Our partner and cofounder Krista Skidmore sat down with the Indiana Chamber to discuss leadership trends, measurement, and how FlashPoint has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of leaders and teams. Listen to the podcast above and read the transcript below!
00:00 [Intro music]
Tom Schuman: 00:10
Welcome to the Indiana Chamber. I'm your host, Tom Schuman and welcome to our first episode of 2020. Full disclosure, we're having the conversation here at the end of 2019 on a nice little snowy day here in central Indiana, but we're bringing it to you again as our first episode of 2020. Our season three conversations thus far have been very broad based. We started with a political and policy focus with Dana Perino and Donna Brazil, our keynote speakers at the Chamber's 30th annual awards dinner. We also stayed national with Joe Santana and Julie Benezet, the two of them discussing workplace culture diversity, adapting to change among other topics. I won't recap the rest of the episodes other than to mention you can enjoy any of them as well as previous seasons on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Leadership, however, has been a constant theme and we begin 2020 with a conversation on just that topic. Our guest is a partner and cofounder of FlashPoint Leadership Consulting, Krista Skidmore, welcome to the IN Chamber.
Krista Skidmore: 01:14
Thanks for having me.
Tom Schuman: 01:15
Absolutely. Let's start with the story of FlashPoint. Is it hard for you to believe that you and Andrea Davis, your partner, started this two-person HR operation about 17 years ago and it's evolved into what it has become today?
Krista Skidmore: 01:30
It is a little hard to believe, yes. You may have had a grandfather figure in your life who told you "time flies", you know, and you never believe them. And now I know that it really does. Right? But really, in all seriousness, I don't think I would have imagined I would do anything for 17 consecutive years, but FlashPoint, it has been fulfilling and challenging and has been different at different stages, which has been exciting. And I think reflecting on the firm generally I would say, we wanted to have a big impact. I think we had big dreams about, you know, how we could impact leaders and people in the workplace early on. But, I don't know that we would've thought we would've been working all over the globe at this point.
Tom Schuman: 02:18
Well talk about some of those ways you're helping impact leaders today. I know it's been an evolution. We'll get to that a little bit. Give the listeners a little bit of an overview of the type of work you do today.
Krista Skidmore: 02:29
You bet. So, in our early years, as I was mentioning, we were much more of a broad based HR consulting firm. So soup to nuts, all things HR. As we grew and really went more national in our client base, we narrowed into talent management in the 2008-2010 timeframe. And from that as we continued to sort of see where we played in the larger marketplace, leadership and working with leaders and teams really became kind of at the forefront of our work. We made a change to working solely with leaders and teams in 2016 and now find ourselves working with a lot of incredible brands, not just here in the U.S. but really around the globe now.
Tom Schuman: 03:14
So Krista, how much does the FlashPoint story kind of symbolize what you do with your clients? And by that I mean, again, talking about some of the ways you evolved, you grew and are you trying to do those similar type things with many of the companies and people that you work with?
Krista Skidmore: 03:30
Well, that's a great question. Yeah, as I think about how we've grown, right, I wish there was some sort of magic formula, right, that I could tell everyone to do. I can share maybe just a couple of things that I think worked well for us along that journey. I'll come back to the question around how our work mirrors our work with FlashPoint clients as well. But, I think one of the first things that we did well, Tom was really just being intuitive about the marketplace. Where are the trends going? What do clients need? We've made some pretty big shifts as I was mentioning, the three waves of FlashPoint over the years. Right. So just always kind of being in touch with the marketplace I think is a big part of it. The other commitment that we had early is to do the little things really well. And so what that means for us is nailing the client experience from the very beginning to the very end, right. And doing all the small things that make that client experience powerful. And I think because we focus so much there, we've had a lot of client retention over the years. We've grown with clients as they've grown and changed as well.
