Chantal: Kristen, welcome. Thank you so, so much for joining us on the show.
Kristen: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Chantal: Oh my goodness, I actually can’t tell you just how excited I have been about having you come on as a guest because, to give everyone a little bit of background, I interviewed the amazing Peter Docker on the show back in February of this year, and Peter, of course, is the co-author of Find Your Why, and he was just such a beautiful inspiring person. When I asked him the question in the Precor Quick Fire Five, “What book would you recommend and why?” he said to me, “Oh, I would recommend Permission to Screw Up by Kristen Hadeed.” I just took that and ran with it, and read it just so quickly. I love your book, so congratulations on writing such a fantastic book, Kristen.
Kristen: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Chantal: I absolutely love it, and I think the reason that it resonated with me so much is because I think there are so many parallels between what you have done to build Student Maid and the experiences that you have with … I think it resonates so closely with the fitness industry, and with what so many of owners and managers go through, I think they’re quite similar experiences, and that’s why I wanted to get you on the show because I just … I love the stories that you tell in the book, and I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from your experience. I’m hoping that you can start off by sharing with us the three things that you love the most about working with millennials.
Kristen: Yeah, so I think just to back up a bit, I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t someone who came out of the womb saying, “I can’t wait to be a CEO.” I started my business unintentionally while I was in college, and I actually was working in finance, and I thought I would move to Wall Street to be an investment banker. Long story short, I began cleaning houses as a way to make extra money in school, and I landed this contract, and it was a huge contract to clean empty college apartments. We had about 800 apartments to clean in 21 days or something crazy like that.
Kristen: I hired 60 people. These were all students, so around the same age as me, my peers, and it was a huge failure. A couple days into the contract, 45 of the 60 quit at the same time, and that was my first real leadership lesson. That was the first moment where, number one, I became obsessed with learning how to be a better leader and learning how to build a company where people wanted to be, but I think I realized what the challenge of leadership is.
Kristen: The challenge of leadership is you have to figure out how to get people inspired to do the work they’re doing. You have to help them feel connected to that work. You have to take this team of people. All of which have been raised differently, have different backgrounds, experiences, and you have to figure out, “How do I help them be at their best? How do I help them work in sync?”
Kristen: I think no matter what generation you’re talking about, that’s a hard job, and I never really went into this business thinking, “How am I going to make this work with millennials?” It was was more, “How am I going to make this work with people?” because the work I was asking them to do is so awful. Cleaning dirty toilets, scrubbing tile grout on your hands and knees with a toothbrush. We’re not talking about fun and glamorous work, so my challenge was, “How do I get people get excited about this kind of work? How do I make them feel like there’s a bigger purpose here? How do I make them feel so valued? How do I earn loyalty, trust, all these things?” I never went into my business thinking, “Oh, I have to figure out millennials out.” It was just I have to figure people out.
Kristen: An answer to your question of, “What are the three things that I love most about working with this generation?” It’s hard for me because I don’t think about it as this generation. I think everyone is so amazingly capable, but the challenge of the leader is how do you tap into that? How do you create an environment where that person feels empowered to be able to contribute in the areas where they’re strong? That’s what leadership is about.
Kristen: Just like any human being, I think what I love most is people generally show up and they want to do their best, but you have to create the environment for them to be at their best, and that’s what I learned early on at Student Maid, especially when those 45 people quit. I got them back. We probably don’t have time for that story, but yeah, it’s all about creating the environment that allows people to really be at their best.
Chantal: Okay. Kristen, you touched on a little bit of background, which is fantastic, because for anyone that hasn’t read the book, one of the things that I loved so much was just your raw honesty about your experiences with hiring, and learning along the way, and all the leadership lessons that you learned, so my next question I guess is the flip of the first one, and what I’m interested to know is what challenges do you find either working with millennials or as you put it, just becoming a leader in general? I guess maybe you can give us some examples of what you did to address those challenges.
