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181

The easiest way to mitigate burnout is to connect the dots and make meaning for your people.

In this episode

Have you ever wondered how great leaders manage to transform their teams and organizations while prioritizing the growth of their employees?

Just like plants need the right environment to flourish, employees thrive in a workplace where their growth is prioritized. Tonille Miller, through her expertise in leadership and organizational dynamics, sheds light on how to unlock employees’ thriving and high performance as a competitive edge.

Tonille Miller is the founder of EXT and author of “The Flourishing Effect,” and is a prominent organizational psychologist and consultant with a deep understanding of human behavior, high performance, and organizational dynamics. With a background in consulting, she brings a multifaceted perspective to fostering thriving work environments. Tonille, with over 15 years of experience, advises Fortune 500 companies, leading consulting firms, and high-growth start-ups. She is a respected figure in business transformation, leadership, and employee experience.

In episode #181, Tonille Miller discusses the importance of delegation, feedback, and connecting the dots to nurture potential in your teams.

Tune in to hear all about Tonille’s leadership journey and her insights into unlocking high employee satisfaction and performance!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


05:24

Delegating is a gift for development

10:39

The Flourishing Effect

14:15

Transforming culture

19:18

Role of feedback in cultural transformation

25:15

Connecting the dots for your team

34:11

Investing in employee development and growth


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Tonille, welcome to the show.

Tonille Miller  03:17

Hi, thanks for having me.

Aydin Mirzaee  03:18

Yeah, very excited to do this. So I know you’ve worked at a number of different companies today, you’re the founder of EXT, which stands for experience and transformation. Is that correct? That’s right. Yeah. So and you’ve recently written a book, which we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about today. But why don’t we start from the very beginning, one of the questions that we like to ask on the podcast is, when you first started to manage or lead a team, do you remember some of those very early mistakes that you used to make?

Tonille Miller  03:49

Oh, yes. There’s so many. I think, you know, there’s a couple that come to mind. I think what before I was at PwC, I was at a company called Willis Towers Watson. It’s another big consulting firm. And it was my very first manager role. And I wasn’t trained, like what happens with a lot of people, right? They’re put into a manager role. They haven’t had training yet. And they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing, but they’re trying their best. And I basically thought that like a lot of people, I had to act like the manager, right, meaning I had to have all the right answers. And I had to kind of do everything and there was no delegating none of that stuff. So I kind of felt like that. And I learned very quickly, thank goodness, the team was amazing. And they kind of pulled me aside and they said, hey, you know, we really liked you and we’re friends, we’re callings, whatever but like, you need to start delegating, you need to start like managing the right way, essentially, because they’d all been there for a while. So I think that they had gotten the training before I hadn’t either either. Just how to you know, be a colleague or you know, whatever. But luckily, when I went to PwC, they were so great about training and we got so much again, training, role modeling, etc, when it comes to like real-time feedback, learning how to delegate for development and doing it right and making you feel comfortable and confident in that role. And so that was really helpful because then I started thinking of, oh, what I previously thought was if I delegate, I’m being lazy somehow or I’m not, you know, a good manager. And what actually the case is that I’ve learned is that your delegating is a gift to your team, because you’re helping them develop and grow. And I think one of the ways to kind of tweak that, or the way that I got my head around that, was having conversations with everybody on the team pretty frequently in one on ones, etc, just finding out where they want to grow, where they feel like they’re kind of lacking. And so then having that in my mindset, it makes it very easy as a manager to actually delegate things as they come up in the moment and say, Oh, I know, Jane wants to grow in this way. And Tom really wants something like that. And then when it comes up, I’m like, Oh, good, perfect opportunity. So that was probably one of the biggest learnings for me that I learned the hard way. And thank God, everybody had some compassion with me along the way. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee  05:50

I mean, that’s super interesting. I just love that phrase. Delegating as a gift for development. Yeah. So let’s talk about that a bit more. So if you had to, you know, really think critically, or maybe a little bit more deeply about why you may have found it hard to delegate in those early days. What do you think that was? It sounds like we talked about the unlock. But was there like an assumption that you had maybe didn’t turn out to be the way it should be? or something that you realized later on?

