12: Listen Curiously with Debbie Tyler

Debbie Tyler, Vistage Chair and CEO Coach who is a former CEO of TakeCharge Technologies and holds several board positions, including at Arcitell, the Center for Innovation and Development, and MindShare, a network of technology companies in the D.C. area.

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Listen Curiously with Debbie Tyler

Our guest is Debbie Tyler, who is a Vistage chair and leadership coach. Debbie actually is a serial CEO. She was the CEO of TakeCharge Technologies, which was a cloud and enterprise fan management firm. She is also hold several board positions, for example, with Arcitell, which is a building products company, but also with the Center for Innovation and Development, and also with Mindshare, which is a network of technology companies around the DC area. Debbie is a good friend of mine, and she is the mother of twins. So she’s got a lot on her hands, and I could speak another half an hour, but instead of that, let me welcome you on the show. Debbie, hello, great to have you.

Hi, Steve, always great to see you.

Thank you, thank you. So, Debbie, you have a really interesting background, and I’d love for you to share with our listeners a little bit of your story. How do you get here?

How do I get here? I got here by selling the vegetables from my parents’ garden when I was a… That was my first entrepreneurial experience. I would take my younger sister around and we would go through the neighborhood and because she was so cute, everyone would buy the vegetables. And I guess that turned into a career in technology and then a career, after many phases in between, of course, and a career in working with leaders to help them become all they could become.

So, what is your experience? How is the technology, running a technology business, different from running your vegetable stand or running other types of businesses?

You know, that’s a great question, Steve, because I’d say it’s all about people and relationships and communication. And this is one place where I’m a fan of the entrepreneurial operating system because of how it helps with those particular interactions. But I think it comes down to the people. How can everyone work to bring, in the case of technology, a product to be developed in a way that the people on the other end are going to want to use it, the customers, and receive it? And how can all the people who are involved in that supply chain and involved in that process continue to be focused and feel valued?

And how can their performance be optimized? And I think when you’re talking about a vegetable garden, it’s nurturing the plants, it’s how you feed them, right? It’s how frequently you water them, but you can’t overwater them. And it’s, do people really want that vegetable that grew? I made the joke about taking my cute younger sister around so the neighbors would buy the vegetables, but with technology products, do people need it? Do they want it? Some people have tremendous ideas, but will someone actually pay money for that? Will they value it? And that’s about communication.

So basically, I have to communicate with your market to understand how to steer the development of the product so that it will sell and not become basically an interesting thing that no one uses.

Yeah, well, it is the timing, right? It might be something that someone is interested in using, but they might not be ready for it yet, or they might not understand it yet and too soon to market, or can you only get people who are going to adopt it early and they won’t pay you for it? So I think there are a lot of analogies. That’s interesting.

What about the people in technology companies? Do you think that they are somehow different from traditional industries like, you know, manufacturing companies, distributors, everyday service companies, whether retail or business service companies? Do you feel like technology businesses need to be managed differently?

I believe that people need to be managed differently. So if I work, as you mentioned, I’m on the board of a company called Arcitell, which is a fascinating business in the manufacturing space. But there’s people there who need to be managed certain ways based on their personality, what incents them, what they need, differently than others. And it’s like you and I. If we worked in a technology company, we’re still the same people in any industry.

And so I don’t know that I’d say that it’s necessarily different, although you definitely have engineering minds throughout different industries that we see, and you can look at what someone who works as a high-performing engineer may need, or they’re a very talented individual, but that hasn’t blossomed yet. How can you get them to perform higher? Well, it depends on what they need, but it’s not necessarily tied, I don’t believe, to the industry they’re working in. That’s a long winded answer. So, you may have to edit that one.

Managing people requires understanding their personalities, incentives, and individual needs – a personalized approach for each. Click To Tweet

I agree with you. That you get there before your competitors, maybe you have a venture, you’re using venture money to grow fast, then there’s tremendous pressure. And then these companies obviously have money to hire the smartest people and these people will have ideas. And what I find challenging working with these companies is that often they have too many ideas and they have too many strong personalities and how do you arbitrate between these persons? How do you lead these people? You have to be a really strong leader to be able to lead these people so that they respect you.

