On this episode of Punk Rock HR, I’m joined by Mike Sipple Jr. He’s the CEO and co-founder of the Talent Magnet Institute, an organization that helps to build and invest in people.
“I’m all about helping develop leaders, developing cultures that people thrive in and can bring out their whole self and best self,” Mike explains. Mike and I discuss what talent management means in the age of COVID-19 and what businesses can do to realign their values and attract the best talent.
Listen in to hear us talk about what talent management strategy is all about, how to get it right and champion progress, and what it takes to ensure that employees don’t feel like they are taking their career journeys alone.
What Is Talent Management in the Age of COVID-19
It’s unfortunate that the world has to fall apart for human resources leaders to wake up and pay attention to their top talent. But that’s what it took. And we aren’t done yet.
Mike sheds light on what we overlooked for too long, when it comes to employee engagement and performance management. “I believe that we’re finally starting to understand the value of the individual lived experience inside the room. So in the age of the coronavirus, we’re having to really personalize our leadership to everyone in the organization because the needs are so great and so complex, everybody’s living a different experience, and it’s personalization.”
So, why did it take a crisis like a pandemic to change our talent management processes? “Unfortunately, people don’t respond, right? People move slowly,” Mike says. “People don’t want to take the risk. They don’t want to be uncomfortable, and change creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone.”
Change is hard. No one likes hard things. But, change is necessary. And we have to develop the skills to make those changes.
“It forced all of us to think differently. It forced all of us to evaluate those dusty employee handbooks [whose] policies are useless. They’re 28 years old. Why are we treating people and responding to people this way? And it takes a crisis sometimes, unfortunately.”
What’s Next for Talent Management?
It’s not like COVID-19 is going to be the last crisis that we all endure in our lifetime. What could leaders do now to update their workplace plan to prepare for the next crisis that’s going to happen? What sort of changes should we be making to business strategy?
What is top of mind for the best and brightest leaders in the world of talent management?
“We are seeing organizations and leaders thinking through their intentionality of how they’re going to lead, really strongly evaluating their culture and what they’re proud of and what they’re not proud of.” Mike adds. “We’ve also seen organizations evaluate, how can we continue to re-onboard and re-recruit talent to our organization? Because, if not us, someone else will.”
“The other significant opportunity that we see leaders leading into is communications.” Mike continues. “We’ve been communicating in a way to deliver content to everyone in a consistent, formal fashion, but we’ve been doing it in a manner where people don’t have the opportunity to provide feedback. And now employees are giving feedback.”
I totally agree with Mike. One thing that is really wrong with our society today is that we have a lot of telling, a lot of emoting and not enough listening. And one of the things I believe that leaders could do for the sake of society in the 21st century is creating a culture of listening.
Employees Shouldn’t Take the Journey Alone
I have so many friends myself who get into a leadership role or are running a firm, running a boutique agency and really feel alone, even though they’re surrounded by people all day long. And when you remind them to reach out to other executives, they’re like, “I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time.” It’s so human to not want to reach out, but it’s so essential, especially the further up the corporate food chain or leadership chain you get.
One of the hindrances that Mike points out is turning off “that friendship circle.”
“We want to be a change in the world. People should not feel like they’re on this journey of leadership alone, but the adage that some may say is old school — ‘It’s lonely at the top’ — It is 1000% truth,” Mike says. “Who are you going to turn to if you’re the CEO and you have fears and concerns? Your board? I mean, they’re judging you. They’re looking at you through a lens of performance.”
Mike isn’t waiting for the next crisis. “It’s one of the motivations that I bring with me of my 20 years’ of experience. I want to create a community and an environment where people feel safe, and they actively turn to, and they get positively built into, while they’re here.”“We need to create an environment where people understand that leadership is a journey and they don't have to walk it alone.” ~ Mike Sipple Jr. Hear more about effective talent management on Punk Rock HR! Click To Tweet
People in This Episode
Mike Sipple Jr.:
For so long, corporate organizations prided themselves in being great communicators. We’ve created functions around it. And what that means is all we’ve been doing is telling. We’ve not been listening. So we’ve been communicating in a way to deliver content to everyone in a consistent, formal fashion, but we’ve been doing it in a manner where people don’t have the opportunity to provide feedback. And now employees are giving feedback.
