Women Taking The Lead with Kim Gravel and Leading With Questions with Bob Tiede

A lot of times, women were taught to be seen and not be heard. The strength and leadership in women were not always celebrated. Kim Gravel, a veteran television host, entrepreneur, public speaker, and leader, talks about the message she’s trying to convey through her clothing line and being a leader. Kim believes the message of women taking the lead comes in many forms because we have a sphere of influence anywhere. She shares why QVC is the most amazing place to connect and to launch a business especially if you have a message.

 

Many people think a leader’s job is to simply tell the staff what to do and to express appreciation for work well done. However, the way to be an effective leader is to lead with questions, taking advantage of the opportunity to listen to what your people say. Bob Tiede, a blogger and part of the Development Leadership Team at Cru, shares his passion for helping leaders lead with a question. Bob explains why it is vital for leaders to engage, ask, and listen to what people think and feel.

TTL 551 | Leading With Questions

 

We have Kim Gravel and Bob Tiede. You’ve seen Kim on many television shows. She is an entrepreneur and public speaker. She’s also got her own line on QVC. Bob is an author, blogger and he is part of the Leadership Development Team at Cru.

Listen to the podcast here:

Women Taking The Lead with Kim Gravel

I am here with Kim Gravel who is a veteran television host, entrepreneur, public speaker and leader. She has a passion for people and hearing their stories. You’ve seen her on the Steve Harvey Show and Headline News Network. She’s got a featured show on SiriusXM Radio, Dirty Pop with Lance Bass. She’s a weekly advice columnist, Gravel Mail, and she started a hit weekly docuseries, Kim of Queens, on Lifetime Network. Her latest venture is Belle by Gravel apparel and cosmetic line, which she launched on the QVC. Welcome, Kim.

Thanks for having me.

You were one of the youngest Miss Georgia in state pageant history. That’s quite an honor and I’m curious how you got interested in being in pageants. Can you give us a little bit of a background on you?

That was many decades ago. Let’s put that out there. Back then, for women, there were only a few ways. There was no American Idol and all those shows. For me, to get scholarship money to go to college, to have a platform to speak about my message and share my talents, that was the only way. One of the few options we had as women, so I did it. I was unconventional, short hair, big mouth and a lot to say. Normally, pageants back then weren’t that receptive to that messaging. Luckily, we’ve come a long way. That started me on the path of entrepreneurship, speaking and having a larger platform to share my personal message with people.

I know we’ve had a few people in common. I’ve had Wendi Russo on the show. I’ve had a lot of amazing women who’ve had strong messages. That was a platform for your message. What was your message that you were trying to share?

The message of women taking the lead. It comes in many forms. With our clothing line, it is believe in your own beauty. With our beauty line, believe in your own beauty. When I speak to civic groups, churches, community groups, it’s about plugging in and leading in the community. I truly believe that women are the backbone, the neck bone, the tail bone and the knee bone. We are those people that keep it all together. In a world where we’re trying to break the glass ceiling, we broke it, rebuilt it, broke it and rebuilt it a million times. As a young girl, I always knew I had such strength and such leadership in me that wasn’t always celebrated. I live in the south, I grew up in the south and a lot of times, women were taught to be seen and not heard. That went against everything that was in my soul that I knew to be for myself. I was raised by a strong woman, my grandmother. I always want that message to get out there to women that, “We’re not who we marry, we’re not our children and we’re not our work. We are these leaders that can do it all and can have it all.” I truly believe we can.

We feel valued when we’re asked. Click To Tweet

When you said we had broken the glass ceiling, but how do we keep it broken? You said we keep breaking it.

We keep breaking it but I don’t think anybody recognizes it. I always say this, when I married my husband, he was everything I never thought I always wanted. A lot of times things are right in front of us and we’re not present enough or aware enough to know that it already is ours. Especially women in business and I’m passionate about women in business, leadership, politics and in anywhere there’s that sphere of influence a woman should be sitting at the table. Because we’re intuitive, creative, doers and we get the job done, but, unfortunately, we don’t sometimes understand that we already are all that and a bag of chips. That’s what I mean by we broke the glass ceiling, rebuilt it and put it together again. We have it all. We’re not operating in it. I’m speaking from personal experience. I’m preaching to the choir here.

Are you saying that men would be more supportive? Are we holding ourselves back more than men?

