Building Blocks for Psychological Safety

with Linda Valente, Director of L&D for the CDD

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Linda Valente is the Director of Training and Employee Development at the non-profit, CDD, or Center for Developmentally Disabled. Here Linda and her organization provide much-needed residential care services and day habilitation to adults with developmental disabilities across the greater Kansas City, MO area. Linda is the first person in her position, laying the foundation for supporting not just their residents, but their caregivers.

Linda has worked in the Learning & Development field for 14 years now and holds two master's degrees in Adult Education and Family Therapy. Outside of academics, Linda is a lover of music. She is a part-time vocal instructor and currently studying to become a voice over artist. But most important to Linda is her female-dominated family with two daughters and two granddaughters, with her first grandson on the way! 

  • How Linda got into training and development
  • Center for Developmentally Disabled information
  • Importance of "listening tours"
  • How can L&D positions help employees reach their full potential
  • Dealing with failure
  • Tips to decompress the mind
  • How can talent leaders best position themselves for their own growth within a company
  • The power and importance of vulnerability and creating psychological safety
  • Servant leadership model
  • Defining success
  • How to make "others-focused" a leadership/business practice
  • Tips for building relationships
  • Watch-outs for psychological safety

[Tom Finn]    00:00:02    Hello, and welcome to the talent empowerment podcast, where we lift up people leaders so they can lift up their organizations. I'm your host, Tom Finn, co-founder and CEO of LeggUP together. We'll learn how to drive people innovation, how to transform HR into people ops, and how to secure buy-in to disrupt the status quo. And as I like to say, it's finally time to stop smoking on airplanes and update your people strategy. Let's transform your organization and move from a culture of talent management to talent empowerment. This week's episode of the talent empowerment podcast is brought to you by LeggUP's Talent Insurance, an inclusive people development platform designed to help HR leaders empower their people through one-on-one professional coaching with results like a 66% improvement in avoiding burnout, a 54% jump in leadership skills and a 73% increase in job satisfaction, LeggUP guarantees, improved employee wellbeing, productivity, and retention. In fact, they ensure it, your people stay or they pay!. And without further ado, this is talent empowerment. Welcome to the talent empowerment podcast, my friends, where we lift up people leaders. So you can lift up your organizations. I am your host, Tom Finn, and today my guest is the passionate and very kind Linda Valente. Linda, welcome to the show.  

[Linda Valente]    00:01:33    Thank you so much, Tom, for that introduction. I'm very happy to be here with you today.  

[Tom Finn]    00:01:38    Oh my gosh. We are so happy to have you. And when I tell you about Linda, uh, you are gonna be thrilled to hear what she has to say today. Linda is the director of training and employee development at a nonprofit, uh, C D, or the center for the developmentally disabled. Now here, Linda and her organization provide much-needed residential care and day rehabilitation to adults, uh, with developmental disabilities. And she does that in the greater Kansas city area. She's the first person in her position at the organization. And she has laid the groundwork for supporting not just their residents, uh, but certainly the caregivers and the entire team at C D. Um, she's worked in learning and development for 14 years, uh, holds two master's degrees, one in adult education, another one in family therapy and outside of academics and work and all that kind of stuff. She is a lover of music, and a part-time vocal instructor— So stay tuned on that one— and is studying to become a voiceover artist. How cool is that? Uh, now the most important thing to Linda, is she is a part of a great family and she's got a lot of ladies in the family, female-dominated. She's got two daughters, two granddaughters, and your first grandson on the way. Congratulations.  

[Linda Valente]    00:02:52    Thank you so much.  

[Tom Finn]    00:02:54    That is amazing. So let's get to know you a little bit. How did 14 years in the business, uh, of HR and talent and people, um, how did you get into this field? Uh, and, uh, maybe what was your first job?  

[Linda Valente]    00:03:07    Oh, well, that's going back away is my first job. I worked at the Jones store in actually the Hory department as a sales clerk, way back when in high school. <laugh>,  

[Tom Finn]    00:03:18    It's always funny to think back to those first jobs, right? Yeah,  

[Linda Valente]    00:03:22    Absolutely.  

[Tom Finn]    00:03:23    And from there you went into, uh, HR as, as, as you developed into your career, what was your first job in, uh, HR and training and development and those kinds of roles?  

