The TSCC and TSCYC screening forms allow you to quickly screen children for symptoms of trauma. Both forms are now available through PARiConnect- PAR’s online assessment platform. Learn more at parinc.com.
All right, y’all, welcome back to the podcast. I am glad to have you here. Very glad to have my guest here. Not only because he is an incredible businessman who has over 20 years of experience in the software business, he’s learned many lessons over those years that he’s going to share with us today, but also because he’s a family member. Dan Konigsberg [00:01:00] is my brother-in-law. He and I have had a number of conversations over the last 10 or 12 years about business and running successful businesses, and have finally brought some of those ideas here to the podcast.
Let me tell you a little bit about Dan.
He is the Founder and CEO of CampMinder, the premier software-as-a-service provider in the summer camp industry. Dan founded CampMinder at age 21, while still in college, and has grown the company to over 60 full-time staff, serving over 950 of the finest operators in the summer camp industry. Among his proudest accomplishments is that CampMinder has been recognized as one of America’s Best Places to work each of the past four years by Outside Magazine, topping out at #11 in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic
Dan clearly operates outside [00:02:00] the realm of mental health, but the ideas that we talk about can apply to any business and are ideas that I have continually been working to implement in my own practice.
So today, we’re talking all about the importance of values in your business and how having solid values, being able to articulate those values, and being able to describe how those values come to life in your business are going to drive everything else within your business. It will drive operations. It will drive hiring. It will drive growth. So if you are looking for a perspective from outside mental health that will help take your business to the next level, I think this is a good one for you.
Before we get to our conversation, I want to invite any practice owners who might be looking for some [00:03:00] accountability and coaching and support as you build your practice to think about one of The Testing Psychologists Mastermind Groups. There’s a beginner group, an advanced group, and an intermediate group. You can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/beginner, thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced, or thetestingpsychologist.com/intermediate, depending on which one you’re interested in. Either way, whether you pick the right one or not, we can jump on a complimentary call and talk about what you’re looking for and try to figure out which group might be the best fit for you. So, as long as you get a call scheduled, we can figure it out.
Without further ado, let’s get to my conversation with Dan Konigsberg.[00:04:00] Hey Dan, welcome to The Testing Psychologist Podcast.
Dan: Hello, Dr. Sharp.
Dr. Sharp: Thanks. It’s good to be here with you. I am really excited to formalize some of these conversations that we’ve been having for the past, I don’t know, 10+ years about business stuff and how we do what we do, and share some of these with my audience because I know you’ve got a lot of knowledge in this space. So, thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.
Dan: I appreciate that. And yes, we have had a fair number of very informal conversations about business and entrepreneurship over many years now. So, if it’s good to share that with your audience, I’m excited to be here with you.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, it’s about time. And we’ll try to keep it clean. That’s going to be the challenge. Informal is code for sometimes obscene and inappropriate, but…[00:05:00] Dan: it has happened.
Dr. Sharp: But that’s all right. We’ll try to keep it clean.
Dr. Sharp: All right. So we’re talking about values, we’re talking about leadership, we are talking about having the right people in the right places in your practice or in your business. I always like to lead with this question of, why this particular topic or area is important to you. When I asked you what you’d like to talk about, this came to mind right away. I’m curious for you, why is it so important to you?
Dan: That’s a great question. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years. This is actually the only thing I’ve ever done. I started my business out of college and I muddled along for a long way. And I feel as though at a certain point in my career, there were certain things that I learned, partly through the help of a leadership coach and partly just through life experience. And [00:06:00] at a certain juncture, it felt like I cracked the code or a code and something kicked into place for me that totally changed the trajectory of my business and my leadership. And it was understanding the value of authentic core values leadership.
I know very little about running a practice like yours outside of the informal and sometimes obscene conversations that we have, rarely obscene but sometimes obscene, but I do know a lot about entrepreneurship and I do know a lot about leadership and business. And if one thing is common across the board for anybody leading an organization of any type it’s that, as long as you’re not the only person in that organization and there are other people helping you to try to do what you’re trying to do, it is essential to get everybody rowing in the same direction in the same way. And it is essential to [00:07:00] build a trusting environment with clear expectations. And that is fundamental to literally everything else that we’re trying to do.
And I believe from my experience that getting clear on core values and managing our businesses to our core values is an essential ingredient. And I think this can be really helpful to anyone who’s listening as it has been for me.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, there’s so much to say about this already. So many questions. I’m curious. Can you think back to, I mean, you said you kind of stumbled into it and somehow cracked a code. I’m guessing that before that happened, you had tried other things to improve your leadership or your business or taken other paths. I’m guessing some of those didn’t work so well. If that’s true, I am curious, how did you know this was the thing? Does that make sense?
Dr. Sharp: How did you know this was the [00:08:00] thing that was going to make the difference?
Dan: Well, I didn’t know that it was going to be that thing, but I knew that it was a thing. And then, years later I can look back on it and say, oh, it was that thing. What I always say to people is that I started my business out of college. I have a software business effectively and I know how to make software. And for a while, my business was making software. And then, I’d hire people who I thought could help me do this or support clients or whatever. And it was small enough where you could manage the thing informally.
But I think the experience that at this critical juncture I had was that it had grown beyond the ability to fly by the seat of my pants. And in retrospect, it had grown beyond that before I made these changes. It was really starting to show cracks in the surface. And I feel like the business was [00:09:00] subject to implode in some way if I didn’t make changes and we sure weren’t performing the way that I wanted us to perform, and in the way that I had been accustomed to us performing.
