Oct 13, 2021

Creating a Thriving Virtual Workplace, with Tara Powers

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As a 25-year talent and leadership development expert, CEO Tara Powers is an international best-selling author, award-winning leadership and Wiley DISC expert, sought-after keynote speaker, and crusader for virtual teams and virtual leadership, including her newly launched Virtual Team School. Tara’s company, Powers Resource Center, is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise with WBENC.  

She’s worked with over 300 companies and more than 30,000 leaders building programs and launching initiatives that deliver high-touch and high-impact results for her clients.

For four years, PRC’s Leadership Programs have earned the prestigious Top 10 Leadership 500 award by HR.com, alongside prominent brands such as Korn Ferry, Level (3), Hilton, Honda, MIT and DDI. Tara is also a judge for the coveted Brandon Hall Excellence Awards which recognizes the best organizations globally that have successfully deployed programs, strategies, and tools that have achieved measurable outcomes. In 2020, PRC received an award from Brandon Hall for Best Results from a Leadership Program for their Leadership Boot Camp program. In 2020 and 2021, OnCon awarded PRC with a Top 25 Human Resources Vendor Award and an HR Contributor Icon Award in 2019.

Recently, Tara published Virtual Team for Dummies and Working from Home for Dummies with Wiley and was recognized in Colorado Business Magazine as a Women to Watch.

Tara speaks nationally on vital topics such as the importance of human connection and emotional intelligence in leadership, simple secrets for creating healthy organizations, and how to build cohesive and committed teams.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why Tara began specializing in virtual and hybrid teams, and how the outbreak of the global pandemic accelerated the need for organizations to do this work the right way
  • Why learning to navigate a hybrid work environment is crucial for leaders today, and why creating a successful hybrid or virtual work environment takes intentionality
  • How to set clear expectations, have a plan, and put the right tools in place before moving your team into a virtual environment
  • Why it's important for leaders to avoid setting unspoken virtual workplace expectations that can become a drain on their employees
  • What factors are driving the "Great Resignation," and why it is important to create psychological safety in your organization
  • Why taking the time to celebrate wins is important for your team's happiness, and what virtual workplace trends are emerging today


Additional resources:  

Show Transcription:

Intro: Welcome to A Brave New Podcast. The podcast, all about how brave entrepreneurial companies are unlocking their business potential using inbound marketing. Here is your marketing expert and host, Polly Yakovich.

Polly Yakovich: Welcome back to A Brave New Podcast. I am so excited to welcome Tara Powers to the podcast today. Tara is a woman of many extraordinary talents that she is going to share with you. Among everything, she's the founder and CEO of the Powers Resource Center, training and coaching company that helps organizations do lots of things, including learning how to connect virtual teams of which she's written a book that I can't wait to talk more about. So, welcome to the podcast.

Tara Powers: Thank you very much. I'm so, so happy to be here on this beautiful September day. So thank you. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Give us a little context about what you do, what you've been doing. Give us a little bit of your bio.

Tara Powers: Awesome. Well my bio. So I started out my whole career in accounting and finance and went to school for that. Got into account... I love numbers. So got into accounting. No, it's funny. Well, yeah, I just love counting numbers-

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I went to business school, so I made it through, by the skin of my teeth, but then exited out into the marketing section of the...

Tara Powers: Well, I love marketing too. I just, I love it. But so yeah, I started that and I was working in a company doing accounting work all different things. And they came into our accounting department and said, "We need someone to volunteer to build a training program for managers because they do not know how to read budgets and they are asking for crazy things that they shouldn't be." And I was like, "Huh, that really sounds interesting. I think I want to try that." So I was like, "I'll do it." So I built the- 

Polly Yakovich: You're like the only person in the accounting department [crosstalk 00:02:02] would raise their hand.

Tara Powers: 100%. The only person that would do that. And so I raised my hand, I was like, "I don't even know how to build a training workshop," but I looked it up and put it all together and went and did some training for managers on how to read budgets. And I was like, "I really like this a lot." Like I felt... and this only has only happened a few times in my life, but I felt this immediate sense of fulfillment and connection and flow. 

Polly Yakovich: Oh, that's amazing.

Tara Powers: Yeah. And I was like, "Wow, I've never felt this." And I was young then, I was probably, I don't know, 26 maybe. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Tara Powers: 27.

Polly Yakovich: A baby.

Tara Powers: Maybe a little, actually a little, probably late twenties. And I thought this is something I got to look into.

Polly Yakovich: You got to listen to that.