[Linda Valente]    00:03:33    Yeah, I worked, um, for a Fortune 500 company and here in Kansas City and I was in the dental claims department. So I kind of came through the call center. They didn't really have, uh, much of a training program at all. So that's another time I got to experience becoming a trainer and also developing, a program from scratch. We had three different cities that we had centers in and we were developing an entire training program for all of the call center, customer service reps, and the people that process, the claims.  

[Tom Finn]    00:04:04    Yeah, that's, that's a great background because you get to see the customer experience and how customers are treated and what that means to employees. And then you went into HR, uh, after that. So after, after that role, how did you sort of progress your career into, uh, the leadership role you have today?  

[Linda Valente]    00:04:22    Well, I took on more and more responsibility. Um, as things happened around 2008 and we all experienced reduction of force and centers that closed, we closed a location, we consolidated some of the training and I kind of moved up and took more responsibility. And towards the end of it, they had also, uh, I was the only trainer left out of the team that was doing both Minneapolis and Kansas city at that point. So that's kind of how I just kind of grew the role and, uh, we kept evolving and adding more, more, um, possibilities to the training. Most of it was in person, although we did have online, we were experiencing that. It wasn't as prevalent as today.  

[Tom Finn]    00:05:02    Oh, fantastic. And, uh, now you're working for the center for, uh, the developmentally disabled that's in Kansas City, a fabulous organization. Yes. And you work with, uh, you work with folks, um, that have continuous disabilities that are indefinite. Is that right?  

[Linda Valente]    00:05:20    That's correct. Yes.  

[Tom Finn]    00:05:21    And, and some of those for our audience might be things like autism or behavior disorders down syndrome, intellectual  

[Linda Valente]    00:05:27    Disability, correct.  

[Tom Finn]    00:05:29    Yeah. Tell, tell me, tell me what that looks like.  

[Linda Valente]    00:05:31    Well, we have people that sometimes have a dual diagnosis, so they may have intellectual development, uh, developmentally dis disabilities, uh, cerebral palsy, um, autism. They also may have mental health diagnoses. So we have a variety of spectrums from people that need, uh, full service, full support, 24-7 to one that is more independent, that are working and that are able to take care of themselves basically, and don't need a lot of oversight. So we have the full continuum.  

[Tom Finn]    00:05:59    That's wonderful. And, and you have a group of caregivers yes. They go out to the community and support these folks.  

[Linda Valente]    00:06:05    Right. We certainly do. We've got a lot of very dedicated folks, um, that work in their homes, in their setting there, and also that help serve in our admin building. We have it's called pals university. So it's the Dayhab program that we recently opened since, uh, during COVID it got kind of got put on hold. Like a lot of things did, uh, but now it's opened up and we have people coming and we're doing more community outreach, um, with our folks.  

[Tom Finn]    00:06:32    That's wonderful. And you, you mentioned this term Dayhab, can you explain that to us?  

[Linda Valente]    00:06:37    Yeah, they go and they, they do activities that they're interested in and they, they learn about the community. They do community outings. They might learn about getting a job, helping them, uh, with their skills, for that, depending they might learn something like crafts or art. Um, just really depending on what they're interested in.  

[Tom Finn]    00:06:56    Well, this is just a wonderful organization, helping all of those in the community, uh, in Missouri and, and, uh, I, I think it's fabulous. So thank you for, for really the wonderful work that your entire organization does. Uh, not just you, but the entire team really gets the kudos, right. For all of this wonderful work you're doing in the community. So, so we've got this great backdrop of this fabulous organization helping others, and then you're in development. So tell us a little bit about your role and, and what you do over there.  

[Linda Valente]    00:07:26    Sure. Well, I run a really great team. I started out with just me and then we had one other person and during, uh, I was hired on right at the beginning, in, in 2020, in April. So the office shut down my orientation, and everything was done. <laugh> and they've never done it before online.  

[Tom Finn]    00:07:43    That's a fun time to start a job, April 20, 20, right. That's clay, welcome to the team. Uh <laugh> we're, we're sending everybody home.  