And with EOS, often these people will challenge the structure. They are trying to poke holes in it because they are just the kind of people that want to understand the roots of things and you cannot answer them satisfactorily, then they lose interest, they lose attention and you lose credibility. So that’s what I see a lot of the times that these technology companies, strong leadership and they need to be those who really understand the technology, but also understand the human side of things so that they can they can catch up with these people toward the end of the company.

So I agree with you, but I would counter that by saying, I think that’s true in many industries.

Yeah, I guess so. And many successful companies, whether it’s technology or not. And most successful companies do use technology these days. I guess these things are converging. It’s not about technology and non-technology anymore. It’s about fast-growing companies and traditional maybe lifestyle companies. Is the differentiation?

Could be. Yeah, I was trying to rack my brain for which ones it wouldn’t apply to.

So let’s switch gears here, Debbie. Tell me a little bit about some of the challenges that you faced in your career as a CEO. What were the ones that stood out for you and how did you overcome them?

Well, to the point we were just discussing, I think one challenge is certainly finding your first few customers and actually having those customers come to you, pay you, and stay with you. And so to that end, I remember with one company going to visit the customer, and we didn’t have any customers yet, and leaving with the customer order with the check coming shortly thereafter and taking a photograph of that check because remembering we’ve got a customer now, a real paying customer. It was a financial institution, which was a big deal.

And to get that gave us the momentum to say, this product is valid. This is not just something that a small company could leverage, this vision really is a reality. So I think that also gave so much energy to the people who were working on it at the time, but it also gave us direction. If our technology was heading in this direction, and this particular customer was saying, I will be your customer today if the product is here.

So then you have a big question, which is, do you make your product this? Because originally you were here, they want it here. So do you become this, translate here. And our decision was, this is our foundation product, this is what we’re going to do. And yet we’re going to make sure that we include this as always as an option for anyone who may need it. And because they’re the first ones for us, it was an easy decision to say, this is what we’re gonna do.

And we’re still hanging our hat here and that’s a core component of this and it worked for us but that’s a big decision. I don’t know if I’m answering your question directly but it was a big decision based on the fact that we got our first client which was a big deal and a lot of people they build their entire product, they build their entire solution and they say now that we have it everyone should be ready for it. And that doesn’t always hold true.

The first customer is a milestone that validates your product's worth – a powerful moment that fuels energy and gives direction. Click To Tweet

It’s a fine line because you want to be flexible so that you serve those customers and get those customers. But you also don’t want to lose your focus because if that is a dead end, you won’t be able to build a business on it. Or if it takes too much resource to satisfy that customer, then you’re depriving the rest of the business from the resources and you cannot afford to just have one major customer. You need to have diversification and stuff like that.

So definitely I can see that. I can also relate to this feeling of the first customer and taking the picture of a check. I remember when I first arrived here in the United States and I actually, I prepared a direct mail back in Europe and I brought it with me in my luggage. It was a hundred envelopes, maybe it was a thousand envelopes actually. And it had the wrong size envelope and all that because in Europe they have different size envelopes.

And anyway, I mailed it and I got two phone calls back and one of them hired me as a client. And I remember I was coming down the elevator after they signed the contract and I was fist bumping and everything. I was super excited that I got my first client in America. So totally can relate to that. Tell me another thing that as a technology CEO, you were really challenged by, and you were in a dark place, you were not sure how you were going to overcome it, and then eventually you managed to get through it.

So I’ll go back to the people, talking about the people again, because for one of my companies, we were in a great spot that people were loving the technology we had. We were in the right place at the right time. But finding the right people to fit our culture and to scale fast enough was challenging because you bring the wrong person on and they don’t represent you correctly. And then you get into challenges and in dealing with the customers or what their expectations are.