I don’t count on men to do that much. That sounds horrible. I love men. They’re great leaders and they’re great supporters. They don’t do what we can do. A lot of times, it’s women who are sitting back waiting on someone to validate, promote or give us permission to speak. It has to be a man or we think it has to be a man because that’s the role he’s in. What I’m challenging women to do is to get out and shake your own tail feather. Get out there and toot your own horn. Be an entrepreneur, be a leader in the school systems in politics. We don’t need permission because we’re already doing it. We don’t have the title.

We hear a lot about women apologizing for a lot more than men. We say sorry for everything and that type of thing. What do you think are the biggest mistakes women make in a business setting?

Not trusting their own instincts and holding back.

TTL 551 | Leading With Questions
Leading With Questions: If Eve can talk Adam to eat that apple, we can pretty much talk a man into anything.

 

What should they do?

Speak up and challenge authority, challenge what you know to be true, but I also employ you this one. I’m 47 I’ve come a long way and I have a long way to go. There are a couple of things I have learned that is detrimental in a woman’s growth in business. One is you have to say and mean what you say. It’s important for the character to be known quickly when it becomes a business setting because what I’ve experienced in business and we have two large businesses. It’s a lot of pressure and being a mom and all the other roles that we as women play, I don’t have time to make you feel comfortable with what I already know to be true about our business.

When I’m dealing with someone and they’re challenging me on how to market something, what time to air something or design that we’re putting out there, I know what women want. I know what 47-year-old middle American women want because I am one. For me to listen to Gary or whoever is in that position telling me what a woman wants to see, I had to challenge that quickly. He has to know up front where I stand. That’s hard for us as women to do. It was hard for me to do instead of being okay and being nice and tiptoeing around egos or feelings, which men do not have in business nine times out of ten. As women, we have to stand up and go, “This is not going to work for me. We’re not going to do that, but let’s do this.” You should know how to stand up for yourself. It’s important that we do that and believe in ourselves.

A lot of women think they have to be like men and we’re different. There’s so much going on with this #MeToo Movement and many things are putting the focus on women. Men don’t know exactly where to stand on this sometimes. There’s a fear that they’re going to be written up if they say anything. Everybody’s at this level of discomfort. What’s your take on the #MeToo Movement? Has it been something that has helped put a focus on where we need it?

I’m a simple person. I’m street smarts. I don’t have all these PhDs and everything, but I know people. There’s a responsibility that falls on both sides of that table, but I will say this, “Women, we have to determine what we will allow and not allow.” Sometimes, you have to walk away from opportunities that seem like opportunities when it goes against your character. It’s important for people to have integrity and character. Whatever that means to someone. What character and integrity mean to me and what my levels of acceptances are different from everybody else, but when we are true leaders, as women, we have the power of influence.

I always say this, “If Eve can talk Adam to eat that apple, we can talk a man into anything. We have to use our power of influence when it comes to business.” We tried to be like men. We don’t have to be like men. We already possessed the gifts, talents, intuition, character and all of that we already own, we have to learn how to teach younger women, how to harness that and use that to our advantage in business because men know how to use their advantages to the business. Back to the #MeToo Movement, it’s exposed it but now we’ve got to retrain the way we operate in the business to benefit us.

Sometimes, you have to walk away from opportunities that seem like opportunities when it goes against your character. Click To Tweet

What have you found was the impact on levels of self-esteem when you were going through all the pageants and all of that? We’re trying to develop our sense of confidence and self-esteem in the business world. Did that have an impact on you? Was it good or bad?

It was good for me because I wasn’t a pretty girl. I wasn’t a glamazon. I went into it to not be validated physically but more to be validated through scholarship. I really struggled with, “I’m pretty.” I’ve done a lot with what I have. The motive was not to be pretty. Pageants are as screwed up like any other thing out there. I will give you that, I’ll say that boldly and I’ve seen it. Eating disorders, sexualizing young girls, but everything is how you handle yourself. Pageants are not the enemy, what we are considering our enemy out there is not. Social media is not our enemy. Social media has served me in business. It’s huge. Your boss is not your enemy. A lot of times we’re our own worst enemy because we will not stand for what we know to be true within ourselves, which is we’re talented, beautiful and smart. We have a purpose and we have passion. When the insecurities creep up and they do, “I wish I wasn’t in size fourteen,” and it does, “Look at these three wrinkles that have appeared on my neck.” I have to stop because that’s not who I am and what I’m called to do. For women, we’ve got to stop obsessing on the physical. Work on the physical, who doesn’t love a great lip gloss? That’s the business I’m in. I have to and that’s what I’m selling, but that’s not the beginning. That’s the paint on the barn.