Tonille Miller  06:22

Absolutely and I love it that you drill down to that. And I don’t think people think about what’s the root cause of this? Why do we all feel this way? And I think a few things. Number one, I think being a very capable kind of professional thinking, oh, you know, I got it to where I got, which a lot of managers, I think is the case, if you get promoted to be a manager because you’re a really great performer, individual contributors. They’re like, oh, let’s reward you with the manager role. And the, you know, again, the training, you still operate it that same way, which is I do everything, and I work all the time. And like all the things that you do to really strive and succeed as an individual are kind of the opposite things than what you need to do as a manager, actually. And so part of it, I think, was that, and the other part, I think I just really wanted to prove myself because then my first role in this firm was as a manager, so I’m like, Oh, I gotta show them how great I am. And I didn’t realize that, no, it’s not about me and showing how great I am. It’s actually about the team and how great I can enable them to be and orchestrate work through and with them.

Aydin Mirzaee  07:18

Yeah, yeah, no, this is great. The delegating is a gift for development. That’s a super interesting one. And so very tactically, if what question should people ask from their teams, because it’s very interesting, because throughout the day, you as a manager, or leader, you’re doing a bunch of things, right? Some of them might be small tasks, some of them larger projects, some things that maybe you won’t get time to pay attention to, but could be really interesting things for other people. And it sounds like you’re by having certain conversations during your one on one, you’re almost tuning your brain to notice those things. So that you can surface those opportunities to people on your team. So what are questions that you can ask her when people are listening to this? They’ll say, hey, in my next one on one, I’m going to ask this from my team. And that’s going to allow me to potentially delegate better.

Tonille Miller  08:11

Yeah, absolutely. And this is actually something that I would recommend, if you can do it, as soon as you get into your manager role, like from the beginning, so for folks that are listening, that are maybe brand new to the role, or they aren’t quite in the role, yet. I would think about this as the best practices like your first one on ones with each of your team members, I would lead the conversation with that. And that’s what I learned to do. So if you’re not in that case, it’s okay to you can just say, Hey, I’m working on this, and I want to try this now. But essentially, I would literally ask them, you know, where do you want to grow? I would ask them, What areas do you feel like you’re not as strong today that you want to grow and develop and or learn more about or shadow people, you know, develop in some way? I also asked them things like, I really like Amy Riznitsky’s work around job crafting. So what I also would ask them is, are there parts of your job or areas of your job today that if you could you would love to trade with someone else or get some of that off your plate. And that can be things like different relationships that you’re encountering in the organization, maybe there’s some that aren’t working so well? Or is it certain tasks specifically that you’d love to get off your plate if you could, because either you’ve kind of mastered them, and you’re bored, or you just don’t enjoy it, it’s about using your strengths, etc. And then asking them more about what their strengths are, is really helpful. And by doing that, I was actually able to do this with one of my teams globally. And we were actually able to kind of jog craft a little bit where we could and it’s not always perfect, but there’s always at least something that you can do some tweaks you can make maybe trade some assignments, trade, some relationships, that kind of thing. So really understanding where they want to grow where they want to develop what they feel they’re not that strong and also areas that they feel are their strengths and you’re either not using them enough today, or they think if he’s using them more to either coach others or do new things. So just kind of questions like that and keeping that as an ongoing dialogue. I think it’s really important in each one on one depending on how frequent they are.

Aydin Mirzaee  10:00

Yeah, really good advice. And also a really good tip on the idea of job crafting as well. It’s also just a nod to, you can always continue to, I guess, tweak things to continue to just make it more adjusted for for the person occupying the position. I really wanted to spend some time talking about the new book, The Flourishing Effect: Unlocking Employee Thriving and High Performance as Your Competitive Edge. So why don’t we start with the why did you write this book? What drove you to take the leap and become an author?

Tonille Miller  10:38

Yeah, thanks for asking. Well, I think part of it is I’ve just been doing this work for so long. I mean, over 15 years, I’ve been doing this work. And I’ve just over and over, I tended to notice that a lot of the same things would be tripping leaders up and tripping organizations up. And they were also the same things that if you make small tweaks, for example, they would actually be the same things that would enable super high performance thriving on the employee side, as well as the business side. And I kind of just collected these data points as I was going through my career and kind of seeing like, after a while, like someone’s missing some of this stuff, like, because I’m not seeing books about it is nuanced. Because again, I had a very comprehensive view, right? I mean, I’m a psychologist, I’ve been a coach, I’ve been a leader in different executive roles and management consultants. So I kind of see from a lot of different vantage points comprehensively, how all of it fits together. It’s not just the leader, it’s not just the culture, it’s not, you know, it’s all these different levers and things. And so kind of pulling all that together, I just started thinking about it a couple of like, a year and a half, two years ago. And I thought, You know what, let’s put some of this into a book. Because again, it’s also the fact that like, as I’m going, I’m always reading always upskilling, and learning about these things, and the research and the data and kind of synthesizing all of it into playbooks. So it’s like I kind of had a lot of the material. And it was, again, tons of case studies from my clients and things like that. So I’m like, this is a lot of good stuff. And it can help a lot of people. And so it just made sense to put it into a book. And I did. And now it’s been out in the world about a month and a half.