I wasn’t sure why, but I was sure that there were conversations that needed to be had with certain people that I was counting on that I wasn’t having or that I didn’t know how to have. There were expectations that I thought were clear with people that that obviously weren’t as clear as I thought they were. It was clear that I had fallen into a trap of blaming other people for challenges that I was seeing in the business when really I should have been looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I was the one who hired that person and who was allowing the thing to continue the way it was [00:10:00] and not making the change that needed to be made.
So there were a lot of factors that came together to this moment where I wanted to become more intentional about articulating and identifying what my core values were. And then, the process of figuring out what it looks like to then manage the business to those values.
Dr. Sharp: Right. I want to put a pin in that and separate those. It’s a two-part thing, right? You identify the values, but then there’s the implementation and how to actually put it into practice. I think a lot of us probably do the first one or at least make a decent attempt at the first one and then the values go away, or we don’t know exactly how they come alive in the practice, right? Because that’s the thing you’re supposed to do. I think we all, if we get to a certain stage of business [00:11:00] ownership, you do your values and you identify these words and these ideas, but then it’s hard to put it into place. So, I’m excited to talk with you about how to actually implement some of these values, but that might be a little bit down the road.
Dan: Yeah, it’s definitely two-sided. One side is identifying them. I have identified them poorly and then re-identified them. So, I think there was a particular approach that was really interesting in the way that we learn to identify them and articulate them. And then, the implementation, there’s a science to it and there’s also an art to it.
Dr. Sharp: Very cool. Well, I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to dig into all of that. First of all, I just want to highlight what you’ve said so far, this whole dynamic of getting to a point in our businesses where the information that’s in our heads is not being [00:12:00] communicated well to our staff. I think that that piece that you said about realizing that there were ideas or values that weren’t being communicated clearly is a process that a lot of us have gone through. And I feel like I continue to go through this monthly if not weekly, as I’m stumbling into things that it’s like, “Oh, I’m the only one who knows this in my practice. Why don’t other people know this? I feel like I’m being clear, but I’m not.”
Dan: Because you never told anybody.
Dr. Sharp: Because I never told anybody, right. So, there’s so much to be said there. And I’ve heard that from so many people that I work with coaching-wise or in my community. So, let’s just back up. I would love to start with a definition of sorts. When you say core values, what does that actually mean?
Dan: I think that core values are the principles [00:13:00] that sit underneath everything that we do. I’m actually glad you asked the question that way. The way that I would describe that to people who are either interviewing with us at CampMinder or are on our team is that it’s actually our HOW.
What I mean by that is, we have our purpose. We articulate our purpose at CampMinder as we want to create a world where work is fulfilling and life fun. That’s true for our employees and it’s true for our clients. That’s our WHY? Our WHAT is the way that we do that. We do that through… not the way that we do it, but it’s actually what we create. We do it through providing service and software and technology to our clients. That’s our WHAT. And our HOW is the day in, day out. How we go about doing the things that we do. How we go about fulfilling our WHY, our purpose, and how we go about manifesting our WHAT, in creating the product and the service that we create. The [00:14:00] principles that sit underneath all of that.
Dr. Sharp: Right. And are these just ideas? I want to make this very concrete for people. Are these words? Are these ideas? Are they listed somewhere?
Dan: Yeah, they’re words and ideas. Maybe the best way for me to explain this is to actually go about how we at CampMinder went about articulating them because I think it might make it clear.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, let’s dig into them.
Dan: And I think it’s really important that… A lot of businesses hear that it’s important to have core values. And that might end up in a whiteboarding session about like, “Hey everybody, like what sounds like a good set of core values for our practice or our business?”
I like the way that we went about doing it because it forced us to be really authentic and honest about this. What we did was we brought in a facilitator. There were a number of us sitting around a table, [00:15:00] and the facilitator said to us, “All right, guys, we’re going on a mission to Mars. Who’s coming with you?” And for a minute, it’s like, “Well, wait, what do you mean? Why are we going to Mars?”
Don’t worry about it. But look, it’s going to be hard. Getting to Mars is going to be hard to do and you need to have a team of people who are going to help you get there. And then by the way, once you’re on Mars, you’re going to form a new colony of your business. And you want to have your best people there to be the ones who spawn off the future of your business, your practice. Basically, the question is, who are your best people, right?
Dr. Sharp: Sure.
Dan: So, I made a list of who I wanted to take to Mars with me. And then the other people in the room made their lists. And it was like, “Who are they?” So you put them on the whiteboard. These are the people that I want with me on this [00:16:00] journey.
And the next question was for each of those people, “Why?” Why do you want to bring Frank? Why do you want to bring Lauren? Why do you want to bring Katie? And then, you’d answer that in long-form. Okay, well, this is the type of person who no matter what it is that needs to get done, they’re going to roll up their sleeves and get it done. Maybe they share that characteristic. They’re an accountable person who gets things done, but they make it really fun. Working with this person is fun. And if I’m going to do hard stuff, I want to do with people who are fun, and who make me feel good about myself while I’m doing it. This person is really curious. [00:17:00] They’re always asking questions and checking the solutions that we’re coming up with.
