Building an Engaged Workforce

In this episode of The Faces of Business, Kon Apostolopoulos, Performance & Change Management Expert at Fresh Biz Solutions, unravels the secrets to fostering an engaged workforce to help you achieve higher productivity and a more positive work environment.

In this episode of The Faces of Business, Kon Apostolopoulos, Performance & Change Management Expert at Fresh Biz Solutions, unravels the secrets to fostering an engaged workforce to help you achieve higher productivity and a more positive work environment.

Kon is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in human resource development and organizational effectiveness. His prowess in helping organizations create a culture of engagement has garnered widespread recognition in the construction industry. Kon has spearheaded numerous initiatives that have significantly enhanced employee engagement and organizational success for his client companies.

Kon’s insightful approach to nurturing employee engagement provides a roadmap for business leaders, executives, and professionals striving to foster a positive work culture and achieve outstanding business results.
Damon is pleased to start the show with Kon as his guest. He requests Kon to talk about his background and how he became involved in helping people build engaged workforces.

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Kon describes his role as the founder and CEO of Fresh Biz Solutions, a company that assists clients in aligning their business plans with the right people to execute them effectively. The guest has years of experience in delivering workshops, one-on-one coaching for executives and emerging leaders, and facilitating special events like strategic planning sessions.

Besides being a business coach, Kon is a proud coach to soccer teams. He calls coaching more than just a task or chore for him; it’s a calling that combines three significant aspects of his life. First, he has a strong passion for teaching and coaching. Second, he enjoys working with sophomores, witnessing their growth and development into young leaders and adults. Finally, Kon has a deep love for the game of soccer.

Damon asks Kon about his experience coaching high school girls’ soccer and how it has prepared him for his business endeavors.

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The coach shows how his experience working with corporate clients in leadership and organizational development has influenced his coaching approach for soccer teams. He maintains that he teaches the kids important life and leadership lessons, helping them adapt to the expectations of life and business.

The guest also mentions that working with young athletes has provided him with valuable insights that he can use when coaching senior leaders and executives.

Damon questions Kon about the increasing popularity of employee engagement in the corporate world. In response, the guest presents the context of the year 2023, noting that it followed the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic. He describes the shifting dynamics between employers and employees regarding remote work and expectations. There’s a “push-pull” or power struggle between both parties.

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The coach discusses the “great resignation,” where many employees leave their jobs, often due to dissatisfaction with how they were treated during the Pandemic. This has left many remaining employees disengaged and doing the bare minimum. Employers are concerned about their return on investment regarding salaries, benefits, and development.

The guest further explains that when top talents are happy and engaged in their work, they become advocates for the company, recruiting other high performers to join the team. He draws parallels between the dynamics in sports teams, where athletes often prioritize winning over salary, and the business world. He believes that engagement is intrinsic and comes from within each individual.

Damon mentions that Kon has a book titled “The Engagement Blueprint” scheduled for release early next year. He describes the book as a transformative guide offering tools and strategies for building a thriving, open workplace culture. Damon then asks the guest about the motivation behind writing the book and what inspired him to take on this project.

Kon reveals how he transitioned from writing his first book about resilience in times of change and crisis with Dr. Ilya to addressing the issue of building resilient organizations. He recognized that one key component of resilience was an engaged workforce. Soon, Kon realized that the answer to engaging the workforce was already present in the clients he was serving, in the culture they had built, where people felt committed and believed they could succeed at a high level. He researched for 18 months, examining data from Gallup, McKinsey, Deloitte, and Harvard to understand the root causes of declining engagement trends.

At Damon’s request, he enumerates four fundamental human needs for engagement:

a. Feeling Valued: It is about creating a safe environment where employees feel respected, can be themselves, and receive appreciation.

b. Feeling Connected: The coach draws parallels to the unity of sports fans and highlights the importance of fostering connections among team members, leaders, and shared goals.

c. Making a Meaningful Contribution: Employees want to see how their work matters, understanding its impact on the team, organization, clients, and society.

d. Feeling Supported: The innate need to learn and grow is crucial. Organizations must invest in development, recognition, and reward systems.

While talking about creating an engaged work environment, Kon asserts that it is not just about momentary satisfaction or feel-good factors. Instead, it is about instilling personal accountability and ownership at all levels, where every team member takes pride in their role. In his view, true engagement is about employees being deeply connected to their work and the organization’s success.

The guest further reports a $350 billion loss in productivity due to disengagement in the US last year. When projected globally, this figure is estimated at about $7.8 trillion.

Damon expresses his enthusiasm for the discussion with Kon, appreciating how he makes complex concepts understandable.

Kon further talks about the need for leaders to shift from merely managing the outputs of their teams to focusing on outcomes, especially in roles that involve deep thinking and relationship-building. He recognizes that ideas and deadlines don’t adhere to a strict 9-to-5 schedule and suggests that it’s about managing work-life relationships and results differently, focusing on achieving desired outcomes.

Damon adds that business leaders, often overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities, need to step back and reconsider their approach.

The guest reminds us that everyone can go the extra mile beyond their job descriptions, but they only do so when they feel valued, part of a team, productive, and have opportunities for personal growth.

