Jamie Lewis Smith (00:00):
Particularly as managers or leaders, they aren't focusing on the right things. Typically. It's not about you as a manager. It's not about how you're feeling or what you're getting done, that it's about you scaling your impact through other people.
Troy Blaser (00:23):
Hello, welcome to Simply Feedback, the podcast brought to you by LearningBridge. I'm your host, Troy Blazer. It's great to be with you today. Our guest is Dr. Jamie Lewis Smith. She is the founder and c e o of Pixel Leadership Group, a team of exceptional executive coaches, organization development experts and data scientists who apply their collective expertise to help people, teams, and organizations. The American reporter recently identified Jamie as one of 10 leadership coaches to watch. She's an expert in organization and executive assessments, workplace culture change and leadership development. Jamie has spent her 20 year career as a human resources leader, coach and advisor across private and public sectors, and currently works with numerous Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Jamie is also a contributing member of the Forbes Coaches Council, a published author and international speaker on the topics of leadership assessment and change. Jamie, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's so great to have you with us today.
Jamie Lewis Smith (01:27):
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited cause I love the topic of feedback.
Troy Blaser (01:32):
Yeah, it's been interesting. As I've prepared for our conversation today, I'm really looking forward to our conversation and interested in some of what you have to share with us today. I wonder as we start, could you maybe tell us about a time in your life where you received some feedback? Maybe somebody gave you some feedback that had an impact on your life, maybe personally or professionally, but maybe marked a turning point when you received this feedback.
Jamie Lewis Smith (01:56):
Yeah, absolutely. So I think that the most impactful feedback I've had has been feedback that took me off guard, right? That I was really surprised because the feedback that I was given was so different than how I saw myself, how I felt like I was doing mm-hmm. . And one time that sticks out particularly in my mind is it was my first year as a more senior leader in an org organization. And I came in and I was tasked with really building this organization development function within the organization. And so I'm just working away, working away, you know, six months or so goes by and I have my review with my leader and she says, I, what, what have you been doing? I don't like you haven't been doing anything. And I was just taken by surprise. I thought, I've been working my butt off.
Jamie Lewis Smith (02:53):
What do you mean I what? And what I realized, you know, at first it was, it was shocking. And you know, I, I asked questions, let me understand, you know, what you're seeing, what what I'm not doing. And what was so powerful is I realized that if I don't help others to see what I am doing Yeah. If it there is not visibility into what I, I am accomplishing what I am trying to achieve in the organization, what work I have been doing, who I've been connecting with, all that good stuff. If I'm not bringing visibility to those things, to others, they don't exist. Yeah. And that was a really powerful moment for me because it ne it just had never occurred to me before. I need to help others to see what I'm doing. And so I think that not only was that helpful for me in that moment and going forward, but also I use that quite a bit as I'm coaching folks because that's a common problem that a lot of folks run into.
Troy Blaser (03:55):
Yeah. We, we talk about that all the time here. The idea of receiving feedback graciously and then acting on it visibly mm-hmm. Is kind of a, a motto or a mantra that we use around here. So I really like that you brought that part of it out. The idea that it doesn't matter what I'm doing if nobody can see it, right? Mm-Hmm. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, kinda a question. Right?
Jamie Lewis Smith (04:19):
Absolutely. You know, and, and, and I find that so many folks, they really just don't appreciate that. Others may not be seeing the behaviors, seeing the, the, the message that they want them to see. They're, they may be doing it, they may have these characteristics, but if others aren't, aren't seeing it, it makes a huge difference in the other person's impact. Yeah. so absolutely, and I love that you all focus on the importance of grace and being gracious when receiving feedback, because it's such a important concept when you are receiving feedback, whether you're, you know, receiving it from your leader or from your employees. It's just so important.
Troy Blaser (04:59):
Yeah. I was just gonna add too, as you make those things visible that you're doing it, it also opens up the possibility for continued fee continued feedback. Yes. if they can't see what you're doing, then of course they can't give feedback on it except to say, I don't know what you're doing. But, but if they can see that, then the feedback loop can continue and you can refine and you can hone the actions that you're taking to really hit the target that you're striving for.
