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“To create a fantastic work culture, become a Grounded Leader.” with Dr. Randy Ross and Phil Laboon

Another step in creating a healthy work culture is for leaders to seek to become Grounded. Grounded leaders are rooted in reality, emotionally centered, relationally rich, results oriented, others focused and mission minded. Grounded leaders diffuse emotionally charged situations and harness the energy to move teams in a productive manner. I had the pleasure of […]


Another step in creating a healthy work culture is for leaders to seek to become Grounded. Grounded leaders are rooted in reality, emotionally centered, relationally rich, results oriented, others focused and mission minded. Grounded leaders diffuse emotionally charged situations and harness the energy to move teams in a productive manner.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Randy Ross, founder and CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Officer) of Remarkable! A master of cultural transformation, Dr. Ross has a unique understanding of employee engagement and offers practical solutions for increasing both team morale and performance. The author of Relationomics and Remarkable!, he has traveled throughout the United States and internationally as a speaker, consultant, and coach, building teams and developing leaders. He lives in Atlanta. You can find him online at DrRandyRoss.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working with a number of not-for-profit organizations. Through my leadership roles in that space, I learned a tremendous amount about cause, purpose, passion and engagement of others in ways that had nothing to do with monetary remuneration. It was during that period that I became enamored with the factors behind human motivation. I’ve been able to translate many of the lessons learned in the not-for-profit space over to the corporate world to help organizations intentionally craft a more compelling culture.

Over the past 20 years, Gallup has painted a clear picture of the engagement levels of the American workforce. We now know that about one third of the workforce demonstrates any significant level of emotional attachment to their work experience. The vast majority are simply going through the motions. My purpose is to help other people find theirs. This means working to help people find fulfillment in what they do and giving leaders tools they can use to craft better team dynamics, where people are inspired to bring their best to work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Very soon after starting Remarkable! it became clear that are were two types of leaders. The ones who understand the importance of culture and those who didn’t. Great leaders know that culture is the single most important competitive advantage that any organization possesses. The rest continue to grind out numbers and abuse people in the process.

I’ll never forget a conversation with a senior leader of the latter ilk. In a meeting of top-tier leaders within his organization, I began to unpack the idea that every organization has a culture. That culture will either be by design or default. He rudely interrupted me and said, “The only culture that I’m interested in is in my yogurt … and that’s all I need.” The sad thing is that he wasn’t joking. We chose wisely not to take his group on as a client.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

On February 5th, Baker Publishing released my new book entitled, Relationomics: Business Powered by Relationships. Relationships are the heart of any successful business or organization. And yet many organizational cultures do not promote healthy relationships. Those that do find they enjoy greater effectiveness, reputation, and loyalty. Whether shaping teams in a corporate setting or looking to build better friendships personally, the principles in Relationomicswill guide people toward becoming healthier individuals who attract and foster healthy relationships.

In Relationomics, I lay out the principles and practices that will help leaders develop and sustain the kind of relationships that can build their business and energize their teams, including how to:

  • Become a Value Creator
  • Master the Art of Giving and Receiving Helpful Feedback
  • Dramatically Decrease Employee Turnover
  • Lead Beyond Self-Interest
  • Become a Grounded Leader
  • Master Coaching Conversations

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

Levels of engagement haven’t significantly improved over the last two decades that we’ve been studying them. People remain unfulfilled and frustrated at work. We used to say that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. The reality is they quit cultures. Culture can be defined as the collective expression of the values, beliefs and behaviors that individuals bring to any endeavor. In essence, it’s how well people play together in the sandbox. In many cultures, people just don’t play well together. Leaders should primarily focus on setting the tone of culture. They should be champions for and keepers of a compelling culture.

Sadly, many organizational cultures are not conducive for building healthy relationships. Culture can be compromised by many things, including an underlying unhealthy sense of competition. Poor communication and low trust can cause people to expect the worst, rather than believe the best. And unresolved conflict can sour the work environment, leaving team members disillusioned and disenfranchised. Over 65% of the workforce can be described as either Not Engaged or Actively Disengaged.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

As a whole, happier people do better work than those who are unhappy or negative. The multi-generational Harvard Grant and Glueck studies have shown that the single most important factor in determining long-term health and happiness is the degree to which people experience good relationships. Good relationships lead to happier lives.