In business, finding the right people is like being in the right place at the right time, but scaling fast requires aligning with the right individuals who represent your culture. Click To Tweet

And I was in a meeting this morning talking about that very topic, about how when it was a light at the end of the tunnel for us at that company, when we discovered that if we hired a certain type of person, in this case, it had been student athletes, and we were hiring them specifically, met a couple of them, hired them. They performed very well for what we needed and in a capacity, quick learners, well-disciplined, understood teamwork and the value of respecting your teammate, but also showing up focused and disciplined to do what the job, what your role and responsibility was on the team.

It was tremendously valuable to have those individuals there, but also it was a bright light for us to find that opening and that sweet spot of people to come on to the team. And it was several years of, you know, once you got into that opening, those people knew some other people who could come and some more people who would fit in, right? And they would recommend their friend and tell their friend, we love working for this company, you should come work there too. And it was time-saving, cost-saving immensely for the company because it was getting us the right type of people and an open stream of the right type of people.

And what did bring those people into the company? Was it something about the culture that attracted them or was it the personality of, was it your personality? What is your leadership teams, makeup or personality that attracted them? Was it the mission of the company? What do you think was the major factor?

That’s an interesting question I hadn’t thought of, but I would believe that it was the excitement of having some leading edge technology. So that excitement of the leading edge technology and bringing that, being able to participate in a company that was hot. A very hot technology and a hot company with a great culture. So there was a lot of fun. We were very focused on having fun. That was a cultural tenant, but we we were a work hard, play hard organization. And so I think that matched the student-athlete needs, and it worked well for that particular company in that situation. But to make a joke, because anybody who knows me is going to know, yeah, it was definitely my personality that brought everybody in. I’m just kidding.

You never know.

You never know. but I do care a lot about the people who work with me, for me, around me. I want the best results for them, for their businesses, for their careers. So what I see with most of my clients, there are two things that attract people to a company.

One is the culture of the company. If they sense that it’s a culture that they want to be a part of, that’s where core values are so important because if you describe those core values that you embody as a company, and then you can attract the right kind of people who allows those core values and you can repair the wrong kind of people who maybe don’t resonate with those core values as well. The other thing that I find is really critical.

If the company stands for something, if the company has a vibe which is bigger than just making money or having a paycheck, then people can really resonate with that. I see a lot of people being starved of being part of a bigger story, a bigger purpose. And if the company can provide that, then it’s a fantastic adventure to be part of it. It’s kind of a low hanging fruit to articulate that because you’re gonna be more attractive for the right kind of people, not for everyone. You’re going to polarize people. Not everyone is going to be excited about your culture.

So let me interrupt you there


There’s a great story that was shared with me by Antarctic Mike, if you know him, the speaker.

Oh, yeah.

Have you? He’s wonderful, and he talked about the ad that Shackleton.

Shackleton. Yeah, it’s basically telling people that you’re going to starve, very low pay, and you’re probably going to die. But if you make it back, then you’re going to be famous.

Yes, tremendous way to repel those you don’t want, but get the people on the team you do. It was, what a great story.

And all 27 people survived, and they came back. After two years in Antarctica, that’s a fascinating story. And it’s worth watching. There’s a documentary that these guys actually shot, black and white, and were surviving on Elephant Island. And how they were, you know, these tents that the ice cracked below it. And then they had to just jump up at 2 a.m. in the morning and move the tent to the other ice plate so that they don’t fall into the water. It’s quite amazing. So this leads me to the next question. How is it different from running a business to actually helping other people run their businesses? And why did you make that transition? What motivated you to become a coach that works with a number of different companies, a number of different CEOs rather than with just one?

I can have more impact. And I believe helping others get to where they’re trying to go after having achieved some of my goals, it feels good, quite frankly. And there’s so much that I have learned through, you know, people ask, you asked about dark moments earlier. People learn through accomplishment as well as mistakes. And so I have had good accomplishments, strong ones that I can share with people why that worked out. And I have mistakes that I can share so that they don’t step in those potholes.

And to me, the opportunity to take the background in technology and have others observe and other people said to me, you’re very good at helping people grow. Great. So identifying that and helping them grow and helping now the shareholder value grow, I can do both at once, and I can do it across different companies, and the reach is broader. And I’m energized by working with so many great leaders who want to be greater. And so to me, it was a natural career progression to move from having my, you know, working as the CEO or having my own businesses in some cases, and then helping other people and helping the board members get the value out of it by getting the value out of the people. It just seemed like a natural progression.

