Transcript: How to Build Deep Connections With Stephanie Morris Episode 2

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Mitch Simon 0:10
Welcome to another episode of team anywhere where CEOs, leaders and experts are building teams, companies, organizations, and amazing cultures

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 0:21
share how to lead from anywhere in the world. I’m your co host on the East Coast, Judy Bianca Mathis,

Mitch Simon 0:28
and I’m your co host on the West Coast. Mitch Simon. And we invite you to join us team anywhere.

In this episode of teen anywhere we interview Stephanie Morris, CEO of shape America, shape America serves as the voice of over 200,000 Health and Physical education professionals across the United States since its founding in 1885, the organism has defined excellence in physical education. Stephanie shares an incredible story pre COVID of how after hearing the CDC talk about the success they were having, by only having their employees come to work on Tuesdays, decided to go cold turkey and header employees stay away from the Office for six weeks. The success of shape America lies in having great empathy for its employees and having weekly rituals that build deep connections. Monday they have check ins regarding the weekend. Wednesday is a free for all asking a deep question and Fridays is a time for fun. Reflecting on the week that was our greatest takeaway from the interview is how Stephanie had to really determine who she had to be online while staying true to her extroverted self. What Stephanie also demonstrates is that empathy and flexibility are perhaps the greatest energy boosters, and perhaps would not have happened without sending her employees home and telling them not to come back to the office. No matter what

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 2:01
Today, we are very happy to have Stephanie Morris from shape America. And she is an outstanding example of not only a leader who embodies the building of culture in her organization, but also doing it remotely. And her story is a fascinating one of how to think of if this is the way we used to do it. When we were all down the hall, how do we transform that and have even better communication through remote? So welcome, Stephanie.

Stephanie Morris 2:46
Thank you. Great. And I would like you to start if you would with just telling your story since it is a marvelous story and from there, we can jump off with some deeper questions. Or I’m pleased to do that. And thank you for the incredibly kind and generous introduction. It’s just a thrill to be here and have the opportunity to talk about this subject because it has, in an interesting way become something I’m passionate about. So I have been with shape America for almost three years now. And early into my first year, I had the opportunity to do a site visit at the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, because they are a huge partner to shape America. We do a lot of work together. So I was visiting with them at their headquarters, and they were explaining to me that they have this interesting model, at least the school health branch West was interesting model where everybody works from home four days a week and they only come in together to be together in person one day a week on Tuesdays. And they were raving about this model they couldn’t stop talking about it changed their lives. Everyone should do this. They’ve become ambassadors for it throughout the rest of the CDC, they actually go and present on a why it works so well. And it’s so effective to within the CDC. And I was so intrigued by this. And so I said, Could you share that presentation with me? I’m really curious to hear about this. And I also have to admit, I kind of had this thought of if the federal government has figured this out, how is that the rest of us have it? Interesting, right? You don’t always like federal government being on the cutting edge or some of this kind of stuff. So they sent me the presentation. I shared it with our senior team. And this is also I should add in this moment where we have been in the process of selling our physical building our headquarters in Virginia for a little bit of a complicated sale because there’s other buildings involved, but we know that at some point, we are selling that building. And I have this thought that it might be really interesting. thing to do sort of a test a pilot, if you will of a program that the CDC had to see really in my mind at the time it was to think about how much space will we actually need once we sell this building, right? How about this and thoughtful and while we still have the luxury of a building, let’s test it out. So I convinced my senior team that we would try this for six weeks, we would take on exactly the same model that the CDC was using. We would all work from home four days a week, and we would come together one day a week.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 5:39
Stephanie, that’s amazing, right? Just the thought of doing that. Keep going. This is a pure