[Linda Valente]    00:07:52    Right. So that was challenging to say the least, but, you know, learning really what I did as I kind of dug into finding out who people were connecting with them, uh, via zoom on the phone and really asking questions and listening, doing a lot of assessment on what they needed and what they were hoping to build. So that's kind of where I started.  

[Tom Finn]    00:08:14    Yeah. That's wonderful. And, and as you were, as you were coming into the organization during this time, and you were on your listening tour, was there something that stood out to you that maybe hadn't happened yet, that you thought, oh gosh, that's, that's an opportunity for me to really make an impact?  

[Linda Valente]    00:08:29    Yeah. There were a couple of things that stood out to me. One was how brave and dedicated these people were because some of them had actually moved into the homes and were basically living there because they were on lockdown. And so they were really dedicating, giving up a lot of their time and their family time, they were risking, um, their own health. You know, we did all the precautions, uh, necessary, but it is a big risk, like any of the healthcare workers during that time. And so I was really impressed with that and their need for support and that they really needed, um, someone to help them with taking time for themself, self-care, mental health that that's continued throughout the pandemic, bringing, bringing programs to them, to make things easier for them to get the training that they needed was also important.  

[Tom Finn]    00:09:15    Yeah. You know, those frontline workers, uh, during, uh, a pandemic or at any time are just heroes, uh, as they don't wear capes usually. Uh, but they are absolute heroes. Shout out to my wife, uh, who is, is a nurse, uh, and still a nurse. Um, but now in management. So shout out to her as well. Frontline worker. Thank you, honey. I love you. Um, and, and Linda this is all of this great work has gone on, um, during the pandemic working together, figuring this thing out. So what's, what's really your philosophy on helping people reach their potential. How do you, how do you do that in your role?  

[Linda Valente]    00:09:53    Well, we are approaching it in a few different ways. We tried to provide blended learning so that they get classroom experience, plus the benefit of doing things online so that we can meet them where they're at. As I said, mobile learning is also important. Um, being able to provide resources for people, we're building career paths, leadership development, those things that people can really plug into. So in order to do that, we didn't have a learning management system. We didn't really have any technical, uh, support. So I had to do a lot of tech sourcing, uh, finding out what was available in the industry and really, uh, meeting with a lot of folks and getting things in place. So part of it also is being able to manage your own expectations when you're going through this process. Because as you can imagine, there are a lot of highs and lows. Um, you try things, but they may not work. You gotta be willing to put yourself out there and give it a try and kind of bring people along with you. So it's important to have a vision and a purpose, and to be able to communicate that to people. So they kind of know, you know, where are we headed? What are you trying to do and really get their buy-in to the program?  

[Tom Finn]    00:11:04    I, I love the way you said that highs and lows, sometimes things don't work. Right. And, and I think for those of us in HR positions and talent positions, it's so scary when things don't work. Uh, because we're worried. I think we turn the mirror on ourselves. Oh my gosh, what is somebody gonna say? I, you know, I put something in place that didn't work, or maybe didn't have the impact that we thought it would as a business. Mm-hmm <affirmative> how do you, how do you take that as a leader and, and how do you become okay with some level of failure?  

[Linda Valente]    00:11:35    Well, I kind of think it's all in your mindset really. Um, I've experienced a lot of failures in my life because I've tried a lot of things, so <laugh>, yeah. Uh, you really have to be willing. I think someone said to, to fail forward. So you, you have to know that you are gonna be able to learn from that experience and take what's good and then go forward and make it better. And I think as learning development professionals, we do this a lot. Anyway. It's kind of built to where we're always trying new things. We're always trying to improve. Um, you know, we kind of expect some failure along the way. Teachers are the same way, uh, anybody that's teaching or educating adults, or children's all kind of part of the process. And you just have to have the mindset that as you're growing and learning, you're giving grace to the people that you're helping develop, but you also have to give grace to yourself and let yourself develop.  

[Tom Finn]    00:12:27    Yeah. I love that. You've gotta give grace to yourself and you gotta fail forward. And if you're not failing a little bit, you're probably not trying hard enough. Uh, or you're not, you're not finding the right innovation. Right, exactly. Because if you're not failing, you're not really trying anything.  

[Linda Valente]    00:12:40    Right.  

