Many leaders often take for granted how much impact their employees have on what they’re building. Your employees are what allow your company to keep growing, so ensuring that you hear them out, give them a voice, is of utmost importance. Paul Higgins is joined by Kim A. Smith, an accomplished speaker, author, and corporate leader with The Positivity Academy. Together, they talk about how you as a leader should build your relationship with your employees. Don’t miss out on this important conversation.
Our guest is someone who is shy and her mother pushed her into public speaking. What a gift it has become. Unlike many guests, Kim is working full-time in the medical industry, which is under a huge strain whilst running her own business, and supporting middle managers. Her personal story is one that resonated with me. I hope you experienced the emotional tingles like I did as you read. Why read? First, why and how to invest in people. Two, how she leverages the motto of one thing to measure her impact on the world. It’s one of the best summaries and I’m going to take action out of this. I hope you do too. The third is how to leverage technology to communicate in these uncertain times. They’ve also given an introduction to their book, People First, then Profit as well during the interview. Over to Kim Smith from The Positivity Academy.
Welcome, Kim Smith, to the show. Kim is from The Positivity Academy. I love that name.
Thank you for having me.
I’m touched that you’re sharing your wisdom. That shows your dedication, but what I’d love to know is something that your family or friends would know about you that we might not.
My family and friends would know that I started speaking in the fifth grade and not by choice. I was speaking competitively and oratorical competitions because I had such a problem communicating. I was quiet that it brought concern to my teacher. My mother who’s a minister decided that, “I know what’s in her. I’m going to make her speak.” She signed me up for this church, Oratorical competitions, an exercise to stretch young kids. I would have to memorize her scripts, those long yellow legal pads. That is what birth my interest and excitement around speaking and sharing stories.
You were comfortable on stage when you were speaking like that but was it more in a social setting that you felt more reserved?
I was reserved in large groups, but I began to blossom when I started speaking within groups where I did it and know who the people were because a lot of these groups weren’t those that I was familiar with and I started winning. I think that boosted my confidence. Talking and communication isn’t so bad.
My mother-in-law has laughs that my wife didn’t start speaking into a lot later in life. I think it was more to do with being shy and quiet. Maybe not on stages but she’s made up for it. I know for you, a lot of our guests have been in corporate and now are in their coaching or consulting business, but you’ve got a foot in both camps. Tell us about that. I believe you work for Tenet Healthcare, but you’ve also got this amazing business called The Positivity Academy. Tell me how you balance both.
It can be challenging, but what I found is you have to start where you are. I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs have had to do that, but the balance comes with being clear with who I am called to serve. What solutions can I offer them from where I am. I’m passionate about speaking and training. I do that in both worlds, but in this space, I get to go outside the world of healthcare and also reach people that are in the small business setting. They may be gym owners and salon owners. I connect with people that are principals, that are educators, that are trying to position themselves for growth within their organization or expand their companies. It’s an exciting balance. Also, I have three little ones. I have specific goals that I work toward and I hold myself to only focused on those specific goals so that I don’t take on too much.There’s so much we don’t understand right now and everybody is being impacted. Click To Tweet
I feel for everyone in the US. I listen to podcasts every day about the position of COVID-19 that how there are many different stories. For you being in the medical health industry, tell me a little bit about how you’re coping and what you see with COVID-19.
It’s a challenge, not only for me working in the medical industry. I have family members that are on the frontline caring for patients as we seek in our VA system. It’s one of those situations where working and connecting with your employees, having very clear lines of communication is critical. There’s so much unknown and everybody is being impacted. There’s unknown in some cases of job stability and your own health. Everyone has their own world of family and challenges that they deal with that is being impacted by this crisis. It’s challenging. One of the things that I believe we’ve done well as an organization is communicating the game plan and doing it consistently and frequently. The more you do that as an organization, the fewer people fill in the blanks with their own assumptions. Oftentimes those are negative, that has helped. I also found that not just from my organization, but any organization that I’m connected to, whether it’s the YMCA here in our gym or our church, or any community, I’m finding that they work diligently to over-communicate their game plan as it shifts because there have been some shifts on a daily and weekly basis.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the dance out of technology and social media, etc. At the moment it’s become such a powerful weapon, can use that word to help to over-communicate. How have you seen that play out in the world that you work in?
