve never been developed. So they really have no tools, no methods in order to build trust, to build their team, to build cohesiveness, accountability, and what ends up happening is they end up doing it the way they did it when they were a technician, and because they were such a great technician, they keep using the same skills, and starting to think, “Why is this not working? I’m doing it the way I did it, and I want everyone to do it the way I do it and they’re not doing it that way. Why is it not working for me? And it may not be working for me because I’m not getting along with my superiors, I’m not getting along with my coworkers, I’m not getting along with my vendor partners, and I just don’t understand this friction.” Other things they may struggle with, “I’ve been doing management for a long time; why am I not getting promoted? What’s going on for me? I’m stuck. My career is stuck. Why aren’t they recognizing the great things that I’m doing?”
And then if you look at the perspective of an individual contributor that I look at at PeopleTek like everyone is a leader no matter what your title is they’re saying, “Why isn’t management doing this? Why is this changing so rapidly? What is this all about? The communication here is very poor, and I can’t get the things that I need to service the customers properly.”
So everybody that’s in these mud puddles that we ultimately get into—we’re putting ourselves in there, and instead of healthy, honoring, and respectfully taking ownership and accountability as individuals, we’re looking at—it’s everyone else that’s doing it, and it’s not us.
So, how do we take ownership and accountability to build muscles that are what I call people skill muscles, soft skill muscles… But the soft skills are really the hard skills. If you go to a gym and swing a kettlebell, you don’t like to go and you don’t like to do it. It’s the same thing with handling conflict in a healthy, honoring, respectful manner. To be able to be good at it and be good with those relationships and deal with the most difficult things that come up, you gotta build muscles in that area. And, too often, we think we can read a book or take one class and the muscles are built. Well, that’s going to keep us stuck in the mud puddle, because these muscles need to be honed all the time. They need to be developed all the time. They need to be nurtured all the time. Unless we’re doing that on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis with continual leadership, learning as individuals, as teams, and as organization, the mud puddles are not going to be easy to get out of.
Michael Kublin will share his leadership insights in person at Service Management World!
RA: One of the things we often see is that, “Let’s keep doing things the way we’ve always done them” is bad business. But it becomes part of the business culture, and therefore the culture might need transformation. And transforming a culture—a work culture—is difficult. Can people play a role in that at every level of the organization, or does it have to come from the top down?
MK: Our belief at PeopleTek is that everyone can play a role in it and influence it. The thing is, what does the culture expect? So, sometimes it’s difficult when a culture expects behavior that is not really healthy, honoring, and respectful. It got that way somehow. Now, each individual has the power within themselves to work at not joining a behavior or actions that are not healthy, honoring, and respectful and part of a culture that they would want to be part of because it’s not treating people with dignity and respect and at the same time not engaging like the culture wants to be. So the issue is to find out what culture do we want to be? Let’s be it on purpose, and let’s nurture that in the best possible manner.
Each individual has the power to work at not joining a behavior or actions that are not healthy, honoring, and respectful, and part of a culture that they would want to be part of.
Most of the time, the culture does get set from the top. However, someone in any position can take ownership, accountability, and responsibility when they know something doesn’t feel right.
You and Jan Mayer-Rodriguez wrote,
The Twelve Steps for Courageous Leadership
. Does leadership always take courage, and maybe more importantly, can courage be learned, or is it something we attribute to “natural leaders” as it were. Are they born with it?
MK: My belief and Jan’s belief—and all the coaches at PeopleTek—believe that everyone is a leader and that we all have to demonstrate the courage and we call it a term called “couragability,” the art and science of living your career and your life on purpose and not by mistake.
RA: When people come to one of your conference sessions…like the one you’re giving at Service Management World, which is called The Common Denominator Is the Differentiator: Lead Your Culture, which is kind of what we’ve been talking about here, what should they expect to take away from that session so they can get it into action right as soon as they get back to work?
MK: They’re going to get, during this session, a set of different ideas, tools, and concepts that they can begin to work on and implement immediately. For example: V, M, G, M = B. Vision, Mission, Goals, Measures = Behavior. If anyone took that and began to implement it starting that day—and I will review anybody’s if they send it to me—they’re going to change their life and change their career. If they deal with conflict—and I’m going to give them a tool during the session to be able to deal with conflict in a healthy, honoring, and respectful manner and bring some insights to the differences that people have, just learning that tool on their own and maybe taking some initiative to find out more after the session, but just taking and implementing what they learn at the session that day about these other people, it’s going to change their career.
About Michael Kublin
Michael W. Kublin is the founder and president of PeopleTek, a leadership coaching and development company specializing in helping leaders, teams, organizations, and cultures achieve their full potential. Michael's vision is world-wide individual, team, and organizational excellence, which he fosters by connecting leaders, teams, and organizations to the coaching, development, and tools they need to be successful. Mike received his MBA from Nova Southeastern University, and he's the author of 12 Steps for Courageous Leadership, The Leadership Journey, and Leadership Journey II: Moving Beyond the Barriers.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson.