Why do we hide behind titles and labels? It’s because it gives us an illusion that from titles alone, we can get the respect we want. Ben Baker’s guest in this episode is Kim-Adele Randall, the Chief Executive Officer of Legacy Media Hub. Kim talks with Ben about how we need to learn to live up to our titles. Leading with kindness, humanity, and courage, is an excellent way to do that. We need to share vulnerability without losing credibility. And to give people support when learning new skills because change is uncomfortable. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this episode!
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Why Do We Hide Behind Titles And Labels With Kim-Adele Randall
[00:00:46] Welcome back my wonderful audience. Thanks for tuning in every single week. It’s Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com, it’s how to get in touch with me. Connect with me on LinkedIn. Let’s have a conversation. I’d love to hear what you think, ideas, who you like to hear from, and the ideas you want me to share with you. We got Kim Adele Randall from Legacy Media Hub. We’re going to talk about why do we hide behind titles and labels. Kim, welcome to the show.
[00:00:52] Thanks for having me, Ben. It’s a real privilege to come and chat with you.
[00:00:56] We’re going to have a lot of fun here. I love the conversation, titles and labels. I haven’t had a title on a business card in 25 years. I look at it and people look at my business card and they don’t know how to treat me. They have no idea. Am I a president, CEO, bottle washer, or head cook? How do they address me? What deference should they give me? I’m like, “I am who I am. This is what I do. The title doesn’t matter.” I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
[00:02:03] As human beings, we love a title and label. Depending on the title or the label depends on how we show up and how we engage with each other. It shouldn’t matter because we are all human beings We all want to be listened to, respected, and understood. The title shouldn’t make any difference to that and yet we do.
I haven’t had a title for years. I never used to use it in corporate life. The first time I felt like I might make it mutual was when I went and set up on my own. All of a sudden, having spent 30 years in corporate life going and doing massive conferences, walking into rooms of thousands of people, and having no issue, even though I didn’t use my title psychologically, I knew what it was. I knew that almost gave me the right to be in the room.
All of a sudden, I remember being sat in the car. I was outside of an Indian restaurant in an industrial estate in Sleaford about to go to a networking thing and I was like, “I can’t do this. This is ridiculous. I can’t do it. Why is anyone going to want to talk to me?” I’ve to have real word with myself to go, “Why is it any different than how anyone would have wanted to talk to you last month when you worked in corporate? That kid has a conversation with you, not your job title. You’re still the same person, skills, knowledge and experience that you can share. It’s that you’ve now gone on your own.” I was like, “I’m going to stick by my decision to not have a title and not have one.” I’m going to go in there as “I’m Kim. Great to meet you. Let me hear your story,” because we’ve all got a story. If we give people the respect of listening to theirs, we learned something new.
[00:03:49] I love hearing people’s stories. Where did they come from? What brought them to this point? What have they learned along the way? Let’s take that as a launch-off point for you. Give my audience a little understanding of what took you out of the corporate world and on your own. Where did you come from? Where are you now? Then we’ll talk about where we’re going.“That meeting was a waste of makeup.” - Kim-Adele Randall Click To Tweet
[00:04:12] I had an unusual start to my career. I had a dream when I was a child to be a hairdresser. That’s what I wanted to be. I left school at fifteen and I made my dream come true. I became a hairdresser. I launched my own business before I was nineteen. I thought that was it. My life is sorted. I have everything I ever dreamed has come true. I’m like, “I’m here, what’s next?”
When I was in my early-twenties, I lost the feeling in my hands and legs and they didn’t know what it was. It took quite a while for the doctors to find out. It turned out I was allergic to perm lotion, which in the ’90s was a bit of a problem because perms were in and I was allergic to it. I couldn’t even be there if somebody else was doing a perm. I had to sell my salon. I sold it to the girl who worked for me. She still runs it. My niece still goes.
I had to start again. I was like, “What do you do when everything you thought you were going to do suddenly comes to a crashing halt?” I got a fifteen-hour a week, six-month temporary contract at the local bank while I worked out what to do next. I then kept going. That started my 25-plus-year career in banking. I felt like I was behind because I was starting my career again in my late-twenties. I tackled life as I’ve always tackled life, which is, “I’ll give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen. I’ll get it wrong. I’ll learn, but I might get it right. Let’s see how this goes.” That did me wonders.
