Roy: From Trouble Maker to Rain Maker

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Listen Now: Roy: From Troublemaker to Rain Maker

Do you have somebody on your team that is competent and capable, a “latent leader” who can rally the troops, but does so? in the wrong direction?

That was Roy, a self-described “trouble maker” using Slack to do “the devil’s work,” but today he is an invaluable asset and VP of Strategic Accounts at UniKey Technologies hear Roy and COO at UniKey, Lee, describe his journey and transformation.

In episode 2, I talked with Lee Odess, COO at UniKey Technologies about their bold decision to invest heavily in their leadership development, culture, and team cohesion. Roy’s story is a specific example of the impact of such an investment.

Check out this episode!

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[:25]Laura: A year ago, VP at UniKey Technologies, Lee Odess, wanted to fire Roy Johnson. Roy was smart, competent and capable, but he was a “trouble maker” using Slack to do the “devil’s work.”

Lee: – “He was on my list, if you would”

Laura: Today, Lee says he wants Roy to be his “right hand.” :23

Lee: – “He’s the steady rock that I can rely on, so I would say we’ve turned a massive corner”

Laura: When Phil Dumas hired me to consult with UniKey Technologies, it was because they had grown to a size where typical organizational dynamics were now forming. Everybody, with the best intentions, started to form opinions about how things should work, and “camps” were forming around those perspectives. This is not fun for any leader to deal with, and certainly not for a founder who thinks he has signed up to just GSD and make cool..stuff.

But this happens a lot in companies, where well-intentioned individuals are raising impassioned opinions

Lee:– “When I looked at wanting to evoke change into the organization and really through the conversations with Phil, the CEO, and the leadership team of where we wanted to go, being perfectly open, Roy was an example of the direction we wanted to go away from.”

He had some of that natural leadership. He was more mature, he had experience. This wasn’t his first job, where we have a lot of guys that it was their first job. Um, he had all those things but he took it, it seemed like, upon himself to be the voice in a lot of ways. in an open forum if he stood up for the group and said something, instead of driving for consensus or doing it in a manner that would help it be more constructive, I think, than flogging the leadership team in front of the entire organization.”

Laura: So how do you take an individual who has a lot of competence, capability and potential, but is a “trouble maker” and turn things around for that person? Oh, and what if that person is also a vehement skeptic of “interpersonal” and “leadership” training sessions? I invited Roy onto the show, and asked him to introduce himself and share his first impressions of me and my work.1:45

ROY: Hi, I’m Roy Johnson. I work for UniKey Technologies. UniKey is a company that was founded to move your entire keychain into the phone in a way that’s more convenient than a key. So, at UniKey, my job is to head up our commercial products division. Um, I’ve been doing it for about two years now.

LAURA: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for being here with us.

ROY: Yup. You’re welcome.

LAURA: when you started with UniKey, can you remember the first time that you heard about me, about Laura, or about Key Talent Solutions? What was that like for you?
ROY: Um, yeah, I can remember it. It was, um, we were still at our old office, which was very small, and we were — I was walking to lunch with a group of engineers and, uh, you were talking to our CEO, Phil, at a picnic table and I was like, “Who’s this person that Phil’s talking to?” and I forget the person but they basically said, “Oh, yeah, that’s our company shrink.” I was, honestly, kind of speechless. I mean, ’cause we’re a startup, we’re a pretty small company so I found that very odd.
LAURA: And not exactly accurate. That’s pretty funny. So, could you– so your reaction was, “Well, wait a second. We’re a start-up. We have a what-now?”
ROY: Yeah, it was exactly what it was. So, um, it was pretty funny because I really didn’t know what to think of that. I mean, it seemed completely ridiculous to me, to be honest.
LAURA: Okay. Okay, did you ask anybody like, “What does she do here? Why do we have her?” Or did you just kind of accept it as that’s ridiculous but I’m moving on with my day?
ROY: Yeah, I just, I accepted it as ridiculous and just moved on.
LAURA: Okay, great. So, um, so you were aware of me. You’d seen me there, at the old offices. What do you remember about the first time that we had any real kind of conversation or interaction?
ROY: Uh, I think it was when you, you came and you started speaking to the group as a whole, just about different concepts like openness, vulnerability, and conflict resolution, and things like that. So, you were addressing the entire group instead of just the leadership team or the leadership team at that time. Because, initially, I think you were doing a lot of more executive coaching with just the leadership team and, at one point, UniKey decided to open that up to, you know, to where you had an opportunity to speak with everyone. And I think that was the first time.
LAURA: Okay. So, what was your honest reaction to the content that I talked about the first time? I’m already laughing at the face.


