Ep. 185: Michael Teape - Maximizing human capital in challenging times

Michael Teape, a respected management coach and Co-founder of Teape Training International returns to Count Me In to discuss maximizing human capital in the face of COVID-19, the great resignation, and other challenges. Michael is a thought leader in people development who enjoys running train-the-trainer events for facilitators globally. He brings over 25 years’ experience across all major business sectors and sizes as a Facilitator, coach & CLO with a reputation for anchoring learning back in the workplace.
Contact Michael Teape: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teapetraining/

Teape Training International (TTI): https://www.teapetraininginternational.com

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Full Episode Transcript:
Adam: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In. I'm Adam Larson. Today, we welcome back Michael Teape to the podcast. Michael is a well known management coach and co-founder of Teape Training International. And he is here today to discuss how businesses can maximize their human capital, as we begin year three of COVID 19 era, and the Great Resignation continues. If you are a leader, trying to get your team back to business as usual, you do not wanna miss this insightful conversation. So let's get started. 
 
Adam: (00:38)
Michael, we really appreciate you coming on our podcast today. It's a pleasure to speak with you again, to have you come back to count me in. 
 
Michael: (00:45)
Thank you. It's great to be here, Adam. Thanks for having me back. 
 
Adam: (00:48)
Definitely. So let's just jump right into our topic today. So in your work with clients across businesses, how are people doing with the crisis as what we are heading into, what, the third year of it? 
 
Michael: (01:00)
Yeah. Can you believe it three years? No, that's just, yeah. Crazy. Well, it, every year it's changed. Right? Cause you can imagine that and as your listeners reflect back, they're gonna think, well, yeah, there was absolutely in the beginning, we didn't know what we didn't know. We were washing our vegetables, you know, we weren't going to the store and now we're way beyond that. We're managing that with seen threat come into our work. People have got COVID people have not gone to the hospital. Some have, unfortunately, so you've experienced it over two years. And as we come into the third, it's kind of normalized. It's baked in, it's like you get used to your environment. So, you know, most people are like, well, this is a reality, Adam, if I'm honest, that's what they're saying. 
 
Michael: (01:50)
And they're, going back to doing well, you know, may as well do the training. And from my point of view, you know, as a learning development specialist, face to face stuff was canceled the first year. And now in the third year, it is back on again, you know, they wanna do face to face. Haven't done it in a while. I'm not so sure that the employees want to do face to face. Cause they've got used to the virtual environment and they've worked out that actually it can work. It does work. We've been able to talk over, you know, over a virtual, just as much in fact, better than face to face, because face to face, most people wearing a mask, depending on which state you go to, depending on their level of infection. Yeah. So, you know, that's where we are right now. 
 
Michael: (02:44)
Also what I'm seeing Adam is people are moving jobs, you know, you've heard of the Great Resignation. So that's the other thing is really picking up speed now in the third year. The thing with that is that people are seeing opportunity. There is opportunity. So they're realizing that, well, I can work from home so therefore I can work pretty much from anywhere. Right? Yeah. So it doesn't, they're not as limited as they were before. So that's how people, I feel people are expanding their horizons on the work they can do and getting so much more comfortable with doing at home. So we've entered this era of flexibility. Unfortunately, last thing I'll say. And if, and those of you listeners who are leading others, I would say, this is that they're not being flexible. All right. So leaders have got to continue to be flexible. 
 
Michael: (03:41)
Even with the picture, the move back to the office. We want all of you back in the office, right? We want you all to come back and, you know what, we're losing some of that flexibility we've had for the last two years in this third year. And I feel that if leaders learn to continue the flexibility, they can continue to take advantage of a more flexible workforce and make them want to stay, want to work if you put in what I call, yeah. Of fake rules, unnecessary rules. Unnecessary. And I'll give you an example. There's a company that I know that remain nameless. They're like, right! We're all coming back to work. They've all been hundred percent remote, fairly small company. And right. We want all back at work, but we want you in Monday, Thursday and Friday, you can, you know, we'll be virtual Tuesday and Wednesday. 
 