Tom Schuman: 04:40
That's a pretty universal concept. I was thinking of the number of times that I asked that question in interviews and in round tables about the importance of doing the little things. So absolutely. I can see what you mean there.
Krista Skidmore: 04:53
Yeah. And you know, I think our talent has been something else we've gotten right as well. When we dreamed of of FlashPoint, we wanted to create a place where people could come together who had similar passions around doing this work with leaders and serving in the way that we do. And in a collaborative way, not a competitive way. And I think that has been part of the differentiator that's made FlashPoint unique is really our abundance mentality that there's plenty for all. And bringing that attitude into our client work as well. We want our environment and our culture to be incredible because if our people are having a great experience, our clients are having a great experience. So that's something I think, you know, we haven't gotten it perfect over the last 17 years, but I think it's something that we care about very much and work on every day.
Tom Schuman: 05:54
Absolutely. You start off, you mentioned about trends, and I noticed in looking at the website and some of the writings that you do, a real focus on looking at those trends, looking at the research, we'll get to 2020 in a moment, but, talk a little bit about 2019. What were some of the trends going into that year and did things kind of play out as expected?
Krista Skidmore: 06:16
Yeah. You know, it's I think for us that process of really staying close is part of that intuition that I had talked to you about as well earlier. And something I think we've done well is not just going out and researching and we create an amalgam of all the trends that are out there and sort of synthesize that for our client base. But I think part of what makes that work unique is that it actually does flow into how we work with clients and to the projects that we do. Now 2019 for us, was really a year of focusing on design of programs and really thinking of things, not just as events or workshops, but rather longer term experiences that we take a leader through giving them time to adopt to apply what they've learned in their environment. The 2019 trends are available here if you want to dig in to them more.
Krista Skidmore: 07:14
But at a high level, it was things like the the fact that leader needs and preferences are changing, how learners want to learn in the classroom, virtually et cetera. All of those aspects are shifting. Measurement has become more central to what we do. Mentoring and coaching are on the rise. We're integrating that into many of the programs we do so that if you think about as an example, a six month long leadership experience versus going maybe to a one day or half day workshop, really creating the opportunity where that learning is spaced out over time and where we're weaving in between things like working with a coach or working with a mentor, or doing some virtual learning as well. So, these experiences are a big part of what we predicted 2019 would hold. And, with a lot of intention, several of our clients have been seeing greater results.
Tom Schuman: 08:12
And, some of those trends will continue going forward. And we'll get to some, maybe some additional things you're seeing for the year ahead. You talked about measurement there as I jumped around a little bit, the importance of measurement. We hear from the, you know, the business audience listening in the day, it's return on investment no matter what it is. Talk about how that applies in your field and what are some of the ways that you can kind of help measure the impacts of the work you do?
Krista Skidmore: 08:42
Yeah, so our, our whole brand promise Tom, is based on creative and measurable solutions that make leaders and teams more effective. So if we aren't good at the measurable, we're missing, you know, sort of one of the key aspects. Yeah. So, in fact, kind of an interesting story that's really where FlashPoint comes from, from a naming perspective. The "Flash" being the creative, the "Point" being that disciplined measurable aspect of what we do. And so, because it's our brand promise, we make sure that every client has a measurement plan in place. That can look different for different clients. For example, some of our clients care a lot about how they can promote current leaders into higher level positions over time. So the promotability of leaders, that's an important measure. So after they go through a leadership experience, how many have been promoted into higher level roles? For some it's about employee engagement and really engaging employees. And that could be through stronger teams, that could be, perhaps through better coaching for high potential leaders to give them that ability to engage and retain their talent within their organization. So it's not a one size fits all. It looks different. And then our evaluation strategy is just a way for us to collect. Did the plan work? Is what we put in place actually happening for the client.
Tom Schuman: 10:09
So Krista, I've read that leaders want more choice, they want more control. One of the things that's taking place, how does that impact your organization and how do you help make that happen as part of your work with organizations?