Tara Powers: So I went back to school to get a master's degree in leadership organizational development, and moved into human resources where I could really start to explore this more-

Polly Yakovich: I feel like accounting to human resources is a very unusual shift.

Tara Powers: I mean, I think I was good at math and so I just thought in college I should do accounting. That was my only thought. And what I realized now, is I really, my personality style and who I am is much more about working with people, influencing people, supporting people. And so moving into HR was certainly the best area for me to cut my teeth on that. I did lots of different stuff in HR. And when I was getting my, advanced my master's degree, one of our projects was we had to go back to the company we were working for and we had to do a research project to see what did they need. And my company was growing leaps and bounds from when I started and they had no training and place, there was not even anybody doing that.

They weren't even thinking about it. And they're promoting all these people into a management role who knew nothing. They knew nothing about managing people. And so that became my master's thesis is that I researched and built this training program. I had to find a couple sponsors in the company to just help support me. And that was just the most amazing experience because I built it from the ground up this entire management and leadership program. And eventually after years of then being the training department which had grown from when I started to, I was managing I think six or seven trainers at then when I left. 

Polly Yakovich: Wow. 

Tara Powers: We really built something super cool there and it was awesome. I loved it. And then I was like, "I love doing this. I love building the solutions for people. And I want to do that more," that creativity of doing that was really exciting to me. So I quit and I started my own business. And I've been doing that for 20 years.

Polly Yakovich: 20 years. Congratulations.

Tara Powers: [crosstalk 00:05:09]2001. Yes. Thank you. [crosstalk 00:05:13] aging myself. Yeah. 20 years and-

Polly Yakovich: Entrepreneur years too are like dog years or something like 20,[crosstalk 00:05:20] you have like a hundred year old company. Like I've only been doing it seven years-

Tara Powers: And I feel like a hundred years.

Polly Yakovich: I know. I'm like these seven years must be like 50 years.

Tara Powers: I know. That's funny. 

Polly Yakovich: It's hard.

Tara Powers: It is. It's hard work, but it has been such a journey. I have been able to travel all over the world for different organizations who have brought me in to do work with their leaders. I have worked with executive teams that are highly functional and executive teams that are unbelievably dysfunctional and yeah, just everything I've done it all. I've done coaching and just helped people in that first time management role who have never had any support. 

Just sometimes come up to me in tears. You just handed me the golden ticket. I never knew this is how it all works. So it's been really fulfilling and challenging and exhausting and exhilarating and all of those things over the years. And just to help you understand how I ended up writing a book is about eight years ago now maybe, a couple of my larger clients, they were starting to... it was actually some governmental agencies that were running out of space and they were starting to do hoteling, if you've ever heard of that concept where basically they would take their little cubes and put them on almost like a hotel registration system and they didn't have enough space, so you'd have to register on the computer when you wanted to come in and what were going to take like a hotel room.

And they were struggling. Because this was really like the first kind of entree into hybrid teams. and virtual and in-person teams mixing. And how do we actually keep people connected? And this isn't working for us and we don't know what to do. And I was like, huh, I was getting more and more requests like that. And I had been working virtual my whole career. Like my team was all virtual, but, I was like, "I need more information." Like, "I need to do research on this."

So I actually hired a psychology OI firm, an industrial psychology firm to run the research study. So they built a survey that was all validated and researched and they basically helped launch this study and we had some really big companies participate and ended up writing a really great white paper on virtual team effectiveness. And from there, I just started talking about it more. And then Wiley reached out to me and said, "We need somebody to write a book on virtual teams and we saw your research," and dah, dah dah. And that was that. 

Polly Yakovich: So, timely we're still talking about it and don't know how to do it.

Tara Powers: I know

Polly Yakovich: So any questions for you?

Tara Powers: Yeah. It is a journey for sure.

Polly Yakovich: I do want to back up just one second before we jump into virtual teams, because you mentioned before our call that business is booming, which is incredible. What are companies looking for right now? What do they self-identify that they need?

Tara Powers: What I'm getting just tons of requests and it's almost like all of a sudden it came back. I mean, there was a period of time. I was really busy. I was really busy in the beginning. People were like, "oh my Gosh, emergency, how do we help people work virtually?" And so I did lots of webinars, lots of quick little skill hit on like, how do you manage virtually? How do you run meetings? How all these how-tos. And then that wore off and people actually were doing pretty good. They did okay. And now I notice what's coming back is, "Hey, all right. We got to do team building. We're not going to be in person. We need some amazing team building experiences. We need leadership development experiences. We need coaching." We need, everything that we used to do, they're just, I think they've made the decision to be okay, doing it virtually. But they really need to find someone that knows what they're doing, which I have really worked hard to get to a place of being an expert facilitator virtually. 

