The following is a transcription of Voice of Bold Business Radio Program 32: You’re Covered.

Program Notes Can be Found Here.


Transcript of Program 32: You’re Covered

Jessica: Hi, and welcome to the voice of Bold Business Radio. You are listening to Program 32, ‘You’re Covered’. I am your host Jessica Dewell of Red Direction.

I want to start with a quote today, from Maya Angelou. This came up in my research for something else that I was doing and I thought it was really profound and useful, right here, right now. She said, “I have my own back.” Simple, full of courage, yet, at the same point in time, How do we have our own back? What does that actually mean, and where do we put our attention to make sure we’re covered? To make sure that we’ve got everything that we want and more, so that when the unexpected happens, we can step right in to it and go with the flow.

One of those things that we need is courage. The courage to not be needed in every second of every day of every person that we interact with. We want them, our teams, our families, we want them to go do their own thing and solve their own problems. The things that we work on together, that we connect to and for together, are deeper, and they can evolve our relationship in totally new and different ways.

It also takes planning. The planning to create redundancy. The concept of; If I’m gone, somebody else knows what to do, so I can stay home and take a sick day. Or I can stay home and take care of a sick family member. Or, if I’m going to miss a meeting because I had a flat tire on the way there, I have faith and trust that the planning is in place, and the conversations occurred that needed to occur, so that things can go on without me. Most importantly, in my opinion, is the value that it adds. When we let knowledge sit in our own brains, we’re thinking about how the whole world needs us and we’re the best and we’re doing it all and it can’t be done without us, we’re the ones that have the value. Which is great and all, because we want to be valued, we want to contribute. Yet it’s also very limiting because it means we can’t unplug, we’re more susceptible to overwhelm or burnout. The other side of that is, as a leader in an organization, and/or the owner of an organization, that means, all that value is inside, right here, in your head. And when you are ready to leave, or be promoted, or sell, or change the way things happen, if it’s all in your head, there is nothing to pass on, and you are more valuable exactly where you are than in the place you want to go to.

That my friends is the biggest reason to make sure that you are covered, and you do have your own back. Right after this, Tanya Bourque and I will be talking about redundancy, cross training, and a whole bunch of other things from this perspective of this internal value.

Announcer (amid background music): Welcome to The Voice of Bold Business, the show that provides everything that smart leaders need to evaluate situations, build relationships, and create solutions. Jessica Dewell candidly talks about the skills necessary to build tenacity, and do more with less. And now, here’s Jessica:

JESSICA: Wow Tanya, it’s been a little bit since you and I have had a chance to sit and chat on this show, to talk about these business issues and problems that we face. How have you been?

TANYA: I’ve been great.

JESSICA: Are you reading a new book, or is there an article or a new magazine that you’ve found lately?

TANYA: Not really. Just a lot of ‘How to do’ books. Trying to fix things.

JESSICA: I get that.

(they both laugh)

JESSICA: It’s always about how to fix things, right? I know one thing, and this is one of the reasons I wanted to do this show, and I was thinking of you because you always have great information and some really good stories, when we’re just having conversations, and I’m like “Man, I’m overwhelmed!” or, “I don’t know what to do”. You are always right there and you always, it must be those how to books, but you always have some idea and you can get things moving.

From an HR perspective, I think the place we should start is cross training, and the importance of cross training. How about you take that for a minute and talk about what cross training does for each individual as well as the teams within organizations.

TANYA: I would say my career started in very small organizations. What was really scary was there was always this one person that knew where everything was, and if that person was out, nobody else knew where it was, or how to do it. It was really scary because at one organization that I was going to join, their secretary had died, and that was why the position was open.

JESSICA: Did all the information leave this earthly realm with her?

TANYA: Yes, it all went to heaven. At least we all hope it went to heaven. The passwords to the computer, the passwords to the accounting software, the phone numbers for certain people and certain things, the resources. Basically, when I came on board, I had to pretty much re-do everything that she had done. It cost a lot of money to my new employer. That’s when I had a discussion with him, I said, you really should know where everything is, there should be like a booklet that says where everything is and how to do it.

