More than being great in sales, one of the most important things to have within a team is a culture of trust. Tracey Ezard shares this sentiment along with the importance of mentors and peers to support you through your journey. Tracey was a successful Assistant Principal at a school before feeling that she was stretching herself too thin. She decided to go and work part-time in a family business and focus on parenting and eventually moved into the field of people development. In this episode, Tracey joins Paul Higgins to talk about the three essential ingredients to building trust in a team and the importance of having a business manager.
Our guest is someone who talks about the support you need to successfully grow your own business. They also talk about the three essential elements to building trust in a high performing team. They also talk about self-talk, why it’s important to get that right to improve the profitability of your business. What I’ll do is hand you over to Tracey Ezard from Tracey Ezard Pty Ltd.
Welcome, Tracey Ezard from Tracey Ezard Pty Ltd brought to you by Build Live Give. We’re going to get to know a lot about you, Tracey. Why don’t we start with something that your family or friends would know about you that we wouldn’t?
Thank you. Thanks for having me. When I was growing up, my dad was in the security industry. He was one of the first people in the electronic security industry, which we take for granted. I spent a lot of my childhood crawling under houses, installing cables to put security sensors and also working in his factory making circuit boards for security components, a bit of an eclectic experience when I was a kid.
Any encounters with little creatures or anything like that?
Yes, which wasn’t my favorite thing. I must admit, spiders and the ants on are the best of them. I had to take a big deep breath before I went under there.
Tell me a little bit about your story. I know that your corporate escapees’ story has had some good maturing, as they say. It’s a bit like a good bottle of wine. Tell us a little bit about your great escape.
I’ve been running my business for years. Prior to that, I came directly out of working as a manager in a fine dining restaurant, which I’ve been doing for about three years. The majority of my career was in the school system. I was a teacher. I was an assistant principal in a school. I moved from there to go and do some different things, because I had my first child and I felt like I wasn’t able to do either job, either being a mother or an assistant principal well. I left that and then started working in the restaurant, which was a great learning intensive and I loved it. I got the sense that there was other stuff that I was meant to do around helping people build their capability, culture and be the best people they could be in a work environment. That’s why I decided to ditch that and go and start my own business.
You talked about the restaurant, what were some of the key things that you did learn out of being in the restaurant industry?
It was interesting because I had been in education for a long time, you’re clear about your values and you knew your purpose there. When I went into a profit-making environment, it took me a little while to realize that it doesn’t mean that you drop your values. It means you can bring your values into that space and still work from a great place of integrity. I was lucky. I went into an environment which was high quality, high functioning. It was all about bringing the best to the customer and doing our best to do that. I found that that alignment fitted well with the way I saw the world. That was an interesting little journey that I went on. It armed me well for taking that bit into my own business.Education is all about continually building new capability and capacity. Click To Tweet
When did you make the transition from the restaurant business into your own?
I did that in 2005. I went and did a course. I hadn’t done a lot of development when I was in the restaurant. I’ve done a lot in education. Education is all about continually building new capability. I hadn’t done much. I went and did an HR course because that was part of my role. I fell in love with the person delivering the course, who’s one of my closest friends. I saw her working, “That’s the stuff that I want to do.” I want to go and help people bring a bit of joy and excitement and thriving to the work that they do. It just happened that I went. I’m actually ready to leave the restaurant business and take that step into doing some leadership development, which is what my business is all about. Leadership, team and collaboration, and take those steps to move into that space.
Who was there to help you and support you in the early days when you made that transition?
My family, my husband. My kids were quite small at the time. In fact, they were 2 and 4, 3 and 5. My husband having faith in me to start off that I absolutely could do it, but also supporting me with his job, continuing to have that base cashflow. Certainly, we were not in the space of making lots of money back then at all, but I was keeping our expenses small, all that thing so we can take this leap of faith. I had my girlfriend who I did a bit of contracting with. She had a business already in that space. I learned so much from her. I went and did a lot of courses where I met people that were in that space so it worked majorly for me. Also, from my dad who had always run his own business. I had some good role models there around taking the leap and getting it done.
What was some of the initial fears when you first took that step?
The imposter syndrome of saying, “Do I have things to add? Do I have things of value? Will I get the work?” I think that whatever leads us, “Will I be able to bring people into my pipeline?” I never called it that. There will be work ahead of me in my diary. It probably took me quite a few years before I started to relax around that, but I always did find the work. It was almost a self-belief thing around that, “Will that be ongoing? Will that give us the base for us to be able to have the other challenge on that income?” Rather than saying, “We might have it.”