Stephanie Morris 5:44
Thank you. And I will tell you, they all thought I was a little bit crazy. said this is the best thing ever. You know, we’re really excited to try this half of the staff. And half of the staff came to me I mean, literally I remember them popping into my office and saying, so I’m just going to keep on coming in. Okay, because, you know, I just lived down the street, I walked to work. And I had to say to them, no, I actually need you to pretend like we don’t have the building like we are renting space from a we work type of place. And they said, they really crumbled. It’s just free to admit this. But they humored me and we tried it for six weeks. The other thing I should share is I said, I really some departments really aren’t going to be set up to do this. And it’s okay, so I was thinking finance, in particular HR. I gave a couple of departments a little bit of an out if they wanted it. So what was really interesting at the end of the six weeks, I sent an anonymous survey to ask people how they felt about our little experiment. And overwhelmingly I’m gonna say 95% of the of the responses were, were basically Please don’t change, please don’t make use to do things. There was some desire for a little more flexibility. Some people said, you know, we would just like the opportunity to come into the office if we want to. But we’d love this. Please don’t change back. Please don’t go back and like, Oh, yeah, yeah, it was fascinating. And the other really interesting thing to me was the teams that I gave sort of an out to were the first to figure out how to make it work. And they also went with the model. I mean, that was really interesting. And they were innovative and smart and did everything in a very secure way. But they were motivated and so it worked out really well. So we I made a few small adjustments in terms of offering a little more flexibility, but honestly, I I was surprised myself at how I had adapted to it. And I was really enjoying it as well, this new model. And so we agreed to continue it. And what happened after that over the course of I’m going to say roughly a year, maybe a little under a year, is that increasingly, no one was coming into the office. And not only that, but we were starting to grumble a little bit about who would go into the office who handle basic functions to make sure the building was secure was safe was okay. And to make sure that the mail was being processed. So fast forward, we, you know, we go through quite a bit of time and under this model, and everybody’s really pretty happy, which which was great. We were really finding ways to make it work. But we need last summer realized that there were pretty significant repairs that were coming up that we needed. We’re going to be in the building at all, in particular air conditioning, right, which is really important in Virginia, in Virginia summer season. And and there were a number of other things we were starting to worry about. So we were looking at 10s of thousands of dollars worth of building expense, if we were going to keep the building and our CFO can’t really came to the team and said, I’ve run the numbers, and I think we can actually save upwards of $100,000 a year. Yeah, if we decide to shut the building down and vacate it completely and ensure it is a vacant building until we sell it.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 9:39

Stephanie Morris 9:41
Yeah. And so we all did some thinking and planned out a timeline talk. We talked to the staff a lot about what this would mean what this would look like, Are we really ready to do this? Honestly, overwhelmingly, we were ready to do it. You know, people were thrilled of not Having to take turns to come in at all anymore. Mm hmm. So we, we up we had operation declutter. underway. We cleaned the things out, we rented bins, we scanned paperwork and documents. We worked with our archivist at Springfield college, the ship loads and loads of boxes. And as you can imagine, because of work we do, we had things from the previous Olympics, right, and then all donated sculptures and artwork. So we made sure that we were preserving the artifacts in the history of this 100 year old Association, and shifts things appropriately. And by November of last year of this past fall, we were ready. And so we completely shut down the building. We worked with the county to put you know, put the appropriate things in place to make it a safe, vacant building. We transition to 100% remote work. We agreed that about once a quarter of those of us who still lived in the DC metro area would come together. And I secured a private room at a local restaurant for that opportunity as well to have us which was great. We did that once before. COVID-19 really shut. The second time we would have gotten together would have been March 17. For St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And so and here we are, and that, that preparation, that transition for us, meant that when COVID-19 happened, we didn’t blink. You know, we just edited and really immediately changed everything we were focused on from planning a national convention in April, to how do we help our teachers teach in this very unprecedented, challenging environment? Because our teachers are so dedicated, they want to teach they want to have the most impact possible for their students. But PE thinking about teaching PE virtually, that I know, right? You know, we all are traditionally in terms of sports units and collaborating on teams and all of that. So we rallied, and we worked with our top content experts in the field. And we just frankly cranked it out and really got resources are and we’re, and we’re in touch with the community. We also launched a lot of advocacy efforts to protect funding and support for PE and health in our schools. A lot of principals understandably and superintendents were, you know, worried and anxious. Is this still something we should be teaching? Yes. And here’s what it looks like. And here’s why it’s so important for our kids. So, that’s, that’s really where we are today.

