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Randy Ford: Welcome to the SuccessInsight podcast. I’m Randy Ford. With me today is Deb Terry, leadership coach, facilitator — What is Skillblenders?

Deb Terry: Skill Blenders, we’re an organization that the focus is all about people and organizational development. It’s about coaching emerging leaders to be more effective in their organizations. It’s about working with teams to help them be as effective as they can be to, frankly, kick butt and get the results accomplished and then also develop emerging leaders.

Randy Ford: How long have you been doing this?

Deb Terry: Awhile. By my own, an independent, 17 years — actually, last month, February.

Randy Ford: Oh wow.

Deb Terry: Prior to that, I was in a major corporation doing some similar work as well.

Randy Ford: What made you want to make that transition?

Deb Terry: Well it’s again a duality. One, I was at a point where I was traveling a lot around the world, and my son was 11 or 12 years old, and the people at the front desk of the hotel over in Verase, Italy, knew him on a first-name basis, and I said, “OK I’ve got to kind of align my priorities right.” He was, you know, he’s our only son. And I decided to do that, plus I wanted to do something I was really passionate about, which is working with people basically emerging talent and then also just doing a lot of team development and leadership development.

Randy Ford: ‘m curious about those moments when you recognize that that passion is kind of coming to fruition. So can you think of a time, without giving you anybody’s name or anything away, but can you think about a time recently when you’ve been like, “Oh, you know what? This is why I work so hard to do this.”.

Deb Terry: Yeah. It actually happened fairly recently, about a month and a half ago. I was called in by somebody I coached about 10 years ago. She was, it was early in her career. She was a financial analyst, and I began coaching her as an emerging diverse leader. She called me in to do a DiSC workshop. She had a team-building sessions she wanted to hold with her group over actually in Chicago, and it was, first of all, it was great to reconnect with her; second, it was great to see how well she had done in her career. Nine, 10 years ago, I first worked with her. And then it was really great, is when she says — I feel like I’m bragging a little bit — but when she introduced me, it’s like, “Wait a minute, hold on, I want to record this!” Because she had talked about how so much she had, in our coaching session, she had used so much about better understand herself, understanding others leveraging her leadership brand and the organizations she’s worked with, and now she’s a treasurer in a major organization. First of all, the personal connection because we’ve been talking over the years; we’ve done several things over the years, but also just for her to say that in front of her group, I was like, “Yes, that’s what it’s about. It’s about developing people and seeing them impact other people.”

Randy Ford: Yeah. That’s great. And then you do a lot of teamwork as well. A lot of team facilitation. Right?

Deb Terry: Correct.

Randy Ford: How does that work? What do you come in and help the teamwork with?