Speaking of paint on the barn, I want to talk about this business. You’ve got this amazing apparel and cosmetic line on QVC. You’re interested in beauty and issues like that. What is it that you sell specifically? What made you open that particular line? Why the QVC?

It’s all wrapped up into one thing because I always say this, “Beauty starts from within.” We’ve heard that since we were little, but for women, sometimes if they don’t see it in the mirror first, it’s hard for them to believe it on the inside. We always say men are visual creatures. Women are as well. We’re determined a lot of the times by what the mirror is saying about us. For me, that’s my car. That’s how I travel into women’s hearts, minds, spirits and even as friendships is through the clothes and through the makeup. It’s a way for me to connect because for women as they put on a blouse, put on a great lipstick or have a great haircut, they feel a little bit better about themselves and they’re more receptive to the message of you are beautiful as is from within.

QVC is one of the largest platforms to do that in. There’s no other retail space or no other business like QVC. It’s like the Disney World for retail. It’s the most amazing place where you can connect and it’s an amazing place to launch a business especially if you have a message. For our business standpoint, our message is our main thing. Our products are secondary because I get to speak right to her on live television two or three times a week. It’s a way for me to connect with girlfriends, the sisterhood and we’re going to buy anyway. I buy so much stuff out more than I make on QVC. I’ve got to slow it down, but it’s that way to connect like none other. There is no other place that you can connect with women like that. It’s live, instant, interactive, calling in on social media, their stream and they’re asking questions or they’re saying, “Girl, I felt that went through to her.” It’s a great sisterhood.

TTL 551 | Leading With Questions
Leading With Questions: Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask

What did you think of the Jennifer Lawrence movie, Joy?

I’ve watched it four or five times. Before I was launching on QVC, it came out. I went and watched it in the theater four times as inspiration. She’s a girl boss. That woman was a boss and she went up there, and she had to be tough, but feminine. She’s as a prime example of how women can do it for themselves. It’s based on a true story and she did have issues with her manufacturers and things like that. It’s hard as women. No one can talk about your business or speak for you better than you.

It’s a compelling story about what she had to go through. Did you relate to what she experienced in your experience with doing online sales like that?

The stuff on a boat in the middle of the ocean can’t get here. Fighting on price and getting beat up on everything. In business, they will do that if you are a woman. They will try to get more out of you if you are a woman. You have to fight for every penny, you have to fight for every opportunity. It’s tough and it’s not for the weak-hearted, but it’s a great training ground for what women are going to have to do to move to the next level in business.

You’ve definitely done that and you do keynotes. It’s interesting to see the keynotes that are women-focused. What’s your favorite keynote to give?

Put the power back in your power. Talking about a woman’s purpose, her outlook and walking in it. For me, being successful in business as a woman is quite easy. The formula’s easy. The walking it out is tough, but you have to do something about it if you’re passionate. I say this all the time, “If you don’t love what you do and passionate about what you do, you’ll never do it long-term. If you do it long-term, you’ll be a miserable person.” I have learned that over and over again. I’m like, “Why am I doing this? I don’t like this.” Go do something you like. You said, “I can’t afford to do that. I have two kids,” then do that on the side until you can get there.

I didn’t say it’s going to be easy. I’m saying that the formula is quite simple. You have to know the purpose. You have to have an outlook, you have to have a plan, a vision and you have to walk in it. That’s my favorite keynote to give because I believe everybody thinks everybody has a purpose. Every time I say, “How many of you think everyone has a purpose?” They’ll raise their hand and I’ll ask the question, “How many of you know what your purpose is?” It’s like crickets. It’s dead silence. No hands up. That’s my favorite keynote to give plus I do it through humor. I pride myself on having a lot of fun because the women have a lot of fun and they take home a little nugget. They’ll never forget it. Anything wrapped in humor, people never forget.

Do you sing as well? I’ve had a few of my keynote people on the show sing on the stage. Do you combine that at all, because I saw you sing?