Jamie Lewis Smith (05:26):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I feel like that, that's a big part of coaching is helping folks to say, if, if others aren't experiencing you the way that you want them to, what do you need to do differently so that they can experience you in the way you want them to? And that's really what I think feedback is, is I love that input about other people's, you know, the impact you're having on other people.
Troy Blaser (05:47):
Yeah. Now I understand you recently presented at a conference. Yes. can you tell us a little bit about what that conference was? What you in particular were speaking on?
Jamie Lewis Smith (05:58):
Yeah. Yeah. I was at Sherm Atlanta just a few weeks back. And it's a great group. Loved it, it's wonderful energy there. I was presenting on a topic that I feel so strongly about, and that's the really powerful impact that managers have on organizational outcomes, particularly employee engagement and retention. I, I think it's too often overlooked. I know we all know, oh, people leave because of their manager, but the broad reaching impact of a manager on the employee experience mm-hmm. is, is just huge. And we oftentimes don't see that or appreciate that or invest in it the way we need to, to get the outcomes we want. So that's what I was there talking about.
Troy Blaser (06:43):
That's really cool. A, a as you were preparing your presentation, were you able to inc incorporate feedback e even just to get data to put into your presentation?
Jamie Lewis Smith (06:55):
Ah, yeah. Well, data, love data we always say it at Pixel because we're a bunch of psychologists that have backgrounds in research and data scientist. We're, we always say we're nerdy, but fun. We hope the fun book part, we hope we know we're nerdy . So we, we inc I incorporated a lot of data into that presentation because I think it's so important for folks to really see the numbers, the, the, these are not, you know, it's, it's not soft. There's hard data to support the impact of the manager. A manager has about a 70% of the experience for an employee is accounted for by a manager. That's it. 70%. That's almost your entire experience. So anyways, but as I was creating the presentation, I always like to get good feedback from other folks that are kind of in the audience that I'll be speaking to, as well as some of my nerdy friends that like to like data as much as me, and they can give me good feedback on whether these are interesting stats or not.
Troy Blaser (07:58):
Did you even incorporate feedback during your presentation then?
Jamie Lewis Smith (08:01):
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. So, well, both in terms of, I, I always look to get the feedback from the audience. So I incorporate that throughout the presentation, but also I was talking about feedback as a key part of a manager's role. Okay. In creating that employee experience. I, I think that too often managers, I mean, it, they mean well, right? They really do. They mean, well, they're coming from a good place. You know, they're, they're busy, they have a lot on their plate, but they overlook the importance of the connection, the regular connection, the regular conversation and regular feedback that they need to be providing to the employees that they, that they interact with. Most managers meet with their employees less than once a week mm-hmm. and for less than, you know, 30 minutes. And so, you know, if you're not meeting with your folks very often, if you're not connecting with them, you're not gonna have time to share regular feedback. You're not gonna have the time to hear what's going on for them or seek the feedback from them that will help you to be better, but also to create that feedback norm in your relationship. I'm gonna give you feedback, you give me feedback, and it's gonna be a constant feedback loop that helps us both to grow and improve.
Troy Blaser (09:22):
Yeah. I'm thinking of managers that I've experienced in my life where it's sort of the opposite of that. And it's, well, if you don't hear anything from me, that means you're doing a good job. Right. I'll only be in touch when, when yes, there's something that needs to be fixed or corrected or whatever, and that, that's not that doesn't work for most people, right?
Jamie Lewis Smith (09:40):
No, not at all. Yeah. You know, I always say that a manager is their employee's GPS system. Mm-Hmm. , you know, it's like when you have your GPS, your GPS is telling you, you're on the right track, you're on the right track. Oh, no, wait, wait. You took the wrong turn, you gotta go back. You gotta, you know, and like a GPS, a manager needs to be connecting regularly saying, here's how you're doing. This is what you're doing. Right. Here's some opportunities to improve, but a lot of reinforcement along the way so that folks know they're on the right track. And I think what you experienced with those managers that say, if you're not hearing from me, yeah. You know, that means everything's fine. I is very common, but not enough. Yeah. Not gonna lead to the best experience for employees, for sure. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (10:27):
I was gonna ask about the kinds of instruments or assessments that you use in your engagements. Do you, do you have some standard tools that you like? Or do you tend to customize more frequently when you have an engagement? What's, what, what do you do? Yeah.