So it's just really the same thing I was doing pre pandemic that is now I feel like coming back that's like companies decided, "Okay, what are we waiting for? We're done." We need to give our people support.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. What are you seeing? What do you think is happening? Are we going to be back in person? Are we going to be hybrid? Are we virtual forever?

Tara Powers: I think it's hybrid. And a lot of the companies I'm working with are like, we're going to be virtual forever. And so I'm working with a marketing agency here locally that has been a client of mine for a very long time. And they are virtual with an office for team building and for people to come in, a small subset of people to come in and do work when they want to. But they have been pleasantly surprised at their team's ability to stay productive and effective.

And they're not planning on going back anytime soon. This is going to just be the new way. Now, I also am working for another company with their executive team and they are back in person and they were doing an executive team building in person. And so I think it really is a mix. And so I think moving forward, we all need to get very comfortable and familiar with hybrid. Right. Being able to be super effective in this type of a virtual environment like we're doing right now. And also, I have to say it was like dusting off the dirt to go-

Polly Yakovich: [crosstalk 00:11:24]I was like, "Oh man, how do I make small talk[crosstalk 00:11:27] this in so long. My pants don't button up."

Tara Powers: Yeah. I haven't tried these pants on in a long time. Yeah. So, my jokes aren't I need to freshen them up. So yeah. So it's been interesting. It's kind of like getting back in person with some of my clients. I got to up my game a little bit because you got to bring a little bit more energy when you're in person, and yeah. So...

Polly Yakovich: I think it's such a challenge because for us even in our small agency, I mean, we'll talk a little bit about this, but the great resignation of the last year, if you're looking for talent and you're super local, that is so hard, it's becoming harder and harder. And then it's sort of like, "Well, virtual is become easier and everyone's comfortable and maybe we go virtual and maybe we have a Home Hub." But I also still think that there's something to the collaboration and being in person, not replicable. So what do we need to know about virtual teams? What do we need to know about hybrid?

Tara Powers: So the first couple things I want to say about that, I think any business from this point forward has to budget and have a very clear strategy for what hybrid looks like. When does it make sense to bring us together? For that innovation, for the strategy work. And when we are together, we should not just be having useless meetings. We should not just be like doing nothing. Like coming in and just working on stuff I can do at home. When we bring people together in the office, we are doing amazing things.

Polly Yakovich: And its rare and[crosstalk 00:13:12].

Tara Powers: Yes. And it's special. Exactly. We're either doing team building. We're defining our strategy. We are innovating. We are figuring out what the next product launch is going to be. We are figuring out our marketing strategy. We are figuring out our messaging, how we're going to shift and pivot and message what we do out to the world. Like it is something that matters and that people are excited to participate and be a part of. So that is the one big thing is if we are going to bring people back, make it matter.

Polly Yakovich: And you said this, but it's worth repeating like, the budgeting part is important.

Tara Powers: Yes. And so if you are not paying for a huge office space and all the food and all the perks and all the things that you pick parking and whatever those benefits were, for all of your employees, you absolutely need to take that money and put it aside for when you do bring people together make it really great. Either do it in an amazing offsite location you're flying people in what you said is true. Like we do because of the great resignation, we do now have the opportunity to get talent from anywhere. But we definitely need to budget that when we're bringing people together, wherever they're located, they are coming. They are coming, and we are paying for that.

Because the worst thing that we can do is say, "Well, we're going to bring 85% of us together who live here, but there's 15% that don't, you guys can just call in." That's not going to fly anymore. No. That is not going to work. So yeah, the budgeting is a big deal and you should have the money to do it. Really.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. What else, what are we doing right about this hybrid virtual thing and what are we still messing up?

Tara Powers: Oh, I think what we're still messing up is not recognizing how to be effective with connection virtually. That seems to be such a big issue with some of the big, big companies I'm working with is just took all of the processes and the way they were doing them when they were together in the office and they just are doing them the same way. So onboarding is a great example, right? You absolutely cannot onboard people the same way you were doing it when you're in the office. You have to come completely transform and plan for very specific and strategic connection points as people are onboarded onto your company. And some of those is virtually. We're getting the whole team together virtually, and we're doing a team building with the new person and they're meeting with each person virtually strategically at a certain time for a specific reasons, right.

