Unlocking Healthy Relationships Through Open Communications With Alex Tremble

Hi, welcome to another episode of Unlocked. I'm Skot. Today we have Alex Tremble on the call. Now, I was previously a guest on Alex's show and I said, "I've got to have this guy on my show because you give and you take." But I just wanted to take, because everything he said was so good. It was really, really fun being on his show, the Executive Appeals podcast. So if you haven't checked that out, go ahead and check that out.

Alex is an award-winning speaker. He's an author, executive, and leadership expert who advises a lot of senior level leaders on how to shape their company's culture and attract, retain, and develop diverse and highly effective leaders. He is the author of two best selling professional development books. One is "Reaching Senior Leadership," and number two is "The GPS Guide to Success."

I'm excited about what we're going to talk about on this show. We dive into the D&I space a bit, but it's really about walking the talk. And I know we've talked about that quite a bit on this show as far as D&I and a lot of other principles and involving culture and communication. Alex really takes it to another level, and I'm really appreciative of his viewpoint and the things he brings to the table. So stay tuned because here we come, Alex. Alex, it is so cool to have you, man. How you doing?


Dude, I couldn't be freaking better at, can I say freaking? I couldn't be better right now because I'm talking to you and you're the highlight of my day, as always.


That's good. I thought the doctor was the highlight of your day.


Well, that it was the highlight that I'm not obviously dead, but after that it's you. It's you.


Okay, fair enough. I'll take that. I'll take that. Okay, so here we go. We're going to swing into, I'm just going to hit it right now. The D&I, question. D&I and I is a big topic. It's been a big topic for the last several years here, but for organizations wanting to develop and support a culture of D&I, what's their problem? What's the thing that is undermining their ability to actually do that?


Okay, that's a great question. That's a great question. So the first answer that comes to mind, and I'll be honest, is that there is a very strong focus on educating people of why implicit bias, why microaggressions, why different isn't wrong. There's a very strong emphasis on that stuff, and I think that's important, but it's not enough. It's not enough to have these courses and these groups. So you can speak openly and authentically and everyone can feel warm and fuzzy. Yet, you're not being intentional with hiring people into leadership positions. You're not being intentional with putting those individuals and providing those people opportunities to be in leadership programs. We're not only their learning leadership skills, but you're actually introducing them to the executive leaders, to the boards and so on and so forth.

We already know, Harvard has said this, Harvard came up with a study last year that we all have already known for years, is that your relationships dictates to a large degree how successful you are in life. And so if we know which research has shown multiple times, that 80% of jobs are filled via what I like, I like to call the black market, it's relationships. Now, if you're not being very intentional with putting these individuals from groups that you say you want to foster, you want to grow and focus on, if you're not being very intentional putting them in programs and in situations where they can build very intentional and authentic relationships with the decision makers, then you're not really serious. It feels good to be able to say you had a nice program and post it on your social media and all that good stuff, but what are you really doing?


So I like that. I like that. So when they implement D&I training programs, so companies will bring this in. And some are truly authentic in wanting to do it, others are doing it, it's a PR kind of thing and in some way, shape, or form. But the problem there is that I see in, and it seems that you say the same things. You say that one of the big problems here is that companies try to train their problems away. So I love how you said that. I haven't said it that way, so I might steal that, but they try to train their problems away. Expand on that for me. What's up with that?


So I really feel for those individuals who serve as chief learning officers, those people who serve as chief diversity officers, and then they're given that box to work within. Honestly, if you really think about your, they're the leadership teams are really setting them up. Let's say let's be more positive, for success at a very lower level. That's how I'm going to be real more positive. So the reality is that, so I serve as chief culture officer within an organization. I work with organizations to help them build the culture required. When you think about culture, you don't think about training. Training is one aspect, but you have policy, you have communications. And communications, as you know, Skot, it's extremely important. So your images, your messages, your languages, your language has to be in alignment with what you say you value as an organization.

But your policies also have to be in alignment with what you say you value as an organization. If you say you value different types of relationships and households and partnerships, but your policy says, "Oh, you can only take sick leave if your wife or husband is sick." Now you're putting yourself in a situation where, what if someone doesn't have a wife or husband? What if they have a partner that is not deemed by that particular state to be such and such? Is your policies really promoting the diversity, equity, inclusion that you're talking about?

But it doesn't stop at policies. What about your programs? How are your programs designed? How are they funded? How are you making sure that you're recruiting the right members and organizations to participate in those programs and partner with them? Not only you have your program, do you have the right organizations that you're partnering with in regards to your vendors?

