Are You a Pro at Giving AND Receiving Constructive Feedback? The Imperfections in Perfecting the Process with Successful Team Leader Jessica Jensen

Dr. Karen Y. Wilson-Starks, the President of TRANSLEADERSHIP, INC.®️, has more than 30 years of experience as a trusted advisor for executives in corporations, the US Military and Federal Government, and non-profit leaders in faith based organizations and Foundations.

In these tough times, executive leaders must successfully identify their next best steps to create and/or restore a winning culture and to put the communication and feedback systems in place to get the desired business results. Tune in to discover what good leadership looks like for Dr. Karen Wilson-Starks.

To learn more about Dr. Karen, go to her website

Click to Read Transcript

In this podcast, your host Laurie droughty, former Navy combat jet pilot, we’ve served decades of experience leading teams in the Navy and at Google, Facebook and Silicon Valley startups, and to stories about developing leaders and teams to reach peak performance. You’ll be inspired by World Class guests and learn strategies, tactics, the mindset and skill set needed. So you too, can develop supersonic leaders and teams. here’s your host, Laurie droughty.

Loree Draude 0:33
I am so delighted to talk with Dr. Karen Wilson Starks, who’s joining me today to talk about leadership. And, Karen, you’ve got such an amazing experience. You’re a published author, you have your own leadership podcast, which is fantastic. I’d love to hear more about that you tell us about the voice of leadership?

Dr. Karen 0:49
Yes, the voice of leadership, it actually airs twice a week, on Tuesdays and on Thursdays. And it’s designed really to inspire executive leaders, people who are leading significant companies or parts of their business, I attempt to bring something that’s practical, something they can use in their business right now. And that’s relevant to current issues. So that’s the whole purpose of it.

Loree Draude 1:15
Well, you must be very busy. Because imagine, you know, everything that’s been happening this year in 2020, with the pandemic, and, you know, racial injustice issues and unrest. And just, you know, there’s a lot of division in the United States right now. I think a lot of people look, look at that and be like, Wow, what a tough time to be a leader. But what do you think about this time as an opportunity for leaders?

Dr. Karen 1:39
You know, thank you for asking that question. And here’s one thing I would say about it. I’ll start with how I felt at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of the year, when I heard 2020. And of course, everybody was talking about 2020 vision. So that’s what I thought about. And I said, Oh, this is gonna be a phenomenal year, a fantastic year, I was expecting a lot of positives. And in reality, of course, as you’ve already mentioned, we had the pandemic of the virus, the pandemic of injustice, we had division and all of these things, and so many losses, a lot of people have lost their lives, people have lost jobs, family members, and every day, there’s more and more of this. So I started thinking, really is this year living up to its promises, after all, but then as I reflected on it a little bit more at Laurie, I realized this, when you have 2020 vision, you see some things that you don’t see, when you don’t have 2020 vision, and not seeing those things on a routine basis, you might think it’s not harming you. However, if there really are termites in your house, and you don’t see the termites, they’re still doing damage, you know, to your home. So I’ve started thinking about 2020. In this way, we have an opportunity to see what may need to be addressed. And then we have an opportunity to collectively address those issues. If we were still walking around with our blinders on, if we were still walking around without our glasses, or contact lenses, or we didn’t have our magnifying glasses, we wouldn’t know we would not be aware of the termites that really need to be dealt with. So that’s, I think it’s an opportunity inside organizations, for them to say, what might be happening here that might be differentially affecting segments of our organization or our clients that prior to now, we wouldn’t have seen, we wouldn’t have known to look in the corner to see the cobwebs. And we certainly couldn’t address. So I think that’s the opportunity of this unprecedented 2020 vision year. Wow, I

Loree Draude 4:05
love that perspective. It’s such a positive one. And it’s one that make the future even better, because of all the challenges we’re dealing with. So thank you for that. So Dr. Karen, I’d love to ask my guests the same question, which is, when do you remember as a child? Or do you remember as a child at a time where you were able to influence somebody, and therefore think about, wow, I could be a leader, I can actually get people to take action. Was there any example of that from your childhood?