[Tom Finn]    00:12:42    I, I think that's so important. And, and for those that are feeling like a failure is not an option, you know, this 1980s mentality of, uh, we are only successful, um, all the time. It just doesn't work that way. Um, you have to have failures to, uh, to be able to pivot into the right programs for your particular company, right? Linda, your organization is gonna be very different than a high-tech company and you have different needs.  

[Linda Valente]    00:13:09    Absolutely. Yeah. And, and being new in a position also, and starting a new program, it takes you a while to kind of learn the culture and pick up on what they need. And sometimes you may think that what you're bringing is the best thing ever, and then it might fall flat because people are just not ready for that. And that's happened to me. <laugh> yeah. I went a little bit too far forward. We, we, uh, did try some, an AI and a bot, you know, some, uh, automated intelligence. And that was a little bit future forward for some of our folks. So you kind of have to learn, uh, pull back a little and start where they're at and build. And yeah, that's, that's a,  

[Tom Finn]    00:13:48    Yeah, that's a great way of putting it. I love the way you said that. So you, you've gotta just kind of, when you look at an organization, look at the culture of the organization and really identify what the core principles of that organization are, and then build a plan because what you did before may not work at your new company.  

[Linda Valente]    00:14:05    Right. Right. Absolutely. And I think that, uh, you know, as a learning process, if you have those goals in mind, you kind of have that strategic plan, you know, where you're, where you're headed, and then you bring people along with you. Um, and then to be open for suggestions, and you may end up going in directions that you hadn't anticipated.  

[Tom Finn]    00:14:25    Yeah, that's right. And are there specific, uh, programs that you've put in place that you feel really good about, uh, that have happened over the last couple of years? That you're, that you're proud of?  

[Linda Valente]    00:14:36    Yeah. I think one of the things I'm really proud of is our orientation and onboarding. We've really revamped that and we've really streamlined it. And, uh, we've had really good responses to that. And we've been able to bring in some fun things like some games online, some tech part of it, but also really keep that, uh, human classroom sharing, uh, piece into it so that people can really share their stories and really learn from each other. So I, I really like that. And also being able to provide some support. Um, for example, we brought in some massage therapists for chair massages for a mental health month. And I also brought in one of our, a counselor from our employee assistance program that spoke to us, um, this week actually about, um, trauma and secondary trauma. So it was very, uh apropo and, uh, everybody really appreciates those kinds of programming that really speak to where they're at and what they need.  

[Tom Finn]    00:15:33    Yeah. If you can do it and get massage therapists into an office <laugh>, um, I think everybody sort of roots on the talent leader that says, let's get some massage therapists in here and give everybody a back massage. I, you know, trust me, I'd be signing up twice. Linda, if I, if, uh, on that clipboard  

[Linda Valente]    00:15:50    And surprisingly enough, we had people that were reluctant to sign up, especially some of our men, um, they just didn't think they had the time, or they didn't wanna take the time to take care of themselves. And that's one of the problems that, you know, we went across with people that are frontline workers and the managers as well, is that they're very dedicated and they really don't think they have time out to do it, but we did encourage PE more people to take advantage of that. And we also have a trained, uh, therapy dog that belongs to one of my trainers and, uh, that the dog Stanley was brought in a nice doodle, very <laugh> beautiful dog and, uh, hung out for the day and is gonna be coming back because we got such rave reviews on that. So that was really a fun thing to do.  

[Tom Finn]    00:16:35    Well, you, you make a great point, um, that sometimes we just need to take care of ourselves first. And it's really important for those that are listening, that are in roles that are, uh, high pressure, high stress, um, where there's, there are hard deadlines, or sometimes we impose that stress or pressure or deadline on ourselves, right. Because we wanna perform, uh, it's really important that we take a step back. The massage chair is a perfect visual aid for us, right. As we're listening to say, you've gotta sort of take that massage chair time for you. And it, it might not be a massage chair for everybody, Linda. Right. It could be something else could be a walk, right. It  

[Linda Valente]    00:17:13    Right.  

[Tom Finn]    00:17:13    Spending time with your grandkids, it could be, um, you know, having, having dinner with some wonderful friends that you haven't seen in a while, you know, it doesn't really matter what the thing is, but we've all gotta figure that out so that we can decompress.  