Before departing, Kon reveals that his book is in the final stages of publication. He plans to publish it in late January or early February of 2024. He also mentions that he has been receiving invitations to speak on large stages. A growing community of engaged learners is eager to learn practical ways of applying engagement concepts in their workplaces.

The conversation ends with Damon thanking Kon for his time.

Our Guest

Kon Apostolopoulos

Kon is the Performance & Change Management Expert at Fresh Biz Solutions. He is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in human resource development and organizational effectiveness. His prowess in helping organizations create a culture of engagement has garnered widespread recognition in the construction industry. Moreover, the coach has spearheaded numerous initiatives that have significantly enhanced employee engagement and organizational success for his client companies.

Our guest’s insightful approach to nurturing employee engagement provides a roadmap for business leaders, executives, and professionals striving to foster a positive work culture and achieve outstanding business results.
Kon studied Performing Arts at Gregoriadou College, Athens, Greece.

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46:03
SUMMARY KEYWORDS
company, engagement, engaged, business, part, team, damon, work, employees, talent, building, kids, coach, employers, talking, clients, years, create, open, put
SPEAKERS
Kon Apostolopolous, Damon Pistulka

Damon Pistulka 00:02
All right, everyone, welcome once again to the faces of business. I am your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am so excited for us today, because I’ve got with me today, an old friend, a dear friend, con apostle opolis. From fresh pices Lucians, we’re going to be talking about building an engaged workforce from one of the masters and doing this. And as we were talking earlier, I just I just can’t wait to do this gone. Thanks.

Kon Apostolopolous 00:38
Well, it’s such a pleasure and an honor to be with you, my friend. It feels like you know, we’ve known each other for quite some time now. And, you know, it’s always a pleasure to listen to your interviews, listen to the discussions that you have. And it’s an even greater pleasure and a joy to sit next to you in these.

Damon Pistulka 00:55
Well, I’m sure that I’m gonna learn a lot today. And I know the people out there well, as well. So hey, we got John, John in the group today, talking and looking forward to it. John, I believe John might be in Colorado as well. Okay. Welcome, John.

Kon Apostolopolous 01:13
Oh, look at that.

Damon Pistulka 01:15
Well, look at that we get to this. Let’s take a quick peek at that while we’re doing this. But so con, as we like to start out the show. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into helping people building engaged workforces?

Kon Apostolopolous 01:33
That’s a great question. And it’s, we could spend a lot of time just exploring that. But let me start kind of with a simple thing. I am the founder and CEO of a company, as you mentioned, fresh based solutions. And when people ask me, What does my company do? I explained it in very simple way. I say, most businesses that I work with my clients have wonderful business plans, they’ve spent a lot of time and resources developing these business plans, and they’re excited about them. But unfortunately, they’re not worth the paper they’re written on if they don’t have the right people in place to execute them. So what I do is I make sure that they have a pipeline of talent of leadership talent, specifically, that’s ready, willing and able to help bring those plans to life. So I help them develop their people plans to support their business plans. And sometimes that includes delivering workshops, which I’ve done for many, many years as a facilitator, a leadership development expert, sometimes that involves coaching one on one with executives or emerging leaders and groups. Sometimes it means facilitating special events for them. Some, along the lines of strategic planning sessions are team building events, annual meetings. And sometimes that means really getting my hands dirty, and getting in there and building the kind of people systems that allow them to really have a transparent way to show their people that, hey, you can progress from an entry level to become president of this company. And here’s the career path for you. And here’s how we’re going to recognize you. And here’s how all of your efforts are going to help you succeed with our company. So all four of those areas of things that I do, they are my framework that I applied to my clients.

Damon Pistulka 03:16
That’s, that’s great. That’s great. And as you’re as you’re doing this, so you’ve been doing this a long time now. And I got to, I’ve got to ask too, because you, you, we’ve talked about this before I want to talk about again, because I think it’s so you’ve been coaching soccer now, for over a decade. And why do you think okay, first of all, tell me what you love best about coaching soccer?

Kon Apostolopolous 03:46
Well, to me, it’s more than a task or a chore, it’s, it’s, it’s a calling. It brings together three very, very important things to me. First of all, I love to teach and coach. That’s why I do what I do in my profession as well. So that’s my purpose. That’s my calling. I love working with the kids. And watching the light bulb go on and see them grow to be the young leaders and the young adults that they are. And then third, I just love the game, man. I mean, it’s I grew up with it. It’s been in my DNA. I’ve played it as a young kid, not at a highest level, I have to admit, because I had other priorities. But you know, it’s one of those things where it brings together all of my my deep loves and passions about things.

Damon Pistulka 04:26
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And you said now, you’re coaching High School. So well, they’re highly

Kon Apostolopolous 04:31
high schoolers. Yes. So it’s still competitive club. Yeah. So I’ve got some of the best talent in the state of Colorado that I work with the amazing kids that are working hard to potentially secure scholarships. So they’re all either most of them are juniors and some of them are sophomores right now. And they’re all out there competing at the highest level regionally, even nationally, to really earn some scholarships out there.

Damon Pistulka 04:55
Yeah, and that’s what a lot of parents don’t realize if your kid is very, very good enough. Sport is that the recruitment starts, when you’re at least a time you’re a freshman or sophomore anymore.