Krista Skidmore: 10:23
Yeah, yeah. That's probably been one of the most important evolutions that we've had is bringing choice into the work. And I'll use an example of a client that we work with that we helped to create an 18 month choose your own adventure program. Training in that organization had been mandatory for years. They just, you know, they offered a set of courses. People had to go, they had to get so many hours in every year. And while it was counter intuitive at first, we floated this idea of creating this choose your own adventure model. And essentially what this would allow is leaders working with their managers to pick their own courses that they'd attend, their own e-learning, whether they wanted to come to group coaching sessions, lunch and learns, presentations by senior leaders. So there was sort of a cafeteria menu of options. But leaders could really hone in on what was most important for their function, for their role, etc.
Tom Schuman: 11:25
So it sounds like it became what's best for that person as opposed to this mandatory "let's all gather in the conference room" and learn, go learn. Now you've got a choice.
Krista Skidmore: 11:37
So what choice does is it brings intrinsic motivation into the mix. Right? So I'm choosing. And what the client found was that they increased substantially -- almost to 80% participation, where they had only 40% participation before in a mandatory program -- they increased to 80% in a choice program. Which again, counterintuitive, but, when I can design my own path, my own learning, what's important to me, I tend to be more engaged in that learning.
Tom Schuman: 12:07
No, I get it. I think it makes, I think it makes perfect sense.
Krista Skidmore: 12:13
Tom Schuman: 12:14
Mmm. Okay. I said we promised a little, a bit of a look ahead and we talked about 2019 trends. What are we seeing for 2020 the year ahead? What are some things that stand out in that leadership world?
Krista Skidmore: 12:25
Sure. Yeah. So, spoiler alert: We are going to be having a 2020 trends webinar coming up in the first of the year in January. But for our friends at the Chamber audience, we'll give you a little bit of a preview, a little whetting of the appetite.
One of the things that we are seeing is the rise of teams. So as organizations you've probably read and heard a lot about agile and organizations working in more decentralized environments, the importance of a leader and their team working incredibly well together. That leader being able to enable that team to act, to inspire a shared vision within that team, to get them thinking more innovatively, to problem solve, more creatively going forward. That rise of teams and the importance of that we anticipate being a big part of the 2020 focus for a lot of organizations.
Krista Skidmore: 13:28
The second piece that I'll preview is really around our millennial leaders. So a lot of times I think when we think about that audience and that generation in particular, we may be thinking, Oh, they just entered the workplace. The fact is they are the people leaders of today, about 50% of millennials hold management positions globally inside of our companies. Right? And so if you think for just a minute about the number one complaint we have always heard from our clients is that people are put into management positions because they were this: the best sales person becomes the sales manager. You've heard that before Tom, right? And so we never trained them on how to be people leaders, right? We are at a precipice right now where we're about to repeat that same mistake over again. So, we think it's critical that we begin investing in that block and tackle management skill development for our millennial leader population before it's too late, before they're seasoned managers with 10 years experience and no development to speak of. They're hungry for it, they want it, they want to be great leaders. We're really eager to see how that generation is going to positively impact the workplace going forward. So that's a second sneak peek preview.
Tom Schuman: 14:48
Wow. We appreciate that. And that allows me to mention, I talked about some of the podcasts in this season. We did a great conversation a few months ago, Katie Ittenbach of SMARI, a Carmel area research company. She's 33, I believe now, but took over the company when she was 30, that our father started a number of years ago. And it just a really true millennial leader who understands how to work with different generations and being a part of that younger generation. So yeah, look forward to hearing much more on that. Like we talked about return on investment. What about sustainability? When I thought as we were getting ready for this, I was thinking, whether it's that mandatory trading, whether it's that voluntary training, the number of times that you go and you'll learn some things and you come back and you try to implement them and maybe you do, but then when you get a couple of months down the road, it's hard to recollect, think back on what it is now. I understand leadership's a little different. You got some, as you already explained, some longer term initiatives, but talk about sustainability so that the benefits for the client, for the leaders are still paying off down the road after you're finished with your direct engagement with them.