I managed to very quickly make my way up to manager, then to the director, and then to the board. I kept being put forward on these future leader courses and they would put me on them based on something they’d seen in me, but then they’d immediately give me an application form and then suck their teeth where they went through it going, “Where’s your degree?” “I don’t have one.” “Where are you’re A levels?” “I don’t have any of those either. I’ve got an NVQ in hairdressing. Clearly, you’re less interested in.”
It started to make me feel like I shouldn’t be there, that I was a bit of a fraud. I suffered for a lot of years from imposter syndrome. Even when I got onto the board, I was convinced that one day they were going to turn around and say, “We put a hairdresser on the board. That’s a bit awkward. Get her off.” They never did, but it was still a big fear. That was my life for a lot of years. I was fortunate. I got headhunted by a person that worked with me in the past. I moved into IT software back in financial services and spanned those two.
I had a second and then a third potentially life-threatening illness. The third one was when my little girl was not quite two. I ended up in intensive care with double pneumonia and realized that I was killing myself in a job I didn’t enjoy. I’ve been trying to rebuild our lives and things haven’t worked out the way we intended them to.
I remember being in the hospital and saying, “If I make it out or if I survive, I’ll make the changes that I need to make.” I thought, “What am I passionate about?” I’ve been passionate for years about leadership, but about connecting with people. I believe as a leader that you can lead with kindness, humanity, and courage. You have to have courage and commercial decisions. I’ve had to run several redundancies in my career. They’re not nice, but you have to do them sometimes for the company to survive.
You do something like that, you do it with humanity, kindness, treat people with respect, and then you can still sleep at night. As I realized that if that was my passion, maybe I should set up a business where I go and help other people connect better with their people, lead their way through difficult situations, and do it with finesse. Do it in a way that creates a culture that engages, infuses and empowers their people.
I came out of the hospital on a Wednesday and on a Monday, I went into work, quit my job, and retrained to be a first leadership coach and now I’m also a qualified face whisper, so I read micro-expressions. It’s all about learning not just what’s being said and also what’s not being said, so that you better understand the other person so that you can help them to be the best that they can be.
[00:08:37] I want to go back to something that you said and you glossed over it, but it’s important. You said, “I felt like I had to change my life in my twenties and that was late.” That’s an interesting thought process because I see that a lot now. You have these kids that are 22, 23, 24 that are desperate to make a life for themselves.
They need to have the title of director, manager, vice-president or whatever. They’re willing to give up the money and authority to have that title. That’s putting us all in a bad situation. I want to hear your thoughts on this because I sit there and go, “If the title is way more important to you than knowing how to do the job and being good at the job, we have a problem, both from a personal point of view and also from a corporate point of view.”
[00:09:41] For me, it’s always been much more important that I could do a good job. My dad taught my brother and me to think about every day as if it were your money. Get to the end of every day at work and say, “If this were my money, would I pay me?” If the answer was no, I make sure that it wasn’t no the next day. You went in and you tried harder. That was always my ethos. I want to be good at it. I want to feel like I’ve added some value. I wanted to feel like I’d made a difference.
I believe even if you love work and I do love work, we don’t live to work, we work to live. I work, 1) Because I love it and I absolutely love helping people. 2) Because I want to create a nice life and the right environment for my little girl. There’s that balance. I look at it and go, “I’ve got to spend twelve hours, not with my little girl.” I want to know if I am getting value. I’m giving up something precious to exchange with that. I need to know that it’s a value add, but you’re right.
For me, I felt like I was late because I didn’t know where I was starting. It wasn’t a case of I needed a particular title or I needed to know broadly the direction I was going in. That’s where I felt like I was behind was I’ve been clear. I was going to be a hairdresser. I was going to run a salon. I knew exactly what it was I wanted to do and here I was floating around. I didn’t know what I should do now. I’ve got no idea.To lead with kindness and humanity, you first need to have courage. Click To Tweet
It was much more finding my purpose. Now, we’re fast to chase the title or the perception of our success, but the reality is our success comes from what we know and we get our knowledge over time and we can get that a lot faster. I talked to a lot of people now who, when they’re trying to price what it is that they do, they’re like, “It only takes me ten minutes to do that.” I was like, “It took you 30 years to learn how to do it in 10 minutes. They’re paying for the 30 years, not the 10 minutes.”