Kon Apostolopolous 05:07
Yeah, yeah, there are certain restrictions that kind of limits the kind of context that colleges can have. But to me, it’s about preparing the kids for those opportunities and matching their passion and their commitment to it. And making sure that when that opportunity comes along the right one for them that they’re ready to accept it, they’re ready to compete at the highest level.

Damon Pistulka 05:26
Very cool. Very cool. So you said earlier when we get on if there’s any coaches that are listening out there that are looking for kids? Calm? Yeah, young high school. They want on their soccer team at college, they should call you that’s cool. That’s cool. Because it is it is a it is it’s an incredible feeling. I know from seeing my son’s friends and baseball go on to play in college and and, and to see how that change just that alone, being able to go to college and, and play a sport is really something for those people that that’s their their calling. So cool stuff. Cool stuff. So what do you think? It’s, it’s one of your loves come together and coaching, coaching high school girls soccer? How do you think that that helps prepare you for what you get to do in business?

Kon Apostolopolous 06:23
You know, it’s very few people that are a student have to ask that question. But to me, it’s there’s a continuation to that. In many ways, what I’ve done is I brought 30 years of experience working with corporate clients in leadership and organizational development, I bring it to my soccer teams, even to the youngest ages, where we do creative visualization, we do goal setting, we do SWOT analysis, we do feedback sessions, we do performance reviews, all of the things that I do with my corporate executive clients, we just don’t call it that. And what we are doing is teaching the kids some important life lessons, leadership lessons on how to really be able to adapt to those expectations that life and business is going to bring to them later on in their years. And they become better at school better, as, you know, as kids, as team members, as members of their young members of society. But the most important thing is that I reverse that trend as well, I go backwards, I bring it back up. So a lot of times when I’m working with executives, sometimes the lessons in the examples that I bring back from the kids really open up doors that otherwise would be very locked. I mean, you know, as well as I do that a lot of times that people are at the highest level of business, and some of the most ambitious ones, are also some that have a very hard time listening to others. So a lot of times they have very, very strong personalities, and egos, that can be a little detrimental to their own growth. The beauty about working with a coach like me is that I try to find ways to unlock that to help them get out of their own way and see beyond? The answer is that they think they already have to explore other options. I mean, here’s a simple example, you know, working with a young, relatively young senior leader, he was very, very frustrated to the point of being irate in our meeting. And he was very upset about the fact that he had given his team very clear direction in his mind. And they did not respond as quickly and as appropriately as he thought. Now, this is me putting it into very polite terms, he dropped the several F bombs in the process. But you can understand that this was part of what was frustrating him. So to help him understand what he had done and what his part of that equation was, what his responsibility was in this. I brought the simple example when I work with the kids, even the youngest ones, of passing the ball. And I said, you know, when I asked the kids, what is a good pass, they inevitably come back to the simple answer that coach a good pass is when I can get the ball to my teammate. And he or she can do something with that place. And so I told him that all he had done is picked up the ball and kicked it as hard as he could downfield without any consideration if somebody was there to receive it, what they could do with it. And was that the appropriate path to make at the time. And so all of a sudden he thought about it, and the light bulb went on. He said, Yeah, that didn’t. I said, Yeah, I said Communication is a two way street. If nobody’s out there to receive that message that you’re trying to send or it’s not the right message, or it’s not delivered in the right way. How effective is your communication? And all of a sudden, that helped him get grounded and understand more about what we were trying to do. So we could actually open up the door and essentially be able to get beyond that and understand how could he improve that? That’s the part of where the beauty of a simple message, breaking it down to its most simplest point that a child can understand. If that gets through to even the most hardened senior leaders and executives,

Damon Pistulka 10:06
that is a great example. It really is because you just took something that would have been very hard for them to understand. Had you not made it that simple? And and incredible example, it really is. Because you said you’re thinking about it like, yeah, I could I could deal with that, then I could understand what I didn’t do. Right? Or what I might understand the different the other perspective on what I should be looking at before Yeah,

Kon Apostolopolous 10:37
I mean, I could get into all of the all of the science behind it and everything else and all the all the science on the brain science with it, or the emotional intelligence aspect of that, or effective communication techniques. But it was just as simple as you know what, Hey, you didn’t make a good pass to your team? Yeah, you didn’t do a good handoff.

Damon Pistulka 10:54
You didn’t make a good pass. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So as you’re out there, and you’re helping these these companies, why do you think now? It seems like employee engagement is so popular? I mean, it it, you know, you go five years ago, and it maybe people talked about a little bit, but now it’s like it is mainstream? Yeah.

