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Heart Centered Leadership Podcast: Episode 2 with Ben Wood

Human achievement expert Michelle Steffes of IPV Consulting and host of the Reframe and Rewire podcast is back with the second episode of the Heart Centered Leadership series! Join guest Ben Wood of The Right Place as he discusses with Michelle what it takes to be a successful leader in the digital age, and how feeling appreciated at work can have a positive impact on your home life too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get podcasts so you never miss an episode!

Michelle:
Welcome to Reframe and Rewire, greatness through daily routine. This podcast is designed to alter your mindsets and transform your day to day from the second you open your eyes until you close them at night, adapting what I would call a success routine. This series is liable to change your life and it’s never the big things that you do, but the littlest things you do every day that make the biggest difference. And now on to the podcast. Thank you for joining.

Michelle:
Welcome back to the podcast as we continue in this series on Heart Centered Leadership We’ve got a special guest today Ben Wood! Ben Wood has four years at Western Michigan University, a BBA in business, and he’s also licensed and certified in OSHA 10. He has spent a lot of time in leadership as a general manager in sales forĀ  Aquest Machining and then eight years and 11 months at The Right Place as a business development specialist.

Ben Wood definitely has a heart for people and I admire who he is and his heart for helping people become the best version of themselves. But I’ll let Ben Wood introduce himself a little bit as well as we enter into the podcast today. I think you’re really gonna enjoy what he has to share with us. So without any further ado, Ben Wood, welcome to the podcast.

Ben:
Thank you, Michelle. It’s a pleasure to be here and always a pleasure to meet with you.

Michelle:
Tell us a little bit about you and how you developed a passion for Heart Centered Leadership.

Ben:
Well, I have a manufacturing background and about nine years ago, I switched into a consultative position. So I got to see what leadership looks like within four walls and outside the four walls so I can get a third party perspective and have been on both sides of the coin, if you will. And one truth that I found out about organizations is everything starts with leadership. Irregardless of the processes or the systems that you have in place, leadership is where everything begins and respect must be had. So I became very passionate about that and I wanted to understand the different types of leadership and how it is displayed within organizations with the different organizations and then the results that you get from those different types of leadership. And when I learned about Heart Centered Leadership, I really wanted to focus on it because it’s just an amazing tool.

Michelle:
Oh, I really love that, Ed Benton, especially since you have so many different perspectives and the different styles of leadership. I think you’re going to offer a lot of rich content. In fact, I didn’t say this to you earlier, but if we If we really start getting into some deep stuff and we wanna keep going, we’ll see if we can schedule a part two.

Ben:
That would be absolutely fine with me.

Michelle:
Okay, we’ll see how it goes today. All right, so share your definition of Heart Centered Leadership. I’d love to hear more.

Ben:
My definition of Heart Centered Leadership is pretty simple. It’s just respecting and recognizing the uniqueness in all people. And to do that, there’s different elements that take place. know, different characteristics, if you will, of what that means. But it’s really recognizing people for who they are and what their passion is.

Michelle:
So do you have some elements that you might be able to share in terms of what you mean by that Heart Centered Leadership?

Ben:
I absolutely do. I think number one is really being interested in the success of others, both inside the workplace and outside. With that comes having grace, having empathy, showing your interest in people, valuing people, recognize each individual’s gift and what their strong suit is and putting them in positions of success. The list goes on and on. I could talk for 20 to 30 minutes about just these elements, but those are a few of them.

Michelle:
Those are powerful, Ben. I could see where that would bring success in any organization or even in a family for that matter. We could use a little bit more of that in our culture as well. Wouldn’t you agree?

Ben:
Absolutely. I mean, there’s, you know, when people feel valued, they value others. So to your point of, you know, bringing that to the family, it is, when you have a good day at work, when you feel like you’re trusted, respected, and your own uniqueness is recognized and promoted, you go home and you’re happy. And when you’re happy, you talk to people, whether it’s your kids, your spouse, your friends, your neighbors, and that just, I mean, it’s like a, it just, the happiness spreads and it allows you to motivate others.

Michelle:
It does, it does. And in just the effect that you have on others, I mean, the happiness piece is definitely going to be an inspiration of the people in your circle but to an entire organization or culture i think it can really increase productivity and I’ve talked about this many times in past episodes I’ve had with the listeners out there and the importance of you know having that positive psychology or neuropsychology in action that can really begin to affect everyone in a very positive way and bring about more profitability.

Ben:
Absolutely.

Michelle:
Yeah. So, I guess in a nutshell, what you’re talking about is building trust. So why do you think trust is a huge component to being a Heart Centered Leader? Just share maybe two or three major ways that leaders can develop trust in a team.