No, I do not. I have not sung in years. I used to sing all the time. I speak to what I do very well. I let the singers be singers.

Was that your talent as Miss Georgia?

As women, when we are true leaders, we have the power of influence. Click To Tweet

It was.

What did you sing?

I sang opera.

Then you can sing. You do consulting as well. You have people come to you for coaching. What did they usually come to you to achieve? What kind of coaching do you do?

It’s personalized coaching. Most of the people come to me for, “What am I going to do with my life? What am I going to do with my kid? What am I going to do with my husband?” They already know what they can do. That’s what I love about it. You’re not helping anybody do anything. You’re listening and going, “Have you ever thought about that?” You’re like, “Yeah.” It’s funny how women already know. We’re such intuitive creatures. We’re smart and we already know.

What do you think we need to have somebody tell us?

We love to talk, eat and shop.

I wish that you could come up with some products for women for traveling. I was thinking about this when I was traveling of how different it is for women to give keynotes and to do all the things than men. I’ve got a suitcase full of all these products and hair and things, while men, they get up. Their hair’s done, they’re out. They got 35 seconds to get ready. Is there ever going to be a time where we have this balance where women don’t have to be as fluffy and made up and done? It’s a whole different world. I saw these guys that do the fake nails and do that for a week to see what it’s like to live. It would be nice for empathy if men could see what it’s like to live like this, but then do we bring it on ourselves? Do you think we’ll ever be equal?

It will never be. I always know when a man is evolved and smart. I’ve got one of those men in my life. I’m blessed both with my dad and my husband. I always know when a man is a great man when he goes, “I can’t do all that. She does it all.” Every time a man is praising his wife on everything that she contributes to the family, herself, the children and in business, I always know that’s a smart man because that man knows his limitation. There’s no way men could constantly do what we do. I would challenge any man, anywhere, anytime to that match because he will lose miserably. If a man would say, “Kim, you’re right,” I know that man I can work with. I say to women all the time, “Be careful on the work environment you place yourself in.” If the man does not get it, even these high-powered men, these CEOs and I’ve had tons of them, hundreds of these men. It’s always two or three women behind them that are making him work. That’s the truth. I would sit and tell anybody, any president at any companies, “I know that Mary, that is your assistant or whatever you want to call that position, is making you go.”

I’d see a lot of women get sucked into that the situation where they’re at the same level almost as the leader. They may be one step down, but they get utilized for all the administrative tasks more than anything else compared to the men on that same level. A lot of us like some of that administrative stuff, you get sucked in and you don’t even notice that you’re even doing it. Do you see that happen a lot?

I’ll give you a personal example and this is fresh. A couple of months ago, I had a business partner. I have two in our beauty world, it’s another female and me and we have a male third. We run circles around him. I’ll say this and he’ll admit it. When he hears this, he’ll know. We have no problem. We’ve had this conversation several times. This is not an issue, but he called me a couple of times and said, “I need this.” I said, “I don’t work for you. I own more of the company than you do. Why are you calling me? It sounds like you need to go get you an assistant.” It’s one of those things where I don’t need it and he meant no disrespect at all. It’s the conditioning of the way we run, but unfortunately for him, I’m more evolved to say, “Hold up. I’m not your secretary.”

That’s common and we see a lot of that in the working world. It’s good to hear that your voice is getting out there and helping people. You get out there a lot on TV. How’d you get on the Steve Harvey Show so much?

I went on his show to promote that Lifetime TV show that we did and we hit it off. He’s real, down to earth and tells it like it is. He’s funny and I know him personally for a few years. I’m his most-booked guest on his show. He and I had this kindred spirit and talk about a man that will promote women. I remember one time he was like, “I don’t know why I had this little white girl on my show.” We’re unlikely of a pairing, but it’s the like-mindedness. I remember I was having a conversation with Tom and he said, “It’s not until I had daughters that I realized.” He’s an evolved man and he gets it. We can banter back and forth. We have a lot of the same work ethics and core principles. He’s like a brother to me. He’s helped me a lot.

I’m friends with Dr. Gilda. She’s been on my show. You get this connection and you can just banter and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve seen your work. What you’re doing is amazing. I thought a lot of people would want to hear about this. I was hoping that you could share how people could find you and learn more about your products and everything that you’re doing.