They're learning something or that your role is going to be to talk to them about the culture, because you've been here the longest. Your role is going to be to talk about the clients that we serve and some of their nuances, because that's your area of expertise. Like everybody has a role to play in the onboarding experience and we're not just leaving it up to HR or however we did it in the office, right. They were onboarded for two weeks and then plopped down into our team and ready to go.

So on boarding is a biggie. That would be one example. And then I think constantly recognizing that we have to be intentional and thoughtful with our teams about what feels good in terms of connection, because psychological safety is still such a huge component of how we brainstorm, solve problems, make decisions, share information, work together virtually and in person.

And so we have to still focus on creating psychological safety in a virtual environment. What that basically means is people need to feel very comfortable speaking up in meetings and having the opportunity to speak up. So we are creating meetings virtually where everyone gets a chance and there's an expectation that their voice is heard. Everyone. And that may mean that we got to change the meetings a little bit. We shouldn't always be turning our cameras on for meetings that are just progress updates. We should be using our technology for those things. I just talked to a friend of mine yesterday who was doing some work with Deloitte and I said, "Well, what tips do you have? What's it like for them?" And she said, "It's amazing how they run their meetings." 

Polly Yakovich: Wow.

Tara Powers: She said, we never ever have a meeting to talk about an update. She said, "Our meetings are 30 minutes. And the only thing we do in meetings is we come with an idea or a solution to a problem to get feedback. That is the only reason we meet." So we're coming with an idea or we're coming with a problem and a solution and we're presenting what we think we should do. And then everybody's giving us feedback. That is the only things we do face to face virtually in a meeting there're only 30 minutes and we never update each other on progress. That is something that doesn't need to be happening virtually that can be happening using technology. So those are a couple things.

Polly Yakovich: That's really interesting and great. I think for those companies, it's just a really, it's challenging because you have so many different personalities, right? It's like I think for smaller companies like ours, we wanted to be really flexible and caring with everyone. And obviously people have all their home situations going on, but it's kind of hard I think for some people to transition to like, this is still work and the pandemic's ending and we've transitioned to, you can work at home, but like I shouldn't see your baby in a client meeting. It's a very tricky thing in this moment. And I'm curious what your advice is for companies that are in so many ways-

Tara Powers: Balancing, trying to balance. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. In so many ways, I love that some of those barriers got broken down and I want you to be flexible to do the things you need to do. And then it's like, and then also where do you draw the lines? I'm happy to see your baby in a team meeting. And I don't want to see them in a client meeting where it's... you know what I mean like, how do you do that?

Tara Powers: Yep. It boils down to new agreements. I mean, it's very, simply having agreements about what is appropriate and what's not appropriate as we all start to really sink into this new way of working. And I'm actually having this conversation with one of my big clients right now where you're right. There are some meetings and maybe it's a team meeting where we're just doing some team building where we want to see your kids, your dogs, your pets, your projects, your hobbies. That's part of seeing into our lives that we never got to experience before. But here are the times when we are going to be doing meetings with clients or with where we need you to prepare ahead of time for no disruptions. That is an expectation that we have. And if there is a disruption that you cannot... it was unexpected and there was nothing you could do about it. Here's the plan, right? 

Polly Yakovich: Yes. That's great. Because that's going to happen and that's life. And I want that to... but I think the plan is the part that nobody really talks about.

Tara Powers: Yeah. And it's an agreement. And I talk a lot about agreements that virtual teams need to have. And I really focus on a few that are really important in a virtual environment. And one is a communication agreement. When do we agree it is the right communication tool and method to use. So for example, what meetings should we have our cameras on? Because Zoom, fatigue is real. People are kind of sick of it. And when is it okay to do for a conference call like we used to do, right. And when is it okay to just use our technology to update each other? 

So what are all the communication methods we are using, whether it's instant messaging, video conferencing, audio conferencing, and when are they appropriate? And agree to how we're going to use them as a team, because there might be something I think is really, really important.

And I want to see you face to face, but you don't actually think that's that important. And so you're just texting me. Right. And I feel put off because this was really important to me and we're doing this over text and it doesn't feel good. All this sudden I'm starting to break down that psychological safety over time, right, slowly. So we have to have that kind of communication agreement in place. And I always tell people to think of two questions. What is the chance of misunderstanding of your message and what is the risk to the relationship?

So if there's a high I chance of misunderstanding, then we want to make sure we're probably putting something in an email with details, or maybe we're picking up the phone and explaining ourselves, right. And maybe because it's somebody that's new, we're talking about something that's very technical.