Ben:
I think, you know, my number one reason for trust is trust. developing trust and being able to build trust is building a relationship, knowing your employees. We’ve all heard the phrase, well, I’m not a person, I’m just a number, and I’m replaceable. When I hear those things, it really, I just shudder because it tells me very quickly that there’s failure on one side of the fence or the other. It’s either leadership or the employee themselves. But when you don’t have trust, you don’t have honesty. So I think building a relationship with your employees is the number one step to that. And then being honest with them, what are your expectations? Who are you? What type of person are you? What type of leader are you? And then understanding them and understanding what dynamics are between you and how to overcome them. And then getting to know them. really caring and asking questions and being personable.

Michelle:
These are all such basic principles and it would seem almost obvious. Yet so often when I work with companies, I hear leaders saying they don’t have time or that it’s unnecessary or that they need to realize they are valued because they’re getting paid. And I hear all of those reasons and though there is some validity to it, why is it overlooking the, I guess, the elephant in the room?

Ben:
Well, if I, can you rephrase that? Help me understand your question a little bit.

Michelle:
So, I mean, to me it seems obvious that you would wanna build those relationships and spend time with those people and ask questions that would help them feel like they have a sense of value, but yet so often leaders tend to have every reason as to why they cannot, either because they’re too busy or they just feel like that the value is already in the paycheck or perhaps in a review that happens once a year. So I guess, you know, speaking to a global audience, and you know we’re global, how would you really sell, if you will, trust to people that maybe don’t see the value in it the way that you and I do?

Ben:
That’s actually a very simple answer, and thank you for rephrasing that. To me, it’s simple, I should say. And it does take work, but instead of being me-centric, We want to move it to we-centric. We want to move it to a team dynamic. And I think leaders today are so caught up in deliverables, measurables, metrics, and the black and white, if you will. And what they fail to realize and focus on is without the people doing their jobs, you’re never going to hit those numbers. So because they have a one track mind, it’s hard for them. I mean, they’re so focused on those numbers and what their report out is gonna be to upper level management or to their superior. They forget to ask about the people doing the job and take time to get to know them because I’ve always said, I will take leadership and culture over lean and quality any day of the week. And that is exactly why, because if you have people that respect you and you respect them, you’re going to win no matter what because they want you to succeed. And they know that their success is your success and vice versa.

Michelle:
Wow, that was very, very well spoken. Thank you, Ben. I appreciate that. I just wish I could get that into the heart and mind of every leader in the world.

Ben:
It is a very, very hard thing to do. And I’ll tell you it’s different in every facility that I go into, but those people that have very little turnover, those companies that have, you know, smiling faces when you walk into the office or out on the shop floor, or, you know, in any industry. I mean, this covers everything, not just manufacturing, but when people are happy, you can tell right away. And, When you talk to them, they’re sincere about their answers. When you ask someone, “what is it like to work here?” They’ll tell you for 45 minutes how happy they are. Where on the other hand, it’s, you know, people are taught, if you will, to put on a show and say, hey, we have a guest in here. Make sure your workstation’s clean. Make sure if they ask you questions that you answer appropriately. And they’re almost… instructed on how to answer and you can tell. “Oh, it’s fun to work here. Yep, we’re really busy. So I can’t talk long, but yeah, it’s a great place to work. Have a nice day.” Yeah. And you can you can tell so it’s there.

Michelle:
Yeah, it is very obvious. And I have run into that many, many times and walking into new companies that I work with. So I’m really on the same page with you, Ben and such valuable information. So, you know, how about a brief story about a Heart Centered Leader, either maybe one that you worked for as an example, or maybe you’ve had an effect on a team by your own history.

Ben:
Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll give you two and I’ll try to do very, I’ll do it very quickly.

Michelle:
Okay.

Ben:
I did run a machine shop here in my hometown and about 11 years ago, I left that organization and to this day, I still have people that call me. Or a question about their family, a question about a situation, whatever it is. And they’ve told me, they said, we’ve never had a leader like you. I always told them never to use the word boss. So remove that, I was not your boss, I was your coworker, I was your teammate. They referred to me as a leader, which I’m okay with that, but they’ll still call me and they’ve said that, you’re the only guy that I’ve ever, worked with that seemed to care about other people. So, you know, from a personal standpoint, that means a lot to me as an individual, knowing that they still, they can still reach out to me 11 years later about personal issues, about what’s going on in their life.