Krista Skidmore: 16:02
Yeah. That says this is the question of our profession for sure. It's something that we spend a lot of time thinking about. We've tried some new strategies in 2019, which I can share with you. I think one of the things I want to start with around this question is how incredibly empathetic we are to leaders. The job is not easy. People aren't easy. We people aren't easy. I know this because I'm one too, right? I have people I manage. It's challenging. They're pulled in a lot of different directions, right? They've got a lot of responsibility, work. Most of them are working managers. So they're rolling up their sleeves, doing work along with managing others. So I think with that empathy comes the question, how do we reach them in a way that is in their day to day environment, right? That makes it as easy as possible to apply the learnings. And so, yeah, the experiences help. So as you mentioned, that's a big part of it. But we're using technology now. So we, we have a reinforcement app that we use where we can push bite-sized learning and content out to managers. Things like videos, maybe a question on how they're maybe applying something they learned in the session. It could be inspirational quotes. It could be a template that they could use to help prepare for a coaching session.
Tom Schuman: 17:31
So some of that almost constant reinforcement, so to speak, of many of the lessons that you've shared during, during the coaching experience.
Krista Skidmore: 17:38
Yeah, that's exactly. And I think the big thing there is just encouraging leaders. Try to do one more thing tomorrow that you didn't do yesterday. Right? Don't think of being a leader as this huge effort that requires just tons of time and energy, right? Cause if that's your mindset, you're not thinking like a leader. A leader just does more tomorrow of things that help engage and retain and help connect and build relationships with their teams. Right? And if you just do a little bit more of that tomorrow, you're a better leader. Each and every day.
Tom Schuman: 18:11
Lots of little bits will add up to great achievements. That's a great way to look at it. Krista, I'm sure as you enter a relationship and become aware of situations, that they vary greatly. But can you give the listeners a bit of an example maybe of a challenge that you stepped into, a project that maybe it took a different route than what you expected. And again, what are some of the things that you, your team were able to do to kind of overcome that and, you know, get that client headed in the right direction?
Krista Skidmore: 18:44
No, that's a wonderful question and one that we've had an exciting time facing this year at FlashPoint. So we have had the opportunity to work on a culture transformation within a manufacturing plant that's the chance to impact 10,000 people's work lives. By working with 650 leaders from the very top of the organization, all the way down to our frontline supervisors. And the challenge given to us is "Hey, look, within our culture, it's very blame oriented. There's just a lot of challenge with the pointing of the fingers and people working in silos, not thinking about how to solve problems across the board." There's generational issues, multicultural issues as well, it's a pretty global organization. And so the perspectives and lenses that people bring to that workplace create a very complex environment.
Krista Skidmore: 19:48
And so what we've developed is a six month program that will have a lot of different elements, but every single people leader in that plant will go through this program. We are about a quarter of the way through, but, the early impacts have been incredible so far. We're seeing people band together in ways that they didn't to solve problems in the business in a way that they didn't. And we're training them on things like how to think more like a leader. What are my core values? What's my leadership purpose? What's my team's purpose? How do I communicate that to them? So they see a broader line of sight. How do I get them collaborating more with each other in a more cooperative and less blame oriented environment? And ultimately then coaching skill development.
Tom Schuman: 20:36
Is it somewhat rare to work with an organization or a group of leaders that large? That 650 was a pretty overwhelming number when I heard that.
Krista Skidmore: 20:46
Yeah. It was overwhelming to me the first time too! It is a unusual opportunity, especially from the top down. That that is one of the unique aspects of this and because you're working with so many leaders, the chance to impact a culture through our work. And that's very exciting. Yeah.