It’s exciting and I’m a techy junkie. I have been pro Telehealth for years. I’ve studied Telehealth having a public health background and seeing what it can do. The fact that we’ve been forced into this situation we have to take on this innovative approach and we’re finding that it’s working and it’s literally lives is exhilarating. I’m seeing that not only in the world that I work but I see that with my business, for the nonprofit that I serve as support share for that utilizing technology. Even if you’re hesitant before to connect with patients and connect with your clients is a requirement. I don’t think we can never go backward from here. If anything, I think this is going to push us forward into the future of how we do business.
Unfortunately, I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. That the frontline staff right through to the specialists were incredible. They have saved my life. They’d see me sitting there on dialysis as an example, working away. They’re saying, “What are you doing?” They’d come in and say, “I’ve never seen a patient work so hard.” I said, “I’ve skipped my whole life up to run from a hospital bed.” That’s why I left corporate. I’d talk to them about even Slack or WhatsApp with one of my specialists, “Why don’t you do that with your patients?” I couldn’t read the handwriting of the doctor before and know all of that stuff. It used to frustrate me. Whereas now there is telling me for the first time I can have my next appointments with my specialist over Zoom. They starting to come into the world that all been in for a long time. I’m a tech junkie, but it’s great. It does help save lives because my mom was ill as well. I’ve been in the system for a long time and know the pure communication or miscommunication because of not leveraging technology. Unfortunately, it’s led to not the best outcomes, so that is a real upside of this. I get the sense that you see the same thing.
It comes down to listening to the voice of your people. What are they saying that are their challenges? Not just the voice of the patients, that’s key, but listening to one of your employees saying is a needed solution to fill this gap. When you learn how to listen to your people, so much innovation is birthed from that. It’s pushed us into this situation, but I hope we continue to listen and stay connected to our patients and our people in a way to help drive us forward because it’s going to take all of us to navigate these next several years and this new normal.
That leads us beautifully into the next session, the build section. When someone comes up to you at The Positivity Academy and says, “Kim, what do you do? How do you help people?” How do you best describe that?
I say that I help leaders and business owners produce better outcomes by teaching them how to invest in their people first. A lot of us don’t know how to maximize the brilliance that we have around us. I do that a number of ways through speaking, eLearning, and also workshops. When you’re able to invest in your people from the onboarding perspective to the training and development, to the positioning for promotion. You better position your brand, you better position your company to serve your customer well. That’s what I do.
We used to have the bite back in Coca-Cola, do you put the customers first or you put your own team members first. I always fell in that you put your own team first because your team is going to be the people that might make the clients happy. You’ve written a book and we’re going to talk about that. I completely get that. What do you see or what do you know about putting people first that a lot of leaders don’t get right?
This is something that it feels like it’s common sense in a way from what I’ve seen over the past years in this space. We often miss investing in the middle line, those mid-managers, those potential rising business unit leaders. If we don’t properly develop them and ensure we have their buy-in for strategic alignment, it’s like a kink in your core. It’s you’re trying to direct this fleet of ships and all the mid-managers are the captains of the ships that you’re hoping make it into the Harbor. If they have a different vision, if they have a different motto, and if they are not bought into the vision of the organization, they can take their team and their department in a different direction. They’re often left out of conversations. They’re often left out of development. The true issue is that the vision of the organization, the goals, they can’t trickle all the way down to the employees without those middle leaders being on board. Companies that have the biggest culture, challenges and engagement challenges. They’re missing that. I’ve seen it through several organizations, healthcare and non-healthcare organizations. They think it’s an optional thing, it is hurting them.
You’ve talked about technology. How is the technology with your methodology, helping you to serve these mid-managers in these uncertain times?
Most of us are forced to be home. Even if you consider yourself essential, you may still be essential in your home office. It’s important that people have to learn how to connect to all of their leaders in an intentional way. One of the things that I offer through my company includes the eLearning side of the house. E-Learning is customized to the needs of the team. Training that is not just a 45-minute workshop that’s watching paint dry that may check the box, but it’s not engaging. It’s not effective. That’s one of the things that I do. One of the reasons why people may not have invested in the growth and coaching of their leaders is because it may seem cost-prohibitive.
