The Ed Eppley Experience
The Ed Eppley Experience

Episode · 2 months ago

Fixing to Firing, Part II - Coaching Tips From An Obsessed Coach!

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Kevin Hickey, COO of All 4 Environmental is obsessed with coaching. From youth basketball to Villanova University to his own company, Kevin eats, sleeps and works daily to master this critical aspect of management. He offers a refreshingly optimistic attitude about your talents' ability to get better and move to higher levels of performance. You'll appreciate how much the coaching he's received from others as impacted how he coaches his own people. Plus he offers you the opportunity to get a copy of All 4's Coaching The All 4 Way manual. This is GREAT stuff! 

Welcome to the Ed Epley experience, 20minutes that simplifies the complex job of managing and leading people andinspires you to take action on what you probably already know to build andsustain a smart and healthy business. Here's your host, Ed F Lee to introducethis week's guest and business Leader. Welcome to the N. F L. E. Experience,your chance to get proven and practical ideas to help you run your business ina more successful and sustainable and hopefully profitable way. We arecontinuing a series of conversations with executives about the challengesassociated with hiring, coaching, predominantly, I would say coachingdiscipline and even firing people. We had Katie Brown from Steamboat Ski andResort on recently and this is the second one of those and today we havekevin Hickey Ceo of all four engineering there in the philadelphiaarea in terms of their headquarters. But they're around the eastern actually.Are you guys now clear across the nation. Do you have anything out in thewest Coast? We are we have a California office that we started up in february.Yeah. So your travel will only increase and more opportunities to see moregreat golf courses around the United States. So I don't know whether thegolf drives the acquisitions or the acquisitions drive the increase in golf,but it's good that you get to do that. So happy for you, Kevin, welcome to theAdeptly experience. Once again, thanks and happy to be here. Kevin has provento me through words, but more importantly, actions that he is astudent of the discipline of professional management. So I thoughtthere's no one better at giving us thoughts and ideas about what works anddoesn't work for him. That could be of value to you. So that's why I wantedKevin to be one of the folks to weigh in on this topic of coaching anddiscipline and even if need be firing...

...parting with individuals. So kevin,let's get into it. I routinely here that this is one of the mostchallenging areas for individuals. What's been your experience, where doesit fall in your level of difficulty? Is this something that seems natural,intuitive you to have these kinds of conversations, or is it something thatyou really had to learn to embrace and wade into, even though it wasn't alwaysfun? Well, when it gets to, you know, the piece that you mentioned about,like if you're getting to a firing situation, it's the most difficultthing. I think that any buddy deals with, it manages folks. You know, I putit on the, on that scale, I put it very, very hard and just say in ourorganization, we're consulting group, so we're literally selling our peopleif you will, like their knowledge is what we're selling. So you know, wedon't have a product if you will, our people are our product, you know, so inthat type of organization and an organization that's predicated oncoaching as a mindset, you know, as how we develop our people, it becomes very,very difficult when you get to what we would call off boarding and you referto as firing. And the one last thing I'd add on that it is that, you know,we believe in a growth mindset, we believe that people are not fully bakedand when I say fully baked, I mean like a cake, not like weed, but they havethe capacity to learn and change. So like where do you draw that line?That's where it kind of gets difficult. You just opened up a whole possibilityof other questions with that. I'm going to say those for a little later. Ithink. I love it. That's an awful podcast conversation. Yeah, maybe asfar as far as, you know, we're not even recording. Right, right. Well, in termsof the coaching and discipline, how hard or easy have those been for you?Well, coaching has become easy, but only because I feel like I've put a lotof practice into it. It's something that I'm passionate about. I read a lotof different things. I've been coached...