Hey everybody, I’m Laurie Ruettimann, welcome to Punk Rock HR. My guest today is Mike Sipple Jr. He’s the co-founder and CEO of the Talent Magnet Institute. The Talent Magnet Institute is a membership community and a consultancy. They provide leaders with tools, resources and support to develop a holistic approach to leadership. Through the institute, leaders like you learn how to develop their people, attract and retain key talent, develop healthy corporate structures and elevate their organization’s success.
In today’s conversation with Mike Sipple, Jr, we’re talking about it all: expert talent attraction strategies, executive coaching, mentorship, proactive leadership — all with the goal of moving people and organizations to become a talent magnet. I love this conversation with Mike Sipple Jr. because he is a fellow podcaster. He’s also a speaker, a thought leader, a writer and just an all-around good guy. So if you’re interested in the intersection of leadership and human performance, sit back and enjoy this chat with Mike Sipple Jr.
Hey, Mike, welcome to the podcast.
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Laurie, thank you so much for having me.
Oh my goodness, dude. It’s my pleasure. We’re longtime friends. And before we get started today, why don’t you tell everybody who you are and what you’re all about?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Sure. I’m Mike Sipple Jr., and I’m the CEO and co-founder of the Talent Magnet Institute. And I’m all about helping develop leaders, developing cultures that people thrive in and can bring out their whole self and better.
Well, before we get started talking about the wide world of leadership today, you are a leader and you work amongst leaders, you train them and we’re in an age of COVID. It’s not gone away as many of us had hoped it would. So tell us about leadership in the age of the coronavirus.
Mike Sipple Jr.:
So the good thing is, Laurie, I believe that we’re finally starting to understand the value of the individual lived experience inside the workplace. So in the age of the coronavirus, we’re having to really personalize our leadership to everyone in the organization because the needs are so great and so complex, everybody’s living a different experience, and it’s personalization. As much as I say I wish it wouldn’t have happened, I am glad to say that, because it did happen, I believe leaders are responding.
And not all, right? I’ve been hearing conversations from some that they’re going to go back to the old way, but what I’ve told them as well then be prepared because people are going to move their chairs off your deck onto someone else’s.
Why did it take a crisis to change the function of leadership?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Unfortunately, people don’t respond. People move slow. People don’t want to take the risk. They don’t want to be uncomfortable, and change creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone. You saw, within two weeks, organizations that would have never have agreed to remote work were all-remote. Millions of organizations that responded overnight because their business had to, it forced them, it’s forced all of us to think differently.
It forced all of us to evaluate those dusty employee handbooks that, like, policies are useless. They’re 28 years old. Why are we treating people and responding to people this way? And it takes a crisis sometimes, unfortunately.
Yeah. That’s really well said. It’s unfortunate that the world has to fall apart for leaders to wake up and go, oh, let’s catch up with best practices in the 21st century. But that’s what it took. I wonder what leaders could be doing now to think about the next crisis that’s going to happen, because it’s not like COVID-19 is going to be the last thing that we all endure in our lifetime. So what’s the best and brightest leader thinking about right now?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
So, we are seeing organizations and leaders thinking through their intentionality of how they’re going to lead, really strongly evaluating their culture and what they’re proud of and what they’re not proud of. What are the things they want to change and what are the things they want to keep the same? Everybody’s needing to evaluate that. We’re seeing individuals treat people in a way that they, the individual, wants to be treated. So you’re hearing a lot of juxtaposition of the golden rule to the platinum rule. We’re also seen in organizations evaluate, how can we continue to re-onboard and re-recruit talent to our organization? Because if not us, someone else will.
The other significant opportunity that we see leaders leaning into is communications. For so long, corporate organizations prided themselves in being great communicators. We’ve created functions around it. And what that means is all we’ve been doing is telling. We’ve not been listening. So we’ve been communicating in a way to deliver content to everyone in a consistent, formal fashion, but we’ve been doing it in a manner where people don’t have the opportunity to provide feedback. And now employees are giving feedback.
