Episode 129: Controlled Chaos: Learn How To Harness Your Chaos To Move Forward And Grow With Kim Troy
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Business can reproduce chaos, but what happens when you get caught up? What is the telltale sign that chaos is winning? In today’s episode, Kim Troy, CEO of Civilis Consulting, how you can move your business forward and growing through controlled chaos. Kim also identifies the foundational piece that founders need to rein chaos and bring it to order. Culture is one of the critical pieces organizations tip, so Kim suggests that it is where founders should start to solve. This episode is packed with more insights from Kim Troy, so tune in now!
My special guest is somebody who I’m thrilled to introduce to you. I’m getting to know her myself, but I can tell we are going to be fast friends. She has a lot to bring to you. Her name is Kim Troy, the Founder and CEO of Civilis Consulting. Her primary work, or the way to talk about it, is as a Fractional HR and Culture Consultant. She has a consultancy that helps entrepreneur-led businesses reach new heights. Let me have you introduce yourself, Kim, and tell our readers more about what you do. Welcome to the show. We are glad to have you here.
I’m thrilled to be here. I agree, we are going to be fast friends for sure. What we do, as you described, all comes under the umbrella of organizational development consulting. We help organizations build their human capital and build that capacity on which to grow. We work primarily with typical clients who are five million in revenue and up. They will have twenty full-time employees and beyond. We work with entrepreneur-led businesses that are in a growth phase because it’s what we are good at and our special niche. That’s what we do.
My background, I spent many years in Corporate America before I became an entrepreneur. I was an entrepreneur when I was eight. I had a twenty-year career there in corporate and went back to being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is in my blood. That said, I got to learn from fabulous brands. I worked for fifteen years for one corporation called Limited Brands, L Brands, and learned a lot about branding, growth, reinvention, sales, operations, and marketing. I wore a lot of hats in that organization during my tenure there. I took all of that and then took it out into my consultancy. I use all that I learned in that environment to help other businesses do the same.
I don’t blame you for wanting to spend time with the growing businesses. It’s so much more fun to grow, isn’t it?
Exactly. There’s nothing like having that kind of chaos, all of that innovation, and everything that comes out of that. There’s so much energy. I thrive on that. I need that. I love being in that. It’s my job to help that be controlled chaos.
That’s the perfect segue because both of us and everyone reading knows that business breeds chaos. There is a chaos that happens. We can either get caught up in that chaos and get some version of a hamster wheel where we keep doing the thing or figure out how to harness that chaos, how to bring some controlness to it, and move forward and grow. What have you found some of the things that allow entrepreneur-led growing businesses to control some of their chaos? Maybe we should start talking about what their chaos looks like or the common things they are familiar with. What do you come across that’s like, “This is the telltale sign that their chaos might be winning?”
I always approach from a people’s perspective. That said though, I am systematic and have a strong operations background. Sometimes we will see it happening on the operations side. What’s happening is that there’s something inefficient in the system, whether that’s in processes, meetings or decision-making. It will manifest on the people’s side in the form of turnover. We will lose people that we don’t want to lose.
That’s a big deal now. People lose people that they don’t want to lose. That’s something that’s happening.
It doesn’t have to happen even in this environment. There are a lot of headlines about it being The Great Resignation, and there’s this war on talent like never before. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’ve got a great culture in place, it is the glue that will hold your business together. It’s that foundational control that you have to have that chaos be productive as opposed to destructive.
When I think about it from the people’s side, when I see that happening, when we see a lot of turnovers and op-like key positions being open for long periods, which puts other stresses on the rest of the organization. When we see those things, that’s how I know, “This is where you need help.” We need to reassess what’s going on foundationally, and we need to address that. That’s what I am looking for.
There are some obvious people signs. You talked about losing people you don’t want to lose and any of the people that you don’t want to lose, key positions being open longer than you would like for them to be open. In the entrepreneur or that founder’s calendar or their life, what other symptoms do you see if the chaos is too much?
They are losing business. I have a new client who has government contracts that have gotten multimillion-dollar contracts with the government. He’s got to hire people all over the country and to be able to execute those contracts. He’s scared to death that he’s not going to be able to hire those people and execute these contracts and will lose the contracts. You are losing business or not able to garner business that you know you could have under other circumstances. That’s other places that will start to show up, your good people will leave, and only your bad people will be the ones that will stay.
It’s affecting revenues and efficiencies within the organization. It’s limiting growth. It’s limiting what your organization is capable of doing and what your product or your service is capable of delivering. There’s that constraint that’s happening. It’s not because of The Great Resignation or because it’s hard to find people or we are paying them to stay home. All of those things that we see in the headlines it’s not that. There are plenty of businesses out there that are managing to make this work. They are capitalizing on it. They’ve figured out how to be different and differentiate during this time.
Let’s flip the switch from how it shows up as problems. Let’s talk about where you go to work with people. There’s so much we can cover in an episode like this. Let’s start with the foundational pieces or the first places you go to start to bring order to the chaos or to put reins back in the founder’s hands so that there’s more control.