You had some support through thought leaders. Tell us a little bit about what you learned through the experience of thought leaders.
I started thought leaders years ago. I went at the business school. It was a thought leaders business school. I was the first intake. I’ve been in my business for years. I was bringing in an okay wage, but it was a wage. It wasn’t making much money. In reality, what I was able to do for people was great in the room, but I haven’t thought about, “What is it that I do. What’s my product? What’s my value add?” I needed some new guidance around how do I build a better, more savvy business that helps me get my head together with what my values needs. That journey has been phenomenal. It has revamped my practice. It revamped my thinking. It deepened my thinking about helping people build strong, thriving, learning environments in their teams and their leadership. Every day I work differently because of the things that have come to my consciousness through being a part of board leaders. It has had a phenomenal impact on the way that I work.
The next section is in the build section. When you meet someone for the first time and they say, “Tracey, what do you do?” How do you answer that?
It’s an interesting one. “How do you nutshell what you do?” What I say is I help leaders and teams build trust an authentic collaboration. The reason I help people do that is because we need to be as agile and ever-evolving with what we do as we can. How do we do that without sinking back into complacency, silos? This is the way we work and we create a new way of working.
How do you go about doing that?
I do that a number of ways. Often I will go in and work with a team or a leadership group around building the capability around that. How do we create the buzz that we want with the work that we do? I will go in and work with other individuals or a whole organization around how do we create a growth mindset where we’re in a learning culture? How do we create environments where the moments that we have between us are ones where it’s about conviction and it’s about deep trust between us so that we can do the hard work, we can ask the hard questions? How do we have great conversations that lead to that? A lot of capacity building around how to have conversations because that’s generally what holds people back. The ways that I do that are workshops, small group work. I also do a lot of keynote speaking around collaboration and trust at conferences to give people some ideas of what are some easy things they can go back into the workplace to do to build that deep trust that we need to be able to challenge assumptions and think differently.
What would be three things you could share with us that could help with collaboration? If I had to take something back into my work, what would I do?
I would seek to understand. Stephen Covey is famous, saying, “Seek first to understand rather than be understood.” Leaders are absolutely nailing this. Team members are nailing this. How do we create a collaborative inquiry conversation? The first thing is how do we increase that curiosity? Rather than, “This is the way we’ve always done it. This is what I think.” How do we create that curiosity that says, “What are we assuming here? How do we look at this differently?” We need to stick into a strong sense of asking more questions and listening more deeply to each other. There’s a flip of that that says, “Do we listen to understand and to create something new?” “Do we listen to verify what we already think or listen to the gap?”
Simply, listen to reply so I can make you come over to my side when we look at you. Also, how do we cocreate together? Rather than cooperating, which is what a lot of people say, collaboration is, “We simply cooperate together and share resources. Authentic collaboration is, “How do we create something new?” The reason more than one of us is in the room doing that is because we get so much of a better outcome. Asking ourselves, “Who should we have in this so that we can create something more?”
Who do you help? Who are your ideal clients?
Ideal clients are teams that are great. They work well together. What they want to do is elevate to extraordinary. I call them the 21st-century tribe. They want to learn more deeply with each other, challenge the status quo and be able to have good, rigorous conversations about the work. Too often, I go and work with organizations where they simply don’t have the conversation with each other. They don’t make the time to have the conversations. People are disconnected from each other and they work disconnected. I work with leaders and teams that want to create more connections so that work becomes extraordinary rather than ordinary.
Is it much different for people that have got all their team together versus people that are dispersed? A lot of people reading have got dispersed teams. They could be all over the world. They’re not in the one environment. Does that make it any easier or any harder? What’s your experience with that?
It’s a bit interesting. Every context is different. There are a lot of virtual teams. Connecting to each other is important because you are isolated. They work harder at it. There are some intake teams that are disconnected from each other but they work at the desk right next door. We have to conceptually look at what are the levels of trust between our teams, whether we sit in the same part of the organization or we are dispersed. If we know that our levels of trust are not high, that’s the work we should be doing first, whether we’re in the same room, around the globe or spread out over various parts of the city or wherever it might be. We need to ask the question, “Do we trust enough to be able to do the work we need to do?” A lot of that is about change. A lot of that is about doing things differently. If I don’t trust my colleagues then I’m probably not going to step into that space of being able to be vulnerable and say, “I need to look at this differently. I’m not too sure how to do this.” How do we slip into a space where we’re sharing where our gaps might be? If we haven’t got that, no matter what type of team it is, that’s where the work is.We need to stick into a strong sense of asking more questions and listening more deeply to each other. Click To Tweet
How do you measure trust? How do you know that particular teams, low trust versus a high trust?
