Everyone is a leader. Whether it’s implicit or explicit, you have a leadership responsibility in life. In this episode, host Michael Zipursky interviews talent retention expert Dr. Troy Hall about his expertise on attracting and retaining top talent and global leadership. Don’t miss today’s show as Dr. Hall takes a deep dive into talent retention, building a high-performing consulting team, and creating an environment to become the best places to work. He also shares some fundamental principles on team dynamics and cohesion from his book called Cohesion Culture.
I am here with Dr. Troy Hall. Dr. Hall, welcome.
Thank you. It’s good to be here. It’s good to see you too.
You’re an author, a speaker, a consultant and a global expert on talent retention. You travel the world and sharing your expertise with billion-dollar companies on how to retain talent. Clearly, this is an issue for many people. Your clients range from prestigious universities to national credit unions and your PhD is in Global Leadership. Tell us a little bit more about how you got to where you are. What things did you study along the way and what jobs or career paths that led you to where you are now?
I’ll start out by saying this. When we had our daughter, we knew she was an authority waiting to happen. She grew up to become a police officer and then she transitioned into the private sector after that. For me, I never knew that I was going to end up where I am. What happened though in a life story with my parents as I was a child is when I was twelve years old, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I was on a small abandoned coal-mining town in West Virginia and limited education, a limited number of people, limited information. We thought mom was going to die. During that summer, mom poured what I call mom wisdom into me. She talked about the relationships with people and what would be important to continue that.
What mom was doing was building me as a leader at that particular point in time and not even recognizing or realizing it. Through my professional career working in financial services and then my academic pursuit with business and then PhD, MBA, those items, I find myself recognizing that in organizations, individuals who are talent experts are individuals who keep the talent in the organization. That falls on the responsibility of leadership. That’s how I got here. It’s those mom wisdom conversations that drove me to be a person who related to people. I’m a teacher at heart. I love sharing information. One of the things we talk about in some of the workshops that I do is how important knowledge is as power, but you have to finish the rest of the sentence. Knowledge is power when it’s put into action. Knowledge is not power when you hoard it or when you just collect it.
Was that one of the wisdom pieces from your mom there?
Yes, absolutely. There were a lot of great other individuals that have said some of the same and bring in information. We’ve got people here at work who reminds us constantly that it’s not just getting the information that’s important, but what do you do with that information once you get it. That’s where things change. My pursuit of leadership is all about creating a legacy of other individuals who can be successful in that. I subscribe to the theory that everyone is a leader. Whether it’s implicit or explicit, you have a leadership responsibility in life. If you’re answering questions or giving direction or even just participating and contributing to life in general, you should be paying attention to leadership. A mom lesson was this. She would tell me that circumstances do not define me as a person. It’s the choices I make that define my character. That is huge because we were from a poor town in West Virginia and she would say, “Poor is a condition of the pocketbook, not the heart.”Everyone is a leader. Whether it's implicit or explicit, you have a leadership responsibility in life. Click To Tweet
Do you have all these written down? Did you document all these sayings from your mom?
I do and some of them are included in the book that we released. Some of them are a part of another book we’re working on. It has to do with my mom and the mom wisdom and things of that nature.
I love those. I remember my grandmother had a whole bunch of these. My grandmother and grandfather, especially the two of them together were like a powerhouse of these little zingers or little sayings. They would stick with you. My grandma used to say, “New friends are like silver, old friends are like gold. Cherish them both.” All these little sayings stick with you. At first you hear them and you get them, but when you think about them and don’t just hold them in your mind but put them into action. That’s where the magic starts to happen.
A lot of the articles I write are specifically directed from those particular things. You said your grandparents have this one. I released an article through a publication Recruiter.com and the article had to do with that it’s okay to toot your own horn. It comes from a message that Grandma Goldie said, “It’s okay, Troy, to toot your own horn because if you don’t toot it, no one else will, just don’t lay on it.”
We’re going off the topic of where I want us to go, but I’ll get us back on because I think this is valuable stuff for everyone, especially for consultants entering the market. When you’re in a corporate world and you’re coming into starting your own business, you have to toot your own horn. For many people, it’s uncomfortable. You’re not used to promoting yourself, talking about yourself and getting out there. You’re used to people coming to you, reporting to you or the people’s spotlight is on the product or the brand, not yourself. This is key that if you want to make an impact and serve people, then you need to toot your own horn because otherwise they won’t know that you exist. They won’t know that you could help them.