Michael: (04:38)
You're getting these unnecessary rules and you must have your meetings. We want them face to face. So you need to have your meetings on the Monday, Thursday or the Friday. So you can imagine employees are like, hang on a minute. What if I wanna have a meeting on Tuesday, it creates all these unnecessary rules and decisions to be made when wouldn't, it have been easier just to say to the each team work out what days you wanna come in the office. We want to build up to a hundred percent back, but you know, happy to do 60, 40, whatever works as long as we're serving the client internally and externally, you know, I leave it up to your best judgment to make sure the work continues. Great, right? And then they can work on it. What works best for them? I'm seeing this over and over again. So how are people doing the crisis? I think they're doing quite well. They they're normalized it. They're getting on with it. They're looking for opportunities, other jobs. What we've gotta is being overly formal with how leaders bring their people back and teams back. We need to stay flexible. 
 
Adam: (05:46)
Yeah. So I can't imagine staying flexible would allow you to keep your workforce better because if you become more rigid, it says, well, if you're gonna be rigid, then I can just move on. Are there other tips that we can offer? Like for, you know, if you're thinking, okay, I lead a team, how can I adapt my team so that I can continue like being flexible, but what are other things that I can do to help keep my team together, but still be productive? 
 
Michael: (06:13)
The productivity is a funny thing. Yeah. So that's the first thing I'm gonna talk about here. Is it relax? Have they been productive for the last two years? Look at that. Has the performance been where you wanted it? If it is, you don't have a productivity problem. Yeah. If it isn't, then let's get into more communication with the team about your expectations. So focus. I think leading through this time now back to where people feel that COVID, isn't a day to day occurrence, or there's not another wave or they don't know tons of people that have it, getting people back, they really need to focus on what they want to achieve. And the way you do that with teams is you communicate with them. You ask them how it's going. You set expectations of what you're looking for. 
 
Michael: (07:05)
And then you coach them. You're really, really good at communication on, well, how are you prioritizing? How can I help you prioritize what you need to be doing in this time? What are some of the roadblocks getting in your way is for that leader to switch from, "I've told you my expectations" into a coaching style and that's how they help their teams through it. Because the coaching style does two things. It helps when you coach someone, it helps them put them in an adaptive, calm mindset. They are reflecting on the question you've asked, they're not in the, oh, make panic of getting the work done. If they're under stress, they're not think of anything else they're connecting with you. And you're giving them that reflective time to calm and think about their position, which therefore leads to more productivity, better prioritization. So yeah. 
 
Michael: (07:56)
So they're the two things. And the last thing is don't give up, you know, always come back to an employee. If you've had a feedback conversation, you had a coaching conversation, come back, come back and ask them, how did that go mention, well, you mentioned you were gonna try this this week. You were gonna try and be less reactive to email. How did that go? So you end up coaching your people rather than saying, look, this is, this is what you need to do. You're not, you're not getting all these accounts done. We're 10% down. I need you to put another hour in the day. You know? So we are moving from autocratic style of leadership, which helps the leader feel in control to much more democratic style. And with that comes flexibility. But you know, I see a lot of leaders jumping like, oh, you know, I've gotta keep productivity up. And then I ask them, well, what's your productivity like? And they're like, good question. I don't know. I've not thought about it. I just assumed because everyone went virtual. I need to watch this space. So it's unnecessary. Right? So I hope that answers a question, Adam, and, you know, and helps management accountants listening to this. How do I manage my team without overdoing it? Don't overcook it. 
 