Mitch Simon 12:55
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Marymount University Arlington, Virginia School of Business and Technology, innovative solutions upskilling for the what’s next and oyster organizational development dedicated to higher performance, business success and leveraging teams that can be found at oyster And finally, we jungo designing customized talent acquisition solutions at we JUN

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 13:31
perfect story. And of course you are already doing it yourselves. So you were able to pass on all of that learning and mindset with your, your customers, your members, etc. That’s marvelous. So here you are in that environment. How are you? Keeping engagement alive, keeping your culture alive?

Stephanie Morris 14:00
Yeah, that’s a great question and one that I definitely, I fully admit I wasn’t sure what this was going to look like when we started this transition process. But we set up a few rules immediately from the very getgo that I think have made a huge difference. The first rule is that no matter what, for meetings, one on one or in groups or an or an all staff meeting, everybody’s video camera is turned on. Nonverbal communication is essential, right to build a culture to building relationships understanding each other. So the video camera is always turned on. And I’ve also made it clear, I don’t care what people look like as long as you are relatively appropriate. But my point is, if you found time in your busy day to sneak in a workout, and now you’re going straight to a meeting, I’m fine with that. It’s really okay. And this team has seen me in that exact same situation at times. And at first, you know, they were a little Whoa, you know, this is A new version of Stephanie, we’re not you know, but I think the fact that I also you know, was walking that walk helped it make it make it easier for everybody else to adapt and totally move into that as well. The video cameras are always on. The second rule is that we always really check in with each other at the beginning of the week, I check in with the senior team and everybody else really is required to have a team meeting on Mondays to check in, okay, ask how you’re doing. What’s the week ahead look like? are we feeling okay, how was our weekend? Do we have any stories to share? And I think those things have made a big difference. The other thing I would say and I fully admit I am not good. One of my weaknesses as a CEO is the watercooler chat as I call it, right time to just breathe with the team and share stories and be personal Have that iron definitely I tend to go into a meeting and hey, what let’s talk about this let’s, what do we got today? What’s going on? So I had to think about the fact that we had to be intentional about those opportunities for water cooler trout or cultural chat and getting to know each other and keeping those stories flowing. And so twice a week. We send an email that is meant to just do that allow stories to be shared photos to be shared. One of those emails happens on Wednesday. We call it our email and there’s different prompts that we use. So recently, the prompt was, we were all feeling really down this week. I think it’s been a really hard week for COVID-19 cases in particular, right, everybody’s everybody’s been really down this week on my team. So on Wednesday, I the team member who has a site we take turns for who will send this Email the team member whose turn it was to do the prompt. Her prompt was what’s one thing in the next five to six weeks that you are looking forward to that’s not going to change no matter what great artless a new COVID-19 cases, what’s one thing you’re looking forward to, that’s not going to change? She herself was having a baby in four weeks. Oh, gosh, it was really fun that she got to say, My baby’s coming into this world. And that’s gonna happen no matter what. So it’s pretty exciting. Where else really jumped on fast. And we’re sharing stories and photos about the one thing whatever it is big or small that they’re looking forward to in the next five to six weeks. The other email we send is on Fridays, and it’s our what major week email and it’s just meant to mean something positive and it can be perfect. Something that happened professionally within our organization, or it can just be completely personal. It’s whatever you feel like and of course Not everyone has to chime in. If you feel like it, it’s if you’re inclined. But I think it really keeps all of us going to see those share outs happen each week and to chime in and jokes, start flowing, lots of jokes. One of our team members was volunteered to be our homeschool teacher. Send my kids right over I was looking for. So yeah, so those are, those are a couple examples of how we’ve been trying to keep the personal connection going.

Mitch Simon 18:35
Yeah, it sounds like you’ve been really reflective in some of your practices, which is something that it didn’t occur, pre kovan

Stephanie Morris 18:48
Thanks, Mitch, that is a really nice compliment. And I try to be I will say, what’s really cool and interesting in the work that I do is that we have been really fun focused on what physical education looks like today. It’s not what you and I experienced. It’s and it shouldn’t be what too many kids still experience. And that is really where it’s just built around traditional sports models and fitness testing. Before COVID-19 happened, we were already rolling out programs and resources and really making a point to talk about the social emotional learning aspect of physical education, the mental health aspect that should should come with it. And that reflection, and mindfulness as part of a physical action program is really important for kids from pre K through 12. So what’s cool is one that really influenced my thinking as a person. And I realized how important it is for us as adults to adopt the same practices we believe our kids should be having and to and it has it It has really, especially since COVID-19 happening has happened. And it has really allowed us as an organization to adopt those practices, but also push them to the forefront of the conversation about what that should look like today because these are at home. So everything has to look different no matter what. Right, interesting opportunities in this crises.