Kon Apostolopolous 11:22
And, I mean, that’s kind of put things in context a little bit with the timeline that we have. I mean, what this is 2023, the end of 2023. We’re not that far removed. From the great pause of 2020 and 2021, when everything was shut down, everything was on pause. I mean, these are the times when you and I first met, and we’d started communicating, and started networking together and working together. But at the time, people were really, really concerned about how do I keep my business afloat during this time? How do I make sure that my people stay busy? How do I do all of these different things, everybody was desperate, both employees and employers, everybody was in a difficult situation, we had discovered virtual working where it was possible, we tried to deal with the challenges of the time of how to keep our people safe, and how to keep the doors of the operation open. I mean, these were big priorities for lead. But then coming out of that now we’re into 2022, last year. And now all of a sudden, business owners, entrepreneurs, business leaders, they all want to get back quickly to some sense of normalcy, they’re all trying to get back to a place that they thought would be easy to do, we’ll just we’ll just flipped would just turn back time will go back to what it was in 20 2019, which was a great year or even early 2020. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s not that simple. We had gone through a global trauma. And guess what? Employers thought one way but employees were looking at it going, Oh, hell, no. I’ve got used to working on my couch with my pajamas on my slippers all day. I’m not going back into the office. I’m not commuting for three hours. I mean, people were looking at it going, No, that’s not that simple. Employers will say no, no, you need to come back in and they will go Oh, hell, no, I know, I don’t why I’ve worked for two years this way, why all of a sudden, we have to come back in. So there’s this push pull. And when you extend that push pull out, there’s always been this power, grab power, dynamic thrust back and forth, almost like a pendulum, between employers and employees. Everybody’s looking for the upper hand, there are times when you know what employers feel like, you know what pay, we have the upper hand, we can pay what we want, we can pick cherry pick the talent that we want, because there’s so much of that out there, you don’t like it, I’ll pick up the next person in line. And there are times where employees feel like, you know what, Hey, you want me you’re gonna pay, or you’re gonna have to let me live somewhere in this rural area or white by on a cabin by the water. And you’re gonna have to deal with that. And so that power struggle back and forth has been going on the last 18 months or so. So great resignation, people are leaving in droves. 50 plus million people just leaving their jobs, many of them thinking that you know, what, hey, anywhere, but here, or you know, what, you didn’t treat me well, during these times. I’m going to approach it very differently. And so, this is part of the challenge that many people have been facing and looking at, okay, how do I, how do I deal with this? The Public Read was me. Yeah, it did. Say it did. So you look at that and say, Okay, how are we going to make this work for both of us how we’re going to do that. And with all these departures, all of that, what was left now the people that couldn’t leave was sitting around in this hole disengaged, or quiet quitting approach, when they’re just doing the bare minimum. And they’re just getting by and they’re just saying, you know, what, hey, all of that discretionary effort, that extra that I was giving you, I’m not giving it anymore. That’s happening across the board in a lot of businesses and employers are looking at it scratching their head the saying, Hey, hold on a minute. I’m spending all this money on salaries on benefits. bids on development, all that stuff. This is my biggest cost item, probably my payroll and my employee benefits. And so what am I getting back for that? And so there’s this feeling from the employer side, that I’m not getting a return on my investment, or at least the commitment that I’m showing my employees, I don’t feel like I’m getting that. Now the employees from their perspective are looking at it going, Well, you’re not meeting my needs, why should I work for you? And so we’re caught in this situation where both sides are equally unhappy. And the pendulum is kind of stuck in the middle now becomes the big question. What’s the differentiator here? Why are some companies thriving, while others are not. And this is where the realization hit me, Damon, I have a client that is a construction company, a large construction company part of a billion dollar operation. And it’s one of four regions that a fairly equal in size and possibilities. And through the years that I’ve worked with them leading up and past the pandemic into today, what I still work with them. So it’s been a decade that I’ve been working with them. And what we realized that even during these difficult times of the great resignation, and after that, it almost like we became immune to it, everything around us was falling apart yet this company didn’t lose any of their A players. They lost some of their BC players, but none of their top talent picked up the phone from that recruiter and left, none of them. And yet, they had some of their best performing years during this time. And compare to the other three regions, they produce 60% of the revenue for the company 60% compared to their other three regions, and compare it to other similar companies in the market here. They were outperforming them in all of the people metrics, people were leaving other construction companies and coming to this one, because they found what they were looking for. And this group now was outperforming their competition. These are very specific performance numbers. It’s not just a nice to have. It’s not just fluff and soft skills. I’m talking 600 million out of a billion dollar company came from this one area of 1/4 of the company. What’s the difference? Engagement? Yeah,

Damon Pistulka 17:19
yeah. That’s an incredible example. I heard I heard an example here last year, when when we were going through, as you said, the great, great resignation, going through that, and it was a restaurant example. And it was in Utah. And they were talking about if someone was in their hometown, and they had been to both restaurants across the street, and one couldn’t hardly stay open, because they couldn’t have didn’t have enough people. And they were closed and barely open. And the one across the street was thriving, and had talked to both the both the owners and the owners. On the one side, were where there was open all the time, lots of people, people happy there, were actually paying a little bit less money. But they had an engaged there, people were happy they were treating people, right. And they somehow they had the sauce, right. And on the other side, they were paying more money and couldn’t hire couldn’t do what they needed to do.

Kon Apostolopolous 18:20
Yeah. So you see, in order to compete a lot of these companies, because they lacked that engagement, they lacked that commitment from their employees, they’re forced to pay more, even if they can find the talent. And a lot of times, they’re not dealing with the best people. Because the best talent out there, they have choices. And if they’re going to choose, they’re going to choose to work in a place that they can enjoy and be satisfied and be and have their needs met their engagement needs.