And I started doing it for several companies related to, at the request of actually, Steve, the investors of one of the businesses I had been involved in. And they asked me to help them with another company that they were invested in. And it became, in essence, coaching the leader of that company. And then it became coaching the executive team. But it really was all about helping those people with their challenges or getting out of their own way that they didn’t realize they were doing and shining a mirror on them, having very difficult conversations with them that when someone was working day in day out with that individual individual were harder to have.

As a person coming in from the outside, it’s easy for me to have that difficult conversation with them. In some cases, yes, I’m the board member. In some cases, I’m coming in as a hired gun to help them and coach them through those difficult conversations. So if there’s a challenge or problem that someone needs to adjust, I can be there to hold them accountable, to challenge them on it, but also to make sure that the result is one that’s positive for the individual and the business.


Whatever that may be. And sometimes the best situation is maybe that’s not the right company for that person and that they’ll thrive elsewhere and the business will thrive better with them elsewhere.

I’ve seen that happen so there’s a company benefits as wellultimately I actually had recently a situation where I was working, I was hired by the owner of a company and one of the key executives became, over time became frustrated and she approached me and she told me that she was frustrated and she wanted to go elsewhere. And I felt very torn because I felt like the owner wouldn’t like me to have that conversation with that person, but she just approached me.

She asked to talk to me and, well, listen, if this is how you feel, if the other opportunity is much more exciting for you and you feel like you’re not being able to be successful here, then I think, you know, you should take it. And eventually it turned out that the company was better off as well because she was no longer that focused. She was not bringing all the value. She was making some mistakes, which came to light. But actually both the company and the individual benefited from it.

And another thing I wanted to say is that you say it’s difficult conversations. Yes, this conversation is difficult, but high-performing people would rather have difficult conversations, which might pain them, but which allow them to actually perform higher at a higher level than to not know the painful truths and go down and stagnate and not be able to break through. So they will welcome, actually, the opportunity to grow, even if it feels awkward for them to learn something that maybe they should know already.

I agree with you. But what if no one ever gave them that opportunity to grow because no one ever shared it with them or no one ever taught them how to have a challenging conversation? So that’s part of the work that I do too. Maybe no one’s ever said to them, here’s a way you can make the change. Here’s a way forward. And that’s part of the difficult conversation too. They may want to, but they didn’t even know they could.

And it may take them some time to adjust mentally to actually do something like that and to be OK with it and to work through with them and, you know, and keep the confidence in the process so that they don’t drop it. That’s a very delicate to do.

It is but it’s a joy to bring change about when you see the result, when the person does evolve in a positive way. And it does positively affect the business, because you talked about culture and if there’s the one bad apple analogy fits, because it can rot the culture and distract from it.

You often don’t see that it’s happening. You feel that there is something funky about this person, but nothing comes back to you directly, so you assume that it’s okay, nothing is really happening, but they are quietly undermining because they are resentful or they don’t agree with the culture and then they make arguments why it’s not correct or whatever they do. And and then you can have serious problems. You can lose valuable employees that will be turned off by that.

So it’s really important to keep an eye on the the bad apples, so to say, as you say. So that means to tell me, how did you mold yourself into a successful business coach? Did you have role models that you emulated or what was your technique? Or I’m sure that you read all the books as well, but how did you figure out how to become a good coach? What is the process? What is your process?

What is the process? You know, it’s interesting you use the term mold because to me, active listening is the foundation for change. And curiosity leads to active listening. And I’ve always been curious, curious about people, curious about businesses. And yes, you and I could list dozens and dozens of great books and great leaders who we’ve learned from and who tenants we espouse. But I believe it comes from sincere curiosity because if I’m sincerely interested in understanding what matters to you and why you’re acting or spending time on whatever it is you’re doing, then I’m going to be able to know you better.