Aydin Mirzaee  12:02

What is the core premise of the book? Like who should read the book? What is the message? And what is the lesson that they will learn? 

Tonille Miller  12:10

Absolutely. Well, so originally, I wrote it for HR practitioners and leaders, right? So I figured those are the folks in the organization that can actually move the needle on these things, because it’s one thing to read it, it’s like, Oh, that’s interesting, okay, great, but like, who’s gonna actually move the needle and make some changes, and usually, those are the folks that can do that. But what I found from the feedback is that I’ve heard great feedback, even from like, first time managers saying, hey, because there’s a whole chapter on leadership, and with a new manager and leader, the future really determined requires and a lot of ways that we can get them there and upskill them. And there’s just a lot of other nuances in the book to where it helps people who are younger in their career, even individual contributors, it helps them understand the context of how we got where we are, because the book is really built into a couple parts, right? The first part is, this is where we are today, it goes a very brief history of like, the history of work goes back, you know, 150 years ago, kind of shows everybody how we got here, and how a lot of our work practices are still based on factory floors. And the indentured servant and landowner model. Like that kind of thing. A lot of our practices are actually still unfolding the same way. And we’re so far from that. So it’s helping people understand how we got here, why it’s not working, and why it’s causing everybody to be disengaged, and quiet, quitting, and all the things that we’re seeing. And then also, the rest of the book is all solutioning, very practical cases, study based, research based, chapter by chapter outlining different topics like leadership, inclusion, culture, if we experience even change management, a lot of my work has been in that and all kinds of other lovers. It’s just showing people the solutioning of solving the problems of why it is the way it is.

Aydin Mirzaee  13:47

Yeah, so it sounds like it’s a very comprehensive book, going from the history of where we started to where we are talking a little bit about the future, talking about the problems, but then also tackling it with solutions as well. I’d love to talk about a specific case study or anecdote from the book, you know, something that really stands out, you know, something that you address a problem that you tackle head-on, and some of the solutioning around it.

Tonille Miller  14:15

Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot. I mean, like I said, I bring in a lot of my clients and in the book and a lot of like other people that are not my clients, but very good practices, or even a couple of not so great practices. And I think one of the examples I continue to go back to because it’s just so good as Microsoft and I think, you know, as them probably most folks on this call might be familiar with it. But you know, when Satya Nadella took over, I mean, they were doing great financially, but their culture was not good. It was not a good culture was very toxic in a lot of ways. And they found themselves at a point where not only is our culture not great, but we’re not being as innovative as we need to be. And so they brought in, I believe, Carol Dweck, with the growth mindset, a lot of her work and a lot of other folks. And what they did is they really transformed the culture. It was quick it wasn’t like years and years. I think it was like nine months or something along those lines. It literally transformed the culture from one of nowhere else to learn it all. And they’ve been doing that ever since. And I think that’s why they’ve just been skyrocketing more than ever. And people actually enjoy working there. And so it was really employing that growth mindset and all the different things that Carol Dweck talks about throughout the culture, and like training and managers and all kinds of things like that. So I think that’s the one that really stands out to me. And we see a lot of things even today with opening AI and all the stuff that was happening there. I mean, I think Satya Nadella really handled that so well. And I think, you know, part of that is just because he’s built this amazing culture of people. And you know, it’s just really coming to fruition.