Or we're talking about something that I don't know if someone has a lot of knowledge about. Don't send that via text or just put it in slack. That may actually make someone feel a little fearful to say, "I don't understand what you're saying here." So we want to make sure if the chance of misunderstanding is high, we choose the right method of communication where we can provide more details. And if the risk to the relationship is high, meaning this person's probably going to assume the wrong... they're going to make a wrong assumption about my intention if I send this over text because we just had some conflict around this last week, and so I'm going to make sure we get on video call or we're on a conference call or if possible, maybe we're going to meet for lunch personally if we can do that. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Tara Powers: So if the risk to the relationship is high, it needs to be more personal in terms of how we communicate. So those are two quite, I always tell people when they're thinking about which method to use. Another important communication agreement that goes along with this is just how we're going to use our technology in making sure we all feel comfortable with that. And then connection agreement. When and how do we agree, and this definitely is impact. This is interesting, because it's so different for every person, but what does that social connection need to look like for us to feel like I am part of this team that we actually do have a team culture that it matters that I'm here, that people see my contribution as valuable, what needs to happen?

What is it that makes me feel that way. And we need to have those conversations and agree on how we are going to socially connect and how often and what it looks like. And it's so interesting because I talk to team members who are like, "Yeah, I don't need to socially connect with anybody ever. I don't."

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Tara Powers: And then I have team members that are like, "I really need some type of social connection a little bit every day." And we have to meet each other in the middle. We have to. I don't think people can expect just because we're remote and I am part of a team that, that does it mean, I don't have to do any social stuff. And it's funny because I have people just asking me this yesterday, "Well, what if I don't like doing that?" And I'm like, "You're still part of a team. That is the only way to build team trust." You cannot do it over text. It's not possible. 

Polly Yakovich: That's helpful. I think that sometimes we ask people those questions, at least for our company. And then people are like, "Oh, I don't know." And it's like, "What do you do when they don't know or can't communicate it or how do you set that agreement?"

Tara Powers: Yeah. That's a great example. If you feel like that's the kind of answer you get they really may not know. And so one idea is to present it five thoughts and have everybody vote them up. If people don't know, then I'm going to come to the meeting with five really good ideas that maybe I researched some of the other top companies are doing to connect and I'm going to have our team voted up. And then we're going to try it. And we'll do that again next month. We're changing it all the time. One of the companies that I work with right now, they have different leads for connection. So they take a lead every month or every quarter. So if it was my turn to lead, then I'll just try a couple different ideas or send out a quick survey and see what people want to do.

And then I'm managing that connection, that social connection for the month, whether it's, "Hey, we're going to all cook something together and have dinner," or we're going to do a walking meeting one day or we're going to all go do community service at the same time in our neighborhoods. And then we'll come back and talk about how it went, whatever that might look like, it's led by different people and that also creates engagement and an expectation that social connection is everybody's job. It's not just the leaders' job. Especially when we're virtual.

Polly Yakovich: I like that a lot. What other agreements do you think are for virtual teams? Are there any? 

Tara Powers: Yeah, the other one that's vital is availability agreement. So when we're working from home one, I just did this poll today. I just did this poll this morning for a company. I had 50 people on the call and the poll was, what has been the greatest challenge for you working virtually? And one of the things they could choose was, I feel like I always have to be on. I always have to be at work. That was the number one, I think that was 70% of the people said that.

So that to me brings up a couple things. Number one, we have a cultural expectation that we're not dealing with, that you're supposed to always be on. I should be able to get in touch with you using some method of technology anytime of the day and night. It also might give a little indicator that managers aren't remote role modeling good behavior around balance, work-life balance and so what that looks like is they're sending emails all day and night like anytime of the day or five in the morning. 

And I will say I have done that. I'm just trying to get in the habit of I can work, but I'm going to schedule it for eight in the morning to go out. So there's a couple issues with that because when we set those unspoken expectations as a leader, and it usually is the leader doing it, everybody just thinks, okay, I got to do this too. And that will burn people out quicker than anything because they're in their home environment and their kids want them and they're feeling like they can never be present. Work becomes a distraction to their personal life after hours. And that eventually breaks down a lot of things for human beings and families and couples and partners when that's happening a little bit over time and so we have to really be careful about that. And again, agree on what does availability look like? What is reasonable and also appreciates people's well-being and come to an agreement on that. Yeah. That's another biggie.