Again, all of these things, point to HOW each of these individuals go about doing their work. And what ended up happening which was really interesting, was we might’ve had a whiteboard full of WHYs. All the reasons why each of these people are great people for taking to Mars. But then when you really looked, or when we really looked deeper, we were able to categorize these ideas into six groups. So, you might’ve had things like accountability and does what needs to be done, really has an ownership mentality, gets it done no matter what it is, all of those went into one group.
And then there were ones around maybe like humility and being a team player and always having other people’s backs or always looking out for the team’s results, doesn’t have an ego, and that turned for us [00:18:00] into put the team first was that particular value.
So at the end of all of it, they were in six categories. And then it was a matter of wordsmithing. It’s like, okay, well what’s the right articulation of each of those ideas, both in terms of a snappy phrase like, own it or put team first or be admirable, but then with some subtext around, what do we mean by that? Wonder, for example, as a core value. So wonder is the core value. And then, I can’t remember the exact articulation, but it’s like, with openness and vulnerability, we seek to understand, and maybe that is it verbatim.
To put a bow tie in this whole idea, it was a process of uncovering or [00:19:00] discovering what already was instead of creating something new, and then articulating these ideas in really clear, understandable phrases and subtext.
Dr. Sharp: Sure, I love that exercise. That sounds like a lot of fun.
Dan: It was very interesting and maybe the most powerful exercise I’ve ever done in my business in terms of what happened as a result of it.
Dr. Sharp: Wow. Right. So you come out of that with these core values. One interesting thing to me is that these are qualities that were already there. These were qualities that your people already possessed. It was just a matter of saying, “Okay, what’s the best of the best? What are the best qualities of the best people and then making that bigger and using that to [00:20:00] guide?”
Dan: That’s right. With an important caveat. Not all of our people were there. And this is why it was such a transformative moment. If things were going swimmingly at CampMinder at that time, I probably never would have bothered to do this exercise, but there was this nagging sense that something’s not right. And through the leadership coaching I had been doing, I started to become really curious about what are the core values that drive me. What is my purpose and what really matters to me? And this all stemmed from that in wanting to apply those principles into the business and how I lead.
But what started to become really clear at that moment was some of the people that I had been struggling with in the business and had been unable to figure out why it wasn’t working, because we all, as entrepreneurs or business people have this experience like, this isn’t working and maybe it’s hard to express why, [00:21:00] at that point, for the people where it wasn’t working.
I had this subtle feeling or even an extreme feeling of it’s not working, I was suddenly able to express why. And it was always because of a violation, maybe like a subtle violation of multiple core values or an extreme violation of one core value. But I could point directly back to the value and suddenly it was like, “Oh yeah, it’s a wrong person.” And then that changed the trajectory of the business because it turned into a commitment to make sure that all of our people were core values aligned.
Dr. Sharp: Ooh, I like that. I like that it changed the trajectory of the business into a commitment to make sure everyone was core values aligned.
Dr. Sharp: I just want to repeat that to emphasize. That’s really good. That’s powerful.
Dan: Yeah. And that’s exactly what happened.
Dr. Sharp: So you mentioned this at the beginning when we started talking about [00:22:00] this, and I think this might be a nice segue to get into, how do you apply these core values? So you identify them. That’s awesome. I think a lot of us maybe “identify core values,” but then they die, right? They stay on the whiteboard or they go in an employee manual and they don’t come alive. So, I’m curious how y’all have embraced and really implemented them.
Dan: Well, one thought that I think will segue nicely into that is, one hint as to whether or not we have our core values right, is to take inventory of ourselves in the kinds of stuff that happen that drive us nuts. We all have them. What have you had an employee do, or what experience have you had in your operation that someone did that drove you crazy because that’s the opposite of your core value?
Dr. Sharp: That’s so true. That’s a good gauge.
Dan: Right. So, when those sorts of guttural [00:23:00] experiences happen and we feel it in our body and it’s negative, the opposite of that is probably the core value. So, tie that into how do you implement this. I can speak to how we implemented it effectively.
The next step was then to come up with examples of what embodying the core value looks like and examples of what not embodying the core value look like. So, the things that drive me nuts. I can always look to those as examples of things that drive me nuts. One example I always use for our core value of ownership is, and I’m in the summer camp industry. So imagine, a summer camp, beautiful open space, a field, sports fields, whatever, an own it type of person if they’re walking through the campus and sees like a candy wrapper on the ground, an own it person picks up the candy wrapper and throws it in the trash and then not own it person just leaves the candy wrapper there and says that someone else will [00:24:00] take care of that.
I share that example with people who are interviewing in that process maybe because I want people to understand. So talking about implementation, there’s the hiring process and then there’s the process of letting somebody go. The first step is to get really clear with examples of what embodying the core value looks like and what embodying each core value doesn’t look like.
Doing this for the first time was interesting because like, you have a practice or a business that’s not managing the core values, and then the next day is like, Hey everybody, we’ve decided that this is a thing that’s important. And we’re going to actually really start intentionally managing to core values. And that was a scary [00:25:00] moment for people.
Some of what I’m going to talk about here is coming from EOS, which is a tool called Entrepreneurial Operating System, and there’s a great book called Traction that I wish I had read 10 years prior to the time I read it, but it has a very simple concept in there that Gino Wickman, who wrote the book pulled from Jim Collins, who’s an organizational genius, and it’s called Right Person Right Seat. I’ll put Right Seat aside for a moment, although I think that it’s probably useful to talk about as well at some point. The right person is somebody who is core values aligned. And the idea is you have to have the right people on the bus.