Aydin Mirzaee  15:35

It’s a very interesting example for all of us in tech, I think, especially the, I would say, you know, the Silicon Valley crowd for a long time, it was that Microsoft was not looked very favorably upon right from the very tech-forward circles. And they’ve really transformed themselves now. Like they’re at the forefront of many of the big technology waves. It’s, you know, people take it seriously. I mean, they’ve just had so much progress. How do you transform such a culture in that way? You know, I think about, you know, transforming a team to go from nodos, or learn it all, is even a company of a few 100 is hard. Now, you know, Microsoft, I don’t know, the number of employee count, but I would imagine possible, you know, 10s of 1000s, maybe more than 100,000. So, yeah, how did they do it? Like, what were some of the things that they did? Yeah. And I

Tonille Miller  16:26

think that I’ll go through a couple of them, I think these apply to anybody, right? This can be any kind of culture change. And even when applying, I think, just driving different initiatives, like new initiatives in the organization, and even different change management projects. But it’s kind of like thinking about it very holistically as the organization. So there’s everything from a very clear vision such and it has been an amazing leader, I think we’ve seen he’s really walked the talk this whole time. So that’s really I would say, If you could pick one thing, that’s number one, the leader, not just him, but like in general, all the leaders, they need to be walking that talk. And they need to be very clear, crystal clear, actually, on what that is, and what the expectation is, because it’s one thing for a leader to get up and kind of, you know, hey, here’s this bold kind of abstract vision, we want to be more innovative help us that’s not really going to help anybody because it sounds great. But we don’t really know what that means. What does that mean, for me as a random coder or engineer? I don’t know. So the point is, starting with that very bold, exciting vision leaders are walking the talk. But then leaders are actually storytelling over and over and over, holding people accountable. We’re living up to what those are very clear expectations and values or behaviors that we’re looking for to change. Once we, once we tell everybody clearly what those things are and why we’re doing it and what you know, like, what’s the whole point and what it’s going to bring us, then we need to keep repeating that in different ways, and telling the stories and holding people accountable in all kinds of ways the organization already operates are really embedding it as much as you possibly can into the way that the organization operates. That’s maybe bonuses and incentives. One of the things I believe they did was, instead of just rewarding people, as individual contributors, which is what most people most companies do, they actually built in, I think, a metric for different incentives. And bonus is like how did you help? Like, you get to answer questions around how you helped other teams that year, not just how you met your numbers, or did whatever, but it was really focused on, here’s a metric for how you’re helping others. And that would be part of your performance review. And so building that stuff into how we already work. And then there was a lot of different coaching, and training for managers of like, well, how do you drive this on the ground every day, right? Because this is gonna, this needs to come out and be top of mind and your one on ones, this needs to be top of mind. And when you grow and develop your people, the way that you hire people, if you’re the HR person, you know, that kind of thing. So it really building it into a lot of those systems that already exist. And keeping that drumbeat going because a lot of problems, or a lot of problems, I think come from either trying to change a culture or trying to drive any kind of initiative is we think we launched it you were done. No, we’re not done. That’s when we start. And so it has to keep on going. And again, incenting people for doing the right behaviors and kind of sharing with them why the ones that they’re doing if they are wrong, why they’re wrong, and what we want to be doing instead. So just keeping that top of mind in that very holistic way, I think why they’ve been so successful.

Aydin Mirzaee  19:09

Hey, everyone, just a quick pause on today’s episode to tell you about something that we’ve been working on that we’re super excited about. It’s no secret that, you know, meetings have been on the rise since the pandemic, there are studies that showed that in some organizations, people are spending as much as 250% more time in meetings. And there hasn’t been a solution out there to really tackle this problem. At its heart. Some companies are doing interesting things. Shopify, for example, is now incorporating a meeting cost calculator into all of the meetings that are booked. And so whenever someone’s trying to book a meeting, they get to see the cost of that meeting. And what we’ve decided to do at Fellow is take this idea of a meeting cost calculator and make it available for everyone for free. And we’re calling it our Meeting Cost Calculator, it integrates with your Google Calendar. So if you’re on a Google Calendar, what you can do is go to Fellow.app/calculator. And what it’s going to do is, it’s this extension, you install it, super easy. And when you do, you’ll be able to see the cost of every meeting that you’re attending. And so what this does at an organizational level, and it’s very easy to install organization wide, your IT administrator can very easily do this. And when you do this, every person in your company, when they’re bout to book a meeting, they’ll be able to see the cost of that particular meeting. And really, the intention here is to make it easy for people to really think carefully about the people that they invite to the meeting, how large the meeting is going to be, and really, the purpose—and make sure that time that is organized through this meeting is actually going to be time well spent. And so we’re very excited to announce this, it’s easy to get, you can go to Fellow.app/calculator, get the extension and get it for your team, it’s free to use. And if you like what you see there, we have a series of other things that we built along these lines with that extension, we’re calling the Meeting Guidelines. And it’s a series of other things that help change organizational behavior around meetings in your company. But start with the Calculator. It’s really cool. And when you try it, let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the episode. One of the things that I think you also talk about is how feedback plays a role in all of this. So yeah, we’d love to hear your thoughts on that. And if there are any stories, examples, case studies on how to do that effectively. 