Mitch Simon 20:26
So are you I what I’m hearing is that, that so the conversations have become more reflective. But it also sounds like the conversations have become much more mission centric. And I’m just wondering if has has been forcing people apart. For for you, for you as it as it actually brought people to focus more on what’s what’s important, because it seems like this time is having people look at what’s most important. I was on an interview yesterday and the person was interviewing. So, you know, I’ve really realized what’s important. And this woman says, I get to spend much more time with my kids. Absolutely.

Stephanie Morris 21:08
Absolutely. Yeah. When when. So there’s sort of two pieces to that which are interesting to think about. The first is when, as of November, we really went to this model. And really you could see this happening before we were 100% there, the happiness factor, the the positivity of where the organization was going, and the happiness the feelings of happiness and about working there were really high. And this is important to to point out because last year was a year of major restructuring and layoff our organization. We made a conscious decision to stop doing one program start doing another but we knew as a team making that decision, that benefits would have to be cut and a lot of positions would have to be lost really hard stuff. Yeah, right. But in this last year where this happened, I continue to do anonymous surveys to check in on the culture and the the pulse of the organization to see how people were feeling it. And really overwhelmingly, for the most part, people continue to feel positive that they saw themselves continuing to work with the organization in the next three years that they like for the organization was going they agreed with the direction, they felt they had clarity around their role. And they were committed to the mission, they and the organization. I attribute that significantly to the flexibility we offered in this new model, where we did have more time with our kids more time for themselves more time for whatever reason. And what we also saw happening, it’s not just the happiness piece, which was really exciting, but the productivity really increased. And people were the first to acknowledge this, you know, in the search days I noticed it and we were just getting a lot we were producing a lot more than we have been. But people were also sharing free, freely sharing in these surveys. I put in more work during the day. Happy to because I’m not in my car.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 23:16

Stephanie Morris 23:17
it was really cool and exciting to see all that and not totally expected. I’m the first to admit I, I used to have much more of an old school mindset. Sometimes it’s really important to be together that’s how collaboration happens. That’s how innovation happens. That’s how I get sparked. I have done a total 180 from that frame of thinking at this point. Because of what I just had the opportunity to experience the good for now experience with with this setup and with this team.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 23:48
Yeah, it’s how did you bring and you may not have had this yet, however, I’m sure you’ve thought about it. How do you bring a new person on and really Lay them. This is who we are and our culture Mm hmm. and assess whether they’re going to be able to handle it. Mm hmm. I’m really glad you asked that question. And I’m actually really excited about that.

Stephanie Morris 24:14
for a couple of reasons. We’ve hired one person to date since we moved to this model. We that person transition last spring and came on to the team. We recently hired another person who starts I think, next week guessed August third. The first person lives in the greater Metro DC area. But we were already sort of in this COVID-19 place and we transitioned you know, virtually, but there was a slight I share that it was the DC metro area higher because there was a safety net a little bit in terms of it helping this person really set up if they needed that in person support. And beyond that, we we did everything virtually. And we organized one on one meetings with different members of the team. We invited this person to different team meetings and group meetings, just to really get a feel for who we are as an organization, the work we’re doing our culture. And it’s gone beautifully. She’s done a remarkable job and has really transitioned well and is making all of it work. The second person I’m even more excited about because this person lives in Missouri. And I just person with an amazing content, Rockstar, just a person that prior to doing this, I would never have had the opportunity to hire and I’m really excited. for that opportunity. This person also happens to be a person of color and our opportunity to advance diversity within our Cyril has not really Then as easy to obtain, again, I think, in part because of living in one area and thinking we had to hire from within that geographic area. Yeah. Yep. So I’m thrilled. Like, I’m just thrilled for the work we’re going to do in the year ahead. And really focus in on helping our schools managing this COVID-19 era to provide PE and health.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 26:22
Right. And something you said has come up in a lot of other studies about just accepting the fact that when you hire certain people anywhere in the world now that you may have to also provide tech support. And because now that is mandatory to get the work done and just accepted now as a new cost of doing business. Yes.