ROY: I honestly, I was like, “Good for her. She got ’em. This is complete horse shit.”
LAURA: “She fooled ’em.”
ROY: Yeah, like, I honestly had a lot of admiration for the business model because I mean, I personally did not think that any of it was worthwhile.

Laura: So Roy was not only a skeptic of the very work that could help him, but he was a self-described “trouble maker” using Slack to do the “devil’s work.”

Roy:– “So, we use Slack as a communication tool with UniKey and that was probably, you know, where I would say I did the devil’s work, as far as–
LAURA: Nice.
ROY: –as far as my– So, one specific example, and this is kind of, I guess, anecdotal, ways*. We take Doritos very seriously and, um–
LAURA: There’s no endorsements here, by the way.
ROY: So, there was a shortage and this just kind of was the incepetus* for me to just kind of spark a rebellion in a general sense of general conditions of our facilities. You know, of having snacks and, you know, why can’t we keep things stocked? And, again, it’s really kind of childish in a way, but it was, uh, I think just a general frustration that was developing so any time there was an avenue or an outlet for me to poke fun or, or to poke, you know, poke the leadership team, you know in the side and kind of rib* them a little bit, I would take it. And a lot of it, I realize too, is coming back from this desire to be popular and liked among the engineers because it was all done in jest and, you know, under the guise of good fun and it was never what I would consider outright hostile”

Laura: “So, one of the quotes from Roy, when I spoke with him, was he said that he was using, at times, Slack, to do the devil’s work.

LAURA: Oh yeah, yeah. That is the devil’s tool so that would be the devil’s work.”

Laura: While Slack has its benefits, like any communication medium it can be used to cause damage…

Lee: “it’s just, it’s a quick way to whip something out.
Laura: Yeah.
Lee: It’s like a hand grenade sometimes, down the hallway. ”

Laura: Let me be clear – Roy has always wanted only the best for UniKey Technologies, and his heart was always in the right place – he just didn’t realize that his approach was completely misaligned with what he was trying to accomplish. I asked Lee to tell me about his relationship with Roy from a couple years earlier.


LAURA: Okay. When I first got there, actually Roy was the first person I ran into–
LAURA: Oh, really?
LEE: –when I first got to the day, my first day. He answered the door.
LAURA: Oh, wow. Alright.
LEE: It was an epic moment of–
LAURA: I’ll bet.
LEE: –him unlocking the door and saying, “Who are you?” And then me telling him and then him walking away.
LAURA: Epic.
LEE: I just stood at the front and waited until people showed up. Um, yeah, that was day one.
LAURA: Wait, really? He didn’t let you in?
LEE: No, he let me in.
LEE: But he brought me into the lobby and then walked away.
LAURA: Well done, Roy.
LEE: Yes, it was very warm.
LAURA: That’s nice.
LEE: So, we’ve evolved since then. But now, uh, when I first met Roy, Roy to me was one of the ringleaders of disorganization within the company, I would say.
LEE: Yeah.
LAURA: Yeah.
LEE: Yeah, so he was, uh, he was on my list, if you would.
LAURA: Tell me about the list, what does that mean?
LEE: Well, no. When I looked at wanting to evoke change into the organization and really through the conversations with Phil, the CEO, and the leadership team of where we wanted to go, being perfectly open, Roy was an example of the direction we wanted to go away from.
LAURA: Yeah.
LEE: On the surface. I mean, there wasn’t a ton of deep conversations but just from, from looking at how we were functioning as a group, he was one of the ringleaders of sort of the direction we wanted to go against.

Laura: But, at a certain point…things started to shift. How in the world did this happen?

Well, a few things happened. First of all, the leadership team had learned how to communicate with their employees in a way that emphasized the message: “We believe in you and we need your help.”