JESSICA: See everybody, this is why I love talking to Tanya. I have never heard this story before, and sure enough, she’s got one that takes that cake from the get-go and sets the stage. We do have to look at this ‘What is the worst case scenario?’ Because we need to know. Holy cow, you’re right. It’s New Years Eve and everyone is already at parties and no one’s answering their phones and something happens and the website goes down and you’re running a sale. Then what happens if you’re the only one there leader, owner, person, and you don’t have all the information? As a leader, it is our responsibility to make sure that whoever’s in charge of that, whoever’s going to be fixing that problem, whether it’s us or somebody else, has what they need. The suggestion that you just shared is a really good one, keep it documented. That’s actually something that is really overlooked all the time. No company that I have ever worked with, and I will be completely honest, including my own, has a really well documented set of procedures. Or, if they are really well documented, it’s how to do the things, it’s not necessarily the stuff you need to have to execute the steps. That’s where I fall short. I’m like, “sure, I’ve got the how-to, sure, I’ve got all this stuff that you follow.” But I might forget to make sure everybody knows what the passwords are, what the actual application is to get started, things like that. You know, you can’t go until you have the first step.

I was thinking, how do I cross train my team? Well, we have documentation of all of the processes that we have, and we also have our chart of responsibilities. I say a chart. It is a general spreadsheet that says, these are the things that are happening in our business, and here’s who is responsible for them, and then where the latest notes are. Simple, straight forward. It’s not updated on a fairly regular basis, but we can limp along in the event of a big problem.

The skillset that we hire for, and I know Tanya you’re going to be able to talk way more about this, we need to hire for two things on our teams. The skills we need to get the jobs done, and the skills we need to create redundancy so that we can deal with a missing person once in a while. Whether they are sick or on vacation, or they are just done here on earth.

TANYA: One thing that I’ve always suggested to people is to buddy up with three people in the office, so that everybody should have an idea what that other person is doing, and how they do it. I’ll give you an example; I went on vacation for three weeks. Someone had to take over my recruiting responsibilities when I went on my vacation at my last organization. I had a partner, or buddy, that was working on a different segment of the company, but she totally understood who the hiring managers were, where everything was, what was in the system, what am I working on. So when I went on vacation, stuff was covered, and everybody got serviced like I never left. Then when she went on vacation, I did the same thing. When I left, that also got translated over to her, and she was able to take over until they found my replacement. Having that kind of system in place where people trust each other…

JESSICA: And the job that is being done is not so full and outside of capacity to complete, it allows an openness and a dialogue for that trust to be built. Now, did you bring that idea to that organization, or was that something that you were trained to as part of the culture?

TANYA: We were very good friends and we were working on each other’s units, so from time to time it just happened to be that way, it wasn’t anything that anybody decided on.

JESSICA: There’s a level of communication here, and there’s a level of letting go. This is what it takes, we’ve decided we’re going to work together, that we’re going to cover for each other, which also helps, because if I have no work to do, it would be really great to be able to go, ‘Hey I’m kind of bored over here while I’m waiting for this next thing to come in, what you got? Let me help out.’ That’s actually a relationship that doesn’t always happen because of how many meetings there are, how many tasks there are to be done, the amount of email that we’re dealing with, both internally and externally, and just the constant bombardment of fires and information that we are responding to quickly. That leads to being overwhelmed. We may be the best, we may be able to go ‘I can take the pressure. I work really good under pressure.’ Yet, there are still some things that will come up for some of us. So even if we’re the best under pressure, if we are thinking about ‘overwhelm’, first we have to be able to spot it, so that we don’t get on the path to burn out, or actually get completely burnt out. I think more importantly, is that when we’re overwhelmed, we’re not able to be curious and really connect with our colleagues and develop those relationships within our team and as leaders, develop the people on our teams. I know for me, and this is a real biggie for me, I am a worry-wart. Thankfully, I’m not as much of a worry-wart as I used to be.  I still think about, “what’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?”, and I come from a family of this, and I think I worry. I don’t think they worry, the rest of my family. My Mom is a successful business owner, my sister is a successful business owner, and my other sister, she is an instructional coach in a high school, and she is responsible for a lot of teachers. So we have a lot of established success in terms of what I come from, and I think this planning is an element of it. When I was growing up, this planning was like, so this is what’s on the calendar, and if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen, and we’re going to fill that calendar up. Well, I was always worried ‘Well what happens if?” And somebody always had an answer in my family. “Well we’ve got a plan C and an L and an M and a P and a Q and a W.” Each one of those plans, it was like a pinball machine, where you know that Plan Q has all these things that have to happen to make Plan Q necessary.

