Solving People Challenges to Enable Growth

In this, The Faces of Business, Mike ONeill, Founder, Bench Builders, shares his thoughts about solving people challenges to enable growth so you can set your business on the right track and ensure that your team works together effectively and achieves their goals.

In this, The Faces of Business, Mike ONeill, Founder, Bench Builders, shares his thoughts about solving people challenges to enable growth so you can set your business on the right track and ensure that your team works together effectively and achieves their goals.

Mike’s mission is to help companies solve the “people problems” that hurt their profits and slow growth. His expertise in executive coaching, management training, strategic planning, and leadership development has helped businesses worldwide achieve their goals and grow their bottom line.

With his extensive experience in senior roles and as a certified executive coach at Fortune 500 manufacturing companies like Shaw and Mohawk, Mike developed a deep understanding of creating the right recipe for success and avoiding potential team problems scaling companies quickly.

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Mike is also a podcast host and president of the International Business Council of the Chattanooga Chamber.

Bench Builders offers a range of services, including executive coaching, people skills training, and strategic planning to help businesses build better bench strength and achieve a better bottom line.

Damon enthusiastically starts the session, extending a warm welcome to Mike. He requests the guest to talk about his background.

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The guest reveals that his career in HR started when his professor convinced him to explore the field. Despite initially having limited knowledge about HR, he was offered a job as the employment center manager responsible for hiring hundreds of new employees annually. From there, Mike gained hands-on experience in the fast-growing industry, working with companies ranging from around 2,000 employees to tens of thousands.

He managed a team that supported approximately 12,000 employees. This firsthand exposure to rapid growth and the challenges it brings fueled Mike’s passion for helping smaller companies navigate HR hurdles, especially those without well-established HR departments or limited resources.

Damon asks Mike about his initial experiences right out of college, prompting him to reflect on the differences he encountered compared to his preconceptions.

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Reflecting on his early experiences in hiring, Mike reveals that he was given such responsibility at a young age. However, he quickly learned effective hiring practices and witnessed their positive impact on people’s lives. Despite losing count of the number of people he hired, what stuck with him were encounters with grateful employees who, despite underwhelming track records initially, appreciated the chance he gave them.

These experiences reinforced Mike’s belief that he was making a meaningful difference. He also emphasized the significance of mentors in his journey and expressed his gratitude towards them.

In the early days of his career in the flooring industry, Mike says he faced the challenge of hiring employees faster than their competitors. To meet the staffing needs, they took chances on individuals others might overlook, prioritizing work ethic over impressive credentials.

Agreeing with the guest, Damon shares an example of MOD Pizza, a company in Seattle that actively hires individuals who have faced incarceration or other challenges. He noted that these employees appreciate the opportunity and often progress to managerial and executive positions, making significant contributions to the company.

Similarly, Mike believes that relying solely on technology and keyword-based screening in hiring processes can be misleading. He encourages his staff to look beyond paperwork and dig deeper to understand individuals and their qualifications. By going the extra mile, Mike believes better results can be achieved, even if it may not be as trendy as solely relying on technology.

Damon asks Mike about the common challenges he has encountered in the last five years of solving people challenges to enable growth.

Mike acknowledges that the biggest challenges he sees today relate to people management. Many business owners and leaders struggle with people problems and lack the skills to manage their teams effectively. He emphasizes the importance of practical people skills training and coaching at all levels of the organization. Mike’s role as an executive coach involves providing a safe space for leaders to work through their issues and offering insightful guidance. He understands the burdens of business ownership and aims to be a trusted confidant who can offer honest feedback and help leaders achieve their goals.

Damon is curious about the difficulty level in getting individuals to recognize and embrace the importance of developing their leadership abilities.

Mike explains that the approach to working with clients varies but often starts by addressing the training needs of line supervisors. As the supervisors improve their performance, their superiors become interested in the positive changes and seek involvement. Mike also mentions working with overburdened HR departments and providing consulting services to assist with specific challenges.

Damon appreciates positive comments from the audience. He also expresses his gratitude for Matt Haney, an expert in building executive teams. Likewise, the host raises the question about the challenges businesses encounter in the current mixed work environments, including remote and virtual setups, and how to manage and navigate these changes effectively.

Mike acknowledges the impact of COVID and remote work, emphasizing the need for a sense of belonging and relationship-building in a hybrid work environment. He notes people’s reluctance to return to old, inefficient practices and advises focusing on productivity, allowing flexibility while maintaining quality and goals. Mike urges leaders to invest in employees’ growth, fostering purpose and impact. This approach helps retain talent and address hiring challenges.