...myself, I've been trained. So, you know,that's something that has been present for me. Yeah, but I go further thatyour ear is passionate basketball college in high school basketball guys.I know, and I I'm pretty passionate about the sport myself. So do you takea lot of your direction for what you would do in coaching based on what yousee and have experienced in your coaching efforts away from business andin basketball. That's a good question. And you know, you know me well, so, youknow, I'm a passionate Villanova basketball fan, so I actually have beenable to watch jay right progress over his career here. He's evolved questionsand watch him evolve and watched how he's responded to failure and how hehas kind of changed his process and it is style and become more open to theconcept that we also apply here. So it's been, it's been cool to like readhis book, watch what he's been able to accomplish. Um, you know, in building aculture that has had great success on the basketball court. But I do thinkthat coaching, like a sports team and coaching in our consulting environmentare are not exactly all that aligned. Yeah. I think uh, sports analogies inbusiness have some relevance, but you know, their ability to know whetherthey won or lost, um, is much more frequent in many regards than what weexperience in business. And, and then there's also just the idea that moneyis not involved, at least not in, in the, in the moment. Yes, I think there's, you see theseanalogies with sports and coaching and also with the military in coaching, Alot of you'll read books and people will well, and, and these guys knowwhat they're doing. I mean, they're...

...building high performing teams, butthey have a certain amount of leverage with it. When you're, when you have aseal team, like those guys aren't going to just leave the next day because theygot their feelings hurt. And so your conversations look a little different,right? Like when you have a captive audience, if you will well, and, and uh,in the military, you always have corporal punishment as a, as an extremeway of, of managing behavior. And, and we certainly don't have that luxury andbusiness and not that we want it, but you don't have it. Um, so I agree. It'snot the same, uh, scenarios, um, how how quickly do you move from coachingsomeone to disciplining somebody? Probably not quickly enough. Um, and,you know, it's funny ed and prepping for this and you used the worddiscipline. And I don't know that I've ever even used that word here At allfor in the 20 years we've been in business. Um, we would maybe use theword feedback, candid feedback, uh, that we would provide. I mean, we, wealso, I have the luxury of having a very high performing, um, professionalworkforce. So it's a little different than, say if I was, um, you know had abunch of college kids working for me painting houses or something like that,you know? Um So uh I don't I very rarely I'm disciplining um oftenproviding candid feedback and pivoting people to do different places. So letme ask you this, how often do you go from asking or suggesting to telling?It's just happened last week. It's relatively rare though I think that wewe default to trying to get people to see it for themselves. Yeah Iunderstand. But at some point as a parent you go from you know I wishyou'd clean up your room to clean up...

...your room. Yeah. And um that's whatthat's what happened to me last week. We have multiple uh multiple programsthat are implementing different software solutions, three or fourdifferent ones. And I basically called that team together and said I need aproject plan from each of you on my desk by friday. Okay. I would call that,that's where I would call that more in the discipline the vein then I wouldn'tcoaching. Yeah, maybe 10% of the time I'm okay doing that to give you anumber. Okay. Well that that's fair and, and I, and I'm not trying to force youto, to, to, to, you know, go down a path that you actually don't go down.If you don't do it, that's fine. It's it's no, it's not bad if you don't, but,but I'm just trying to help the audience understand. Is it somethingthat you do do or don't do? And, and again, I think you, you point out animportant qualification that you have in, in the, in your situations and thatyou're dealing with highly professional people, Although I find highlyprofessional people oftentimes um more certain that what they're doing iscorrect. Yes. Yes, highly professional is also highly intelligent. They'revery smart people. They also are very good at understanding how to, how to,how to work the process if you will well. And they also are convincedbecause of that. They equate high education. Oftentimes with highbusiness acumen and those are not uh, there's, there's no correct directcorrelation there not, especially not for us, our most ofour folks are scientists and engineers. You know, I could say if there were abunch of, you know, business grads or MBA is then they probably should havethat correlation, but you're exactly right well, and as you may rememberfrom our Perth leadership discussions that just having an M. B. A in no waymeans that you're going to be run profitable business. So that aside,that's a different podcast for a...

