Susan Drumm, CEO Advisor, Leadership Coach, Meritage Leadership
Susan Drumm is a CEO Advisor and Leadership Coach with over 20 years of experience leading teams and senior executives to achieve their potential. Her consulting firm, Meritage Leadership, focuses on leader and team effectiveness by helping leaders develop the capacity and mindsets to lead in today’s disruptive environment — while inspiring their teams to do the same.
Prior to founding Meritage Leadership Development, Susan was a Senior Consultant for The Boston Consulting Group, Director of Marketing and Master Black Belt for NBC/GE and Associate Partner at The Trium Group in leadership development consulting. Susan serves clients globally, but lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona. She is passionate about healthy living and healthy families and donates time to her community.
AUTOMATED EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
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[00:00:58] Welcome, everyone. This is Scaling Up Services. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host. And our guest today is Susan Drumm and she is CEO and Chief Empowerment Officer at Meritage Leadership. We're gonna learn more about her and her background. I'm always excited about having other people that are focused on organizational development. Working with CEOs and their leadership teams. Susan, welcome to the program.
[00:01:18] Thank you so much. Bruce, it's great to be here.
[00:01:20] So what do we start with learning a little bit more about your background and how you got into this whole organizational development space? So tell us the story.
[00:01:27] Sure. It's actually pretty eclectic story. I'm fascinated actually by this concept of polarities, which is essentially how can you hold two seemingly very different things at the same time as opposed to choosing one or the other. And I think in my own life, I've lived some seemingly strange polarities, exchanged others. But on the one hand, I can be highly analytical and driven, I guess, as evidenced by what was required to graduate from Harvard Law School. And on the other hand, I can be highly creative as evidenced by my acting career and getting a master's in acting. And this was, I would say, five years after graduating from law school. Yeah, several people might look at these two things and say, well, that's how did you manage to pursue such different themes? And certainly I can understand that response. Because our society encourages you to choose one polarity and drill down further and further in expertise. And yet, how had I not pursue that hilarity in my career? I probably would never have discovered that the career I'm doing is perfectly suited for me and that it's actually essential for my success. So, you know, lot law teaches you how to make distinctions. In fact, the LSA T is all about testing your ability to say which of these things is not like the other. And the use case for that in law is applying it to case law. But I use the same skill in being able to decide for or understand distinctions around mindset and how people think.
[00:02:55] And so I can hear a limiting belief. I can hear a certain set of actions. And with every mindset, there's a price and a payoff. So I usually bring that to consciousness for most people that I'm coaching most of the senior teams that I work with so that they can see essentially where their blind spots would be. So that that piece very much focuses in what I do today. I have a strategy consulting background from BCG, so I'm looking at the intersection of leadership and strategy. And then I learned a ton in the acting world because as an actor, you have to be able to develop that executive presence. But that ability be authentic and connect with others. If you're up on a stage and you you're worried about that inner critic inside your head that each of us ultimately has, and you're thinking, oh, my God, this guy's looking at his phone or what if I forget my lines or I can't leave? My fellow actor is blowing his nose in the Middle East. You're going to look really bad. And so you just kind of stay present and focused and connect and be authentic. Are all the skills that actors need. And it was through that process that I realized, my God, there's gonna be a way I could bring this to business. And essentially that's how I got into leadership development. And I've been doing this work now for 16 years and 13 years with my own company.
[00:04:16] Yeah. Oh, yes. Fascinating. I like the idea of the polarity or the integration of these two different seemingly extremes. I mean, I guess how much did you find that they weren't really as extreme as maybe they appear on the surface?
[00:04:29] I mean, where have you been able to kind of draw connections between these two different backgrounds and actually see that there's actually common underpinnings or relationships that may not be there first?