Jamie Lewis Smith (10:42):
That's a topic in addition to feedback I could talk about for hours because I am an assessment nerd. So, you know, in, in terms of my coaching, I tend to incorporate a few tools. I use lots of different tools, but there are a few. I keep, you know, coming back to we have our own couple of assessments. So we have our own 360 assessment, for example, that we leverage quite a bit. But I love to use Hogan. So I use Hogan quite a bit in my coaching. A tool that I just am super excited about. If you're not familiar with it, I encourage everybody go check it out. Cause it's really cool. It's called Deeper Signals
and they look at core drivers. Okay. It's similar to Hogan in many ways, that it's, it's sharing personality characteristics. It's based on the big five personality factors, but it's, it's a s maybe slightly simpler way to think about those things. So it gives some really good feedback data to work with in a, in a easy to digest way. Cool. So I've been, I've been leveraging that a lot more lately as
Troy Blaser (11:52):
Well. We you know, every once in a while we'll have a, a company or a client come to us and say, Hey, we have our own leadership framework here inside of our company. We'd like to build a, a 360 out of it, for example. . Right. Do you find that to be an effective approach to create a custom survey for a company?
Jamie Lewis Smith (12:11):
Yeah. Yeah. That's a great question. And we, we also have that happen from time to time, and I think it can be a very impactful, and, and I think it's a, a valuable way to think about a 360 if you have the volume of leaders to design something that's gonna be unique to your organization's competency or values, or, or, yeah. You know, because ultimately when you're thinking about feedback, the more relevant it is to what outcomes you're looking for and the behaviors that you're trying to encourage or, or change. So if you have your own unique set of values or, or behaviors you're looking for, then giving feedback on those exact things is going to lead to the best outcomes. So I, I think it can be very powerful to do that and more relevant, I think, many times than using one of the standard existing 360 s.
Troy Blaser (13:07):
Sure. And did you say it kind of, it depends a little bit on the volume. If it's a smaller company that it may not be as effective?
Jamie Lewis Smith (13:13):
I think it's not as cost effective oftentimes for organizations when it's a smaller organization to put in the time and, and you know, sometimes it's a bit of effort because if it, if you're working from that organization's unique model, you're gonna spend some time with them ensuring that it's Yeah. Exactly what they need and want. So it does depend on I think what they're needing and what they're, how they're gonna use the tool.
Troy Blaser (13:37):
That makes sense. Yeah. So, still thinking about 360 assessments, in what ways do you typically deploy a 360 in an engagement?
Jamie Lewis Smith (13:47):
I incorporate 360 s into every, every coaching engagement that I do, because I think they're critical. And, and again, I, I actually use quite a few different 360 s mm-hmm. . So sometimes I'll use the, you know, MRGs 360, sometimes Hogan's 360. I love Ger Folkman's. There's, there's a lot out there that I like. And it depends on the situation and, and the organization. But either way, having that feedback is, I always say the, the 360 is a way to filter out intent to get to impact. Hmm.
Jamie Lewis Smith (14:24):
So we often know what our intentions are, right. But we don't fully appreciate what our impact is. And so having that, it's, it's critical data, just like, you know, data on an organization, and if I don't understand the organization's, you know, metrics, I'm not gonna be as effective. Same with an individual. That data is critical for us, me and, and the person that I'm working with to figure out what, what is gonna be the most impactful, the, the most powerful changes you can, can make. Where are your opportunities to shift your influence, for example? So I do incorporate it at the beginning of most engagements and when I can, I like to actually incorporate it at the end as well to look at, you know, change across that
Troy Blaser (15:05):
Change. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. I, I'm really my mind is turning over what you said that using a 360 to filter out intent to get to impact mm-hmm. mm-hmm. . I really like that because I think, you know, all of us in the work that we do, we have the narrative that's in our own head Yes. About what we're doing and all the interactions that we have. And I guess that's probably the intent part of things. But then as you look at 360 feedback, you're looking at the, the impact or the narrative that's in the other person's head about what you do. Right. And those don't match up most of the time.