Tonille Miller  21:47

Absolutely. And I love it, you asked this because actually, the example I’ll give you is Microsoft again. So for better or worse, they just did it right. But they actually brought in Dr. David Roth and the NeuroLeadership Institute and his team when they worked on this too, because what they were finding is that and I’m not sure how much your audience knows about this. But like, there’s actually neuroscience that shows that when we say hey, I have some feedback to give you or something along those lines, people, their brain, the amygdala goes crazy. And it’s like this fight or flight response. And so they actually had to do all this research together with David and the team to understand, okay, let’s find a better way to do that. So we’re not triggering that response. And so I’ll go through a couple of things here. But first of all, I just want to say it’s absolutely critical, because if you think of like any elite performer in any realm, whether it’s an athlete, or it’s a musician, or whoever it is like you, they’re constantly getting feedback, they’re constantly watching game tape. They’re constantly getting coached. And they’re tweaking and pivoting based on that real time. And especially with our Gen Z and Millennial colleagues, like they’re used to getting feedback from the environment, right. So whether that’s from readings on an app, or their parents or their peers, or social media, like they’re so used to getting it real time. So because of those things, we really need to make sure that that kind of environment is in our performance management. And so with that, I would say number one, it’s critical to get feedback. And I can share some tools on this that I learned at PWC. But like I said, when they brought in Dr. David Roth at Microsoft, he basically, through their research, they found out that to not trigger that threat response, it was actually helpful to build into the culture as part of those behaviors we’re talking about that we’re rewarding and recognizing and practicing and role modeling is to actually have people proactively ask others for feedback. Because apparently, in your brain, when you’re actually asking others for feedback, you’re not as triggered by it as you would be if someone comes to you and says, I have feedback for you probably part of it is because you’re in control, technically, in your brain, like the autonomy is there. So that was something that they found. And they actually called it, I think, the perspectives program to take that feedback word out of the whole equation, too. So David, and the team really got into the weeds there, and found some great ways to tweak that. And I know that when I was at PwC, they had a huge campaign around this. And it was amazing, because it really gave us the language for asking for feedback. And they really operationalize this by first of all training, everybody having amazing leaders and champions really driving this and it’s like it was on top of mine, and every meeting every minute, all the time. So once we’re all trained, and we understand that it’s also role modeled all the time. And that’s absolutely key as well. And so that got the entire culture comfortable with asking for feedback and providing it up, down all around. And when it’s kind of like that, then it’s like, no one’s really triggered by it because everybody’s doing it. So it’s doesn’t feel like you’re being emotionally hijacked after a meeting. Someone’s saying I have feedback for you. Because we just know this is how we work and we all do it, and I can give it to you, you give it to me, etc. And we conveyed everybody in the beginning, like why we’re doing it is to make everybody better. So I know I just rattled a bunch of things off there, but those are some really great things that I’ve seen.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:42

Yeah. And I love the name perspective program. So does that mean people are more likely to say what was your perspective on you know, the way that this went versus, okay, got it. You got it? Yeah, sometimes these words have, I guess, hidden emotional responses and removing that from there. Question can make a big difference. And yeah, that’s super interesting. So people asked for feedback and use different terminology and wording around it. The other thing that I think you also talked about is just different leadership styles. I am curious about that as well, like, how does leadership style play into creating these cultural transformations?