Adam: (09:14)
Yeah. You don't wanna overcook it cuz you don't wanna put force on them to come into an office where remembering that it's gonna tire somebody out more because they're seeing people in person which means you're gonna have other conversations outside the normal conversations you'd have. You're actually gonna be probably a little less productive going into the office cuz you're gonna see people you haven't seen in two years. So you're dealing with all those things. And so if you push everybody to be into the office, especially like on a Monday and a Friday who wants to be in office on a Monday and a Friday? Make 'em all come in the middle of the week. Cause I mean, no one ever wants to be in the office at the beginning and the end of the week, you know, you gotta find, you gotta be flexible, but you have to take into account because the wellbeing of your team is super important because, you gotta remember, they've had two, almost three years of working from home working, you know, working out schedules with kids and taking people everywhere that you have your schedule set and all of a sudden's like we're going back to work and you're disrupting people's lives. 
 
Adam: (10:08)
And so as they adapt, you know, you have to kind of, you have to adapt your style of leadership, but I think it's disrupting people cuz they're either in the office or not in the office and they don't know how to hybrid it. 
 
Michael: (10:21)
Yeah. Yeah. Making the most outta the office experience is something we should be coaching again, that word coaching, right. We should be leaders should be saying, so, you know, you're coming back to work in the office. What do you think is gonna be the most useful use of your time in the office and you know what it's meeting people face to face. It's not going through spreadsheets. If you want the quiet time, you know, do that a bit later on. But the funny thing is you mentioned, you know, I'm going back to this Monday, Friday thing, yes, you are a hundred percent, right. Adam, it's known, look, let me get into the week and I'll turn up Tuesday, Wednesday. So that the example I gave of the client that got it around the wrong way. And, and when I spoke to some of the employees, they were suspicious as to, well, do they not trust us to work on a Monday? 
 
Michael: (11:08)
Do they think we're gonna take a three day weekend or a four day weekend? And my answer to that is, well, if you are being measured, which you know, when you talk about accounting, there's a very, very obvious result of your work, your productivity, you get the accounts done, you know, certain spreadsheets done things ticked in the box, regulatory deadlines. If you don't hit those, it's very obvious you're gonna miss them. So giving someone a Monday as their work from home makes no difference, cause they'll either need to get it done on Monday or they won't, they were gonna do it anyway. At least it's like really? And so now you've got a workforce questioning why? So it's really, you know, controlling what's important and letting go of everything else. And you know, in this world of accountancy there's so it's so specific. 
 
Michael: (12:04)
It's very easy to let someone go flexible and then just measure the results as they come in, have a discussion, ask them about, look, this is actually, I need you to do my expectation is for you to do twice as many accounts in three days, you know, how are we gonna achieve that? But it's still a coaching technique. And that's how people wanna be talked to right now. They wanna be included. And you mentioned wellness, wellbeing. So we shouldn't just leaders should not just be talking about the work productivity they should be talking about. Are they varying, you know, are they burning out? Are your people burning out? Do they have the right level of social interaction? Or are they just sitting here 24, 7, I'm coaching someone right now who's incredibly bright off the scale. Fantastically, is gonna be hugely successful. 
 
Michael: (12:55)
But that person who's struggling with clocking on at six 30 in the morning and working through just seven o'clock at night, barely taking lunch because they feel that's the expectation. Couldn't that be sorted out by a leader, having a real discussion about what are you, you know, what are you doing throughout your day? Understanding the cycles of work when you should take breaks and a leader saying, it's okay to take a break. You know, do you really need to log on that early in the morning? I don't think so. So yeah, it's not about, it's funny. We, but people try and manage time leaders try and manage time. They should be more managing the conversations we have and up the purpose and the why we are doing it. And yeah, release that time element. I'm so surprised that people are still so caught up on, well, I need this person at the desk. If you're acquiring somebody to be there more than eight hours a day, the eight hours are not productive. And that's, you know, that's what I find is really holding people back from the wellbeing. And I don't think people are taking care of their wellbeing, Adam, to be honest, not properly.
 
Adam: (14:06)
Well, and we've talked a lot about leaders looking at their teams, but what about the leaders? They're not looking at their wellbeing either. And so as a leader, you have to look at yourself and say, okay, am I well enough to be leading my team, coaching my team? And am I using my time properly? And you know, we have to apply the things that we're trying to coach our team members on in ourself, right? 
 