Mitch Simon 26:51
Stephanie, so you’re, you’re down the path you’ve been, you’ve been virtual for what three years now?

Stephanie Morris 26:58
I would say we You know, 80% for the first year that we did this, which was about six to eight months into my tenure at shape. We’ve been 100% virtual officially since November,

Mitch Simon 27:14
because November Great. So what we’ve what we’ve been reading from the the work coming from Cushman Wakefield or come from Harvard Business School, is that the things kind of work out for about four to six months, and then all of a sudden people are having issues with trust with relationship with conductivity. What you’re you’ve already done is you say, Hey, you know what, we’re, we’re already finding rituals for that kind of activity. We’ve already decided that because we’re virtual, we’re going to hire from anywhere, which I don’t think a lot of people have actually can have bit the bullet there. I wonder if there’s any other things that they passed like the six months nine month hump, you started to think about things differently. He started to take on actions where you pretty much, you know, the phrases, we’ve burned the boats, right? We’re not going back. I’m just wondering if there’s anything else that you can encourage the listeners to start to think about that they that they’re either struggling with, or they’re not even thinking about right now that they should

Stephanie Morris 28:25
think. I think I have an idea for how I want to respond to that. But please feel free to ask a follow on question, right. Yeah. I think

Unknown Speaker 28:39

Stephanie Morris 28:41
just thinking about my answer a little bit. I think that in this virtual setting, what’s most important to me, and most important to the senior team, and our leadership is that we’re either meeting or exceeding our goals and We’ve let a lot of the rest of it go meaning there is truly a lot of flexibility we trust. Because we see our people are really awesome and good and working so hard to get things done. So if at any point in the day, they’re doing something else, assuming that they’re not required at a meeting, right and on their video camera, we’re fine with it. And I think that’s especially important right now in a COVID-19 era, when so many parents or let’s just not just parents, but perhaps you have your own parent who may be elderly, extremely concerned about you, maybe a care provider for an adult. And those additional challenges and stresses are very real for so many people right now, in this time. I think that it’s even more important to allow for that kind of flexibility. And if anything, be mindful that We as leaders have to check in with them to make sure that that our team is doing okay, that they’re taking time to breathe and taking care of themselves and making space for themselves because they probably aren’t. I have that realization this week. I really,

Mitch Simon 30:18
right. So it sounds like you’re you’re ahead on the empathy curve, which is great. You know, because I think a lot of people are figuring out that they have to be more empathetic, I think your your hand on the trust curve, is we just need to trust our people. The only question I have for you is how, what what has been the biggest transformation for yourself as a leader, given this time? I know the first you said the first six weeks was like, is this really gonna work? I was just wondering, what have you learned about yourself? What has been the hardest thing that you’ve actually learned about yourself? But you’ve, you’ve grown from it?

Stephanie Morris 30:55
It’s a great question. I was definitely anxious about my own ability. To adapt to the situation, I mean for a couple reasons. First, you know my previous positions there were times when I worked for a really large organization previously and it was so large and it’s such a big team that I was struggling to connect with different pieces of it and understand what what their pain points were and how I could support them better. So I’ll just say I moved myself I moved out of my office for about six months, I moved into a cube. I loved it. I loved being in cube because I’m an extrovert and feeling voice hearing voices around me and feeling the energy of people around me really was awesome. And I remember that distinctly. So being such an extrovert I was really worried that I was going to go a little crazy myself work, you know, not being around people. The other thing is honestly, I just love putting on clothes and makeup and pulling myself together and and that whole There’s that that is just a piece of who I am as a person. And I really worried about both pieces that I would feel a little bit of a loss of self identity and struggle with that. Hmm, yeah. But what’s really interesting is how and in a great way how I just remarkably adapted to this and also felt my own sense of happiness and positivity primarily about being closer to my kids, my family and having more time with them and not being stressed about traffic, and having a more flexibility myself to pitch in and help with something if I wanted to, and I was able to not that there aren’t plenty stress points, right, when things conflict, but this is this is definitely this has allowed me a lot more opportunity to manage all those things as a CEO as a working mother that otherwise would be much harder. I think the extrovert piece of me is in this beautiful way. totally okay. Because of the zoom connection, the zoom calls, the video cameras, the Skype calls. I definitely hear people who say they feel zoomed out at the end of the day. You know, it’s too intense. They feel like they’re looking at themselves or other people too intensely all day.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 33:27
Yeah, it’s almost more intense, isn’t

