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Kevin Stoffel And Brent Hultman From Strong People Systems
12th March 2019 • Business Leaders Podcast • Bob Roark
00:00:00 00:41:41

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We often hear the saying, “Your business is just as good as the people in it,” yet many businesses still fail at finding the right kind of people in their team. As a result, they lag behind in efficiency and productivity. Kevin Stoffel and Brent Hultman from Strong People Systems give an overview of the issues that business owners are currently facing when it comes to their employees. They offer some great advice, insights, and tools that help solve problems in turnover and employee engagement. Highlighting the importance of identifying the true human potential of an individual, they bring forth the need for more objectivity into the hiring process. This does not only help the company go forward towards success but it is also a service to individual employees to truly load up on who they are truly meant to be.

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Kevin Stoffel And Brent Hultman From Strong People Systems

We have two guests on the podcast, Kevin Stoffel and Brent Hultman of Strong People Systems there in the office from up north in the Denver area. Thanks so much for coming in.

It’s our pleasure to be here.

Tell us a little bit about your business and who you serve.

We are Strong People Systems and we focus on unlocking human potential. It falls into two areas, working with small and medium-sized companies. We help companies bring some objective data into the hiring process, do a better job of getting the right people on the bus, to go along with the subjective resumes and interviews, where people look great on a resume and interview like a rock star but then turn out to be somebody else when they got on the job. We bring some objective data into that process using some pre-employment screening assessments and then working with existing staff to develop the potential of those people. If we ask the question to most of us, “Are you living up to your potential?” most people say, “Not really. There’s more I could give, more I could do, more I could achieve, if I can get out of my own way.”

One of the reasons that we typically don’t work with larger enterprises and large companies even though that’s my background is that  we realized everybody says, “Our people are our most valuable asset,” but then if I ask the leader to demonstrate how they do that, I’ll catch them flatfooted. Most big companies say that but then they have a hard time demonstrating that they truly do it. We’re not willing to engage with a client that’s not serious about developing people. If they want us to go fix their people and they say, “We need you, go fix my people,” that’s a non-starter. We won’t sign a contract in that case.

When it’s a “Fix my people” attitude or mentality or thought process, I always tell people to be careful when you point the finger of blame at people because there are three fingers pointing back at you. There’s a lot of truth in that.

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What’s your prototypical size business? How many employees? What kind of revenue?

We usually go by employees on that question because depending on the type of business you’re in, revenues can vary greatly. Ideally, our targeted clients are between 25 to 500 employees. We work with clients smaller than that and clients bigger than that. It’s about working with individuals or teams within those organizations to unlock their potential, the talents that are already there.

For the business owner that reaches out to you to bring you on board, what typical pain points or problems are they trying to solve when they reach out to you?

It’s one or two things, it’s, “I’m stuck. I’ve either plateaued or there are outcomes we have to accomplish that aren’t happening and they should be. If I could, I’d fire everybody and start over but I can’t, therefore I’m in enough pain with my current team that I’m willing to take a risk on investing in them.” The cool news is that once they look at doing an engagement with us, they’re amazed at how the potential of people they already had in place that they wanted to get rid of have the right stuff. It was just being interfered with by different people’s fears and head trash caused by the current cultural situation within the company.

The other thing that they are oftentimes dealing with is turnover. Turnover and employee engagement, they can’t figure out why. Why are they losing people? In the Gallup poll every year for over fifteen years now, only about 30% of employees are engaged in their position or in their job. About 50% are disengaged, another 20% or 30% are sabotaging the organization where they’re trying to bring their organization down by bringing more people on that negative bandwagon. When you get 70% of your workforce that’s disengaged or actively disengaged, that’s a real problem to achieving the performance that they’re looking for as an organization.

I think about that as a business. I’ve reached out to you, you’ve come on board and I’m sitting in the office and you have walked in. Walk me through that first engagement and then the subsequent process that you bring to bear.