[00:04:38] Well, you know, there are different forms of intelligence. And sometimes people just look at like raw IQ, but obviously there's IQ and that ability to bring both of those things together. It's just leveraging different sides of the brain. And where I find connections is, again, one one is around the need to have that level of connection, but the other one is using analytical skills to be able to hear distinctions and how people are thinking. So bringing those two together is is a way of really providing a much more balanced picture. And in fact, the reason my company name is meritocracy is is really based after the marriage wine, which is a blend. And so I. Leave that you need to have a balance. I'd like a very balanced, blended approach to leadership and really need to understand and sort of not over use a strength. You know, I think there's a lot of talk about I'll just play your strengths. Just play to your strengths. I haven't found that great to leverage your strengths, but a strengths can easily be overused and become a pitfall. Yeah, that's where the trouble can lie. So I think that that idea of balance all around is is really the approach that we take.
[00:05:49] I like that. And I think it's kind of king. And for me, I was trained as an architect originally and I think there is there is something to that being both kind of engineering and analytical and creative and kind of intuitive. That has certainly fueled my career and has gotten me into the sort of same place of being looking at teams, because part of it is structure.
[00:06:09] Part of it is being able to see the pattern and see how things are woven together and the kind of connections and the results of those connections. But then part of it is in the kind of intuitive and the creative side. So, yeah, I get the space I get I get why you've gotten into this space because of that background. So it makes a lot of sense. So let's talk about that that idea that you kind of finish there on, which is the idea that we all have kind of strengths and weaknesses and kind of playing to strengths, focusing on blends, looking at different strategies and and being adaptive to situations.
[00:06:38] I mean, I guess what's your what's your experience or as you've worked with leaders and teams in these situations? How do you kind of manage this whole strength versus weakness developing folks? What's your take on that?
[00:06:50] So I use a couple of different tools to help people see that, you know, the one in particular that I love using to help people understand the strengths, but how to keep them in balance, but also start discover a little bit more of the blind spot. Is the any. Graham Yeah. And I'm so passionate about this tool. It is far deeper than any other, let's say. I don't like to call it personality assessment, but because it's much more than that. But let's say the biggest comparisons are to something like DESC or Myers Briggs, which you may be familiar with. This is far deeper and far richer and it is that much more impactful in working in team setting. The concept is, you know, leaders lead in different ways. And I use it to help people understand what your primary leadership style is. There are nine different primary styles of leadership and they're based on your underlying motivator or driver. So understanding your leadership style helps pave the specific development path for you. I think the best analogy is, you know, the chameleon is an amazing animal. Like the chameleon can see 360 degrees and have sort of alternating eyes.
[00:08:01] Right. One can look toward when you can look back. And I think we as human beings think we're like the chameleon. We think we see 360 and we see it. But we actually we don't. If you look straight ahead and you put your arms out and you slowly bring them in, you can see like, where does my peripheral vision stop immediate about 40 percent or so of full 360. And so you think about that. There's there's a whole bunch of stuff going on behind your head that you don't realize. And that's that's basically how blind spots work. So the model really shows you what you're where your strength is and what do you focus of attention naturally lies. And therefore, because of that, you have some incredible gifts. But because of that, you also have some natural blind spots. And working on those, but also learning who do you need on your team to be able to compliment those blind spots? That's where doing this kind of work in a team setting can be really powerful.
[00:08:54] And that is a great point because I see this all the time as a leader, sees another company, sees another leader and looks at the team they've built around and they say, oh, well, they've been super successful.
[00:09:04] I'm going to go out and build a team just like that. And they start working a building it just like that. And they feel miserable. And I think it's because of this issue. It's because, well, they're they're a different person. They have a different leadership style. They've a different sort of blindspot. And so if they just adopt that other leaders strategy or team, well, that team worked really, really well because they were covering that leaders particular blind spots. That may not be your blind spot. So that's why I think it's it's really it can be really dangerous to kind of go out and try to model yourself around these round another team.
[00:09:33] I mean, it's hard to tell us about what are some of the the kind of leadership styles or the leadership drivers or the motivators that cause the leadership styles and some of the blind spots that start to come up or the blind spots that occur because of that focus?