[Linda Valente]    00:17:27    Yes, I absolutely agree. And I encourage people to do that, to find the things that bring them joy and to make time for that. And one of the things that I've been doing is, uh, publishing a, a mindful, you know, uh, mindfulness, Monday articles and trying to encourage people to take just a moment here and there to take a deep breath and concentrate on something in the present that gives them joy. That brings them peace.  

[Tom Finn]    00:17:50    Yeah. That's a wonderful way to do it. Being present, finding joy, bringing peace. So what is your trick up your sleeve, Linda? What do you do to decompress, that mind and have that massage chair moment?  

[Linda Valente]    00:18:02    <laugh> well, I do a little bit of that mindfulness meditation. I also like to concentrate just on simple pleasures. Like I love coffee, so that's one of the things, uh, having to go cup of coffee in the morning and just really concentrating how right. It tastes and feels the warmth in the hand, all of that. Um, being able to spend time, like you said, with family and friends, anybody that has grandchildren or children knows how much fun that is, if you can just get in the moment and really, uh, see the way that they see the world for a few minutes and really let yourself enjoy that moment with them.  

[Tom Finn]    00:18:35    Yeah. I, I love that. I can kind of visualize you with the grandkids having a cup of coffee, right. And, and grandkids running around. How, how old are your grandkids?  

[Linda Valente]    00:18:42    Um, my oldest grandchild G she is five and the youngest is two, and then we have one on the way, so, oh,  

[Tom Finn]    00:18:50    Wow. That those are fabulous ages. Yes. Uh, they're so inquisitive and running around two-year-olds running around, stumbling over things. I would imagine  

[Linda Valente]    00:18:58    <laugh>,  

[Tom Finn]    00:18:58    She's, she's all over the place. Yeah.  

[Linda Valente]    00:19:00    Oh yeah. Just a little fireball. She's always on the move.  

[Tom Finn]    00:19:03    <laugh> ah, that's, that's wonderful. Um, you know, the family's so important. Right. And, and we, we think about all the work we do, we do it because we wanna support our families and our friends and our social networks and, and all of those things. And so if we deplete ourselves to a point where we can't support those folks, what was the point? Right. Really. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And, and that's why I think families are just, just so critical. And it's so important that you're thinking about that as a leader. I imagine you have those same conversations with employees. Do you, do you push family first within your organization? Is that culturally acceptable? Um, within your company?  

[Linda Valente]    00:19:39    Yes, it is. And I definitely push that with my team as well. Um, I have one on my team, a person on my team, that's a foster mom, and she's had times where she's had to have some extra time and flexibility due to those responsibilities. And so, yeah, I'm very aware of that. And I was very aware of that in our culture.  

[Tom Finn]    00:19:58    Yeah. I think that's super important. Um, because look, it's all, it all comes back to people. Uh, most folks in HR and in talent development, leadership roles are others focused. Right. They're focused on other people. That's why they took the job. I'm sure that's why you took the job, um, because you wanna help, you wanna help other people be the best version of themselves, but we can't do that unless we're okay. Our family's okay. Right. Our social network is okay. And then we have the energy, the vibrance, the creative mind to really go out there and kick butt, uh, for, for our employer.  

[Linda Valente]    00:20:34    Yes, very well said. And I think it's also very important to bring ourselves in with that energy into the, for the people that we serve. And a lot of us get a lot of energy and, uh, just from being around them. So the people that our individuals that we serve are really a joy and we get a lot of energy from them as well.  

[Tom Finn]    00:20:55    Yeah, of course, it's reciprocal. Uh, the work you're doing just sort of feeds back to you, uh, as an energy source, which is, uh, just terrific. I love the way this is going today. Energy sources and grandkids and a positive mindset. Um, but these are all the things that are so important as we, as we all tackle this new world of work. And we think about how this impacts ourselves. We have to be mindful of the support that we need. Um, so, with that in mind, you know, we talk about HR and talent leaders. How, how can they best position themselves for their own growth within a company?  

[Linda Valente]    00:21:33    I think it's really important to have a clear idea about what your values are and what you really want from an organization, what you want and what you can contribute, both are important. And it's important for them to align, uh, to have a good match between those two things and then just be willing to be open to the experience and be willing to be vulnerable. And I think that's one of the harder things to do. I am an introvert. And so putting myself out here today or putting myself out there is, is really outta my comfort zone, but you have to be willing to do that in order to grow.  