I was like, “if I need Plan Q, something else is really wrong here!” So I was always worrying, what if I have to do that, how am I supposed to know that that’s actually happening? It was a little stifling for me personally and my personality, but it made me a good planner. I don’t go all the way to the end of the alphabet…. I just do it differently to fit my personality. But the concept being, everybody was worried about all the variations, and so much time was spent on the variations, and the potentials and where they might be going, that we were totally missing the moment. All of our spare time, that we could have been working on new projects, that we could have been doing something as a family, that we could have spent with our friends, that we could have done our volunteer work, was all harnessed over here in this planning, and for me it was worry.

Another one is our judgements about things. Automatically going, yes, or no. How do you deal with judgement when you face somebody not wanting you to help them Tanya?

TANYA: My biggest thing these days I guess is when people approach me for advice on something and they go “Uh Huh, Uh Huh”, and I am like “Why am I even talking to you?” Because it’s almost like they don’t believe what you are saying.

JESSICA: So they’re coming to you for advice, but then they’re judging your advice? Is that what I’m hearing you say?

TANYA: Yes, pretty much.

JESSICA: Oh my gosh, isn’t that hilarious? That people come to you for advice, but they really just want to share a story themselves, they just want to be heard? I think that’s very interesting. And it’s overwhelming. Because who has time for that? Who has time to give advice and be thoughtful about it when all you wanted to do was tell your story. So just tell your story already! ‘I’ve got something to tell you. You may have an opinion, but I may not listen to it.’

TANYA: That’s what it’s been lately. I deal with a lot of job seekers on a daily basis, and a lot of CEO’s, CFO’s and COO’s startup founders and a whole bunch of people and even friends and family who come for advice from time to time. I do a lot of pro bono work with job seekers looking for jobs. It’s really hard when you are trying to help someone and they’re not taking your advice to heart. I used to get offended when I would try to help someone and they won’t take your help. Now I’m like, okay, I am better off. I have so much to do right now.

JESSICA: This concept of non-judgment, it’s also part of empathy. It’s really hard, because some of this stuff is really ingrained. It’s how we learn to communicate. It’s how we were heard when communicate with other people. I’d go one step further and say, you know when I talk about non-judgment, I’m talking about recognizing that there are going to be things that I am judging that I don’t even know. These inherent biases that I have. We all have them. If we are walking down the road and we see somebody that looks a little scary and nefarious, and we’re not sure what their motives are, do we walk down the street and actually pass them on the same sidewalk? Probably not. We probably cross the street and get out of the way and keep our distance. That is a judgment. Judgements that help keep us safe are awesome. When we’re talking about judgment and being judgmental, it happens whether we know it or not. This is a fact that some of you may know: When a woman is pregnant, and as soon as the sex of the baby is known, our language changes. Our language changes to boy directed language, or girl directed language. Which I find incredibly interesting. So there is something wired in our brains that’s making us judge, that we don’t even know, and so recognizing that there might be a bias there is really important.

I found myself the other day Tanya, I was having a conversation and I got called out, and I was so glad I got called out. She goes, “Where did you go? You kind of became a wall-flower. That’s not like you. What happened in this situation that made you sit back, shut up, and be seen and not heard?” I was like, ‘oh, how strange that in this particular situation, it brought out something that was so inherent, it became what I was told to do, how do you be a good little girl. It came out in my adult life in a situation where, it wasn’t detrimental to the outcome of the conversation, but I wished that I had said more when I was done, so it didn’t go the way that I wanted. Had I been able to recognize that I was making a judgment that what I had to say wasn’t necessary to the conversation. The thing is, that’s a judgment, and we don’t know until we say it. We don’t know if what we say has value or not, until we say it. You would never encounter that if I had a twin brother and he was standing right here and we were exactly the same in every way, he would never think twice about that. That is part of the genders that we share and what is wired inside of us. I wanted to just bring that up in the sense that, we may say we’re not judgmental, but we really are always careful about watching. Watching what we say and catching ourselves and challenging those assumptions. Basically, non-judgment is also just challenging assumptions, to go forward.

