Business Podcast Post

Building Trust at Work with Ellen Patnaude

George Grombacher August 11, 2023

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Building Trust at Work with Ellen Patnaude

LifeBlood: We talked about building trust at work through better communication, how to recognize and overcome assumptions, why courage is necessary to build trust, and how to get started, with Ellen Patnaude, CEO of Leadquine and author.      

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Ellen Patnaude

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:01
Well leopard. This is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful. Ellen Patenaude. Ellen, are you ready to do this?

Ellen Patnaude 0:08
I am.

george grombacher 0:09
All right, let’s go. Ellen is the CEO of lead Quine. They’re an unconventional professional development company providing workshops to help take the blinders off teams, she is the author of I thought you knew Confessions of a chronic assumer. And excited to have you on tell silver about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Ellen Patnaude 0:32
Sure, thanks for having me. So, personal life, I’m situated in Michigan, it’s kind of at the base of the thumb for people who know their mitten geography. Born and raised. In Detroit, the time city girl married into the country life up here in the rural part of the state. We’re a blended family, we’ve got three kids who are currently 1718, and 19, all of whom are off to college this fall. So that’s going to be fun. And my, my wife is from this area, she grew up here in Mid Michigan, that’s what brought me here. I started this company, oh, gosh, 18 years ago. Now, I kind of got my start in this work as a community organizer. I have a biology degree. But I, I took a couple jobs out of college working in science, it did not work out for me. I spent a year in Central America, working on a reforestation project. And that year was pivotal in helping me understand that all the stuff that kept me there, through the crazy of all the adventures had nothing to do with science and everything to do with people, and watching them do more than they thought they were capable of doing to just have an impact on their local communities. So I came back to the States found my way into community organizing and working with communities to help everyday people learn how to stand up and tell their stories in ways that could impact decisions that public officials and other decision makers were making that affected their communities. So I got addicted to that kind of work, I loved it, did it for eight years, and then came back to Michigan started having a family and wanted to come home. And I, the phone started ringing. So I sort of accidentally started this business 18 years ago, I’m now a certified executive coach. And my time is split pretty evenly between working with individual leaders who want executive coaching, and teams who need coaching. So that team dynamic is something that’s always been really intriguing to me, from the work I did as a community organizer. And so I spend a lot of my time thinking about those interactions between teams and how to help make them just a little bit stronger.

george grombacher 2:54
I love connecting dots. And whether I’m correct or not, in my connections, I definitely see dots between reforestation efforts. So making sure that that we can actually grow trees again, and what it takes to do that, and then community organizing and working with teams and then helping to essentially do the same thing within your organization.

Ellen Patnaude 3:19
Yeah, I would say it’s all definitely been part of the same path, my, my current offerings of workshops, and, you know, the way that I work, the way that I think about this work, and a lot of the material comes directly out of my experience in community organizing. So it’s not, it’s not exactly a traditional approach to things. But I found that in the corporate environment, the conversations we would have in church basements, and neighborhood halls was missing. And it was an element of honesty and authenticity and vulnerability, that people needed to be talking about in order to really build trust, overcome assumptions and get to the heart of what was breaking down in their communication with each other that was preventing them from having the kinds of effective everyday interactions they were seeking. So it’s all been part of the same evolution for sure. And I now feel like after all, this time, I’ve finally found my way home to the niche that I enjoy working with and, and the the leaders and companies that are a part of that it’s it definitely feels really good these days.

george grombacher 4:34
I feel like you you sort of answered the question that popped into my head, what, what is the goal, the purpose of community organizing?

Ellen Patnaude 4:44
So community organizing is really about in the the organization that I was doing it in it was it’s really about helping everyday people take control of the decisions being made in their communities about how their resources are moving around and being spent. So We were we were mobilizing people that were in congregations, excuse me, in congregations and neighborhood organizations to come together and leave their doctrinal differences, political differences outside of the door, and really just come together around the common issues that were affecting all of them and hurting all of them as a way to regain some voice in, in that decision making process and contribute differently to the life of their community. It was hugely empowering for them, hugely empowering for me. And just something magical about that moment of taking somebody walking through their everyday life and helping them build the confidence to stand up and tell that story and watching that story make a difference in how a decision maker decided to vote on an issue was, it just was so amazing, and just really life giving for me and for the people that were involved in it. I just loved every minute of that work, and needed to step away to start a family and take a break, because it was also incredibly intense. But it’s something that I still hold very near and dear to my heart and keep in contact with several of my former organizing colleagues.

george grombacher 6:19
Yeah, yeah, it sounds like that would be rewarding work, for sure. And I see parallels between what I assume you’ve heard you are doing now, which is helping people to, to advocate for themselves and have a better understanding of, Hey, what is it that I really want. And as an individual contributor on a team inside of a business, we want to make sure that all the parties feel heard, and that they are getting what they feel like they need and they want and then the company gets what they need and want.