Roy: “somebody reaching out to me and saying, you know, asking me to be part of a solution, um, was really what clicked in my mind. Like, okay, like you need to take some of this more seriously. And this, this is an opportunity for you to be heard and to get some of your ideas out there. It’s like, they’re asking for your help. Now’s the time to really change your way of thinking and step up.”

Laura: This does amazing things for employees. They immediately feel valued, and it puts you, the as the leader on the SAME TEAM as the employees.
So what kind of mindset does the leadership team have to be able to approach a “trouble maker” in this way? I asked Lee to tell me about his decision to invest in Roy’s leadership development. Roy and 4 other employees at UniKey participated in my 7-week workshop called Leading a Grounded Life.


LAURA: “Um, he was handpicked. There were five people from UniKey that participated in the Leading a Grounded Life workshop and he was one of them. Were you a part of that decision?
LEE: I was.
LAURA: Can you explain that?
LEE: Yeah, no. So, it’s an opportunity for a couple things. Number one: a group of people that, like I said, had those sort of natural leadership qualities that we were, we could see that if maybe harnessed properly, in the right direction, could make a good impact in the organization. As well as, I think, some people that it’s almost like a cry for help in a way, the way they were acting. So, giving them somewhat of, some training, if you would, or an outlet to be able to get guidance and training outside of it being something that comes from the leadership team. I also, we saw it as an opportunity to show that we’re investing in our people and this is a good way of doing it. It was brought to our attention by another person at the company about the group, that they wanted to go, and personally I think a lot of times those things are good if there’s a group that kind of goes together because they can shepherd the information back into the organization. They make connections deeper and tighter. So, when we looked at it, Roy was one of the people ’cause you could see there was this desire to want to succeed but it just needed to be harnessed in the right direction. So this was– and it wasn’t like he needed to go get any more, you know, embedded engineering training at the time. It was more about leadership skills and, you know, a lot of the leadership skills was more of a reflection on itself and sort of working on that to, to drive the growth that I think he needed.”

Laura: This does amazing things for employees..reaching out to say, hey, we need your help. They immediately feel valued, and it puts you, the as the leader on the SAME TEAM as the employees.

For the last couple years, UniKey Technologies has been learning concepts from the program Radical Collaboration® powered by The Human Element®. One of the first concepts I taught them is the idea of Red Zone and Green Zone.

In short, Red Zone means you are combative, competitive (internally and unhealthily), blaming, or otherwise defensive – looking for the “win.” Green Zone, in contrast, is focused on collaboration, being solutions-oriented, and seeing others as partners instead of opponents. Being in the Green Zone means that you are on the same team, even when you are not on the same page.

This idea of being on the “same team” is so ingrained at UniKey now that it has its own code name: “sam-e-tam” (pronounced sum-i-tem) It’s possible that at one of our leadership sessions, I wrote a little sloppily on the flip chart and “same team” looked like “sameteam” and then somebody asked, “What is ‘sam-e-tam’?” They don’t let me get away with anything….

So, back to Roy…when leadership approached him and showed that they wanted to invest in him, that was the moment that Roy Johnson decided that he would open his mind, even just a crack, to the work of self-awareness and leadership development.6:11

Roy: “I told myself, “I’m gonna commit to this. I’m gonna try this. UniKey is investing in me. They want me to be better.” And so, you know, I kind of said, “Alright, this can’t be free. This lady is really pulling the wool over their eyes and getting all their money so the least I can do is go into it with an open mind and try it.” And that’s what I did.”

Laura: In week 3, Leading a Grounded Life participants draw out their lifelines on a big piece of flip chart paper and share in small groups. They are asked to reflect on their lives, and identify big decisions they made, turning points, crucible moments, and positive jolts, but focus more on the meaning they took from the events, rather than the facts themselves. This had a big impact on Roy and impacted the way he built relationships with people at work.