Let’s talk about making choices and sticking to them. Because that’s another big part of ‘overwhelm’. If I’ve agreed to too much, how do I go backwards, because I’m not going to do the job that I want. But make each choice purposeful. Do you have any tips or tricks about that Tanya?

TANYA: Sometimes we underestimate or overestimate the scope of what it is that we’ve taken on, and it’s okay to ask for help. You can’t be everywhere at once, and sometimes an emergency comes along, something comes up, and having that backup plan of who do you ask, who can you depend on. There’s a big problem with asking for help. There’s two major fears. The first one is; the person I’m going to assign is going to do an awful job, and when I come back, my reputation is tarnished. The second one is just the opposite; that person is going to do a fantastic job, and I won’t have a job when I come back.

JESSICA: I’ve felt both before. Have you felt both before?

TANYA: I have and I haven’t. I’ve never really been too worried about coming back and there being no job. I’ve worried about someone causing a disaster and I have to clean it up, and that adds on to the new occurring work that comes when I come back to work. But I have to say that I’ve learned that nobody’s going to die if I take a vacation.

JESSICA: So let’s talk about this. The fear that nobody can do it as good as I can. I can’t be sick for a day, so I’m going to be in bed, with my chicken noodle soup, and I can barely breathe, my brain doesn’t work, I can’t keep my eyes open because my head hurts so bad, and I’m on the computer and I am trying to answer emails. That’s really not good quality work.

TANYA: I’ll give you another example. I’m in labor, with a blackberry still in my hand.

JESSICA: Ok, this is a true story?

TANYA: This is a true story.

JESSICA: We’re getting a Tanya truth here.

(they both laugh)

TANYA: In labor, giving birth to my son, or getting ready to give birth to my son, and the blackberry is in my hand. Obviously, how am I going to concentrate on that, it’s not going to be done right. When we can identify that in ourselves…  I did not go in to labor with my phone in hand. I had to be pulled away to my maternity leave, which I was like “Baby was due today, baby did not come today”, and Ryan said “You’re not going to work tomorrow”. I was like, not going to work tomorrow? I can’t even comprehend what that looks like. What are you talking about? This desire to make a difference and be involved. There was no replacement for me in that place. While I had been preparing, right, I had nine months to prepare, and I had been actively talking about all of these things, and offloading all of these things, and helping to make sure that people were able to do what needed to get done, nobody ever really wanted to do what I did. I don’t know if that was just because they were too busy, or because what I was doing just was really that unappealing to everybody else in the organization. Regardless, that part doesn’t matter. I loved what I was doing, and that was fine. What if you can’t get somebody to want to cover? What if you can’t get somebody to want to cover the work that needs to be done, even if it’s not the exact same way?

TANYA: People don’t want to touch other people’s stuff.

JESSICA: They don’t want to?

TANYA: They don’t want to.

JESSICA: Okay. Tell me why?

TANYA: They’re thinking ‘My work is going to suffer if I take on something more.’

JESSICA: I’ve got to think about this for a minute. I can only picture you, in labor, in your gown, and your husband’s next to you ‘it’s all good Tanya, it’s all good’, and you’re like, ‘this needs to be done, and I’ve got to call back so and so’.  I can totally see you!

TANYA: I think it got to the point, I just emailed my boss and said “I’m going in to labor” and I turned off the blackberry.

JESSICA: When we’re talking in the scope of leaders, we recognize that we have our own set of responsibilities as a leader. That usually includes a team, and when we’ve got this team, and we’ve got this container that we’re holding and we’re working within, because we have responsibilities and obligations to contribute our part to the company wide goals. This is actually an organizational cultural thing is where I think Tanya is taking us at this moment. In terms of, we’ve got the way work is done, and when people are fearful to touch other people’s work because their own work is going to suffer, when there is fear around the fact that somebody is not going to do the work that needs to be done, and I’m the only one that can do it. Or when we fear that there is a different person on the team that is going to get my spot, if you will, or cut in line, or be escorted to the front of the line. All those fears, I think come down directly to organizational culture. Guess who it starts with? The person responsible for the space. Us, the leaders.