Tonille Miller  25:22

This is such an important one. I’m so glad you asked this, because I think right now more than ever, I mean, it’s always I think it’s been coming for a long time. But we are really amidst a fundamental shift in leadership right now, from the way that leaders of 50 years ago, operated, or 100 years ago, operated, a lot of the same leadership style has, has just played out still. And so we’re so moving. So we’re so far away from that right now. And I think a lot of leaders that were born and raised in that environment, they don’t understand that this is not the time for that kind of a leader, and it’s not working anymore. They just know that it’s not working, but they don’t know why. And so what I would say is, for a lot of reasons, because number one, we’re in this very VUCA, volatile, uncertain world that everybody keeps hearing about number one, because of that, and then also pandemic technology, democratizing everything for so and because our younger colleagues are just not used to living in a world where the command and control works, all those factors, and probably plenty more means this is not the time for that, you know, in the past, that leader was really that expert, right? Like they were the most senior, they had all the answers again, and probably how I started as a manager, I was thinking I had all the answers. They told people what to do, etc. That doesn’t work today doesn’t work for so many reasons. Today, like the average CEO is not an engineer, they have no idea what it’s like to actually have all the answers to how to code or do all the things that the folks on our team are doing. So they can’t do that anymore. So today, the leaders role is really to, I think, connect the dots for their team members on a deeper level. So showing them like showing genuine concern for them as humans, first of all, and then connecting the dots. Because what the leader does have is wisdom and experience from other things, they have much more access to information and strategy at the top that isn’t always privy to the younger staff, or the more junior staff. So they have all this stuff. And what they need to be doing then is connecting those dots so that everybody on the ground court on the ground, knows where we’re going, they know why we’re going there. They know what’s been thought through how we’ve considered them all the things we thought through and then also inviting them into co-create with us, that is the role of the leader. So I think really connecting those dots, showing people the impact of their work, no matter how small of a task it is that builds meaning into the work for their people, being authentic, will obviously build trust very quickly. That’s very important in today’s world. And then I think, again, just really doing whatever they can to get the hurdles out of the way for their people, because their people are now the stars, not the leader. So the leader needs to get all the obstacles out of the way, and do whatever they can to really enable the people and facilitate the greatness of others. That’s my opinion on the leader of the New World.

Aydin Mirzaee  27:50

So let’s talk about connecting the dots. It makes sense. And it sounds like it’s also part of the storytelling that maybe we touched on a little bit in the beginning. But very practically speaking, if you’re the leader of a small or medium sized company, what do you need to do? And like? How do you go about connecting the dots for your team? How do you know what dots to connect?

Tonille Miller  28:13

Yeah, that is again, another great question. And I think that this is I like when we get real practical in the in this. And there’s multiple reasons why the connecting the dots is important. Number one, like I said, because not everybody on the ground has all the access to the information and the strategy that the leader does. So they because here’s my big thing is like, I think there’s a stat All right now we’re seeing how only 5% of employees understand or even know what their company’s strategy is. But yet we expect them to deliver on it every day, I’m thinking, how can they deliver on it if they don’t even know what it is or what it means to them? So we need to do that so that they can be kind of our army, right and drive the organization forward like they are. So there’s that piece. So they need to know that we need to share strategy, shared strategic priorities, like what are our what are our priorities this year as a company and why is that right? So that kind of information is very important. And then connecting the dots between the other thing is think of any organization. There’s all kinds of different changes happening in different departments at different times. And some people are impacted. Some are and people hear about it, oh, is that going to hit me or not? If there isn’t good change management and or leaders connecting the dots for people saying, Oh, I know you’ve heard about this project in it, this won’t really impact us. So don’t be stressed about that. Or I know you’ve probably heard about this thing we’re doing over here. In finance, this is going to impact us. I’ll give you more information as soon as I can. So like those kinds of dots are very important to connect as soon as possible. Because when people start hearing rumors, and they don’t have all the info, their brain starts making up stories, and it’s not going to help anybody. So those kinds of dots. The other dots, I think, are really important. And this is what I would say is one of the top jobs of any manager or leader of anyone would be being a meaning maker and you do that by connecting the dots. And what you do is you find ways again, you have to when you’re one on ones with people, you make sure you’re understanding at least to some level your micromanaging, but at least you know, at some level, what their tasks are every day. And then you connect what they’re doing every day to a bigger picture, a bigger vision, a bigger impact, because that’s what builds meaning that builds cohesiveness in the organization. So people understand, Oh, I thought my job kind of sucked, because I was just doing spreadsheets all the time. But you know, after my manager explained to me how, when I do the spreadsheets like this, and I checked them twice, or whatever we’re expecting people to do explain to people how what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. And them as a person doing it is actually impacting the customer in this great way. It’s bringing this customer joy in this way, it’s impacting the team over here. And another way because their inputs or the other team’s outputs, or vice, whatever the case may be, I mean, you can even bring it up to the level of how it impacts the community or the world. If you think about that very famous example with NASA and the janitor back, you know, when JFK was president, he was just literally a janitors job, you would not think that that would be super meaningful. But because the NASA did a great job of actually connecting the dots for everybody at every level of how any task they’re doing actually impacts putting a man on the moon, it actually, they have this thing called a ladder ladder to the moon or something like that, where they literally wouldn’t have on chalkboards. Back in the day, they would literally say, here’s our huge goal, putting a man on the moon, and then they would ladder down to how each role and task and department basically would contribute to that. So there’s a lot of ways you can do this connecting the dots, like I just described, but it needs to be happening, and it really doesn’t happen enough.