Damon Pistulka 18:46
Yeah, that’s true. And yeah. Yep. See if thinking about this, because I see so many people when they’re trying to hire now they’re gonna put an ad on indeed. And I’m like, okay. You just said the best talent has choices. So the best talent is probably not, you’re probably not finding the best talent out there. When you’re doing that.

Kon Apostolopolous 19:10
No, because you know, what they’re getting recruited left, right and center because they talk to their friends who are just as high performing as they are, and say, Are you happy where you are? Because I’m happy where I am. Come here and work with me. Let’s be side by side. Success breeds success. talent wants to be with talent. That’s why you see all of these sports teams, where you see all these top level athletes giving up big chunks of their salary to play on a winning team. I see that in sports. I see that in business all the time. You have to make sure that you have the right environment, and people don’t people think that it’s something you do to others. It’s not. Engagement is very much like motivation, in the sense that it’s a very intrinsic thing. It comes from inside each person. I mean, they if I remember correctly, you love nature, your love To go out fishing, don’t you?

Damon Pistulka 20:01
i Not a fisherman, I love to get outside,

Kon Apostolopolous 20:04
right? I mean, for anybody that’s a fisherman that knows, they understand the concept of the same bait does not attract all fish. So you got to put the right bait out there to attract the right fish that you want at the right time. And it’s no different with motivation with engagement, you got to create the right environment where people will feel engaged with their engagement needs are being met. And that secret sauce that you were talking about, has four basic ingredients, four key drivers that I identify in my new book, The engagement blueprint.

Damon Pistulka 20:40
All right. So you segwayed right into it. You’ve been at this a while and you got a book coming out in in early next year. So it’s called the engagement blueprint. Transit is a transformative guide to offering his tools and strategies to build a thriving workplace culture. And what really, was the the thing behind your book? I mean, you’re you. Why right, to go along and not do it. Yeah, why write it?

Kon Apostolopolous 21:15
So here’s the interesting thing, thing. I mean, sometimes you feel the Destiny kind of plays a weird, weird trick sometimes. So here I am, you know, I’ve gone through the pandemic. You know, last time we talked, I had written my, my first book with Dr. Ilya. And we were talking about resilience and creating that roadmap for people, for individuals to be able to kind of be resilient in times of change in times of crisis. Well, following that in 2020, late 21, and into 22, you know, the question started shifting for my clients, well, you helped me as a leader, as a person, how do I now help my organization? So I worked with them very hard to kind of expand the concepts from the seven keys to really get into this whole piece of, of how do we build resilient organizations. But one of the key components of that is a workforce that’s engaged and looking at and saying, how do we get there? So trying to answer that question from my from my clients and say, Okay, how do we engage your workforce? How do we go about that? I realized that I had the answer all along. And all I had to do is look at the clients that I was already serving, and the kind of culture that we had built the culture where people felt committed the culture where people could feel that they could succeed and perform at a high level. And that’s where the science on one side the research that I was doing for 18 months now, looking at Gallup’s numbers, McKinsey, Deloitte, Harvard, all of the big players and all the reports that were coming out, while people were focused on the big headlines that said, so many millions, 50 million resigned, and where are they going? I was looking at it from a deeper perspective, as a performance consultant, I’m trained to look at and say, what’s really going on what’s the deeper root cause to this, and you realize that the trends over the last decade all of a sudden got reversed. And now where we were seeing growing engagement, now, it’s all of a sudden was reversing trends, and it was going in the opposite direction. And it’s not just that, according to Gallup, one in five employees worldwide, recognize that they are engaged, that they’re there, they’re committed to the company, it’s the fact that the disengaged people were growing to match that. And now it’s one disengaged person out of every five that is trying to sabotage your business. What does that leave, that leaves three people that are quote, unquote, quiet, quitting, and just alone to collect a paycheck. So if your operation is at that level, with only one person paddling in the boat, re along for the ride, and one trying to poke holes in the back, how much better you’re gonna be, if you get more people on board, and more people willing to paddle with you.

Damon Pistulka 23:57
I’m writing some notes on that. So that’s, that’s so great. Because you got one out of five people, you got one that’s trying to poke holes in the boat, you got three, they’re longing for a ride,

