In this energizing episode, Ron Ross, Co-Founder of Avant HR Solutions, shares what he has learned over 20 years of coaching entrepreneurs and teams.
You’ll learn the difference between a coach and a consultant and which one you need now, how to show up with the right hat on, and the power of making people feel seen.
Hello, hello and welcome welcome once again to the secrets of the high demand coach and I’m here with yet another high demand coach. And that is Mr. Ron Ross, Ron co founded avant with his partner to create a rich laboratory to tinker and to help clients solve their most juicy organizational challenges. I love that, with an inventive spirit and a knack for working with people. It’s no surprise that Ron’s career trajectory led him to consulting. He spent the last 20 years developing coaching and training leaders across various industries, making him an expert in how teams and organizations operate. Ron, I can’t wait to dive in on on that. I’m just so excited about this conversation. But before we get there, I’d love to just tell us a little bit about your story. How’d you get into coaching and why?
Yeah, I think for me, I’m gonna take you way back, it kind of goes back to I’m a middle child and all of the fun things that it involves, you know, two brothers, one younger, one older, and I just, it was amazing to me that, you know, two people, three people in the same system can have different experiences. Always been a curious guy. I thought originally, I wanted to be an engineer, and inventor play, I found my passion has really been about group dynamics. What motivates people what motivates groups? You know, I was a kid at home. chatterbox talked all the time. But you know, early years, you know, when I was in school, quiet, follow the rules. And I just noticed that a lot of people how they showed up depended on the environment that was set. So I think that curiosity led to some vino choices in my career decision. It actually started I was, I always been, I knew I was going to be speaking. And working with people professionally. I just didn’t know how. So it took me a little while early in my career, I was working in the insurance industry. And people kept coming up to me, asking me putting me in trainer trainers, noticing skills and me before I really noticed them and myself. And when I started thinking about what I really wanted to do, I kind of harken back to sort of what I’m curious about, and it started off way back in the 90s doing software training and love the technology. And it was like, Okay, I’m marrying, working with people marrying sort of what I love that curiosity. But I went deeper and started getting into okay, how do you help employees to become better at what they do? So we started off and technology training became, how do you teach people how to do customer service better. And then it got into leadership development. And once I got into that, I did a lot of classroom training, I wanted to find out the rest of the story. So classroom training is a beautiful thing. But you never know what the next chapter is. Coaching is more of a long story. It’s the the mini series. And so I invested in myself to learn how to coach market myself as a coach. So I do coaching and consulting. And it’s been really a good marriage for me so far.
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So I’d love to actually pause on that for a second because a lot of folks will either do coaching or consulting. Right. And, and, you know, for those listening, if you’re not aware, traditional traditional coaching is very Socratic in nature, we ask questions, it’s built on the idea that you have inside of you everything that you need to succeed, it’s just our job to help you find that out. Consulting is a little different in the approach. And in that there’s oftentimes more advising that happens, you will see it more often in a team environment. It’s a little bit more advice and kind of knowledge oriented. And it’s rare that we have someone like yourself who actually does both of those things, right. And so what I’d love to hear, why is that mix working so well for you, and how do you show up differently in those two roles?
That’s a really great question. Love that. I think for me, I was doing this work. Doing it really successfully working inside organizations doing it. I knew, you know, I was going to launch out on my own. This was close to 2012 2013. So I had a lot of experience that I gain on the job. And I went back to school, I’m like, I have to invest in myself. If I want to really know if I have the chops. Let’s pick up another degree. So I went back, got my master’s degree in organizational development and leadership. And so I knew I was going to be consulting, took a class in coaching. And I was kind of blown away. And I had this sort of like fork in the road. And I remember talking to the professor who was teaching and coaching. I was like, do people do both? And he’s like, normally it’s one or the other. And I just knew for me If I was going to do both, so while I was finishing my master’s degree, I also got my coaching certification. And and I think it’s the story I told you is, I’m a curious guy. I like to make things simple for folks. So a lot of the work that I do is within organizations, but also do things with individual teams within those organizations, and then working with leaders, and I just want to have as much leverage as possible. And I think that’s why it really works for me. It requires you to be really skilled at putting on an off hats. And that’s one of the things that I try to tell leaders that I’m working with is you have to be really good at knowing what hat the situation calls for. Yeah, when I’m actually coaching, I know, I have to be my arise real self, because I can’t expect anybody else to be vulnerable. To really let down the guard, if I’m going to do that. If I’m in the room talking to senior leaders, that’s a different more button up look in that’s a different hat that I’m wearing. And a lot of times, they don’t want the Socratic method they want okay, what are you going to do? How do we fix that? So it’s flexing based on the circumstances. Yeah. And I just, I just love the fact that I get to do both, I wouldn’t change it.
it’s so cool. So I actually do the same thing. And it gets me in all kinds of trouble with both coaches and consultants. Because, you know, and, and I actually found like yourself, it’s actually very, very effective. Because there are different times in situations where the different style and approach is much more effective than the other. I’d love to hear from you. So let’s say you’re sitting down with a CEO, and they don’t know if they need a coach or a consultant. How do you how do you help them? Like, where is consulting more effective? In your opinion?