Again, I just described what leaders who win are doing. Not all will respond this way. I would say, shame on them. If you’re not being thoughtful, intentional and personal with your leadership, you’re going to be left behind. And maybe, again, just maybe that those leaders should reevaluate whether they should be leading or not.
Well, that’s a bold statement. And you know, I love the position that you take, that the best leaders are listening. Because one of the things that’s really wrong with our society today is that we have a lot of telling, a lot of emoting and not enough listening. And one of the things I believe that leaders could do for the sake of society in the 21st century is really create a culture of listening. Because what you learn at work, you can take home, you can take back into your communities. What do you think about that?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
So we talk often, Laurie, about, we want to help leaders succeed, not just at work. There’s too many organizations like ours that are solely focused on basically just squeezing the limit a little harder to get a little bit more lemon juice out. That’s not what we should be doing in the workplace. We should be helping people succeed in relationships, work, community and life. To your point, if I create a culture where my employees dread coming to work, they’re going to carry that negativity into their personal lives outside of work.
If I create a culture where people are energized and thriving, happy and feeling as though that I care about all of them, their whole self, they’re going to show up at home happier, more engaged and in the community in a better spirit, right? Maybe people will actually smile more in the grocery store or smile more as they’re driving. That’s the kind of environment we need to be setting as leaders. That’s the tone and the expectation that everyone should have. And if you’re not at it, I do say, if you’re not in one like that, you could be the change that your organization has been waiting for.
Don’t wait for a hero to swoop in. You are the hero, and go get it.
Boy, that really speaks to me because I think about my dad, who worked at the phone company for what felt like a million years and had this middle management job and always felt as if it was draining him. And he felt as if he couldn’t perform at his best and none of his leaders cared about him. And part of me wanted to say, well, Tom, you’re responsible for your own employee experience. But then I think about what it must’ve been like to show up to work every day and feel demoralized. And he came home with no energy for the stuff he loved.
And the phone company is a really rigorous example of an old school, bureaucratic utility. But so many organizations still operate like that. They’re like the phone company of 1986, but only in 2021. What do you say to employees who are living that experience right now, who are like my dad and just feel so drained?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Yeah. So my encouragement is, I mean, we only have one life. Time is not on your side. And if you’re living in toxicity, it is time to move on. The only way leaders are going to wake up to changing their behavior is if they can’t find anyone, right? And maybe the pain will have to be so great that they’ll have to start reflecting inward, and a lot don’t. A lot view people as individuals, as disposable, and people are not disposable. So if you’re living in one of these environments, again, we always say, if you always are a part of the equation, you might be part of the problem.
But if you’re living in an environment that you’re like, I haven’t changed, and I didn’t change my last role because I loved it, but I moved into this new role and wow, this is toxic. There’s no way to live or a way to work in a toxic environment.
Well, Mike, as we kind of move forward with the conversation, I wonder what drives you to focus on building new leaders and organizations in the way that you do? Why do you love your work?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Well, so I spent 20 years running a boutique executive search firm. I’m still the president of that firm and have an amazing team that are leading that into the future. And I have sat in the boardroom. I’ve been in the room where it happens, where people share the good and the deeply sad experiences that we live as leaders. All the way from having a dear friend just a couple of years ago commit suicide, who the world would have viewed was on top of the world. But he shared with me just a few months before his passing that, “Mike, I don’t know who to turn to because I’m always on, I’m always on stage.”
And that motivates me to create a safe place, to create a place that’s not just helping you be a better performer. We don’t need to be a better performer. You need to be a better you. So what motivates me is helping bring out the greatest good of the humans who interact with our brand, that engage us. I know I’ve been invested in by lots of mentors. In fact, Laurie, last time I was on your podcast, we were talking about the art of mentoring. I just had a leader this week bring it up again, that she was listening to that episode.
And with all of that being said, we need to create an environment that, people understand that leadership is a journey and they don’t have to walk it alone.