Thank you. You can go to KimGravel.com. We’re all over social media, Kim Gravel or QVC.com and type in Kim Gravel. It’s simple. I love this ease that we have with connecting these days. You can find anything anywhere. It’s a great time to be in business as a woman.

It’s nice to have you on the show, Kim. Thank you.

Thank you. I appreciate you.

Leading With Questions with Bob Tiede

TTL 551 | Leading With Questions
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

I am here with Bob Tiede who is passionate about helping leaders shift their paradigm from the pressure of having to have all the right answers to simply having a few of the right answers. He’s part of the Development Leadership Team at Cru. He’s the author of Now That’s a Great Question and he’s a blogger at LeadingWithQuestions.com. It’s nice to have you here, Bob.

Diane, it is my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to this.

I have been looking forward to this as well because anybody who reads this knows I love to ask a good question. Your book is all about questioning. We’re definitely going to have plenty to chat about. I want to get a little background on you. I mentioned that you were at Cru. Tell me a little bit about your work there. Have you been there for 47 years?

That’s correct. I am no good at getting a new job. I graduated from the University of South Dakota in ‘71 and I’ve been on the staff of Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ, for 47 years. Eight years in Camp Cru in Colorado, the state of Washington and Oregon and 24 years directing the Josh McDowell Ministry which a division of Cru. Since 2004, we’ve been on the global and US Leadership Development Teams. The mission is to develop the next generation of leaders for Cru. The elevator speech is true of every organization. In many years, almost none of the current leaders will still be leading. In their places will be the leaders who are now developing. If we fail in this mission to develop that next generation, neither Cru or any other organization will fail tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year. They may indeed many years from now. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.

I’m very interested in the questions that you come with and what do you think is important for leaders to question. You gave a little story about you’ve run into a book that changed you. I’m curious about what book that was and can you give a little backstory on what led to your interest in all of this?

Diane, it may be that your book Cracking the Curiosity Code. You may have had this DNA of asking questions implanted in you from birth. For me, though, I sometimes share that I’m a charter member in TA and people wonder what TA is. They may have heard of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. TA is Tellers Anonymous. We go to our meetings and I stand up and say, “My name’s Bob, I’m a teller.” They say, “Hello, Bob.” That’s a fictitious thing, but if it existed, I’d be a charter member. I also share that as a leader for most of my Cru career, my paradigm was being kind.

As a leader, use please and thank you. I thought the job of a leader was to kindly tell the staff what to do and express appreciation for work well done. Looking back, I was a benevolent dictator. You asked about the book that changed all of that, in 2006, I came across Dr. Michael Marquardt’s book called Leading with Questions. That book was a page turner for me. In that book, he shares many incredible stories, many great questions, but as I read that for the first time, I saw a different paradigm for leadership that a leader could be far more effective if they lead with questions rather than leading by telling. That was the book that got me started in 2006.

A lot of times, we're our own worst enemy because we will not stand for what we know to be true within ourselves. Click To Tweet

There’s a lot to be learned from asking questions and a lot of people avoid asking questions. At least in my research on curiosity, I found there were four things that inhibited curiosity. They were fear, assumptions, technology and the environment. A lot of us have a fear that we’re going to be shut down if we asked something stupid in our opinion or someone else’s opinion. We have assumptions in our mind that this is going to be something we’re not interested in or maybe they’re not. We have assumptions that they’re going to have a certain reaction. There’s a lot of things we do. We either tell ourselves that things are going to be one way that they’re probably not. The studies that have been cited on my show is about 85% of what we fear will happen won’t happen. How do we get people less fearful so that we ask more questions? I assume you might be an extrovert if you think you were in a teller’s anonymous group. A lot of the extroverts tend to be that way. How do we get over that?

I had an opportunity to spend 90 minutes with the general manager of the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. He shared that his journey to being the General Manager was a bit different than normal and that he’d started in the Marriott Corporate Office where he worked with JW Marriott and Bill Marriott. He asked me this question. He said, “Bob, might you know what Bill Marriott considers to be the four most important words in the English language?” I had to confess that I didn’t know, but I said, “I’d love to know and I bet there’s a story.” He said, “There is.” When Bill Marriott was 22 years old, he was in the Navy. He was on ensign and he came home to the family farm for a weekend where his father had invited then President Eisenhower to come for a pheasant hunt, but that morning turned out to be cold and raining.