Polly Yakovich: One of the things I recently read this article, and I think what I hear you saying is most people are going toward more of a hybrid environment. Like I think there's a recognition that if you want talent, you're going to have to be partly virtual. And also, this HBR article was really interesting. It talked about the democratization of allowing people to work virtually that hadn't really happened before.

And the safety and working for home for BIPAC employees, for women, for people who are juggling family obligations, for lower wage employees, just working virtual was maybe a perk of like more elite kinds of employees in the past. But everyone being able to do it over this last year has really made things more possible for them and also made them people feel safer at work because they are at home and they can shut it off and on. Are you seeing that too? Are you seeing companies acknowledge like a little bit more level playing field with a virtual environment?

Tara Powers: Yeah, I think that it's happening in pockets. So I do agree with you. And I was just reading an article, it might've been from HBR as well about the great resignation and, where we're seeing that happen a lot is blue collar type of jobs and that is because of exactly what you're talking about. Like, I actually can work from home. I don't need to be going into this office that doesn't respect me. Doesn't treat me well, I don't have a voice. I don't feel-

Polly Yakovich: [crosstalk 00:31:32] flexibility.

Tara Powers: I have no flexibility. There are so many options now for me that appreciate and value my contribution and I'm not going to take it anymore. Basically that's what the article said. Like, that's it. I don't care. I'm done. And so I totally agree that, that is happening and companies are really going to need, I mean, some companies absolutely are having a reckoning in terms of the way they treat employees how they value diversity, equity and inclusion or don't, and they're losing people, then they will continue to lose people if they don't figure it out. So it's step absolutely 100% leveling the playing field a little bit for people.

Polly Yakovich: Well, and I would say over the last two years, I mean, it's like, you can't deny that lots of things have changed besides the pandemic and maybe not changed but also like awareness of certain aspects of things, employees demanding, what they need, I think all of that is really good, but what would you advise employers about how to create an environment that's fair, that's equitable, that's inclusive. Like what do we need to be thinking about to make sure that we have these environments that people deserve?

Tara Powers: Yeah. I mean, I think it really, if you think about the tenants of psychological safety, that is really where it's at, in my opinion. And if people don't know who are listening to this, where that term comes from, Google did a study a couple years ago, where they studied thousands and thousands of Google teams to see what makes the top teams at Google work? What is it that they do that makes them so effective? And now I've been in this field for 20 years, and more than that, and all of my colleagues who I work with when the study results came out, the number one thing that they found with the top teams at Google was that they created psychological safety. 

And that meant that they organized their work and their meetings and their recognition and their hiring and everything that they were doing to ensure equal voices in the room to ensure participative decision-making, to ensure clarity around contribution and values to make sure people were appreciated and recognized for what they did like that. All of those things is what creates a great team in the office and certainly virtually in the companies that were already doing that. And I am working with some that were already doing that they are doing okay. They are not losing as many people. I just had this conversation with an executive of one of these agencies, I was telling him working for, they're doing great. They have had turnover, which is normal, just normal turnover, but they are not dealing with the great resignation like some of these other organizations who didn't care about psychological safety, thought that that stuff was fluffy bullshit.

Yes, right. And now they're losing people, they're like, I am out of here. Goodbye. I don't need this anymore. Life is short. I care too much about myself and my family. I recognize what's important, and it's not this and putting up with that kind of, oh, I don't want to say. Just putting up with that kind of maybe sometimes bullying behavior at work, or bad managers, or feeling underappreciated, or not being paid what I'm worth and I'm not going to do it anymore.

And so that is what it boils down to is getting really serious about how are we creating psychological safety? And if we have leaders in our organization who are toxic, they need to go, period. That is not going to work anymore. And that would be my biggest point there is we got to get rid of the toxic leaders and really start to embrace this idea that people want to contribute, they want their voice heard. They want to be appreciated and valued for the work that they do and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. And you know companies I think are better off for it. 

Tara Powers: Absolutely. 

Polly Yakovich: If they create an environment that-

Tara Powers: I'm engaged, I'm happy. I show up, I tell my friends to come and work here. There's a million reasons why.

Polly Yakovich: I get new ideas from everywhere, which is where ideas should come from, diverse ideas. I feel like it's always set up a little bit as like employer versus employee, like how do employers and employees both win?