If you're talking about D&I, it is not a nice warm training fuzzy moment where we can talk about how much we love and appreciate each other. It's real, it's behavior. What are you literally doing to not only talk about, but show that you're invested in these different communities? And again, this is why I tell people who are in the D&I realm and in the training realm specifically, that they have to be very intentional at working with their, hopefully they're reporting to the CEO or someone in that kind of spectrum to say, "Hey, look, if you want me to make progress on this, this is not just a D&I thing. It's not a nice workshop thing. This is not just a training thing. I need to have the ability to look across the organization to see where these tweaks can be made in order to really push us in this right direction."


Amen. Because here's the thing, we all go through this process. There's this tool I teach called the Apprenticeship Square and you know, got fore sides to the square. The top side is where we all start. It's kind of this unconscious incompetence space. It's like, "I don't know, I suck at this thing yet." And that's where we live just in this. We don't know what we don't know, and we're just kind of oblivious to these things. So with the D&I lens on that, there may be companies out there that, or others, leaders of small businesses or whatever that just may be going about their day. And this was totally me. I'm going to put myself in this space.

Years ago when I was running my agency, I was very accidental. And I hired people of color and I hired people of different genders and nationalities and all types of things, but I was not intentional about it at all. It was very accidental. And my wife was like, "Well, you did that." And I was like, "Yeah, I did. But I wasn't doing it intentionally. I just kind of accidentally did it." Until I got to a point on the other, the next side of your square is your conscious incompetence. So you go from being unconsciously incompetent. I don't know. "I suck at this thing," to "Now I know I suck at this thing. I'm consciously incompetent." Now I go, "Oh man, I got to do something about this." So a lot of companies were, aw, became aware of that.

And then they started just swing into this space of, "Now I'm consciously competent. Now I'm starting to get the hang of this. Now we're implementing programs." But then what you're saying is that now we're starting to train, now we're starting to do these things and we're starting to think that it's going to fix our problem, but then something else is going to cause a hiccup that's going to cause us to go back into this space of conscious incompetence again, right? We're going to swing back and forth and go, "We got this."


Oh absolutely.


"Wait, no, we don't." And we're going to get called out on certain things or maybe called up to be better than we are and all these things. So in the vibe of the world that we live in, where does that fit into your philosophy of D&I? The companies that want to be intentional, but they don't really know they suck at that thing yet, how do we help them become more aware and then help them move around that square in an intentional way?


One of the best compliments I get from both clients who hired me to speak at their organization and consult as well as the actual participants, is that I love this phrase. They say, "Alex, you're real." Yeah, it's such a easy small phrase, but, "You're just so real. You have honest conversations with us." And obviously I do it with a little bit of humor because honest conversations can be rough, but I want to be honest with people. So when you ask me that question, the first thing comes to my mind is, I'll be real with you. Ah, see I'm being real.


You better. People are saying it, you better.


The reality is, I honestly don't care about whether someone likes Black people. I'm Black guy, everyone, FYI, mean I don't care if you don't like Black people. I don't care necessarily that you don't like any particular group. I mean, that's your prerogative. And I tell people that organization, I was speaking out in New York and they were asking me about this. I'm like, "Look, I don't particularly care because I can't control how you think. I can't. I can do my best to influence you. I can try to educate you. I can try to appeal to the better good of you, right?

By the end of the day, I cannot control how you think and what you think, but I can control your behaviors. I can hold you accountable for your behaviors every day of the week. And if you treat me inappropriately, then we have to deal with it. If you treat women inappropriately, then we have to deal with it. If you treat LGBT, if you actually do things behavior wise that are inappropriate and not align with the organization, then we need to deal with them. We have to be very serious when we deal with it." And so what I tell organizations that if they want to be serious about this, the first thing it comes to mind, the first thing that you really need to be focus on is what are your organization's values? That's the first one.

Now, there's a lot of organizations that had spent the time energy to create a nice pretty list of some words that gets everyone warm and fuzzy. That's great, but it's not enough. Because what do those words mean? How do you define those values? Okay, great. Now we've taken that next steps to actually say, "What does quality mean? What does being a customer focused mean?" We've actually defined that for your specific organization, but it doesn't stop there. "What are the literal behaviors that shows that you're showing that you have quality?"

