Posted by Matt Register

Rob Pennington, Resource International, joins us to talk about leadership communications and how to get your teams communicating better.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript. 

Matt Register: Welcome back to the show. Texas Business Radio. you can go see links to all our guests [inaudible 00:00:27] entire show in beautiful high definition video. Get your calls in 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call in line, get your calls in. We’ll get the experts in here to get those questions answered. If you’ve listened to this show for any length of time you know that there are some really smart guys that coming to Texas, some of them are even from Texas, but coming to Texas, talked to CEOs, have solutions for their problems. We love to have these guys on the show because they have a wealth of information to share with you and give you some tricks to grow your business, grow your organization, and we love those guys. This is a National Advisor showcase segment just like we do every month. I’m your host Matt Register. Jay Curry’s the one sitting over there in the co-host chair. What do you think, man?

Jay Curry: I’m going to enjoy this. This is tricky, and this is important, and this takes some expertise. I mean this is not an easy one, but people need to be listening. If you’re a business owner, you’re a CEO, you have a business, you need to listen to what Rob’s going to say.

Matt Register: Yeah. No doubt about that. We’re talking about leadership. We’re talking about communication and we’re talking about building cohesive teams. Doctor Rob Pennington is the founder of Resource International, which is a consulting company that comes in, helps your team leaders, gives them some leadership training, gets them trained up where they can have a lot more productive teams. Rob welcome to the show.

Rob Pennington: Thanks. Wonderful to be here. Jay, Matt, thank you.

Matt Register: So talk to me a little bit about Resource International. What do you do? Who do you do it to?

Rob Pennington: We’ve been in business about 40 years, and we do professional speaking training, coaching, but mainly what we work with is executives and their teams, and helping them improve the way they make decisions, and how they communicate in a way to improve their performance. It’s a challenge because there’s always disagreements in teams, wherever you are. And in our opinion, it’s the leaders job to facilitate that disagreement to actually bring it out.

Jay Curry: Exactly.

Rob Pennington: And most leaders do not have the skill at that. In fact, they tend to want to sabotage their being a disagreement.

Jay Curry: It’s almost like they’re scared of it.

Rob Pennington: Yeah.

Jay Curry: But the reality is you need that discussion, that disagreement, that debate if you would.

Rob Pennington: And we don’t know how to do that. Mostly when you have a team and they start to talk, you see quickly who the majority, minority is. And if majority things, “Well, now we must be more right.” So they try to convince the minority. We have a model called the team decision flow chart, which says, “No, you focus on the minority first.” Have them restate their position. Have the majority restate their position and see if there’s any misunderstandings. What are the chances there’s a misunderstanding?

Matt Register: Yeah. 80-90%.

Rob Pennington: Exactly.

Jay Curry: That’s what I was going to say.

Rob Pennington: But in the middle we have this hair trigger reaction of, “I’m right. They’re wrong.”

Jay Curry: Absolutely.

Rob Pennington: And therefore my job is to help them-

Jay Curry: Convince them to understand why you’re right, right?

Rob Pennington: And what percent of the time are they grateful? Zero.

Jay Curry: None. Yeah.

Rob Pennington: And that eats at people when they’re not even in the team meeting. They think about it when they’re in the car. They think about it with other people and it sabotages the leaderships’ performance. And their own success is based on these ideas in most engineering scientific types who have gotten to that position because of their expertise haven’t been able to get these extra skills.

Matt Register: Well in reality that’s the root of the issue, right? I mean because a lot of these middle, younger leaders, the lower level leaders, team leaders, and division heads have not been given the leadership training required to do their job, right? Their very good at whatever it is they do. They’ve been promoted to now a leader of a team of those guys and don’t have the skills necessary. And this is where you guys come in to impart some of those skills, right?

Rob Pennington: Well, not only that, but to help the company save some money ’cause often times when they’re not able to perform well it does cost money. There’s errors that are made, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, because two executives or people within a team hold off information, aren’t helpful to each other, don’t really know how to balance authority and collaboration, and it costs money. Sometimes people leave who are high potentials, who have a lot of industry knowledge, because they just didn’t feel respected by their boss.

Matt Register: You know it’s funny, especially in larger companies, there are a lot of dumb things that go on in that organization because of things exactly like that. I will never forget as an owner of a machine shop, I bought parts from a company and sold it to another division of that company and I can do that and mark it up cheaper than they can sell it to each other because they didn’t like each other.

Rob Pennington: Yes.

Jay Curry: Crazy.

Matt Register: That’s nuts.

Jay Curry: Yes.

Matt Register: At some point there’s some level in that organization that would have a problem with that, right?

Rob Pennington: Well, often the problem of competition is not between the company and another company. It’s between different components within the organization.

Matt Register: Sure.

Rob Pennington: And so we have a process of cross-functional integration where how you actually deal with those differences of opinion, like you and I are responsible for different functions-

Jay Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rob Pennington: If we can’t work something out we just tend to stay stuck in our conflict. Where if, Matt, you’re our boss, we should be able to go to you and I should say what your point of view is to your satisfaction and you should be able to say to Matt what my point of view is to my satisfaction so he knows we did our due diligence and we’ve got to a place where we can’t work it out because of … Maybe he gave us different instructions.