It begins with getting at is this a good fit? Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, describes are we of the same tribe? If there is not a connection to where what’s valuable to us is resonating with you, then we either need to get to a place where there is that connection or recognize that it’s not a good fit between the two organizations. With that, we jump right into looking at do you have good clarity around the strengths, the values and the why of your organization and of yourself? If that’s in good order, then it’s typically about the strengths, values and the why of the people on the team. The disengagement is a result of the fact that you’ve got things figured out but it’s not connecting in those three areas for your team. It’s not truly a team, you just have employees who have strengths, values and a why that they maybe even aren’t in touch with it because few of us have taken the time to invest in ourselves to discover what our values, our strengths and our personal why is.

Maybe it would be useful to see if there’s a fit. Let’s say you came into my organization. I’m an autocrat and it’s my business and it’s very hierarchical. I’m the guy, I’m the rainmaker, I’m the operator and so on. You come in and go by my employees aren’t engaged. Is that your prototypical client or no?

It’s not uncommon at all. When I’m working with a CEO or a business owner, I understand what that looks like because I came out of thinking that’s the way you have to be to be a leader. I’ll start to have a conversation with you to say, “I get it. It’s exhausting though. You can never blink. You always have to be right. You always have to have all the answers. After a while, there are some levels of resentment because you start thinking, ‘What am I paying all these people for? I’m doing it all anyway.’” The reality is part of that is there’s something going on with the dynamic in your culture where you’re hanging onto things that you have hired people to take on. There’s something there and so we need to explore that to figure it out. Out of that, is there stuff you’re even willing to do something about? Either you need to make some changes in what you’re expecting as far as outcomes go and engagement from your people or changes in the culture as far as how you engage with your people.

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We are no longer in the Industrial Age, which was a command and control hierarchical structure leadership and management model. We’re in a different age we call the participation age, information age, knowledge worker age, whatever label you want to put on it. We’ve got to move from this command and control structure where decision starts at the top. By the time it flows down to the bottom and you get a feedback loop, too much situation has changed too fast. We’re now in tough environment where you’ve got to work at a peer-to-peer collaboration level where you need everybody engaged. Telling people to do a job because I said so is not a good answer.

That’s a military model. Stan McChrystal did a good TED talk on that. Here I am, I’m the business guy. We’ve had the first interview and we’re in agreement, that you guys are on board. What are the next steps for that business owner and what you deliver?

We typically start with a survey we call Success GPS Survey or assessment. We have people take that either as an individual or as a team of individuals and aggregate the results of that. It gives the business owner a look into where are they as an individual at relative to what we call our GPS model, which stands for Great People System Energy Model. Where are they at relative to their own energy cycle or path? Where is their team at and where are their people at so that they can know, are they in a positive energy path? As an individual and as a team, are they getting what they want? Are things humming along or they on the stuck path where things are stuck or stagnant? Are they on the negative path, where they’re getting more of what they don’t want, which is the worst-case scenario of the different paths that an individual or a team can be on?

It starts with that. Take a look at where you are and where is your team’s at. From there, if they decide to engage us then we would move into looking at what are the strengths of the individuals. The team is a bunch of individuals that need to have real clarity around who they are from an innate strengths perspective versus what they have been conditioned to be as we start to move into looking at that aspect of things. That’s so foundational to all of us as an individual. Are we playing from our strengths or are we playing from who we’ve been conditioned to be? If we’re playing on who we’ve been conditioned to be, oftentimes that results in an internal struggle, “Nature says I’m this, but society or conditioning says I’m that.” Those are different things that create an internal tug of war. We’ve got to get people to their authentic self first and that’s the foundation where everything else builds from.

You assess and you have your process for assessment. Once you assess and let’s say I’m on that 50-person organization and you have the assessment on all the players. You come back in with past assessment to diagnosis or regimen. What’s the next step after diagnosis?

At that point we’re into what we call LEAP, Leaders Equipped to Actualize Potential. That program can be for a business owner or CEO. It can be for their executive team. It can be for the entire organization, depending on the objectives of the of the client. What it does is it takes that awareness of where I’m either aligned in a positive way or I’m stuck or I’m on a negative path. I’ve got some clarity around, “Now I get it why most of my people are disengaged. I’m frustrated because I have high turnover and these are the places where I’m naturally very strong. These are the things that I learned how to be good at.” This applies to the CEO, to their senior team, whoever it is that we’re working with. Where it’s like, “Now that I’m aware of who I truly am, my innate strengths, that’s stronger because I’m playing from who I am.”