[Tom Finn]    00:22:08    Yeah, very well said and succinct, I think vulnerability really builds trust. And when we can be vulnerable with each other, we tend to say, well, that person let their guard down. It's probably okay for me to let my guard down. Right. Right. And then all of a sudden we, we humanize the conversation instead of feeling like our walls have to be up to protect, you know, our own feelings or our persona or whatever we're thinking that we have to protect. So do you do that? Are you vulnerable with your staff?  

[Linda Valente]    00:22:40    Yes. And they, and I think part of the, the reason we're able to do that is that we build that trust, that relationship in, I always spend time regular one-on-ones. I see them every day. We really enjoy spending time together. We've learned so much about each other outside of work. Um, we're willing to share and support each other. It's, it's a great relationship, but it really brings a lot, of fun to your work when you could have that, uh, psychological safety and trust with the people that you work with. And sometimes it takes a while to build. So, uh, you know, you can't expect it on day one, but it, it certainly has been fun building those relationships.  

[Tom Finn]    00:23:17    And is there, is there magic, uh, the trick here or some sort of secret sauce that, that, that allows you to build relationships quickly within an organization?  

[Linda Valente]    00:23:28    I think you really have to put your intent out there. You have to be authentic. Uh, people respond to that. You have to be genuine. So you need to kind of put your ego aside sometimes and forget about whatever title you may have and really meet people where they're at.  

[Tom Finn]    00:23:42    Yeah. That's a great point. This whole title conversation is one that, uh, I think is, is really worth having for, for those that have a particular title. Um, sometimes we feel like we have an enhanced position because of that title. Right. But it all comes back to people.  

[Linda Valente]    00:24:00    Yes. And, and I see it as having an enhanced responsibility to, to serve others. That's how I look at it.  

[Tom Finn]    00:24:10    Yeah. Unpack that for me a little bit. So an enhanced responsibility to others, help me understand that a little bit.  

[Linda Valente]    00:24:16    Sure. It's kind of an, uh, follows along the servant leadership model where you're really being an example. You're really willing to walk the talk. So you're not just gonna ask something, of people that you're not willing to do yourself. And that's part of being authentic and people seeing that. So I think that's part of being a leader and being able to serve others and help them develop and grow. So it's really, like you said, being focused on other people, you have to be mindful of your own stuff as well and what you bring to the table, but it's really looking at that way, instead of telling people what to do and having these expectations, it's really leading people and helping them, uh, achieve their goals and then working together to achieve the goals of the organization that you're serving  

[Tom Finn]    00:25:02    Be beautifully said. And for those of you that don't know servant leadership, or, uh, you're new to the show, servant leadership very simply is investing the triangle or inverting, excuse me, the triangle. Um, so that, you know, you report to the people that work for you really. And if you think about it that way, it's your job to support them. Um, you can really build wonderful relationships, long-term relationships. Um, and you sort of, as you said, Linda, put the ego aside and, and just help other people be successful. And that will then, in turn, make you successful.  

[Linda Valente]    00:25:36    Yes.  

[Tom Finn]    00:25:37    De depending on what your definition of success is, everybody has a different definition. So now I have to ask you  

[Linda Valente]    00:25:42    Very true, very  

[Tom Finn]    00:25:42    True. What is your definition of success? Like  

[Linda Valente]    00:25:45    <laugh>? Well, my definition of success would be, uh, when my people succeed and when the organization succeeds and when I feel happy about what I'm doing.  

[Tom Finn]    00:25:56    Yeah. Well said people succeeding, organizational succeeding, feeling good wholeheartedly. When we look in the mirror, uh, that we are happy with the job that we've done, that means, uh, success. That's a wonderful, wonderful definition. So how do you take that idea of success and this idea of others focused and push that into the management ranks in an organization, cuz it's fine that we're talking about it and HR people are talking about it and talent people, but how do we actually take it from this utopia of people that care about people and get it into that management layer?  