Tom Schuman: 21:05
Krista, a little bit about yourself. You earned your degree in business management and psychology from Anderson University, one of our fine schools here in Indiana and later a law degree from IU McKinney School of Law. Talk about that a little bit. How beneficial is that law degree in your work today? And it sounds like a bit of a combination of all the factors you had in your collegiate work.
Krista Skidmore: 21:29
It is a little bit of a combo I would say. People have often asked me, as I think about what am I most using from my educational background, business, psychology or law? And I would say it's a toss up given the day, right? So the business side, certainly running a business, being an entrepreneur, you know, I have to be deep in accounting and finance and marketing and sales and understand those aspects of things. But the psychology side, like organizational development and social psychology and the science of how and why people change, and getting leaders to do different behaviors. That piece we're using and I've used in my client work every day. When I thought about an advanced degree, it felt like an MBA would be too similar, and I really wanted to push myself and try something different.
Krista Skidmore: 22:20
Diversity is after all one of my top five values. So I wanted a really unique experience. So decided to go to law school and I remember my first night of law school. So imagine you're with me, right? So there are 200 people in class and I was a night student, so I worked all day and did the evening program for four years at IU. And I remember that first night. There were five people who walked out in tears. The two people who got called before me they eked through, they made it through. And then I got called on the first night of law school to argue a point of view, which as it turned out was not the side of the argument I agreed with. And I had this incredible epiphany that night about that law school was not going to be about all the knowledge I would gain, but it was really going to change how I thought and what I would say I took away from that experience was now this I think important ability, especially in today's world, of seeing things from multiple vantage points.
And I see this flowing into like how I see the world, how I interact with people. It influences things like my community involvement and my work around equity and inclusion, not just in the workplace, but in the arts and in our culture here in Indiana.
Tom Schuman: 23:43
So yeah, an immediate lesson, the first night of law school.
Krista Skidmore: 23:47
It punched me right in the face, Tom!
Tom Schuman: 23:49
But you were able to get right back up. Did not knock you down. So Krista FlashPoint, you, the rest of the FlashPoint team, you work with a variety of organizations, share your expertise in a number of different ways. I happen to be a student, I guess of one of your longest running programs we have here at the chamber, Supervising and Managing People. Talk about that. We offer that program, I believe now six times a year. Always, always sells out, small interactive classes. But what are some of the things that make that so special? What makes that program work?
Krista Skidmore: 24:29
Yeah, it's been an incredible partnership with the chamber and I think as we've talked about earlier, leading is hard and I think leaders are gravitating toward those very practical programs that give them tips and techniques, things that they can use right away. That part of Supervising and Managing People I think really resonates. In addition to that, they get to know themselves a little more, which I think is a really important part of the program. We use a DiSC assessment, which helps them understand how they manage their style. How does that impact things like how they delegate or how they communicate. So I think that's an important piece.
Tom Schuman: 25:09
So you're almost learning a little bit as much about yourself to help you be a better leader as opposed to here's the lessons you need to take out to manage people.
Krista Skidmore: 25:19
Yeah. Cause it starts from within, right? If I don't know how, if I don't understand myself, how in the world could I lead others and more than likely, no one's going to want to follow me. Right? And so I think the Chamber's program is also beneficial because it brings leaders from different organizations, different walks of life together into one room. So it just jam packs the learning, right? Because not only are you learning from a facilitator, but you're learning from your peers, from others who are maybe in a different industry that gives you maybe a different perspective than what you had before. I think that's one of the things in the evaluations for Supervising and Managing People that we see time and time again is just that is such an important part of what you offer.
Tom Schuman: 26:03
Krista you kind of mentioned a little bit, some of the things you like to do outside of the office, but how about your spare time under some of the things you enjoy doing, hobbies that you have.