Deb Terry: Well, there’s several different approaches. Some say, “Hey, we just want to go from good to great.” In fact, I’m working with a group again, a group that’s based here in Michigan, but they’re meeting over in Chicago. But probably my favorite example was last year, I was called in to a global team. Their employee engagement scores were low. The leader was pretty much on the hook to do something different. And initially, the conversation started, “Hey you know you do this DISC stuff. Tell me about that.” But the more we start talking, more I was like, you know, I said “You need to step back a little bit and really look at your organization.” And I said, “How would your organization, especially your leaders — there’s gonna be 40 people at this meeting — describe the culture of the team, how they get things done and how they work.” And he said, “Well, I don’t think we’d be that good.” He’s a Brazilian gentleman. The more we talked, he said, “You know what, you need to come and do the whole two days.” And so what we did is we put together an approach where we worked with the group, helped them identify their ideal, basically do some envisioning, their ideal work culture. What would it look like? What would people be saying? What would they be doing differently as leaders. What would they stop doing, continue doing, start doing? What would their employees say about their their employee experience in the organization? How would they be functioning, not just in the U.S., not just in Brazil, not just in China, but how would they be functioning with these global teams when they’re all working better? To drive this conversation, we use the five behaviors of a cohesive team model by Patrick Lencioni to help drive it so we start talking about, “OK, trust. What does it look like for us if we’re going to get to this vision that we came up with? You know, what does trust look like, not just with the leadership team here, but with our teams that we have reporting to us?How do we manage conflict?” And then you have all these factors that cross-culturally come to play to so, you know, an Indian might say, “Well, hey this is what’s important to me about culture.” A Brazilian might say this. So we had some great conversations. Again, and we looked at each of the dimensions of commitment. How do you drive that? How do you hold each other accountable? How do you drive those results? From there, we came up with a team charter. Said, “OK. This is what you are going to hold each other accountable for, so as you’re sitting in teleconference in your home bases, this is behavior that works for this organization, because if we’re gonna get to this cultural definition, this cultural mecca that you want to have so people want to work in this team within this organization.” Because frankly this organization had a reputation where, gosh you don’t want to work in this organization. It’s not fun. So my challenge to them: what does that look like? Again, over the past eight months, I’ve had regular updates with the group and what was really great. Again, about two months ago, I happened to be in their facility, and on the TV monitor they had the pyramid that had the five behaviors of a cohesive team. They had their team charter popping up on the screen. They had their cultural vision, what they were trying to achieve, and all this was all over that particular building on campus here at their main headquarters. But the other part that was probably the best: I was talking to my contacts there as well as the HR people. I said, “OK, what happened with the employee engagement score?” And they said it went up four points. And again you might say “four points?” But you’re talking 300 people all around the world. And I asked the person, “OK, how did this help?” “Oh my gosh, it helped tremendously.” Because frankly, it was a global group of engineers. We had the engineers thinking and talking differently to better engage their people. Part of it was launching this process and walking through the process with them but also the individuals and the leadership taking ownership and accountability to help drive these people changes. You can tell I’m pumped up about it. It’s just exciting. You see, boy things are different, and it’s not just how they work but hopefully impacts their lives as well.

Randy Ford: You called it a cultural mecca, and I know it’s different based on country. I’m sure it’s different based on industry and organization size, but across all of those things what are the common factors that you think make for a cultural mecca — specifically, somebody goes home Friday at 5:00. What did their week look like once they had been able to achieve that cultural mecca? What were the things that made that happen?

Deb Terry: I think number one, they felt valued and listened to, because those are things that are standard cross-culturally. Again, it might look a little bit differently based in the United States, or I could go back to India, China, Brazil or Italy, but they felt listened to, they felt valued. They felt like they were part of the process, because anytime you’re a global organization — and I’ve done a lot of work in this space — what happens is the home base becomes almost like the victors. And even though you might have a strong presence in another location, no matter where it is in the world, there’s always this, “OK, we’re the little guys, because we’re located away from corporate headquarters.” It becomes really important that there be this communication, this common identity, this common touchpoint that brings them together, and that transcends the way if — I’m, for example, if I’m in China, you know, I might look differently, because leadership is different, engagement looks different, the way you facilitate something is different, but you have this commonality that brings people together that is a touchstone. Plus there’s the organization has a high level of values, and the values become an enabler as well. And that’s a whole other topic, because again cultures view the values differently. Anyway, that’s that’s a topic for another podcast.

Randy Ford: Anytime I’m talking with somebody who is in this kind of leadership space and is having these successes helping people be successful, I’m always curious what their professional path has been. What was your first job, ever?

Deb Terry: First job ever? Well I was one of those kids that was always looking for a hustle to make some money. I mean, you know, way back when as a kid. My first paying job where I got a paycheck was in the Chicagoland area, and it’s a minuscule amount of what it used to be. There was an ice cream parlor in Oak Park, Illinois, which is where I grew up, called Petersen’s Ice Cream. It was, its roots were as a tea room, and then it evolved in ice cream and everything, but it was the place to go after things in the community. For me it was,. I waited tables, bussed, hostessed, made food there and everything. And for me and how — some people might say that they’re surprised — I was really pretty shy. And what this enabled me to do is is waiting tables as I met a lot of different people, a lot of great people. In fact we had a lot of people who were announcers with the Chicago TV stations that live in the communities there, and they’d stop by. And Paul Harvey, I don’t know if you guys you remember Paul Harvey — “And now for the rest of the story” — was a regular customer and just having conversations with people like that, I just, it really helped me to work better with people, understand people, understand the needs, that works, and just, you know, understand what happens, where prior to that I was again somewhat of a shy kid. And those memories are good, and it really helped kind of set a foundation for me.