I love that because, and we can go several different ways in this conversation. I think first and foremost, people forget that leaders are just regular ordinary individuals, too. They may function at a different level. They may have different responsibilities, but at their core, they are blood and guts and meat and potatoes just like you and me. And it’s not like they’re somehow immune to society’s issues of depression, anxiety, pandemic fatigue. In fact, it may wear on them a little heavier because of their elevated role. What do you think about that?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
100% agree. The pressure of the world is on. When you have responsibilities in life, the pressure’s on. It’s only elevated when tens or hundreds or thousands of faces are looking to you for direction, and we need to take care of ourselves. So what we’re trying to do is invest in that next generation, those managers, those senior leaders that are coming up, to know this is the future culture and environment we want to set. And we want to help take the pressure off that leader that feels the way that I described that my good friend felt, that I’m always on.
It is what someone accepts when they move into the leadership role, but we’ve got to remember that we’ve got a community around us to do leadership in life with.
That point about community is something that I was thinking about as you were telling the story of your friend because I have so many friends myself who get into a leadership role or are running a firm, running a boutique agency and really feel alone, even though they’re surrounded by people all day long. And when you remind them to reach out to other executives, they’re like, “I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time.” It’s so human to not want to reach out, but it’s so essential, especially the further up the corporate food chain or leadership chain you get.
Mike Sipple Jr.:
A mentor of mine, her name is Jean Lauterbach, she’s a long time Vistage chair. She shared with me the year before I became president, “Mike, when you get promoted, your friendship circle is going to shrink.” You’re going to have less time to invest with fewer people, so you’re going to have to just think through where you’re going to spend your time. And unfortunately, I believe a lot of leaders shut off that friendship circle.
I was with a leader just last year and I was talking to him about when was the last time you talked to and interacted with your 3 a.m. friends? No matter what time of the day, no matter what circumstance, who would you call if the worst case situation happened? And his feedback to me, Laurie, was, it’s probably been 20 years since I just randomly picked up the phone and called one of those friends. We don’t want that. We want to be a change in the world.
People should not feel like they’re on this journey of leadership alone. But the adage that some may say is old school and I don’t want to talk about it. It’s lonely at the top. It is 1000% truth. Who were you going to turn to if you’re the CEO and you have fears and concerns? Your board? I mean, they’re judging you, they’re looking at you through a lens of performance. If you’re the head of HR, are you supposed to, quote-unquote, “have all of the answers”?
That’s the pressure that we’re living under and that’s the reason why community matters so much. And it’s one of the motivations that I bring with me of my 20 years’ experience. I want to create a community and an environment where people feel safe, and they actively turn to, and they get positively built into, while they’re here.
I think too about the women in my life who are leading companies, leading departments, and there’s this insane pressure these days to be a contributor at work, to be responsible at home, to be a caregiver and all the complexities that go with that. It doesn’t shock me that we’re losing so many women and women leaders from the workforce right now because we’ve just asked too much. So talk to me a little bit about women and leadership right now. And are you optimistic? Are you pessimistic? When are we going to change things and can they ever come back into the workforce?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Yeah, I certainly hope so. I mean, the statistics are staggering. They don’t even make sense, with the latest data that’s coming in of how many men to women, what that ratio looks like. Unfortunately, as I mentioned around the emergency state that we all hit into in March 13th or so of 2020, that should have been a catastrophic event, the fact that we lost so many women in the workforce. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that feels like it’s been dusted under the rug. And the only way we’re going to change that is to be the change.
So we need more women in leadership who are in those roles today to ensure their environments don’t create such a situation where so many people have to go back and stay at home. Just the dynamics. I mean, I can tell you that I had several women leaders in the last year call me and say, “Mike, because they changed our school schedule again, I’m going to have to resign from my job.”
One of my team members said many years ago, you can tell that men are most engineers building automobiles. Because if we had more women as the engineers building automobiles, we would have a place to put our purse. We wouldn’t always have to throw it in the back seat or put it on the floor. That’s the same thing with workforce. We need more women to construct the environment that supports women so that the culture of leadership changes.