Roy:– “Yeah, so I remember that I was expecting it to be very much about work. And, um, because that’s, in my mind, why I was there. And I was really surprised when, I remember very early on, things went really deep. Um, just into you know things that you’d experienced in your childhood and just mapping out significant events and, you know, losses, or just other things that happen as a part of life that shape you and I just remember kind of going through that and starting to understand how things that happened at various phases of my life were still affecting me now and how that, um, was driving my decision process and my fears and my behaviors. And it was terrifying at first, and scary, but then I remember feeling a lot safer, empowered, because it was like, “Wow. Okay, so I kind of understand what’s driving some of my thoughts and my feelings at a very base level.” And once you kind of understand the impact that your life experiences have had on you, it makes it a lot easier to be free of some of the negative things, or habits, that you know everybody goes through. And I just remember that at some point, along the way, when I recognized that, I was like “Wow, there’s a lot to this.” You know, it’s like, if it works for this one specific example of just recognizing how your past and your life experiences are still affecting you today, then what could happen if I’m just as open about all these other ideas?
LAURA: Okay. So, can you think of an example of a situation where you maybe noticed that you were about to behave or respond in a way that you had for most of your life but you were able to sort of catch it, you know, notice it, and then make a conscious choice to behave differently?
ROY: Oh yeah. So, there’s probably several, several examples that I could use. Some more recent than others. I think one thing is to just understand my personality type. I’m very much an alpha-type personality. I like to win, I’m very driven, um, competitive, and, uh, and that’s just always kind of the way that I’ve been. So that’s naturally can be carried over into work and sometimes it has a really positive effect and other times not so much. So one example I can think of is working with a partner of UniKey’s and, um, you know, there was some contention around, you know, do we proceed with a project you know one way or the other. And, you know, it’s one of those classic phone calls that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to where you go into it with this plan and it’s like oh, you know, okay, you’re gonna be the good cop and you’re gonna be the bad cop and it’s very, feels almost kind of manipulative but it’s this classic scenario and you’re trying to pick out who’s the good cop and the bad cop on the other side and you just go through this rigmarole and it’s very unproductive, ultimately. And, anyways, I remember having a conversation like that and I got off of the call and I would say by all intents and purposes, we had won, quote unquote, you know the position that we wanted to have is the one that ultimately wound up being decided on. Um, but I just remember kind of having this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that my counterpart, you know with this partner, I could tell that they were not happy. You know, I could tell that they felt like they had lost and, through the work that you and I had done, like that really weighed on me. And I was like, “Wow. Did I really win? What did I win?”
LAURA: Right.
ROY: You know? And I just started to go through this dialogue in my head of, “What is this? Do I– you know, I need to win. I need to be first. Is this really gonna get me what I want?” And I realized that, you know, I had kind of allowed or contributed to this failure because winning in that moment was really heady and, and I recognized that long-term that relationship was not gonna go well if this was the way that things happen. So, there’s a follow up call, that, you know, a follow-up weekly call that I have with this particular partner and, um, I was really, really nervous going into this call because it was just going to be me and this other person and I knew that they felt like they had, they had lost and, and you know they were, were not happy. And I was– I didn’t really want to do the call. And so it finally comes around and, sure enough, the previous conversation comes up and things start to get heated again. You know, there’s this back and forth of should we do it this way, should we do it that way? I need this from you, you won’t do that. And I could just feel the, that energy like building up at me again, almost like this adrenaline like, “Okay, we’re going to battle again. I’m — I’ve gotta win.” And at one point during that, I just said, you know it kind of all hit me and it’s like “Well wait a minute. Just stop for a second. You don’t have to win.” And that was such an empowering moment for me to just verbalize that in my head and say, “You don’t have to win” because it–that really wasn’t winning.
LAURA: Mm hmm. Right.
ROY: That was not gonna be a win. It’s like, and it was a habit, you know. It’s just this mindset that I think is natural for a lot of people, certainly for me, if you have that personality type, to not want to be wrong. Um, and so, I just decided to, to listen and to just, to just stop trying to respond with counter points and counter examples and speak over him and I, and I just listened. And, as I listened, I started to realize that, you know, this person did not feel heard. The perception on their side was that what their viewpoints were, were unimportant to me. That I didn’t understand what they really needed. And, as I started to process that, it– I, I recognized that wow, if I felt like that, if I felt like somebody wasn’t listening to me and my ideas weren’t important to them and they weren’t interested in doing what I wanted them to do, how would I react to that? And it just, it started to really disarm me to say, “My goodness, if I felt that way– what have I done to make this person feel this way? Like, this is a partner of a company that I care dearly about and I, I’m really invested in the success of this project and this is somebody that’s on my team… He’s in another company, but—