Dr. Karen 4:31
Let me say something general first, which is this. I’m the oldest of four children. And I’ve always been in a leadership role in my family. I was always sort of leading the junior troops of the household if you will. And my mother because she was a nurse and she worked all kinds of shifts. I kind of had a junior mother role. So often, I’d be responsible for making sure that the younger children got their dinner and various different things. And so all along for as long as I can remember, I was leading as long as I can remember Even with my parents, they treated me as a consultant because they would, they would seek my counsel and advice on things from a young age. So I started out like that. Now the story that I want to share with you was actually a little bit later in my childhood, I was in the third grade. And I think it sort of captures the influence opportunity, because the opportunity that I had, but so important for the rest of my life. So when I was in a third grade, we moved from the neighborhood, we had been into a really nice neighborhood. However, the school system in the nice neighborhood was inferior. It was a horrible school system. As soon as I walked into the doors to the school, I knew that this was not the place for me. And I remember I started crying. And I told my father, don’t leave me. left school, I was very studious, and academic, I had goals for myself. And it turned out that that school taught nothing. And I lost a lot of time there and a lot of an edge that I had, as I came into the school advanced, so bussing and all that wasn’t in place, at the time that I was in school, however, they had an opportunity that if you had an excellent academic record, an excellent conduct record, you could apply to go to the Jewish school across town. And my parents really didn’t want me to go there. Because I would have to ride the bus and do all these things. And so I brought the paperwork home, and I talked to him said, Look, I need to go to the school. And I need to get out of here. I established by influence case, I had my facts. I had them meet with my teachers at my current school, and they said, Oh, yeah, your child does not belong here. You need to get her out of here and send her to this other school. And so my parents said, Well, if her younger brother, the one right next to me, the next youngest, if he can go to that fine. So we negotiated that my younger brother went, and he and I both went to that school, and it has really made a significant difference to both of us, we got a good education, it set us up for college and everything else. And the two younger children, they did not have that opportunity. And that made a difference in their lives. So I’m just thankful that early on, I learned how to have those influence skills, even with my parents and go after something that has made a difference for me. And you said that was third grade. That was in a third grade,

Loree Draude 7:09
you were like eight years old?

Dr. Karen 7:11
Probably seven, because

Loree Draude 7:16
Wow, that is incredible. Thank you What a great story.

Unknown Speaker 7:21
Yeah, so Wow, we can make a difference.

Loree Draude 7:23
Yeah. And at a young age, I do think that kids often don’t get enough credit for their intelligence, and

Dr. Karen 7:29
what they can see from this vantage point, I guess I could just make the comparison and contrast between my prior school. And that neighborhood wasn’t as nice, but the school was better. And I could see what I was being exposed to in the new school. And I said, Well, if I stay here, I’m just going to, I’m going to deteriorate. I can see that.

Loree Draude 7:47
Yeah. Excellent. Thank you. Um, how about when you’re growing up? Did you have any role models for leadership?

Dr. Karen 7:53
You know, I’ll start by by mentioning the ones in my family, because my earliest role models would be my father, my mother and my maternal grandmother. So in my father’s case, what I learned from him, I’ve learned how to overcome tremendous art, how to persist and persevere no matter what, how to take advantage of every learning opportunity, because my father grew up in Virginia on a slave plantation, and his grandparents were enslaved on that plantation, and his mother was born in the 1800s. And so she was a part of my life through the 70s. Again, she ultimately died in the 70s. So he came from a very impoverished and difficult background where he had limited opportunities. And I saw him flourish and take advantage of every opportunity he had. And he also had a vision for his life. So I learned First of all, I’d say that’s primary lesson of leading yourself first, which he did. So that’s my father. My mother was very much an entrepreneur. And she was a very creative and innovative person. She was also someone who had very good verbal skills. And so I inherited that part from her. She started all kinds of businesses, she, you know, was out in the marketplace was unafraid to try something new. I got that from my mother. My grandmother was the kind of person who never met a stranger. We could go anywhere she could, she could establish a relationship, a friendship, instantaneously. She had a really profound and unique way of connecting with people. She was very much a people person. She cared about people. She was very generous, and really was known for her hospitality. She was an excellent cook. And people came from miles away, to join her Thanksgiving dinners and whatever. And she always had an extra place at the table. If it was Christmas time and you brought a friend, she didn’t know they were coming. there would always be a gift under the tree, even for the person unexpected who dropped in. So that sense of people connection hospitality. I get that from my grandmother and I can I can kind of talk to a rock as well. So those are my first three original role models. Nice.

Loree Draude 10:07
So Dr. Karen, you served in the army? Yes. What do you feel are the differences, if any, between leadership in the military versus leadership in the corporate world?