It’s the same thing with leaders of color. We need more leaders of color to change the environment for leaders of color. And leaders like you and I are striving every day to create that change. We have a community of us that are rallying the troops, doing everything we can to be that change.
Well, your life’s work right now is all about developing those leaders. So tell us a little bit about how you do that and the Talent Magnet Institute operates.
Mike Sipple Jr.:
So basically, we have designed what we call our holistic model of leadership that’s all framed around a proprietary system called Becoming a Talent Magnet. And if you go to our about page, talentmagnet.com/about, we actually have an interactive flywheel on our page that shares, like, strategy and purpose is the center hub of the spokes. We have to get that done well. But how many organizations do you know that say they have a strategy and have done nothing to align humans to the strategy?
Mike, almost every organization is like that. Come on now.
Mike Sipple Jr.:
That’s right. So what we basically do is design it that you have to have strategy and purpose aligned to your people strategy. So what wraps around the hub of the spokes is quadrants, leadership quadrants that we invest in. And what we do is figure out, where do you need to start? Based on the assessment, where can we help you start in your leadership journey? Everything ultimately links back together as a beautiful flywheel, and it ends with the phrase of “ambassadors.” We believe that the culture and the experience that people have inside your organization, we define culture as the thousands and thousands of interactions that people have each and every day in your organization.
The combination of all of this done well is brand ambassadors, is people who are raving fans of your culture. And basically, we help people put on that mindset to understand that everything I do should be about helping people feel valued, heard and understood. I need to align organizational design and strategy to human behavior and motivation. And that’s what creates the culmination of success and significance in today’s world.
It’s really interesting, both bespoke training for the individual, for the emerging leader or the established leader, but also accessible in a way that they can go on any platform. They can use any device and really get this training and have access to it and start to improve their skills almost immediately. Correct?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Yes. What we say is we want to be your leadership partner in your pocket. So we’re on an app. We even go so far to create wallet-sized discussion cards that people can just utilize and ask questions to further get to know their team and create engagement in real time in the workplace. So we’re creating tools to make leadership easier. Leadership needs to be easier and quit creating these big, robust systems that I can’t start implementing until I’m at the end of it. Our role is to help you today — your first day on our platform or your 300th day on our platform — to be able to take resources and tools that you can start implementing today to help you be a better leader and help people on your team feel more valued, heard and understood.
What I love about you, Mike, is that you have a goal to create leaders in this world, not just because it’s part of your business, but because it’s part of what drives you. And if I remember correctly, you have a number goal, don’t you?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
Well, so one of our objectives — you know, I say my only goal is to get the definition of leadership to change worldwide — but we certainly would love to have a million people on our platform. And we’re striving for it every day, from the board, the advisors, the friends, the relationships that we have to the organizations and partners that we’re focusing on. We want to change the way the world defines leadership.
Well, as we start to wrap up the conversation, what do you want to leave our audience with today? Thinking about leadership, thinking about their own journey or just anything related to the world of people?
Mike Sipple Jr.:
So what I would encourage you to do is take pause. Think about what can you do right now to help yourself? Be proactive, start planning. Even if you have to plan 60 days out, what are the things that I’m going to do today to be more intentional? What are the things that I need to accept today that’s not comfortable? The things that I’ve heard in my past, and I’ve heard through performance feedback or relational feedback that like, maybe I should actually start paying attention to that? Stop thinking about the way you want to be treated, but the way that others want to be treated.
Help other people succeed, and you will succeed. So I want to leave everyone with those thoughts. I also, Laurie, want to offer anyone that is a part of your network and community to take a trial of the work that we do. So if you go to talentmagnet.com/trial, I encourage you to let us know that Laurie connected us. And Laurie, thank you so much for your relationship. I thank you so much for your support. Being an entrepreneur is not easy, and I’m glad I don’t have to walk it alone.
Mike, thanks again for being a guest today and as always for being a friend, as well.
Hey everybody. I hope you enjoyed the conversation on Punk Rock HR this week. Now for more information, all the notes, all the highlights, all the resources, you know where to go. You can head on over to lurieruettimann.com/podcast. Now that’s all for today, and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.