Similarly, Mike advocates recognizing the value and contributions of employees from different generations. He mentions that every generation wants to feel valued and included, and organizations often miss out on each generation’s wealth of institutional knowledge and wisdom.

Damon adds that challenging biases and preconceptions when evaluating job candidates is essential. He emphasizes that qualifications and experience should be prioritized over age or appearance. He asks Mike about his passion for his work and what drives him.

Mike finds excitement and fulfillment in building trust-based relationships with key decision-makers and business leaders. He values the opportunity to be a trusted confidant and sounding board, helping them navigate challenges and transition from good managers to great leaders. He also enjoys facilitating group sessions and witnessing the “aha” moments when participants gain new insights.

The guest also reveals that he understands that HR has often been perceived negatively for being the department that tells leaders what they can’t do. However, his approach is different. With an HR background, he prioritizes understanding the business and finding ways to say “yes” to leaders’ needs while considering the well-being of employees and the organization.

While talking about his last thoughts for viewers, Mike encourages them to continue investing in personal growth and development as a leader. He commends those who take the time to learn and improve themselves, as it ultimately leads to greater effectiveness. Mike suggests maintaining a mindset of continuous learning and growth to avoid stagnation. He also offers his assistance and willingness to help others on their leadership journey.

Toward the show’s conclusion, Damon expresses his gratitude for Mike’s presence and thanks the guests for his participation. He affirms the value of being a great leader rather than just a good manager.

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43:44

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

work, people, talking, hiring, company, employees, hr, leaders, good, learn, business, understand, mike, manage, client, generation, question, coaching, challenges, belonging

SPEAKERS

Mike O’Neil, Damon Pistulka

 

Damon Pistulka  00:02

All right, everyone, welcome once again, the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am really excited for today, because with me, I’ve got Mike O’Neill from bench builders, we’re going to be talking today about solving people challenges to enable growth. Mike, thanks for being here today.

 

Mike O’Neil  00:22

This is something I’ve been looking forward to thank you, Damon.

 

Damon Pistulka  00:25

All right. All right. Well, Mike, let’s start back aways. You’ve, you’ve been, you’ve had a great career. And before bench builders, will tell us some of some of the about your some of your background, how you got into what you’re doing today. And, and we’ll go from there.

 

Mike O’Neil  00:48

Sure. You know, right out of college, I wanted to go work for a company that my professor consulted with. And he kind of convinced me, Mike, you ought to go into HR. And I didn’t even know what HR was. And through his effort, I went through an assessment center. And lo and behold, I was offered a job in HR. And what did I know about employment, but they made me the employment center manager responsible for hiring hundreds of new employees every year. So I’ll just jump right in and learn as I go.

But for those who don’t know about HR HR has kind of really exploded in terms of what you can do in HR. And as small companies grow, those in HR get a chance to do different things. And so I had the good fortune to sit in pretty much all of the seats, I wanted to work for a small company that grew and kept growing. And so I kind of got a taste of what fast growth looks like. I also got a taste for what it takes to grow both organically and through acquisitions. So I was kind of on the side, largely acquiring.

And the company that I went to work for had roughly 2000 employees when I started. And when I left, there was 10s of 1000s of employees, the team I manage, supported about 12,000 employees. So I went to work for a small company grew fast, I learned a lot and it kind of just gave me a bug for wanting to help smaller companies struggling the same issues, but don’t have the luxury of an HR department per se. Or if they have one. It’s small.

 

Damon Pistulka  02:34

Yeah, yeah. That’s cool. So what were some of the things that hit you right out of college? Are you thinking back that you’re like, Wow, this is a lot different than I thought. Yeah, I

 

Mike O’Neil  02:47

haven’t thought about this in a long time. The first thing was, why would they let this 22 year old be responsible for hiring? And sure enough, what you learn is there’s a way to do it and do it right. And over the years, I lost count of how many people I was involved with hiring. But here’s what I found, Damon, and that is I would hire him and move on to the next assignment. But I would encounter employees years later, who would pull me aside and say, Mike, you probably don’t remember this. But you gave me a chance. my track record wasn’t that good. But you saw something.

And I came in, and it made a difference. That really started to say, You know what, I am making a difference, it really means that I’m helping. And when people will take the time and come and say thanks that made an impression on me. I hope I’ve done the same thing, because folks that come alongside me time and time again and mentor me. And I hope I’ve said thanks to them.