Dr. Karen 10:15
You know, and I’m going to start the answer to that question Laurie, but I’m really focusing on what I think are some similarities. Great, because I think that that may lay a foundation. And that’s this. I think, in today’s world, there’s a lot of complexity, whether you’re in the military or in the civilian sector, and the world is going very fast, it’s speeding by. So you have complexity, you have to make difficult decisions, often in a short period of time, with limited information. And that applies to military as well as civilian. And in both cases, it’s important to get the work done through your people, people really make the difference. And you’ve got to be able to communicate that mission, communicate the reason in such a way that people are willing to make those ultimate sacrifices that are necessary. So you’re not just doing what’s comfortable, but what’s necessary to achieve the mission. So that’s the parts that that’s the same between the two. I think what’s different about the military, is the life and death aspect is so profound, and in your face every day. So a mistake doesn’t mean just, oh, you lost a few $1,000 or even a few million dollars, there is no price tag on a human life is priceless. So if you make the wrong decisions, the cost is astronomical and irreplaceable. So I think in the military, there’s that sense that, Oh, we’ve got to get more right than we get wrong. So that sense of urgency is what I see there.

Loree Draude 11:51
Got it. Fantastic. Thank you. What about the best leadership advice you’ve ever you’ve ever been given or that you like to give to people?

Dr. Karen 12:01
Here’s what I would say about that. Character matters. And the ends don’t justify the means. So for a short period of time, and in the short term, a leader that may be lacking in character, or authenticity, or in values, or some other aspect that’s important, might appear to get away with it for a while, and may appear to even be successful. There comes a point though, when who you are, really shows up, and makes a difference in the kind of choices you are making or not making. So any day, I’m going to look at some leaders. And if the person does not have character, I’m not going to select that person. Because we don’t know what they may choose to do that you don’t find out about until later. What termites did they allow the house that’s really eroding the foundation. And maybe you can’t see it now. Maybe you don’t know it. You’re not aware of it. But people who lack character, long term are not going to be excellent leaders. Yeah. So I think that’s what I would focus on how to be have integrity. And I’d add another part being trust worthy. Yeah. Again, because of the difficult decisions life and death zone, a person who doesn’t have character, or doesn’t have good values in place, how they make decisions and decisions, the decisions they ultimately make, will not be the right ones. Yeah, that’s the bottom line.

Loree Draude 13:38
How has your definition of leadership evolved over time?

Dr. Karen 13:44
Back in the olden days, when I was younger, and less informed, I didn’t understand the difference between leadership and management. So early on, I had sort of a flawed view of leadership, I thought a leader was the person who was the boss, the person who was in charge, who made all the decisions and who told people what to do. That was kind of the picture that I had, in my mind. As I learned and grew and matured, and saw examples of leadership. In the broader world out there. I’ve recognized that leadership is about inspiring other people. It’s about casting a vision that collectively, the organization can rally around. And it’s about the CO creation and collaboration process, not just telling people what to do, because you’re selecting talented people who have some skills and abilities different from your own, and you want to leverage that. So you know, earlier you asked me about leadership role models. One person from my childhood that I just really admired was Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Martin Luther King was able to be the kind of orator who could put things words in a very unique way that would touch the heartstrings. And have you understand why this objective is so important, and not only to inspire people to also talk about the reason it had to be done in a certain way. In other words, his whole approach to nonviolent social change, we feed that today more than ever. And again, the end not justifying the means he understood that how you do something really matters as well. So yeah, I would say leadership is far different than management. And it’s the greater work not that management is not necessary or important. You need it. Without leadership, though, you’re missing the energy and the field to propel forward.

Loree Draude 15:50
I often told people on my teams that you don’t have to be a people manager in order to be a leader. Because just because you’re a manager doesn’t mean that you’re a leader. And as you said, it’s really about inspiration. You’re, you’re in the business of inspiration and hope, and influencing people towards a common goal. So

Dr. Karen 16:06
absolutely, and helping them see the picture, see the picture of what’s going on today. And also the picture of that future aspiration, where are we heading? And to really tap into the belief that it’s possible, and we can collectively get there.

Loree Draude 16:21
Yeah. Do you think different types of situations require different types of leaders?

Dr. Karen 16:26
Here’s what I would say. I think that different situations require different leadership styles, different leadership approaches and different leadership skills. So the most effective leaders in today’s world are going to be those who have a more diverse toolkit of what they can bring to a situation. So what a leader wants to cultivate is that flexibility, that agility, if you only have the one tool like a hammer, then you are going to be limited to what leadership situations you’re able to influence and where you’re able to make a difference. So rather than to say you need a different leader, you need a leader who has different abilities, and can leverage those different abilities for the circumstances.

Loree Draude 17:11
Got it? That totally makes sense. And I could see where like, if you only have a hammer, that’s good for some situations, but not for many others. So

Dr. Karen 17:18
yes, and you’ll always get called to do the hammer work. But what if they need a screwdriver?

Unknown Speaker 17:22
Right, right.