What does it mean to be the right person? The way that we define it, and I think that we actually took it a little more extreme than it’s written in the book [00:26:00] is, we want people embodying each of our core values 80% of the time where we’re called to embody that core value or more. So the 80% is plus, 50 to 80% is a plus-minus, and less than 50% or most of the time we’re not embodying that core value, that’s a minus.
And the analogy that I use is I think about it as a board game. We’ve all played a board game where you roll the dice and you move your token forward a number of spaces, and then you pick a card or whatever. The way I think about it is that in this game, the space that we’re landing on on the board is a real-world situation that happens in our business.
And I have 6 stacks of cards where each stack of cards is a card tied to a core value. And the question is in this real-life moment, [00:27:00] what core value or core values, which cards are card am I compelled to play at that moment to know that I’m living the, HOW correctly? And if I’m in a moment where I need to be admirable, which means treat other people with kindness and respect, be whole with our word, and the hardest part for people at CampMinder is to be candid, like to actually say the thing that needs to be said that maybe might feel like you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings if you say it, but it still needs to be said, do I play the Be Admirable card in moments where I’m called to be admirable or not?
Dr. Sharp: I like that.
Dan: So, a big part of implementing it is helping people to understand that maybe there’s a new set of expectations coming into town here. And this is new. We don’t expect everybody to pick this up immediately. [00:28:00] We’re going to be patient with everybody and we’re going to use real-world examples of things that happen to point out, like, here was an opportunity where we could have put team first, but maybe we didn’t. And then we turn that into a quarterly process where each person has an opportunity to look at the list of core values. And for each one say, am I living this one in plus, plus-minus, or minus?
Dr. Sharp: What does that quarterly process look like?
Dan: First of all, it’s a formal process. We have a software product called Lattice that we use to help us manage it. It’s not necessary to use the software. You can do it on paper. And effectively, we ask each person to evaluate themselves. So that includes a core values evaluation. It also includes, what were you working on, what were your obstacles, and how do you think he did? And then, the supervisor of [00:29:00] that person does the same exercise and really thinks, how is this person performing? We can almost define performance at CampMinder as how well do you live the core values.
Dr. Sharp: Sure.
Dan: So, then, when this goes well, it goes well here frequently, you have a team member saying, I did this assessment on myself and here’s what I thought and then you have a supervisor saying, I did this assessment on you and here’s what I thought. And to the extent that there’s any discrepancy, it can lead to a really nice open conversation with wonder, which is our core value that openness and vulnerability, where people can learn and grow and not be defensive.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I like that. I want to go back a little bit and ask about the day after scenario because I’m guessing some people might [00:30:00] be listening to this and they’re like, this all sounds fantastic. I want to do some values. But then, what was that first two weeks like, or month or six months even, if you can remember back? How do you roll this out to a team out of the blue?
Dan: I think it’s a great question. And it wasn’t a cakewalk. I think that’s what you’re getting to, right? You have your share of skeptics. And again, I mentioned EOS, there was this phrase that some people were talking about, I heard like, “Oh, we’re getting EOSed.”
Dr. Sharp: Sure.
Dan: And what was interesting is that when I heard that and I talked to people who would say things like that one-on-one, I could really uncover like, what are you concerned about? What do you think is changing here? Because I would say from my perspective, nothing’s really changing. I’m not changing the way I’m leading this company. I’m [00:31:00] just putting a bookmark on these ideas and highlighting them because they feel really important. And we’re just going to be more aware and intentional around these concepts.
So, I think it’s probably harder the larger the scale of an organization. And I don’t know what the average size of the practices people run. With a smaller practice, I think what I would do is sit down one-on-one with each individual person and explore with them. Like, if it’s making somebody feel anxious, that might be code for them where like in their intuition they’re like, I might not live one of these core values very well.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. That’s a good point.
Dan: And I think the message needs to be like, hey, you’re a loyal employee of this company. What I’m telling you here is true. I’m grounded as a leader that [00:32:00] these are the core values I see us living by here and I am going to have an expectation that everyone here lives these core values.
And by the way, there is a bar. No one is perfect. And if someone has a plus-minus on one core value, but a plus in all the other core values, that’s fine. But if we start venturing into two plus-minus territory or one minus one minus is really a problem, I set that clear expectation with people about what’s expected. So, if I had a smaller practice, I would meet individually with each person and share what this means to me. I’m grounded in this.
The first time I see a violation of a core value, it’s not like I’m going to blow up at you and throw the desk over and say, you’re fired. That’s not how this works. I’m here to help coach you and help you understand it, but you’re an adult. This is the kind of culture I’m trying to create here. [00:33:00] And you can decide for yourself if you want to be a part of a culture like this. And if you don’t, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It just might mean that this isn’t a good fit for you and there’s another organization where you’ll be a great fit. This is just the type of organization. These are the values of this particular organization, and I’m going to hold people accountable to them.
Dr. Sharp: Right. I think that’s a good point to maybe apply this to the hiring and firing process. Are you a good fit or are you not a good fit? So I’m curious, how does this come into the hiring process?
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
Dan: Yeah, it’s absolutely central to the hiring process. And I think we’re pretty well known at CampMinder for having a pretty rigorous hiring process. It’s a big commitment to have somebody join your company. And it’s a big commitment for [00:35:00] that person. We want it to be a win for them. We have some needs in our business that we’re trying to fill by hiring them and we know that it’s only going to work when we have the right people.