When people are not engaged, relationships languish, customer service is mediocre, and conflict abounds. Poor relationships will almost always translate into poor performance. However, when organizations put people above profits, their priorities produce rich dividends both relationally and economically. For the heart of any business is its people. Thriving organizations are powered by people. And profitable organizations serve people well, both internally and externally. The healthier the relationships between these people, the better the business. Leaders would do well investing as much time and energy in growing healthy relationships as they do in products, processes and supply chains if they want to be successful.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

One of the most important things that leaders can do is to work intentionally in creating open loops of continuous feedback within the organization. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Growth is fueled by feedback. Collaboration depends upon effective feedback. And, innovation is impossible without clear feedback. Yet, many people are uncomfortable either offering or receiving real-time feedback.

So, it is imperative that leaders create an environment conducive for the free flow of feedback. This means not only being open to, but also actively seeking, feedback at every level throughout the organization. Feedback breeds both responsibility and accountability and creates a self-coaching work environment where growth is valued.

In order to have open loops of continuous feedback, leaders need to help team members become familiar with and effectively utilize coaching conversations. This may include what we call RAW coaching conversations, where corrective action needs to take place. If we pursue these conversations constructively, then we can move toward maturity and make great progress. However, conducted improperly, these sometimes emotionally-packed conversations can cause relationships to rupture and progress to grind to a halt.

Another step in creating a healthy work culture is for leaders to seek to become Grounded. Grounded leaders are rooted in reality, emotionally centered, relationally rich, results oriented, others focused and mission minded. Grounded leaders diffuse emotionally charged situations and harness the energy to move teams in a productive manner.

It is also important to make a commitment to abide by rules of engagement when there is conflict. It is not enough to manage conflict. We must pursue conflict resolution in order to maintain a spirit of unity. Rules of engagement provide a simple code of conduct that ensures that conflict is handled well and that collateral damage is minimized when navigating the sometimes stormy waters of interpersonal conflict.

It would also serve leaders well to understand the four stages of the growth process. By understanding these stages, and by leading others through each of the four stages, leaders can help their team members “make life better by becoming better at life.” These four stages are: (1) Know Yourself; (2) Choose Yourself; (3) Create Yourself; and (4) Give Yourself. Until someone has worked effectively through each of these four stages, then personal wholeness and impact will be truncated.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

In order to change the work culture, we have to see a shift in people individually. It all boils down to whether someone is a Value Creator or a Value Extractor. A Value Extractor is in it for self. It’s all about getting as much as they possibly can out of any endeavor, with blatant disregard for how it may impact others. It’s all about who wins and not what good has been done. Value Extractors would rather everyone lose than allow someone else to win. They are ultimately self-destructive.

Value Creators, on the other hand, position themselves to create and bring as much value to the table for others as they can. For them, it’s about leveraging their strengths and passions to solve problems. The bigger the problem, the more value they create in its resolution. The more value they create, the more invaluable they become. In doing so, they create a positive wake in the world and spawn movements of good.

The fundamental question then is, “For whom or what do you work?” If it’s for self, then it’s a very thin veneer that will quickly be ripped apart by self-promotion and self-protection. Leadership, to be effective, must be about something beyond self-interest, greater than self-promotion and more noble than self-service. Value Creators serve to create the most value for those they serve — others. They collaborate to create movements of good. They reach across the aisle to find common ground. They ask the right questions, like:

I wonder if …?

This question places inquiry over advocacy. We need to seek clarification before we draw conclusions. It is important to understand the various dimensions of any issue, not just our own. Otherwise, our conclusions may very well be ill-informed.

Would it be possible to …?

This query puts curiosity over condemnation. It’s easy to label something as bad if you don’t understand it. Remaining curious keeps us open to the possibilities by suspending our judgment long enough to look for effective alternatives.