Curiosity is the driving force behind coaching – sincere interest in understanding others allows for meaningful conversations about challenges, change, and growth. Click To Tweet

And if I know you better, then we can discuss what that challenge is that you may have and identify how we can fix it. So I’d say that the curiosity is probably the number one thing that drives my coaching. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to the person I’m working with, the CEO I’m working with, the executive team member I’m working with, what do they need to change and why? Why does that matter to them? And what’s in the way? And so curiosity is the foundation.

Questioning is paramount for me to understand what we need to do. And what am I basing this on? I mean, again, I could list a bunch of books, I could list a bunch of leaders who have performed incredibly well, but you’re gonna hear that from everyone. And I think the main thing is taking all of that and putting it together into saying, what have others done before that’s worked? Why did it work? And how can we leverage what worked? Why can’t that work for you? Right, what’s in the way for you, the individual? You know, I’ll also say, I always work into the future backwards.

So whatever the challenge is, people will talk about organizational charts, who they have, and I say, well, where are you trying to go? And we’ll map out where they’re trying to go and say, don’t even think about the people you have today, right? Where are you trying to go? Now let’s work back and look at where you are now. And what are the gaps there? And how can we fill those gaps? What do we need to do to fill the gaps? Because now you know what it should look like. If it’s a $50 million company, what are you going to look like at a hundred million?

And what does the, if you’re ten million and you’re trying to get to twenty, right, what, let’s look at what the twenty million dollar organization looks like and how do we get there? I’m using org charts as an example because we keep talking about people, but for any problem I think if you say where am I trying to go and what are the gaps between my ability today and the abilities I need to have to accomplish what I’m trying to accomplish, and then put tasks to that, then you put your tactics in place and you go after it. And that’s, to me, that’s a bit of the, or that’s the foundation that I use in conjunction with the questioning. That works for the people who I’ve been working with and the results are pretty clear.

Fascinating. So I just do relate it to EOS. We had do something similar. We say, okay, where do we wanna go long-term because the 10-year target and where do you need to be three years from now to be on track with the 10-year target? So we paint this vivid picture of the company three years from now, give all the colors, the revenue, profit and the number of people, markets, industries, and so on, organization. And then we break it down.

Okay, so this is your three-year picture. We have this visual in our mind, and then where do you have to be at the end of next year to be on track with that, to become more tactical? And then what are your major three to seven goals and that you want to achieve? And then we break it down to quarterly rocks, we call them, quarterly priorities. But essentially, this is what we do.

We ask them to visualize where they want to go. What is their emotional driver? What is the desire? And then we break it down. Ok, what do we need to achieve in order to get there? And sometimes we need to tweak it. Sometimes it turns out it’s not possible to get there. But sometimes it more often it’s the opposite, that you can actually get further. I mean, 10 years is a long time. There’s a lot that can happen.

The other thing I wanted to comment on is, as you talk about reading all the books and listening to people, I think there is, your knowledge is essentially infinitely available. You can Google anything and you can have as much knowledge as you want, more than you can ever absorb. It’s not about having the knowledge these days. It’s the real thing is applying the knowledge, connecting the dots. Okay, this is the knowledge, and this is the context that we need to apply this knowledge to, and how do I match the two?

And that is much more complex because you need to recognize patterns, you recognize situations, and then you have the knowledge, and you have to pick out and synthesize the right pieces of knowledge. And I know I hear from clients that you’re really great at that. We have some clients who come on and they always comment about your understanding and empathy and clarity that you give them.

Yeah, and I appreciate that. You look at, as you’re talking, and I think it is true what you bring together from the different leaders. Because I look, you can have lessons from Gettysburg, you can have lessons from Churchill, you can have lessons from, everybody talks about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. And there’s so many great lessons from looking at business leaders, wartime leaders, political leaders, sports leaders, right? We have a mutual friend in Einstein Jr. and what he talks about with player, coach, and team.

There are so many great foundations for following what works in other fields and applying it to any given company. And I think what people need to continue to grow is some sort of structure or foundation. And when I’ve worked with some of the customers that you and I have, the people that you and I have in common, what I see is the value of the entrepreneurial operating system as that common language, that foundation, right? And the ability to have a common language or foundation with which to communicate and clear goals with which to try to attain, it makes it much more effective and efficient.