We’ve had enough experiences where it hasn’t worked. We have proven it to ourselves. So the stakes are kind of high and we want people in that hiring process to understand. I mean, effectively look me in the eyes and I’m going to tell you what these core values mean to me and what they look like and what they don’t look like. And you can, and need to ask yourself, is this you? You could do a great job of pretending to be something you’re not in this interview. We’ll hire you, but the real person shows up eventually and it can save you and us heartache if we’re honest about it.
That’s more of the executive interview that I might do at the end of the process. Leading up to that part of the process, we have a whole interview that’s scheduled that [00:36:00] the purpose of which is only to try to identify whether this person is a core values fit. And it’s not done by saying like, Hey, do you have integrity? And do you treat people with kindness? Because you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who’s like, no, I’m a liar and
Dr. Sharp: I love being mean to people.
Dan: Yeah, I love being mean to people, and cruel is a real specialty of mine. And I hope that that’s a core value of yours.
The question should be geared towards getting a candidate to expound on some experience in their life where they were faced with some challenge and understanding like, how did they go about doing it? How did they go about dealing with that situation? And those can provide hints and clues to whether or not they might naturally align themselves with the values that we want.
Dr. Sharp: Sure, sir. Since you mentioned [00:37:00] it, I’m very intrigued by this comprehensive hiring process. Can you just maybe briefly outline what that looks like for someone who’s trying to come on with y’all?
Dan: We should phone your friend and bring him on. He’s VP of talents and culture. But at a high level, it’s about getting intentional about each stage of the process. At the highest level, it’s about two things: Making sure that the candidate we’re hiring is the right person- meaning they are likely to embody our core values naturally and authentically and be willing to openly receive feedback and want to grow into the core values if there’s ever a gap. So that’s the right person. And then there’s the right seat. So at the highest level, I want the right person in the right seat.
The right seat is, in EOS, we would call it the accountability chair. And the idea is, where am I trying to take my business over the next 12 to 18 months? [00:38:00] What are the things that need to be accounted for in order for us to be successful in taking the business there over the next 12 to 18 months? And then, forgetting about who I currently have in my practice or my business right now, what would the structure be to enable us to accomplish that?
So the idea is like every organization, there are three components that definitely exist. There’s always sales and marketing, there’s always operations and there’s always finance. These are the three components that must always necessarily exist. And if any of those three are not strong, then we know that we’re going to fail because if we get great operations and finance, but if I can’t get anybody in the door, I have made no money and it’s going to fail.
If I bring people in the door and I can’t [00:39:00] serve them properly, and I miss schedule everybody and they don’t get their reports, I’m talking at a high level about what your practice might look like, we’re going to fail. And if I do my reports well, and I get my people scheduled well and I bring them in the door but then I spend more than the money that I have to work with, I’m going out of business.
Dr. Sharp: Right.
Dan: And then, for larger practices, you could have one person sitting in multiple seats but you can’t have multiple people sitting in one seat because then you have an accountability crisis and it’s not clear which of the people sitting in that seat as accountable for doing what. And if you’re in that situation, you want to start breaking it up.
So now tying this all together, starting with structure and then thinking through, what are the right seats that I need to have in my organization when I’m interviewing [00:40:00] somebody? Part of our interviewing process is to have a hiring manager be really crisp and clear about what are the accountabilities for this particular seat and what will we be counting on you to do when you’re in that role.
And the three questions are: Do you get it? Are you the type of person who, in thinking about the type of organization that we run here and thinking about the role that we’re hiring for, do you really get it? Do you really understand how this fits into the big picture and why this is a role that matters in our organization?
Number two is, do you want it? Are you going to wake up in the morning dreading like, oh, I have to be XYZ at this company, or are you doing something that’s actually fulfilling and the kind of work that you actually want to do? That’s question number two.
And question [00:41:00] number three is, do you have the capacity to do it? Do you have the skills? Do you have the experience? Do you have the knowledge? Do you have the time? Do you have the ability?
And from a right-seat perspective, the answer to all three of those questions better be YES.
Dr. Sharp: Right.
Dan: How do you have somebody who doesn’t want it? You are going to be dealing with all kinds of symptomatic. The root cause is they don’t want to be here and it’s going to manifest itself. And by the way, that manifests itself as misalignment with core values, because people start behaving in all kinds of ways when they’re doing a job they don’t want to do.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a good point. Let me ask you a hard question. I don’t know, maybe it’s an easy question, but if you don’t know the answer, that’s totally okay.
I’ve had some situations in our practice [00:42:00] where folks think that they want to do the job that we’re asking them to do and then lo and behold, 6 to 12 months down the road, they come back and it’s during a review or a meeting or something and they say, “I don’t like this. I made a mistake.” Have y’all figured out a way to get around that or is that just part of the process? Because making these choices as sort of incumbent on the person to know themselves, and that can be hard sometimes. So I’m curious how you handle something like that.
Dan: In 20 years, I’ve experienced everything I think, maybe not everything, but I’ve experienced a lot of things. And certainly, there have been times where I’ve had the conversation with somebody saying like, this is what you should expect in [00:43:00] this role and we’re really kind of counting on you. We’re going to be training you. And I really want you to be thinking about this as a two-year commitment because it’s going to take you six months to become productive. And then lo and behold four months, and they’re like, “This wasn’t it.”
