Jennifer Thornton has developed her expertise in Talent Strategy & Leadership Professional Development over her exciting 20+ year career as an HR Professional.

She is a sought-after business strategist, specializing in start-ups and large value-based organizations. She assists her clients in building talent strategies that complement their business strategies to ensure exponential growth.

She shared with us:

  1. What is the future work-place communication?
  2. Why psychological safety is becoming an important part of company cultures?
  3. And how to create trust and safety in your company.

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Read The Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:06):

Speaker 2 (00:16):
Hi everyone. We’re like, hi, so guys, welcome to how to build a team podcast live show. We have a very special guest today, tonight, wherever you are guys. And we are so happy to bring on an amazing guest who understands the culture of in a company. So this is very interesting topic for us. Why don’t we introduce our guests? Jennifer has developed our, her expertise in talent strategy and leadership, professional development over her ex exciting 20 plus year career as an HR professional she’s led international teams across greater China, Mexico, the UK, and the us to expand into new markets, managing franchise retailers and developing key strategic partnerships all while exceeding business objectives and financial results. She lives in Texas with our family and rescues in her free time. She enjoys reading historic preservation, remodeling her Lake home and spending time with friends. I got excited about that Lake home. All right. Why don’t we bring on Jen, Jen, thank you for being here on our show.

Speaker 3 (01:46):
I’m good. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 2 (01:50):
All right. So Jen, I know I I’ve said who you are, but let’s hear it from you. What are you doing? Where are you from? And we’re going to talk about later about this Lake home.

Speaker 3 (02:07):
Sounds good. Well, I am, so I’m based here in the U S grew up in the U S grew up in a really small town and middle America. And you know, started my career very early on in retail and I’ve always, you know, loved retail. I won’t give away my age, but you know, back before e-commerce right, when we all still hung out the mall, and that was my favorite thing to do. And so I was gonna, you know, that’s what I was gonna do. I was going to hang out with them all and sell clothes and I did. And the first half of my career was an operations. And the second half of my career was in HR. I knew I got my results different than everyone else. You know, most people were highly competitive and they wanted to be number one because they want it to be on top.

Speaker 3 (02:49):
And I wasn’t that way I wanted to have great results, but I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed assembling teams and developing teams and getting teams. And so that’s why I made the move into human resources. So my take on talent is always very different because I come from an operation background. And so it’s all about, you know, how do we deploy people and create great teams to create great results? And, you know, the last part of my career before I went on my own, I worked internationally, which was incredible. I got to work all around the world and meet so many great people. You know, it’s, it’s just so fun to watch, especially holidays. I love watching all the different holidays around the world, pop up and see my friends from around the world, celebrating them. And then, you know, several years ago I thought, you know, I just want to do what I want to do. Full-Time and that’s helping companies really think about their talent strategy and how that supports their business strategy. So that’s how we got here today.

Speaker 2 (03:45):
Yeah. It’s, it’s so amazing because when, when I saw you and I read about what you do, I’m like, this is Jen is the perfect guests on our show because obviously the title of our, our show is how to build a team and you have the expertise on how to do that. But what, what do you think is the future of workplace communication now that we are in a crisis, everything is like at home doing business online. So how do you see that future workplace communication?

Speaker 3 (04:24):
So I think there’s a lot to that. I think one of the things, you know, I look at where it’s going. I also look at current trends. And so where our current trend is, I’m a little nervous about that. It’s not going to support where we’re going. And what I’m seeing is that at the beginning of 2020, we had to do a lot of crisis management and rightfully so, you know, crisis management is very, you know, there’s not conversation it’s highly direct to do, as I say, and it’s like the building’s on fire, leave the building. Like it’s simple, easy. And we had to do that at the beginning of 2020. You know, we had to shut down our businesses. We had to work from home. We had to make really fast pivot decisions. But what I’m seeing is that we are continuing to crisis manage outside of outside of the building, being on fire outside of a, of a true crisis, because we’ve gotten into that habit.

Speaker 3 (05:14):
And that is really hard on our teams because our teams are not engaged in conversations. Our teams are not participating in the outcome or, or the roadmap. And when the team stopped participating in the conversation, the leaders don’t have enough information to make really good decisions. And that’s what we need in the future. We need our teams highly engaged in the conversation. So that business leaders have all the facts they need to, to make great decisions because we it’s, you know, as leaders, you have to make decisions all day, every day, and you, you need that support of your team. So where we are and where we going, I’m a little concerned. There’s somewhat of a disconnect there.