And that’s what these great leaders, many of them, are trying to do. They’re saying, this is our common shared goal. March to the common shared goal. What’s your role in the common shared goal? What do you need to do on the journey? How can we help you, myself as the leader or anyone on the leadership team, to get to that common shared goal, right? And this is, EOS is a good way of having each of those things very clear. And it makes you come back to that each time. Come back to the common shared goal. Are we there? Are we not? Do we need to reset the goal? Do we need to recalibrate the goal? Cause it is an iterative process in business and it’s an iterative process in life.

Absolutely. It’s a really big idea, I think. And Jim Collins came up with it in Beards to Last, which was before Good to Great, he wrote Beards to Last. And he came up with this concept of alignment. It’s not just about having a vision because it’s easy. You come up with a vision and you have a vision. No, you don’t have a vision. A vision is a living, breathing organism and you have to constantly, regularly align yourself around the vision.

And this is why we have this concept in the US, the 90-day word that in about 90 days people lose focus and you have to catch them before it happens. Put them together and look at your vision. Okay, this is a 10 year target. These are our core values. This is a core focus. And to make sure that everything is correct, people still believe in it. We tweak it if something is amiss, maybe the market changes, maybe something happens to an industry or to a company that it’s no longer valid, or we want to think bigger, we tweak it.

And then everyone gets excited. Okay, yes, this is it. Now we see it. And then you get back into the business and you execute. And 90 days from now, you align again and you keep aligning. And over time, the vision becomes clearer and clearer, more and more powerful. You can narrow your focus and you wake up two, three years from now and everybody in the company is fully believing your vision. And everyone’s excited to be part of that vision and draw the boat in the same direction.

And I love this because it clarifies some of my beliefs around if you can have that, but if you don’t have the people, it all comes back to the people. If the people don’t follow, if the people don’t believe, if the people don’t perform, if the people don’t participate, they don’t support, but if they do all of those things, then you can have success your business is seeking or the individual is seeking. But I think this is a very interesting view just brought up because it made me realize, it goes back to what I said at the beginning of this conversation, that people are the critical component.

People have a lot of things that they will only bring to the table if you inspire them. If you’re just going through the motions and they just come there for the paycheck, then they’re just going to give you as much as their paycheck is or even less sometimes. But if you get them excited, you empower them and you give them ownership and you give them a mission and you give them a goal, then suddenly they have this huge opportunity to self-realize, to self-actualize. You actually give them the tip of the Mars goes pyramid is now available to them. They can self-actualize in your company. They can achieve as much as they are capable of achieving. I mean, how exciting that is. And then they’re going to explode and they will bring their energies and they’re gonna work 14 hours a day. If they need to just bring all their ideas, they’re gonna innovate and make things better for you just because they are excited to contribute.

Inspire your team, empower them, and give them a mission. When employees have a goal and a sense of ownership, they self-realize and contribute their maximum potential. Click To Tweet

Yeah, this is a great leader, one of my old bosses, tremendous human being, and he would joke with me about the donkey and the carrot that, you know, do you remember the old thing where the carrot would be in front of the donkey and the donkey would keep going? He figured out, individualized what my carrot was, right, and put that carrot out there. And I did and I was so happy. And so if we figure out what the individual carrot is for anyone, and I continued to develop and grow and the carrot got different over time. But the analogy, he was joking with me, of course, but the concept is a good one, is what’s the carrot for any given person? It’s going to be variant.

Variant. The energy only goes so far because the carrot, the donkey will never reach the carrot. But your people can actually reach the carrot.


After we get there, then you give them a bigger carrot or they give them a celery or whatever. You give them something else. They keep they can keep improving.

Yes, of course. That’s an important point to make. I did catch the carrot and then there was a new one.

It’s not a manipulation. It’s essentially releasing energy of people for a goal that enriches all of us. And even if they continue their career in another company in the future, because maybe the outworld is company, but if we give them the learning curve and they can improve themselves while they are in our embrace, then we’ve given them the best possible scenario. And they also return it.