I think consulting is effective when there’s a huge group, there’s a system wide issue that you’re really trying to address. And if, if I was honest, I think you always need a little bit of both. So and that’s a really selfish, I think, if I have a CEO who I know gets it, like they get sort of what real leadership is they get they created a really great culture, in the thing they’re trying to figure out is how do I make sure that this is cascaded? And repeat it at all levels of my leadership? That’s a clearly a consulting gig. And within that consulting, there may be development workshops and coaching. But the frame the lens that I have is, okay, I’m I’m talking to you, as that consultant, and I see what the real issue is, yeah. Now, it may flip. And this happens a lot of times where I realized, okay, the CEO, the senior leader, the sponsor, is not as good as she or he thinks they are, what the issues that I’m really hearing, it’s really about them. And I need to be flexible and transparent. And strong enough to say, part of this is about you. And we may need to get you the right skills, the coaching, so that you can do what you need to do so. So if blitzes depending on sort of am I going with one approach, but after really talking to the CEO, or senior leader or sponsor, I’m going to flex based on what the circumstances really require.
Yeah, it’s fascinating. So and in my work, we kind of organize the world into different stages. And so you see something very similar to what you’re talking about play out, early struggle, trying to get the business up off the ground, what you’re typically looking for is actually you’re not looking for consultants, you may be looking for a coach, but more often than not, what you’re looking for, is is someone to execute with you, right? So as service providers, what you’re looking for, you want someone who can, who can do the books, you want someone who can manage your marketing, who can, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And folks will actually overspend on coaching in that timeframe, because there’s only so much like, when you’re the business, you know, it’s like, the having someone else to tell you what to do sometimes isn’t all that effective, there’s a place for it. But it’s got to be the right approach, step into find businesses doing well, we’re growing more often than not a small team. And the biggest bang for your buck is to really invest in you, as a founder, right? Invest in yourself, because you are the biggest asset. You’re also the biggest problem, like virtually every single time. And so it’s at that stage where if you can bring in the right coach who can help you work through those specific things you need to work through in that stage. It’s like lightning in a bottle, right? It’s magical. Now, what happens is, you know, a lot of the best leaders realize that so they say, how do I grow? I work on me, right? And I grew up but now the organization is growing. It’s getting bigger, it’s getting bigger. We enter into this third stage called Why like water, and one of the words you used around consulting, which was just right on point was systemic, right, we’re now dealing with systemic problems that are happening across the organization and, and you can work on yourself as CEO until you’re blue in the face. But until you can get things working outside of you better coaching yourself can actually make it worse, right, you can actually create a bigger divide between you and the rest of your people. And that’s oftentimes where you see consulting really come in to effect. However, the coaching doesn’t go away, just like you’re saying, because, you know, if you if you’ve got stuff that you’re still working through, and getting to that transition is there as well. So I love that you do that kind of stuff about coaching or consulting and consulting. So tell us a little bit what would you say some of the most important work you’re doing with your clients right now,
I would say, it is around helping them to empower their their leaders, is really like the fun work that I love doing. And I think because we have a company that, you know, I have certain expertise that I bring to the table. And just to kind of put it in perspective, real quick is, it is the equipping sort of people that we’ve been talking about the CEOs, it’s their, their executive team going further down. Those are the folks that are going to, they have the biggest lever in the organization. So we love to work with that leverage. So we do a lot of work there. And then that other thing, which I know you are aware of is, is the culture, the container, the environment that they’re creating. So you got to really do both. And sometimes it’s just helping people to be real about the culture that you are in, like if they have a talent, attraction problem or retention problems. Sometimes it’s not that you’re, you have a real issue. It’s that you’re hiring the wrong people compared to the culture that you’re you think you have, and in the culture that you have, say you have a really aggressive sales culture, hire people that are aggressive salesy, people don’t hire people who who want something different. So I see you see a lot of mixed matches there. And then the final thing you talked about, so that whitewater stage where they figured it out a bit, they know they’re going to be in business, they’re scaling up, we get to help them with what is that other thing that you need? So it’s the guardrails around all your HR operations in the early days, not as necessary, if you have somebody that can do it, if you can outsource it, but you’re going to need to build capacity there to keep yourself out of trouble, stop spending money on lawsuits, stop spending money on hiring, firing people and put in sort of the guardrails that really helped you to really go where you need to get to. So that’s a lot of the work that we do as well.