We progressed into a little bit of a throwaway society where all of that’s becoming less useful until we realize there’s a gap. There was some research done that showed that it was 79% of millennials are actively looking for another job because of the lack of leadership skills and development that they’re being given in their roles.
To your point, a lot of them are getting the title, but they’re foregoing the skills, development and the money that should come with that. It’s a bit of an empty victory and they’re realizing it and being very unhappy as a result. Now, lots of companies are having to work on what do we do to improve, how we develop leadership skills, strategy and things for our younger generations to enable them to be even more effective because they’ve got such value to bring better.
[00:12:48] We are truly in the world of the I Peter principle, where people are being promoted to their level of incompetence, where we sit there and say, “If we don’t give this person a directorship or VP ship, they’re going to leave.” The question is, “What if they stay? What is the damage that they’re going to do to your brand, business, customers and employees to promote them?” There has to be that training, purpose, goals, the ability to be empathetic, to listen, to learn and to lead effectively to be able to do that. Leadership is a mindset. It’s not a job title.
[00:13:28] It’s a purpose. If you want to go and lead people, you’ve got to have a purpose that says you are willing to give up your ego for the best. It took me a long time to realize it because I used to think being a hairdresser was my Achilles’ heel. It was the thing that I will hope nobody would ever find out. I now realize it’s my greatest strength because as a hairdresser, they teach you to listen to what the person wants to achieve, and then to help them to achieve that dream, and let them leave as the best version of themselves. That’s leadership.
If you can listen to your people, understand what they’re trying to achieve, help them to achieve it, and create them becoming the best version of themselves. You’ll be the leader that they tell their children about. You’ll be the person that they will come and work for again and again because they’re learning something. You do that when you listen to them because you want to learn from them too.
[00:14:27] You’re also building trust. You’re building trust within the organization. People trust that you’re going to do what you need to do and you’re enabling other people to do what they need to do. That’s through, as you said, it’s effective communication and leadership. It doesn’t matter whether you have the title of a vice president, a director, a manager or whatever.
I’m trying to remember who it was that I had on the show. They used the term, “Everybody should be called a leadership coach.” It doesn’t matter whatever your title is. You’re a leadership coach because your job, first and foremost, is to help other people succeed. It’s not about your title, how important you are or what other people think about you because of your title. It’s about what people think about you because you help them succeed and you help them be the best that they need to be.
[00:15:20] If people are worried about your title, they’ll stop sharing with you the most vital pieces of information that are going to help you be successful. I remember I’ve been doing a transformational change piece. I’ve been there for about 6 to 7 months. I went to talk to one of the guys on the phone. He got all flustered, “I can’t talk to you.” I was like, “Why not?” He went, “You’re like really important.” I was like, “That’s ridiculous. I’m not. I’ve got a job to do and if I get my job wrong, we’ve got a problem. You’ve got a job to do and if you get your job wrong, we’ve got a problem. The last time I checked, you cut me, I bleed. If I cut you, you bleed. Don’t tell HR, I threatened to come at you.”
He was like, “You’re normal.” I was like, “I’m a human being. I want to come and sit with you. You’re on the phone every day, talking to our customers. You are going to know much more, what bothers them, excites them, frustrates them than any of these people that I’ve got that are sitting in these more senior roles are going to be able to do, because you are at the front line. That’s what I want to learn. I want to know. What does it feel like to be you? What does it like to be them? What are we getting it wrong?”
“What are the stupid things that we’re doing that you would assume we know about? I promise you, we don’t, even if they’re obvious, I promise you, we do not know what they are. If I come and sit and talk to you and you tell me, then I can make this a better place for you and a better place for our end client. I need you to tell me we’re getting it wrong and where we get in our own way.”