...different day. Um what in your careerhas most shaped how you coach and occasionally disciplined? I'll takethat. Um the first one, I'll take them separate because I think they're,they're separate answers uh from a coaching perspective, what has mostshaped me is my experience being coached. I wouldn't um I wouldn't bewhere I am today without the services of an executive coach that worked withme and, and uh several of them, uh I mean you included to a certain extent,although we never had a formal official coaching relationship, but I'm going toget it whether you want it or not, kevin, Yeah, you just, you just comeright out with it. So, but being those of you who are listening that haveworked with me, no, it it can't be stopped. So go ahead, keep going, Kevin.Uh you know, the most impactful experience was that process of goingthrough and getting to a place where you peel back and go, this is about me.Um you know, I am the yeah, I'm responsible for the things thathappened to me and I'm the cause of that, and those sometimes those thingsare good, sometimes those things are not good, and um I need to be able tokind of understand that, dig into it and go to work on it and you know, thatwas the most impactful experience. I started to see for me personally, youknow, I was a big judge er of people and I didn't even really know it untilit's kind of pointed out. Um I'll tell you what really changes that when youstart your own company, judging other people is certainly not going to helpyou very much at all. If you're trying to grow an organization, what do youmean by judging other people? What is because you're describing and what Iwould consider uh consider negative context? Well, it was I was going tocome at it from a negative perspective, may be looking for things that maybeweren't working as opposed to what was...

...and what is and what's possible. You'reidentifying flaws rather than opportunities. Yeah, okay. You know, asan engineer, your, like, your school that way, I that's I was going there,I'm glad you're I'm glad I'm glad you're bringing up. Yeah, I thinklawyers, engineers, uh C. P A. S, um all the professional servicesdisciplines are essentially taught to think highly critically. Yeah, you're,you know, you're, you know, I'm a mechanical engineer by degree sinceit's long ago, I've not done any real engineering, and I know you referred tous as all for engineering at the beginning of this podcast. That's amisnomer. We're all we're an environmental consulting firm. Any realengineering firm would be like, would laugh at us. We're not we're not reallyengineers. We have a bunch of engineers and I'm a mechanical engineer andyou're taught to prevent things from failing. Yes. And it's all aboutmitigation, right? It's all about it's all about minimizing failure or riskand and it's about essentially seeking perfection so often and and we'reanything but perfect, aren't we As human beings? We're all imperfect andin significant ways. Yes. And, you know, kind of understanding thoseimperfections to me is part of the coaching process to figure out, youknow, where where you're weak and and that doesn't mean you need tonecessarily go to work on that. Maybe you just need to be pivoted over to to,you know, your strengths, I've written in, you know, the leadership discipline.And let's be clear about how critical self awareness is. And it sounds to melike the coaching, each you've gone through has made you much more selfaware without a doubt. Um, we've doneexercises within our organization where we have had blind spot, one on oneconversations, where I have asked a couple of my direct reports that I havea high level of trust already built...

...with, um, and I'll steal your line here.You know, tell me my breath stinks and, and, and, you know, that was and we didthat for each other in a one on one, and that was tremendously powerful forthe coaching process, because you were getting some really unvarnished, candidfeedback Well, and the other thing, um, that you're talking about there, that Ithink would be really powerful for listeners to think about is when whenyou ask your subordinates to coach you, it really opens the door for them to bemuch more willing for you to coach them because you're not, you're notsuggesting that you're above it or don't need it and and that you're asyou're making yourself as vulnerable as you're asking them to make themselveswith you. So to me that would be a wonderful uh, activity or approach to,to embrace to make pretty routine. So thank you for pointing that out, kevin.No, you're welcome. I think any anybody in an executive suite, you're alwaysworried about being the emperor without any clothes. And that's a way to, youknow, get to that. You've got to, you've really got to adjust yourmindset. Walking into that conversation though, agreed agreed. And, and I Isuspect, you know, if we do the right things hiring in the way we hire people,we make it known that we will be coaching uh right away, that this isnot this is not something that we only do when there's a problem that thatcoaching, I I should feel if we're doing this right, I should feel likeI'm being neglected if you aren't coaching me. Yes, Yes, Yeah. We we dothat in the in the recruiting process. We let people know that we're a acoaching organization and an organization that is predicated onfeedback and that, you know, that's just part of our process that youshould expect. That, you know, it's...