 

Damon Pistulka  03:51

That’s so cool. That’s so cool. Because, you know, if you do have the opportunity, like you did out of college to do that, you probably didn’t even realize what you were doing at the time.

 

Mike O’Neil  04:02

I clearly I didn’t and maybe never did, but I figured it out, at least to their satisfaction. I did learn I didn’t want to be an employment center manager forever, either.

 

Damon Pistulka  04:13

Yes. Yes. So in the early days, what what were some of the hiring challenges that you really had in the early days?

 

Mike O’Neil  04:25

Well, I started in manufacturing, that’s kind of where I cut my teeth and manufacturing. We all know it’s capital intensive. But if you don’t have employees to operate machinery, it sits idle. You’re making payments and you’re not getting anything off that I went to work in the flooring industry. I live in Dalton, Georgia, it is considered the flooring capital of the world. Yep.

And so what I learned early on is that we were hiring, and we were growing faster than anybody else. And what I learned is you have to be willing to take a chance with folks. That’s the only way we could staff our operation. So we kind of, we tried things that others were not willing to try. We gave people opportunities that others would not give them an opportunity. And so what we ended up doing is attracting people who had a little bit of an edge to him, they might not look as good on paper, but they had a work ethic.

And that’s what we’re looking for people come in and work hard, hopefully, we’ll take care of them. And that they would enjoy kind of a secure job, learn and grow on the company, and I had a chance to watch people start at the bottom and keep working your way up. And that’s pretty satisfying, when you can kind of see firsthand what this kid right out of college is able to do. It’s humbling.

 

Damon Pistulka  05:47

Yeah, well, you make it, you make a great point. There’s a there’s a company here, and in the Seattle, I think they’re on the West Coast. Now. It’s called MOD Pizza, they might even be national, I don’t know. They make it a point to hire people that, you know, that are either recently have been incarcerated or other kinds of problems that is, and it’s noticeable that these people appreciate the opportunity, the opportunity, and they they end up being managers, they end up being executives, they end up you know, doing great things in these companies, not all obviously, but they they take a chance on people and it pays off for them.

And it’s actually one of their core, their core values. And one of the their mission statement is to help people that are underserved, be able to have opportunities like that. So I think I think you are probably leading the pack a little bit there. Because in manufacturing, especially in in a competitive area where you are, I’m sure going in that that timeframe. Like you said, you could hire people when others couldn’t. And it allowed you to expand faster than others could.

 

Mike O’Neil  07:06

And of course, what we’re selling is not that we’re the highest paying or had the highest benefit value to them. What we’re selling is opportunity.

 

Damon Pistulka  07:17

Yeah, yeah. So I gotta go here, I gotta go here. So because everybody, not everybody, but many people now are using these resume ATS scanners like this, and all this kind of thing. And I mean, I love technology. I’m a geek, I love that kind of stuff. But do you think we’ve lost some a lot, I would say, I’m gonna say a lot lost a lot of the ability to take a chance on people because we’ve tried to automate the hiring processes so much.

 

Mike O’Neil  07:54

No question. You know, I went to work for small companies, they got big, big companies pride themselves on embracing this technology. But they also are kind of overrun. I’ve got a bias. And my bias is, if your technology is looking for certain keywords, then what do you teach the applicants to do? The pepper, wherever their paperwork is with those key words? It doesn’t make them the best qualified, they’ve kind of gamed the system. And so what when I was managing employment and recruiting?

Yes, you have to meet the criteria, they have to have a normal qualification. Yeah. But you’re hiring individuals. And it’s more than a piece of paper. And so my encouragement to the staff is go a little further, dig a little bit deeper get beyond the facade of the paperwork. That’s my bias. And what I would say it, I think, ends up with a better results. It’s not as sexy, but he gets the job done.

 

Damon Pistulka  08:57

Yeah, yep. Yeah, I agree. I think that, you know, yes, they could set up right, they can still scan the right way. You know, like I said, for minimal minimum requirements and making sure those things are in there. But going beyond that paperwork, getting beyond that, to see the person that you’re actually talking to to understand because they may not have written their resume the best.

They may not. They may not be good at that. Right. And depending on the positions you’re you’re hiring for. That may be far from their core skills. Yes. And we know today in the companies that you help, I’m sure they’re having trouble hiring the people they want to hire. And no

 

Mike O’Neil  09:40

question it has gotten worse.