[00:09:46] Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, I could wow. I could talk to Dave on this topic, if I may. So it would be good to give you an example of where this was a completely amazingly effective in a team setting. And that's where why I don't use something like Myers Briggs, for instance, is, you know, it's so hard to remember you're an ice team. And that means what? And I'm Renee and T.J. and therefore, how do I relate to you? Like, it's not it doesn't have. Once people teams learn the nine styles and they also learn that there's variation in styles with something called subtype.
[00:10:21] Once they learn that, it's much more easy to understand how I relate with you because I get it and when we're looking at is what's motivating you or driving, you not like behavior at the top level, but more the underlying motivator or driver. So the example I have for you is there was a team that was dominant, waited on the enthusiastic visionary. It's called type 7. And this type is the great brainstorming partners. They're always looking at possibilities. They're always looking at, you know, what could potentially be done. They're looking at what's possible and they live in the future so they can see the horizon and come up with creative solutions to address that. And but their blind spot is sometimes making those a reality. Right. They almost can see it as though it's done and let somebody figure out how to execute to make that happen. But so wonderful strengths. But if I had a team that was dominant on that and then they had another member of their team, which was a type 6, which is called the loyal skeptic. And the loyal skeptic is very opposite in the sense that is always looking trouble shooting. What could potentially go wrong? Where? Where are the risks? Where are the challenges? And if you could imagine the sevens, we're all excited about some new processes and the sticks would try to bring in.
[00:11:37] Well, that's not going to work. I think it's time to shoot it down. We're at a point she was ready to leave. She was like, this is not working for me. And it wasn't until the first. The work that we do is first to understand your own type in more depth, but really start to get career in that blind spot. And then when you bring the team together, there's a new appreciation. And I think that's what the sevens on this team really gravitated. Jus like, wow, this six really can help us. We need to listen to her. And at the same time, the six can present or communicate maybe in a more palatable way to the seven. Right. And so each of them are making careful adjustments, but coming from a new level of respect and appreciation for cognitive diversity. And that's that's ultimately what we're the best teams have are a bit more diverse cognitively. However, they can also be the ones that have the most conflict. And helping teams work through that conflict and understand is actually to their benefit and how to work more effectively. That's what we do.
[00:12:35] Yeah. And let's talk about that one for a second. I think it's another one that's fascinating is I think one of the challenges or one of things I see a lot of teams struggle with is actually they're kind of too nice. You know, they are so focused on trying to kind of have good positive working relationships as they they don't learn or they fail to engage in real constructive, healthy debate around issues and topics. I guess what's your what's your experience in terms of dealing with this whole kind of conflict? You know, constructive, destructive conflict on teams, how to find or build the right kind of conflict to advance ideas. What what do you what have you seen in terms of the dynamics and how does it relate to the different types from the any group?
[00:13:15] Yeah, the way you're describing does sound like a team I worked with that was more heavily weighted towards a type 2, which is the considerate helper. Oh yes. So that considerate helper is sometimes called the strategic supporter. So very empathetic, almost can feel others feelings as if they're their own. Very focused on people, wonderful team players, incredible heart that they bring to everything that they do. However, sometimes delivering the tough message can be challenging for them because they're like, oh, I don't wanna hurt that person. And I want to make it nice. And what the any Graham teaches us is their direction of growth is very specific. And that's why I also love it. The other thing is they don't they just tell you what you are. They don't tell you what to do with it or the any. Graham really very much has a system that points to hear the exact types that you can benefit the most from. Surround yourself. These people talk to those people, learn a bit more and start to work how you give feedback differently, how you delegate differently as a result of that. And for the type to what they can learn the most from are something we call the airlines. There's these little lines in the diagram of the any Graham, which is a circle that point to specific types.