Randy Ford: Yeah, it’s remarkable that you do still remember so much of that. I know it wasn’t that long ago when you were doing that, but that that has been able to stick with you. Have you ever had a, just an awful job?

Deb Terry: Oh gosh. I’ve been really lucky. I haven’t had an awful job, but I worked for somebody that I would not, I would not say we were, could ever be best friends. But I learned a lot. He was not one of my favorite people, and I was not alone. He had a bit of an ego. And anyway, he was not fun to work for. There are some things. He’d set up a meeting at 6:00 in the morning, and then you’d show up, and he wouldn’t be there, but that’s a whole other story. But what I did learn from him, because I like to focus on the positive, because in spite of that, there was some positivity. The organization I worked for at the time was going through a lot of significant organizational change, and it was frankly chaotic. And what I did learn from him is how to keep focus, because in spite of the fact that again we’d never be best friends, he would keep us focused. “OK, why are we doing this reorg? What’s happening? What’s our role?” And so as we were focusing, planning our meeting with this, he would keep us on target, on track. And during that time, he provided stability and a rock, not only for the team that I worked on in human resources, but I think for the people that we serve, that we service within the organization during this really significant change. So again even though it was not an easy time to work, in hindsight, I learned a lot from this gentleman.

Randy Ford: I wonder if you see that same exact kind of manager in the organizations you work with now?

Deb Terry: That’s a great question. I see a range of managers. Luckily, I haven’t seen a whole lot managers where people say, “Oh, my gosh, he’s absolutely horrible.” It does happen once in a while, because sometimes people just aren’t good listeners. I do see some really good managers, where they help the organization, people prioritize things they have. I like to see a regular cadence of developmental conversations with them. And I like to see that. You know, I have been called in — it’s interesting — to do some quote-unquote team development, and what you find out after the second session: that it’s not so much the team, it’s really the leader. And that’s one of the toughest things to deal with, you know? How do you approach the leader who brought you in and say, “You know, you’re the problem in this situation.” And so to answer your question, yeah, I do see those, a range of leadership. In my experience, it was a bad leadership experience. Really if you think about it, it was a bit of a dichotomy, because there’s some great learnings and some things were — frankly, it was challenging.

Randy Ford: Like you said, it helps to be able to find those positive moments from those terrible moments and find a way to use those and to coach others as you do now to not be like that. I know you do some work with Junior Achievement. What do you do? For people who don’t know Junior Achievement, why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?

Deb Terry: Junior Achievement is an international organization, that their focus is to do economic and financial education for children, kids, and it starts from kindergarten through high school, high school age, and the programs are really designed, I’ve done first grade up till middle school, to create this awareness of an economy, you know, fundamental things like wants versus needs. Sixth grade group, first time I ever did it was impressive. They were learning about currency exchange and inflation rates and the global economy and currency exchange. It was just really interesting. Then when you got to high school, it’s more, you know, “What do I need to do to get a job?” And also the whole function is really talking about how to be an entrepreneur. I did a fourth grade class a couple of months ago, and they get to figure out what are the dynamics I need to put together, what are the things I need to put together to run a business? And they can choose if it’s a hot dog stand or a restaurant or, you know, bike shop. And I’m amazed at how much a lot of the kids know. You’re in fourth grade. I say, “OK, name two entrepreneurs.” And they’ll say, ” Bill Gates! Steve Jobs!” And, you know, first of all, when I was in fourth grade I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was and let alone an example of them.