 

Damon Pistulka  09:43

Yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s what I’ve hear from our clients and some are just crazy over the top now trying to hire it’s just like, yeah, physician home for a year. It’s like whoa, Hi, can you do that? But So as you’re as you’re talking to people today, now we’re talking about solving people challenges enable growth, and you’re you’re help with bench builders, you’re helping people process systems. What are some of the common things that you see that are a challenge now, that were not a challenge five years ago?

 

Mike O’Neil  10:20

It was kind of interesting to step back and look, the challenges that I guess I’m dealing with are somewhat the same, then let me explain. When I was working in larger organizations, there was a person who had responsibilities. And there were a bunch of specialists. I work primarily with small midsize businesses. I’m working with business owners, I’m working with key leaders. And what I’m finding is they have responsibility for everything. And when you step back, and you get responsibility for everything, what I hear time and time again, is, you know, if it wasn’t for the people, I would love doing what I’m doing.

It’s those people problems that seem to be the most irritating. And more often than not, the reason why they’re experiencing that people problems is because they’re promoting from within, that’s good. But they’re promoting people because they have good technical skills, but they never taught them how to manage others. And so what we do at bench builders, it really isn’t sexy, but we kind of focus on the fundamentals.

And the fundamentals are making sure that the people who are leading others know how to do that, and have competence in doing so. And we make the assumption that they know how to interview, we make the assumption that they know how to share with employees expectations, we make a lot of assumptions. And it’s usually wrong. So what I would say to you is training, boring as hell.

But people skills training, that’s practical, forget the theory, practical approaches to managing others that when they leave that classroom, or if it’s virtual, we can do it just as well. They can go out and apply what they’re learning right then and there. So what I would say to you what have I learned, people need to understand that what they’re doing, it’s important.

For most organizations, the employee’s understanding of what the company is about is not found on a website. It’s not found on anything other than the person who’s managing them day in and day out. And if that person treats their employees with respect, then what you’re going to have is a supervisor, who is going to get more productivity, it’s going to have lower turnover, they’re going to get the job done. And you can promote them to do it that next level.

So what I have found, I’ve had the good fortune and my time to work with some very well known brands. And you would think these well known brands would be doing what I’m describing? Well, they don’t. They do technical training real well. But they overlook what we’re talking about right now. So one of our niches is people skills training for first line supervisors. But here’s what I’m probably most surprised about back to your question.

Those supervisors who get promoted with weak people skills, they get promoted, and then never learn them. And they get promoted again. And so what ends up happening is you got people in key decision making roles, and they never really learn how to manage people. So what happens is the sweet spot for people skills training is bigger than you realize. It’s not just line supervisors, it goes up.

And you’ve got to give those people further up their organization, safe space to learn those, and you do it in a creative way you don’t send them to school because they don’t know, they participate because we’re asking them to reinforce concepts that their subordinates or people, two levels below are learning.

So you take a little different tack with them, but the concept is the same. So what I would say to you, there’s there’s one aspect and that is learning how to manage others. Training is a key component. And coaching has become another key component as well. I’m an executive coach.

There are a lot of executive coaches out there. My approach to coaching what we do of coaching is very much like we do from a training standpoint it’s practical. It’s client centered. And my job is simple. Listen, well ask insightful questions that will enable them to accomplish their goals. It’s all about them. The goals that they’re trying to accomplish might be goals for themselves, or their team, or their organization.

So if I’m working one on one with a leader, it could be a manager, it could be a director, it could be an owner, they have set goals for themselves, oftentimes, that are pretty high. So in my coaching relationships, I’m acknowledging they to struggle with the same issues we’re talking about right now. I just gotta give them a safe space to kind of work through that. But then they had the added responsibility, when you own a business, all the burden is on you. And at least in my experience, working with owners, they feel it.

Yes. And if you are in a trust relationship with these owners, they’ve got to have somebody they can just be real with. But they take the burdens home with them. And so what I try to do in my work, when I’m working with leaders is give them safe space. I’m not a counselor, I’m not there to pat them on the back. But I am there listening, hopefully asking questions that gives them insights.

On occasion, it’s my job to point out things that they can’t see. And at times, it’s my job to tell them what nobody else dares tell them. Yeah. And only that’s going to happen is that they see that I know what I’m talking about. I’m not some corporate HR guy, I’m real. I’m a fellow business owner, I understand business. And if they can trust me, then we can dig deep and they can get things done.