[00:14:27] So the type you can learn a ton from the type eight, which is the active controller. These are very powerful type setters, extremely direct and also type for which is the intense creative which isn't afraid to look at the downsides of things as well and really be far more in tune with their own emotional needs. Sometimes that the considerate helper can be so focused on others that they don't really get their own work done. They're supporting everyone. Martin The airlines point to the direction of growth and then what we call the winning styles, which is what's on either side of your number. So the type 2 would be there's something they can learn from type 1, the strict perfectionists and something they can learn from type 3, which is the competitive achiever. So essentially for every type, there's four, four potential paths to growth. And so we work with T either individually, we'll work with leaders to understand what those four. Parts of growth are and help them attract or build that on their team, but also look for others that they know that maybe that type that they can learn from as a result of that.
[00:15:31] And then in the team setting, it's really thinking about, well, how can we bring other types of leaders on that may have this skill set? Or how can I actually appreciate. Let's say the directness of the eight or the emotional intensity of the four in a new way.
[00:15:46] Yeah. And I think for listeners here, I think one of the things I find companies are in this high growth mode or really looking to expand and scale the business. The whole kind of development of the leadership team is a key process and a key facet here. And so, you know, the CEO going from basically kind of running the show themselves to really surrounding themselves with the team like this stuff becomes really important because you now have to operate through this leadership team on how you're going to grow and get the business. You don't have short of direct control of all these pieces. What are what are some of the things a CEO, a leader in this position can do to start to think about this, become more aware? I just see so many sort of founders who get start to go in this in this mode. And it's kind of a one trick leadership pony.
[00:16:31] One way of doing everything, you know, they start to grow and they start to scale and then it stops working and they're kind of stuck.
[00:16:40] And either either they push hard and they just create a lot of organizational drama or they end up hitting kind of the ceiling and they just can't get past a certain stage of business. What are some of the things they can do to start becoming more aware or start thinking about this? And even even using some of these tools, are these ideas to deal with this?
[00:16:56] Yeah, that's why I think that this this framework one is getting feedback. Where are the blind spots? Right. There's there's two different paths. You get 360 feedback and we have another 360 model that we use a lot. The leaderships, the leadership system and the leadership circle, super powerful to understand where what others are saying about what your blind spots. But a shortcut way is also the tool that we're using with the any ground around your. It's a self-assessment. And then you get some feedback based on your report to ask how ingrained are these the blind spots that are showing up in my report? How ingrained are they? Now, one caveat I'm going to say is what makes the any brand powerful is also what makes it a little bit more challenging. It's far more complex. And there's some like free assessment tools online that I would tell you. They're not very accurate. A lot of them are not accurate. This is a far deeper tool. So originally I did all my any Graham typing through interview based. You know, it's been 45 minutes with someone asking them a series of questions that I was trained on. Now we have a much stronger tool that you have to use to win any grand practitioner that has, I think, over 175 questions, but there over 100 in the database.
[00:18:12] And it's using fractal mathematics to keep kind of checking and rechecking and bringing a different set of questions based on your answers. So it's far more sophisticated than some of these like free online tools. The good thing is no one owns the any Graham. So I also like it for that reason. It's actually quite an ancient symbol and there's a whole spiritual side to it that sometimes people have even used it in churches and other formats. I've and I think micro has been successful as we've really brought it into the business community to say turn it to focus on what is. There are some distinct types of leadership styles and based on that, there are distinct ways that you naturally give feedback, right. The one trick pony, but others don't. Maybe that feedback works for you, but it's not going to work for some of the other night it types. And so learning what that is like, how you modulate your style based on on that, and then not everyone sees the world the way you do.
[00:19:09] When I go around the room at the end of these sessions, you know what I ask? What's your biggest takeaway was like? Wow. I thought everyone thought like me. And I realize there's there's such variety and I appreciate the variety.
[00:19:22] I mean, it's got to just of a lesson of life. But I'd rather have got into love languages and all these things about it really like life boils down to the fact that we usually think everyone else is just like us when they're not. And the more we can appreciate the fact that other people are different, maybe we need to adjust the way we approach. The thing is, is kind of that fundamental.