I use a variety of different things. I’ve got a diagnostic tool I use around checking out where people think their mindset is, where is the environment and where’s the dialogue around trust. I also use Conversational Intelligence, which is a great methodology created by Judith E. Glaser in New York. She has helped to change cultures on getting executives to have different conversations. Ones that are based on building connections and trust. I often use her work to inform the work we do. It’s based on the neuroscience of trust. I’ve been studying in that space of neuroscience of leadership and how we build good trust and relationship. It is dependent on the behaviors we have when we’re having conversations. I draw from that and get people to have some good honest discussion about, “Are we in a space where we do deeply trust each other? What do we need to do once we build that trust?”
This question can be a bit bland at times, but what’s unique about what you do, Tracey? There are lots of people who work in this space. Why would someone come and work with you versus someone else?
Virtually all my work is a word of mouth and referral. For example, I worked with someone who I’ve worked with at various places. She’s worked for about a decade. She said, “I’ll always hunt you down wherever I am.” I asked her, “Why?” She said, “You are able to get people talking about things they’ve never talked about.” I always do the overlap of culture and strategy. How are we deeply collaborating around at work, but at the same time, how do we have a culture of joy, conviction and compassion?
I work visually with people. I get people to use both sides of their brains. We do a lot of visual work. We do a lot of metaphor creations. We have a bit of fun. We create a picture of mutual success. It’s not dry and boring, it’s interactive. There is a buzz. People walk away going, “I feel like I’ve got some good, tangible stuff to work out.” It’s able to put the theory into the action. I don’t think that always happens. A lot of the time, people do this work and it’s theoretical, epidemic and doesn’t create embedded belief change.
We talked before about thought leaders and how that’s had a great impact on your business. What are the other things that you’ve done to improve the profitability of your business?
Putting on a business manager, I did that years ago. I’ve played around with using a virtual assistant. I don’t think I had the right person in place, but I’ve got a business manager, Suzie. She’s fantastic. She’s worked with me for a number of years. When we’re in the same room, which is not all that often, we cohabitate in terms of our office, but at the same time, she runs the work from her home. She has two kids at school. She does 25 hours a week. She manages that time. I trust her. Sometimes she works at night because that absolutely suits her life. Other times, she’ll work during the day. She’s always there when we’ve got something big coming up. I never find that I can’t rely on her.
My husband, he’s a chartered accountant. Years ago, he took on the finances of my business as my business was getting bigger. Before that, I did it all and that was killing me. It was about getting serious about the stuff you’re good at and get other people to do stuff that they’re good at. That’s been a huge difference. The other one is being clear about my value, my positioning and charging rates that are elite to that rather than feeling like I don’t have a right to charge what I charge. A lot of that was mindset around, “Am I worthy?” Which keeps us when we start our own business, we’re worried about people going, “Is this worth it?” After a while, you’ve got to believe that people do think you are worth it because they keep coming back and they spread the word. You’ve got to trust them.
If you back engineered what you did around mindset, what are some of the steps you took to improve in that area?
It comes down to that self-talk. How do I diminish the itty-bitty committee in your head that keeps you feeling small? A lot of it was talking to myself. I also surrounded myself with people who had the mindset that I wanted and would talk with them around how they dealt with when they felt low. Also, what is it that they had in their lives that help them with dealing with mindset. I’ve got these great people at the end of the phone that I can ring and wail over the phone if I need to. I don’t do it often, but they’re there when I’m feeling a little bit uncertain about things to refrain me. I call them my ninjas. Having my ninjas in my life who are able to reframe me is important. Also, having work-life balance. While we use that, I like to blend ideas. I won’t have a rigid set time for work versus home. What I do is try to make sure that I have quality in all of them. This is something I fall off the bandwagon quite often but I want to make sure that I stay fit. Fitness in the body helps fitness in mind.
You talked about word of mouth as being the key source of new business. What do you do to help foster word of mouth referrals?
Number one is to give people over their expected service and value. That’s the best way to get word of mouth referrals, do you deliver? We need to be rigorous with ourselves around, “Am I giving people what is going to make a difference to them?” I don’t think it’s necessarily giving people what they want because sometimes people, what they want is irrelevant than you can offer. You need to give that as a minimum level and then give over more than that. Making yourself easy to find as well. I’ve written a couple of books. That has been probably one of the biggest things that spread my positioning around Australia, New Zealand and the UK. I’ve written two books, one is on The Buzz, which was directly for the education system. One is called Glue: The Stuff That Binds Us Together to do Extraordinary Work. That’s on how do we as organizations create the glue of trust and the glue of collaboration. It’s easy positioning them to be in someone’s office before I speak to them because they’ve got my thinking.
