Our hosts sat down with Steve Rae, an accomplished leader in the Corporate world to discuss how to weave the themes of No Barriers into business leadership. Steve is a Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Berlitz and the CEO of ConnectEdPlanet, a learning consultancy focused on the design, development, and management of innovative learning programs through the application of social, experiential, and gamification strategies that maximize learner engagement. He has been instrumental in bringing his expertise to the No Barriers Board team and building No Barriers Corporate Leadership programming. Prior to Berlitz, Steve built learning solutions at both Apollo Education group and was a senior executive at IBM. Listen in for key takeaways for leadership teams and how to face internal problems in the workplace with a No Barriers mindset.
After establishing Steve and Dave’s Chicago connection the hosts dive into why he’s been brought on as a guest - after Steve attended a No Barriers Corporate retreat he was able to recognize the core No Barriers elements that he could bring back to his own company to reinvigorate his teams.
Corporations face their own types of barriers but in more “invisible” ways. Steve talks about how employees are not willfully disengaged but they have perhaps lost their connection to the mission or are checked out:
“Something about their environment is disabling for them to give their best and have the fulfillment that comes from work.”
By providing the No Barriers elements to employees Steve feels can reinstall a sense of agency to their job life.
We dive into Steve’s background growing up overseas. His father’s job involved moving the family around quite a bit and exposed him to diverse experiences and cultures; igniting his sense of curiosity and passion for learning and adventure. He tries to carry that over into his style of leadership:
“The most innovative companies, they stimulate a sense of curiosity in their employees and encourage risk taking.”
Jeff asks how difficult it is to “turn the tide” for struggling companies? What causes the shift?
Steve explains that it has to come from leadership and their understanding of the importance of the culture of the company. He talks about the elements and how each of them contribute to the process of confronting these barriers and ultimately leading to positive change over time - it’s not as simple as hearing one speech and walking away ready to change everything.
“Culture trumps strategy.”
Steve’s thoughts on motivation stem from the importance of motivating employees behind a “Vision,” and rallying the troops to see the bigger picture as to why they are showing up for work. By providing leadership that’s respectful and with a focus on mission it enables employees to really engage and come to work ready to take risks and branch out.
“Empowering people to do their best and bringing them a vision they could really relate to and treating everyone with respect.”
Dave, Jeff, and Erik all ponder how No Barriers translates from the mountain experiences that corporate leaders attend or the speakers they hear and how they can bring those types of abstract concepts down to the everyday work environment. Steve muses on a few perspectives: one being that no matter what there are always about 10% of employees who will not engage regardless and to keep that in mind and it is largely about receptiveness. The second is that No Barriers has authenticity and folks like Erik who are living examples of what is possible and therefore this isn’t just about buzzwords and clever marketing but effective principles about:
“These principles that you’re teaching are proven effective ways of sort of rewiring human software to create a belief system of what is possible and arming them to achieve things they never thought were possible.”
And then, to actually experience these transformations in the field - like climbing up a daunting mountain - that experience “creates the permanency” and translates to the workplace.
The concepts of struggle and risk are discussed as positive vehicles for change for businesses and leaders. Steve talks about one of his first international sales jobs that was initially a source of struggle for him and ended up propelling him to success. Another problem he faced was having difficult employees but it drove him to learn how to be nimble, how to motivate others, and how to ultimately be a better leader.
A final discussion point is about “cutting the rope” and figuring out how to retain or not retain employees who are not helping the team. Steve speaks from a place of compassion and how he came to realize that letting go of employees who are not fulfilling their duties was actually an act of kindness to not only that individual to find a better job fit for themselves but it helped the rest of his team to perform better and not drag them down.
Our hosts wrap up some of their thoughts on Steve’s points about bringing change to struggling companies or leadership with values like authenticity, culture, and ownership.
Check out No Barriers website to learn more and participate in a No Barriers Corporate Leadership Program