Kristen: Sure. Where do I begin with the challenges? I do think that millennials, and we also employ high school students in my company, so we’re actually employing generation Z, the generation that comes after millennials. I do think one challenge is that this generation and gen Z, we have grown up with technology. We grow up with cellphones. We grow up building our relationships from behind a screen.
Kristen: When we look at gen Z, even younger. They received a cellphone even younger, and that absolutely impacts the way that we build relationships, the way that we connect. It impacts our confidence. We walk into our room being able to introduce ourselves, and beyond that though, I think it also affects independent thinking. When we have a question, our first reaction may be to just google it, or if we need direction somewhere, we type in the address and there we go. We have step-by-step instructions on how to get there. Even dating, we rely on apps to connect us, and we don’t need that confidence anymore to just walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, I …” introduce ourselves and ask them for their name. It’s all done for us.
Kristen: The challenges I saw in my business and I still see are those two things. It’s the relationship skills maybe are not there and also the lack of independent thinking and confidence in decision-making because you’re relying on an app. I remember when those 45 people quit, I actually googled “What do you do when 45 people quit?” There is no answer in Google for that.
Kristen: We work really hard at Student Maid on really empowering people, giving them room to fail to teach them that they are capable. What I mean by that is when people are cleaning together, we always send them in teams of two. We don’t tell people exactly how to clean. We teach them how to use the chemicals. We teach them the best methods of cleaning glass and vacuuming, and we definitely train them, but we don’t say, “You’re going to clean this, and then you’re going to clean this, and you are going to clean this.”
Kristen: We really leave it up to them to decide what’s the best way to clean this client’s house or office knowing all that we know, and we know that by giving them that complete freedom, people are going to mess up, but we also know that that’s how you learn most like my … I learned so much when 45 people quit on me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, so we … That’s one way that we really … We try to teach independent thinking, and we trust them. Even if they mess up, as long as they made decisions with our values in mind, we stand by them, and we support them.
Kristen: The other piece is relationship skills. We actually don’t text. Everything we do at Student Maid is face-to-face or on the phone because we found that if it’s anything important and significant, that’s how it has to be communicated to really build trust and build a relationship, so we’ve been able to teach our people how to really interact on a real human level.
Chantal: Kristen, there’s a couple of things that I want to just pick up on in that answer. The first one was when you talked about independent thinking because I think that we, as business owners, quite often go down the path of feeling like we need to be extremely structured when we’ve got new team coming on or when we’re working with new employees, but I think that was a really interesting observation and something that you’ve applied in your business is saying, “Okay. Yes, I’m going to give you foundation training, but I’m also going to give you some autonomy in your role.”
Chantal: I mentioned that because I think it’s a good opportunity for all of our owners and managers out there to have a think about how they’re actually onboarding their new staff and how much structure they’re applying versus how much autonomy they’re giving. Obviously, that’s been something that you’ve worked on and gotten to where it is today, so I thought that was really important. The second point. That’s what I was going to say, the second point. You just mentioned about not texting, but actually meeting one-on-one. One of the things that I recall from your book was I think you called them like Lunchtime Learning, Learn and Munch.
Kristen: Mm-hmm (affirmative), Lunch and Learn.
Chantal: Do you want to tell everyone about that concept? I would love to know. Do you still do that? Has that evolved, or can you just briefly touch on that for us?
Kristen: This is my favorite topic in the world to talk about. Yeah. It started with my leadership team, which is the executive team of my company. One day, I just gathered everyone together. We all brought our lunch, and I just taught something, something I learned at a conference, and it was so great to be in the same room together. We never really sit down, and talk, and have lunch together, but then to also be learning and growing together.
Kristen: They wanted more of that, so we actually … This started a few years ago. We decided that once a month, we would do that, and we still do it to this day. We call them our workshops now, but our how executive team gets together. Now, we block out two to three days a month, and they’re consecutive days. We work on the business instead of in it, so we work on, “What are our goals? How far away are we from them? What obstacles are getting in the way? How can we get through those obstacles?”