Couldn’t we at least …?

The emphasis here is on exploration over consternation. We need to get “unstuck.” This question helps to find a place to at least start moving the ball in a positive direction.

How can I help …?

Now, we are placing service over self-absorption.

In order to craft more compelling work environments, we have to start by asking better questions. We have to inspire people to move more toward becoming Value Creators rather than mere consumers and Value Extractors.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I would like to think of my management style as being By Example. Whatever change you want to see in the world has to start with self-reflection, self-refinement and self-leadership. It is a truism that, “Nothing of long-lasting positive good is ever accomplished by force.” People will always have a choice. And that choice will be driven by their values, not coersion. Force may work for awhile, but people will always revert back to what they really want to do.

Therefore, the best means of motivation is to explore deeply one’s value construct. Because a person will always do what they think will bring the most value to either themselves or those they care for, depending upon their point of view. The most powerful way to influence that point of view is to lead by example and, thereby, show a better way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

That is so true. Growth never takes place in a vacuum. That is why I address the self-help conundrum in Relationomics. We all need others in our lives to point us toward maturity. Life is not a solo sport and we all need the feedback of others to help us address our blind spots.

There are a number of people who come to mind who have helped me along life’s journey. My business partner, Randy Walton, is a friend and someone who constantly challenges me toward growth. Others, like Ken Blanchard, have encouraged me through their writings and from a distance. For the past 20 years, I have been involved with a group of men who walk closely with me. We do life together and sharpen each other through encouragement and speaking truth into one another’s lives. But, those most closely to me, have taught me the most. My wife, LuAnne, has provided clear and compelling feedback to both sharpen and refine my character by holding up a mirror and showing me how others see me. And finally, I would also have to acknowledge that I have learned a lot from my critics. No one is loved by everyone. Even our greatest critics can sometimes offer helpful insights to point us toward maturity.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope I do that daily. My Life Legacy Statement is, “By word and deed, to inspire others to be Remarkable!” It is my desire to enrich the lives of everyone I encounter, even if merely in some small way. I want to make a positive wake in the world. We have written a Manifesto that describes that wake.

Remarkable Manifesto

Meaning is found in discovering your gift

Purpose is in giving it away

Life is precious, I will not waste it

Every person important, I will honor everyone

I will live on purpose

I seek neither fame nor applause

Accolades will never define who I am

Making a difference is not an afterthought

It is my guiding principle

Ordinary is not my only option

And, good enough simply isn’t

Therefore, I defy any drift toward mediocrity

I will exceed expectations

I will be intentional with my life

I will leave a positive wake in the world!

And I will live for a purpose

Life is far bigger than me

I want to make a mark on this world that is not easily erased

So I will…

Give when others take

Notice what others ignore

Engage when others simply walk on by

Spread kindness

Inspire hope

Create value for everyone I encounter

And I will encourage everyone else to do the same

And I will live with purpose

Everything begins with a choice,

And every choice is important…

So I choose…

To be neon in a world of gray

To be a symphony where formerly there was silence

To offer my hand as I follow my heart

To do for one what I wish I could do for everyone

To make someone’s story better

To rock my world for good

Today, I choose to be what I was designed to be!

Today, I chose to make a difference with my life!

Today, I chose to be Remarkable!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think I just did. J

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a challenge for everyone to leverage their passions and their strengths to solve problems. There is much talk these days about following your passion, and there is a much needed emphasis on knowing and utilizing your strengths. But, the key to both is to find the biggest problem you can and solve it, using both. That’s when you find yourself in the zone. That’s when you have found your purpose. And, the bigger the problem you solve, the greater the value you create. The greater the value you create, the more invaluable you become.

As I said, “The purpose of my life is to help others to find theirs. And to inspire them along the way to become Remarkable!” Life is not about reaching self-actualization. It is really, in its highest form, about becoming self-transcendent. We all want to be a part of something bigger than self. We want to have a positive impact and leave a legacy. That can only happen as we build healthy relationships and become value creators.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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