Kittie Watson, Innolect, Inc.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here live from the WBENC National Conference 2022. This is the 25th Annual Conference for WBENC. And we’re inside the Georgia World Congress, and we’re inside of GWBC’s booth, Booth 1812, if you want to stop by and check us out. Today on the show, we have Kittie Watson with Innolect. Welcome, Kittie.
Kittie Watson: [00:00:41] Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:42] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Innolect.
Kittie Watson: [00:00:47] Well, Innolect is an executive and organization development consulting firm. And what we do is, we prepare leaders for the future. We also ensure that you have the right kind of culture to address the great resignation.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:00] So, your tagline says “growing leaders”.
Kittie Watson: [00:01:03] That’s right. We grow the leader in everyone.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:05] So, you believe that there is a leader in everyone, that’s the premise, right?
Kittie Watson: [00:01:10] That is the premise. And it may not always be seen easily or it might need to be refined, but every person has that ability.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:18] Now, when did you start believing that to be? So, is that something since you were a kid, you were like, “Oh, everybody can be a leader. I can see that. I see that kid over there in the playground eating the rocks, I think somewhere in there, there’s a leader.”
Kittie Watson: [00:01:32] I think it actually started when I started teaching at Tulane University. I was chair of the Department of Communication, and is working with students. And then, moving into the corporate arena, I began to see where a lot of people just didn’t have confidence, particularly women. And, initially, I was working with a lot of women to help them move up the corporate ladder and think about that differently.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:52] So, now, internally they have to have a mindset shift, right? They have to stop self-sabotaging themselves and really have these self-limiting beliefs.
Kittie Watson: [00:02:02] Or other people sabotaging. Yes. Definitely.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:05] But, also, they have to believe that they are the leader. They have to take that first step because you can’t want it more than them.
Kittie Watson: [00:02:12] Well, I think in some cases, really, people just have never had an opportunity. They haven’t been put in roles where they’re actually maybe leading. And they think that leading is the same thing as management. And so, we all can have a voice and say the right thing. And I see this particularly within the inclusion and equity and diversity space where people can be a leader, and show up, and express what they think is right in that particular environment.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:42] And that’s where the importance of representation is, to see that it is possible for a person of all types of people.
Kittie Watson: [00:02:51] It’s true. And all of us want to be seen and heard. And there’s an opportunity now because, as I just mentioned a while ago, there’s this Great Resignation and 26 million people have left their jobs in the last six months. And it used to be that people left for pay and benefits. But, now, they’re leaving because they want flexibility. They want to work with an organization that has purpose and meaning where they feel like they’re doing something worthwhile. They also want to learn, and grow, and have advancement possibilities. But the biggest one is to be included and to have a manager who cares. So, what we’re doing often is helping develop those leadership skills so that employees want to stay.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:34] So, now, what are some symptoms that a company is having that they might have a problem but they don’t know it yet?
Kittie Watson: [00:03:41] Well, there are a lot of examples of that, but most of the time they don’t know it and people leave, and so they haven’t realized it.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:48] So, turnover or something like that could be a clue that maybe something is wrong internally. That maybe it isn’t that we can’t find the right people. It’s just maybe something internally is happening that we’re not attracting or we’re turning away people.
Kittie Watson: [00:04:04] Well, what we know is that people want to be listened to, understood, and they want what they’ve said to be acted on in some way. So, organizations have gotten so involved in doing another survey, but then they don’t respond to the survey. And so, employees keep waiting and nothing happens. Or they have managers where they’re not included in decision making. So, they don’t get to impact things that might impact them. And so, we really try to help the organization think, both quantitative and qualitative, about what they can do to become listening leaders, really, and to demonstrate that they care.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:44] Right. Because it’s one thing, I think, that employees are getting, kind of been there, done that, “I’ve heard you say that a million times. You say that people are your most important asset, but then you’re treating me the same as you treated me five years ago. So, you’re not walking the walk.”
Kittie Watson: [00:05:00] Right. Well, and even today, there was an article that came out in McKinsey and just talked about the wage gap from the CEO C-suite to the worker that’s making the difference in the business. And that gap is widening. And, now, with the cost and inflation and all those things, people are thinking, “People don’t really care about me.” So, they’re beginning to look for those organizations that truly live the values, don’t just put them up on a piece of paper on the wall. And they are included. They are involved. They are given opportunities. They’re given feedback, tough feedback sometimes. But they are given opportunities to grow and learn and make a difference.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:42] So, what’s an example of a client that you’ve had that you’ve helped get to this new level, that maybe they were struggling? You don’t, obviously, name the name of the company. But what is their issue they were struggling with and then how did you help them get to this new level?
Kittie Watson: [00:05:55] Well, with one company, they brought us in because they were having a lot of litigation and discrimination.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:02] That’s a clue, right?
Kittie Watson: [00:06:03] Yeah. A clue, yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:05] We’re getting screwed a lot, is that normal? Does everybody get screwed this much?
Kittie Watson: [00:06:10] And it was a culture that had been created and that finally just blew up. And so, we were brought in to begin to understand what was happening in leadership, or lack of happening in leadership or management. And got involved with focus groups and interviews and a survey that we listen to. And then, we were able to begin at the top to help leaders see what they were doing that might be getting in the way. Then, we engaged through a cascade, all people in the organization, and had their voices heard. And there were times where some employees were not a good fit for the organization and the culture they wanted. So, not everyone got to stay.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:54] Sure. And it works both ways, right? They can self-select out and then the company can decide they’re not a good fit.