Jay Curry: Yeah.

Matt Register: And at that point it’s a business decision we made and not an interpersonal decision-

Rob Pennington: Yes.

Matt Register: We made, correct?

Rob Pennington: But it becomes an interpersonal one so quickly. And part of that’s ’cause 95% of us grew up in a family where when there was a conflict we did not end up closer. So we don’t go to the workplace with good conflict resolution skills and you’re always going to have conflict. If you’re going to have the best decision, like you were saying early on, you’ve got to facilitate disagreement and most leaders don’t know how to do that and that’s what we help people do in a very simple, fun, entertaining way.

Matt Register: So talk to me about how you actually go about doing this, right? I mean you come in and do seminars, you come in and do coaching. How do you go ahead and get these skills into an organization?

Rob Pennington: Well, first we have to do some assessment.

Matt Register: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rob Pennington: What we have to offer may not be exactly what they need and sometimes we refer them to another resource, but if it is, because of our assessment … and usually that’s some interviews, some surveys. Sometimes we actually do some assessments like the [Burkman 00:06:18] or something to give us a sense of where the team is in terms of its strengths and blind spots. And then that gives us where we can focus best use of our resources, which is either training and coaching, we want to try and combine those, and also sitting in on teams and facilitating the real work. So sometimes we need to just step in and say, “Well, wait. Wait a minute. What was that person saying?”

Matt Register: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rob Pennington: And when we get done the training then we’ve got standing to have that kind of moment of facilitation because when they have the experience of the change, that’s when it really makes a difference.

Matt Register: Yeah. Well, and we were talking during the break and one of the interesting things I’ve found is you are looking at this as a risk management operation.
Rob Pennington: Yes.

Matt Register: So because the cost of messing this up is huge, right?

Rob Pennington: If you lose a VP and you’ve got to hire another one, you’ve got to pay a staffing agency 30% of their salary, which could be hundreds of thousands of dollars just on that alone.

Matt Register: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rob Pennington: And so keeping high quality people engaged and committed, I think, is a challenge for every leader and knowing how to work with them in a way that makes this the place they want to be, even if someone is hitting … if they’re really good their people are hitting on them. They’re being offered other jobs at more money, why should they stay with you? The main reason is how they’re treated.

Matt Register: Well, and beyond just the retention piece. The retention piece is big, right? But beyond that if I’m in the business of hiring very smart people, I want all of their brain power working on solving a business problem. I don’t want some people not talking because they’re afraid of conflict.

Rob Pennington: Yes.

Matt Register: That does me no good to have all that brain power in the same room, right?

Rob Pennington: And the person who has that apprehension about conflict doesn’t think they have the apprehension about conflict. What they think is that other persons a horrible person.

Jay Curry: The interesting thing is that a lot of this is analytical. So I’m an analytical person and you get into, “I’ve got the right solution. I know what the answer is. I’ve studied it.” You don’t get into what’s going on people wise, whats going on relationship wise, what’s going on … So you drive your answer without really listening and understanding what the other guys-

Rob Pennington: Even if that’s your strength and your ability to do that, there’s a book called “The 30 Management Principles of the US Marines” and one of the principles is decide and invite decent. So you can certainly come in and say, “Hey. We’re going to do this.” But you need to add to that what are the risks.

Jay Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rob Pennington: What are the challenges?

Matt Register: Yeah. Why is this a bad idea, right?

Rob Pennington: Yeah. And that is a key word for leaders to use, risk, because when you ask someone what are the risk of what I’m wanting to do, they’re more likely to tell you than if you say, “Do you agree or disagree?” They’re more likely to tell you they disagree, but you’ve given them permission when you say the risks. And the same thing is true if you’re confronting an authority. Telling them they’re wrong may not be something that gets their attention, but saying, “Here’s a risk I am concerned about.” That opens up a place in their brain. So using risk both ways is real powerful.

Matt Register: Well and at the end of the day leaders aren’t paid to make decisions with perfect information. I mean they’re paid to make decisions with imperfect information and-

Jay Curry: The best way they can.

Matt Register: And the market votes, right? I mean sometimes-

Jay Curry: That’s right.

Matt Register: It doesn’t go your way.

Rob Pennington: We all need as much help as possible.

Matt Register: Got it. What’s the easiest way for somebody to learn more should somebody want to learn more?

Rob Pennington:

Matt Register: is the website. We’re going to have it linked right there for

Rob Pennington: We’ve got lots of video testimonials on the website from leaders we’ve worked with. So that’s a good place for people to check us out.

Matt Register: Yeah. And I tell you what guys, if you are running a company and you are not getting the most out of your teams, if you are promoting technical people that don’t have leadership training, this is not a bad idea because this is something I see lacking across the business community as a whole. We’re talking to Doctor Rob Pennington, is an educational psychologist and partner at Resource International. Thank you very much, Rob, for joining us.

Rob Pennington: Wonderful. Wow, what a fast 10 minutes.

Jay Curry: It’s been fun.

Matt Register: Yep. Absolutely. Unfortunately we’re at a hard break. We do have to take a break and pay some of our own bills. We’re going to be right back on the other side of the break with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. Don’t go anywhere.

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About the Author
Matt Register

Matt Register

In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.

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