Aydin Mirzaee  31:27

I love it. And the ladder to the moon really gives you a visual understanding of what it is that you need to be doing. So again, getting very tactical here, who should do the connecting of the dots? Is it the CEO? Is it individual managers? Whose job is it to do that?

Tonille Miller  31:45

I would say it’s everybody. I mean, everybody, anyone who leads people, and honestly, if you want to get broader, it can be anyone because think about it, once we kind of start thinking this way, even if I’m an icy an individual contributor, if I start thinking in this way, because my manager has done this for me, and we’ve heard that CEO talk like for example, I’ll give you a very practical example. Let’s say I’m the CEO, and the townhall starts connecting dots, it’s really through storytelling, right conversation, storytelling, oh, I want to recognize the finance team, because they did this thing in their spreadsheets. And guess what, when they did these spreadsheets this way, or whatever, you have to get super detailed, but just kind of highlighting it. So people know what you’re talking about. Whatever that task was, the he just tells a quick story in the town hall or in an email or whatever the case may be. This impacts the client this way, or this did this right. And it also recognizes people, which is wonderful. And then maybe the manager in every one on one has at least one comment that connects the dots. So maybe it’s like, Hey, Joe, I know that you did this over here, you develop this code, guess what, now after a couple of months, we saw this out in the market, there’s this new product, this client was her first client, you know, we have this one piece of feedback, and we’re super happy, whatever the case may be, but literally just kind of getting your brain to think like that. And the more that this was a role model in the organization, even the individual contributors start thinking, Hmm, I’m already starting to think about how my work is an output, my output work is an input to the ops team, whatever, whatever the case may be. And then you know, that kind of thing in you’re kind of like already thinking that way in that and other thing about that is that it actually starts building not just meaning into the work, but also cohesiveness. And it breaks down silo thinking and that kind of thing, because your brain is already being wired up thinking of the broader organization as a system and the customer. And again, the community, perhaps that type of thing.

Aydin Mirzaee  33:23

Yeah, it’s very interesting that it really does become everybody’s job. And it’s not about what position you hold, I think everybody does play a part in it. And it does take what you’re doing and give meaning to it and make you understand where you fit, which is often a very, very important part of feeling fulfilled. Absolutely. One other thing that I know that you have talked about a lot, and you’ve done some interviews that we’ve seen on the topic, and this is around just making employees the top priority, investing in employee development, and their growth is a very important part of any leaders job. One of the questions that I had maybe I’ll ask this in a little bit of a nuanced way. I’ve heard people say things like your development is your responsibility, as you know, an individual and you know, other people think that you know, we’re going to help develop you. I think both of these two things probably are going to have some truth to it. But I’d love to get your take around employee development in general, like what does it mean to you? Whose job is it? And how do you develop employees?