Now, I think we’ve gotten better at that. And I think a big part of it is being really clear about the good, bad and ugly about the job. For us, a lot of people are attracted to us because we’ve got these best places to work awards, and they’ve seen good reviews about us on Glassdoor or whatever and they think that this is going to be a walk, every day is going to be fairies and rainbows and unicorns and wonder and excitement.
But I think that really trying to level with candidates early on, and again, I don’t know the nature of a typical practice, in our business I think about our client support [00:44:00] role where you’re the frontline of support for people and sometimes that you’re going to hear a lot of the same questions over and over again, sometimes you’re going to deal with someone who’s frustrated because you’re not going to have the answer they want to hear, and we try to have other members of that team talk to each of our candidates to give them the good, bad, and ugly and say, this is really what it’s going to be like. And really asking that person to be introspective.
And I think it’s also incumbent on the interviewer to be a really good listener and listening with more than just our ears, but listening with our eyes and listening with our body and our intuition to see, is what I’m hearing from this candidate really adding up? Am I getting a whole body yes on this? Or is there something here that feels a little bit off? But this is never going to be perfect, Jeremy.[00:45:00] Human beings, a lot of times we don’t know what we want. We can try the best that we can. And there are going to be situations where it doesn’t work out the way that we hope that we do. I would say identifying those as early as possible and dealing with it right away is always better than sweeping it under the rug, which I know I have been guilty of doing many times and always wish that I hadn’t.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, I don’t know about you, but for me in these situations, I will often default to… I’ll take that back. My major reaction if somebody is not working out in a particular way is to blame them. That I think thankfully has gotten to be a small portion of the reaction. And I move pretty quickly then to how have I let this person down? And then that’s where I get stuck is [00:46:00] what can I do more for them? How could I help them better? How can I support them better? What have I not done to help them be successful in this role?
Dan: Have you read Leadership and Self-Deception, by the way? Are you familiar with that book?
Dr. Sharp: No.
Dan: Well, I will submit that to all of your listeners, Leadership and Self-Deception. You’re kind of explaining a core concept of it right there. I think is a really important element of leadership. But I think where you’re going with this is like, yeah, we can take it upon ourselves and like, what am I not doing? And I think that that is…
And by the way, totally normal to start with blaming. There’s so much to talk about. We can talk about the drama triangle and there are so many things, but it’s very normal to start with blaming, but I think we want to try to shift quickly into how have I misled this person? What am I not doing that needs to be done? [00:47:00] And that’s a really great starting point of really getting real with the situation. That doesn’t mean we have to be hard on ourselves and take all the blame.
Let’s assume that I’m doing a bad job leading this person and I haven’t set clear expectations. Now, it’s incumbent upon me to set clear expectations and even document that. There are so many things we talked about, nonviolent communication and the right way to communicate with somebody in a way that doesn’t trigger them, but actually is likely to connect, but talking to somebody in a way where they get the facts, the feelings and your needs and requests that’s likely to be heard and not defended against, and then reiterating that with documentation and saying, Hey, we had this conversation and I need to be really clear with you. [00:48:00] This is something that I’m expecting and I need it to be this way. And if it’s not, this isn’t going to work.
Dr. Sharp: I like that. You mentioned something just a bit ago that I wanted to follow up on and I think it dovetails well with what we’re talking about in this bigger picture of hiring and firing. I’m curious if you’ve had situations where people got into a certain seat and they were not a good fit. And if so, what do you do with that? How do you have that conversation? Do you try to move them into something different?
Dr. Sharp: Because I think what happens, just to provide a little more context, in our practices, what often happens is, the owners do it all for a long time, [00:49:00] then we maybe find that we have a clinician or two who is really good clinician and a good person and ambitious or whatever it may be and we try to promote them into some kind of leadership or management or supervisory role. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m curious. What do you do when you have a great person but it’s maybe just the wrong seat or vice versa. I’m very curious.
Dan: It’s, it’s a wonderful question. Before we started actually taping the interview, I said, I’ve seen all four permutations, right person right seat, wrong person wrong seat, and everything in between. What you’re expressing is very common in all types of businesses. Obviously, the hardest one to deal with is the right person wrong seat.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. You said obviously, [00:50:00] why is that obvious?
Dan: Why is that obvious?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah.
Dan: Well, because if you have the right person in the wrong seat, you have a great person, you have someone who lives your core values. You love this person, but they’re not doing their job well. And now you have to do something about it and that’s not always fun. In fact, most of the time it’s not fun and it can be painful.
So a few things come to mind. The clinician who we want to promote into this role because they’re a great clinician and now we need a more managerial sort of person. That’s very similar to what happens in engineering. You have a great software engineer and they write the best code, the cleanest code, but the skill set that’s required to be an engineering manager is actually fundamentally a different skill set of what’s required of somebody to be a good engineer.
And it is very typical for organizations in software to try to promote the software engineer to be a manager. I want everyone to write code like you. [00:51:00] Well, it turns out the person’s really good at writing the code but not good at helping other people write that kind of code because it’s different skills.