Knowing what you now know, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I would say slow down and breathe because if you stop, it goes to the active listening that we talked about. If you stop and listen, there’s possibility and answers all around you. So I was fairly intense, and I think that ties to being fully present. If I slow down and breathe, I’m completely present in the moment. So right now I’m completely present, focused on talking to you. I can do that now because I’m not 20 years old and I’ve grown up. But then if I could have had this skill to be able to really converse with you versus prepare to react to you, it would have enhanced my capabilities and my accomplishments even then. So yes, I would say and my enjoyment. Right.

It’s so interesting as I’m becoming more and more aware of it in the years. I mean, obviously I was aware of it 10 years ago, but not to the extent I’m aware of it now. So right now I catch myself on, I’m doing something that was planning to do at the weekend, but one of my daughters come up and ask the question and I put stuff down because I know that this is the most important thing. If I can engage with her and be with her and listen to her, and maybe just listen to her, or maybe share insights with her, that can multiply and it can become something really big at some point in the future. And what’s the alternative? I can read this book, which will give me maybe a nugget, maybe not. I can read it tomorrow. It’s always gonna be there for me if I want to, but my daughter’s gonna go to college and she’s gonna disappear from my life and I won’t have the chance to impact her anymore. Being in the moment is really huge.

It is. And this is fascinating because when I bring this up, people will talk about being present and they will relate it to their family members, their parents, their spouses, their children. But what if we all took that same level of being present with the board members, with the business leaders, with our executive teams, with all our coworkers and employees, if you really were present in the conversations with them, in the interactions with them, it’s a different story.

So many people operate out of, conversationally, at work, in a defensive manner, a protective manner, a I don’t want people to know that I don’t know this, or what does it mean if, I’ve seen this when I’m serving on boards with the CEO coming in and they want to justify everything. And that’s where the slow down is and be present really is important. What if we were to say, this isn’t punitive, we’re having a discussion. So take that out of your mind before we debate the cash flow, right? Before we debate the product direction, before we debate and have a healthy discourse on whatever the business issue may be.

And I think this is so fascinating because when I talk about being present, people take it into their personal life, which they should. But what if we really focused on doing that in our companies, in our jobs also? It’s respect. Many, many, many companies I work with, one of their cultural tenants is respect. And that’s wonderful, but are we really playing it out? So just questioning, how can I be doing that better?

And to just be there for the person to have them figure it out by letting them bring their issues and letting them ask the questions or just us asking the question which helped them figure it out for themselves and not give them audiences.

But with also with teaching them how to be present themselves without me as a coach or board member present, how can they go into that discussion and be present? Get that head trash away so that that conversation can actually occur the way it should occur without that garbage around.

And I think this is one of the biggest value of having a coach, other than it helps you evolve and grow and see your own, realize your own potentialities, but also the modeling that you get from a coach. Because when you’re sitting at a coach and you see how they are present and how they are curious and how they ask questions and not pretend that they know the answer and jump in with a solution, it will be a great example for them what they need to do with their direct reports and how they communicate with their directors. That’s going to be a knock-on effect and then everyone else models that, then the whole company can change just because of one coaching relationship at the top. So Debbie, who are your role models? When you think about people that have impacted you and you try to model to be a little bit like them, who comes to mind?

Oh, there’s many people. As I said, it’s a conglomerate of experiences and I go all the way back. I believe, probably get this answer from many people, which is my family, my parents, my grandparents. My grandfather went into business for himself at 16 years old. He became very successful in the steel industry. He actually was FDR put him in charge of munitions during the war to negotiate it. Yeah, very cool. So certainly learned a lot about being an entrepreneurial leader from him and from my parents.

My other grandparents built their own restaurant and ran that, and watching them run it, there’s a great story my family shares of my grandmother who would walk, saw one of the waitresses putting money in her pocket from the cash register. This was back in the days when you could do something like this. She walked up and she grabbed the girl by her ponytail, spun her around and said, is that your money or is that the business’s money? And she took the money out of her pocket and everyone there saw the whole, all the other employees, the staff saw this happen and heard about it. And they said, you know, this is an example, which is, thou shalt not steal. Right?