Tonille Miller  34:30

Yes, this and this is actually a top of mine right now. I actually was listening to a podcast yesterday and I forget who the gentleman was, who was speaking, I think capelli was his last name. And he was talking about how the reason the economic reason, and I didn’t know this, the economic reason why a lot of companies don’t invest in training their people is because apparently on the balance sheet, when you think about how companies are taxed, and when they for accounting purposes, basically, for some reason, I guess they can and maybe I’m mistaken, but this is what he said and it made sense. They can’t go input training and development as an asset, even though we say people are an asset, they’re not apparently, according to accounting standards, they’re not, I guess. And so that’s why a lot of companies don’t spend as much money on that, because it’s actually just seen as a cost when they try to put it on the balance sheet. So that I thought was really interesting. But what I would say that probably is why a lot of companies are now kind of leaning towards that sign of saying, well, it’s your you develop yourself kind of thing. But here’s the beauty in today’s world with YouTube, tick tock, I mean, everything, everything is online. So the good news is that any person wants to develop themselves. I mean, look at this podcast, for example, how much free value comes from this podcast, to everybody who listens. So what I’d say is, first of all, we should all take it into our own hands, no matter what always be upskilling and learning and being curious, because first of all, it just keeps you young and fresh and alive and excited. But also, it’s going to make you much more valuable in the marketplace. But what I would say is, when it comes to development, one of our most essential human needs is to feel like we’re leveraging our strengths, growing, cultivating our potential, that kind of thing. And yet, I think the data was showing that only 5% of people feel like they’re actually meeting their full potential at work. And so we have companies on one hand, that are saying, oh, we need to get people to be more productive and more efficient and all this stuff, yet, no one feels like they’re being tapped to use their potential, their strengths. And that’s where a lot of burnout comes from. A lot of burnout is not about overwork, it’s actually about feeling underutilized. So I think this is a really big opportunity for companies. And I think there’s a lot of free, easy, practical, easy ways to do it. And we can talk about it. But I just I want to call that out. And also the fact that like, I think the data, Microsoft did the study, it showed that like 75%, I think it was a people would stay in the organization longer if they hadn’t more opportunities for learning and growth. And most of them, it sounds like over half of them said they are going to leave their company because they’re not getting that challenge. They’re not getting the growth. So I just want to bring that data out there to show people like this is important. It’s not just a nice to have, it’s not just the right thing to do. But we really do need to develop people. And so seeing that, what I would say is, there’s a lot of free. I mean, I think it’s chapter 13, if I’m not mistaken in my book, but like there’s so many easy ways to do it. So everything from like I said, job crafting, having those conversations with your people, as a manager to see where they want to grow and discuss nothing. And it actually makes your job easier, because then you get to delegate more. There’s so much like I said, free resources online, I think it was MasterCard, who actually has a career marketplace internally, so people could actually pick up gigs for a couple hours inside them inside the organization. And actually, I guess during the pandemic made it so that MasterCard did not have to lay off even one person because it’s going to hiring other people or laying people off, you’re actually able to have people take on additional gigs, besides their jobs that they wanted to they signed up for it. So that’s one way to do it. There’s apprenticeship programs that cost nothing cross mentoring, reverse mentoring, like there’s all kinds of different ways we can do it. But I would say it’s absolutely critical, not just for the business, but for the people as well.

Aydin Mirzaee  37:52

Yeah, super interesting. And we’re definitely going to link to your book and make sure that everybody can check out chapter 13, like you said, and everything else in the book, too. But this is a very important part. Because like you said, I think the expectations now are different for people coming into the workplace. They almost expected this stuff. And in a lot of cases, especially with the people who are going to be the high performers, right? They probably they may value this more than other things. And so if you want to get the best of the best, this development stuff is even more important. And you know, in general, like you think about it, you probably don’t want to hire the people who don’t want to develop either. So it’s Yeah, it makes sense. Invest in this stuff, for sure. to nail this has been an awesome conversation. We’ve talked about a bunch of different topics, some of the sound bites and things that I wrote down. I love how we started out by talking about delegating as a gift for development and how you use those questions in your one on ones to figure out what things people were interested in so that you could delegate those things. I love how we talked about the perspective program that Microsoft did. And the concept of asking for feedback so that the it doesn’t feel like something that catapulted into your direction, versus something that you’ve asked, we’ve talked about connecting the dots the ladder to the moon, and how burnout can come from being underutilized. So lots of awesome learnings and lessons today. The final question that we always like to ask is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks, or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Tonille Miller  39:34

Yes, thank you for the recap. I would say consistently role model the behaviors you want to see. Because whether you realize it or not as a manager, you’re almost like a parent and a child with a child in a sense that they catch everything you see. So it’s not even about what you say to them. It’s about what they see you do how they see you show up that kind of thing. And so the first sign that you’re not authentic, where you don’t have their best interests, they’re gonna see it right away. So I see that That’s really important. And again, as we mentioned earlier, I think the most one of the most important jobs of the modern leader is creating the meaning for your people in the organization. It’s just, it’s one of the most powerful ways to get them engaged and perform at super high levels. And it mitigates burnout. So again, the burnout thing, people we all feel it, but I think a lot of people don’t understand where it actually comes from and how you can mitigate it. And I think the easiest way to do it is just connect the dots make the meaning for your people, all that good stuff that we talked about.

Aydin Mirzaee  40:26

That’s great advice, and a great place to end it to thanks so much for doing this.

Tonille Miller  40:30

Thank you for having me.

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