Jamie Lewis Smith (15:41):
Often they don't. Yeah, absolutely. I've had so many clients who are surprised that, you know, they, they for example, are, they're, they're busy. They're, they're checking things off the list, they're getting things done. But for example, they may be perceived as not focused on strategic initiatives because they're too busy just getting the, you know, they mm-hmm. daily task done, for example. Or I had one client who felt like she was being respectful by holding back in meetings. She, she was being careful to not step on people's toes. And instead the impression was that she lacked assertiveness and confidence where she was actually in other instances, quite assertive. So it's really understanding how are your behaviors in those specific instances being perceived and that impact it's having on the others that I think is so, so valuable.
Troy Blaser (16:36):
I love that. You know, that just makes me wonder in, in your different coaching experience. You know, we, we asked earlier about a time when you had received feedback, but as you've been engaged in coaching a lot of leaders in a lot of different organizations, is there a time or an experience that comes to mind when you've seen that feedback be a point of inflection in someone's life as you're working with them or in their career?
Jamie Lewis Smith (16:59):
Yeah. Yeah. I think one client that I think of was what, just everybody loved him. Every, everybody loved him, the feedback. And in this case, I was conducting interview based you know, sometimes I do that versus the mm-hmm. online or, or Standard 360. And it, and everybody just had wonderful things to say about him, but they also said, he's too busy. He has too much on his plate. I can't get his time. In his mind, he thought he was achieving all these great things and he was, he was doing a lot of great things, but from others' perspective, they felt like he was stretched too thin. And despite the fact they loved him and thought he had so much potential, that sense of being stretched too thin, it made others feel like he had hit a ceiling and he couldn't grow. We can't give him more, we can't give him a bigger scope.
Jamie Lewis Smith (17:54):
He's already tapped out. We wouldn't wanna Sure. Right. They, they're afraid they're gonna break him if they give him too much. And that I think was a huge light bulb moment for him because he realized that doing a ton of work that is again, either looking so busy that you don't look like you can take on anything else, or a ton of work that maybe is diffusing your impact ‘cause you're not being as targeted on priorities mm-hmm. that that can hold you back in your career. And I think he really made a wonderful shift and, and was actually promoted soon after he started to, to shift his way of thinking about those things.
Troy Blaser (18:33):
That's really cool. And it's, it's great to be involved in a role there to watch that transformation take place. Yes.
Jamie Lewis Smith (18:40):
I love it. I, I get, I work with leaders at all levels, you know, of organizations, typically more senior levels, but I love the kind of director, senior director, like helping them get to that vp, Uhhuh . I just think it's so much fun. They're so hungry and energetic and excited. And also the, I always say, you know, what you've been measured against until now is not what you're being measured against to get to that next level. There is a huge shift that happens when you're trying to get to that, that VP level and how you think about your role and how you spend your time really needs to change. And again, that's where feedback comes in. It's so valuable for others to, to say, here's how I see you right now, so that they know where they need to make that shift to, to kind of get that, you know, get whatever it is to that next level.
Troy Blaser (19:35):
I love that. So you are the CEO of Pixel Leadership Group. You've got you know, a background expertise in psychology program design, organizational development. What is it that makes your approach uniquely beneficial to your clients? What is it that you bring? Is it the data, the, the, the, the nerd, but fun or is there something else? .
Jamie Lewis Smith (19:58):
I think the nerdiness is part of it. again, I, you know, I'm biased, right, because Sure. I, I, I think that as a, having a background as a psychologist and in behavioral science, I do leverage what we know about what helps people to change. You know, I was talking to, to someone recently and they were asking, can you give me, can you gimme tips? Can you gimme strategies? And, and I can do that, but if I give you tips or strategies that are solving the wrong problem, not necessarily, or not necessarily well aligned with what your personal motivators or personality is, mm. I'm not, those tips and strategies are not gonna be effective. They're, they're either gonna be short term in terms of their impact or they're just not gonna stick at all. Mm-Hmm. . So, you know, I leverage quite a bit what I know about the science of behavior change in the coaching that I do, and all the coaching programs that we've sort of coaching approaches the way to think about it that we've designed, that we offer to our clients because we know that, you know, helping people to really leverage their natural personality, their natural tendencies, while helping them to identify what are your motivators?