Kon Apostolopolous 24:07
and one, only one or sucker up. They’re just trying to paddle. And chances are if you’re an entrepreneur, that’s you. And that’s the problem right now, because most people are not as committed to your business as you are. So how do you get them there? How do you create a situation where people feel as committed as you are to your business? And the way to do that is to meet their engagement needs to make sure that you do it. So what I did is I looked at the case studies that I had over the years, 30 years of experience and I realized that I’ve been doing this all along Damon, I’ve been essentially building that engaged culture and environment. So people can perform well. And then looking at the data and say okay, the data’s to give me something and then I look at the practical aspect and bringing them together, I was able to answer the question of how do you create that engaged environment? And so now, I look at it and say, Okay, you have to address four fundamental needs that your employees have not only non honesty, it’s not just employee needs, these are human needs, we all have them. And so the four drivers that as a leader, as a business owner, that you can apply to create that environment is first and foremost, address the need that people have to feel valued. What does that mean? I mean, it means creating an environment first and foremost, that safe, say physically, safe, emotionally safe psychologically, it means creating an environment where people feel respected, that just being part of the team, they have an earn like like an old respect right there. Because we’re all professionals, here, we’re all trying to do the best we can. But then that added respect that you want to give to the people that are truly going above and beyond that they can earn, it means understanding that people can bring their whole selves to work, that environments that in the past have been somewhat exclusive, that have not been open to everybody. They need to open up when people feel like you know what, I can bring my whole self to work, I can be who I am here and bring my my heart, my soul to what I do. That’s kind of environment where people feel valued. And then again, people want to feel appreciated. A thank you goes a long way, a simple gesture, or giving somebody a recognition in the way that is meaningful to them goes a long way. I mean, all of these are part of the strategies that I include in my book about how do you get to that point. And then the second piece of that, Damon is people want to feel connected. People want to feel part of something bigger than themselves, especially after the isolation that we had during the pandemic. I mean, we’re all tribal. I mean, we talked about sports and soccer. I mean, have you ever been to a game, I mean, you’re you’re up in the northwest, you see what the Seattle Seahawks game looks like our grand game looks like. And people go nuts. Why? Because they’re all wearing the same color Jersey supporting the same team. And they’re part of something bigger than themselves, they feel a connection to other fans that support the same team, to other tribe members, you bump into somebody that went to the same high school or college as you and automatically your best friends, you’re connected, you’re looking at people that grew up in the same neighborhood, you’ve got stories to share, you feel a connection to people. And when you can bring that to your workplace. And people feel connected to you as a leader and to each other as team members, and to the goals that you’ve set forward and the values, that’s a very powerful thing. And then beyond that, we talk about the need that people have to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution, like they can be productive. So the third piece is, how can I help my people know that what they’re doing makes a difference to us, to the team, to the organization, to the society to the clients that we serve, creating that line of sight for people. I mean, at the end of the day, nobody wants to waste their day, they want to feel like if I’m working, I want to get there and think I’ll give you two examples that are very powerful to my mind. If I share with you, let’s say a picture that a group of us spent a wonderful weekend that we’ve spent together and I give you that picture of us in a group photo, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

Damon Pistulka 28:19
Grab a look, look and see if I was smiling or not.

Kon Apostolopolous 28:22
You’re going to look through you right where you are in the picture how you were smiling, what you look like what you were wearing, and it’s going to bring back all these members who was next to you who was further along? Oh, I see Joe. And you remember what he did that. People want to know where they fit into this bigger picture. That’s human nature that we have. So that’s one example that I wanted to bring forward. But the second powerful example of this is, have you ever seen what it looks like to be part of a volunteer group, people going out there trying to make a difference. They’re not getting paid. They’re out there volunteering their time, they’re trying to do a food drive a blood drive that try not to help neighbors. I mean, that’s a powerful thing. And that has nothing to do with money. It’s everything to do about knowing that you can make a difference, you’re being productive, you’re contributing in a meaningful way. And then finally, the last driver Damon, and something that is innate in all of us, is the need to learn and grow. We all want to feel supported by the organizations that we are part of to continue to learn and grow. Are they investing in us? Are they seeing that so building the right kind of development pieces, the right recognition and reward systems, the right way to show people how they can have a career path, how they can be successful and achieve their goals while being part of the organization and helping the organization achieve its goals. Those are the four drivers feel valued, feel connected, feel productive, feel supported. Those four things are part of the blueprint that helps you create an engaged environment. Those will do it

Damon Pistulka 29:59
they Well, and that it’s it’s great how, through your work, you were able to simplify them so much. And through the simplicity, it still doesn’t make it easy to do. But it makes it easy to understand.

Kon Apostolopolous 30:18
Correct. And if it works with my little soccer kids, and it works with billion dollar companies, it will work for your organization. I can guarantee you that.

Damon Pistulka 30:28
Yeah, that’s for sure. Everybody. So Jill had a comment here a minute ago that she’s connect her heart with the work they’re doing. Yes, significance.

Kon Apostolopolous 30:41
And Jill is absolutely right, friend, Jill, hit it hit the nail on the head, because everybody wants to know that what I’m doing is making a difference that I’m contributing, it adds value. Because I bring value to the team, I bring value to the people that I serve. I mean, we all want that. We all want to know that where we’re spending our time in valuable ways. God knows, we’ve gone through some difficult times when we’ve lost loved ones, or we’ve seen things fall apart. And none of us wants to waste our days away.

Damon Pistulka 31:12
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s, yeah, it’s just it’s, it’s not easy to do with this, as you said, with the with the your long term client and seeing how they have been able to, you know, keep the eight da players build more of them really be the shining star in the organization, in a very large organization, that this is something that produces bottom line results.