LAURA: Yeah. That word partner is important.
ROY: Yeah, it’s like we’ve got to do this together–
LAURA: Absolutely.
ROY: –UniKey can’t do it alone. And so I just, I took accountability for what I had done. I let him talk and I said, “Hey, you know, I realize and I recognize that I’ve been so focused on our schedule, on our deadlines that I haven’t been listening to you the way that I should and I apologize for that and I want us to start having a separate call where we talk about longer-term things instead of just the short-term thing to make sure that we have this back-and-forth dialogue.” And made a commitment to him to really focus on listening and making sure that I understood what he was asking for and, ultimately, we both wanted the same things, is the ironic part. But it was purely a failure in communication. Um, and so anyways, the end result of that has been a much, much-improved relationship and much less tension and a lot more, uh, you know both sides are not as guarded and the information’s flowing back and forth and, and things are going really well.
LAURA: Wow. Information flowing. That’s huge, right?
ROY: Yup.
LAURA: Sometimes we discount this whole idea of acknowledging the feelings. We think it’s not even important to apologize in business. Listening even can feel like one of those touchy feely things or something, but actually what you’re doing is you’re keeping that channel of communication open. Information’s going back and forth. We need information to be free-flowing in all directions for us to get work done. So, it’s super, super relevant.


ROY: Yeah, and I would say, too, that, you know, one of the things that I was always kind of taught or learned through osmosis, going up in large corporations and larger environments, before I came to UniKey, was the whole concept of being vulnerable or wrong or unsure is a gigantic indicator of weakness. Um, it’s often viewed as something that would hold you back or make you incapable of performing and I very much took that to heart and that was one of the most difficult things about, you know, going through this stuff that was hard for me was learning to be okay with being vulnerable. And I think, the moment on the call that I just spoke about, where you know being vulnerable to our partner and saying, “Hey, I’m sorry. I should be listening to you more. This is something I can improve on.” It was incredible what an effect that had on the person I was speaking with and it was like all of a sudden the tension and everything came down so many levels because it became real. And, um, so now I’m– I’m a huge believer.
LAURA: That’s awesome. So, can I ask you to elaborate, too. So, we actually just had a meeting this morning. And so, I don’t know if this is offensive to say, actually, but I feel like you’ve become, you know, for me at least, the poster child for–
ROY: Oh no.
LAURA: –self-accountability. Poster child for self-accountability.
ROY: Yeah.
LAURA: And I, I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more important on a team than people who are willing and able to be self-accountable. Because that’s when problems actually start to get solved. And this morning, there was another example of that and I’m wondering if you can– if you’d be willing to share, even a high-level*, what was happening there.
ROY: So, I think the instance you’re talking about is I was called out by our team–
LAURA: So set the stage here. Like–
ROY: Set the stage, yeah.
LAURA: –what does the room look like? Where are we?
ROY: So, we’re all sitting in a conference room style training room. No table. You know, circular shape of chairs that you know, so we’re all kind of facing each other. No physical barriers in between us, which is on purpose.
LAURA: Very intentional.
ROY: Very intentional. And we were there to talk about conflict and about how to resolve conflict like, in the office. And have healthy conflict and not, you know, keep topics buried under the surface to preserve artificial harmony but at the same time not have like knock-down drag-out issues but actually be able to bring problems to the surface and work on them in a constructive way. Um, so, we’re on some very tight schedules and, in my role, it’s kind of my job to protect the schedule so to speak and make sure that we deliver on our commitments on time so I’m not always the most popular person with the engineering group in my current role. Um, and so, as part of this process, one of our engineering leads, you know, raised an issue about me specifically and said, “You know, hey, you know, I really needed you for something yesterday and instead of helping me you left to go do an interview, to interview a candidate for a position that we had open.” And it was really frustrating for this engineering lead because, in his mind, I was– I was not supporting him, I wasn’t there for him when he needed me and you know, he’s working on something really, really important and, you know, the idea that I would not stop and help him to go do this interview, um, he didn’t understand it and it really kind of left him feeling like I didn’t have his back, like I wasn’t there to help him get the work done that he needed to get done.