 

Damon Pistulka  17:02

Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. Because in preparing for this, one of the one of the questions that that I get, because you’re talking about solving people problems, and without even asking you about it, you went to one of the things that I was going to ask about, and that is leadership investment, it was what I wrote down, but you’re talking about,

I think this is one of the things that we see as we’re helping companies with what, what they can do, you know, to help them scale, or whatever they’re trying to do from a from a operational perspective, is that we get people like it, you set it to a tee, technical, I mean, you can have PhD level people, technically just off the church.

But they’ve never been shown taught how to how to lead how to how to talk to people how to inspire a team how to develop others, because they’ve been focused on their skill set and doing it. So when you look at this do you do people see this fairly quickly?

Once they once you start to uncover? And? Or is it something that you really have to work a lot on by? You know, to get people to go? Wow, I never thought about this part of developing these people in these ways to give them these these skills, because we just assumed it was there. And is it a? Is it a hard thing to get them to go into? Or is it generally pretty easy once you get going down the road?

 

Mike O’Neil  18:42

You know, it’s kind of interesting, Damon, how we begin working with a client might would vary. I have yet to find a company that does the people skills training? Well, so we got a huge sweet spot, we can help a lot of companies with that. Because a lot of companies struggle with that. We may begin working with the company because they realize we need to do a better job training our line supervisors. What we would typically do to answer your question is we would start working with those line supervisors. But over time, those lines supervisors go out and do their job better.

And all of a sudden, their boss want to know what’s going on. So what happens is that we involve more, but it just kind of happens over time. We work with small companies that usually have small over stretched HR departments. So we’ll come alongside HR to kind of help them be more effective. And so and that could look a variety of ways. They’re struggling with certain issues. We come alongside to help them with that.

So it could be a consulting hat. I’m wearing. We’ve talked about training. We’ve talked about consulting, and we’ve talked a little bit about coaching something that’s kind of something that I have been doing a lot more of recently is because when you’re talking about a leadership team, oftentimes they get so mired down in the day to day, they really are operating off a plan.

And so I’ve kind of developed a knack of bringing leadership teams together to help them gain clarity. Who are we? What are we trying to accomplish? What differentiates us from our competition? And how do we do something about that, to develop a plan that we can execute on, and everybody in the room has a role to play in that.

So what has kind of happened over the years is I don’t know which of those scenarios might be where I begin working with a client. But it could result in the leader saying, You know what, I’ve had this happen, lots. The key leaders say, you know, Mike, you’ve kind of you’ve got your finger on us. You’ve you know, us, I think, I think I know you’ve helped us.

Do you think you can help me be more effective leader. You can’t go sell coaching, who wakes up in the morning, say I want to coach? They look at the morning because they’ve tossed and turned because something’s kept them up at night. And what they’re looking for solutions. I’m not walking in there with all the answers. I’ve got great questions, but they know the answers. My job is to help them kind of understand those and act on them.

 

Damon Pistulka  21:36

Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. Well, I want to stop for just a second, Mike, because we got I didn’t I apologize, because we got tons of comments here. I don’t know who this was. But they talked about MOD Pizza. We got Matt Haney stuff of I love discussions he’s talking about going on paper would not check it out. Check out love this. Dig a little deeper. Awesome. Matt. Matt helps build executive teams, for owners that are getting ready to exit or scaling your businesses. It’s good stuff. They’re hiring individuals more than a piece of paper. Oh, mobile Lodgy. I’m trying to try that.

Try it. I always try. sorry if I butchered your name. But I wanted to give it a good try. Then we got someone else just saying this fantastic topic. Awesome. Glad you’re enjoying it. We have grace. She’s dropped a couple comp comments. He’s talking about practical approach that treat employees with respect. Yes, yes. Yes. Oh, good. Oh, good. Practical clients or approach? He talked about that. Let’s see who else we got marshmallow. A marshmallows team live. He’s coming in from Atlanta. Well, you’re pretty close to Mike.

 

Mike O’Neil  22:59

I am. I’m just north of you, Michelle. Yeah.

 

Damon Pistulka  23:01

Yep. And we had Bonnie stop by think money stop by Michelle is saying hello there. And once we got last comment here, right now. It’s your responsibility to work on the business, not just in the business, though. That is the age old thing that we all see, isn’t it because we we start a business because we’re technically good at something. We don’t think about the fact that one day we’re going to have to run that business, and manage people and lead people and do all that. So our lead people more than I don’t even like using the word managing anymore. Because once you figured out that leading people is what you really need to do.