Kittie Watson: [00:07:03] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:03] And that’s the empowering thing that every individual has. They have the power to say, “Yeah. This isn’t the right fit for me.”
Kittie Watson: [00:07:10] And I think a lot of times, you know, something else that we’re working on right now and have been, as you know, after George Floyd was killed, there were a lot of organizations that gave money externally, but they really didn’t do much internally. And so, what we’ve been doing is really helping those organizations look at the kinds of training that can stick not just, “Okay. Check the box, we did that.”
Kittie Watson: [00:07:34] But really thinking about what could we do differently, what kind of dialog, what skills do people need so that they can talk about what’s going on with them. We’re working with the city government right now that had a lot of racial issues in the city. And so, bringing the community together with city workers and city employees to have a voice and talk about what made them feel less than, and how can we do things differently and equitably for all employees.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:04] It’s kind of a version of that think locally, act globally. You have to start within first, try to change what you can change and control internally. And then, kind of broaden it rather than, “Oh, yeah. We cut a check to this big national organization. See, we’re good guys.”
Kittie Watson: [00:08:18] Yeah. The optics were great. And yet people then thought, “All right. They’re doing this, what are they going to do for us?” I mean, “What about the manager that said this to me last week?”
Lee Kantor: [00:08:29] Right. “What about Mary? What about her issues? What are we doing for Mary, who’s on our team?” And they’re like, “No. We’ve already donated. Then, you see, there was a press conference.”
Kittie Watson: [00:08:38] And there are a lot of people that they don’t know what they don’t know. And so, we’ve done a lot of what we call change guide coaching and helping really move through those changes that they need to make. Or we’ve worked with teams to have them talk together and look at purpose and why they’re there. And even with the hospital systems, for example, where they have been so discouraged, we’ve had to remind them about why they went into health care to begin with.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:05] They kind of lose sight of that, right?
Kittie Watson: [00:09:06] Oh, my goodness. Especially in the last two-and-a-half years.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:09] Right. They’re just kind of running. They don’t know where they’re running or where they’re running to.
Kittie Watson: [00:09:13] And so, we are seeing a lot of good people leave.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:17] Right. They’re just so frustrated.
Kittie Watson: [00:09:19] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:20] And then, the event here today, the WBENC National Conference, what brings you here? Do you go to all of them?
Kittie Watson: [00:09:28] I go to most of them. I mean, there are several things that bring me here. I mean, GWBC, I’ve been on the board before and very committed to that, of course. And I’ve met a number of good clients through this process that I’ve gotten to have conversations with and opened doors. I also am a mentor for the Collegiate Accelerator Program, so I love being able to mentor young leaders as they’re starting, and that always gives me kind of a jolt to be able to do that.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:57] Sure.
Kittie Watson: [00:09:57] So, there are lots of reasons. I have many friends here that I’ve made through the years. And it’s a great way to stay in contact with clients, particularly after we haven’t seen them in so long.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:08] Right. This is the first time in forever that we’ve seen people face to face like this, especially this quantity at one place.
Kittie Watson: [00:10:14] Yes. But it’s so spread out here, though. It’s so different than in the past, but it’s great.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:19] Now, for you, any advice for that young person that says, “You know, I’d like to be a leader. I think I could be a leader,” what are some action steps they can be taking today so they can become a better leader tomorrow?
Kittie Watson: [00:10:31] Well, the first thing that I usually say to anyone is an area I’ve done a little research in, and that is learn to listen. Listen to what the organization needs and your management needs. And if you can listen and meet some need, you’ll be recognized for that. Because most people want to talk as opposed to really listen.
Kittie Watson: [00:10:52] The second thing I say, is, to ask for that. Tell people what you want, what your aspirations are, and ask how they might help you for that development. And to create your own individual development plan. Even if your manager is not supportive, think about what are the skillsets that you could use that would help you move to the next level. Also, get feedback. Ask for it, ask for the feedback that will help you learn and grow. We know that when people come out of an education system, they’re at one level of maturity. And we see maturity grow in people when they start asking for feedback and really want it.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:30] And not everybody has the confidence to do that. You have to be vulnerable and you have to be ready to hear things that maybe you don’t want to hear.
Kittie Watson: [00:11:39] Exactly. And that’s a tough thing. I mean, because we are sensitive that way. And, often, it’s difficult to get that feedback. But it truly is a gift, and we learn from it, and we can be better for it.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:52] Now, a lot of young people dream of having a mentor, somebody that’s going to guide them throughout their careers, are there any tips you have for them on how to get a mentor and how to be a good mentee?
Kittie Watson: [00:12:04] We’ve actually developed mentor and mentoring programs, and, again, it’s clarity at the beginning of expectations and roles. And I know that there are a number of organizations that have formal mentoring and they match. I think that can work really well. We see it working extremely well at WBENC within supplier diversity.
Kittie Watson: [00:12:26] Yet, also, it is watching people within your organization that you admire and respect. And asking them questions, and eventually asking if they’d be willing to meet with you maybe once a month or once a quarter. But be very specific, but honor who they are. And, generally, people are pretty honored when you ask them to guide, or to give advice, or something like that.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] So, be bold. Take the risk.
Kittie Watson: [00:12:54] Be bold, yes. Take that risk.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:56] And if somebody wants to learn more about Innolect, what’s the website?
Kittie Watson: [00:12:59] It is innolectinc.com, and that’s I-N-N-O-L-E-C-T-I-N-C.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:07] Well, Kittie, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Kittie Watson: [00:13:12] Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to be here. I appreciate it.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:13] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We are broadcasting live from WBENC National Conference inside the GWBC booth. We’ll be back in a few.
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