[Linda Valente]    00:26:32    Yeah. That is a challenge. And I'll be honest about that because not everybody's gonna have that approach. Not everybody's gonna think that that's gonna move the needle. Sometimes you have to look at, you have to get some research cuz there is research out there saying that this is a good way to go. This is gonna be successful for companies, but some people have not had that experience. So it takes a little bit of time and effort, um, being willing to put those ideas forward, being willing to have those difficult conversations sometimes, and to really listen to their point of view. And sometimes you can only move the needle just a little bit, a little bit of progress and it may be one step, one step forward, and two steps back. But you know, it's gonna change. It may take some time. You gotta be persistent.  

[Tom Finn]    00:27:17    Yeah. Well, well said I'll give one example. About five years ago I started a company called LeggUP. It is a professional development coaching company and the whole idea was to support the management layer and all employees, but really it can start with the management layer with giving them their own executive coach, cuz we all have this voice that says I can do it or I can't do it. And depending on the day, uh, you might listen to one voice or the other, but really having somebody to talk to having somebody, to help managers with their plan, whether it's the productivity side or the wellbeing side can really be an effective tool, um, for organizations to, to grow and coaching is a, a wildly accepted, uh, medium to, uh, to support people in their roles.  

[Linda Valente]    00:28:00    Yes, I think coaching is fantastic. Uh, I wish that every organization could, could go ahead and implement that, especially for their senior execs to start out with and their management folks.  

[Tom Finn]    00:28:12    Yeah. Well I look it's, uh, it's been something that's very well documented as being effective, which I think is why you're saying yes, that's a great, great model. I think the challenge is that it can be cost prohibitive for decades. It's been, uh, a fortune to put in coaching programs, into organizations, which is why we started the company to, to really pull the cost out and be able to scale it. Um, you know, my story is very simple. I was, uh, you know, seen as a high performer for whatever that's worth. And uh, and I asked for a coach because I was completely over my skis. I, I was managing a huge team at a young age, 75 people at 28 years old and I needed some help. And you know, they told me Linda, they said, you know, it's $30,000 for a coach. It's not in our budget. And I said, I'm sorry, I did not ask for a car. I asked for a coach, maybe you misunderstood <laugh> and, and they said, no, no, no, we're talking about one human, uh, having conversations with you. And I thought, well, that's just absurd. So we went on this journey, uh, to, uh, to carve out a new, a new way of doing it, which is, um, you know, my day job, I just Moonlight, uh, you know, as a fabulous talent empowerment podcast host  

[Linda Valente]    00:29:26    <laugh> well, you do a great job with your moonlighting, Tom. I must say,  

[Tom Finn]    00:29:31    Well, I, I, I appreciate that. Um, now you're, you're very good at building relationships and obviously, you're buttering me up now. So, um, <laugh>, I, I, I know where I stand here, uh, but building relationships is, is super important. And you talked earlier about psychological safety, um, and, and you brought that up, help our audience and help, uh, our listeners understand sort of the relationship between building relationships and psychological safety and what that means and how do you do it.  

[Linda Valente]    00:30:00    Yeah, that's a great question, but really it's the building block for any relationship. So if you don't feel safe with the other person, you're gonna have walls up. Like you talked about before, you're not gonna be willing to share who you really are. You're we all wear masks, right? We all kind of like, hold back maybe before we know somebody, we don't know if we can trust this person. If this person is going to be a friend or a foe. So really you have to establish that at the beginning of a relationship, if you wanna build something with them, you have to be able to reach out and let them say, Hey, you know, it's okay. I'm gonna listen. I care. Um, I'm going to be accepting. I'm gonna be nonjudgmental. All of those things are important.  

[Tom Finn]    00:30:39    Yeah. And, when we're establishing that relationship, we're trying to seek psychological safety. Are there some watch-outs? You talked about the mass, but are there things that we should absolutely avoid?  

[Linda Valente]    00:30:51    Well, I think it's important to have healthy boundaries. And in that, I mean, I don't think it's, you have to share your deepest, darkest secrets with the stranger right away. And that would be a red flag to me. If somebody was opening up and sharing too much, that that's a red flag, you have to have healthy boundaries in that. Uh, you know, you take it slowly and you build trust, uh, one step at a time.  

[Tom Finn]    00:31:13    Yeah. Well said, take it slowly, build trust, be open, be vulnerable, make sure people feel safe when they're talking to you, which I would imagine, uh, you know, a big part of that is listening, having yes. Having some pretty good listening skills, right. Especially in HR. I think all of our folks that are out there in HR and talent development are pretty darn good listeners. Don't you think?  