I would encourage people to look at how I get who I am and put it into some tangible thing that’s easy for people to access, like you have with this show is a great example. I have colleagues that do podcasts. I have others that do webinars. I will probably move into one of those, probably the webinar space, but I haven’t done that as yet. I do that as special things for my clients where they’ll be internal, but I haven’t done much external work around that. Anything that people can get a sense of who you are easily is critical to having that spread happen.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in growing your business?
It is not overdoing it. Not jamming my diary so tight that I haven’t got time to think and I haven’t got time to understand and design the work that I want to do. I used to do it in the cracks. I used to do it after the kids go to bed. I used to do it first thing in the morning. I don’t think that’s viable. To be a lot more vigorous around that so that I give myself breathing space and that I see that is my work as well. It’s not just client-facing all the time. I give myself permission to have that time to put into the depth of the value that I give to my clients.
Before we go on to the next section, I’d like to mention out $20,000 a month quiz, which helps corporate escapees like Tracey to see if they are fit for growth. You answer questions using a call bot. We either email you the response or you’ve got the option also to book a one-on-one call with me for debrief, where I’ll give you a specific plan to help you grow. You can go to BuildLiveGive.com to take the quiz. The next section is the live section. What are some daily habits, Tracey, that helped you be successful?
I would love to give you a whole list of great productivity habits that I have, Paul, that are amazing. I tend to have habits where I do a lot of thinking in my head. To sit and let myself think and then put some stuff down after that is a habit that I have developed and is still developing, rather than having it all caught up and take the bandwidth up in the air. I like to get up half an hour before I need to get up to give myself space to do whatever. I make a cup of tea. I do a bit of yoga stretching, something that is for me rather than for anyone else or my business. The other daily habit that I like to have is, because my office is in my home as well when I come in from being at work that I get changed straightaway. That helps to put me into a different mindset, where I can be more present for the family rather than feeling like I’m still at work.
Justin, who’s your husband and partner, what would you like to say to him when he reads this blog about the support he’s given you through this journey?How we develop a trusting relationship is dependent on the behaviors we have when we're having conversations. Click To Tweet
He has been pivotal to this. I know that he knows how important he is to the success of the business. Also, his moral support. When I go through moments and self-doubt, that feeling anxious if it’s a big thing I’ve got on that day, the reframing he does for me in the morning. He works from home. He works part-time in my business and also does some other things. He has always done the cute ramblings. I appreciate being able to count on the fact that our children have got one of their parents doing that important stuff of being able to pick up or taking them wherever they need to go, having their lunch packed in the morning.
He’s about to go on to his own great journey that we’re planning for. He’s about to go and spend lots of time over on Gili Air, which is top Lombok. We’ve taken the lease on the bar. My design for the future is that we’ll have lots of time over there and lots of here where the business run. My business will be able to run from here and from over there on a tropical island. We are looking forward to that and it’s because he supported me in my business that we’re able to take this step that he needs to go and do that work.
There are so many of my friends that have been there. A beautiful place it is. I have to make sure that I come over.
Come and visit the Legend Bar at the top of the Gili Air.
The next question is the give section. What’s a cause or a charity that you’re passionate about and why?
A couple of things, I do a bit of pro bono work, and that’s the bonus that you can have when you’ve got your own business. I do a lot of work in education. I have a few special projects there where I give my time and do my business work that I do there. One thing that I also have done over the last couple of years is work with The Growth Project. It’s an interesting approach where senior people from corporate get linked to CEOs of charities. They go through an extensive leadership program. The facilitators of the program are absolutely amazing.
Larry Fingleson has headed up The Growth Project. They’ve had about 5 or 6 cohorts go through. I’ll occasionally go and work with them around the Conversational Intelligence work and how do we have that great collaborative culture. Originally, both sides was how do we support CEOs of charities to thrive in a complex environment that they’ve found, which they always knew that was going to happen. The corporate people have got so much out of working in that space of helping these charities do the amazing work that they do. They have a great mix of charities, domestic violence agencies, people that ship medical supplies over to third world countries. Also, people that have organizations that helped grieving siblings where they might have lost their brother or sister or they’ve lost their parents. It’s amazing, the work that gets done and how they’re supporting these CEOs to continue to do the right work.
The last section is the action section, where I’ll ask you some questions and get some rapid-fire responses. We go back to that productivity tip that you dodged before. What are your top three productivity tips?