That’s so good. And and yeah, it’s so timely for folks. It’s interesting that you say about values I was, I was coaching I one of my clients, and had one of her team members just kind of went went a little bonkers and teamwork was a huge value of theirs. They talked about it day in and day out. And she’s just basically decided I’m not working with a team, like you can have me I’ll do my work, but leave me alone. And I asked her, I was like, you know, if it’s not this, what would it take to fire her? Right? Like, what what would it take? Because that’s what your values are? Right? Your values aren’t what you put on a wall. It’s not the result of a two day off site brainstorming session, right? It How are you? It’s the culture that you create, it’s the things that you communicate, it’s what you compensate for. Right? And, and when we can, when we can just settle that, you know, I think there’s a lot of pressure on CEOs to pick the right values. Now. Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on leaders to have these really like nice, fun, fancy, millennial values. I don’t know what they are. But we want to pick the ones that sound right instead of the ones that are right. Yeah. And so what do you how do you help folks that are dealing with that? Right? They’re bringing in people that seem like the people that they want, but they’re not fitting culturally? How do you help them get to the bottom of that?
Yeah, I think you you just danced all over what I believe in, in a good way. And so I appreciate it. It’s like you’re playing my, my song. So I it is, culture really is not what you have printed. And there are companies that have beautiful wild cars and values that are on the wall. But it’s the actions that you take, it’s the conversations that you really have, it’s how you discipline coach, or don’t do those things. And as you set the compensation, so it’s it’s mapping what your culture is not what you say it is, but really what it is, and you know what the culture is by listening to the conversations by interviewing people, not at the top of the organization, but really at different levels. And really, if you want to know if you A culture that really listens, that empowers people, as the person with the least amount of power or privilege in that organization, and they’re going to really tell you the story. And I’m not saying you have to be anything just like you just be, communicate what you are. And if you’re not being what you say, You’re figure out a way to kind of reconcile that my sounds like you said, it’s, it doesn’t really require them to be different. It requires them to be real, in to change those words, change those values, because there’s somebody that wants to work in that organization that would love to do that work, and does not want some of that other stuff that may be desired for other folks. So our whole thing is use culture. Use sort of your leadership as a powerful use your your, your, your vision as a powerful magnet to really attract people, but it can’t be BS, it has to be really real. And one of the ways we say it is, in the conversations, that seems to be where people get into trouble. Leaders are promoted, because they are really good technical leads, they were really the best, but they haven’t really been equipped with those skills. And that’s where culture even if the CEO and executive team, they’re really embodying it, if they’re not watching the conversations that are happening beneath you, you’re really having your culture really eroded. I’ll give you an example that this is not from my work, but it’s, it’s I’m at an age where I have adult children who are in the workforce and my daughter is working for she worked for in, you know, advertising and PR, and one of the values and she’s one of the millennials that you talked about is work life balance is big for that segment of the employee population, the tops, we are all about it. But the folks who were managing the folks at the ground level, they were undermining everything that was being said, work life balance, we have Fridays where you have all, but make sure you check in and you’re looking at your email all day. That’s not, that’s not off, that’s actually working. So you have to make sure that not only you are actually doing sort of what you said at the top, but the folks beneath you their behavior, the conversations, the messages that they’re sending, are really consistent. And the only way you can do that is you have to periodically walk around audit that do skip level meeting, you have to be listening and talking to people or you’re going to be you’re not gonna even get it until you start seeing the data thing. Okay, I have a lot of people that are leaving, now have to do things like x energies, I think you can get ahead of a lot of this, if you are being one of those leaders that really paying attention.
Well, wow. So good. So good. I don’t know how you’re gonna top that. But I got to ask this question, because it’s my favorite. And that is, what would you say is the biggest secret that you wish wasn’t a secret at all? What’s that one thing that you wish everybody listening today knew?