In these cases, they may not be able to fly hundreds or thousands of managers to a designated location. They may be able only to reserve those dollars for top executives. In this case, you can still invest in your leaders from home. You can offer them training or coaching in a way that is cost-effective, linked to the objectives of your organization and your business, and helps them see that you care about them as people, and you want them to learn and grow. That’s important to consider unless with COVID or not with COVID. Now, because we are all forced home and we can’t physically go to training or conferences, it’s something that I believe people may be more open to, and they may realize now’s the time to connect and with all of my leaders, not just the top.
Those things will stick out. I know Warren Buffett’s sold out of most of these airline chairs said, at least be 3 to 4 years, but I do think the waste in time effort of a lot of people traveling around the world where online. That’s going to be a great benefit. On the other side of this, speaking from that fifth-grade experience through when you come on the stage, you’re fantastic. What are some tips with people that still run for the hills when they hear the word speaking? What are some of your key tips you can give people when it doesn’t come as natural?
The funny thing is I believe that all speakers may have just a tinge of nervousness before they hit the stage or the virtual stage. One of my huge recommendations is to find the power story that you share to connect with your audience. There are some people that will be in the audience or the data minds that you may have to share some statistics, but a lot of people also, they connect with speakers because of the stories that you share. If you can think of one power story that is in alignment with your message, that connects with your audience, that is your comfort zone because it’s your story. No one knows it but you. You can find comfort in your own story.
Some people say, “I completely get that, Kim but how do I pick one?” What seems obvious to you might not seem obvious to make is it’s hard to say that, the label from inside the jar. How do you recommend people find that story?
I struggled with this at the beginning with the story that I’ve been sharing in particular, for a few reasons. I’ve been asked this question before. One of the ways to find the story is to be very clear on what is your ultimate goal? What do you want them to take away from this conversation? What do you want them to understand, and what do you want them to do when they leave your presence? What do you want them to do with the information to make an impact, a change, or something that is action-oriented? When you think of that end goal in mind, and roll the tape back to think of, “What have I done in my career, in my personal life that aligns with this?”
For me, it’s a tragic story about the loss of our daughter, Lauren Kelly, years ago due to HELLP syndrome, which ties to my gift focus. I share that story because not to share the sad part, but to say during my experience. I had the most incredible customer experience with a bedside nurse that I had in my life. She changed my outcome for the better. She was more than the bedside nurse. My point in my story is to talk about the importance of that experience and partnering with your employee so that they are experience makers. I know that’s my end goal. I want to teach people how to create experience makers. I share my experience as a customer in the healthcare center. That’s what you do, you think of the angle and then you backpedal a little bit and think of what advice seeing this personally, and pull up that power story you made you test a few. Talk with your partner or child, a neighbor to test it on them, to see their response. You will be surprised how inspired people will walk away from something you think is so simple.All speakers do feel a tinge of nervousness before they hit the stage. Click To Tweet
Thank you for sharing that experience. I don’t know about other people, but for me, I had tingles all over my body. I can’t imagine what that would be like, but to get that support is incredible. That story is powerful and I’m glad that we’re sharing it, and love to help you share that more. You’ve got what I’ve put down is four hats and you’ve probably got a lot more. You’ve got the family role every row, with your three children. You’ve got the not-for-profit board, which we can see why there’s such a powerful link now. You’ve got your corporate career and you’ve also got your own business. How do you go with managing all of those things being as professional as you are? Give us some tips on that because it’s normally that now that the daily habits section. How do you do that?
People ask me this all the time and sometimes I wonder I have no idea, but I do believe that I know. A friend of mine about years ago shared with me a book entitled The ONE Thing. I loved that book. It talks about narrowing down. I used to be proud of the weight of the responsibilities that I carried. I was beaming with pride for my exhaustion. After reading that and connecting with more seasoned women leaders, especially those that were moms and had spouses, I realized that I’m most effective when I give myself some capacity for more. I always see if I have reached 80%. If I reach 80%, I’ve met my cap because that 20% has to be focused on my self-care, my mental capacity, meditation, everything that helped me keep running. With The ONE Thing, I picked one big goal for each of those areas. Every now and then I try to add in those sub-goals and I realized, “Kim, you’re tricking yourself,” and I will cut the list down. My one goal for my business was just, everything is about the book. Everything is about people first. My one goal with my family is to commit quality time every week. I’m also homeschooling kids too, at least three of them. The one-year-old, he crashes the party every day.
