Podcast: Leadership Amplitude Episode 8

Take a deep dive into leadership development and team optimization.

Talent management: Creating an engaging environment

It’s critical, first and foremost, to understand where your environment is, how it's changing and to stay on top of things.

Anna Slaydon: Do you know how to create an environment in which employees value their careers as much as you do yours? Let’s rejoin Chuck Gaskin in this final episode on talent management as he talks about creating career ownership through engagement.

I know as you were talking about relationships of trust, I heard you talk about competency and employees who they need to know that they can be competent in delivering on the vision. I heard you talk about environment, which I know is a big deal, especially in the space of enhancing employee engagement. So I’m wondering if you’ll talk to us a little bit more about creating an environment and leveraging engagement.

Chuck Gaskin: Like every leader on here, I look at a business and I think this business exists for a reason. And if it doesn’t exist for a reason, it won’t exist for long. And it exists in an environment where client or customer needs are ever changing, where the global economy is impacting the cost of goods delivered, it’s impacting the way we deliver healthcare, the way we build buildings, the way we pave roads. The list goes on and on and on. The way financial services are consumed and provided. So we’re living in that kind of environment as leaders and so it’s critical, first and foremost, to sort of understand where our environment is and how is it changing and to stay on top of that.

Because from an engagement standpoint, Anna, our talent, our team members, our colleagues are looking at us, and they’re wanting to know that we’re on top of things. They’re wanting to know that our senior leader is someone they can believe in, they can trust, and that she or he is gonna lead this organization in a positive way toward positive outcomes and my career, which it may not be guaranteed with this company, my career is more secure because of the senior leadership vision and the actions that that senior leader, that executive, she and her team take on a day to day basis. So it really begins there. That has to be present.

Now, that has to be in place, Anna, for me to willingly give the very best I have. A lot of this,—I like to use the word it’s an algorithm. It’s not a simple arithmetic function. It’s a true algorithm. When we think of talent, we think of all the different things that impact people at work and what will release their potential. What will release their engagement, Anna, and what can hold it back. And again, it’s an algorithmic kind of challenge. It’s not as simple as saying, “Well, if you do this, if you push this button, then this outcome will occur.”

Any consultant or any company that would tell you that is not giving you your money’s worth. I’ll just leave it at that. We look at it really as it’s a complex organization and it is a system. My former manager, Tim Davis, who’s head of human system at BB&T, he taught me that that it’s a system and systems have all kinds of issues impacting them. So how do we get the best out of our people in that kind of environment and with all these challenges, this algorithm, how do we do that? Okay, here we go.

Let me talk business with you. Your people, number one, they’re adults and they are people who value their careers. They want to be successful. They want to achieve great things. They have families that are dependent on them in many cases. They have a vision of how they can grow and how five years from now, they can be in a better position to maybe buy a nicer home or they can be in an area where they’re having a higher contribution on society. There are all these visions that we people have. I’ll tell you a very quick funny story, Anna, that I’ll absolutely take you to the finish line as I complete this story.

Number of years ago, I was invited to speak on employee engagement before the top leaders of BB&T. And this was back when John Allison was chief executive officer of BB&T. He was in the audience and not only was he in the audience but he was on the front row and he was right in front of me when I got up to speak. Now, also in the audience, Anna, was my manager at that time, Tim Davis. His manager, Rob Green, and then Rob reported to John. So you might say I had the whole food chain in the room with me and there were a bunch of other managers as well.

And I was speaking about employee engagement and it was one of those times in my career where I, as it came out of my mouth, I thought, “Chuck, the next thing out of John’s mouth might tell you whether you have a job tomorrow or not.” So what did I say? Well, John was there and everyone and I was talking about employee engagement and I said this statement and I remember just like I just said it. I looked at John and I said, “John, with all due respect, sir—” now he was CEO. I had enough good sense to call him sir. John’s an incredible guy. I looked at him. I said, “John, with all due respect, sir, your career is no more important to you than mine is to me.”

Now, in the seconds that followed that, Anna, it seemed like minutes or maybe an hour, I looked at Tim’s face. Tim, you’ll remember, was my manager. There was not a blood cell in any capillary in his face. His entire face went white. Rob looked at me like—Rob was his manager—Rob looked at me like, “Gaskin, you better hope John’s okay with what you just said.” So they’re both looking at me with that kind of look and John looked at me and I loved what he said. Now, remember, my assertion was, “John, with all due respect, sir, your career is no more important to you than mine is to me,” and I said it with that inflexion and that way. And John looked at me and he said, “You better be right.”

