Mini-cast 58: Do Great Employee Owners Have to be Managers?



We continue our discussion about what it means to act like an owner — with a twist.


Kevin Sensenig, PhD, President and Senior Coach at Interaction Dynamics Group (IDG) returns to address the question: If an employee owner is happy, satisfied, and good at their job, do they need to become managers to have a fulfilling career?


We give a shoutout and congratulations to ESOP Partners on their recent conversion to an employee owned company.


Plus... are you going to be in Las Vegas in November, 2019 for a national ESOP conference? The KEISOP Group would like to meet you in Las Vegas!

  • We want to listen and learn: The KEISOP Group invites a dozen rank-and-file employee owners to join us for dinner and discussion on Wednesday, November 13th at 7:00 PM. You can RSVP online here.

  • We want to grow the sandbox: There will be an open lunch for a dozen emerging advisers on Friday, November 15th at 12:30 PM. We’ll discuss how to grow your ESOP practice, including how The KEISOP Group can help. You can RSVP online here.

  • We want to amplify your impact: From November 11th – 16th, 2019 we’ll have a suite at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas where we’ll be recording episodes of the podcast and the EO Professional Spotlight series. Reach out via email or social to reserve a time slot.


Listen to this episode on Soundcloud. Or subscribe on Google Play or iTunes/Apple Podcasts.


The ESOP Podcast is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND Creative Commons License.



Mini-cast 58 Transcript

Announcer: 00:00 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast, a great way to wrap up the week.


Bret Keisling: 00:16 Hello, my friends. Thank you for listening to The ESOP Mini-cast. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. So, what does a passionate advocate do when most of the ESOP world is meeting in Las Vegas in mid November for a national conference? I'm setting up a couple of meetings. If you're an employee owner, I'd like to take you to dinner Wednesday, November 13th at 8:00 PM. I'm looking for 12 employee owners, not C-suite employee owners, not upper management, but rather rank and file employee owners who will come and join us for dinner. Absolutely no cost. It's our treat. We want to listen. We want to hear why employee ownership is important to you, what employee ownership means to your family, how it changes your company. We want to listen and learn and make sure that the things we talk about in the podcast are what's important to the employee owners.


Bret Keisling: 01:15 If you're what we call an emerging professional, I'd like to have lunch with you. Now, emerging professionals isn't quite a "young professional," like many professions have. The emerging professionals that we've been talking about for the last couple of months on the podcast are those ESOP professionals who are passionate about employee ownership and their role in growing employee ownership, but they haven't had as much success as they'd like in gaining traction in their practice. Either they're not getting into the transactions that they're hoping to be involved with or they're not getting speaker slots at conferences, for example. We want to have a meeting and talk about ideas where we might be able to help you at The KEISOP Group and at The ESOP podcast. For seven years I was the co-founder and managing director of Capital Trustees, a boutique trustee firm. I've built a practice along with my partner. There's no fee for this event. There's no cost, folks. I am not trying to sell anything. I'm trying to help you grow your practice because that helps our mission of growing employee ownership. We will ask the professional advisers to pay for their own lunch, reasonable investment, but the time, the ideas and whatever you take away from our hour together will hopefully make it more than worthwhile.


Bret Keisling: 02:38 There are Eventbrite registration links [for the lunch and the dinner] available on this podcast show notes and also on TheESOPPodcast.com website. And please register, we only have a dozen spots for each. We hope you'll join us! With that, it's time for...


Bitsy McCann: 02:57 Shoutouts, thanks, and congratulations!