Stephanie Morris 33:28
it? Yes, it is. And I’m trying to be mindful of that to make sure we’re not doing too many of these back to back on our team, that we have some breaks in between that we remember to do movement breaks in particular for us, everyone should be but you know, that’s such a part of our mission. And I think that really is helping, but for me, it’s just an extrovert who just is I thrive, I get my energy off of being around other people. I am great. I’m okay, which is great.

Mitch Simon 33:56
I’m gonna, I’m gonna do I’m gonna dig down a little bit. I love the way you brought up self identity because I would imagine as a CEO running a company where you see yourself you know, prior as I have my office or I don’t know my office, but I have my floor of people and they’re around me and we do lunch or not. What have you found yourself to be? Have you have you been more confident in what you bring to the table? Has it been has been challenging? Or are you? Do you? Can you now still define it even though your people are not around, you know, your little people around you, but that the people that you

Stephanie Morris 34:37
write you Yeah, a little people are definitely around some time. I am happier. I mean, honestly, Mitch, I have more energy. I have more creative space in my head. And my just overall being and I think the rest of my team would say that too. And we have these moments. You know, I’ve heard other companies you’d mentioned this to me to other companies talking about We just feel like we’re losing that innovative Spark. And we’re going to be back together in person that baffles me. I’m having the complete opposite experience. And I think the team has to, I am personally happier, I feel that and I bring that happy energy to every day. And I get and I have these moments of just feeling really excited in meetings about the possibilities of where we’re going and what we can do. And I think every one of our team members has made that comment at one point or another since we started doing this.

Mitch Simon 35:32
Thank you for that. What What, what leadership, what’s called leadership attributes or people attributes, what attributes have you really appreciated from your team right now that that definitely shows their their commitment and great leadership?

Stephanie Morris 35:49
What a great question. I think.

I think that what I’ve really seen For my team that that, that gives me so much confidence for where we’re going as an organization and for the growth path that I really believe we’re on is that one. They are making themselves so available to their team members. And to me for sure, when I need it, they are completely there and I am completely there for them. Which is just an important piece to remember I think, as we talked about all this flexibility, and the opportunity for flexibility, but we really are there for each other and committed to helping ensure that any one of us if we’re stuck or feeling challenged, or need something, we have that support. The other thing that I really think I’ve always valued this and I am I guess I’m sifting through my mind has this really changed for in a positive way. I think maybe it has but I think The moments where my team disagrees with me, or really wants me to see something different. Or really, they just want me to take a completely different angle on something there. Their opportunity to do that, I think has probably increased because they have the emotional energy and the bandwidth, because they’re in this more flexible environment where they have more opportunity to breathe and take care of themselves and their families. Right, I guess what I’m what I’m trying to come at is when you’re depleted as a person, right, when you’re tired, and you’ve just you feel like you’ve fought a number of fights today and you don’t want to fight anymore. You’re just you’re gonna let something go, you’re done. That happens. That’s a natural thing for any one of us as human beings. I think that the more we can keep our energy up and take care of ourselves and bring that energy to our day, the more we can be in that place to say Actually, I disagree with you. And I want you to think about this from a different way. I’m going to put the emotional energy into this conversation. Even if it’s uncomfortable for a minute, even if I’m not sure you’re going to be happy with what I’m saying, because I want you to think about this differently.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 38:16

Stephanie Morris 38:18
I think that is happening more because of this, and I welcome it every time. It keeps me it makes me so much stronger as a leader makes us stronger as an organization.

Mitch Simon 38:29
Do you think that that is just happening in the world or do you think it’s happening because of your leadership? Because this is this is I’ve never heard this before. So you know, tell me about your leadership that might be attributing to this.