...kind of important to distinguish whatactually coaching is Ed versus mentoring or advice. So how do you seehim differing? I see coaching as uh really working with someone too uh to aplace of self discovery, like figure you're trying to help somebody figuredthings out for themselves. So what would mentoring be about mentoring ismore uh this kind of way we do things around here. Let me help you or um orgiving of advice. Is there less accountability in mentoring than therewould be? Yes. Yes. Yeah, I think so too, in my in mymind people really struggle with this here, you know? So we've we've writtencoaching the off four way manual, that's how embedded in our organizationthis is so you know, we went through and took different concepts and put itinto our our process. Um the first part of that is what is coaching versus youknow, what is mentoring and what is advice and what is disciplined for thatmatter? So you're sending me a copy whenever you want to uh when we getdone today, I would like you to send me a copy and if our listeners would wanta copy, is this something you would be willing to share or not? Yeah, sure.There's nothing in here that's, that's, you know, uh, proprietary, so to speak.We'll talk about that at the end of the, at the podcast. If someone wants to payme for it, I'll take money too. But you know, that maybe on the, you've come tosee what's in it before I pay you. I know you're not paying before it, sothat, you know me well. So that's, that's really good. You know, you, yousaid that when in the, the difference about how much time you spend coachingversus discipline is maybe 90 10, 90 coaching, 10%. Disciplining how much ofthe day or the week are you in in that mode where you're, you're coaching? I'm,I do a decent amount of coaching here,...

...probably eight hours a week is aboutaverage. Um Yeah. Right. Um But yeah, I have, I probably have a few more directreports right now than where I will be in the next couple of years. And youknow, we try to keep that to around 5 to 7 people right now. I have 10 or 11,but that'll, you know, that'll change as we grow when we did I send you thespan of control uh survey that I got from, I was Mackenzie or accenture. Now,I probably should send that to you because it's a very interestingdescription about uh what spans of control makes sense based upon whatkind of people you're managing and the work they're doing, that. It's not it'snot one size fits all. I thought it was really well done. Now. I would love toI would love to see that. I think, I think it would apply in my case ofhaving some more because I have some director level people that, you know,our it's different from a a coaching and managing perspective. It is and andthe essence of it is that if you if the people you're managing are essentiallydoing all the same kind of work that you could have a higher span ofcontrol than if the people you're managing are all doing different kindsof work. Uh yeah, it does it and as soon as I read that was like uh yeah,all of a sudden I can see somebody could effectively manage 15 people. Ifthey were like a call center, I could probably manage 15 people if they wereall doing that specific job. Yeah, well you did right, essentially. Well Lancedid, I didn't do that, but yeah, you're right. Um, so, so is there a processyou follow in trying to help people discover what they need to know to bemore effective? Or is it just a conversation that goes where it goes?It's a process of conversations, if that makes any sense. I can combine thetwo together as conversational techniques. Um, like an engineer rightnow, but go ahead, go ahead. All right.

Still comes out in me. Um, well, wehave a lot of engineers, so they want to see a process. So to help others tobe able to coach others, it helps them to understand kind of, you know whatthat what that process is. But um, it's more a lot of what you'll see and whatI send you in our coaching. The Off Four way Manual is more about goodquestions to ask. It's about really honing your curiosity in the otherperson and that curiosity will lead to them. Um, opening up and having toanswer things about themselves that maybe they would not have thought ofotherwise. But there's certain people that are dense, there are certainpeople that just aren't going to get it, don't you? At some point, don't youhave to just look at me and say, Ed, you're not you're not hearing me,You're not you're not getting there. We got a short circuit this week. We'regonna try something different and then you have to hit me with a two by fourand say, here is reality and and here's what it needs to be and you're notyou're not doing, here's what you need to do to fix this. I mean, I'm, if I'm,if I'm listening to you and I have this conversation, I'll bet there are timeswhere you have to do something like that for sure. And that's, that's kindof to your initial point of like, how, how far do you go coaching wise untillike, you're just not getting the results that you need to see? And umwe're probably bad at that because because we lean more towards a coachingmindset, we probably let it go. You would say, you know, hey, and I'veasked you to do this now three times and you've now messed this up threetimes. I'm gonna hit you over the head with a two x 4. Uh we probably go acouple more times and then hit you over the head with a two by four. But wewill, and then we will put you, we put people in a performance plan, which Ieven hate the name of that because like, shouldn't there be performance anyway?Like that's, it doesn't make any sense,...