Krista Skidmore: 26:13
These days I don't feel like I have much spare time, but I do. I do enjoy that. Because our client base is all around the country and we travel a lot, my time here is very precious to me. I'm really committed to community and to Indianapolis. I live in the downtown area and I've gotten involved in a lot of organizations volunteering. It's sort of, part of my DNA, it's kinda how I grew up and I think it's a responsibility all corporate leaders have, right? And all entrepreneurs have to give back and model that. I've tried to set an example for my team and encourage them to get engaged and volunteer their time. I've had an opportunity to work on some really cool things. I worked on the steering team for the transit referendum here in Indianapolis, which was really fascinating, interesting, bringing real mobilization, to our urban core.
Krista Skidmore: 27:14
I've had the chance to chair a steering committee called Velocity with Downtown INDY to build the strategic plan for the city. That was an incredible process. And then various boards of directors, The Arts Council, Indiana Sports Corp, and so on. And in all of those experiences, I've gotten more than I've given, I'm sure of that. Lifelong friendships, a feeling of gratification and in giving back. And, you know, other spare time things. I love to travel, so I love that diversity of experiences. I've been everywhere from Seoul, Korea to Tokyo to all over Europe, and have lots more ahead for me.
Tom Schuman: 28:00
Oh, that forces me to ask what's number one on the wishlist then as far as travel destination?
Krista Skidmore: 28:10
I love that question! Well I would say my number one right now is doing an Australia trip. So that's one of the continents I've not been to. So very excited about that.
Tom Schuman: 28:20
I had a chance to go there a couple of years ago. You will enjoy it. Yes. We went and saw tennis, went to the Australian open tennis tournament, saw some cricket matches there, traveled to Melbourne, Sydney, a couple areas and would like to go back and see more.
Krista Skidmore: 28:35
Well that's high praise, that makes me even more excited.
Tom Schuman: 28:38
All right. My last question. This, this one's comes out of left field, but just a little bit. Anybody who listens to our podcasts on a regular basis this season. The final question is what does success mean to you? And when I asked that question, it's certainly, it can be from a professional basis. It can be personally, but just to ask people to kind of share a little bit of their thoughts, their perspective on what does success mean to you?
Krista Skidmore: 29:05
I love the left field question. Well, the first thing my mind goes to is really being true to myself and my mission, which is all around potential, you know? And so imagine here I am. I get to hit my feet to the floor every day, doing leadership development work, which you know, is just completely aligned with my values, who I am, the impact I want to have in the world. And success to me means that I am causing driving and fostering the release of potential in everyone around me. And if I can go to bed at night knowing that I've done that for at least one person, that's success to me.
Tom Schuman: 29:47
As you said in kind of the ways that people need to learn a little bit every day. So, you know, one client at a time or one leader at a time for a time. That's right. Excellent. Krista, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate the conversation and your insights.
Krista Skidmore: 30:03
Thank you for having me!
Tom Schuman: 30:07
You've just heard the conversation with Krista Skidmore, partner and co founder of Indianapolis based FlashPoint Leadership Consulting. You can learn much more at flashpointleadership.com.
Tom Schuman: 30:17
Just a couple couple of quick chamber items as we wrap up for chamber members. January 6th Mark the debut of the new chamber insider newsletter. This Monday morning weekly email message provides a quick video story and links highlighting key chamber events and activities. It's an easy, convenient way to connect to your chamber resources. The insider replaces the previous biweekly biz report, e-newsletter. Also coming up on February 11th is the annual chamber day dinner. This year's keynote speaker will be general John F. Kelly, a 45 year United States Marine Corps veteran. Now retired, general Kelly served our country in Iraq, acted as secretary of Homeland security, and served as former white house chief of staff and president Trump's administration. You can find tickets at indianachamber.com under special events. The first 2020 issue of Biz Voice magazine is out with a look at Indiana history by the decades. Our next IN Chamber conversation will accompany that as we sit down with Ray Boomhauer author and longtime editor of Indiana Historical Society's Traces magazine. Thank you, as always, for listening to the IN chamber.
31:31 [Outro music]