Jamie Lewis Smith (21:17):
What's gonna keep you doing this, and how do you sustain those changes I think leads, it, it leads to much better results. And I don't just think it, we know it, the data shows it .
Troy Blaser (21:27):
Right. That, that's what I love. That you can come back to that. Right. The anecdotes are interesting. Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. and compelling sometimes, but the data underneath it is how, you know it's real. Right. How you know that there's something there.
Jamie Lewis Smith (21:41):
Absolutely. Yes. I always say, I need to see the stats, or I don't know if I can move it . Right. Nice.
Troy Blaser (21:47):
So, well, I know in some ways you just said to me, I can't really give tips because I try to focus on the needs of the individual in using your background. But, but are there some, some things that seem to recur frequently as you come into an engagement? Some, you know, not that you need to give away your secret sauce, but, but is there some advice that you could give our listeners that are trying to create change in their organizations?
Jamie Lewis Smith (22:13):
Yeah, absolutely. And I don't have secret sauce. I am open book, I'll give you everything . Sometimes my colleagues are like, no, you're giving
Troy Blaser (22:21):
Away too. And the statistics to back it up, right. And the data and the steps,
Jamie Lewis Smith (22:24):
Right. And all of it. You know, I think that a couple of things that just, there are themes that come up over and over, particularly as managers or leaders. They aren't focusing on the right things typically. And I think that appreciating that it's not about you as a manager. It's not about how you're feeling or what you're getting done. That it's about you scaling your impact through other people. That folks that are able to understand that your role - the reason you were in that role is to align and drive much bigger results than you, yourself or even a small team can achieve, you start to think about where you're spending your time differently. Those connection points, those conversations, the engagement with your, your team, that is your job. It isn't a side thing. You know, a lot of managers kind of see those one-on-ones as, you know, “Why do I need more meetings?" Or you know, “They're busy, they don't need to talk to me." And that's, that's not the case at all. That that is how you actually engage in your job as a leader or manager is to have those conversations and to meet with them and to talk to them and support them. And so I think it's, it's really that shift in thinking about what is your role, and it is to facilitate others' success. And by doing so, you're gonna be successful.
Troy Blaser (23:52):
Is that a difficult transition to make? I think of someone who comes into an organization at a lower level who's, who's focused on the task or, you know, whatever it is that's being produced, or the services that are being provided, and that employee gets promoted and promoted and somewhere along the line that, that shift has to take place of, my job is no longer to provide the service, but my job is shifted now to facilitate these other people providing the service, right?
Jamie Lewis Smith (24:20):
Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. It's a, it's a big shift that folks struggle with and, and it's understandable. You've been reinforced for being an expert or having those technical skills. And, and so how do you shift to actually leading others and achieving results through others? And that's that, that's that shift that needs to take place for, for every leader. But even those that get it, I, I still think there many organizations reinforce task oriented getting results, you focusing on the numbers and not necessarily focusing on the people in the way that we know the data supports, that that's what, that's what gets the results. You know, I always say I'm not actually a, a like a fuzzy, warm person, , uhhuh, I'm, I am a nerd and I like data. And I would not be saying, oh, we should be nice to people and we should be spending time. I, in the past, if I didn't see the data, I would've been like, yes, you gotta get the results. You gotta get it done. And I've seen the data and it is so compelling that is not the way for leaders and managers to achieve the results they want to. And it's a hard shift to make, and it's a mindset shift, but when you can make that shift, you just amplify your impact.
Troy Blaser (25:43):
Yeah. So, so maybe there's a combination there where you can, you can use some data to tell the managers, okay, at least one, one-on-one interaction every week, hopefully more than that, right. But you start counting and, you know, you're still measuring things, but it's measuring those interactions or measuring instead of the task or, you know, the revenue goal or whatever it might be, but sort of combination
Jamie Lewis Smith (26:08):
There. The, you said it, so meeting once a week with every one of your directs is a huge, has a huge impact on employee engagement as well as productivity. So if you wanna get, you know, better results from your team, meet with them at least once a week. As a matter of fact, if you meet with them every day, so not necessarily for hours every day, but if you're touching base every day, there's sees you can see a significant improvement in engagement just by having a manager who is checking in every day and saying, how are you, what do you need? Here's what I see you doing well, here's some opportunities to improve. And that regular feedback and those regular touchpoints, they're exponential improvements in engagement and the results you get from your team.