Kon Apostolopolous 31:40
Oh, yeah, it’s not just a nice to have, it’s not about fluff. It’s not about just feeling good in the moment. These are very deep and meaningful transitions. This is a this isn’t Earth swell. This is something that really, when we can create leaders at all levels, when everybody takes that personal accountability and ownership, when everybody down to the entry level employee looks at and says, you know, I’m a proud member of this team, and I own my stuff. That’s a high performance environment, that’s a committed environment. This goes beyond just you know, the feelgood factor everybody wants to, there are happy employees out there, Damon, that will happily go about their day and ignore you as a customer. And they’ll just have a great time on their phones looking scrolling through tick tock or commenting or having gossiping with their friends. But they’re not truly engaged. And even with satisfaction, people, people think that engagement satisfaction are the same. They’re not. I know, satisfied employees that very gladly took the call from the recruiter and went down the street for a bump in their salary and an extra truck. Yeah, so they’re not the same thing. Don’t confuse that engagement is deeper than that. And that’s the kind of stuff that we want to get to.

Damon Pistulka 33:02
Just like the sky opens up, the sun starts shining.

Kon Apostolopolous 33:06
But it’s a competitive advantage. I mean, it is out there right now. I mean, David put the numbers together. I mean, outside of the visual that we talked about with our canoe, right? Look at the numbers. I mean, the numbers don’t lie. They’re out there. I believe it was McKinsey that put out the report or something or someone a large company like that. They calculated the loss of productivity from disengagement. In the US last year, it was $350 billion with a be in when you project that out globally, they, they figured it was about $7.8 trillion. Now, I know I know, business owners out there that are struggling to make payroll this week. And they’re trying to find ways to make a difference like that. That restaurant owner that was paying extra and trying to figure that out. There are so many other business owners and senior leaders out there trying to figure out how they’re going to add to their top and bottom line. Well, engagement is more than a fun thing. Engagement is about truly impacting and securing your workforce, unleashing that workforce, so you can build it for the future. And for the present.

Damon Pistulka 34:15
Yeah, yeah. This is awesome. I’m just gonna say this is awesome. I love talking with you, man. Because you do you make it so I can understand it. And when you cuz you just, I as you’re talking, I think about these times that I’ve been fortunate enough to either be just not just but be a member of one of these highly engaged teams, or leading a highly engaged team, whether business life doesn’t really matter to me, but the you know, and the things you said, Happy doesn’t mean you’re engaged. And and you know, and but the Engage doesn’t mean that it’s easy engaged doesn’t mean mean that you’re necessarily happy all the time? It just means you are part of something that, you know, I think of I think of a lot maybe because I do, I don’t know why. But I think of something like the Navy SEALs, the BUDS training, right? The BUDS training is got to be one of the god office things you’d ever want to try to do. Right. But you have to be really engaged, you have to really want it to do it. And by going through the experience, you become even more engaged and more committed to what you’re doing. And those experiences shape us as we go through. So if you can begin with a somewhat of an engaged schema, the beginning, I think that the challenges actually help us to solidify our teams if we’re leading them, right.

Kon Apostolopolous 35:45
Yeah. And, you know, if you’re not, if you’re not committed to the cause, if you’re not engaged and willing to go through the difficult stuff, you’re not going to get to the performance piece. And you’re looking at it with the Navy SEALs, who, who in their right mind would torture themselves that way. If you’re not committed to something bigger than yourself, would you really do that? So that’s where you see that. And it’s not that the difficulty creates the engagement, it’s that the engagement allows you to get through the difficulty.

Damon Pistulka 36:16
Exactly, exactly. But if Jill said another engagement doesn’t mean there are participating more in activities of their work, it means they’re committed to the work they’re doing.

Kon Apostolopolous 36:28
Correct. And that’s a different way of even as leaders, when I coach them a lot of times, Damon, part of the evolution of their playbook that I’m trying to encourage them to think about is that they can no longer just try to try to manage outputs of their people. Because when you’re dealing with people that do the kind of jobs where it requires deep thinking or relationship building, or all of these other things that are not just producing widgets, you can’t manage, you know, as somebody who does business development, just on how many meetings they went to, or how many emails they opened and read. It’s more about the outcomes, did you build relationships that are meaningful? Did you get to the results that we were looking for or not? So going beyond outputs to outcomes is one of the important things you didn’t it’s not just about the activities, like Joe said, it’s how committed are you to doing that? I know, leaders that I helped him understand that. It’s not about work life balance, even it’s about work life integration, allowing you to flow in and out because guess what, I know, if you’re anything like me, you’ve woken up in the middle of the night with that one idea that you have to write down or you’re sweating that deadline that’s coming in. And that’s way past five o’clock, I can guarantee you that. Yes. But it’s also about knowing that you have the ability to manage your your your life and your results differently. It’s about the outcomes.

Damon Pistulka 37:49
Yeah, yeah. So much. And then John said something, too, and this is this is I think what’s really key is when you you know, it’s not about finding the right people. And sometimes it’s about unlocking the potential that people you already have.