So, the first thing I would say to that is going back to this topic of the accountability chart that we talked about. Everything in my opinion needs to be driven by the organization’s needs. And it is incumbent on the owner or the leader, if there’s a leadership team, to be really clear eyed about where we’re taking this thing and what the needs are going to be, like I said before over the next 12 to 18 months, documenting what we’re expecting this person to be accountable for, and then almost creating a persona of the person who’s the right fit for this role is going to have these kinds of characteristics and have these kinds of skills.[00:52:00] And then we ask ourselves, is the person I’m about to promote into this role likely to be successful in this knowing the different type. I think that there’s an element of adulting or like maturity that’s required in this. And we always want to try to find as entrepreneurs and business people the easiest path because it’s so hard to grow an organization. And a lot of times the easiest path is, I already have somebody here, but we’re not really real with ourselves about what their strengths and weaknesses are.
So, I would actually always recommend in that situation to make three phone calls to people in similar organizations who have had successful hires. Just asking people, what is good, and I don’t know what this role is, what’s the role that you would promote the clinician into?
Dr. Sharp: Let’s just say a site supervisor.
Dan: Okay. So, talking to [00:53:00] peers and other organizations and say, “Hey, you have a really great site supervisor. Tell me about your site supervisor. What is it that makes your site supervisor so great for that role?” And if we learn that from two or three different people, we’re likely to find some commonalities and then applying that. Okay, well, is my clinician, are they like this or not?
Dr. Sharp: I like that. So some accountability for ourselves, honestly, just expanding the system a little bit, not just trusting ourselves.
Dan: Yeah, and you being real with the situation, being real with the person, or even opening up a process where it’s like, so maybe somebody wants that role and in the back of your mind, I don’t know if that’s a good fit for you, opening up the process and say like, I’m open to considering you for this role, but I’m actually going to post a job too and see because I want to make sure we’re hiring the best person for this organization. I need to do this to be [00:54:00] able to bet that this is the right fit.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s a good idea. I think a lot of us are very hesitant to hire from outside the practice for some of these positions. For whatever reason, we think that only clinicians get it, or any number of things.
Dan: And that may be true. Sometimes that strategy can work. It’s really getting clear on what you’re expecting of someone who is in that role on whether or not this particular clinician possesses those qualities.
Dr. Sharp: Exactly. So just to pull it all together, I’m going to try to summarize all of this and you jump in and tell me where I miss it.
So the values are where we start. We start with these core values. When we get clear on the core values, that really helps us understand what our business is about and helps us pick the right people to be in the [00:55:00] business.
Dan: It’s a north star that guides how we do what we do. It’s the qualities that we bring into our day-to-day operations of how we go about our business.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. And when you’re clear on that, it helps give you a clear idea of what kind of people you want to bring into the business. Help me make the connection between values and like you said, the accountability chart or the direction of your business. Is there a link there as well?
Dan: Yeah, this is all tied together. First of all, there’s, I mentioned earlier, the purpose. There’s an element of why we do what we do. And it’s important, in my experience, to make sure we’re surrounding ourselves who are bought into our purpose, because I think we’re only likely [00:56:00] to be successful if our employees are engaged employees where there’s a high level of employee engagement. And that’s only going to happen if one, your employees are bought into the purpose of your business, and two, are core values aligned, like we do things in similar ways around here.
And then there’s the WHAT we do. In your case, you have a practice and you do the testing, right? So tying that together, because there a lot of concepts we’re trying to bring together here.
So, at the end of the day, if we can project a purpose that inspires our people and that it’s clearly understood and shared, we have clarity on what our niche is and what we’re doing in our business, the services that we’re providing, [00:57:00] and we articulate clearly our HOW, our core values, what that does for you as a leader and an owner of your practice is it actually gives you tremendous freedom. And it’s tremendously empowering to your team because you are now not micro-managing people and saying, this is how you should do each and everything you do in your day. The proverb is like you’re teaching someone to fish instead of catching fish for them, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yes.
Dan: In my organization, this is our why our what, and our how. Hopefully, you’re here because all of this is meaningful to you. This is our vision. This is where we’re going. This is what we’re trying to accomplish. Now you be you. Be a creative problem solver and embody this how with everything that you’re trying to do, knowing what our, what is and where we’re going, and I’m going [00:58:00] to take a step back and let you do your thing.
To me, that’s like the pinnacle of leadership where we’re not having to tell people on a micro basis, do this task, that task, the other task. It’s like, I’m going to give you the context and now you help us get where we’re going. And by having core values alignment, we’re likely to not find a lot of conflict with our people because the same qualities and characteristics are important to us.
And sometimes there’s feedback along the way. There’s often feedback. And by the way, I want feedback to me too. I’m not a perfect human being and sometimes I lack wonder, or sometimes I handle the situation in a clumsy way and I expect people to give the feedback right back to me.
Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I love this. And I’m going to start to wrap us up just by coming back to that initial point that you made, I think near the very beginning, about once you [00:59:00] are clear on these things, making sure that you are communicating it to your people so that everyone has the same vision. Everyone knows what your values are, what the purpose is, where we’re headed. These are all the things. It’s very personal. This is very selfish because these are the things that I have a hard time with, and I’m coaching myself to remind myself, we got to communicate these things very clearly because people don’t know what’s going on in your mind. And this is a very deliberate leadership activity that I don’t think a lot of us as clinicians naturally assume.
Dan: I think that’s a great point. I would add one thing to it. People do not hear the message the first time. In fact, I think it’s been shown, and I think that there’s data to back this up. It takes 7 or 8 times for somebody to hear a message for it to be heard the first time.
And I [01:00:00] think that that’s a really important thing for listeners to keep in the back of their minds. Yes, nobody can get inside your brain. Nobody knows the thoughts that are recurring in your mind and the things that matter to you, or when you’re disappointed and when you’re happy.