...but it's people just kind of know whatthat means. So you put them on a performance plan and you get very, verygranular and you get very, very, um, you know, clear on what it is. Itsounds like an episode of The Office right now. I feel like my life as anepisode of The Office. I can't even watch that show. My kids laugh at it.I'm like, I can't watch that show. I just see myself and steve Carell. Ican't watch it because it hurts to watch it. It's true. So hurts to watchit. It's like people think people don't necessarily, maybe they do note thatthere's more of that. That's true. That's not true in so many, so manybusinesses, thank God for me. I wouldn't have a job, right? I mean, itcomes down to people though and people do you know, and how we interact witheach other and we create some of this stuff. So it's becoming clear to me inthis conversation, kevin that your culture has a huge over shadowingeffect of the way you choose to coach and discipline that, that, that reallyis part and parcel. It's not, it's a, a big component in when and how you coach.It is. I mean, we're people first organization and we, you know, we willsay our people come before our clients because if we're, um, if we're growing,our people were treating people well, If we're investing in our people andour people are investing in one another, then they're going to take care of ourclients at a high level and our clients see that. Um, so yeah, you're right.And we lean more towards that. Um, but I didn't answer the second part of thequestion. You asked me a couple of questions ago, which is the, you know,firing piece of it and you know, that's probably what people wanna, that's allsounds great, but you act like you said, you get to a certain point, you have tooff board people that don't fit and I think your questions, what did youlearn, you know, those most impactful...

...in, in learning that? And we had acouple bad experiences where it just didn't feel, it didn't feel consistentwith our culture when we got to the end and how that went and it didn't feelempathetic and it didn't feel compassionate enough to me. Um, andsome of these I was involved with and some of these I wasn't involved with,but we kind of had one that was like the last one and I'm like, that's nevergonna happen again, we're not, we're not accompanied, it is like, you know,hey, this didn't work out, it's thursday and now pack up your stuff andI'm going to escort you out of the building, that's never going to happenhere ever again, okay, that's not how we roll, so we change that process andwe, we have more of an off boarding process, hence the name, I mean you'renot terminating people, you're off boarding them and there is a, just likeyou were bored, they're there to successfully get somebody to be part ofthe business, we're going to successfully help them leave thebusiness. It's not the most cost effective thing in the world. Um thefinancial folks listening to this are gonna be like, you're crazy, this isridiculous, There's no benefit to it, but there's a high, low, I can, I canput my head on the pillow at night and that's what's important to me from anintegrity perspective. And what we've done now is we will work with people toleave and help them leave, so explain what that means. So we would put themin a performance plan and we finally get to a place and go, okay, this isn'tworking, but what's next for you? And what's that timeline look like and howcan we, how can we help? And like, maybe being an environmental consultantisn't isn't your thing. Now, if they want to go to our number one competitor,I don't know that we're going to be like, you know, necessarily, itwouldn't, the process would be the same in that situation. We are in thatsituation, but we've had people, so the a couple situations we've had recentlyum where folks, you know, just, we're...

...not cut out to be consultants, that'snot what they wanted to do, but they've gone on to work with industry and wegave them a three month time where we paid them to be here to look foranother job. And that is not what most organizations would would do. But uh,Two things come to my mind one, you've you've chosen to make sure that thisprocess, like all the others models, your culture. And then number two,frankly, you're you're operating a successful enough business where youcan afford to do this. It's it's it's you're not being constrainedfinancially of of your ability to give somebody the time to do that and and toto stay true to your culture. And to be clear to, you know, reference your bookto be clear. Uh, a lot of these folks in some cases, you know, we have folkswhere you see inconsistent performance and, and that's that's a sign thatsomebody doesn't, isn't engaged in what they're doing. Like if they've shownthe aptitude and the ability to do the job, but they can't do it consistently.You have to ask, is this really what you want to do? And those folkstypically are these folks that we off board, like they're still able to dothe work that we're doing. So we're not giving them, it's not eight hours a day.Go, you know, get on the job boards and look for your job. We're giving youwork to do. We expect you to do this. And, you know, so we're not completely,yeah, you know, pure altruism, but, but but at the same time it's practical.And uh, boy, in terms of uh esprit de corps and as you said, and, and feelinggood when you go home at night, I can see why you do it. We haverelationships with folks that have off boarded here. Some folks that have offboarded here have recommended the company to friends of theirs. Um Wehave people that we've off boarded that our clients No kidding. That's a goodtestimonial to the validity of what...