LAURA: And this basically kicked off the meeting this morning. This was like, “I’ve got something I’m gonna say.”
ROY: No softballs. It was like, turned, looked directly at and he’s like, “I’ve got something” and I was like, “Here we go.” So, I was sitting there listening to all of this and, naturally, I think just like anyone would, I start telling — you know, saying things in my head. I start justifying everything. Right. It’s like, “Yeah, well, you know, I have to hire this person because if I don’t hire this person then I’m gonna be buried in the work that they’re gonna be helping me do and I’ll have even less time to help you. And I’ve got travel coming up. So if I don’t interview them now, then this position won’t be filled for four weeks.”
ROY: You know and just on and on and on and it’s like I’m preparing for battle.
LAURA: Right.
ROY: I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve got you. I’ve got an answer for everything you just said.” And I’m sitting and listening and then at some point it just sort of clicks again and it’s like, “You don’t have to win.” You know? This isn’t a battle. You guys, we’re on the same team. He’s, he’s not coming after you. This is like, he’s asking for you to help.
LAURA: Yeah, he’s asking for support. Its’ self-expression and it’s a request. Here’s how I’m feeling.
ROY: Right. So, it’s very, it was very challenging to– you know, but I, I just, I sat there and I listened and then, you know the other thing that makes it really difficult is people are emotional. So, a lot of what comes out when things like this are described sometimes, there are– there is some emotion, there’s some sarcasm, there’s some, sometimes there’s some jabs to the ribs about, you know, various things or some sarcasm and all of that kind of exacerbates this desire to fight or this desire to win and being able to recognize it and say, “This is a side effect of this person being passionate and this person caring a lot about their job and this person really feeling like you let them down. This isn’t them attacking you or them assigning blame or fault to you. They needed you and you weren’t there and it’s almost like it hurts– like it’s a hurtful thing to them and it’s a very deep, you know much deeper than just I’m angry.” Because everybody at UniKey is very, very passionate about what we’re doing. And sometimes it comes out in incredible ways and sometimes it comes out in very contentious ways. But this was one of those times where it felt like I had an opportunity to you know really choose how I was going to respond to this.
LAURA: And it was– it appeared to me to be an incredibly conscious choice.


ROY: It was. I was grabbing my knees and rocking a little bit.
LAURA: Yeah, and so, and so when you did speak up, as much as you can remember, can you share with our listeners what you said?
ROY: Well, actually back up a little further than that. I didn’t respond right away. That was the first choice that I made. Actually, several other people jumped on the bandwagon and made it clear to me that this engineering lead was not the only one that felt that I had not always prioritized their needs over other things, over other responsibilities that I have. Um, and I expect a lot from our engineering leads. I give them a lot of leeway and a lot of latitude because they’re really great at what they do and I trust them implicitly. And they’ve really never let me down but I think that part of that was that I’m, was really expecting them to do a lot without me. So in kind of hearing others speak about this desire that “Wow, yeah, we kind of wish you would give us more guidance.” Or “We kind of wish you would make us the priority at certain times, it would be really helpful.” So the first choice was really to not respond. But when I did, I had kind of taken it all in and I believe my response was something along the lines of, “I want to take accountability for not making you the priority and I am, I am working on ways of prioritizing and organizing my work better, you know, understanding when I should allow you to interrupt me and make a decision immediately, when I should delegate something to someone else, when I should tell you that what you’re asking for is not important enough for me to act on right now and that being okay and that not meaning that you are unimportant to me. It just means that other things are more important. That kind of figuring out which box to put those– these requests and these needs from the rest of the team in was something that I was still learning how to do well and that I would make a commitment to them to do better. And that I would continue to work on it.” And that was it. And, um, I think that you probably would like me to highlight what I didn’t say and that was all the things were going in my head. You know, I didn’t make excuses for why I did what I did—