Speaker 2 (05:55):
Yeah. you know what, with, with, you know, I noticed because we, we are building a team and we do have a remote team. We call it a remote team because we’ve got people here in the Philippines, we’ve got people here overseas, other parts of utero and some other part in Asia. And, you know, there is a disconnect when you don’t have that solid communication with your team. And it’s very important with what you said. You have to, you have to be transparent and you, you kind of like, you have to bring them all together so that they know and understand your goal or your clients go. This is, this is awesome. What, what is the psychological behind, behind this? In, in my previous episode I talked about how would you make your team members feel safe in your company? So why is psychological safety becoming an important part of a company culture?

Speaker 3 (07:07):
So, you know, I’m so glad you asked that question. And right now psychological safety has never been more important and the way we were taught to lead, or maybe some older generations of leadership the way we have been spoken to instantly creates fear and fear is just a chemical reaction in the mind. That’s all it is to warn us. That’s dangerous. Kinda like if you walk up to ledge and you look over and your belly kind of, flip-flops, that’s chemical reaction saying, Ooh, don’t get so close. You could fall in, in, you know, get hurt. So fear at work is the same thing. It’s just a chemical reaction. But when we tell someone, Hey, you know, you’re not meeting expectations and I’m going to get onto you until you get it right. Well, you’re using, you’re putting someone in fear and their primitive brain takes over.

Speaker 3 (07:57):
And when our primitive brain is activated, our prefrontal cortex closes down and that’s where all the good stuff happens. That’s where new ideas happen. And that’s where we learn. And that’s where we collaborate and get innovative. And so our language alone creates fear and takes us away from what we’re actually asking for. And so when you think about creating psychological safety, you know, there’s a lot of talk around emotional intelligence and, you know, being there for people, but really it’s about, and what I study is conversation intelligence. It’s about understanding the neuroscience of the mind, the chemical reaction of conversations, and how does that impact our results and how does that impact our, you know, how we work together and, you know, that’s a big piece of it, but really it’s about rewriting. A lot of the language we use when we build teams.

Speaker 2 (08:51):
Yeah. Language is so in,

Speaker 4 (08:56):
Especially, you said we’re under unusual times right now, when people have gone from working, face-to-face that hanging around the water cooler or the casual office conversation to being a lot of voice conversations, some video, and every time, every step you take away from, from the human interactions, face-to-face interactions, you lose so much in that video, you lose a bit of body language. And when you go to the straight voice polls, you lose all of the facial reactions and everything. And the choice of words is so important when you’re dealing with people, especially as a leader, as a manager, as a boss, as, as a know a company owner, people tend to be more concerned and listen to the words because they’re, they’re losing out on all of that, other, those other visual cues. And I’ve spent a lot of my career working on the phones and you get no, no clue that all on body language and the facial reactions.

Speaker 4 (09:58):
So you’re really trying to listen to what’s being said. And in a lot of times, listening to, what’s not being said, our wire not reacting when people who normally in a face-to-face interaction are animated and happy, and then they’re shutting down, you’ve got to figure out and realize that that is happening and go back and then try and find out what’s happened to change that person. Why are they not behaving in their normal sentences? It’s something that’s happened. Are they not getting the support they need? So it’s, it’s, it’s a new, it’s new ground for a lot of people that, you know, we’re, we’re a remote team. We have, we have employees all over the planet, different time zones, which adds to the complexity talking to people when we’re wide awake middle of our day. And it’s late, late at night or early, early morning when we’re trying to deal with some of our team.

Speaker 4 (10:48):
And we have to keep that in mind that, you know, just because it’s 11:00 AM and I’ve had three cups of coffee, doesn’t mean the person is as alert and awake and engaged as I am. So I just think that there’s, there needs to be a lot of attention paid to how people are feeling with all of the change that’s going on and not being able to have that, that easy interaction with people talking to your head over the cubicle, or, you know, hanging out for a real water cooler. It’s much more challenging these days.

Speaker 3 (11:23):
It’s interesting. I have in my entire career, I’ve never managed a team locally. I’ve never, I’ve always had remote teams. And so I th I grew, you know, I grew up through my leadership skills, only dealing with remote teams. So I think that, you know, when I had a remote team, when COVID hit and I set up a remote team but it is interesting to think about leading from afar because it is a really different skillset than just saying, Oh, well, Hey, jump in here. And it, they get complacent when your team is all right there, because you don’t have to think about, Oh, well, how am I going to organize my day? How am I looking at how I’m fitting into someone else’s organization, you know, their day, because you’re just there and being going remote is causing leaders to be a lot more intentional with that when they’re communication, obviously, but two, how do they organize their time and how do they evaluate results? Because if everyone’s in their chairs, you’re evaluating results by how long someone’s sat in the chair. Well, that doesn’t mean they’re productive, you know? So remote, you have to get really clear on the work and how you reward people. There’s a lot of pieces that are really different when you work remote.