Stephanie Morris 38:46
That’s a really good thing to say.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 38:49
I I try to keep

Stephanie Morris 38:51
myself pretty grounded and humble. I don’t know. I think I think that the what’s happening in the world, our decision to move to this is Definitely a key factor. I also think my team is just an amazing group of people. And I, yeah, I also I think that as a leader, my job, really that I have to remember on a daily basis is to be open minded, and really listen to the great people on my team who know what they’re doing. And in moments of disagreeing with them, if I really do think we should take a different course or make a different decision and what they want me to do, I really make sure I’m talking it out with them.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 39:43
And then I can get them as comfortable

Stephanie Morris 39:44
as possible to why I want us to go in this direction. And I try to also make that a really rare, rare moment. Because I believe if you have really good people on the team, listen to them. And even if you If you have reservations or something’s holding you back, voice them, and invite discourse on on why it’s gonna be okay.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 40:09
That’s a key word you just use invite them back. And I think you’re role modeling that. And this new way of working with many faces on the screen, they’re seeing it live. And they’re then learning from that, that this is okay. And then when you’re in the building, it’s sort of these one off. You’re all learning together.

Stephanie Morris 40:38
Yeah, and I’m really proud of the Board’s decision and willingness to try this because monumentally understandably, they were really anxious about the opportunity for in person conversation and what this would look like and if they could be effective as a governing group. We first tried it two years ago, again, primarily due to budget cuts, just doing Math and saying, well, we can keep a position on the team or the board can travel and be together and person three times a year and the board said, No, don’t lose a position we hate. We don’t like this. But we let’s try it. And and we did. And again, what’s really awesome and remarkable is one we had that engagement that we that we all realized, wow, that was people that don’t usually speak up or in the chat box, and we got to hear from them. And that’s great. The other thing that many of them said afterwards is that saved me so much time, right. I’m not having to travel from South Dakota or McAllen, Texas, you know, which is incredibly the most southern point of that state. It saved me so much time. I loved it. Thank you so much. Let’s keep doing it. so

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 41:49
fabulous. You have really covered a lot of different topics about leadership. About role model. I think anyone who is listening and seeing this will notice the importance and strength of that the points that you made about creating this comfort zone, being truthful of just saying, This is what I disagree with that, what do you offer, and then they can eat, they can use the chat or they can speak up. So you’re also creating and learning together the language of how to make all this work and keeping the energy up and that you’re, you are doing these pulse surveys and addressing those issues. You use the word mindfulness and more focused on these things. These are important components I believe, for any work environment. Your team. And this reality of going remote is making those skill sets even more important. You can’t hide anymore.

Stephanie Morris 43:15
Right? Yeah.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 43:18
And I love that you all first did a pilot. Now how did that go? And everyone had their feedback. Now let’s go to the next stage. Just a beautiful case down. I do thank you I do feel for the organization for all of us that

Stephanie Morris 43:37
pivot had to pivot so fast, right and figure out so many things so quickly because of COVID-19 we had the luxury to test to check in with each other to adapt to put systems in place especially on the finance end of things on the HR end of things. And and we were we got there just a few months before everybody else has To get there for that, what a lecture. Yes.

Mitch Simon 44:02
And when

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 44:04
the lesson is still there, I’m sorry. Go ahead. Yeah,

Mitch Simon 44:06
no, I really appreciate. I really appreciate you being vulnerable and sharing that you really checked in with your self identity, who am I but even more what is, you know, what is now the purpose of a CEO? You know, given the fact that everyone is dispersed? And how much how much do I model myself so that the rest of the organization understands that, you know, we’re digging down into into what are our emotions, we’re digging down into what is what is our mission for digging down into how can we better connect with our our association and I think that has really kept that conductivity, which is self you know, you know, when you look at your self identity, when we all look at our self identities is what are we doing Here, and it really is to bring people together, especially in this time.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 45:06
Yes. Fabulous. Mm hmm. Stephanie, thank you so much. I even want to have you on again, which we’ve made. That would be great.

Stephanie Morris 45:20
Thanks. This was such a pleasure. I really appreciated the opportunity to talk with you both and thank you.

Mitch Simon 45:27
Very well. Thank you. Thank you so much. And thanks for another episode of team anywhere with with Stephanie and we will see you next time.

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