Ellen Patnaude 6:52
Absolutely 100% And during the pandemic, I everything in my business had to move online, right? For all of us, that was the way became a virtual world. And up until that point, all except the one on one individual coaching I was doing was done in person. So when everybody moved online, there was a sense of desperation, I was feeling from managers that I was talking to, who were immediately suspicious about what their team members were doing and how they were spending their time and why they wouldn’t turn their cameras on and just sort of what was happening with everyone during that just crazy first year when nobody knew what to expect or what was going to happen next. And I just found myself saying over and over again, I think you’re making an assumption right now, I’m not sure that’s based on actual information, I think it’s based on fear, it’s based on an assumption, maybe we should, maybe we should explore that and test that out to find out before you get mad about what you think someone is doing, or why they’re doing it, maybe we should test that and see if it’s accurate. So I started writing a couple blog posts about it, I had this huge response from people saying say more about this, what like, this is really interesting, I’ve never really thought about this before. So I started thinking about it more, I started writing about it more. I’ve always been a writer. And so I thought, you know, I don’t know, I’ve got enough stories here, I’m gonna put a book together. So I put a book together last year, that is like 10 different ways in which assumptions show up and, and hurt us in our everyday interactions, excuse me, in our everyday interactions. And I just thought, I thought you know, there’s there’s some lessons that can be drawn out of each of these ways in which assumptions are showing up to help people have a sense of what do you do about it? How do you start to overcome it? And so I released that book last fall. And it’s, it’s caught a lot of interesting attention, because it isn’t something that we necessarily think about, we tend to think in terms of traditional frameworks, when we’re looking at how to improve things in our business, whether it’s culture, or relationships, or whatever it is, we’re looking to improve, we’re always looking for, what’s the model, what’s the framework that we can step into. And with this, it’s really just about just at a much more basic level, navigating your environment that’s fully within your control. You control whether you make an assumption, or you decide to test it out, you control whether you ask a question, or you don’t? And what kind of a question you ask. And and if you stop and reflect on an interaction and think you know what, I don’t think I fully understand what was happening there. You have the power to go back and say, You know what, I’ve been thinking about this. Just wondering if we can talk a little bit more about it because I feel like maybe I didn’t have a full picture. All those things are fully within an individual person’s control. And when a team starts embracing that conversation, it completely changes So the way that people interact with each other, and that can just start with one person deciding, they want to ask a question and literally say, You know what, I think I might be making an assumption right now, let me test that out. Right. So it’s just it’s Yeah.

george grombacher 10:16
I think, yeah, it at the heart of so many of our problems today, across business, and then just society in general, and we’re engaged in all these different culture wars and so many different levels. I think a lot of it probably comes down to assumption

Ellen Patnaude 10:37
100%, you can see it at your dining room table, you can hear it at your kitchen counter, you can hear it in the local coffee shop. And on your team at work, it literally is just one of those things, I think we get moving so fast. And we’re always thinking ahead. What’s the next thing? What’s the next meeting? What’s my next opportunity to talk? We’re moving so fast that I don’t think we slow down often enough to just really think about, what is it that’s happening? Do I have all the information that I need to go on? And then have some courage to ask a question? Because sometimes that’s what it takes. It’s not always comfortable or easy to ask those questions. But that doesn’t excuse us from having to do it anyway, in order to really operate with integrity. If we want to navigate these relationships with integrity, we’ve got to be willing to be a little bit uncomfortable and to and to ask questions. To clarify our understanding, that is the only way that we get past so many of the barriers that are showing up in our lives, personally, politically, professionally, it shows up literally everywhere.

george grombacher 11:51
I feel like certainly not me, Elon, but other people have a desire to, to simplify and then categorize and then move on. Yes, and recognizing that that is within all of us. And asking that question, do I have all the information to accurately gauge what’s going on here? Or to make the decision that I need to make? And then am I able to muster the courage to go back to you and say, Hey, Ellen, you know, we had this conversation, I feel like, I feel like I’m making assumptions or missing some information, or I got this part wrong, can you? Can you help me clarify this?

Ellen Patnaude 12:33
Absolutely. And that’s often just what it takes is a willingness to go back and approach somebody and say, Can we talk about this a little bit more? I mean, I think I see it showing up in workplaces where, you know, there, it shows up in, in very simple kinds of team interactions, where you give someone a set of instructions to get started on a project, give them the thumbs up, you walk away, and then all of a sudden, that person is gone. Wait a second, I don’t remember what the first step was. But now they’re afraid to ask because they’re making an assumption, you assumed they knew what how to get started, they’re now worried and making an assumption that if they come back and ask you a question that you’re gonna think you made a bad hire, or that they’re not smart enough to do the job, or that they’re somehow less than or incapable. So they make assumptions that prevent them from asking for help or questions. And it can have this snowball effect, right? I see it all the time as well, with my dei counterparts, we talk about the way in which this stuff shows up in terms of projections that we make and assumptions that we make about our our perspective on an experience is the only perspective and not bothering to take the time to understand or not being willing to listen to someone else’s perspective on their own experience, and, and validate that because our assumption is that our experience perience is central and the most valid one in the room. So there are so many layers to this. And the thing that I think the thing I really enjoy about it is it fits with sort of the general model of how I’ve always kind of operated in this work is just, it’s just one conversation at a time you have to pick away at bad habits and bad culture and, and relationships that need development. You got to pick away at this stuff one conversation at a time. And this is a very straightforward way in which you can you can add something to that conversation or extract something from that conversation that takes it to a whole new level.

george grombacher 14:39
Do you feel like we’re at a point in time where what you’ve just talked about has never been more important? Yet. We are either out of practice or lack the ability to have this interpersonal dance. And the stakes are so high because I don’t want I hit one of these trip wires.