[Linda Valente]    00:31:34    Yeah. I, I think they have to be, to be in the job. You have to be willing to listen to really listen to folks or you really can't do your job effectively, in my opinion.  

[Tom Finn]    00:31:42    Yeah. It was a short stint in HR. If you're not a good listener, I would, I would think. Right. Um, but building relationships, uh, is, is critically important. And you took us down this path earlier of I was new to the company I had to put in new programs. I had to bring in new technology. Um, there were lots of things you've had to do over the last couple of years. Um, so kudos to you for, for pulling all, all of this off, um, uh, during a pandemic as well and going into a new company and, and dealing with all the things you've dealt with. Um, is there, is there something that if you were, uh, talking to the younger version of Linda that you would tell yourself, uh, you know, years back?  

[Linda Valente]    00:32:22    Yeah, I think I would've told myself to worry a little bit less about what other people think and to trust myself more. I think, especially when you're younger and you're starting out, um, you don't always listen to your own inner voice. You look for approval more outside of yourself, and sometimes people will have ulterior motives and won't really be looking out for your best interest. So it's really important to be, um, aware of who you are and to be willing to stand up for yourself.  

[Tom Finn]    00:32:57    Absolutely. Uh, well said, and I've got a simple one if, uh, if I may share, uh, I love me, some me, I love me. Some me, I love me. Some me, you have got to be your biggest fan, right? Um, to find success, you have to be your biggest advocate. And if you just say, I love me, some me that will get you in the right head space. Uh, I like that if you have one of those days, I use it. I've used it for, uh, probably 20 years. Um, and, and the intent is not to be arrogant. That is not the intent by any means. The intent is, look, we all have days of low self-esteem. We all have moments where we don't feel good. Um, and that's normal, but you have to have some trigger that picks you back up in a positive way that gets you back to, to neutral,  

[Linda Valente]    00:33:45    Right? Yes. Yes. I totally agree with that.  

[Tom Finn]    00:33:49    And so my pro tip is I love me, me. Um, I don't know if anybody's gonna use that  

[Linda Valente]    00:33:54    Well, thanks for sharing it. I think it's great. <laugh>  

[Tom Finn]    00:33:57    Well, Linda, this has been, uh, really fun having you on the show. I've, I've thoroughly enjoyed this, this conversation. I know others who are listening are gonna really be thinking about a couple of things, um, being open and honest and vulnerable, right. Which is one of your key points here. And also when you go into an organization listen first, understanding the culture before you start to bring in programs from other organizations that you might have been at really gotta listen to the culture. I think that's critical. And, uh, and ultimately really finding those leadership strides, um, as an HR person, by empowering management layers, within an organization to be successful, anything else we should be taking away today?  

[Linda Valente]    00:34:39    I think those are great takeaways and I've thoroughly enjoyed this time with you as well, Tom, and I hope that everyone can take something from this, uh, conversation for themselves and that they will be better for it.  

[Tom Finn]    00:34:51    Yeah, absolutely. And if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, Linda, where would they go about doing that? Would they find you on LinkedIn or is there some other place that they could track you down?

[Linda Valente]    00:34:59    I am on LinkedIn. Uh, I don't really have my, you can look by my name. I'm trying to think. I was thinking you would ask me that. And I thought, what is my LinkedIn address that I'm not remembering right now? I think it's L Valente one, but I'm not positive about that.  

[Tom Finn]    00:35:13    Yeah. Well, Linda is, uh, uh, L I N D a Valenti is V a L E N T E. We'll put that in the show notes, uh, and we'll put a link to your LinkedIn so that folks, uh, can find you. And thank you, connect with you and, uh, and follow up with questions if they have 'em and, and just be a part of the, the wonderful talent empowerment community.  

[Linda Valente]    00:35:33    That sounds awesome. I really appreciate it.  

[Tom Finn]    00:35:35    Well, Linda, thank you for joining us today, and thank you for joining the talent empowerment podcast out there. I hope this conversation lifted you up so you can lift up your teams and your organizations, my friends let's get back to people and culture together. We'll see. On the next episode,  

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