Bret Keisling: 03:00 We have just one shoutout and congratulations on this episode. In early October [Correction: September 24th in EO Podcast Ep. 84] we gave a shoutout to ESOP Partners on the basis of their brand new headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin and then mid-month ESOP Partners went and became employee owned! ESOP Partners was founded in 2006 by Aaron Juckett. Regular podcast listeners know that Jason Wellman is a favorite of mine, favorite of the podcast, we gave shoutouts to Melanie Matulonis just a few weeks ago in October [Correction: September 24th, Ep. 84]. She was a longtime employee owner, then joined ESOP Partners and now she's an employee owner again. We are friends with Janine Diana. We've met at a couple of conferences. The entire team at ESOP Partners is great. They work all aspects from start to finish with your ESOP from the feasibility stage to planning. They do administration. Generally, it's one of those firms that they don't do legal work, they don't do trustee work, and they don't do the valuations for the trustee although they can do some feasibility stuff. It's a great firm, really happy that they're employee owned, now. They are the real deal in supporting employee ownership and the fact of the matter that the team is able to now walk the walk of being employee owners says a lot about ESOP Partners also says a lot about Aaron Juckett. I've worked with him a couple of times as a trustee in my previous life there and was always impressed with Aaron that he never pushed something if it wasn't ready, if it wasn't the right idea. He plays long ball, he plays the long view and he never tried to force anything before it was ready. So again, congratulations to ESOP Partners, check out their website and join us in giving them a great big congratulations.


Bret Keisling: 04:52 Next up: On Mini-cast 54 and Episode 85 of the primary ESOP/[EO] Podcast, we started a series: What does it mean to act like an owner? We've had conversations with Matt B. Matt is a 10 year veteran of the service industry: food, restaurant, luxury items, et cetera. He is 25 years old. He lives in Colorado. And Matt acts like an owner and that formed the basis of our conversations, but during the course of our conversations, Matt had indicated that he thought he would "suck as a manager" and that led to an exchange between Matt and I. Here it is.


Bret Keisling: 05:41 You, Matt, have said you "sucked at management." I was under the impression from conversations we've had whether here recorded or not, that you also didn't want to. But now if it's primarily, "Wow, I suck as a manager." Can you be trained -- You act like an owner, can you be trained to act like a manager?


Matt B.: 06:03 I don't know if I can be trained to act like a manager, only because the true reasons why I'm bad at managing is because I hold people to the same standard that I hold myself, which at a certain point is toxic because I'm so passionate and I care so much that I want it to be perfect every single time. Now I'm human. I make my mistakes, I get impatient and what have you, but as far as my experiences with managing, I don't have the patience to. I just don't. Because there are people who just, "Why do I need to listen to you? You're not the owner." Or, "Why do I need to listen to you? You're just my manager." And it's infuriating to me that they don't have the same passion and drive to do what's just right in general. Like, you were hired, you're now employed, because that person who hired you trusts you to do the job effectively and to do the job right. And what's right is to do it to the best of your abilities 110% period.


Bret Keisling: 07:21 Matt is a thoughtful, dedicated professional. He does a great job. I'm grateful for the conversations he's had for the podcast, but after we had had that conversation I began to think and reflect. Matt is excellent at what he does. He's in a job that he loves, that he enjoys and my knee jerk reaction was to try and force him into a management or supervisory position. So I wanted to reach out for some guidance on whether that was prudent. On the ESOP Mini-cast Episode 57 we had a professional spotlight on Kevin Sensenig, PhD. He's with Interaction Dynamics Group. And I encourage you to go back to Mini-cast 57 and listen to Kevin's profile if you haven't heard it yet. Also circle back to the Mini-cast Episode 54 and The ESOP Podcast 85 and you can hear conversations with Matt. But I called Kevin Sensenig and asked if maybe there was something wrong with my thinking. Here's the conversation with Kevin.


Bret Keisling: 08:32 Kevin, how are you today?



Kevin Sensenig: 08:33 Doing great.


Bret Keisling: 08:34 Good. Got a question for you. As you know on the podcast, I've been doing this series, what do we mean by "be an owner?" And so far I've had conversations with Maty B, who is in the service industry in Colorado and in previous conversations, Matt acts like an owner in every respect , and Kevin, I know you've heard them, and he's the real deal. In an upcoming episode he's going to be discussing the fact that he doesn't think that he's any good in management and he has no interest in going into management. And I presented the view that, with me and the help of my friends, you and some others in the training space that we could turn him into a manager, let's say in a week, almost a Pygmalion type deal. Do you agree if somebody has got the raw talent that they can be trained into management in a week?