Tara Powers: I think what you were just saying is really like most of us want to get up every day and feel fulfilled and happy. Like I certainly can remember sometime in my life and in my career, I'm sure you can too, where I had a job that was really miserable and it impacted me physically, mentally and I think what you just mentioned is to how do we make it a win-win is most people realize life is short, I want to contribute, I want to be happy. I want to be able to meet all the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, be able to put food on the table, pay my bills, feel safe in my work environment so that I can be my best self. I really want to take the time that I have here on the planet and do something fulfilling and feel like I'm thriving in life. 

And if an employer can create an environment where I feel like that, where I'm bringing my strengths to work. You mentioned, earlier people have different personality types, I think it's super helpful. We help people understand and learn about their strengths and we talk about them and see how we leverage those instead of telling people like you can't be that direct, or why do you keep asking so many questions, or you want to spend so much time building relationship we don't have time to do that. Those are all personality traits and those are all strengths that people bring that we should no longer ignore, we should embrace. 

And so I think if people feel that way and they feel like every day when they get up, they're going to have a good day because they love what they do. They love the people they work with, they feel appreciated. That's it, it's a win-win right. Not everybody wants to have a big company and multi-million dollar organization, some people just want to feel like they made a difference that day even if it was small and then come home and do what they love with their family, their friends, their hobbies, whatever that is.

Polly Yakovich: I totally agree. Do you think we're doing enough for employee recognition? I feel this is always a challenging area because it feels like, and I'm actually extremely bad at this. I talk about this with my team, I'm just the kind of person who is like, "Okay, good job. What's next?" Like, I'm not very good about stopping and celebrating personally and I'm always onto the next thing. Probably my ADD doesn't help with that, but how do we recognize employees in a way that they actually feel valuable and are¬ organization's doing this well at all?

Tara Powers: Some are. Some definitely are. And a lot, I don't think are doing it that well. So surprisingly, a lot of studies are showing that what keeps people engaged, I mean, psychological safety is what we need to go work for a company and stay at a company. But what keeps us engaged while we are doing our work for an organization is recognition. And it's surprising even to me, because many times we've always thought, well, it's all the manager and it's not, it's not all the manager. 

It is how valued people feel. And this goes back to a point I made earlier Polly is that you, as the leader, one of the things that we do incorrectly is we think we have to be the one that does it all. So you're like, I know [crosstalk 00:40:40]. I tell my team good job. Okay, what's next? Have the team take your next half hour meeting and say, we're going to focus on brainstorming some ways that we can recognize each other individually and what is important to each of you and what would be some team recognition that you would love? And then at the end, I want to ask if one or two of you would volunteer to be the leaders around this for at least the first Q4. 

So when you actually are in a meeting and you go, "Okay, that was great. Let's move on." Those people could be like, wait a minute, let's take a minute. Let's go back to what we agreed to, and let's just take a moment to recognize, you need someone to remind you it's not just your job, it's everybody's job. And a lot of times recognition from peers is way more powerful and impactful than recognition from the leader. And so getting the peers involved in helping create it, making sure it happens, reminding the leaders to make sure it happens is a really good idea. 

Polly Yakovich: That's great. 

Tara Powers: And recognition doesn't have to break the bank. I mean, I do still think that teams absolutely appreciate, getting together for some team building, a nice meal, doing something fun together and spending the money to make that nice when you do bring them together. But most people just want a really sincere thank you. Here's why that made a difference to me, to the team, to our clients, to our business. Here's why I love having you be part of this team and why it makes such a difference to me, just that sincere thank you is so, so valuable. And then the other thing is to just get to know people. Like if, I have two young, they're not young anymore, but they're teenagers. Two girls and if I was on a team and someone said, how would you want to be recognized? Being able do something with my family and then going somewhere, maybe to a baseball game, or just doing something fun, going to a concert together.

If I got recognized in a way that I would really appreciate because I have a family, that's really meaningful to me. For some people, I live in Colorado, getting a day off to go skiing is really amazing for people and it's $100, it's not that much money. So we just need to get to know people and what they care about and talk to them about how we do this best. And isn't a one-time conversation. It's a conversation we should be having every couple months right? Yeah. 

Polly Yakovich: So what do workplaces look like five years from now, what do you think? 

Tara Powers: That's a good one. I think two trends that we're seeing is certainly the continued rise of the gig worker, the freelancer, and more and more companies that I'm working with are relying on gig or freelance workers. So we are going to see, I think, in the next five years, more and more of that, where people start to really specialize in doing something really, really well. And they're floating around to different projects, maybe in one company, or they're a freelancer and doing that with a variety of companies. 