Here’s the other thing too. Everything we’ve talked about does relate to consulting in leadership. Because as a consultant, if you are pretending to be something you’re not, you’re not going to be successful in your business. You’re not going to be successful at anything you’re doing. Being authentic, transparent and allowing the pieces of you to come forward in what you do creates a much better person in how you were relating to other people. It is a people-related business. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing consulting or I’m working on financial plans or business plans or strategy. I’m still working with people.
Walk us through that. You serve as a Chief Strategy Officer of both the South Carolina Federal Credit Union and SCF Solutions. How did you get there? Before you got into those roles, what did your career path look like from the coal mining town to where you are now?
I started out as a part-time teller. I was driven into the financial services world. From there, I did a number of leadership programs at a financial institution. I wrote sales training for a while. I managed a retail network. I went into a corporate marketing environment. I managed my own marketing and advertising firm. I did have a relationship with a printer company and we used all the printing clients and became the ones that I would go and reach out to for advertising. Because we knew how to print from the printer perspective and so we would design. This was when print media was big. Most people reading now go, “Print? Do you print material? I thought it’s all electronic and linking now?” We did that. From there, one of my clients was a credit union and that began the process in Columbus, Ohio to move into there.
I had retail experience, training experience, everything they needed. I got tired of traveling. I went into the credit union world and that’s how I ended up there as a C-Suite at that organization. My role is the Chief Strategy Officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union. It gives me the opportunity to talk about our growth and focus on the growth of the organization in new markets, and the utilization of products and services. We have a consulting arm that comes under our subsidiary. Financial institutions can own subsidiaries where they can do nontraditional products and earn fees for that. The credit union or a financial institution per se cannot earn income from those nontraditional things. The subsidiary is how we do it. By day, I’m the Chief Strategy Officer and by night, I’m the consultant but I still do work during the day.
On your website you explained that 63% of employees are actively looking for a new position. It’s very expensive for an organization to replace them in terms of hiring them and training them and all that stuff that’s involved. There are a lot of consultants that tackle the areas of employee turnover and everything related to retaining and attracting top talent. How do you create differentiation? What are you actively thinking about in terms of your positioning and even your day-to-day activities that allow you to stand out and have people say, “I want Dr. Hall and his team to help us?”
It started out because South Carolina Federal Credit Union has been named and recognized under multiple organizations as the best place to work. With my PhD, my dissertation was in group dynamics with specifically studying cohesion and the impact of cohesion on teams in performance and desired outcomes. What we worked on here in this organization through our culture was creating this environment to become the best places to work. People would often ask me, “How are you doing it?” That prompted us to start thinking about it more seriously as opposed to just doing it. I had the opportunity to write the book, which is the Cohesion Culture book and bring all of those particular pieces and information in. Because as a consultant, the one thing that’s important is to have proof of performance. The credit union serves as a living laboratory for what information I am going to present as a consultant. Because individuals want to know that you have a track record and that what you’re speaking is going to change and make a difference. They want to know that you have their best interests at heart in what you’re doing. With the fundamental principles of the book and of the Cohesion Culture, you’ll see that translates right into my consulting work.
The clients that you’re getting for the consulting business, are they all coming from the credit union? Are you going out into credit union businesses? Is that the source? Are you and your team actively going out to generate new leads and knock on doors to create new conversations with ideal clients that have no direct connection to the credit union?
We are in both spaces. We are in not only the credit union space but the non-credit union space. Our subsidiary allows us to be able to do that. It’s interesting that you said to knock on doors because we’re not doing that. That would be like printing a brochure and sending it to you. More of what we do is through the intelligence of targeted marketing and specifically through social media platforms like LinkedIn or using Google Ads or information like that where we believe that our clients are. We’d leverage. I have a 40-year career. Do not let the hair color fool you.
That’s how we go after the clients and then there’s a referral basis. I have a network and we simply reach out to the network. I’ve worked in the automotive industry, healthcare industry and manufacturing. What’s also helpful to know is that although you might think that consulting would be for other credit unions, we have a number of business clients who can use and use the services that we’re offering through the consulting arm. It’s a great win-win because it creates value-added for our member base as well as what we might do for other client credit unions that would become part of the network.Individuals want to know that you have a track record and that what you're speaking is going to change and make a difference. Click To Tweet
You mentioned marketing. You’re doing some Google Ads or LinkedIn or social media. Can you walk us what does that look like? Is it an ad that goes to an opt-in page to a report to follow-up emails or something completely different? How would you explain your most effective marketing strategy and the tactics that you use right now to support that?