As they’re at the breakfast table, thinking about the day, President Eisenhower gets up, comes over to the fireplace and said to Bill Marriott, “What do you think we should do?” Bill Marriott reflecting on that experience said he figured out the genius of President Eisenhower, the leader of World War II. How he got along with Winston Churchill, the President of France and all the different generals is that he would ask them, “What do you think?” He was interested in what people thought. Whenever you’ve had a boss, director or supervisors say to you, “Diane, what do you think we might do?” How did that make you feel?

It opens you up as a lot of people, it paves the way. It makes that sense of fear calm down. A lot of people should ask that question more often. We’re on the same plane of what we’re trying to do. Marriott is often listed as a culture of curiosity in the courses I teach. That’s an interesting story and I am curious about the impact it had on you.

The general manager of the Opryland had read my book. In my book, I also shared that I can teach anyone to lead with questions in 30 seconds. He already knew that question and he told me that story. It confirmed that it’s such a great story, not original with me, but with Bill Marriott in that experience. As I asked you, “How did that make you feel?” People always say, “My boss thinks I have something to offer.” Without saying, “I value you,” that action of asking your staff, “What do you think,” is a way that communicates value. If we feel valued, when we’ve been asked, our staff are going to feel the same way when we ask them. You say, “How do you get over the fear?” When I’m speaking, I ask the audience, “How many of you would like to learn to lead with questions in 30 seconds?” I do that because sometimes I get the impression that people think it would be great if I can lead with questions, but they imagine they have to go get a Master’s degree in questionology. It’s a nice idea, but becoming a brain surgeon, probably not going to happen.

I can see why they’d want to embrace that 30 seconds is a wonderful thought if you can learn to do anything in 30 seconds. You’ve got to share. How do you teach them when to lead with questions in 30 seconds? How’s that possible?

TTL 551 | Leading With Questions
Now That’s A Great Question

Here’s what I do. Everybody’s hand is usually up when I ask, “Who would like to learn?” and I pull up one member of the audience and they come up, I say, “I picked Diane because I sense you have a photographic memory. You’re only going to need to hear my four favorite questions one time and you’ll have to memorize. Are you ready?” They’re a little bit hesitant, but they’ll say, “Okay.” I say, “I’ve got great confidence in you.” I’ll try it with you, Diane. Here we go. You’ve heard it. It’s what do you think? My second question is what else? My third one is what else? My fourth one is what else? Diane, do you now have those memorized?

I do.

I know you do. When people hear that they say, “You can’t ask what else? What else? What else?” I say, “Imagine this is a conversation. I’ve asked Diane what she thinks about something, she starts answering and I’m saying, “Wow. What else, Diane?” I could use some other forms of that question. I could say more about that, Diane. I’m taking notes don’t stop. This is good. What else?” I share with people that whenever we’re asked a question, some things we do subconsciously to protect ourselves is we’re asked a question and we give an answer, and we read the eyes, face, and the response of the one who asked the question. Let’s say verbally, they say, “Diane, that’s dumb. Everyone knows that.”

Neither Diane or Bob are going to say another word after that, but when I say, “What else?” By the time we are asked or we asked the second, third time what else, that person becomes relaxed. They’re beginning to think that we must think they’re one of the smartest people we’ve ever talked to and we will get to their golden nugget, their best thought. Truly for a leader who’s never lead with questions, if they’ll start with that and you go, “What do you think,” you would relate that to a subject, an opportunity or a challenge your organization is facing. What do you think we might do to increase profit? What do you think we might do to take advantage of this opportunity? You listen to the staff as they been to share their ideas.

I’m giving a talk about building emotional intelligence in an industry where they have to work with people who are the turnovers is nearly 100%. It is a tough situation. A lot of it is about emotional intelligence and having the ability to build interpersonal skills, empathy and that type of thing. One of the best ways to do that is by asking questions. I saw some of your favorite questions and I’m looking at what you had sent me. “What do you think? Please tell me more. Please tell me your story.” Those are all super important questions, but you also had, “What the three to four events that have most shaped your life?” I’m curious who you asked that question of and in what situation?