Yeah, I’m just gonna make it simple. I am in the process of finishing sort of a sort of a book around sort of some of the stuff that we’re talking about. And it’s all about creating that right culture in teams. It’s about what leaders do, and how it say. It’s, it’s about the power of making people feel seen. And I call it noticing, but there’s probably 1000 different ways you can say it, and I’ll give you some examples is noticing an employee that has a skill set way before they know it. So it’s been like a game changer for me in my career, people noticing that I had an ability to really connect, talk to people investing in me before I even knew that might be something I’m doing. Calling out some gifts or talents, someone has paid attention to the individual contributions that people are making. It’s that ability to see what’s possible. And and then holding them to that high expectations of what you see in them is really what I you know, I would say is the biggest secret we all needed as human beings, you know, we want that from our parents. We want that from our spouses and significant others to really be seen to be value. And I think if leaders could do that, that to me is the secret sauce. That doesn’t cost any money. It just requires presence focus and attention in in that’s all free.
And and what some folks, some folks have worked with have worded like, is it patronizing, right? And it is if it’s not true, right? If it’s not authentic, like this isn’t something that you fake. But if it’s authentic, right, and you’re calling out things, like when you talked about empowering people, I agree. Like there’s just no better way of empowering leaders and calling them up and And then I love how you said and holding them to those high standards, and so good because it’s not just like, oh everyone, you know, unicorns and rainbows. And you know, like, it’s not that that’s not what an empowering culture is. It’s calling people up above what they would do on their own and left to their own devices, holding them to that standard, and in doing it in a way that brings a life and encouragement to them. So I love that there’s so much we can dig into there. But I’ve got another question for you, I’m actually going to switch gears, I’m going to have you take off your coach consultant hat, I’m gonna have you put on your, you know, your your founder had, if you will, leader hat and talk to us a little bit about because I know, you know, we have a tendency as coaches and consultants to give our best time and energy to our client. Right, but can do it at the risk of just overlooking our own growth and, and changes. So what would you say is the next stage of growth for you and your business? And what do you think the big challenges you’re gonna have to overcome to get there?
Yeah, I love that question. I am someone that has the, the gift, or natural ability of foresight, which is like, this snap for seeing when I’m going to need, I don’t always have the ability to, to invest in it. But I’m just a believer in like, I’m a lifelong learner, and someone that’s always going to continue to invest in themselves. I am always someone who is getting coaching, getting some type of development. And my partner, who happens to be my life and wife, as well, she’s a believer in that. So I think our next iteration is, how do we build our business to a significant upscale that we can, like, be a bigger help not only to our clients, but to really serve sort of some causes that we really care about. And one of the ones that, you know, really top of mind for us is, if we are people who believe in organizations that should be diverse and inclusive, and should really give opportunities to folks. And that just to talk about it, because it’s a hot thing, how do we invest in, in kids that are kind of losing out because of maybe where they started. So that’s to us is like, alright, we have to put sort of our values to work. And it can’t just be something that is talked about, but to really fun, that means we really need to grow the business and be able to, to add additional people.
Yeah, I love that. I love that. And, and what, you know, this is a group of founders that are listening. So they’re like, duh we get it. But what a lot of folks don’t realize about founders is how good the heart is, right? Like we see these business leaders, we see business owners, they often talk the language of business, they function in that environment, they make decisions quickly that decisive. But it’s it’s really not about the money. It’s not about getting rich, right? Like the whole kind of Instagram get rich thing. It’s just not the people that I come into contact work and work with on a daily basis. The story that you have there as that’s what I see, right, I see folks who, who are wanting to create opportunity for themselves, yes, but so that they can give back so that they can pour in so that they can leave this world better than they found it. And so, I love that you’re doing that. I love that you’re open and sharing that it’s just such a privilege. And yeah, I can’t wait to see it come to pass. Yeah, really? Well, Ron, thank you so much for being on the show. I was just such a pleasure having you. We could probably make this about eight episodes and just keep going but for the sake of time and and for that of our listeners. Thank you so much for being on the show. Ron. Thank you everyone for listening. your time and attention mean the world to us. I hope this conversation was as exciting and stimulating for you and empowering as it was for me. I cannot wait to see you next time. Take care.
Contact Ron Ross
Ron co-founded Avant with his partner to create a rich laboratory to tinker and to help clients solve their most juicy organizational challenges. With an inventive spirit and knack for working with people, it’s no surprise Ron’s career trajectory led him to consulting. He’s spent the last 20 years developing, coaching and training leaders across various industries, making him an expert in how teams and organizations operate.
Want to learn more about Ron’s work at Avant HR Solutions? Check out his website at https://avanthrs.com/.
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