Kon Apostolopolous 38:04
Correct. And I want to emphasize what John says, with with an expression that I’ve it’s not, I can’t claim credit that I created it. But soon as I discovered it, I felt like I could have said it myself. And that expression is that people think that the grass is greener. On the other side. It’s not, the grass is greener where you water it. And that’s the important thing. When you pay attention, and you unlock that potential that you already have. That can go so much further, that will help you build that garden that you want to build. I mean, even my experience as a soccer coach, I haven’t always coached the top teams that I’m blessed to coach right now. A lot of times, I’ve been coaching kids that are just trying to stay out of trouble. Just trying to find something to do, and just trying to get an introduction to sports kids that may have lacked talent, but they made up for in enthusiasm. But guess what, you know what? When the formula works, it works. Even in those situations where you can unlock the true potential in the kid you can harness that enthusiasm and teach the things that they need to learn. Because they’re bringing it they’re engaged, they love being there. They love being part of a team with their teammates, and they’re seeing the results. They’re learning they’re growing. And guess what they feel appreciated. All of those drivers that we talked about, again, little kids, it’s human nature. It works for all of us

Damon Pistulka 39:32
that’s I think we just need to take a moment because sometimes when you realize this it it is and business leaders you often get so focused on they’re gonna do this guy you know we got we got all these things that we have to do. But when you realize when you really get your the people together with you in that engagement that Your business, the way you can work the way you can do things, the way the business can do things, the way everyone can do things changes so much, that it’s almost like there’s a time and a lot of business businesses, when they need to need to step back, and say, We have to rethink this. Because if we do, and we get it, right. We can’t even imagine where we’re going to go. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot better than where we think we’re gonna go today.

Kon Apostolopolous 40:37
Oh, yeah. Because that’s truly the power of the team that you want to unleash. When Yeah, when you create the environment where people can express that. I mean, think about it this way, we all, we all have reserves of discretionary effort that we can put out there, right, we all can do that little bit extra, there’s part of what’s in my job description that says, I have to deliver this, these are the requirements for me to keep my job. But above and beyond that, there is a surplus of things that I can do the little things that I can do to really bring that extra to my job. Well, if I don’t feel appreciated, valued part of a team productive, an opportunity to show that I can learn and grow here, why would I give that discretionary effort there, I’m just going to do the bare minimum, because that’s all I need to do to keep my job. But if leaders can harness that, and people can willingly commit that little bit extra, and they give it freely. How much more powerful can that be? I mean, that is the essential energy, the difference between mediocre average companies, and amazing workplaces and exceptional companies. That’s the secret sauce, my brother. It is,

Damon Pistulka 41:55
it definitely is. So your books coming out when they gotta get one.

Kon Apostolopolous 42:03
So I mean, we’re in the exciting part, I’m finishing the final drafts here. We’re working with the designers and everything else, getting it to the editors, and fingers crossed, end of January into early February, we’ll have a published date. But in the meantime, the beautiful thing is I have an opportunity, I have invitations to speak on large stages. Now as things have opened up to audiences that want to hear the message. Now, they need to hear the message now. We have a growing community of engaged learners that are looking to kind of really figure out from each other in practical ways. How can we continue to apply this in our workplaces? How can we transform our workplaces, because that’s what it’s all about. Transforming our workplaces into the kind of place that we all want to go to work at. And the kind of place that we want others to join even our kids to join and be part of that so we can make it a better place. So look for the book, look for published dates follow along the journey. And early early 24.

Damon Pistulka 43:01
Yeah. So any public speaking, where people can go listen to you if they wanted to? Or got a few things

Kon Apostolopolous 43:07
right now, I’ve got a few things for closed events. But again, if anybody knows of some good open spaces that that they have on different stages that they want to hear this kind of message. Hit me up.

Damon Pistulka 43:20
Yeah. So what are you excited? Excited about? Beyond your your book? In 2024?

Kon Apostolopolous 43:27
Oh, God, do I need more than that at this point. But this the big, the big thing for me is again, now once the book is out and published, then getting the word out and getting enlisting everybody’s help everybody that believes in this kind of message, having them be ambassadors of this message to carry this message forward. I think that’s the important part. The more people that we can make aware of this, the more minds that we can change an impact, the better our workforce and our workplaces will be.

Damon Pistulka 43:57
Yep, it’s certainly Well, it’s certainly well. Well, con, thanks so much for being here. Today, we’re talking about building an engaged workforce. And man, you’re just such a shining light in this. I excited to hear your to see your book, read it, and learn from it. And I’ll have to call you that. Actually explain to me third grader, and, and then we’ll see what we can do from there. But thanks so much. If people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to get ahold of you first, I always forget that.

Kon Apostolopolous 44:30
Well, first of all, I want to have a copy of the book ready with your name on it. So you know that that’s great to hear. Yeah, so that’s one thing. The second thing is that people can reach out to me one way is LinkedIn, I’m on there a lot. I post a lot. I have my journey on there. I document a lot of those things in there. They can find me there under Coach con K O N. So Coach con under LinkedIn and they can find me there and also from my company website fresh biz bi Z solutions.com So they can find me there, they can leave a message there as well from the website, they can see a lot of the wonderful work that we’re doing there and how we help companies.

Damon Pistulka 45:11
Awesome, man. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for being here today con. And I want to also thank Jill John for dropping the comments in there. Awesome, awesome input and just great, great questions and feedback there. And also think everyone else is listening today on any of our channels where we’re live today. And if you didn’t catch us from the beginning, roll back there. There are so much in here that that Khan shared with us. And again, if you are interested in really building an engaged workforce, Kahn’s books going to be come out, going to come out the engaged blueprint is going to be coming out in early February, and it will be ready to go then and you can learn from him there and reach out to him. So thanks, everyone, for being here. Hang out for a moment calm, and we’ll finish. Thank you my friend.

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