That’s energizing and sustainable but I’m also clearer on what’s conditioning. It’s stuff I’ve learned how to do and I’m probably good at it. If I’m playing from my strengths, when I need to use that conditioning as a tool, then I’m more powerful. I’m stronger in every avenue because I’m in a sustainable place being who I am playing from my strengths. I’m aware that my conditioning is a toolkit. I use the analogy of a sledgehammer. If I need to tear down a wall, I’ll pick up a twenty-pound sledgehammer and I’ll take down the wall but I recognize it’s a tool with limited use. When I’m done with that wall, I’m putting that thing down because it’s heavy. It is exhausting to carry it around and it’s limiting. If I took out the wall, your next thought is you need to give me a pat on the back. You don’t want me coming at you with a sledgehammer.

You diagnosed, you come in and look at the team with some prescription. What do you do after that in the company to monitor or measure progression?

We’re working with the individual and/or the team. Let’s go with a team. We’re working with that group of leaders on two levels. We’re working in a workshop environment for typically seven sessions where they all together gain a cultural container. That’s a certain vocabulary around personality types and strengths around this whole idea of being on a positive energy path or being stuck or being on a negative path. As far as the generator, which is the why, the strength, the values, all these elements, they have this context that they’re working from. In addition to that, we’re working with each of them on an individual basis where we’re helping them get out the stuff that’s in their way, the head trash if you will, that is the self-limiting beliefs and the emotional responses.

Often, there’s the stuff we know and we know we could or should do and we just don’t. It’s a subconscious barrier that we can’t fix but we’re equipped to come in and work with them on a one-to-one basis so that it gets fixed. That gives them a stronger position to continue to build their engagement with the whole. It’s that safe zone where if you’re the CEO, your team doesn’t have to know what you’re afraid of but you get a chance to deal with that and get it out of your way.

When you go through this process with the business owner, what are the common preconditioned and postcondition effects? What do they say or what do you hear when you’re talking to the customer before you get started and when you get down with them?

BLP Kevin | Strong People Systems

Strong People Systems: Few of us have actually taken the time to really invest in ourselves, to discover what our values and strengths are, and find what our personal life is.


There’s this a-ha moment that occurs oftentimes in the team environment. A lot of times in the coaching component as well. As an example, one of our clients said one time at the end of the program, “When I went into this, I thought it was going to be the typical leadership professional development type of training stuff that I’ve been through before.” She said, “This was more of a self-discovery process.” That a-ha discovering of who you are as an individual and investing in yourself the time and energy to do that, it is a process and it was an a-ha moment, “I thought I knew myself but at 53 years old, I’ve met myself the first time.”

It’s that kind of moment is what we’re about. People go, “Wow.” We like to say that as we increase awareness, understanding grows. As we increase understanding, acceptance grows. As we increase acceptance, kindness grows. When we have that level of awareness, understanding, acceptance and kindness towards ourselves, then that’s the first a-ha moment. Once we have that for ourselves then now, we can have an awareness, understanding, acceptance and kindness towards others. That’s where relationships start to form and develop and become more available. That’s when teamwork starts to happen. That’s when the organization starts to unlock the potential of the team, the individuals, as well as the team. When you got those foundational levels such as those relationships, teamwork can happen.

It’s not uncommon for us to have a situation where there is that exhausted business owner or CEO who feels like they’re paying a lot of payroll and not getting a lot of outcome at the start. Then they’re amazed at the end of the process at how they’ve changed their personal perspective and their engagement with their people and how much value their people are contributing. They had no idea those people had the ability or the potential to even come in and to strategically deliver and to go beyond what they had expected from those folks.

When they go through it together as a team like that, they’re all doing it together and they’re learning this stuff about themselves and each other together. It creates much more transparency and...