I use Trello board to write down all my to-dos. When I’m out with clients, I put those into that as soon as I can rather than waiting until later. You’ve had three meetings and they merge into two of them. I try and do it straight away. The other productivity tip is to have all my devices linked up. I use Evernote a lot and I take notes on that. I have things attached to Evernote. Whenever I do anything on any device, it syncs across so that I don’t get myself into a mess. My business manager also has access to all of them, and that’s critical and I can give her a call and say, “Can you grab that?” She’s got access to all of it. The other productivity tip that I like to do is to sit out on my front step and think about, at the end of the day what are the things that I’ve achieved? What is it that I would reflect on to do differently? It doesn’t take long to do that but it’s quite powerful.
I know you’ve mentioned Trello and Evernote. What are some other apps or software that you use to help you run your business?
We’ve moved our CRM. We’re using Pipedrive, which Suzie likes. She’s the main one that uses that. I also find that it’s easy for me to jump in if it hasn’t come on board yet for us to make some good notes and some follow-up. We’re using that. Because I work digitally a lot with making big visual charts for people, I use easy document apps like CamScanner. That takes my big charts that I have on the wall and cleans them up. They can be further cleaned by my team using Photoshop so that we can create them for clients. Another one which I heard on one of your other episodes as well, Paul, Blinkist is brilliant. I use Blinkist in the car. I listen to blinks of books. If we haven’t got time to read all these books, which I often don’t and most people don’t, how do I listen to the blinks of it and say, “That’s a book that I want to get. That’s a book that I get big concepts?” I feel that I have got an increased understanding of their approach.
Talking of podcasts and books, what are some of your favorites and why?
I love Antifragile by Nicholas Taleb. It’s that whole space of we’re in such a complex environment. Instead of talking that we have to be resilient, which is incredibly important, how do we evolve to thriving and that being buffeted and having to change course and take risks and jump into that learning pits and be okay with ambiguity? My new favorite is from one of my mates and it’s called The 25 Minute Meeting by Donna McGeorge. She has absolutely nailed what seems to be a corporate crisis, which is people go from meeting to meeting with no time in the middle to do any of the work and often sitting in meetings having no contribution and being victims of their diaries being hijacked. Donna’s book, The 25 Minute Meeting is fantastic. I read it and I was going, “Yes.” That’s going to redefine a lot of organizations that decide to get real about how much money, resource and energy they spend in meetings that don’t matter.
What’s some parting advice, Tracey, that you’ve got for our corporate escapee audience?
I want to encourage people to take a leap and have faith in yourself. We’ll never know unless we’re going to go. What do you need to support yourself to step out where you’re at if you do want to make a move? How do you put those things in place? Sometimes you might put those things in place to the thing that might be holding us back. Feel the fear and do it anyway. My parting advice is to give things a go. Don’t sit behind a twelve-month plan or a three-year action plan and you haven’t got around to writing it so it’s stopping you from doing something. Do something and see what happens.
You can find out more about the great work that Tracey does on her LinkedIn. Also, you can go to TraceyEzard.com and you can find out more about Tracey there. Tracey, thanks for coming on the show. You’ve given us some great wisdom and we can’t wait to come and join you for a beverage at the Legend Bar at some point soon.
Thanks, Paul. It’s been great to talk with you.
That was a great interview with Tracey. I loved her enthusiasm and she was easy to interview. What were the three key take outs from this episode for me? The first one is around team structure. Making sure that you’ve got the right mentors, the right peers and also using the right resources internally. Putting on a business manager made a fundamental change to her business. The second is around building trust. How do you go about building trust in high performing teams? She talked about three key things. First, seek to understand before you’re understood, listen deeply and also cocreate. She’s got some wonderful points there. The last thing she talked about is getting hold of your negative talk. Making sure that you’ve got the right mindset to charge the right price for your services and that you limit that negative self-talk.Take a leap and have faith in yourself. We’ll never know unless we're going to go. Click To Tweet
Those are the key things that I got out of this wonderful episode. I’d love to hear what you got or any questions you’ve got. Please email me at [email protected]. I love the comments that I get from you after you’ve read these fantastic episodes. If you think that someone else could benefit from this, another corporate escapee, please share this with them. If you haven’t had the chance yet, please subscribe yourself so that we can continue to send you these great episodes. Thank you.
Speaker, Author, Educator and Facilitator
Do your teams need to create an environment of inquiry and curiosity? One that pushes the status quo and gets to the real discussions? Tracey’s style is invitational yet challenging. She is obsessed with helping business, education and health leaders shake the status quo to reach extraordinary outcomes. Building an atmosphere of collaborative inquiry, Tracey encourages people to come together to find solutions together and step into a space of deep learning.