Speaker 2 (12:37):
Yeah. It’s, you know what, it’s, when you start to have a remote team and for those our friends who are listening right now and still on the fence of whether am I, is this effective. If I hire somebody from across the world, really be effective with the work, still get done. Well, here we are real telling you that it’s going to work. It’s just a matter of how well you can communicate and how, and what type of culture you want to instill in your company. I remember, you know, we were chatting offline. I shared with you, Jen, that I started 2009 in digital marketing and project management back then in 2009 video thing, isn’t as huge as now. I’m going to have a meeting with a client over Skype. There’s no zoom yet. There’s no stream you’re yet. And we would jump on a call on Skype, and it’s just always audio, you know, voice school.

Speaker 2 (13:43):
And, you know, sometimes when Skype isn’t available, it’s always email or chat. I can’t remember if we used a chat platform or an app there there’s nothing yet. I think back then, it’s, you know, project management tool and email and all of that. There is no Slack yet. No, no like, like what we already have now. And when you read an email, there’s no tone. You don’t see the facial reaction. And I would, you, you would, sometimes you would assume that the client is mad at you because of the choice of words. And then I will pop Tate and, you know, get nervous and I’ll be like, did I do something wrong? Why does his email sound mad at me or something like that. And when I do get that feeling, I would instantly, you know, immediately call, you know, reply and say, Hey, can we jump on a call so that we can iron things out?

Speaker 2 (14:47):
Or what are your expectation? Because I’m under impression that this and that. So again, bottom line is if there is some misunderstanding there is frustration. There is disappointments, the bottom line is always, have you communicated your goal or the instruction for whatever task or project well enough for the other person or for your VA to understand that, all right, I’m not just going to do this task, but because I do understand the goal. So here’s my suggestions. This is how I’m going to do it. Will it be okay to you? You know, so it’s, it’s really important for, for eyes business owners, as a leader of your company, to really focus on how are you getting motivate your team members, how will you be able to communicate to your team members, your goal you know, the plan, the strategy, and all of that, so that you will get the outcome that you like, or the outcome that you desire for whatever project you guys are working on.

Speaker 2 (16:05):
So that is very important. Thank you for that, Jen. But how do you create trust and safety in a workplace? I think that is tough. You know, it’s challenging when you have a remote team, you don’t get to meet them in person, or you can’t invite them to have coffee or team building into a resort at a resort and go to a beach or something like that to build that, that trust and engagement, and really know each of your team members, but for you, Jen, what, what do you think, how do you grade this?

Speaker 3 (16:44):
So, I mean, there’s a lot of pieces to it. And if you think about remote specifically, I think that one of the things you want to think about is you know, what do you want that culture to be? And what is, how do you define the word trust? Because all the three of us could all define it in a different way. So I think as a leader, you first have to define what trust means to you. And then that allows you to give language to that word. And then that language gives you the ability to create action on it. And so I think sometimes we just were like, well, we’ll have to build trust and how do I do that? And it’s really overwhelming. And so for me, what trust looks like is trust, looks like honesty. You know, I give my team the permission to say, I think that’s a really bad idea, and that’s okay for them to say that to me.

Speaker 3 (17:34):
And I’m like, tell me more. And I’m really respectful that they are experts in their field and I want to hear their expertise. So that’s a piece of it. Then if part of your definition of trust is also allowing to partner without your involvement, then you have to lead in that way. So that’s one of my things around what trust looks like. I trust the team to go and deal with things without involving me and that they’re going to make good decisions. And so what happens is if someone calls and says, Oh, you know, I, you know, I don’t know about this, or I don’t know about that, then I could fix it, or I could say, well, you know, Meg, over here, she’s the one on, on that project. So why don’t you call Meg? And the two of you think about it and work it out. And then let me know if you have any additional questions, but as leaders we step in and we try to fix it and we try to take it on, but we don’t. Then what happens is you create this middleman and middleman doesn’t create trust. So I’m going to this person then back to that person. And so that’s the biggest key is really defining what trust looks like for you and your organization. And then, and then equating that to action so that you can lead in that way.

Speaker 2 (18:47):
Yeah. What is that saying, babe? We always use this higher trust who you hire and along that line, help me out. There you go. Exactly. you know, as, as a leader, you have to create that transparency. Because you know, based in my experience when a client just, you know, give a project and trust that I am the expert in that field and that I can do the job well, you know, the work is just amazing. The outcome is just amazing because you can feel the client’s trust and you, as a leader of your business, you also have to take part into that. How are you going to be transparent? How are you going to create trust so that, so that your team member will perform well?