That takes care of itself. So as you’re as you’re working now, you know, we’ve had some changes in the last few years. Working in manufacturing and the whole, you know, we we are a lot of people are somewhat virtual, not virtual. Now we have people that are remote, because honestly, it allows us to have more talent. What are some of the challenges you see people dealing with? Now because of the mixed environment and work environments or, or just the trying to manage all this?

 

Mike O’Neil  24:11

You know, COVID has changed everything. It’s not just the fact that we’ve got employees working remotely. I think expectations of employers have changed dramatically. And I’m seeing that with with our clients. You know, it’s not just enough to say, Oh, you can work remotely.

The challenge today is creating a sense of belonging. You have to work that much harder. We literally have lost the equivalent of the watercooler. So much business gets done. Not in the conference room. It’s in the hallways, it’s the sidebar conversations. It’s the relationships that get built. And one of the challenges of a hybrid environment is how do you replicate that? It’s hard. It’s very hard. So you’ve got that as an issue.

Another issue I’m seeing, and I suspect our viewers also do too. And that is, people have gotten a taste of something different. And they don’t want to go back to the old way. And I’m not talking about just the commute, I’m talking about just the wasted time on meetings that needed to be done. People are realizing that if you’ve got the right people in the right roles, they can be far more productive. If they’re not having to do the things that they were having to do.

Go to, since let’s meetings, turn in senseless reports, let them do what really is the most value add that can put money on the bottom line, and be willing to cut a little more slack? We’re no longer will you have to work within a certain timeframe and the day, if they have worked, that’s got to get done. And you can measure it, why should it matter? When it gets done. If it’s good quality, it’s timely, it’s hitting the numbers that you need on the hit, cut some slack. If you’re willing to do that you’re gonna be able to attract and retain, you know, we start this conversation about the hiring aspects.

What I hear is kind of complaining, I can’t find people, I can’t find people. And my immediate response is, what are you doing to keep the people you already have. And if you focus your energy on keeping what you got, and investing in them, by just given them, learning opportunities, growth opportunities, give them a sense of, they’re part of something bigger, and they can make a difference. That is the challenge that we have nowadays, we’ve got to be better at what we do as leaders, because people have far more choices. Wow.

 

Damon Pistulka  26:54

That’s great. So that I think I think you hit it do from what I hear people talking about, what I see in our own clients is really is about, we have to create that sense of belonging, and people have to see that they are going to have opportunities in for growth and learning and, and being part of something bigger than themselves. Or it’s just, you don’t get the stickiness of retaining people, like you will, if you if you can create that.

 

Mike O’Neil  27:26

And I’m seeing that term belonging come up a lot more regularly. It sounds touchy feely. And again, it is it is hard to kind of quantify. But when people feel that they’re valued, and that they belong with those are working with, get out of their way. They’re gonna Yeah, they’re gonna just take on whatever needs to be done. But you got to give them that opportunity to have that sense of belonging to create that sense of I’m part of something bigger than just myself.

 

Damon Pistulka  28:02

Yeah, and when you say great point, because, as leaders 10 years ago, we didn’t have to do that nearly as much. No, me, hey, you got a good, you got a good paying job, we treat you fairly, you know, we’re in a good, you know, we good benefits, whatever the heck the things are.

And you’re right now, it’s really the the company has got create that sense of belonging, we’re in this something bigger than ourselves, we’re in this together. And, and we’re doing good things. I mean, I think that’s another thing. And I see too, is that people want to know that they’re, they’re having a positive effect on at least the outcomes they’re trying to create. But

 

Mike O’Neil  28:45

may I share something with you? I’ve just said that. Yeah, recently. And that is that you know that for the first time in history, we have up to five generations in the workplace.

 

Damon Pistulka  28:59

I read something about that. But that is now let’s talk about that a little bit, because that is the

 

Mike O’Neil  29:06

crazy Well, it is on the table, I’ll bring it up. And that is a generation can be defined to have shared experiences and the light Now admittedly, the the oldest generation, known more as the silent generation, there’s, there’s like 2% that were, here’s my point, these generational differences, they exist. But every generation, everybody wants to feel as if they matter. Yeah. They want to feel as if they belong. And what organizations all too often does is they just kind of push aside people because they don’t think they’re relevant. And what they’re missing is incredible institutional knowledge. Incredible, just wisdom.