I will disclaim that I am dangerous. I know enough information now to be dangerous about this because fortunately, I have a team of people who work in those areas and do that. My job is to make sure that I get in front of the client and that they produce the lead for me so that I can then get in front of the client and then close the deal. The background pieces that I know we’re active in are definitely on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has maintained itself from a social media platform as a great resource for professional business connections. It’s not the place that you go and post whether you’ve had food or whether you like your clothing or you’re upset with the airlines. Typically, that’s not the place. There are other social media platforms where that can work and as long as you’re leveraging that correctly. There are some little bit of opportunities that you can play some ads through other websites and other areas. On Facebook, you can do some targeted things, but for the most part we will use LinkedIn and mine data from there.
One thing that I like about what you mentioned is that you understand at a high level what’s happening on the marketing side and the lead gen side, but that’s not your focus. Your focus is on serving the clients you’re getting from having those conversations. I think that’s okay, especially when you reach a certain level in the business, your focus should not be on everything. The fact that if you know everything about what’s going on, it means that you don’t know enough about the areas of mastery.
That’s great that you’ve built a team and for a lot of people who might be reading going, “I don’t have the financial resources to do that and I need to do it all by myself.” Maybe not, there are always ways that you can find smaller teams and contractors that can start to help you in certain areas. You don’t want to offload all of your marketing too early because you need to understand who your ideal clients are and your messaging. Get that stuff and that foundation in place by yourself or with some support around that. If you’re starting to get into paid acquisition channels and media and so forth, that shouldn’t be a sign that you’re trying to master all of it by yourself from day one if there are others that can help you with it.
You can be the jack of all trades and the master of none. That’s certainly something to keep in mind. Businesses should consider collaboration. I believe that there would be a number of consultants who will not consult on exactly the same thing. I would seek out those individuals and say, “How can we hire this collective individual who could support us in doing that particular activity and you’ll be able to support the marketing aspects of it?” You don’t have to become the expert and you can spend your time and attention doing that work. Because I understand the small business person how challenging that can be. If you think of yourself as the baker and you have to go not only buy the stuff, but then you have to grow some of the stuff, bring it in, put it all together, bake it, decorate it and go deliver it. You didn’t get to do anything else until you complete that whole cycle.
That’s why it is important for businesses. Some of the consulting that I do when I talk to them about culture, strategy, or change in their strategy is to say, “How are you leveraging the relationships that you have and how are you leveraging the collaboration that we can do now?” If nothing else, technology has certainly elevated the conversation of collaboration. You and I are now sharing information from across the country. We’re more than 3,000 miles away and we’re acting like we’re right in the same room. You would think that people could figure this out if they stopped long enough to realize that they innovate by solving a need. Their need would be to partner with someone else and try not to do it by themselves.
Let’s talk about workshops. You do quite a few workshops each year. Are the workshops that you hold mainly for existing clients that have already made the investment to work with you? Are you using workshops also as a way to generate new leads and opportunities that can become engagements?
Let’s start with the ones you’re using as a lead generator. How are you approaching those? What have you found that has been most effective to get people not only into a room but then to be able to move them from sitting in the chairs to becoming clients?
This is self-serving, but I guess since I am the featured speaker, I’m allowed to be a little self-serving.
Let’s see where it goes. I’ll tell you how self-serving you can be.
One of the angles that we’ve used to generate some new business is through the book. One of the activities that I’ve done with some of the contexts made is connected in the business world, in the industries where they themselves will represent and reflect me. I built my own brand reputation so that when people know that you’re working with me, you’re getting someone who’s authentic and genuine. I’m focused on their objectives, not on mine. I try to make sure that everything I’m doing is for them. I’ve found that if you do that in business, you’d always get taken care of without you having to be focused on being taken care of. With that being said, I offer a 1-hour workshop on leadership to any group that purchases the book.
Do they have to purchase the book in bulk?
Yes, they purchase the book.Technology has elevated the conversation of collaboration. People are now sharing information from across the country. Click To Tweet
How many books do they have to purchase in order to get you to give a one-hour talk?
I prefer not to speak to less than twelve people in an actual workshop because it makes the dynamics weird. It’s from 12 to 30.
That’s 12 to 30 books and they’ll get you for a one-hour talk and that’s local. If you have to go across the country, they’re paying for your travel to show up. You’re giving great value in that one-hour talk. What happens after? Are you giving a call to action? Are you offering something after to get someone from the butt on the chair to conversation with you afterward?