Kristen: We also focus on strengthening our relationship as a team. We focus on learning and developing as a team, and then we have a similar thing for our students. We call it Development Day, and we do that once a quarter. We bring the whole company together one day every quarter, and we use it as relationship-building time. We talk about big company updates, and we just … We allow time for those relationships to really be built because we don’t have the time. Everyone is so busy, and what I’ve learned is we have to make the time.
Chantal: Kristen, one of the areas that I’m really keen to dive into is understanding how we can best give feedback to our teams. Now, I know you do touch on this during the book, so is there a technique that you have found works best?
Kristen: Yes. For a very long time, we struggled as a company with feedback. I struggled as a leader giving feedback. People were afraid to speak up when they were upset about something, and I just … For a long time, the only solution I had was anonymous surveys and sugarcoating all feedback so that it didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s not a way to promote trust, so we use a method now called the FBI, and this is a technique we learned from Barry-Wehmiller, a wonderful company that we absolutely love based out of St. Louis.
Kristen: The FBI is a way that you can inspire someone to either change their behavior or repeat behavior that you want to see repeated again, so it’s actually a way to give meaningful recognition and critical feedback that actually is productive and inspires behavior change, and each letter stands for something. The F is Feeling, how you felt. The B is Behavior, about the specific behavior, so how you felt about this person’s specific behavior. What was that behavior? The I is Impact. What was the impact of that behavior whether on you, the client, the team, the bottom line? Feeling Behavior Impact, and I’ll give you an example.
Kristen: Let’s say someone is late. You could say, “I felt disappointed this morning when you were 30 minutes late to the meeting, and the impact is now I’m unsure if I can rely on you. I’m sure you didn’t intend to have that impact, but I really don’t want to feel this way, so can you help me figure out how this happened?” or something like that. The idea is the person did not wake up that day saying, “I can’t wait to be 30 minutes late and make this person feel disappointed and like they can’t rely on me.” We just don’t know our actions have that impact, and when we’re made aware, we’re usually inspired to change it.
Kristen: Then, also, recognition. “So, I felt proud when you spoke up at the meeting this morning, and the impact was after you spoke up and shared your opinion, everyone else felt more comfortable sharing theirs. Thank you.” Now, that person is more inspired to speak up next time they have an opinion, so it’s a way to really give recognition that meaningful and not just generic praise that doesn’t mean anything, and it’s a way to really confront behavior that needs to be changed in a way that’s productive and doesn’t cause the person on the other end to be defensive.
Chantal: Okay, team. I’m going to jump in here. I thought that you might like to know some more about the FBI feedback that Kristen just shared, so with Hope Mission, I have included an extract from chapter three of her book where she goes into detail about it. You’ll find that extract in today’s show notes at fitnessbusinesspodcast.com. Now, back to the show.
Chantal: Kristen, we like to finish each of our shows with what we call “fitbispiration,” and I’m hoping you can share with us three ways that we can develop. I’m going to say millennials and gen Z. What age group is gen … You say “gen Z,” don’t you?
Kristen: It’s “gen Z.” I don’t …
Chantal: Gen Z. Gen Z. What age group is gen Z?
Kristen: They say that the millennial generation ends around 2002, so I believe it’s anyone who is just born after 2002.
Chantal: Anyone after 2002. Okay, so let’s bundle in those generations because that’s who you work with. It’s who many of us work with, so what are three ways you would recommend that we can actually develop them to be fantastic team members?
Kristen: I love this question. I think that the first thing is we have to teach. We can’t assume that anyone knows, and we can’t blame anyone for not knowing. The examples I gave earlier, not having great relationship skills. Certainly, I don’t mean to paint everyone with the same brush, but some certainly are great at relationships, but for those who aren’t, we need to have some empathy. Okay?
Kristen: We grow up with cellphones. We don’t know how. They don’t know how to communicate, so it’s our job to teach. Let’s teach people how to communicate. Let’s teach them to be independent thinkers. Let’s teach them how to give feedback. Number one is teach, and I think that applies to anyone. What job are you asking people to do, and what do you need to teach them to be able to be really good at their job?