Let me give you a little background on that question. Cheryl Bachelder was the CEO of Popeyes and is now the interim CEO for Pier 1. Her book, Dare to Serve, she says, “How well do you know your staff? Do you know the three to four events that most shaped their lives?” Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, lists one of the signs is being unknowing. Working in a place and no one knows your story. No one knows what’s going on in your life. I find it interesting. When I heard that question, I couldn’t wait to find somebody to ask it up. The next morning, I have a colleague who’s in Canada, the Associate LD Director for all of Canada. I’ve known Neil since 2007. I thought I know all of Neil’s stories. This will be interesting only to see if I can check the boxes of, “I already know what the three or four events that have most shaped Neil’s life.” I asked the questions and he answered. His first event was something that I was completely unaware of and he said, “Bob, did you know that my birth father died when I was nine months old? My mother later remarried. The man who was my stepfather is the one who on my heart and emotion is my dad.”

I said, “I didn’t know that.” He said, “Bob, in the final weeks of my birth father’s life, he knew he was dying. He was in a big bed at home and every day he would ask to hold me for long periods of time and he would pray over me that God would be a father to this little boy that he knew himself he would not be able to raise.” As Neil began to share that story, he began to shed tears. We were on Skype. I began to have tears. I don’t want to promise that’s going to happen every time you ask that question, but it was like in five minutes a relationship that was already good went much deeper.

I was privileged to be a speaker at the Ziglar Choose to Win Conference and I spoke on leading with questions. One of the exercises I had them do, I shared this story. I asked everybody to stand up, find somebody in the room they didn’t know and I gave them three minutes each. I said, “You won’t have time to tell the stories, but you have the rest of the conference to reconnect. Share the sentence topics of what are those three, four events,” and they did. After they shared that with each other, I said, “Do you feel like this new person that you met who shared those three, four topics, not even time to tell you the stories, but do you feel like you know them better than some people that you’ve known for several years?” Every hand went up and I said, “Those other friends you have that you don’t quite know, how could you find out what those three, four events are?” They got it. You could ask them the question. I use that all the time. It’s probably not my first question, but as you start a relationship with anyone, I’ll say, “Diane, I’m curious. What would you say are the three or four events that most shaped your life?” People will pause and they’ll begin to answer. It’s always fascinating.

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That’s a great tip and a lot of leaders don’t know much about the people who work for them and they don’t look at people from that perspective. A lot of times you get beaten down by HR rules, you’re not allowed to ask this or that and people have stopped asking questions that they could ask because they don’t know what they can ask. Sometimes that has such an impact on people. You talk about a lot of things in your work and I was looking at some of the things that you had sent to me. You said you visited Walt Disney laundry services where you learned a great lesson. I’m curious about the Walt Disney story. What happened there?

You may be fascinated with this. You have an opportunity where you’re going to an organization with high turnover. We took a group of our leaders on the behind the scenes leadership tour of Walt Disney World. The first stop was the Walt Disney World laundry services. I have to confess as they said, “Our first stop is going to be the laundry service.” I took a yawn. I knew there were going to take us on the underground under the Magic Kingdom. That’s going to be fun to see and we were going to go behind the scenes. We’re all at the Epcot where the cast members, not employees, change into their costumes, not uniforms.

At any rate, I was thinking, “I hope we can get through this first stop quickly and get on to the exciting stuff.” It turns out that that first stop was the best stop of the day. They shared their Walt Disney World laundry services had experienced at one time about an 85% turnover every year. The leadership was thinking of farming out laundry services because it wasn’t working, but they decided to try something. The leadership came down and met with all the cast members and the laundry service and asked them two questions, “What can we do to make your job easier? What changes would you recommend to serve our guests better?” They said it took quite a while. At first, the cast members didn’t respond. They thought it was a trick.

They thought if they said something negative or suggested that there were changes that were needed, they’d be let go. It took a while for trust to be developed where they began to plead the leadership wanted to know. The two things they shared that would be helpful is they asked, “If there couldn’t be air conditioner vents placed over each workstation so they get to have cool air blow directly on them,” and they asked, “if the table where they’re folding laundry in front of them could be adjusted height-wise so that if you’re tall, you could make it higher. If you’re shorter, you can make it lower.” It’d be the ideal height relative to you that would not hurt your back. It was like, “We can do that.”

Leadership did that and they listened. There were many other ideas and another idea that they had is, “Could we do some cross training where we get to go out and work for a day in a restaurant where we see where all the laundry items we do for restaurants are used? Could we do a day working with a maid and see where all the guest room laundry is used and vice versa?” The bottom line is the turnover rate at Walt Disney World is less than 10%. Cast members started in the laundry service and stayed there until they retire. It all started when they begin to ask these two questions. What can we do to make your job easier? What changes would you recommend to serve our guests better? Walt Disney World calls this employee engagement.