What does that look like? What works best for you in that area?
It’s a relationship and it’s a follow-up. I’m not a 9 to 5 guy, so I work and follow up in a variety of hours and timeframes. I’m relational.
What do you do? I want to get tangible. Are you getting people to fill in a form? Are they sending an email or do they opt-in? How do you get someone from being in the chair to have a conversation to becoming a client?
It’s through my interactions with them. I will personally connect with them through LinkedIn, which is what I try to connect to all this.
You’re getting a list of all the attendees. You can see who they are, their names, contact info and then you’re going out one-by-one. Do you start to build a relationship with them after they’ve attended the one-hour talk?
There’s no mechanism that you’re offering during that one hour where you say, “Go to this page, sign up, request this, request that.” It’s one-to-one relational after the talk.
Let’s say that I have someone who wants to go right into the consulting piece. I’ve got two particular things. One, I have a cultural assessment tool that we use. That can be administered online and so I will do the online administration through the organization. We get the results back. We’ll run the results through our statistical analysis. We will then provide a report to the organization and then I will spend time with that leadership team a couple of hours if they would like to digest the material half day. We’ll work through what that looks like for them. That’s one mechanism that I use in the consulting world.
Sometimes before I even get there, when people come and they say, “I need some help with this culture thing, how do I do this?” I say, “You need to go back and do three things. These three things are free. They’re on the house. You look for greetings, you listen for laughter and you watch for handshakes. I want you to come back and come back in 2 weeks, 3 weeks. You come back after you’ve done some observations. You tell me what you have seen and what you have heard.” It helps them start to get tuned in to the culture. Their observations are important because what we do know through organizational behavior is social learning is dominant in all organizations. That’s where people observe. They then qualify those observations through a form of imitation and then they model that particular behavior. They model what they have observed.
The observation piece is important. What it does is it begins to set the tone for the conversation. The next thing I asked them after they’ve talked through what they’ve seen, I said, “Please share with me how active have you been in greetings, laughter and handshakes.” Generally, there is a huge silence. What they recognize is that they had spent all their time observing as a leader, but they don’t spend as much time doing. It goes back to the power of knowledge is in doing, it’s not in acquiring it. I have an opportunity then to prove and to provide proof to them in a very short way why this is going to work. Everything that we’re presenting or I’m consulting within a cohesive culture and talent retention with an organization is all research. It’s all information that’s already been tried and proved. It’s not crazy me waking up one day going, “I want to do a consulting business and I think this is what it’s going to be.”The power of knowledge is in doing; it's not just in acquiring it. Click To Tweet
A lot of consultants who are running smaller firms look at this idea of culture and all this stuff around talent and they often think, “We’re not there yet. That’s for bigger companies.” What would you say to them? How applicable are the ideas of culture and retention to firms that maybe have only 5 or 10 employees or even team members that they work with?
What I would tell you is that Peter Drucker is famous for saying or at least he’s been quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If you’re taking your eye off of the culture that you build, if you think that in a small organization you already have it handled, generally, that’s usually the first sign that you don’t have a clue what’s going on.
What are a few that we’re looking at? If they’re running a small firm, what are a few ideas that they should be focused on that can help them as a small firm leader to improve in those areas?
I would go back to the framework of cohesion and that’s where we start. We build the entire consulting piece out of the framework for the cohesion model. We’re looking at the sense of belonging, how you create value for the employee, and then the area of commitment. Here’s where most companies go awry in the commitment aspect. They fail to focus on the goals, dreams, aspirations and the development of the employee and align them to organizational outcomes. What happens is even in small companies, they’re so busy to try to make a profit and to make the business that when they bring in the new employee, they don’t even spend any time with the employee. They’re going, “You need to get with the client. You need to make money.” Everything has been driven to the organizational outcome and the employee is left out.
What you want to be thinking about, and this is important for leaders, leaders should have self-regard. That’s why I said when a leader says, “I think I have this handled,” that’s usually the first clue you don’t have it handled. It’s having that opportunity to take a look and say, “How do I make this better?” That would be the right leader to work within this aspect because they’re saying, “I’m already open to something new and different that I hadn’t thought about before.” The aspect is to say how are you creating a sense of belonging? Because what we know is as humans, we are designed to cohabitate. We want to affiliate with people. We even seek out organizations to belong to people that had the same value systems that we have because our need to belong is important. It stems from our rights and our need to survive. We’re also designed to survive. You cannot hold your breath to expunge yourself. There’s a mechanism in us that allows us not to do that.