And then, you know, a quick flip to an example that I have in my servicing territory, I have an organization, they had a very good employee, he had been there about a year. Um, he started showing up late wanting to leave early and then he asked for a lot of vacation time and he did not disclose why. And I was in a meeting with their leadership team and they didn’t know what to do with this employee. He’s a great employee, but he’s starting to act up if you will. And be a problem child. And I said, did you ask that individual why? And I think asking why is another element of Heart Centered Leadership, understanding people in their situation. So when they asked him why he had a family member living with him, that was terminal. They tried to go by the handbook and say, well, you only have this much time. You only have that much time. I started time off and I said, “well, you know, how’s your culture here?” And they said, “well, it’s good.” I said, “do people talk to people get along?” And they said, “nope, everybody comes in and does their thing. And that’s that.” And I said, “well, it’s amazing what a team can accomplish.”

Fast forward, they got the individual’s permission. They put a note on every door and said, you have a coworker who has a family member that is terminal. Any donations would be appreciated. He, you know, they can’t, he can’t be in two places at once. He can’t be at work and take care of his, uh, family member who needs 24 hour care. And everybody donated and they went outside of their employee handbook, broke the rules, if you will. but the development of that team, that culture, the camaraderie that came together within that organization about 15 to 20 people was unbelievable.

Michelle:
Oh, I believe it.

Ben:
Those leaders were blown away.

Michelle:
No, no doubt, no doubt. They probably had no idea the power that was in that. And not only did the teammate that was in dire straits, get blessed by it. But think about the power that was in those that were allowed to give and be a part of somebody else’s solution and how that must have raised morale.

Ben:
Absolutely. And to know that, you know, being part of something that’s bigger than you and bigger than your day to day is so impactful on people. And that employee today is still there. He’s been promoted twice. The leadership has rewritten their handbook and kind of did away with, you know, the, the definites saying, well, you definitely only have four weeks of vacation or you definitely only have, you know, two weeks of sick leave or whatever it was. They took those out of their manual and basically said, as an organization, we are going to support you internally and externally to the best of our ability. And we do that as a group. And I’ll tell you what their turnover has dropped dramatically.

Michelle:
No doubt. No doubt. I, um, I’m very impressed with that story for so many reasons. I, you know, that that’s a, that’s a riveting story that really should move anybody in the globe. Uh, but you know, the thing, the thing that we need to remember too is, you know, um, to get past the mindset that everything you you’ve got to have a and I realize there has to be structure in place I think you would agree that structure is important because if somebody’s allowed to just run rogue and do whatever they want and there’s never any harness or gates if you will to stop them from stepping beyond that can cause a lot of cultural issues as well but the point being made that when people feel valued and they’re not just put in a box to behave in a certain manner and there’s no breaking the rules for any reason whatsoever, changes it from an organization that just strictly has a list of tasks for you to do in a certain amount of timeframe and in a certain way to more of a family or a group of people that truly care about one another and they’re all sharing the same vision to accomplish the same thing.

But what I want to ask you about from that story, I guess, is the structure piece of it. So how then can you have all of those components and create that kind of a dynamic culture and at the same time have structure?

Ben:
One word answer here, trust. When those employees saw what the leadership team, owners, vice presidents, whatever, did for this one employee, it really opened their eyes to what type of leadership they had. And over a course of time, relationships were developed. And the employees that were able to help, assist this gentleman and his terminal family member, they came up to leadership and thanked them. They had no idea the type of people they were working for. And that being said, the people that I, I guess, supported in changing the handbook and making these decisions and putting out a donation bucket and things like that, they had no idea they were capable of what they were going to do or what they could do. And when that happened, it takes time, but it goes back to that trust that we had talked about. And when you’re honest with somebody and you can build a relationship with them and you understand the why, you can still have, I guess, limited rules, but you can have a controlled environment. And it’s all about respecting the person next to you. And those employees know that If you have if you take a day off, it’s you know downstream or upstream. It’s going to hurt somebody It’s going to make their life harder so realizing that They they schedule their time off They talk to one another “Um, hey, this is on the docket. This is what’s coming to you or this is what I have coming to me I need you to step in and fill in for me” and it’s It’s like that really close friendship that you have. Think of your best friend. Those are the people that you can trust, you can talk to, and they’ll do anything for you.

Yes, there has to be rules. I agree 100% with you, Michelle. But at the same time, those rules don’t have to be so stiff that you can’t crack a smile at work.

Michelle:
I agree, I agree. I think we’re definitely on the same page here, Ben. One thing that I’ve kind of always said just, jokingly, facetiously, is you know if you can’t change the people, change the people. Now this may sound like it’s kind of on a different tangent from what we’re discussing, but it’s not really because any time that I ever had to work with someone that was bending the rules or going outside of the boundaries, because we had that trust relationship built, I was able to ask them questions that caused them to call themselves out on the carpet. In other words, I didn’t have to call them out on the carpet. And you know if for a I guess a better expression case somebody doesn’t understand what that means is you know asking them you know “okay so what was it that you’re doing that is affecting everyone around you and what do we need to change about it?” rather than just saying you’re calling someone in the office and saying you know “everybody’s noticing that you did this” uh… “you know you you’re cited for doing this now i’m gonna write you up you’re going to be disciplined and this is what’s going to happen next if you don’t come in line” and then the ultimatums start flying instead of that approach which has been kind of the history of at quote unquote they use the quotations mark lightly, leadership if you will.