TANYA: There are some environments more than others that create a situation or environment where people feel that they need to throw each other under the bus, and that’s how they survive. It’s almost like gladiator in some environments. That’s where that fears is, if I take a vacation, when I come back, so and so will get that promotion, I won’t. Or, when I come back, I might get fired or laid off.

JESSICA: Regardless of our fears, regardless of the culture that we work in, regardless of the way that we personally react, right, if we are thinking about our own emotional intelligence and self-awareness, regardless of any of those things, it’s amazing how many people, and you might know this Tanya, how many people have three weeks of vacation, and they don’t take any of it, ever.

TANYA: The statistics are saying 90% of people don’t take their vacation.

JESSICA: So that right there… whether we’re overloaded, overwhelmed or not, whether we have the best poker face or not, that right there is a problem.

TANYA: And that’s specifically in the United States.

JESSICA: I love capitalism, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I like the way that we work. But it does create some unintended outcomes. That creates tired employees, and tired employees can’t work as efficiently, and those tired employees that aren’t working as efficiently then have to work longer hours, and then those longer hours turn in to, ‘I’m taking my laptop with me on vacation’, so I’m basically remote-working for a week instead of actually unplugging and being gone. There is value to being gone.

How many of you parents out there are like, ‘I just want to get away for a massage, or pedicure, or a date night with my spouse. All I want is two hours.’ And that is enough to change the relationships that we have with our families, with our spouses and our partners, and with whomever. Just two hours. But we won’t do that for our job. Now, if we’re looking at our priorities of life, more power to us. If that’s your priority in life is your work, awesome. Having somebody that you can rely on though, amplifies the results. One person doing everything that they can in 24 hours and having all the priorities and responsibilities for a 24 hour period, is only going to get so much done. But if there are 3 or 4, right, this whole team that we have at our offices, the people that we collaborate with outside of our regular work to build ideas, all of these things working together, we now have pieces of everybody’s time working on it. So there are more ideas, there’s more conversation, there’s more reach, and we’re amplifying the result. It starts with changing what we do. Taking a break.

TANYA: Think about burnout. If we’re not taking vacations, we’re going to burnout, we’re going to get frustrated, we’re going to get mad, and then our personal health suffers.

JESSICA: Let’s go back to the cross training. First thing, I really liked your idea, and I would like to bring it back. I know everybody is going to have some semblance of what they think cross trained or covering for each other looks like in their department and their organization. I’m going to ask that you stop, and that you set aside your judgement, you set aside what you’re going to hear, you’re probably going to hear this and you’re going to go, yeah I know that, yeah I know that. Think about the ways that we’re putting it together though, and just do a quick audit. Do an audit of your process right now, and find out as we’re talking about these things, what you might try differently that would support your teams. That would improve their own personal development and would improve the work output of the team to be more efficient, to be more in general, and to have less errors.

When we cross train. Tanya, I want to go back to your idea of this buddy system. You’re buddying up with somebody with similar job responsibilities who understands the flow, and you create a way to work together, that it’s easy for somebody to incorporate the necessary work, not all of your work, but the necessary work that must be done while you are gone, gets done. What are some tips? If somebody is going to do that, what are some tips that you would have to start that?

TANYA: Taking a look at the relationships on the team. Where are the strong relationships? Where are people actually eating lunch and hanging out together? Who chats with who? Building up those relationships there. I think for me, had I not felt so comfortable with that person, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with changing roles from time to time.

JESSICA: Another piece of that would be, I would say, is to assess the strengths and weakness of the team. This is beyond who is the weakest link and who is the strongest link. This is ‘every single person on the team has strengths, and every single person on the team has weaknesses’, so who in my department, who am I responsible for, and what are their weaknesses? So that I understand, when somebody goes out, they are out, for whatever reason they are out. They are not in the office, I know where to delegate work that is within the strengths of my team, and I don’t accidentally put somebody in a panic, or set them up to fail, or all kind of negative things, that I’m not intentionally trying to do, but it’s that I didn’t really think about everybody’s weaknesses on the team, and where are the strengths that could carry the adjusted work load during the time one of my employees is out.