Loree Draude 17:24
Excellent. And then Dr. Karen, you’ve written a book as well, right? Yes, I

Dr. Karen 17:29
wrote a book that’s called lead yourself first. And it’s the senior leaders guide to engaging people for greater performance and impact.

Loree Draude 17:37
Excellent. What was your inspiration to write your book?

Dr. Karen 17:40
You know, I have been in the workplace now, for a long time, I would say, it’s been not quite 50 years, but getting close. And what I wanted to do, I really wanted to share what I’ve learned on my own personal journey, my personal leadership journey, and to leverage just everyday stories like the one I shared with you earlier about that third grade. And so I wanted to highlight that, as people, what we’re experiencing everyday in our lives, what we’re learning from everyday situations, is informing us about leadership as well. And that we can leverage that not only for our own lives, but the lives of those who we touched, and who are around us. So in writing the book, I have a number of different stories and vignettes about my life along the way, from early to later, what I learned from those events, how I leveraged that learning for clients today. And I’m inspiring the reader to look at their life, and to extract those stories in real time. Because there’s sort of like a little journaling aspects and questions at the end of each chapter that they can then reflect on for their own lives. And think about how can I use this today? That was my inspiration. Oh,

Loree Draude 18:59
I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And then you also have an amazing website with a lot of resources for team building. Can you share a little bit more about those two? Yes, here’s,

Dr. Karen 19:07
here’s something I want to say Laurie, which is this. In most organizations today, and particularly in the complexity that I mentioned before, that organizations are facing, its high performance teams that do the bulk of the work. And so I’ve been very passionate in my career, about resourcing those teams and giving them the tools that they need for maximum effectiveness. So on my website, for example, there is a free assessment that people can take. So they can go to www dot trans And right on the homepage, it says, Take the high performance teams assessment, they can click that and get a sense of, you know, how is my team doing? Where are we whether you’re leading the team or a member of the team, where might we have some shortcomings some shortfalls Where are our strengths because you need to know that too, and what might be some of our next steps. And we actually, we have a couple of different ways that we help teams. One is to do it yourself approach, which pays that we’ve got an online teams course, that’s five modules long so people can access that. You can work through the modules with your team, and answer questions together and figure out, you know, what do we need to do to make sure that we’re effective, so you can do it to do it yourself way, if you want. And then a lot of my everyday consulting work with my clients now is around creating those teams. And also Since launching them, and it’s also developing those teams that exist, so they can show up in a more powerful way. So you can also do consulting around it, if you choose to, we do both

Loree Draude 20:48
fantastic. A lot of times, it’s actually really nice to work with a consultant from my experience, just because you have that objective third party who can help advise and point out blind spots that the team doesn’t really see. Or maybe they see, but they don’t want to talk about.

Dr. Karen 21:00
That’s actually a very important point, Laurie, because a lot of times this consultant will see something you don’t see. And in addition, you may not know what to do, however, you don’t know how to make it happen, right? And particularly with the personalities that may be on your team, or how do we do X, Y or Z and very often, the consultant is bringing some tools and experiences that make a difference. Fantastic. Here’s what I would say, you know, Laurie, I want to encourage your audience and your listeners to really take advantage of the opportunities of this unprecedented time. In other words, recognize and realize you cannot see everything from your chair. That means in your organization, and even external to your organization. Access people who are sitting in different chairs, access, people who are standing on hilltops access people who are in different rooms, to get a broader perspective on what’s going on. And as you gain that broader perspective, create opportunities to sit down, have conversations with people to listen. And in the listening to identify what are the additional opportunities going forward. And then to co create the next steps in the organization, I find that one of the hugest mistakes that leaders make today is not taking into account what their workforce and their customers are experiencing, and what they want. And you must ask. And when your employees, for example, are saying, we’re afraid about going back to work right now, with the virus in place, you want to hear what those fears are, what those concerns are, and as a leader be in a position to put some protections in place that you wouldn’t have thought of, and that are of interest to your workforce. And you now know them because you’ve talked to them about it. So that’s what I would say, use this time to get better at that connection with others, and lead and go forward together.

Loree Draude 23:10
Fantastic. It’s such a great idea, too, since none of us are commuting anywhere right now. Right, that time could be used for reaching out to people and understanding what they’re going through more.

Dr. Karen 23:21
Exactly like, yes.

Loree Draude 23:23
Thank you so much, Dr. Carrot. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Dr. Karen 23:27
And I really appreciate you also speaking with me as well. It’s been a pleasure and a delight to be here with you today. Laurie, thank you.

Unknown Speaker 23:35
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