You If we were willing, as an organization to not just stereotype, and you’re looking for a certain niche, that you’re going to find that you’re going to attract diverse generations, genders, all types, but if you are willing to try those things, you’re going to end up with an employee base, that’s far more enabled to go get things done, because you’re willing to, to be open to that possibility. Does that make sense?

 

Damon Pistulka  30:28

It does, it does. Because I think that we have, we have all kinds of, I’m gonna use the word bias that we don’t even know. And we’re gonna look at a position and we’re gonna say, Listen, this is a developer, you know, their software developer, right?

And you go, Well, someone that’s seven year old, seven years old, probably, they may have this bias, how could they be a good software developer at their seven years old, but it could be a very, very, very good software developer, that is spent the time got the experience is up to the latest and has this just this plethora of knowledge that they can bring and teach everyone around them to be better.

Or in the other case of it, and we talked about my pizza earlier, someone that walks in, and you know you are I don’t have a lot of piercings that are showing and tattoos all over our face or something. But someone can walk in like that, they can be the best person that you’re going to ever find for a position, they might be 24 years old, and seem too young to do it.

But they went a non traditional route, and they did something out of high school that someone else didn’t do and went to college. It’s like, we got to open up our eyes here. And look for the best people for us to succeed, rather than someone that fits your mind or anyone else’s box of what that person should look like on paper or in person. Because we’re with, like you said, within five generations, what you’re saying hits the mark completely is that we have to find the best people, rather than the best fit for what we think that person looks like.

Or is. It’s and you say you started from the beginning? Are you talking about you know, sometimes it’s given people a chance, but it’s looking beyond the paper, looking beyond whatever into the person into their deep into their experience to really understand if they’re going to be a fit? Yeah, good stuff. So what do you what I mean, what do you just love about doing what you do? I mean, you just go, Well, this is good. Like, this is what gets me going from,

 

Mike O’Neil  32:50

I want obviously, I mentioned the client, but it’s not a manufacturing client. It actually is a software client. And I’m working with their leadership team. And we’re doing an off site. And you might think an off site has a lot of trust falls and Kumbaya, yas, and games and stuff. We went into basically a windowless room. And we basically said, we’re not going to leave until we have a plan that we can go execute on. Now, we had a lot of work to do, because this is a software company. That’s a marriage of two companies, very different cultures. And as a result, what I had to do first is understand those cultural differences.

But we could spend time talking about those differences, we had to talk about those things that we have in common. what excited me is, even though I spent two days in a closed door setting, we got a lot done, as I had the opportunity to develop relationships that were incredibly powerful. I got to be a little bit vague here.

But we had just spent two long days together and I had the top leaders that Hey, Mike, do you have five minutes? This was eight o’clock at night. Yeah, about an hour and a half. We call it a night. But here’s what I found. Even though we spent two days together in pretty intense sleeves rolled up kind of work. This person who is in a key leadership role, was acknowledging what anybody in a key leadership role has. It is hard. Yeah. And who do you turn to? You know, I’m not a priest. I’m not a counselor.

But if I earn this person’s confidence because I knew what I’m talking about, not because I’m a software expert. But I’m a people expert. I’m an organizational expert, I’m good at helping them, do what needs to be done. But to be able to have that type of conversation after two long days, it was gratifying because what that told me is not only was I viewed as someone who knew what I was talking about, but someone I could be trusted.

And so you ask, what kind of excites me is when I can enter into a trust relationship with a key leader, business owner, if you will, then I view that as I’m making a difference in that one person’s life, not because they just need someone to confess to, but who can they run these ideas by. And so they need a sounding board, they need to understand that they can’t solve all the problems. And they realized that they may have been a good manager, but now they want to be a great leader.

And therein lies where kind of coaching kind of kind of come in, help them make that transition. And usually the best coaching clients are ones that are already doing well. But they want to up their game again. Yeah. So what excites me, and I hope this is answering your question, what excites me is when I win the trust, of key decision makers, who are willing to be vulnerable, who are willing to try things that takes them out of their comfort zone. But when they do, it makes all the difference. Because we learn in those experiences.

And so it my point and what I’m doing, that’s probably the most gratifying thing I get a chance to do. I work with groups in a facilitation role. I love watching the light bulbs go off. When I’m able to work, one on one with a leader, and the light bulb only goes off, but they begin executing more effectively, they begin to realize, you know, I did start this business for a purpose. I’m beginning to have fun again. And the reason why they can begin to have fun again, is they’ve begun to develop the organization to take some of that off film. Yep,

 

Damon Pistulka  37:18

yeah, I’m just I’m agreeing with you. And you’re saying, Hey, man, man, because it’s when people when when executives, kind of when the leadership light bulb goes off, and I’d probably describe it not. It’s a great feeling. Because you really understand how empowering others allows you to see them grow. And you’re growing in the process. So you don’t have to worry about your growth, because you’re helping the people that you’re leading, get better and develop and do do great things.