Troy Blaser (26:52):
So I love that idea. It makes me wonder how have, as we've experienced the pandemic, we've experienced a lot more remote work, people working from home and things like that. How has that factored into some of this connection between managers and employees?
Jamie Lewis Smith (27:08):
Yeah, that's, I love that question because I think that the opposite of what we need has been happening. Mm-Hmm. cause we are remote. You know, you have to be much more intentional about making connection. You have to be much more intentional about saying, I'm gonna, you're not gonna run into them in the hallway. Cause most you're, unless you're working with your spouse right. That you're not running into your colleagues at home. So normally not. So what do you do? You have to be intentional about making sure you have that time. You have those touch points that the, the conversations that are happening are not just about what's the work, what are the projects, what's the tasks? Because that is what we've seen a shift is fewer touch points, far more focused on the task and the projects far less focused on connection.
Jamie Lewis Smith (27:58):
And at the same time, the data has shown mm-hmm. that what people want is the exact opposite that managers have now in the remote workforce. And hybrid workforce managers are the glue that keep the employees tied to the organization and tied to the culture. Your managers have now become this critical conduit of the organization's culture and keeping those employees feeling like they're connected and committed to the organization. So yeah, the more, the more, the better. Again, when you're in that, that remote environment, you, you have to do it even more, you know, then you would maybe if you were connecting in person,
Troy Blaser (28:34):
But, but it has to become more intentional because there's much less of that ad hoc interaction around the water cooler to be stereotypical. Right, .
Jamie Lewis Smith (28:42):
Troy Blaser (28:44):
I like that idea of, of managers being the glue, representing the culture, helping to create that culture because they're, they're the intersections of all the different employees that are working remotely.
Jamie Lewis Smith (28:56):
They really are. And, and many employees are out there working, you know, again, at their homes or whatever, and they're not necessarily connecting with very many other people in the organization. They're, they're just not, yeah. Having those touch points so that manager becomes, you know, that representation of the organization for them.
Troy Blaser (29:13):
Yeah. Well, Jamie, we've talked about some of the things that are interesting to you right now. Is there another project? Is there something going on for you in your work that you're super passionate about right now that we haven't had a chance to talk about yet? Well,
Jamie Lewis Smith (29:26):
As you can see, I'm, I have a lot of energy. I get excited about a lot of things but , but, you know right now, and you asked about tips and I will go back to that as I'm talking about what I'm passionate about. Yeah. I think the most powerful, not, again, I say I think the data shows, there you go. Most powerful thing. Yeah. The most powerful skills and most powerful place for a manager to focus is to develop their coaching skills or for an organization to really create a coaching culture. So in terms of passion projects or what I'm working on right now, we're really leaning into this this summer. We've got a number of mini sessions that are supporting folks to learn more about what coaching is why coaching is such an impactful thing for the organization or even for managers to understand why it's so important for them to engage in those coaching behaviors. So that's what I'm really excited about and continuing to support managers through coaching to help them to elevate their skills and to be more effective as they're growing, you know, whether it's in their career or helping to, to grow their employees.
Troy Blaser (30:33):
That's exciting. That sounds like an interesting summer ahead for you.
Jamie Lewis Smith (30:36):
I, I'm excited about it and it's warm out ‘cause I'm in, you know, being in Ohio, I always look forward to summer when it's warm.
Troy Blaser (30:42):
. For sure. Well, if people want to know more, if, if they've been intrigued by our conversation today is that something you would be open to? How, how can they connect with you?
Jamie Lewis Smith (30:52):
I would love it. Yes. well I always say connect me on LinkedIn. That's a great place to connect, connect to pixel leadership group on LinkedIn. We love our followers. We try to keep them, you know, again, giving lots of stats, lots of nerdy stuff. So if you like the data, you know, come and come on over. And they can always go to our website and check this out and see what we do.
Troy Blaser (31:12):
Cool. Well again, thank you so much for the conversation today. It's been interesting. It's brought me some excitement and energy to the next feedback project that we work on. Thank you Jamie.
Jamie Lewis Smith (31:22):
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. It was a great time.