[00:19:38] So in terms of what to identify these things. I mean, I guess do you see this as you have your strong type and you just kind of figure out coping strategies? Or is there a kind of a bigger picture here in terms of actually sort of developing your kind of capability or developing your ability to actually step into these other types based on situation or circumstance and things like that? Talk to us about that.
[00:19:59] Yeah, well, you you never change your type through your lifetime, but you grow within your type and growing means you become more highly integrated and integrating means you're just integrating the other types and you're not so rooted within your personality structure.
[00:20:14] So if if it were the way the any grid helps us understand the limiting personality box that each of. In so we can get out of our box and grow as leaders. So the first place of growth again is the four that I mentioned, the airlines and the wings styles. Though those are the first place you look. But over time, the more advanced leaders, you know, you can have it. In the examples I've given you so far, you can have an incredibly high functioning type 6 or incredibly not high functioning types. And it's all about where are you in your level of growth within your type? All types are valuable and the level of growth, again, is not as rooted within the personality structure, but a lot more integrated.
[00:20:52] Yeah. Yeah. Well so then that was kind of my next question. Are there and I guess I'll I'll give you.
[00:20:57] No, there's no ultimately or at the highest level there's no good or bad type or a right or wrong type.
[00:21:03] But do you find that there are certain types that do better and certain types of situations or certain types of stages of a company or through certain challenges that a company may face? I mean, what's your sense on kind of applying type 2 kind of situation or context?
[00:21:17] Yeah, I mean, I've noticed a few trends. I would say on average, more CEOs are either the type eight active controller or are sometimes called the protector or type 3, which is competitive achiever or sometimes called the performer.
[00:21:36] So more CEOs or are that by very nature of both of those really go after challenges and there are some key distinctions between them, but they step out. But there's also, I think, early stage CEOs who are really out of the box thinkers can tend to be type 7. Like I said, that enthusiastic visionary. Yeah. However, they they would really need support as the company scales to do a little bit more of the stuff that the seven doesn't want to do. Like, you know, it'd be great to have a strict perfectionist on your team or a competitive achiever on your team to be able to fill in those those blind spots while you are still being the visionary out there.
[00:22:15] Yeah. Yeah, it's interesting. I think that the really early stage stuff is fascinating because I think, you know, on one hand, you almost have to be borderline delusional to to start a company.
[00:22:25] It takes so much just belief, belief in the idea and yourself in the future that I think at some level it's irrational at the very beginning and it's pushing through it.
[00:22:36] But that sort of irrationality can come back and bite you on the other side when to kind of get scaling. I was watching. I'll just.
[00:22:41] I won't name names, but watching a documentary on Netflix about a company, recent company that blew up and dramatic, dramatic weight. But it was essentially that it was essentially a founder who was so, so convinced and so belief, so hard that they could make it work. But ultimately, I didn't have the right people on the team around them to really check, bring in some checks and balances, really once they got to the size that we need to make sure this stuff is really working. We need to make sure it's going right. We need to make sure we're following checks and balances. So I think it's interesting to see at different stages of companies and different situations that companies in how the different types or the different leadership styles will kind of play out in different ways.
[00:23:20] And I can imagine that a lot of the work you do is kind of figuring out or diagnosing what is the situation here or what are they trying to get done, what is the work to be done and what does the leadership look like? What is the team look like and how is that either helping or hindering them and overcoming or dealing with the situation?
[00:23:36] Exactly. Exactly. I mean, most leadership teams I'm not saying like you have to have all nine types, although that's great. But let's say you don't have nine. You know, you have four leadership teams. All but one of the conversations we have are OK here. The natural perspective is that each year you're going to bring. But let's look at the missing perspectives and what are the types of questions you can be just to make sure that you ask in the future, that you think about when you're making decisions that if you have somebody on your team that was this type, they would naturally bring.
[00:24:04] But since you don't, let's just be more conscious or aware that we may not think about this, but we need to like is there sort of checklist, more going down decisions? Think about it from that perspective and the types of questions that they'd be asking.