So, it’s stories like that too, that, that formed my ethics, right? To be very principled. They were very principled people. They took care of, of their employees. They worked incredibly hard. And I respect that. And I had more of that from both of my parents as well. You know, my father taught me about business development really because he was such a happy, friendly individual, but he was a lawyer. So he was very, he had that side that was very precise as well.

And he taught me that a constant positive smile and really caring about other people, which he did and still to this day does. He would walk in, anywhere you would walk in with my dad. He would talk to that individual. He probably would have been a great politician because he made you feel very important, but it was sincere. It wasn’t inauthentic. And I learned that from him as well. And with my mother, she taught me always be prepared, always be prepared. And she would prepare in advance and it served her very well career wise, very well. But outside of family, I would say that there are so many people. I mentioned my old boss, who I had a great relationship with, Tom DePasquale.

He’s just an amazing human being and an amazing business mind. I’ve never seen anyone with the ability to calculate numbers as rapidly as he does. And he taught me a real respect for understanding your numbers in business but also so many lessons of leadership from him about don’t come to me with with a problem without first thinking about the solutions. Right. Step over it you know if you have a problem don’t dwell on it. This move forward keep moving forward keep moving forward. And just wonderful examples from him as a leader.

You know, there are many people like Simon Sinek, and I love the Lincoln on Leadership book because of what it shares about walking amongst your troops. There are, and I mentioned Churchill earlier, the fact that he was able to get all of the citizens to follow him and not surrender during the war and it’s incredible. And you and I’ve talked about many other people outside of this conversation as well, but there, if you just learn from those around you and keep learning, it’s amazing. I remember, I’m giving you too long of an answer here, but there’s just too many people to not mention.

I remember Lieutenant General John Sattler coming and listening to his talk on how to get through such an acute moment as being attacked and the concept of complacency kills that he shared. Complacency kills. Literally, he’s talking about literally. Now, we take that concept into some of the businesses we have, and it kills you financially. It kills your culture complacency. So there’s just so many people to learn from and sharing all of those pieces of advice, I guess you would say, with yourself and remembering them.

I think that’s another key tenet for me is reminding. Some of these things you and I talk about, Steve, they’re very obvious. But we have to remind ourselves with my mother to be prepared, to prepare for the conversation, prepare for the meeting, prepare for the day, and how people prepare. Just reminding yourself, hey, I got to get prepared. I got to prepare. Very important. And reminding yourself that complacency kills, reminding yourself to respect your teammate, reminding your strength.

It’s worth reminding and it’s easy to forget these things, out of sight, out of mind. So it’s keeping it in front and center. So you mentioned your mother, how would she describe what you do for a living?

That’s an interesting question. How would she describe it? I think both my parents would say, and this may sound too staged, but it’s not. I think they would both say that I use my business and life experiences to help others try to get to where they’re trying to go. I think they would say Debbie’s very comfortable being the woman behind the person, right? I don’t need to be the person. So they would say what she does is be the person behind the person. I’m there to support and help others achieve what they’re trying to achieve, get to where they’re trying to go. I think that’s what they would say.

You’re the ghostwriter. Very exciting and I know that you do a great job of that. So, Debbie, if people want to reach out to you and talk to you and hear more about what you can maybe do for them, where can they reach you?

Well, they can reach me through my website, debbietyler.com. You can email me at debbietyler@vistagechair.com. That’s V-I-S-T-A-G-E-C-H-A-I-R.com. You can contact me on LinkedIn. I’m not highly responsive on social media because, as you mentioned, I am kind of the ghostwriter, so I’m not as out there as many people are, but there’s a lot of people I know and who know me. So feel free to contact me. I love to hear from people, people’s challenges, and help them solve them. Thank you for the opportunity, Steve, to share that.

Well, absolutely. It’s been a wonderful time. And for our listeners, thanks for staying tuned and great to have you on the show and stay tuned. There are more CEOs coming up next week. Have a great day.


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