Don't just say, "Oh, quality is X, Y, and Z." No, no, no. What are the literal behaviors that people can demonstrate to show that you're showing quality? And if you're talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, and that's hopefully part of your organization's values, what does it mean to support and foster D&I within your organization? What are the literal behaviors? And once you've identified those behaviors, now you can create interview questions. Now you can create performance evaluations based on that. Now you can actually identify people within your organization who are displaying and promoting those behaviors, and you can award them. You can create marketing campaigns showing the imagery of people integrating those behaviors into their life. It's all about being, like you said, very intentional.

And again, I'll make this last point, and this is really crucial that everyone has to catch this. You have to catch this. It's not only about doing what I just said. The second part is understanding that you're going to get it wrong. You're going to make a mistake, you're going to try something. And it's, you know what? That didn't didn't fly, it didn't hit right. But if you are afraid of making a mistake, then you'll never do anything. So you have to be very intentional with your audience, with your employees, say, "Hey, look, this is something we're taking seriously. We're making real steps towards this. But look, I can promise you right now we're going to mess up. And when we mess up, we need you to communicate to us and let us know, Hey, how did we mess up? How could we do it better in the future?

And when you tell us this, we will do our best to then retool and go back out there. But we have to make sure everyone understands that if you try to act like we are perfect, then you're going to be very disappointed because no one is perfect. But I do promise that we're going to be getting better and better and better as we move forward.


What is the piece of advice that you would give to people of color who are wanting to move up the leadership ranks within their organization?


Network. Period. Again, I think I showed you 80% of positions are filled via relationship. 70% of positions are never even shared on the internet. They're never advertised widely. If you want to advance, it generally comes down to your relationships. Because I'll tell you right now, whoever it is, your people who are listening right now, I'm talking to you, the person who's listening, however good you are at what you do, I promise you, there's someone out there who's better than you. So you can't just rely on your skills. It's not just about your skills.

I'm actually writing a book, my next book right now, specifically on relationship building and networking. And I use an example that Chris Rock, he was doing an interview and his other actress said, "I really love fighting for every opportunity just because I'm a big name. I want to feel the hunger of fighting for the next opportunity." And she looked at Chris and she said, "Chris, you know what I'm talking about, right?" And Chris said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I want the job. I've worked really hard to build these relationships. I worked really hard to position myself. I want the job."

And I'll say that the same thing for me. I realize I am not the best at what I do ever, because there's so many people in the world. There's a billion people in the world. But what I can be very intentional about is building the right relationships with people so they know if they select me, they can trust me. They know that I'm going to show up. I'm a known quantity. I will not only do the job well, but I'm going to be loyal and I'm going to support them. I'm going to make sure not only I do well, but they do well and the organization does it well. That's what it is about building relationships. It's building that trust and the understanding that when someone pulls you in, you don't only have the skills, but they know they can count on you. And so that's what I would strongly recommend to individuals who are from underrepresented communities wanting to advance, is again, understanding that hard work is required. It's important, but that's not what's going to differentiate you from the next person. It's your relationships.


Gold, man, that's gold. I love it. Yeah, because I don't know, I sat there and when I was doing interviews with new designers, coming in and just graduating from school, and even when I was teaching, I was a class of, they're in their last semester about to graduate. And I was looking at all their books and I was doing critiques and things like that, and I said, "All of you are amazing. Look at all your books. You guys are good. You are all good. Your competition is through the roof. I interview people all the time and there are amazing designers out there. But I need something else from you. I need you to have a good chicken sandwich."

Everybody, you just need a good chicken sandwich or else you're not even going to play the game, okay? But what else are you going to give me? Are you going to come and ask me if you can refill my lemonade while I'm sitting there? Chick-fil-a little love. Yeah, but I'm saying, but love or hate Chick-fil-A, whatever, they still refill your lemonade when you want it. But that's what I'm talking about, what's that next level? And relationships is what you're talking about. And strategic relationships is something you really hone in on, right?




As far as that's concerned. And so your angle there with strategic relationships punch us with that really quick. What's that about?


So look, I was speaking with a woman who's a top executive at this Fortune 100 company a few years ago. And I was asking her, I'm like, "Hey, you are phenomenal at building relationship. The access you have is just extremely impressive." And I was like, "How did you learn this?" I love asking this question. And she say, "You know what? It's just natural. I just had it and I was not satisfied because that that's not, now you were saying there's a whole lot of people who just don't have it so that they can never have it, so they'll never advance to your level." And I said, "That can't be the truth."