That’s important and I deal with those situations quite often. One of the biggest challenges I find is when the staff is more virtual. I’ve worked as a pharmaceutical rep, I’ve also worked as a virtual professor, but there are jobs like trucking where the truckers are out on the road and they have a high turnover. How do you connect with someone when it’s such a virtual situation?

I think the answer there and I don’t want to share this out of the personal experience. I’d love to hear from those who run trucking companies that have figured it out. Something I know is that one of the stories that I shared in my book is Captain D. Michael Abrashoff took over command of the USS Benfold, one of our modern warships. When he took over, the morale on that ship was lowest in the Navy. Several months later, it was the highest. You could say, “That was not a virtual team. They were all on that ship.” That’s true, but the questions he asked could be asked by the leadership of any team, whether they’re virtual or all in one place. I love these questions because they’re simple and yet profound.

The first thing he did when he took over command was he had 315-minute interviews with 300 sailors. The first question was what do you like best about this ship? The second one was what do you like least? The third was what you would change if you could? He listened. He didn’t promise to make every change, but it didn’t take long. He began to hear some things like the Walt Disney World leadership heard, “He can change that. Why haven’t we done that already? That’d be common sense.” At the end of the first day, he probably only had interviews with fifteen to twenty sailors, but already a buzz was on the ship. The new leader is different. The new captain cares what we think. Those are three questions I recommend for any leader and this is a given, but if you’re going to ask a question, what do you then need to do?

If you are asking, better do something about it one way or another.

I was going to suggest an intermediate step. You’re right. You didn’t have to listen.

Listening would be important. I went to the end of the line for that. Hopefully, everybody’s reading the answers they’re getting and responding appropriately with what they can or can’t do. A lot of times they may listen, but they don’t respond about why. People want to know things can or can’t happen. We make up our own answers in our mind if we’ve suggested something or asked something and we get nowhere from it. That’s where the disconnect comes and that’s where the lack of engagement comes. All the questions and examples you have in your book are great for opening up everybody’s mind to some of the simple things. You made it clear. These are simple things that it’s easy, it’s not that time consuming and you get some of the best information and you’ll never get to find out if you don’t ask. If someone’s interested in your book, I’m sure they have a question about where can they get it? Can you share how people can reach you and find out more?

I’ve got good news. Now That’s a Great Question is an eBook and it’s free. If people simply go to my blog, which is LeadingWithQuestions.com, right at the top you will see where you can request the free download of Now That’s a Great Question. Everything I do on social media is free. This is the third book. The other two are also available for download and they’re free. Subscribing to my blog is free, and I am absolutely thrilled and committed to help leaders everywhere increase their leadership effectiveness by moving from being a leader who leads by telling to a leader who leads with questions. That’s why I’ve been motivated to serve leaders everywhere by making all of these resources free. If they go there, there’s no catch. This is not something free as a leader and I’m going to ask for a bunch of money for something else. I have nothing to sell.

Thank you for sending me your books. I’ve found them fascinating and everybody here can learn a lot from what you teach and what you write about. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Diane, it’s been my absolute pleasure.

I’d like to thank Kim and Bob for being my guests. We get many great guests. You can find all the past episodes at DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Kim Gravel

TTL 551 | Leading With QuestionsKim Gravel is a veteran television host, entrepreneur, public speaker and leader, but most of all she has a passion for people and hearing their stories. Kim is regularly seen on The Steve Harvey Show and Headline News Network as a recurring contributor, is featured on the SiriusXM Radio show Dirty Pop with Lance Bass in the weekly advice column segment “Gravel Mail” and starred in the hit weekly docu-series Kim of Queens on the Lifetime Network. Kim’s newest venture, the Belle By Kim Gravel™ apparel and cosmetic line, launched on QVC.

About Bob Tiede

TTL 551 | Leading With QuestionsBob Tiede is passionate about helping leaders shift their paradigm from the pressure of having to have all the right answers to simply having a few of the right questions. He is part of the Development Leadership Team at Cru. He is the author of Now That’s a Great Question and blogger and LeadingwithQuestions.com.

 

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