Speaker 3 (19:48):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know some times the team will come to me and they’ll say, well, what do you think about this? And I always say, I don’t know, I’m not an expert in marketing. I’m not an expert in you know, building the instructional design that the actual design of our materials, I’m a content creator. I, I think about how to teach it, but then they can make it come to life on paper, through the incredible visual design. And so I’m always, when they’re like, what are you, I don’t know. I don’t know. And I’m like, you’re the expert. If, what does your expert self say? Well, it says to do this and I’m like, then that’s what we’re going to do.

Speaker 3 (20:26):
But they, there there’s fear. Right? And so we’re in fear of making sure our boss, our boss likes it or our bosses happy with it. And if I don’t agree, then I can say that, and that’s fine. But you know, probably 80% of the time have I stopped them and say, what is your expert? Brain tell you is right. They know the right answer, but then I have to, but then they get trust in themselves and the confidence themselves. And then they start making better and bolder decisions. They get much bolder because they recognize I’m going to trust that. Right.

Speaker 4 (20:55):
That’s huge. I’ve been fortunate or unfortunate that I’ve worked for bosses or leaders, managers on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve had one that, you know, this is your job. You’re responsible for all of this, go out and do it. But check in with me before you do anything. It’s like, it’s, you’ve got all the responsibility, but none of the authority in order to do it. And I’ve had other bosses leader, true leaders, mentors who have said to me, you know, I hired you for a reason now go and do what I hired you for that whole trust thing. And he said, you’re going to make mistakes. And he said, I’ve got your back. He says, I will defend you to the end of the earth. When you make a mistake. He said, we might talk about it afterwards in private about how you ended up at that decision or doing what you did or not doing what you should have done.

Speaker 4 (21:47):
He says, we’ll talk about that. But he said, I will always defend you. And that was huge. That gave me the confidence to go out and make change and be prepared and willing and not so afraid to make mistakes because I knew what my expectations were. I knew where I knew what their expectations were of me and I could work free toward that without the fear of being micromanaged and having every little decision that I made question, because they knew that I was reaching for the overall goal. That’s the key. And I, we try and do that with our team is we hire experts in their fields. I have zero marketing background. I’m, I’m an operations behind the scene type of person, my whole career. And we have project managers that know how to put things together. We have for carpets, video editors, copywriters, all of this.

Speaker 4 (22:40):
We, we hire experts and I have no choice, but to trust them. But I think that makes me a good client or a good leader for a lot of these teams is that I trust implicitly what they do, because you can’t do what they do. So they don’t need to check in with me every step, along the way. They just need to help the expectations and wait for them to deliver that. And you know, sometimes we have to have conversations about direction and how things went and why they went that way. But it’s, I learned from that one mentor, he taught me to have confidence in what you do, because he, as a leader was going to defend me and not tell me the task publicly for things that I may have done. Not for me. That’s the key in my careers ever since then, it’s know what is expected of you go forth and do it. And no you’re going to make mistakes.

Speaker 3 (23:34):
Failure is the opposite of innovation. And, and so, so often because, you know, fear that, you know, just the chemical reaction, it’s all it is. But that chemical fear of failure holds us back from innovation. And so as leaders, you have to find a way to release that fear if you want someone to innovate. And so I talk about all the time, like we have to get excited about our failures. Now, if we, you know, there are some failures that we’re not going to get excited about, but in general, you know, if you make the decision and you thought it was going to go well, and it falls on its face, then fantastic. You know, we now know what doesn’t work, right. And if you know, it’d be like, you know what, if you like told someone, you know, how dare you get the marketing wrong in 2020?

Speaker 3 (24:21):
Well, how would you have ever have known how to market 2020? Right? When we were making our plans in 2019, none of that work this year. But when you get excited about failure and you get excited about learning from it, then what happens is your team is going to open up to more innovations. You’re going to grow as a team. But then they’re also going to get honest with you sooner. They’re going to say, I don’t think this is going well, because they’re not in fear. They’re not trying to fix it behind the scenes. Yeah. Then you’ll also be able to guide their learning experience because they’re being open and honest. And when it’s something celebrated and you’re talking about it collectively as a team, then they’re supporting that and other people are learning other person. Another person might have a great idea, but you know, as leaders, you, you need to get excited about failure. And I know it doesn’t sound quite right, but you really do because it is releasing that break and allowing someone to fail actually creates innovation and actually creates growth in your organization.

