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What’s Brewing? with Jaime Taets, CEO of The Keystone Group

These past two years have taught us about liv­ing and work­ing dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic and fur­ther­more, how impor­tant pay­ing atten­tion to our men­tal health can be as we nav­i­gate the chal­lenges that come with work­ing from home, hybrid, or mak­ing the return to the office. Now more than ever, peo­ple are find­ing that the way they worked in the past is not the way they want to work mov­ing for­ward. As a result, busi­ness­es need to ensure they are pro­vid­ing the type of work envi­ron­ment and cul­ture that keeps their employ­ees feel­ing val­ued and engaged.

With men­tal health in the work­place top of mind, we sat down with Jaime Taets, CEO of The Key­stone Group Inter­na­tion­al. She is also a pod­cast­er, speak­er and author who works with hun­dreds of busi­ness lead­ers and CEOs in mak­ing sure their busi­ness­es’ strate­gies align with their peo­ple and cul­ture in order to ensure a suc­cess­ful, sup­port­ive and hap­py work­place. We chat­ted with Jaime to hear more about what busi­ness lead­ers can do to estab­lish a con­scious cul­ture as they help employ­ees (and them­selves) nav­i­gate new ways of working.

This is a very strange time when it comes to the work­ing world. Some com­pa­nies are still entire­ly remote, some are back full time, and many are hybrid—all of which are caus­ing busi­ness lead­ers to focus on the impact these changes are hav­ing on their employee’s hap­pi­ness and suc­cess. How are you help­ing busi­ness lead­ers nav­i­gate these new challenges?

We are hav­ing a lot of con­ver­sa­tions around con­scious lead­er­ship and how the require­ments of lead­ers are evolv­ing rapid­ly. Most of our clients are invest­ing heav­i­ly in their lead­ers right now because they know that will be the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage over the next 10–15 years around the labor market.

The great news is that more busi­ness lead­ers are open to these con­ver­sa­tions as men­tal health in the work­place is no longer a “touchy-feely,” off-lim­its top­ic. But for some, it can still be uncom­fort­able. We are help­ing lead­ers shift their per­spec­tive and where they spend their time to help them devel­op coach­ing skills to real­ly con­nect with, and coach their employ­ees. We are also help­ing them with tools and approach to con­nect more authen­ti­cal­ly to build trust and under­stand the team’s true strengths.

Giv­en it is very like­ly employ­ees are no longer all in the same build­ing at the same time (or at all), how do busi­ness lead­ers real­ly know how their team is doing and if they are feel­ing val­ued and engaged? 

It’s def­i­nite­ly a chal­lenge when we are not phys­i­cal­ly in the same space. The guid­ance we give lead­ers is that they have to cre­ate inten­tion­al­i­ty in their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and approach. Reach out to do video calls with their peo­ple out­side of just big project meet­ings or team meet­ings. They need to con­nect to them one-on-one more often when remote. And more impor­tant­ly, use those calls to just con­nect, not just jump into busi­ness topics.

We are also rec­om­mend­ing more fre­quent devel­op­ment con­ver­sa­tions, iden­ti­fy­ing areas they could use their strengths more often and real­ly get a sense for where they are at – are they feel­ing chal­lenged and feel like they can grow with­in the company?

For those who are tran­si­tion­ing back to the office, what should busi­ness lead­ers be doing to ensure employ­ees’ needs are being met as they adjust to yet anoth­er new way of working?

I think the first thing all busi­ness lead­ers must do is to real­ize that com­ing back to work is an adjust­ment, just like it was an adjust­ment when we were all sent home. Acknowl­edge it was hard, but we did it, and this will be the same. This helps build trust and allows for inno­v­a­tive think­ing to help keep your tal­ent and grow your business.

As your team tran­si­tions back or moves to a new hybrid mod­el of work­ing, I think it is essen­tial to include your team in the plans going for­ward and have them be part of the cul­ture improve­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty you have as you return to the office. The more peo­ple feel con­fi­dent some­one is focus­ing on the cul­ture and how it will be impact­ed, the more like­ly they will be to be part of the change.