It was more of a conversation between, as you said, friends where we’re both in agreement that we need to have this trust between us, but in order for that trust to be maintained, there needed to be honesty and openness, and they were going to have to answer questions that would cause them to be in account for what they did. And then once that took place, however many times before the grace was expired, then they understood why they were going to be let go. They understood why the next phase had to happen. There wasn’t this sudden jolt of, “well, you’re fired” or “get out of here “or “don’t let the door hit you in the butt,” right? It was more of a progression. And even to this day, many of those that had to go still look to me as their mentor. They still talk to me. I’m still friends with them. And I think that’s kind of what you were saying. Is that right?

Ben:
Yeah, yes. Yep.

Michelle:
Yeah, so, trust. Yeah, go ahead.

Ben:
Well, I was gonna say, I mean, when you, it’s, We’ve all been raised. Oh, I shouldn’t say that. That’s unfair. I’m 42 years old. And when as a manager, with someone that has a degree in management and a degree in sales, it was all about even through college, how to motivate people, how to hit your numbers, so on and so forth. And I’m thinking, this is really good. This is what I really like. But when you get into the workforce, there was a shift. And the shift was it’s not about the people, it’s about you. If you don’t hit these numbers, you fail. You’re on the chopping block and you can do a hundred positive things and two bad ones and guess what they’re going to talk to you about?

Michelle:
You have the two bad ones.

Ben:
And they want to go to that negative. And I think a lot of leaders want to do that. So when you have that trust, yes, grace will expire eventually. But I think when you, you know, and no, no company has zero turnover and has had all their employees, you know, unless you’re a, you know, individual person that, that has a one machine and you, you are the employee. There’s always going to be turnover for a multitude of reasons, but just to avoid those awkward conversations, like you said, walking in and saying, “oh, you’re fired.” You know, the Heart Centered Leadership really takes that out of the equation. And with Heart Centered Leadership, you also have, you know, that’s part of the one of the elements of Heart Centered Leadership is that people understand those boundaries. And they understand what how they operate how that affects others.

Michelle:
Yep. And even if they choose not to follow it, they still understand why perhaps they’re, you know, they’re having to answer those questions. So I mean, I totally get it. I wanted to make sure we did talk about that because, you know, so often, like I said, leaders are very, very reluctant to accept this as a general practice of leadership. So I appreciate you taking the time to elaborate that with me. We are at our time limit at this point, and I am very grateful for what you shared before. You will have to have a discussion after this is over whether you want to come back, but we’ll end it with, you know, what’s the number one reason you feel Heart Centered Leadership is so critical in today’s world?

Ben:
You know, we live in a digital world and I think when you remove people from an equation or you take away the ability to have conversations and get to know one another, it’s a very, very dangerous world out there. You know, people are relying on digital platforms to get solutions from and we don’t know as I say, would say the general population, if I was to type into ChatGPT “hey, I’m feeling sad today, what can I do?” That really takes away the personal relationship and where’s that answer coming from? Who put those answers in there? And is your belief system the same? Is it really the support that you wanted?

And I just, I guess to sum it up, you have to have a personal relationship. We were put on this earth to communicate and do life together. And the removal of that just absolutely scares me. And I think Heart Centered Leadership is pivotal, absolutely pivotal to that relationship and understanding others, helping others and vice versa them helping you.

Michelle:
I would agree, I would agree. And you know, as proof in the pudding, if you will, you know, you see mental health issues just absolutely skyrocketing right now more than ever. That’s probably the number one request I get to speak on when I get a chance to talk to leaders. And so I think the digital platforms have brought a lot of that on. Obviously, social media has played a role in it. There’s other factors, of course, but man, that’s a good answer and I appreciate that, Ben. And again, thank you so much for your time.

Ben, we’re going to close out at this point and we’ll discuss behind the scenes afterwards. But if you want to get in touch with Ben Wood, I’d be happy to put you in touch with him. Just reach out to myself, IPVconsulting.com, use my contact form. Let me know that you want to talk to Ben Wood, pretty easy name to remember. But I appreciate Ben again for coming on. And this is Michelle Steffes, Reframe and Rewire, keep reaching higher. Please come back and join us for more talks. on Heart Center’s leadership. Have an amazing day.

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