Speaker 2 (25:20):
Yeah, exactly. Very well said, Jen I have to ask you this because the, the art show is how to build a team. And when I got an email, it was not actually you, and you mentioned you’ve got your remote teams. I’ve got somebody who reached out to me. And I, if I remember it correctly, I’m sorry to your, to your assistant, but her name is also Jen. Jen. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (25:51):

Speaker 2 (25:52):
You’ve got Jen reached out to me. That’s awesome. And what, as as a business owner, how does having a team helped you grow? Oh God,

Speaker 3 (26:06):
Gosh. So many ways it keeps me on my toes. It keeps me honest. It keeps me consistent. And they bring great ideas to me. And, you know, if, if I kind of worked in a vacuum, I would never grow. I would never become a better person. And you know, Jen who reached out to you, you know, she does some really great work. She manages all of our leadership academies too. And she’s always coming to me with ideas. In fact, the other day, she came to me with an idea she’s like, you’re always talking about articles or books while you’re training. And she’s like, and I can see everyone writing them down. Why don’t we create a resource guide and all know, put it all together. And so she came up with this great idea and I’m like, that’s fantastic. I’d never thought of that.

Speaker 3 (26:49):
And so now our programs are better because she had this great idea and was willing to act on it. And I gave her the permission to give me feedback and make, you know, something that I created better through her own lens. And, you know, they push me every day. And I had a really great conversation with someone on my team this last weekend. And she wanted me to go in a direction with the marketing and I didn’t want to go there, but my answer was, I don’t, I don’t think it’s the right thing for the business, but tell me why you think it is. Ultimately we didn’t, we made the decision not to, but I didn’t shut her down because I needed to hear why she was passionate about it because she might’ve changed my mind. She might’ve given me information. I didn’t have. But so it’s not about always saying yes, but it’s about the conversation so that you learn and that person knows you want to listen and you want to hear it. And I was so proud of her because she fought hard for this idea. And I love that. Like I was so proud of her to fight hard for it. You know, again, we can’t take every idea, but that’s okay. It was about the process because it installed confidence in her.

Speaker 2 (28:01):
Yeah. Amazing, amazing topic. Yeah. it’s, it’s, you know, the, the key thing here is learn how to let go. And as a leader, you are, you’ve got this big responsibility for your company, not just for your company, but for your entire team, for your family, for their family, for your entire team, how are you going to be an effective leader? How will you going to be an effective communicator so that you can keep on encouraging your team to perform well? And it’s not, it’s not always about, I’m going to give you an increase. Sometimes if it’s not about the money, sometimes it’s about the trust and the relationship and the culture that you built within your company last last thing, Jen, what advice can you give to our viewers and listeners who are on the fence of, am I going to run? Am I going to hire a remote team? Or how can I be a better leader and communicator so that I can grow with my team?

Speaker 3 (29:16):
Oh, I mean, if you’re nervous about a remote team, I would say not don’t be because they’re fantastic. And it allows you to really get the right expert. I mean, if you say, I need someone to do this really specific thing, and I’ve opened it up to the entire world to find this person. I mean, what benefit that has. And instead of saying, I can only find them in this little tiny area and the five mile radius, like you’re limiting yourself, but from a communication, which I think is so important and where we are and where we’re going. When you think about building teams, the thing I would challenge your listeners and the people in your group to think about is how do you learn something new every day from your team? And so I always ask a form of this question that comes in a lot of forms.

Speaker 3 (29:59):
It could be, what is the one question I didn’t ask you that I should have asked about this topic? Or, you know, what’s the one thing you should have said to me that you were nervous that you just, I want you to say it to me now, or, you know, what’s the one thing I need to learn that you look at me and go, girl, you have no idea. You need to learn this. Tell me what that is. So always like saying, what’s that one more thing I need from this conversation and do it once a day. So once a day you learn something new from your team. And after a year you were going to have such a wealth of information, and you’re going to have such an incredible communication and trust with your team because you’ve listened to them and they know that you learn from them and it’s just going to allow them to bring more and more stuff to you. And it’s just going to be a beautiful relationship.

Speaker 2 (30:48):
Thank you, Jen. Very well said. Now, where can we find you, Jen?

Speaker 3 (30:53):
So you can find me on our or you can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jen Thorton. ACC.

Speaker 2 (31:03):
There you go, guys. I hope you find value in this episode. Thank you so much, Jen. This stage tuned stay on, on, on here. And we will chat after this guys. There you go. Another episode for how to build a team podcast and we hope to, to be doing this again more often. So there you have it guys. We will catch you again. Next time. Stay tuned. Bye

Speaker 5 (31:44):