[00:16:56] There’s that whole telling truth to power. We need to get beyond that. We need to sit there and say, “Whoever I am within the organization, there are things that I know that other people don’t. There are things that I’m aware of that other people don’t. If I bite my tongue and assume that they know stuff that I know everybody is going to be worse off.” If we sit there and say, “I don’t know everything. I don’t care if you’re the CEO or the person who’s on the phone, talking to the customers, we all know what we know. We all don’t know, what we all don’t know.”
If we can sit there and say, “I hear a problem. I’m talking to customers day after day and I hear the same thing happening over and over.” That’s my job as a leadership coach because I’m being a leader in my own right to be able to say, “We have a problem and if we don’t fix this, it’s going to become a much bigger problem.”
[00:17:56] In the career that I had for a lot of years, we were told, “Whatever happens, never show vulnerability.” I was like, “All that’s doing is going to create a culture where it’s not okay to fail. We can’t make mistakes.” When we make mistakes when we learn as long as we’re not making ill-judged mistakes and you try to do the right thing and something went wrong.Our success comes from what we know and we get our knowledge over time. Click To Tweet
One of the things that I teach people is how to share vulnerability without losing credibility. There’s a fine line. If you can share some vulnerability, what you do is create an open space for your people to share theirs. It’s no longer acceptable not to be perfect because we’ve been striving for perfection for years. We’re supposed to be good at everything. We even teach our kids at school. They’ve got to be all-rounders and yet we know we’re not all-rounders. We’re good at 1 or 2 things and okay at few, and mediocre a couple, and that’s okay because we are all perfectly imperfect.
Our imperfection is our perfection. Once we can embrace that and go, “I can help you here, here and here, but I am hopeless here, here and here. I need you to help me by upskilling me here. In return upskill you there. Together, we’ll be better as a result of it.” It’s having that confidence to stand there as a leader and go, “I don’t know everything nor do I expect to. That’s why I have you because if I knew it all, I wouldn’t need any of you. It’s much better for you that I don’t know this or I don’t know it as well as you, because it means your job is guaranteed.”
[00:19:36] There’s a lot of leaders that don’t do that. They hide behind their titles. They say, “I am the CEO. I’m the vice president of whatever. You need to listen to me whether I know what I’m talking to or not.” There’s a lot of companies that are losing great employees with this Great Resignation that we’re going through now because there are too many leaders that think because I have a title, “I’m owed deference and respect. I’m all-knowing and nobody else knows anything.” That’s going to be a real problem because those are the people that need to refocus, retrain, and have an attitude shift in order for them to continue to be successful moving forward.
[00:20:26] They’re going to need to rescale because it takes a different set of skills to be able to do that. The research showed that 57% of people leave their boss, not the organization. I use this one all the time. That means more than 1 in 2 people that leave you. If that doesn’t make you terrified as a leader and go, “What do I need to do differently to be better?” I don’t know what does, but the research went on to show that 64% of people would take a pay cut if they were given a different boss. They would stay in the company and earn less, not to work with you. Nobody wants that as their legacy.
You look at and go, “What could I do differently? What skills can I learn to make sure that I am not losing talent?” The other thing is everybody knows these stats. The minute somebody who’s deemed as talented leads an organization, it has an impact on their boss, because if everybody else knew they were talented and they’ve now gone, and looks at it and go, “Why did they leave us? Why did they leave them? If they left them, how many more great people have left for that person?”
That is starting to be the conversation that people are having because the war to attract and retain talent is hotting up. If people are finding it easier to find jobs, then companies are finding it easy to maintain them. If you think about it, your competitive edge moving forward is going to be your culture and your leadership style, because benefits are a bit me too. You can match them easily, but what you can’t match is how it feels every day when I turn up and go to work. “How am I treated? How do I feel? What value do I feel I’m giving and getting?” A lot of that is a must by the leadership.
I remember going to an interview and the group HR director said, “Kim, you’ve had a lot of jobs. What confidence would I have if I gave you this job that you wouldn’t leave?” I said, “Can I ask, are you planning on going anywhere?” He looked a little bit startled. He was like, “No, why?” I said, “I can say, I’ve never yet left the boss who recruited me, but I have left the boss that we placed them.” That’s a good answer. It’s an honest one.