[00:24:16] Yeah, well, I like that. And I mean, I literally like the idea of a checklist, which is kind of the how do we create system and process and structure around us to help to help with that blind spot. So if we typically don't go through the details, like how do we create a trigger frame, a lattice around us that will help reinforce that or give us a better chance of being able to kind of go through those steps and slow us down and think through them or vice versa? You know, if we're you know, if a team I've seen us as teams get overly analytical, they just they get so wrapped up in, you know, the details and the execution plan and the 57 things that need to be, you know, mapped out. But they kind of lose, you know, the emotional side of it or the connectedness or being beings like how and then what can you do to surround yourself as some kind of system or process that will remind you or kind of help you with making sure that you're balancing that stuff out?
[00:25:07] Exactly. Exactly. So often. And I'll see I work with a lot of financial services, you know, financial services, healthcare, tech, and as well as like overall professional services. And there's not often the type for. Which is the intense creative type. And although I would see that in more media companies that I've worked with, sure. But if you had to type for, they would naturally bring the question of, you know, what's what's for all purpose, like what's meaningful here and tie people back to sort of meaning and purpose. That really is motivating and fueling for the rest the organization. And when a leadership team is too focused on the tactical, they miss that piece. And therefore, people don't feel connected to a mission, honorable mission the way they could.
[00:25:51] Yeah, it's interesting. I'm so curious for you as a leader is who is worth a lot of teams, but as a team themselves and has grown up. What are some of the things you've learned in terms of your strengths and areas that you've known? You know, you need to create balance or create processor for yourself with folks. How have you applied it to your own situation?
[00:26:08] Oh, yes. Well, I always am very much someone who walks the talk. So I do work on this myself before leaving others on it. My type is enthusiastic, visionary as well, which is how I see possibilities. And yet I can see miss the some of the details that my team. I basically surrounded myself with a couple considerate helpers, a strict perfectionist and a competitive achiever. And so each of those are doing a wonderful job. Balance me out. So I'm like very simply, before anything goes out the door, I have my team review it because I'm not going to see the typos. Like it's just it. I try to work on that. But, you know, that's just a simple example. But I think for my my own journey, it's been looking at also I'll use them as sounding partners like here's the idea I'm thinking of. What do you you know, what am I not seeing? Where could I. What's the blind spot here for me? Because I see this as a no brainer, because that's my time machine. That could be the potential drawback.
[00:27:12] Yeah. Yeah, I think it's a good one. And I think it's one of the best things a leader can do on their team is create a culture and create space and create process so that that discussion can happen effectively, because I think that there's there's a way to do that that can that can be effective and you can actually get that feedback and you can incorporate that into your decision making stuff. And then there's the kind of. OK, well, everyone told me give me their feedback. But if it's not, you know, if it's really not the right sort of setup and the right context, you haven't created the right culture around it. You're just not going to get you're not going to get the information you need, because sometimes that information does you don't want to see it. It may be disagreeable or it may make things more complicated or it may you know, it may make the idea you have harder to implement, but you need it if you're gonna be successful overall.
[00:27:56] So good insights if people want to find out more about you and the work that you do. What's the best place to get that information? How do you find out more?
[00:28:04] Yeah, www.meritageleadership.com. And I have a blog.
[00:28:13] I don't send out a ton of stuff. Maybe once a month. But there are usually some interesting tidbits on applying this tool and some of the other tools that we use. So we'd love to connect those.
[00:28:23] Great. I'll make sure that the links are on the show now so people can click through and get there. Susan, this has been a pleasure. Great insight, great discussion. I always love I love the whole type and the looking at style and flexing style on on teams, because I think it's one of the the fundamental things that know a leader needs to do to grow. So really important discussion. And I had a lot of fun.
[00:28:42] Yes, me too. Thanks so much. I'm glad I got a chance to talk about something I'm so passionate about. Great. Thank you, Susan.
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