So what that is going to require them for companies is we got to get much better at onboarding people to a team, building team trust quickly and the best way to do it is using some tools and assessments and just getting really savvy at quick team building strategies¬ where we're onboarding new team members into one another, assigning people buddies. As soon as a new team member is coming on board, they have a buddy that is there for them, checking in with them every day that first week of work so that they feel like they've hit the ground running. That's going to be really, really, I think something that's going to continue, and it's going to be important that we get better at the onboarding process as  a company, and in terms of building trust quickly and making sure that they feel connected to the team. 

The second thing I would say is certainly five years from now I think we'll be much more comfortable working in this hybrid world. And I would believe that AI is going to play a very important role in how we connect. So I was just on kind of a call, last week actually, where we had this conversation and a couple people that are in my industry were saying, "Yeah you know what? I think five years from now, we're going to be able to do some hologram where I'm actually feel like I am right there with you. It's we can see and feel each other." Who knows what's going to happen, but I think AI is going to play a big part in how connected we feel by making it even more real, not across the screen. So that would be another biggie that I see. And then I do think this shift that we're seeing with the employees leaving, the great resignation, it's going to be really interesting how this plays out in terms of just that employee-employer relationship. 

And my hope is that it becomes a little bit more of a give and take relationship that we respect and appreciate. So rather than some of these employers feeling like I'm just take it, take and take it and the employee feel like I'm just giving, giving, giving, it's actually a little bit more, I don't know, a little bit more respect for the employee. Like you know what? I'm so grateful that you work here, not you're lucky to be working here. Like that energy is going to shift and interestingly enough, and my hope is that that brings a little bit more lightness and peace to all of our lives when that is a little bit more evened out, that's all. So those are just a couple ideas that I have. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. That's great. That's really helpful. As you were talking, I was like, "Oh yeah, that's a good one." Gosh, this has been so valuable. My mind is totally full of all the things I need to do. But I wanted to follow up just with a couple last things. I ask everyone when I'm finishing an interview, what do you think is your superpower? What's that thing that makes you uniquely gifted to do what you're doing?

Tara Powers: I really meet people where they're at. I think that over the years I have gotten really good at not jumping to conclusions or assumptions or judgment and spending a little bit more time just trying to understand people. I think human beings are so beautiful and so dynamic and so interesting that I just want to get to know them. I think the first time you and I met over dinner, I was like, so jazzed from meeting you and hearing your story and understanding how you got into business and what was going on in your life. And I really love to hear people's stories so I can meet them where they're at. I would say that's my superpower is making people feel heard and valued. And I really care about who they are because I do find human beings inherently super freaking interesting. 

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. That's an awesome one, especially for you and your role. 

Tara Powers: Yeah. 

Polly Yakovich: So you've written two books. Where can people find you, read about you, hear what you're saying? You speak, you author, you're a woman of incredible and varied talents, [crosstalk 00:49:17] with you?

Tara Powers: Thank you. The best way would be to go to my YouTube channel, which is Powers Resource Center, well, dot com is our website, but Power's Resource Center on YouTube. I consistently and frequently at least monthly put some new little mini training videos out there, some little micro learning videos for free and a lot. And it's really, I do something around virtual work. I do something around psychological safety and emotional intelligence. I certainly focus a lot around connection which is really, our passion is trying to help companies build a connection culture because I do feel that makes a huge difference. 

So I would number one, encourage people to go to YouTube and subscribe to watch our videos. And then the second thing is to follow me on LinkedIn. That's usually where I'm talking about upcoming speaking events or conferences that I'm going to be at. Talking about any new programs that we're offering. This year, we're going to work offer a couple of few public programs, which we don't usually do. 

One of those is going to be for people in the learning and development community helping them learn to build their own workshops because they may need to be doing that and might not know how. And then the second one is probably dare to lead. So I am a Brene Brown certified facilitator offering a public workshop around her program Dare to Lead, which is all about vulnerability, psychological safety connection that really, going deep with who we are, what our needs are and asking people for what we need. So those are a couple, two ways to find me, YouTube and LinkedIn. 

Polly Yakovich: Great. I will link those in the show notes as well for anyone who wants to get in touch with you, follow up, hear more of your wisdom. Thank you so much for coming on.

Tara Powers: Oh, it was so fun. Thank you, Polly. Have a great week.

Polly Yakovich: You too. 

Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of A Brave New Podcast, go to abravenew.com for more resources and advice. If you enjoyed this episode, show us some love by subscribing, rating and reviewing A Brave New Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Polly Yakovich

Polly Yakovich



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