If the person that I’m working for doesn’t much my values and my purpose, and I don’t think they are aligned to the company. I’ll go somewhere else. It might be a bad character flaw of mine, but I can’t work for somebody that doesn’t show the same values for people that I do. I said, “I’ve never yet left the person who recruited me, but I have always left their successor if that successor has ended up with a different set of values from me.”
[00:23:18] That’s an interesting thing is because we’re sitting in a world, especially in large corporations, it doesn’t matter where they are in the world. You have a level of mid-level managers that are there and realize sooner or later that they’re not being promoted. As they realize they’re not being promoted, they’re getting frustrated and they’re becoming more surly, obstinate and trying to control the power within the area that they have. The reason that they’re not being promoted is because they are not the ones that are leading their people.
There are two sides to that coin. The coin is they’re not great leaders and they’ve been promoted to a position where they’re stuck and they’re going to continue to be stuck, but the problem is the people above them are not great leaders either because they’re not realizing this. They’re not doing something about this and what it takes to retrain these people to make them more effective. Most leaders who are ineffective are ineffective because they don’t know what good leadership looks like. They don’t understand how to be great leaders.
They haven’t received the training, mentorship and coaching that they need. They feel that, “Because I’m the leader and I have the title, everybody should respect me.” That’s far from the truth. We as companies, blame this frustrated person, power-hungry and whatever and they have some guilt in this, but we also need to see, what’s the culture around this person that’s enabling it.
[00:24:57] When people are responding like that, they’re responding out of fear. We all know if we’re not doing a good job. We’ve all had those days where it’s not gone the way we wanted it to. We know it’s not been great. Imagine if you’re turning a perfect day and know you’re not doing well. The level of fear you must be operating under that now could be the day, but they decide it isn’t going to go there. I know with my imposter syndrome, the voice that you had in your head that was constantly telling you that, “You weren’t good enough. You’re going to get found out. You were going to get bounced.”
Even though all the facts showed me that I was good at this, I won awards. I’ve got the most engaged workforce. I was in double-digit growth quarter after quarter and yet I still didn’t think I was good enough. Imagine for those people where their engagement scores aren’t great, where they are constantly getting people complaining about why the results, aren’t what they should do and they cling to that ego and stand behind it because it becomes a shield.
What we’re not realizing is they’re suffering as much as their people are suffering. We should be stepping in there and giving them help and support so that they can learn those new skills because change is uncomfortable. We know that. One of the things that I often do with audiences is saying, “Do me a favor. Fold your arms.” When they’ve done it, I say, “Unfold them, fold from the other way.” It’s fascinating to watch because some people can do it pretty much straight away. Some people have to look at their arms to focus on what it is.Surround yourself with people who are honest with you because they have your best interests at heart. Click To Tweet
[00:26:31] Some people can’t do it at all. They’re sitting there fumbling.
[00:26:33] I look around at everybody else and say, “How does it feel?” “Uncomfortable.” It’s changed. You’re having to think about it. We like our comfort zone. We don’t grow in it, but we like it. Having done fifteen years of going into organizations doing transformational change, what you find is that there are whole suedes to people that are embedded in their comfort zone, but they’re no longer feeling very comfortable because they know that unless they change their risk irrelevance, but they’re scared to change. There isn’t enough on offer to support them in that journey.
The organizations that get that right and go, “We needed to change, but we recognize that leading change means you’ve got to lead yourself through it as well as lead your people through it. Therefore, we’re going to invest in giving you more support as we manage the change, not lack support.” They’re the ones that thrive.
[00:28:01] How do we help people through this imposter syndrome? People are in the position where they’re stuck and it doesn’t matter where you are in the organizational structure. You feel that you’re not good enough. You feel that you don’t have the skills to move forward. For whatever reason, you feel that you can’t ask for help, because then you’re going to think that people are going to think less of you.
You have that feeling that people are going to sack you because you don’t have the skills that you should have. As people that are leading these people, at any level, broach those conversations and enable these people to be better because it’s a cultural thing within the organization. We have to sit there and help people get beyond their titles and labels and get them into being better human beings.