An important point that you’re making here is that a lot of leaders will bring in new talent. They’re so busy they just focus on building the business. They then neglect the talent they’ve brought in. They’re neglecting that team member. They expect them to get right up to speed. I had Jason Forrest on from Forrest Performance Group. He was talking about how in his original run of bringing team members on, he would bring them on and try and put them into a project right away and it didn’t work. They would leave if things didn’t stick. He wouldn’t get the performance out of them. He recognized that was his doing. That was his responsibility and “failure” or learning experience. What he changed when he started to bring people in after that was he had them shadow him. He’d go through and he made sure they understood what was going on.
He spent a lot more time with them, then he would shadow them. There was a lot more interaction and engagement between them and that led to a lot of greater success in the talent and retention areas. That’s what you’re getting at, whether you’re bringing on even one new team member or a contractor or a partner. The investment you make into that person. The more you invest in them in terms of training and time with them and caring, the more that you’re going to get back from that.
It’s absolutely accurate. Here’s the other thing too. You get residual value from that because as you’re pouring into that individual, you’re pouring into the whole community around you. Because when you raise one individual within your community or within your working environment, however you want to consider that, you raise one person, everybody raises. If you spend time with that one person, there is a residual value that’s coming down the line for the others. You can’t see it as much as you can when you’re working more directly one-on-one with an individual.
Companies and organizations say that their employees are their greatest assets, but yet they don’t treat them in that way. You mentioned that there was a lot of literature about retention and about that. I’m going to disagree with you slightly. The information is titled, but if you read the subtext, little is about retention. Most everything is driven towards this whole acquisition aspect, which is why I speak on the fact that it’s not about the acquisition. It’s about retention. If your talent team did the right job bringing people in based on the core values of what you want, shouldn’t you then be in a position to retain them? If so, what do you do to retain them? That’s where the thing has fallen apart and that’s what the cohesion culture model allows the organization to do. It’s to say, “Now invest in this person.”
In cohesion, we look at belonging, which is that I have now part of something of value. Do I have purpose and meaning in what I do? Do you connect what I do to the organizational outcome in a way that I feel good about myself? When you commit to the leaders of the company, commit to the employee first and then attach the employee’s success to the organizational success, when you do that, you have cohesion. Here is why you go for cohesion and this is why the consulting part for me works. Because cohesion is a causal phenomenon. When you have cohesion present in any team or concept environment, you get performance. What is the type of performance you get? You get the employee engagement you’re looking for. You’re getting loyalty, you’re getting the hype, go beyond.
What’s interesting about that is I think about many of the consultants that we work within our Clarity Coaching program, and we have a similar discussion, but not about talent necessarily or retention. Although it is retention, it’s retention around clients. There’s a big focus in the marketing area on bringing in new leads and bring in new clients. Very often, people forget about their existing clients or they look and they think, “I need to generate more revenue.” The first place their mind goes is, “I need new clients to do that.” They’ve neglected their existing clients, their past clients and those could be a much better source of new and additional revenue for them.
Creating a cohesion culture for your client base would be an excellent way to do it because you’re connecting them to the organization and making them feel a part of it. You do not have a party where you’re connecting all of your clients, but you’re connecting your clients to your organization. You’re letting them in on the culture and you’re letting them in to be a part of it. I believe this. When you say that you have a vendor, I have to wonder a little bit about how you treat people because I work with partners. This person may be an individual who provides me a service, but I don’t think of them as just this person over here providing a service. I think of them as an integral part. I spent time making sure that they understand the culture of the organization because I want them to be successful. There’s a lot of application on this. The good news is this isn’t just for credit unions and financial services. This translates to every industry that has people who are working toward a common goal to provide desired outcomes for an organization.
Dr. Hall, we’re going to need to leave it at that here. I want to make sure that people can learn more about you and your work and your book, Cohesion Culture. Tell us where the best place for people to go to is.
If you would like to get your own personal copy of the Cohesion Culture, you go to Amazon.com, search cohesion, Cohesion Culture will come up and they will deliver right to you. If you want to find out more about me, you can connect with me on all social media platforms as Dr. Troy Hall. You can go to the website, DrTroyHall.com. It will talk about the book, speaking, consulting, all the kinds of things that I do. I appreciate the opportunity to share that information.
Dr. Hall, thanks so much for coming on.
Thank you. I do appreciate it.
- Dr. Troy Hall
- South Carolina Federal Credit Union
- SCF Solutions
- Cohesion Culture
- Forrest Performance Group