Randy Ford: Right.

Deb Terry: So it’s pretty impressive, but I’m really passionate about this as well, because it creates some targets for a lot of the kids. It creates some awareness that maybe they didn’t know about, and the other thing is that also, the way the curriculum is designed, it really helps with a lot of what the schools are doing to create an understanding of the different types of resources. And I’ve been affiliated as a volunteer. Once upon a time, I was chair of the board, several years. I was on the board for about 10 years, and now I’m just a volunteer in a classroom, which is always fun.

Randy Ford: When they’re working as a team like that, what kinds of organizational issues you see that mirror or do not mirror the things you see with the grown-ups you work with?

Deb Terry: Oh, you’re right on with that question, because as I’m watching the students, they’re just, I mean, I see the same sort of dynamics facilitating a leadership development class. You see that introverts, you see the people that like to bring the group together, you see the people that like to volunteer, you see people that don’t want to volunteer. And even though they’re — what’s a fourth grader? — 10, 9, 10 years old, you see a lot of those same things at that age as you would with a 30-, 35-year-old person in a class. And you know, they’re learning the dynamics, but you also see a lot of the same behavioral traits, I guess, at that age.

Randy Ford: One of my favorite things to watch is those junior cooking shows, where they have the kids who are doing it, because they are 100 percent supportive of each other, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. If they’re pitted against each other, it’s all hugs and and clapping for each other, and it’s incredible to see.

Deb Terry: And I’m glad you brought that up, because at that age, up to about fourth or fifth grade, you’ll see the hugs and support and all that. Then when they get into middle school, you’ll see a slight difference as they quote-unquote mature. But to your point, when they’re that young, they’re very supportive of each other. If somebody drops something, they’re quick to get it, or even, you know, as I finish the class, kids will run up and give you a hug. Again it’s just, a it’s, you know, it’s a fun dynamic. I think again as they grow up, it may change a bit.

Randy Ford: One thing we always like to do is ask every guest for an Insight2Go. So this is kind of a last takeaway of a recommendation, anything that you want to recommend that we should know about or think about.

Deb Terry: There’s two things I want to bring up. One from a professional side. One of the things I always like to talk to my clients about is, what happens in your organization ultimately impacts and involves soft skills. What do we want to do with soft skills? But ultimately impacts your customer, whoever your customer may be. And there’s a Richard Branson quote that I really like: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to. If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.” And it could be a small mom-and-pop organization or global corporation like Ford or Whirlpool, or whoever, it still holds true. But on the personal side, I think it’s important as individuals we take time to reflect and just put things in perspective. And two of my favorite books are one by Anne Lindbergh. It’s called “Gift from the Sea.” It’s just a really reflective book that kind of sits back and helps you put things in perspective, because I think as individuals if we can do that, not only we’re better and happier in our personal lives, but that spills over onto our professional lives. And a current book that I’ve actually been passing out to a lot of my friends is a book by my Maria Shriver. It’s called “I’ve Been Thinking,” and it’s a bit of a journal-type book where there’s a chapter a day, and it’s just, it’s really a good way to ground yourself as, you, you know, face your day professionally and as well as what’s going on in today’s world.

Randy Ford: [00:16:36] Where else can people find you?

Deb Terry: [00:16:40] Well, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Facebook. I have a Facebook page, and those are the places on social media.

Randy Ford: [00:16:48] Well Deb Terry, Skillblenders. Thank you so much for being on the show. Several things that we talked about, I know I want to follow up and talk to you about more so I hope we’ll get a chance to talk on the podcast again.

Deb Terry: [00:16:59] Great. Thank you, Randy.

Randy Ford: [00:17:01] For Howard Fox, I’m Randy Ford. This has been the SuccessInSight podcast.


Deb Terry is the Founder of Skillblenders. Deb is an Executive Coach | Mentor | and Facilitator who is passionate about helping people grow & expand their understanding of themselves and working with others. Deb invites you to visit her at