I also encour­age busi­ness lead­ers to have an open and hon­est con­ver­sa­tion with their team about how life has changed, how the busi­ness has changed and what small adjust­ments you might be able to make to align both of those new real­i­ties. Don’t be afraid to have these con­ver­sa­tions at all lev­els of the orga­ni­za­tion, and be flex­i­ble. There is no right answer to this sit­u­a­tion, so employ­ees and lead­ers need to keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open. You may need to course cor­rect your approach and plan if it’s not work­ing and your employ­ees will want to know there is flex­i­bil­i­ty to adjust as you see how things are working.

You talk a lot about how hav­ing a pos­i­tive cul­ture means peo­ple leave work feel­ing bet­ter than when they arrived. And fur­ther­more, that work should feel like a ben­e­fi­cial part of life that pro­vides ful­fill­ment beyond income. How are you help­ing busi­ness lead­ers get a true pulse on their com­pa­ny cul­ture and employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion, espe­cial­ly giv­en the rise of hybrid and even ful­ly remote workforces?

This is the great­est growth area for our busi­ness right now. Com­pa­nies are real­iz­ing that while their cul­ture wasn’t bro­ken, it def­i­nite­ly was not as strong as they thought, and the hybrid envi­ron­ment, as well as the great res­ig­na­tion is caus­ing them to re-eval­u­ate. We use our Impact Mod­el tool to assess the 20 fac­tors of cul­ture to give them a true heatmap on where they have strength and where there are weak points in their cul­ture. Hav­ing that exter­nal part­ner assess your cul­ture can be real­ly help­ful to iden­ti­fy the areas that as a com­pa­ny and as lead­ers you are too close to see. We ensure they have a strong plan for where they are going to invest their resources and a strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan to engage the employ­ees in the work. It’s prov­ing to be a true com­pet­i­tive advan­tage for our clients in retain­ing and attract­ing top tal­ent, even in a tough labor market.

You recent­ly wrote a book, “You Are Here” that real­ly has come out at a per­fect time as it helps talks about how being “stuck” is a good thing as it can help you get to where you need to be both per­son­al­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­ly. Can you tell us why you felt it was impor­tant to talk about, and nor­mal­ize the feel­ing of being “stuck,” and what are some of the most impor­tant words of advice you would give to peo­ple who may be expe­ri­enc­ing that right now?

We are all tired – as lead­ers and as employ­ees. The book is serv­ing a dual pur­pose for the groups we are speak­ing and train­ing with. It is nor­mal­iz­ing the feel­ing of being tired and “stuck.” We all have points where we feel this way. And it’s also cre­at­ing a healthy dia­logue between lead­ers and employ­ees around how we bridge the gap and sup­port each oth­er through this peri­od of tran­si­tion. I am so grate­ful to have the plat­form to speak about this top­ic. Every time I have spo­ken some­where, I get a few peo­ple who come up to me after­wards in tears because what I said spoke to them and gave them hope. We are at a point where we need to focus on sup­port­ing each oth­er and not just on busi­ness results. The com­pa­nies that real­ly under­stand that will have loy­al employ­ees for a very long time.

What’s Brew­ing at Key­stone Group—what’s next?

So much good stuff. We are about done with the man­u­script for a Cul­ture book and will share the title in the com­ing month or two. We are hop­ing for a launch date in Q1 of 2023, so that will be excit­ing to real­ly bring our mod­el and approach to the mass­es and start to impact cul­ture at orga­ni­za­tions we don’t even work with. It’s tru­ly our way of cre­at­ing a rip­ple effect that will change work envi­ron­ments across the coun­try and hope­ful­ly across the globe.

And What’s Brew­ing for you? What morn­ing and/or evening drinks keep you fueled or relaxed these days?

I’m not a cof­fee drinker, but I am a huge fan of kom­bucha dur­ing the day and a nice glass of white wine in the evening!

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