LAURA: Right.
ROY: — I didn’t try to justify it–
LAURA: Right.
ROY: –I didn’t counter his points and say, “Yeah, but if I didn’t give the interview, I wouldn’t have the resource I needed and all this stuff.” And it was because, really, it was irrelevant. I think the only purpose it would have served at the point was to make the other person, the other persons in this case, feel like I didn’t really understand what they needed. And it probably would have made them feel like I still wasn’t prioritizing what they had asked me for.
LAURA: Right.
ROY: And ultimately, in the big picture, it wouldn’t matter. All it would have served to do was for me to maybe save a little bit of face in this room full of people. And this room full of people, by the way, is our executive leadership team. So, my boss and, you know, the highest levels of our company, and all of our leads. So there’s an aspect of vulnerability there, too, because it’s very natural for me to want to win, and to sit there and look like I had made a mistake or I had made the wrong decision is very tough to, to sit there in that moment and tell yourself the story that, “Yeah all these people that are sitting around–my boss is sitting here, thinking, ‘well, why did you make that decision? It was clearly the wrong thing to do.'” And to not defend yourself is very unnatural for me. But, I think that my ability to work with the engineering leads is greatly improved by taking that stance, um, and I don’t know…
LAURA: Well, and the desire to defend yourself is fear based. It’s the fear, it’s the things that get, you know, agitated on the inside, that we think we’re gonna calm down if we can just explain and just give our excuses. But when you know that you’re capable of managing that and quieting that down on your own and you speak up in a way that’s self-accountable –and you actually apologized as well, you literally said the words “I apologize”–and yes, it did not, it was not immediately followed with “but.” That’s the worst, right? “Well, I’m really sorry, but–” Let me just totally negate the apology I just put out there. You didn’t do that. It was, “I hear you. I take accountability for this. This is something that I want to work on and continue to work on. And I apologize.” And you stopped there and it was so, so powerful. And I think that’s one of the things that we lose sight of. You talked about how vulnerability is something that we often look at as weakness. But when we see vulnerability in others, we tend to admire it. We look at that and we go, “Oh my gosh, that’s so courageous, that’s so brave.” And then we think, “Damn, that dude’s really got it together, ’cause like, look, he can just sort of own that.” And I feel like, if anything, it doesn’t put you in a position of weakness, it puts you in a position of strength. I know that i was looking at you with admiration. I don’t know if you made eye-contact with me. But, it’s like, yes, this is exactly the kind of culture that UniKey is looking to create, is to have a team of everybody, really, but always starting with the leadership, people who are self-accountable. Because that’s what really moves things forward. So thank you for sharing that. That example and that story.
ROY: Sure
LAURA: And it was very cool for me to be there to witness it and see all the progress that you’ve made and the team as a whole.


Laura: But don’t just take my word for it. I asked Lee for his opinion.

LAURA: Okay. So, what have you seen from Roy as a result of investing in his development?
LEE: Yeah, I mean, he’s been a sponge and then he’s been somewhat of a student of the craft, if you would, where he really has dug into it and he takes it very serious. What I’ve seen is the guy who I, frankly was at the top of my list of people to eliminate with the organization, and he’s turned into, like, my, sort of my right hand when it comes to the business that we’re doing right now on the commercial side — we do residential and commercial. He heads up our commercial now and he’s the steady rock that I can rely on. So, we’ve, I would say we’ve turned a massive corner and it’s headed in the right direction and someone that I can rely on heavily and believe in. You know, if I– I was asked once, if there was five people I could take from the organization, who would they be? He was clearly not on that list at first and now, if you were to ask me that, you know, two years later, he’d be right up there at the top.
LAURA: That’s, that’s pretty incredible.

Laura: Before we wrapped, I gave Roy the opportunity to provide some guidance and advice to his younger self.

LAURA: I want to know, what would you tell Roy from a year ago or two years ago or whatever time frame makes sense, now that you’re sort of on this side of your own professional development journey? What would you want him to know? Roy the skeptic.
ROY: Wow. Um, I think I would remind him that if you think you know everything already, it’s impossible to learn and grow. And I, I recognize that that’s something I’ve taken to heart from my engineering viewpoint. I’ve always been very open and willing to learn and it’s served me very well. And technically, I’ve had a lot of success and in technical type roles, but moving into leadership, for whatever reason, that the Roy of a year or two years ago completely failed to recognize that the ability to learn and grow around interpersonal issues and management and just how, how to deal with your own stuff so that you can lead other people is just as important if not more important. So I think I would really encourage him to be open and to continue learning.