I pick one big thing with my husband. We both have that one goal. I’m involved in my church. I have one goal for the ministry that I oversee with my church and I speak one thing. I’m big on data and measuring your impact. I have my own personal dashboard. I say, “Tell a story and if you can’t see your impact, then have you done anything?” I write it down what have I accomplished because if you feel you’re only doing one thing, it seems like it’s so small of an impact, but what I found is when I can write it down and I can measure my impact, I say, “I can stick to this plan.” It’s been working well. That’s been a change because I was so overwhelmed years. For the past years, I have shifted. That one thing is working for me.
I think that’s a brilliant way of doing it. I was a facilitator for Franklin Covey and a huge 7 Habits fan when I first read it ‘94. He always talks about the 7 to 8 roles in your life. You draw 0 to 10 and you can’t do them all. You’ve got to plan where you’re going to focus, but what I love about what you’ve said is one key focus on those. I love that saying, “Until you see the impact, you haven’t done anything.” I think that is critical because a lot of us are guilty of being busy and I love the way you’ve done that.
In COVID, it’s a great time to strip stuff to get back doing that. If you’re reading, I recommend the book, and also take Kim’s method on. What I’ll do is briefly talk about a way that you can find and convert your ideal clients on LinkedIn in these uncertain times. Go to BLGClick.com and watch a prerecorded free master class. You’ll learn three key steps. One is the formula, get 10 times of views, 2, 7 killer elements to get 50 likes and 20 comments on every post. Number three is the scripts to get an 80% response rate to your LinkedIn messages because there’s nothing getting the door shut on you when you genuinely want to care for people and help people.
There’s a lot of work that goes into LinkedIn. If you also haven’t got a VA, because I know, Kim you don’t have one and it sounds like you need one, we’ll talk about that. You can learn more about that at BuildLiveGive.com/VA. I know you don’t do this all by yourself. You have people that support you. Your husband, Terrell, he’s reading. What would you like to say to him about the support he’s given you?
He would love this. He would soak this up that I would not be anywhere close to meeting my goals and in the position I’m in without you being my number one fan. He knows it. I tell him that often, but it’s true. There’s no way that I could do this. He sees how hard I work and not just for the business, but for the family. He acknowledges it. That’s a huge energy boost for me as well to keep going.
What we’re going to do is move into the give section. You’ve given us a bit of a heads up that you are part of the board and after the loss of your daughter. Tell us about how your supporting other parents that may be going through what you went through.
It’s always critical when you are in a leadership role. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a corporate leader, it doesn’t matter. You should have some type of way. You’re looking to leave an imprint. The National Preeclampsia Foundation is just that. Several years ago, we lost our daughter due to a severe version of Preeclampsia known as HELLP Syndrome. My blood pressure was 200/100. I could have died in my bed. Every day to me is a gift. The first organization I connected with by Googling while in the hospital for that week was the Preeclampsia Foundation. I found my tribe, Paul. I read the stories of survivors. I read the fact that they still had healthy children afterward, and a big part of my reason for trying to have more children at the word, even with the wrist was connected to the foundation.
I’ve been volunteering. My husband and I served as their coop-chairs in our state. Their walk is called the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. We brought the first one to our states. We’ve been volunteering since day one. Over the past years, I’ve served on the board. In January of 2020, I was elected to serve as the board chair for the national foundation. We work so tirelessly to focus on three key areas, improving health research related to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, community outreach, and healthcare practices. I have a meeting focused on racial disparities as relates to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We’re trying to improve the data in those three key areas to make sure that my children or their children’s children don’t have the same risk factors and outcomes as we’re experiencing ourselves. I’m proud of what they’re doing. I’m glad that my voice is at the table to help them.
I get a lot of people on the show, which the give section is always something they’re aspiring to do. I did that for a long time as well. The fact that you’ve taken this tragic situation and turned it into something wonderful where you’re helping others is brilliant. You should be proud and we’re very proud of you. The last section is the action section. I’ll ask you some questions and get some rapid-fire responses. The first one is what are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
I learned this from my mother, another tip young age, and it’s stay focused, link up, pursue, and conquer. That is what she made us quote on the car rides to school, home to church, everywhere. Be focused on what your goal is. Connect with those around you that can support you. Take action and measure your impact. That’s what I do every day for many years.