[00:28:53] A big one is sharing some of your own vulnerability. For example, even during the lockdown, I’ve got many clients that would get in touch and go, “People wouldn’t turn on their camera or they wouldn’t do this.” Maybe it means something about themselves because this is the other thing about human beings, we don’t respond to the fact, we respond to what we’ve made them mean. The fact was they didn’t turn on the Zoom camera. What he made it mean was, they didn’t like him, they didn’t respect him, and he doesn’t even know why they’re employing them anymore.
I was like, “They just didn’t turn on the camera. Let’s rewind for a minute because you’ve made that all about you.” I would suggest you ask them a few more questions because it might be that they’re starting to feel disengaged. When you are disengaged, put off the barrier, if I can’t see you, it’s a bit of a barrier. It might not be in a good place. I might not be coping well with this. He was like, “All right.”
What I would have done is I dropped the person a quick note and say, “I don’t know about you. I’m missing the face-to-face interaction and the ability to have a social chat. I wondered if you were up for five-minute virtual coffee to see how you get it on.” I said because then you are making it okay to not be feeling okay. You’re sharing a bit of your vulnerability and then you’re giving them an option to come along to something and he did.
He said, “Best meetings we’ve ever had.” I said, “You were human. You shared something of yourself,” which I used to do all the time. When I was building my leadership career, these are some of the courses I went on. I went and got mentors. I talked to clients that got imposter syndrome. “This works for everybody.” Find your tribe hive. Find your 4 or 5 people who you can call on when the going gets tough or when you need a bit of advice, and they need to be very different characters.
For me, I need someone in there that’s going to give me the kick in the pants that I need some times when I’m wallowing in my comfort zone to tell me to get over myself and get on with it. I also need somebody sometimes that isn’t going to be there with the tough love when I’m not ready for it yet. Having those people that you can call on that you know are going to be honest with you because they have your best interests at heart. I always call it the critical best friends.
The person who’s going to tell you, your bum looks big in it before you go out. Not when you drifted around out all night and say, “You look amazing.” You want those people to support you. My nan used to say this, “Every day is a school day,” and God bless her, she was right. I try and learn something new every day, whether that’s to improve on an existing skill or learn something slightly new. The more I can improve myself, the better I can serve my people, but it also allows them to go, it’s okay to be learning. It’s all right.
If she’s still learning, maybe it’s okay that I still learn. That’s what I can think about a lot of the major professions. If you’re a lawyer or an accountant, you have to do continual professional development because they recognize, unless you continue to evolve, you risk irrelevance. Why don’t we make that something that is also the norm within leadership? What have you done recently to develop your leadership skills? Even if it’s reading a book, listening to an audio, listening to a podcast, watch YouTube, but what are you doing to see what’s going on in the world now to keep you relevant to the people you’re leading?
Where I should be given a coach if you weren’t very good, whereas now, it’s a badge of honor. If you look at most top actors, athletes, politicians, business leaders, they’ve all got coaches and mentors. When I first started coaching, someone said, “You think you’re better than the rest of us?” I went, “No. We all have blind spots for a reason. We are blind to them. Your coach is that to shine the light on the blind spot you’ve got to help you find the route out.”
I said, “If the coach was better than the person that was coaching, it would be their name we knew instead of the top actor, the top businessmen, the top politician.” We don’t know their name because what they’re good at is standing behind you and go, “When you run, you’re ever so slightly to the left and if you could straighten that up, you’d shake three seconds of your personal best.” They’re able to see what you can’t see because we can’t see everything that’s going on around us because we’re blind to the bits we’re blind to.
[00:33:46] As I keep telling people, we can’t shave the hair on the back of our neck. What’s behind us is behind us. We need other people to be able to look at it and help us through it. Kim, this has been an incredible conversation and I have one last question for you, and then I’m going to let you out the door. The question I ask everybody is when you leave a meeting, you get in your, and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to know and think about you when you’re not in the room?
[00:34:20] I would like them to think that I listened and I added value.
[00:34:26] We all need value in life. We all need to have somebody in our lives that provides us with value. Thank you for being one of those people.
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About Kim-Adele Platts
Kim-Adele Randall FInstLM renowned master coach, international bestselling author, inspirational keynote speaker, and face whisperer, she couples 25 years in the corporate world, with lessons she has garnered throughout her journey to help others achieve sustainable transformation for professional and personal success.