And you’re you’re growing in the process. And when that clicks in, that’s so powerful, because like you said, it changes that leaders mindset in what they’re what they’re supposed to be doing. Right. It’s like, I’m supposed to be helping my people be better, whether it’s the things you’re talking about with training, or it’s, you know, all the kinds of things that we have to do. And that’s, that’s awesome. When you see that happen. It’s a powerful thing. Because I can’t have fun.

 

Mike O’Neil  38:27

You know, maybe this is not something I should say. But I came up through HR before it was even called HR. It was personnel. Yeah. And in my experience, HR doesn’t really enjoy the best reputation. Oh, yeah. Because what comes out of hrs mouth, and I hope I don’t offend somebody watching right now. Usually, they’re telling a leader why they can’t do something. Yes. When I was leading HR odd, we just turned out as on ahead, let’s find a way to say yes.

But what that meant is you had to understand the business. And so I’ve looked at different and that I’m an HR person who first understands business, understand the drivers of business, and when you can relate to a leader and use language that resonates with them. And you know, it’s profits shouldn’t be a nasty word. Why are you in business, generate a profit, but you can generate a profit and do right by your employees do right by the organization, you can do those things, don’t just give away the store.

But what I would hope you’re picking up on this is that when people begin to see, alright, he gets us, he kind of gets me that part is what’s probably most enjoyable of what I get a chance to do. Rather than working for one company that signs my paycheck. I get to work with multiple companies and and see all kinds of settings. And so that’s very gratifying. You are asking early, what turns me on, is just to be able to help individuals help organizations in meaningful ways.

 

Damon Pistulka  40:09

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, Mike, it’s been a pleasure having you today. And talking about these, these challenges and some of the things you see and some of the things that you’re helping people do with your practical, practical people skills training, helping leaders with the coaching, so they can begin to see how this is, how they can change what they’re doing to help others. And, you know, any, any last thoughts that you would like to leave people with today?

 

Mike O’Neil  40:47

If I take your bait, I’ll have to come up with something kind of profound. So let me let me know not, here’s what I would find. And that is, if people are taking the time to tune in live, or watch this recording, my hat’s off, because they’re investing in themselves.

And when people are willing to take the time and invest in ourselves, it shows in how they are going to be more effective as leaders. And so as a person who coaches I to have a coach, if you’re not willing to continue to learn and grow, you’re going to stagnate. So my hat’s off to the people who’ve watched this episode, who tune in regularly, because it says that they’re yearning. And so what I would say is keep yearning, keep growing. If I could be of any help, let me know. I’d be delighted to try to see if I can.

 

Damon Pistulka  41:46

Awesome, Mike. Awesome, Mike. So Mike, what’s the best way to peep for people to get a hold of you?

 

Mike O’Neil  41:52

I probably two ways. The the name of my business is bench builders. So you go to bench dash builders.com, bench dash builders.com. And you can read about what we do how we help, you could click Hey, schedule a call. I love this to get on a call just to meet people. So that would be one way. I’m very active on LinkedIn. I love meeting people on LinkedIn. So Miko, Neal O, N E, I ll reach out let’s connect. If it makes sense. Let’s jump on a call and explore. How can I help? Not necessarily hitting them up for business, but we’re helping each other out? It outcomes around?

 

Damon Pistulka  42:33

Yeah, yeah. Good stuff. And I think you said one thing in the end, and you said, Well, it’s got to be profound. And you weren’t going to come up with some for found what you did. You know, it’s invest in, you’re talking about people investing in themselves? Yes. And and I think that is when leaders understand or people understand the returns of investing in themselves to become better.

It is, it is quite a thing to see. Yes. Quite a thing to see. Well, Mike, thanks for being here today. I wanted to also thank the guests. I mean, we had Sophie showed up. I don’t know if we got got you on before but she’s talking about focus on wellbeing and mental health awareness. That’s awesome. Grace, you got some more awesome comments in there. Thanks. And that is right. Better than being a good manager as being a great leader. 100%. So thanks, everyone, for being here. Thanks, Mike for being here today. Really appreciate it. And we’ll be back again next week. I better just hang out for a moment like

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