Michael: (14:27)
Yeah. I mean, there's things we need to do around our work to help our wellbeing now. CPAs and other accounting professions have a crunch deadline, right? April, the end of the year. So they're used to this, cramming the work in around those months and then hopefully taking a bit of breather afterwards. So they might be, they might be thinking about, well, actually just maintain this amount of concentration, right now, right. We're coming up to deadline time right now. We need to make sure that we are going out and having rituals routines we're going for walks, reading other material, taking a break, small breaks on a regular basis. Yeah. And then fueling the body with the right energy, which is the food that we eat. Thinking about that short term, food, coffee, soda, all those great things to give you that punch that you need. 
 
Michael: (15:30)
Say if you're not feeling great, but you know, you've got the next three hours to get through, are not gonna help you long term. You need to be looking at foods that released energy over a longer period of time. And really Michael, you're talking about food? Well, I am because if you wanna sustain months, which I know they do anyway. But during this time months of productivity, you have to be in it for the long term and good routines around, movement that we are moving where you actually look as well. I dunno if anyone's talked about this, but if you think about when we are looking at the screen, as I am right now, I'm looking at my computer screen. When I'm talking to you, it's a short term, it's a short vision. I'm looking at the short range depth, and I'm looking at an electronic screen, okay. 
 
Michael: (16:22)
That tires you out. Your optics, your eyes, all of that great stuff. Tired. You need to look away from the screen and look at a view, a long depth. And what I do is I often say, if you haven't got time to take a break, at least stop, instead of checking your phone or your Facebook or your, whatever your social media is, I'm showing my age. Cause I'm saying Facebook, and look out the window, hopefully you've got a window. You need to find one and name what you see, oh, bright sunshine. Oh, the weather's cleared up. The trees are coming into bloom. You know, you are naming what you're seeing the future. Cause it gives you more, a wider lens of your brain and it calms your brain down. If you are only looking at the computer screen, spreadsheets, emails, popups, and that, it will drain your energy and definitely your critical thinking and decision making. For sure. So yeah. They gave you a lot there to unpack.
 
Adam: (17:23)
You, you have, I've read somewhere where it says like you have to do that, like at least once every hour where you do that like a couple minutes, and then that alone helps reduce the strain on your eyes, the strain in your brain, just, just doing that alone throughout the day will improve your wellbeing as if you're working on a computer all day which can do wonders for everybody. Even just hand exercises, you know, making sure your hands are stretched properly. If you're sitting there typing all day, just simple things as that, that we have to do because, and for some people, when they started working from home, they started working more hours because they were home. They could just sit down and go like from six 30 to seven, but it it's trying to making sure your team is finding that balance. And even you as a leader, finding that balance. 
 
Michael: (18:08)
Yeah. Most importantly, for you as a leader to do it first, because you are the one that everyone relies on, you know, you're the person having the conversations, they need you on your game. And plus the techniques you learn, you can then impart, share to your team what works and what doesn't work. Everything I talk about, I'm doing myself now. Some days I'm doing it badly, you know, I'm no Saint, but other days I'm like, oh, okay, well I use this and I then can introduce it to my teams, my clients, and help move them forward. Productively. Like I said, as long as they're focused, what do I want to achieve is a focus, the approach is a flexible communication style. I suggest that coaching style, cause you're asking questions about the other person rather than telling. And then lastly, consistency that they consistently meeting with their people. 
 
Michael: (18:59)
They know that the catch ups coming, they know what it feels like, you know, know it's gonna be supportive. And then of course their own rituals in the day to make sure that they are, you know, they're managing their energy well, you know that they're clear on what they're trying to achieve today. They're not over putting too much into a day just because I don't have a commute anymore. You know, you still need some kind of downtime between switching from being in your office or your converted closet, whatever you've using as an office, switching off the light, walking out the door into whatever awaits you, your family life, your personal life, walking the dog, those kind of things. 
 
Speaker 3: (19:45)
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