Ellen Patnaude 15:03
Absolutely. I think that’s very true. And I think that I think fear, honestly, is what drives a lot of our unwillingness to step into that. Because in order to build trust, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. And there’s something very vulnerable about going to another human and saying, I don’t think I got that right. Or I’m not sure I fully understand I don’t have the same experience that you do. And I don’t really understand, can you help me understand, because I’d like to, I’d like to learn, right, I’d like to grow. And sometimes there’s, you know, there’s so much happening, I think social media, and the Internet, in some ways, is going to be the demise of our society, because we have so much information coming out all the time and it in, it just feeds into these preconceived notions that we develop in these assumptions that we make in all aspects of life. And so it just, it just crowds the narrative even more, and it prevents us from being willing to dive into that vulnerability and say, I need some help. Understanding this helped me help me see it from your perspective, helped me get past this assumption that I’m making right now, and look at things differently.

george grombacher 16:28
Good news. I’m hoping, as guessing, assuming, but I’m just going to ask that when we do have a framework for being able to have these kinds of conversations, which I don’t think is terribly hard, but also not necessarily obvious. Otherwise, we would all have it. And we do start mustering that courage that things can change fast within an organization.

Ellen Patnaude 16:55
Oh, 100%, I have seen, I’ve seen I’ve seen teams walk into a room to start having these conversations, every but you can see people’s guards up, you can see the defensiveness of their body language, you can see the ways in which they’re a bit uncomfortable. By the end of the conversation, they’re relaxed, they’re interacting more, they’re leaning into each other. You’re absolutely right. It’s not rocket science. Nothing that I do is rocket science. It’s just about being willing to stop and think, right, so much of this work is about I think the biggest part of a framework for this is being willing to stop and reflect how did that interaction go? You know, I tell people start with a five minute reflection while you’re driving home from work. And if you’re working from home, go outside and walk around the block or walk down your street for five minutes. And simply ask yourself, what are some things that went great today that I want to make sure I celebrate? What is one thing that did not go how I wanted it to go and focus in on just one thing. Because if we focus on too many things, we’re going to dilute the effort. So focus on one thing that you thought, Gosh, that just did not end up how I wanted it to, and then identify what can I do differently next time, whether it’s going back to that same person the next day, and asking some thoughtful questions or inviting more conversation. Or it’s saying, you know, when I if it was like a prospect that didn’t end well or something? How can I handle that kind of meeting differently next time, so that I can hopefully get a better outcome? It just starts with that being willing to stop and think about it, and then think, what could I do differently? How could I grow and learn from this? What’s within my control to do? Maybe it’s raising three kids so close together in age that caused us to think that but we had a poster on our refrigerator for probably 15 years. That said, what is within my control, and it was the circle, right? I’m sure you’ve seen the drawing that things within my control and everything else outside of my control, and maybe from telling three children fighting because they weren’t always together, telling them that stuff constantly or just, it has trickled into the work that I do. And I find myself saying that to clients all the time. So much of this is within our control. Do not give away that pen, write your own story. Be the one that’s going to decide how this conversation unfolds.

george grombacher 19:25
I love it. Talk about physician heal thyself and the real proving ground being get some teenagers or kids a year apart three of them to to to engage in this kind of work, then you can apply it pretty much anywhere. Thank thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage where can they get their copy of I thought you knew

Ellen Patnaude 19:52
so they can if they’d like a signed copy, they can order it through my website which is lead If they would, or they can find it in any online bookseller, whatever favorite online bookseller they want to go to, they can find it there. Obviously, that will not be assigned copy. I’ve also been told that local bookstores, if they don’t carry, it will order it for you. So you can go to your local bookstore and request a copy of it, their best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn, that’s the platform I tend to spend the most time on in my business. So I’m just my name Elon, Pat node, you can find me on LinkedIn, I’ll make sure you have all those links. Occasionally, and very inconsistently. I show up on Instagram and Facebook. But, but the most content and the most regular engagement happens on LinkedIn, they also I also send out a newsletter every two weeks, that’s just sort of my musings about leadership. And I pick a topic, sort of a blog style thing and just tell people about things that are happening. So you can also sign up for my mailing list on my website, if that’s something that’s interesting, too.

george grombacher 21:04
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show, Ellen your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to Ellen Pat node. That’s that’s not correct. Do not do that. Go to lead le a And check out everything that Elon is working on and get your copy signed copy of I thought you knew or you can buy that wherever you buy your books, and I’ll link that in the notes. And then you can find Elon on LinkedIn. It’s e LL, e NPAT, N A u, d, e, and can deeper into the work that we’ve been talking about today. Thanks again, Alan. Thank you so much. Until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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