This is a nebulous topic. I want to spend some time clarifying this nebulous topic for people. The first thing that we do is assess the culture in the business. The problem with that term is that culture has been conflated and overused. What we try to help people understand is that if you have a well-defined and well-articulated culture, and I’m talking about it in terms of behavior. If we can articulate what your real vision, your mission, and your values are and can articulate those in terms of behaviors that we can see, feel, touch, and sense, then we are starting to put some objective measures around what this nebulous thing called culture is all about.Assess the culture in the business. Click To Tweet
First and foremost, everybody thinks they have a great culture. If I talk to somebody and say, “Culture is your problem. That’s why you are having this turnover.” They are like, “That’s not it. We’ve got a great culture.” I will say, “What is your culture?” They will say, “It’s these five things on the wall. It’s this mantra that we recite every morning in our daily huddle.” What I’ve often found is that the culture ends up getting defined like if you are a marketing department or your office design consultant defined your culture, you don’t have a culture. You’ve got fancy words that sound like they mean something. If your people don’t know how to embody those words and how to behave when they are with a customer, working with each other or making decisions, you don’t have a culture.
Where we always start is understanding what makes this organization tick. A lot of times, it starts with the founders or the very top leaders of the organization to understand why they started the organization. Where and they want to go to work every day? What kind of a place did they want to be working in? We start work there. It’s the let’s go slow to go fast mentality.
We have to break it down that way and do hard work. We even have to get psychotherapy to try to get to the kernel of this. Every organization, if it has been founded and grown by a person, which most organizations have been, there is that element that we have to acknowledge that it’s part of that organization. We have to understand that part of it first.
It’s interesting that you said we have to slow down to speed up. The challenging part with that is that all the descriptions you gave of the problems that we are seeing have a lot of urgency to them like, “We get the revenue ceiling. We are losing good people or we can’t find the people we need. We need to solve this now. Let’s go. Let’s silver-bullet this thing,” and then it’s like, “We have some foundational work to do here.” That must be maddening for some of your clients. How do you deal with that?
First of all, we can go fast on that thing. We can spend half of the day together understanding those core tenets that are embedded in the personality and the motivations of the founders and leaders of the business and start to flesh things out that way. We can start even by looking to see what are the things that they have that they can leverage within the organization that is going right. Do they have a great employee referral program or a great decision-making process? Maybe those are all things that are going well that we can leverage and start to reframe the way that we have our conversations in the organization in terms of these behavioral values and tenants that are part of it.
We don’t have to completely reinvent the organization and build a whole great giant handbook and strategy to start doing that. A lot of times, what we will start doing again if our most urgent issue is around hiring or attracting talent, then that will be the first place we start. Once we define and do a better job of defining this culture and these underlying tenants and behaviors that we want to make sure that our people are embodying, then we do two things.
One is that we look for people in the organization that is already there, embodying those and using them as models. We build out this profile, this ideal persona of who we want, and we want more of those. They are the ones that are doing what we want them to do and how we want them to do it. We build our job descriptions and even our job postings, the way that we convey to the world who we are looking for and how we are looking for it. We start building around that. We think of it in terms of personas and marketing. This is what marketing people do.
That talent is our ideal audience. Who are those people we want to go after, we want to attract, and what do we need to say and demonstrate to them that we do and are to attract and make them want to come to be part of this? It’s not unlike how we attract clients. It’s similar in that way. We can get started on that relatively quickly. I always say you stop to deliver on that promise.
If you are going to promise them that you are this great culture, that you are all about transparency, the candy wall, or whatever it is as we market you out there, then we need to make sure that we are going to deliver on that or you won’t be able to keep them. We have to put other things in place to make sure that this culture infiltrates the organization, and that is how the company behaves.
You, I, and anybody wouldn’t trust somebody who was behaving differently than their word as an organization. We have to build that in, where we say, “These matters to us, and it shows up in everything that we do.” Otherwise, it feels out of integrity. It feels critical. It’s not an organizational term but that’s the way it feels.
Any more than you would do the same if you were with a client. You wouldn’t go out and sell something to a client that, ultimately, you are never going to be able to deliver. That’s a bad thing. We don’t want that. It’s the same thing with your people.
I love that you are pointing that out. It blows my mind. You’ve seen this a lot. With business owners, one of the first things they figure out is how to sell their thing, their product or service. It’s enough to grow their team, and they are like, “I’ve got to get consistent lead generation going.” They go figure out how to talk to the market in a way. All these personas were like, “What are they reaching for? What’s their job they are hiring my product or service to do?” They get really good at marketing, and then they hire somebody. They put out a, “Help wanted,” sign and expect people to line up like, “Come work for me.” They forget that whole marketing thing that they learn on the customer side. It’s the same thing on the employment side.
I’m in this HR industry, and as an industry, it’s not a sexy industry. Those HR people are always boring and no-people. HR should be sexy. It’s as important that we are wooing our people, employees, and team, as much as we would woo a new customer. We need to care for them that way and to deliver on those promises we make to them in those same ways. I need to reinvent the HR industry. What’s a good strategic HR is marketing and sales.