LAURA: Okay. And I said that was my last question but I feel like I want to ask one more. So, what is just one practical tip or piece of advice that you could give to our listeners so that they could move even one step further on their journey?
ROY: Is this the part where I’m supposed to say they should call you?
LAURA: More practical. Without even talking to me, what can they do?
ROY: So, I would say, don’t be afraid to pause. I, I know that a lot of times when I get in situations that are heated or charged or I feel a lot of emotion or passion towards the topic, that I want to, I feel like I got these words and these ideas that I have to get out right now. And one of the things that has been most helpful for me is to become comfortable with the idea of not responding right away, to give myself time to process and, and to be patient. Um, so to just take a moment and say, “Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna think about this. I’m gonna digest it, I’m gonna internalize it, I’m gonna let it go through.” And giving yourself that — it could be a few seconds and feel like an hour in your mind– but it really, it really helps you have more control over yourself and to respond in a way that you probably won’t regret later. Um, so I would say that that’s probably the biggest thing.
LAURA: I love it. That’s powerful. Awesome.

Laura: I also asked Lee what advice he has for leaders in his position.

LAURA: So, I think a lot of leaders have people on their team like Roy. People who are very smart, have some natural leadership which, if not harnessed in the right direction, can be very detrimental, have good intentions — you know very good intentions– but the behavior just shows up very counter-productive. So, what advice do you have for other leaders to create the same type of turnaround situation that you had with Roy?
LEE: Well, I think it’s some patience, is one of them. So, not being so quick to react. I could have easily have really pushed heavily to have him eliminated from the company, if you would, if that’s what we felt was really what the problem was. But, um, it was patience and giving him the opportunity to actually, you know I’d be curious to see what would have happened if he got to some crossroads where we gave him the opportunity to go to this class. He could have said, easily said no. And then I don’t know where, where we would be at this point. But the patience to have him go through that, because it’s not like he went to the class and the first day he came back and like, you know, there was like a eureka moment that happened. It was, work had to be done. And he worked on it. But, so it was patience. I would say a commitment to this, just like this is the– it reminds me a lot of sports. Of like working out. It’s like when you go to run a marathon, it’s like, you don’t just wake up one day and go run a marathon. You run a mile, then three miles, then seven miles, and you sort of continue to build on it


Laura: I also thought Lee would want to take the opportunity to acknowledge Roy and all of his progress.

Laura: So, I’m pretty sure that Roy’s gonna listen to this.
Lee: Yeah.
LAURA: What would you want to say to him? Any kind of gratitude or appreciation or recognition?
LEE: Yeah. I, I tell him — I told him yesterday when we were working on a client together. I am, every day, amazed and surprised at the growth that he’s shown and I’m grateful for it, ’cause, you know, I take it very personal, personally, the success of the company, right or wrong. And I– he’s helping us succeed. And his, his ability to be humble, I would say, and sort of trust that this is the, that this will help him, and the self-awareness that he had to do that is great, ’cause it’s not easy. He could easily become an outcast within the organization and he didn’t. I would say he’s lead more than anything else and, you know, I thank him for that and I’m, part of me’s envious of the fact that he’s able to do that as successfully as he was.
LAURA: Awesome. Cool. Well, thank you so much for being here to comment on Roy and his growth and, of course, your contribution to it.
LEE: Always happy to do it.

Laura: Roy’s story is an awesome one, and it doesn’t have to be the only one. So please, invest in your people. Give them a real chance to develop and grow and make better utilization of your workforce. And if you want me to help, please reach out to me at, or visit the website at Oh…and if you worry that developing one of your employees in this way makes somebody who used to be lots of fun all serious and take away the humor – have no fear….Roy’s humor is still quite intact. As we ended our interview, I went to stop the recording and…well listen for yourself.


Laura: and i have to log back in.
Roy: are you still on?
Laura: say something awesome.
Roy: Something awesome.

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