...you're doing. And that's at the end ofthe day. That's when I go back to Adam, like that's the result of that andthat's the result that we want to get a couple more questions because we'recoming up against our time. If somebody wanted to rate themselves and beingable to decide how good they were or weren't at coaching, what would youtell them? How would they know, How would they know how to rate themselves?In other words, if somebody said self evaluate a scale of 1 to 10, how goodam I at coaching others? Well, you have to ask the people there coaching, Iwould ask them to go out and get feedback and that's what we do with ourcoaches. Like there's two measures that are really like the feedback from theperson they're coaching and the results that the person they're coaching isproduced that to me would be the number one. Is there evidence that the peopleyou're coaching are actually getting better at whatever it is they're doing.And if you want to get it really concrete, it's do they become moreproductive or don't they? Right, I'm gonna throw an athletic analogy, butdoes their batting average go up or doesn't it? Yeah. And you can usuallysee that pretty clearly, especially in a coaching arrangement, becausetypically in the coaching situations that we have, we ask people to kind ofidentify, like what's the one thing you got to narrow that down? So we'reworking on something consistently and, you know, it takes a little while tobuild the trust to unearth with that one thing is, but when they are able toidentify that one thing, then it becomes very easy to see, like theresults that you, that you get on with you, okay? And then if somebody wantedto really elevate their capacity to coach and have these conversations inan effective manner as possible, what would be your advice to somebody who,based upon hearing what we're talking about today goes, I want to get as goodas kevin, what would you tell them to do? Well, first of all, who knows ifI'm any good or not have to go through that process, but I'd give him fourthings at number one, go get coach yourself, you've got to submit yourselfto that process and understand it from the perspective of the one beingcoached. That's the first thing I would do. The second thing I do is I go gettrained, you can do that, there's self...

...learning, there's plenty of greatresources out there to get trained. The third thing I do, I identify yourpurpose, why do you want to do coaching if you're doing that to try to changepeople that may not end very well. You need to make sure that your, you know,kind of completely and genuinely invested in their success, whateverthat might be. It might go down a path that you don't necessarily anticipate.You have to be able to roll with it that way. Kind of like tapping intostrength, finding strength finding superpower. I describe it as if thereason you're coaching me is because you're trying to make yourself yourresults better and it's not because you're trying to help me, I'm gonnareceive that coaching entirely differently. Then if you're trying tohelp me be the best version of myself. Exactly like I said, we have reallysmart people, they sniffed that out. The hard question, people sense that.So, you know, if you're not genuine, it's not gonna work, identify yourpurpose or number four is just really be mindful around developing purposefulcuriosity, asking good questions and really like invest yourself and beingcurious about that person I call it. Suspending judgment that I'm going toassume. I don't know what I need to know. So therefore I'm going to be morecurious in the way that you're describing, I think. And this is one ofthose things that sounds really simple when you and I are talking about itright here and it's really hard to do well, especially when you know you'reright Or you think you are. Yeah, I mean that after 40 plus years inbusiness, I know I'm right, 99% of time. So why should I have to listen tosomebody? Exactly. Uh, I enjoy listening to you, kevin. It's always apleasure you've given the audience here, a lot of meat for the time they'veinvested. So if they want to reach you, if they want a copy of the All fourcoaching handbook, what's, what's the best way for them to reach you? Let'sjust shoot me an email at K Hickey, K H I C K E Y at all. Four inc dot com.It's A L L. The number four I N C dot...

...com. What a pleasure it is always to bewith you virtually or in person. We need to schedule some time for a golfsoon, hopefully. And you know where I would love to do that if we can and wewill, I know we will kevin and it's an honor and privilege to call you afriend as well as compatriots. So thank you for all you do for me and for thelisteners here on the NFL experience. Same to you, Ed and thank you forhaving me on. I thoroughly enjoy our conversations here. Well, you too, thank you for listening to the Ed Epleyexperience. For more information on building a more sustainable, smarterand healthier business, visit www. The Epley Group dot com for resources, tipsand Ed's latest blogs. That's B Eppley E p p l E Y group dot com. Plus take afree assessment at the epic group dot com slash assessment to find out howyou measure up as a highly skilled and accomplished manager and where to focuson improving your skills. Yeah.

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