Now, I want our audience to hear that, our listeners to hear that for a minute. That’s what leaders can say. Leaders can look at their talent and say, “Your career better be as important to you as mine is to me.” This isn’t a pay function. This is a meaning, purpose, fulfillment function and an employee ought to be able to look at you and you look at him or her and both of you be able to make that statement. Now, there’s a lot of power in that and I’ll never forget the lesson that I learned from John’s response. “Chuck, you better be right.”

Do you create that kind of environment for your employees? Do you treat them where they will willingly give you the same amount of gumption and energy and enthusiasm to their job that you’re giving to yours? Now, think about that equation. That’s a one equals the other, right? It’s a direct equality. Do your employees look at you and do they see that kind of leader? Here’s the question. When your employees look at you, do they see a woman, a man whose heart is in it? Who still believes as much in this company as they did when they were first assigned the role?

And I look at my team, I’m the leader, I look at them and I say, “I see these people that have enormous potential and I haven’t tapped all of it yet but I can now look at them and say, “These are people who I know. I understand. I’ve listened to them. I understand what they bring to the table. I’ve got a feel for some potential they have that maybe they don’t ever realize they have and I’m going to create an environment under my leadership, relationships of trust, and boy, am I trustworthy? People look at me and they know I’m trustworthy.

And I create this kind of vision for the company and I look at my people and I say, “I want you to love what you’re doing as much as I love what I’m doing.” And you know what? We’re gonna do it together. We’re gonna do it with enthusiasm and zeal and we’re gonna work hard and you’re gonna love working here because I’m not gonna have to worry about retention. I’m not gonna have to fuss about issues that many businesses have to fuss about or worry about or be concerned about. No. I’ve got a team. I’ve got a strong relationship of trust. I communicate well.

I’ve got a cohesive senior leadership team. I know the people on my team and they’re not my people. They are this company’s talent and they bring unique skills and abilities and knowledge to work everyday and they leave home to come here and they want to go back home and the end of the work period, whatever that may be, and be just as enthusiastic, if not more so because their work invigorated them. It energized them as opposed to draining them. That’s what engagement is, Anna.

Engagement is when I’m in that kind of environment, when I take my career just as seriously as does my leader and I come to work everyday feeling like I belong, that I’m valued, that I’m treated fairly, that people connect with me, the leader connects with me, that I’m kept at the top of my game. I’m competent at what I do and if the bottom fell out, for whatever reason, my business has given me, my company has given me the best insurance policy it possible could and that is the end— it’s not my health insurance. It’s not a life insurance policy. It’s the policy of being equipped to take my talent and deploy it in multiple other places where I can provide for my family, where I can continue my career path and reach great things but you know what? Just like I don't want to cash in on my life insurance policy not anytime soon—and I wouldn’t cash in on it. My beneficiaries would. I don’t want them to cash in on it any time soon but I’ve got it.

Well, in my career, it’s the same thing. The career insurance I want my company to give me is to equip me to be the very best I can be and yes, I can work other places. Of course I could because I’m talented. I’m able. I’m enthusiastic about what I do but I will not leave. And why would I not leave? Not only will I not leave but I will stay with enthusiasm and energy to do the very best I can do, to give the very best I have because this is where I want to be and I know that they will always keep me at the top of my game and they will always provide me the very best leadership and direction they possibly can and that is the kind of company, that’s the kind of entity, the kind of organization that employees want to be a part of. Question is—is that you and is that your company?

Anna Slaydon: Thank you, Chuck Gaskin, for that wonderful series on talent management. You know, Chuck asks some very important questions there at the end. Are you creating the engaging environment for your employees? The truth is if you aren’t feeling engaged, it’s hard to create a culture of engagement. If you listened in and you had an honest moment with yourself when you realized that you aren’t engaged, maybe you’re tired, burnt out, stressed out, or just plain hurt, the good news is you don’t have to figure it out on your own.

The BB&T Leadership Institute offers a number of excellent programs for leadership development, talent development, and employee engagement. I would especially recommend our Mastering Leadership Dynamics program. You’ll stay at our beautiful campus for five days developing a deeper understanding of yourself, your leadership patterns, your impact on others, and you’ll increase your resilience. It is the perfect way to reenergize that leader within you. Register online at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com.

Tune into our next episode as we kick off the series on leadership purpose with Dr. Sally Woods and Dr. Chris Smith from The BB&T Leadership Institute. And if you’ve got a minute, please make sure to rate and review our podcast. We certainly appreciate it! Show notes and additional information can be found at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com. Leadership Amplitude is a podcast production of The BB&T Leadership Institute. All rights reserved.

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