So I turned to a lot of research. I did a number of surveys via LinkedIn with senior level leaders across different industries. I went and did obviously a literature review. My background's in IO psychology and industrial organizational psychology. So research and data is really important to me. And then in addition to that, I did a lot of interviews with executive leaders. And what I found was that each of them who are able to build and sustain very strategic relationships, they took a path of four different steps, four different phases, which I now call "The Four C Strategic Relationship Building Model." And it first begins with mindset change.

And I'll go through these real quickly. The first is mindset change. The second is internal clarity. The third is external clarity. And the fourth is behavior choice. Mindset is important. And they're in this order for very specific reasons. The mindset's important because if you don't have the right mindset. If you think networking is sleazy, if you think networking is a waste of time, if you think networking is, and one, it can be done when you have some extra time, then it doesn't matter what I teach you because you'll never do it. So mindset is really important. You have to have the right mindset to understand this is not only a nice to do, this is a critical thing for your career, and it doesn't make you sleazy. It makes you able to actually serve your client, serve your customers, and honestly build the resources necessary to take care of you and your family. So mindset change is the first one.

The second is internal clarity. Now everyone likes to talk about relationships. When it comes to, "Oh, how do I get to know Skot's so awesome. How do I build that relationship with him?" It's not about Skot, not yet. It's about you. It's about understanding what are your goals? What are your inspiration? What resources do you have access to? Once you understand all those key questions about yourself, you'll now know who do you need to be building relationships with? If you want to be an astronaut, then you know what, Skot's a great guy, but maybe you'll want to be talking to someone else. Maybe someone in NASA, right? But you don't know that until you've spent the time doing your own work on yourself.

And so the next one is then external clarity. Now we're talking about Skot, because we understand, I really want to get into leadership. I really want to get into branding. You know what? I need to talk to Skot. So where is Skot? What groups is Skot in? Who are his friends? Who are his enemies? What are his goals? His aspirations? How can I provide value to Skot? That's external clarity.

And then finally, the last thing, which everyone loves to start with, the first thing is behavior choice. Again, what are you literally doing and saying, what words do you use? Do you shake the person's hand and you look them in the eye? How do you go to networking events? How do you scan the room, make sure you are being seen? All those things are behavior choice, but as you see, it's last for a reason. You need to have the mindset change. If you don't have the right mindset, you won't do anything. You need to have the internal clarity. So which direction to head. You need to have external clarity because now you have to understand how you can provide value to those individuals you want to build relationships with. And the last is behavior choice. Now you actually say, "Okay, this is how I'm going to talk. This is how I'm going to speak. This is how I'm going to dress," and so on and so forth.


Dude, so smart. You probably have some Venn diagrams and all kinds of stuff like this show, right? Everybody's got a Venn diagram. Alex, you got one? You if you don't have one.


Well, I have a nice pretty one being added in the book I'm writing right now.


Yes, you do. Yes you do. That's amazing, man. Well, hey, you're a gift, man. Thank you. Keep spreading the word.


I loved being here. Thank you so much, Skot. I just appreciate you and I appreciate all your listeners. Because the reality is there's a lot of people who say they want to do better, they want to grow, they want to get better, but there's a lot of people who don't do it. And so the people who are listening, you are actually taking a step towards getting better. So just give yourself a freaking round of applause and stay connected. I'd love to reach out and talk to you. Thank you, Skot.


Thank you, Alex. I love this principle of what behaviors can we demonstrate? I'm hard on this values thing as Alex is, of we throw these value words out there and a lot of them are not very original. But I think in how you execute and how you live them, that's what's original. That is what's going to set you apart internally and externally when you're working with clients, customers. And when you're trying to bring on and retain employees, that is key and they act as a guideline. I love his application of those values. So we can use them in interview questions, we can use them in performance reviews. All these types of things, we got to make sure we're hiring people that believe what we believe, that represent what we represent and that are in line with the things that we're trying to do. So use them as guide ribs, use them to kind of hone in on the people we want to work with and the people that want to work with us.

So I love that. I love his four Cs of the mindset change, internal clarity, external clarity and behavior choice. It's very empowering when we are able to understand what we need to do to build healthy and strategic relationships. So thank you Alex, again for your words there. If y'all want to find out more about me? You can go to SkotWaldron.com. Please like, share, comment, subscribe to my YouTube channel. It's where you'll find a lot of these as well as other helpful leadership and culture videos on communication. Visit my website, tag me and like me on LinkedIn and connect with me there. I would love to hang out with you and talk there. So thanks everybody for joining me on another episode of Unlocked. I'll see you next time.

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