TANYA: Like we said, having that manual together of what everyone does, and what the passwords are, and what the procedure is. Having that updated frequently.

JESSICA: Frequently means more than every 5 years guys. Once a year is not enough.

TANYA: Once a quarter.

JESSICA: I incorporate it in to my review process too. Granted, I’m giving feedback all the time, and I’m doing in process stuff. But I sit down and I have a conversation, and one of the things that I am doing in them is “Ok, so this is what I understand the current responsibilities are, and this is what I understand that you are responsible for. Do you feel you are still responsible for these, and what are the priorities that you get? And what is not on this list that you are doing?” Then I, as the leader, can say, okay, I’m the department head, I know what people are doing that’s not documented, and we can get it documented, or we can know it’s happening, or we can change some priorities. I think that’s a pretty big piece too, when we are shifting and adapting in the moment, it’s hard to stop and write it down. But we can catch it, and I think that’s what Tanya just brought up and I think that’s a really good point, we can catch that. We are never going to have something that’s 100% up to date all the time. If our net, and the right places of our net are repaired and maintained, it’s going to catch us when we fall, and we won’t fall through. That’s, I think, what we are looking for most.

We have, building the relationships, we have the strengths and the weaknesses, we have the manuals. There is also, this concept of, and there is this buzzword, and I don’t like it…. ‘post mortem’!  How morbid is that? Why do people do that in business? Why do you want to post mortem anything

TANYA: I used to hate it, because usually it meant something went wrong.

JESSICA: Right! And it’s used interchangeably, and I’m like, well why don’t we have a funeral instead, because at least that celebrates something.

To go back to the building of the relationships, understanding strengths and weaknesses of the team, to understanding and keeping track of the actual physical steps that are going to save us, and being able to allow people, who don’t do tasks all the time, to be able to do the tasks that need to be done, are to have debriefs. What would the person that is doing the task, what would they actually like to see happen differently next time? Did they find a quicker way, or a more efficient way, or a different way that got a result that was in-line more to the goal? How can we use some of these things to actually self-check and look at the development of our department? This is where I think developing people really comes in, because the person doing it now has a responsibility. So if it’s you and me Tanya, and you go on vacation, and you come back, and the owner of the company says, sit down and talk with me about this, and I say “I found this cool way to do this! Here’s what I thought really worked.” And you might say, “Oh, yeah! I thought about that but I didn’t have a chance to try it.” Or, “You know, that worked for a little while, but here’s where the bump came in”. So we get to actually evaluate the role, and make sure that as our company changes, as the marketplace changes, as our clients change, we’re adapting our roles, to stay up to date as well.

TANYA: I think another thing is, if we are testing out a new software, or a new product, I think that more than one person should be trained on it.

JESSICA: Oh! That’s a whole other show. (Laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Okay, we talked about, how do we take a vacation. I think what I’m going to leave you with, and Tanya may have something different to leave you with, but this is what I’m going to leave you with….

Now you have all this stuff, but do you really want to make a change yet? Maybe… maybe not. So I’m going to say, take a break! Unplug. Even if it’s for a day. Take a break, unplug and get away, and just see what happens. See what happens to the stuff from the processes that are in place. Because now this is a second way to set aside your judgment. You’ve listened to the things that we were talking about, and being able to compare that to what you already do. Now you are going to walk away, and you’re going to see what happens. You are going to see the physical results that you are going to be able to embrace, and own the good, the bad and the ugly, and move forward with that. Then we can talk more about what to do with this information in our next program. What would you add to that Tanya?

TANYA: Take a vacation! Nobody’s going to die.

JESSICA: And now you have it. You are listening to The Voice of Bold Business Radio. This is Program 32, You’re Covered. Don’t forget, if you like what you’re hearing, we want to hear a comment. Remember, we asked you to set aside your judgment. Tell us, where do you find yourself judging? Where do you find yourself reacting, and how do you work with that to have meaningful conversations? And we want to know, how do you know ‘You’re Covered’?

Announcer – Subscribe at voiceofboldbusiness.com and get more information, program notes, and past episodes. Bold leaders approach each situation and focus on action to achieve a higher level of leadership. Jessica Dewell, your business advocate is the host of The Voice of Bold Business Radio. Thank you for joining us.