Your mom must be an incredible idea, even if she forces you to read those scripts in grade five.
She’s proud of herself.
You said you’re a tech junkie. What tech that’s essential for you to run your business, but also I suppose, run this lifestyle?
I have several techs, but the one that I would share is for me. It’s important to be efficient with my communication, that will be my CRM. I shifted to a new one that I’m testing out and that’s ConvertKit. It’s so simple. There are a lot of integrations with my website and with my shipping platform for products. ConvertKit is my go-to. I’m excited about that. For my personal life, I would say, my techie, this thing is simple and silly but it’s my voice memo on my phone because my brain is constantly moving. Especially as a writer, you’ll be surprised how many chapters of books I voice recorded and how many reminders I voice recorded and sent to someone to do to get something done. I use those quick things when I don’t have time to write. When I don’t have time to sit still, I record my voice. I did that on plane rides back and forth to California, for work trips, recording my voice and writing and sending people assignments.
My take for you is to get yourself a virtual assistant and that voice memo worked well. If you ever heard of Voxer, go and have a look at that and you’d fall in love with it. It is like a walkie talkie system where you can talk to someone and they can start listening to it as you’re talking and they can come back to you. It’s leveraging what you’re talking about. You’ve got a wealth of ideas, you’re spread across many brilliant environments that help with that. What’s your best source of gaining new ideas?
My best source, honestly, are conversations. I have them all the time. I have conversations with fellow executives to small business owners to keep an eye out for what are the pain points? It’s funny. I just mentioned to a friend who was also a business owner, has a management consulting firm. I said, “Our conversations are great. I’m going to begin them by stating, ‘This call may be recorded, quality purposes,’ because I need to capture all of this goodness that we gain.” Conversations with small business owners, with mentors, with potential clients, with leaders, fellow colleagues, I gained so much good information on what are the solutions that I should be focused on?Learn to see your people as your number one asset. Click To Tweet
Have you got a podcast?
That’s in the works. I’m looking forward to share more about that.
It would be something that I’d definitely turn into. The big question is the one at the end. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
My purpose is to teach people how to treat others, it’s simple. I want to shift the narrative around our poor work cultures. My desire is to shift them from a people poor environment to people rich where they see their people as their number one asset. Truly not just in the business report, but in their day-to-day actions and as ingrained in their culture, that’s what they draw. Those are the type of people that they attract. My desire is to teach people how to treat people, whether I’m in my corporate world, whether it’s with my kids and how they engage the world. That cultural shift, that mindset shift will change the world. I believe it.
The value you’ve given, your personal story and how you balance this amazing career, is truly inspiring. It’s exactly what we talk about with the show. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your story. I know you’ve caught an introduction to your wonderful book, People First, then Profit. You can go to KimASmith.com. Kim, thanks for coming on.
Thank you. I enjoyed it myself.
I loved that interview with Kim, and I hope you did as well. I’d love to know what your biggest takeaway was from Kim. Share it on your socials, mentioning her and also the show. If you believe someone would benefit from the show, please share it with them. You can learn the three secrets to building your authority on LinkedIn in our free prerecorded master class at BLGClick.com. Please take action to build your business and lifestyle, and stay well.
Kim A. Smith is an accomplished speaker, author and corporate leader. She’s spent 14 years mastering leadership within some of the top hospital systems in the industry – including Duke Medicine and Tenet Healthcare.
This Wake Forest University and University of South Carolina graduate launched her leadership consulting firm in 2015. Through the Positivity Academy, she helps executives and business owners accelerate growth through customized workshops, e-learning, and signature talks.
She has authored two leadership books. In The Value Lens, readers learn how to shift from employee to partner. Kim’s newest book People First then Profit, is a roadmap for improving business outcomes by building positive team cultures. Kim believes that the success of any corporate executive or brand owner is a return on the investment they made in their people first.
If you want to break through all the noise on LinkedIn and reach your ideal client without creating loads of content or breaking the bank on ads – go to blgclick.com to learn our three secrets.