Most of them are these people who don’t even want to hear HR. You and I ended up in places like this where we go, “We don’t need to talk about HR. Let’s talk about how to grow a great company.” We do that without calling HR because everybody sees that’s the compliance police, the powerhouse, the complaint department, or whatever. “You think of that to everyone. Let’s use some good culture work together.” Most people don’t see that the right way. One of our members in our Elite Momentum community is a high-growth staffing company in the real estate space. Real estate is booming, at least in the US. They are grown like gangbusters. The owner and the founder, who I know well, named it “Talent Woo.” You used the term, “We want to woo our people.”
We must think about it that way because that is what we are doing. These are not workers and not headcount. These are real people that can add significant value to our business. We all get to that point where we can’t do it without them. We need to reframe how we think of them and the value that they bring to our business.
It was true before The Great Resignation, but apparently, even more so now, they have choices. They are going where they feel they are going to be most valued. A lot of them are making transactional choices based on pay alone. You, I, and we will call them the Enlightened Founders, are creating places where enlightened talent want to be, where they see the difference between a paycheck and a place where I can thrive and grow to be with other people like me because we share values and love a common purpose and all those things.
That’s another warning sign. If you are paying sign-on bonuses, you have problems with your culture because not one of our clients has to do any sign-on bonuses or anything like that. It’s not about the money. If you are bribing people to come work for you with sign-on bonuses, they are not going to stay. You cannot pay them, give them enough bonuses and enough money to stay. They are staying for the culture. They are staying for the way that they feel when they are part of your organization. If you have to bribe them with sign-on bonuses to come work for you, that’s another red flag. We have work to do, and we need to look into this.
We are creating a relationship at a transactional level or that other person brings anything meaningful. It will fall apart. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, and this is fun. This is more of a geek-out session than a typical interview. Thank you for playing along. I was thinking about Simon Sinek’s quote that, if you haven’t heard, I know you will love it. He said something to this effect. I might mess it up slightly, “If people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” I love that.
I love him. He’s amazing. That’s exactly it. One of the things that I always say is that part of what you need to do to attract people and get them to stay is to let them contribute and include them. You never know where they might be able to add value to your organization. If you don’t give them the opportunity to speak up and to be involved, I don’t care if they are frontline, minimum-wage people but put them in your leadership team meetings in some capacity. Let’s hear from them.
If they are client-facing and working in the trenches with your customers on a day-in, day-out basis, they are well better represented in your leadership decision-making. How do we get them included in there, and how do we get them to contribute in that capacity? Those speed back. It’s good for the leadership and the whole organization. You get new fresh perspectives, and those people feel they are valued. They get to use their talents in more ways than, “I put in my hours this week, and I’m collecting my paycheck.”
We could have a whole conversation and do a whole workshop on how you invite them. How do you co-create with them so that they line up in all the ways you are talking about, feed the information and the perspective to the leadership team, and forget the fact that these businesses can’t even develop leaders fast enough? They needed leaders yesterday, and how do you develop them? Bring these people along.
Nobody comes to work to say, “I’m going to phone it in.” If they show up to work, they want to be there. They want to contribute. You need to allow them to do that. When the organization is growing quickly, they got to keep up. You cannot turn them over and hire new ones fast enough. You’ve got to figure out how to grow them from within. You cannot grow everybody but you’ve got to figure out how to bring them along as far and as quickly as they possibly can.When the organization is growing very quickly, they have to keep up. Click To Tweet
That is by far the most effective and efficient way to grow your organization and grow that human capacity. If you’ve got that turnover and you have to keep hiring new, more experienced people to come into the next level, we are not that super inefficient and costly. It’s like it is less expensive to keep your customer than to go out and get a new one. It’s the same with your team members.
As I said, this has been more of a geek-out session than a traditional interview. I appreciate you spending time with us. You have figured out how to help businesses control their chaos and rein it in a way that allows them to continue to grow through great people leadership practices. It’s remarkable. I’m like, “Kim gets it.” How can people learn more about you and Civilis? Where can they connect?
Kim, thank you for your time and your insights. It was fun for me. Everybody, please make sure to share, review, like, and do all those things so that as many seven-figure business owners can get these insights that Kim and others that we invite to this show have shared and will share. We want to help as many as possible. Thanks for reading. Join us again next time.
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About Kim Troy
Kim Troy is the Founder and CEO of Civilis Consulting, a fractional HR and culture consultancy that helps entrepreneur-led businesses reach new heights. Civilis seasoned consultants work alongside CEOs and leadership teams to roll out organization-wide transformations; and have deep expertise consulting companies with remote or geographically dispersed business units.
Prior to Civilis, Kim founded Kimberly Troy Consulting, working with field-based wildlife conservation organizations primarily in southern Africa to improve utilization of financial and human resources. She has also held executive level positions in Human Resources, Operations and Sales for some of the world’s largest corporations, including L Brands.
She has a BA in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Puget Sound and a Diversity & Inclusion certification from Cornell. She is an expert facilitator, Prosci® certified Change Management practitioner, and certified DDI® Targeted Selection trainer.
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