Kristen: The second is form a real relationship with them. Get to know who they are. Get to know their background, where they come from, what their goals are, what their hopes are, what their fears are. Be vulnerable yourself. Share your own fears, dreams, goals, where you came from because vulnerability and relationships, that stuff builds trust, which later can lead to loyalty. I was reading a report from Gallop, and there was an alarming statistic. It said only 4 in 10 people believe that their leader truly cares about them. If the number was 8 in 10, we would see a 41% reduction in absenteeism.
Chantal: Which is huge.
Kristen: It just shows that when someone cares about you, you want to be there, so teach, build a real relationship, and the third is I would say invest in their dreams. Figure out what is it that they want to achieve, what goals … How can you help them? How can you give your time to helping them achieve those things? Whether it’s just sitting down with them and helping them make a plan, whether it’s introducing them to someone in the community who can help them with X, Y, or Z because when you do that, the message you sent is that, “You’re priority to me. It’s not just the business goals. It’s not just the business dreams. It’s you too,” and I think it makes people want to give you their best.
Chantal: Kristen, as you were talking through that and when you just said that statistic as well, it actually reminded me of a fantastic book, and we had the author on the show a couple of years ago now. I think it was Susan Fowler. I don’t know if you know this book, but she wrote a book called Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does. In that book, she actually … and she’s done a lot of research over the years, and she talks about three crucial questions that all leaders should ask.
Chantal: I was just thinking. If anyone hasn’t read that book, that is another fantastic book on leadership that you guys should absolutely check out. Also, check out the interview that we did. I’ll put a link in today’s show notes because I always reference this when I speak to the industry, and there’s just three questions that we can ask every single day that make a huge impact on the way that our teams feel, the way that we interact with them as leaders, and the way that they learn, so I’m going to put that information in the show notes.
Chantal: Kristen, as you were answering that, I had to. I couldn’t help myself. I had to google and find out the birthdays for gen Z. Gen Z. Gen Z. Okay, so everyone that’s interested, so gen Z birth dates start from 1995 and end 2012. Now, here’s a little test. Do you know that there’s a generation after that, and do you know what they’re called?
Kristen: I don’t.
Kristen: What are they called?
Chantal: Either did I until now. Okay, so after, so we’ve got the millennials, then we’ve got gen Z, and then we’ve got gen alpha.
Kristen: That’s a new one.
Kristen: Gen alpha.
Chantal: Yeah, alpha is 2013 to 2025.
Chantal: You heard it here first.
Kristen: Yeah. If you google all this stuff, you’ll see no one can decide on the exact birthdays. No one can decide …
Kristen: It’s such a mess, but you have like the people who are probably born 1995 to 2002 are a mix of … They’re on the cusp, right?
Kristen: They’re like gen Z, millennial mix.
Kristen: Gen alpha. Interesting. Good to know.
Chantal: There you go. As I said at the very beginning, I … Since I read your book or I listened to your book, and of course, you did the voiceovers for that, which was amazing. You have such a beautiful, warm personality. I love the lessons that you share on leadership, and I love your honesty in the experiences that you’ve had throughout your career today. I want to encourage everyone, A, of course, to read the book, Permission to Screw Up, and B, to check out all of the work that you’ve done online because you’ve got some fantastic videos, and interviews, and stuff like that online. I’m going to connect up some of those to our show notes.
Chantal: Look, I really hope that … I hope that we have the opportunity to meet one day. I hope that you can do some work maybe with the fitness industry at some stage because as I said, I think the lessons are just so relevant, so thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today on the show.
Kristen: Ugh, thank you. I can’t believe it’s already over.
Chantal: I know.
Kristen: Thank you so much and just … My final message to everyone is I know it’s so hard. Leadership is such a hard job. It’s also the most rewarding job, so keep doing what you’re doing. Whoever said, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” why is that the phrase because it’s not true? If you love what you do, you work really, really hard on that thing because you love it, so keep working hard. It matters, and even when you mess up, just remember that something good will come out of it just like it did when those 45 people quit.
Chantal: That’s a great message to finish on. Well, Kristen, thank you so, so much for joining us.
Kristen: Thank you.
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