So, how do we build the habit of getting it out of our brain and out into the open and two, for the messages that really matter like, where we’re taking our practice, what we’re expecting of people, what are our values? How do we make sure that we’re repeating them frequently all the time so that it gets absorbed by people?
Dr. Sharp: How do y’all do that? How do you repeat the values without it getting kitschy or weird?
Dan: Yeah, it may get kitschy. And that’s okay. Being okay with being kitschy. But if it’s done really well, in my experience, it’s woven into all kinds of praise and all kinds of [01:01:00] feedback. I like to aim for a 7:1 positive to negative feedback ratio. I think it’s probably a good target.
So when I see somebody doing the right thing, I want to try to tie it back to a core value and say, Hey, so-and-so I really saw you own it in that situation. That’s really good. Or even publicly on Slack or whatever communication tools we use sharing with the whole team, this is how we get rewarded. At CampMinder, we do something called love leaves. It’s Valentine’s day in 2nd grade where you give somebody a heart.
And the last Thursday of every month, we have the whole team meeting and we have this ceremony where I give people love leaves. Like here’s an example of so-and-so putting team first. Here’s an example of so-and-so. And then, we turned it into a game where you put these leaves up on a tree, a mural we have in our office, and then at the end of the year, [01:02:00] randomly, somebody gets a prize for having embodied our core values. You can gamify in that way.
Certainly, we have quarterly meetings. So every quarter we do a planning meeting where we try to work on the business instead of in the business and say, this is where we’re trying to go. And then we have a town hall where we share with the company, the past present, and future. And we try to remind people in those meetings, like, again, like I’m giving you context of where we’re going, and I’m counting on you to live our values along the way. And we might reiterate it there. The quarterly review process, it’s natural, and always comes up there.
So we just try to find natural touchpoints. We try not to have policies, and as much as we talk about our values. Managed by values rather than policies.
Dr. Sharp: Hmm, I like that.
Dan: We have an unlimited PTO policy. We call it trust-based [01:03:00] PTO. But they’re all grounded in our core values. It’s like, well, if you’re going to take time out for a period of time, what does it look like to be admirable about that? What does it look like to own it? Are you going to communicate with other people about what work is on your plate while you’re gone to make sure that it gets handled while you’re gone?
There are so many like offshoots of this topic, but I think that that by weaving it into your policies and I don’t really mean don’t have policies, but make sure your policies are grounded in your values, people start to understand what they mean and they come up many times.
Dr. Sharp: That’s great. I love how you have given so many concrete examples of how these principles come into play. I like the idea. The farthest that we’ve gotten, and this hopefully will resonate and be applicable for some practice owners is, in our group [01:04:00] chat, we have several little, it’s not Slack but it’s kind of the same thing. It’s different little rooms or channels, but we have a kudos channel. And anytime you give someone a kudos, we hashtag it with one of our values. So, you say what somebody did and then #havefun or #Beinclusive or whatever it is. So that’s like a simple, easy way.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a great example of it. That’s exactly it.
Dr. Sharp: I really appreciate it. This has been great.
Dan: I had fun.
Dr. Sharp: I love a dive into these things. Maybe we could close just with any other, I mean, we mentioned some resources, but any other resources or leadership exploration that people might want to do? Anything that’s been really helpful for you?
Dan: Yeah, there’s certain thing. Certainly, Leadership and Self-Deception is a great book. Traction for EOS, [01:05:00] for us has been an incredibly powerful tool to make sure that we’re all rowing in the same direction. There was definitely at least one other book that popped into my brain during this conversation that’s not coming up for me now. But I’m also happy to be a resource for people. LinkedIn is probably the best way to get me. And as long as you mentioned that you found me through this podcast, I will accept your request. And then also you can’t try to sell me anything on your first request and then we’ll be connected.
Dr. Sharp: Awesome. Well, I’ll put all those resources in the show notes so people can check it out. I just appreciate you.
Dan: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is another book. Sorry to cut you off, but that was one thing.
Dr. Sharp: No, no. Let’s get it in there. That’s great. Most of these, I have not read myself, so this is great.
Dr. Sharp: I love it. [01:06:00] This is awesome. Thanks for jumping on and chatting with me a little bit. I think people will learn a lot from this.
Dan: Well, thank you for having me on the show. And I look forward to seeing you at our next family get together
Dr. Sharp: That’s right. All right. Take care, bro.
Dan: All right. See you.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. I hope that you took away some valuable info, especially those of you really looking to grow your organization or take your practice to the next level. I think these are concepts that are often missed in the world of mental health practice ownership, and yet have a lot of value in the real “business world”. So, certainly, some ideas that we put into place in our practice and continue to try and evolve. I hope it’s useful for you.[01:07:00] Like I said at the beginning, if you’re a practice owner or soon to be practice owner and you’re looking for some group coaching or accountability to grow your practice, I would love to chat with you and figure out if The Testing Psychologist Mastermind Groups might be a good fit. You can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting and get general information and apply, or rather schedule a pre-group phone call. You can also go to the group-specific pages, thetestingpsychologist.com/beginner, thetestingpsychologist.com/intermediate, or thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced, and get more info. Either way, we can jump on a phone call and figure out which group might be appropriate for you.
All right, take care. Talk to you next time.[01:08:00] The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.