Kevin Sensenig: 09:25 Well, our take on that would be that he can become a leader in that period of time, because he can step up and lead in an organization and demonstrate those elements of leadership that go with employee ownership. He then has to make that choice, to what degree does he want to manage in that space? And so I think that's where it gets a little confusing at times. You know, people end up kind of managing processes and systems and that's a little overwhelming. But leading people, leading teams, leading the organization forward has a different connotation to it and while they're connected -- they have to have some element of connection there -- Matt has to make that determination. Does he want to lead? And then, how does he turn that into effective management before he says I want to be a manager or not be a manager.


Kevin Sensenig: 10:05 Because my concern is sometimes we take our best person, I mean our best doer in a role, and make them the quote unquote manager. And they may or may not be good at that role. And the danger there is we might end up losing our best doer and our best manager at the same time. And so we have to make sure people recognize when they make that transition and you think in terms of leadership first and then how do I use that sense of leading the team to build those good management structures and skills around that.


Bret Keisling: 10:35 Kevin, that's a series of excellent points. Now, let me ask you please to turn your attention on me. And I've done what I've always done my entire career. I looked at this guy and said, we can transform you. Is there a problem with the approach of someone like me in this case? I want someone to be their best, but does that necessarily mean the most stressful? You know, are we taking them out of joy and putting them into a title? Should I and others back away from kind of that approach?


Kevin Sensenig: 11:09 Well, I think what's so exciting about the employee ownership space is I think it allows us to think about this differently. So when you think about traditional organizations, there's a hierarchy in which you move through your organization to gain success. And that's typically an upward mobility type thing. I'm moving up in the organization from position to position. That usually means from kind of entry level, to a mid-level doer, or to a senior level doer, to something of a supervisor or manager, to more of a director type role or vice president. You know, kind of see that normal track that people assume as the way to success.


Kevin Sensenig: 11:42 But what we're finding with organizations today is they want to be a little bit flatter in that structure. They don't want that hierarchy. And so what we are able to do with someone, like a Matt, is to allow him opportunities to contribute at a very high level without needing to take those steps up that that managerial career ladder, so to speak. And so I think where you and I have to kind of change our thinking is not think about organizations and the way we were always brought up, which is hierarchical and success is at the top. But to think about how do we bring success to everyone in the organization, help everyone see the value of what we're doing. Have that true team-based culture where we're working together for the good of one another. We have shared commitments around that. We have blended benefits, meaning we care about one another personally and professionally. And we want to see one of those succeed no matter what our title or role is.


Kevin Sensenig: 12:30 And that's where I think the goodness of -- the idea of good leadership -- comes into play because we're focused on helping people build those blended benefits and build those shared commitments to ultimate success for one another, as employee owners, not to not to the hierarchy of an organization in the sense of you know, certain titles mean more than others in the organization.


Bret Keisling: 12:51 So what we're really doing, Kevin, is all that you're suggesting, if I may paraphrase is saying, let us redefine success. That it's not just title and salary, that if somebody is in the right role and they should maximize their compensation at that role. But it really is, don't just define success on moving up the ladder. If you're at a certain space and it allows you to live a life that gives you meaning, that can be an indicia of success as well. Correct?


Kevin Sensenig: 13:23 Very much! So, when we talk about blending certain aspects of our life to build that sense of success, one of the things we focus on is how satisfying is our finances in our life? And we define that not by how much money do I have. We define that by to what extent do my finances allow me to fund my priorities? And so I think that's a key aspect that goes into changing this thinking about organization and hierarchy in organizations, and so I think one of the reasons I think that many younger people entering the workforce will love the idea of employee ownership is now there's a way that they can be successful and they can have the finances to fund their priorities, because it's not just a few people at the very top of the organization that get all the benefit of all the success. All the people work hard and they get the benefit. Rather, now in an employee ownership mindset, we're sharing that benefit. We're seeing that as employee owners -- and yes, certain individuals might get a higher salary based on certain responsibility they take on, that's natural -- but at the end of the day, we all succeed together because we're all contributing to the success of the employee owned enterprise.


Bret Keisling: 14:29 I really appreciate Kevin Sensenig taking the time for that phone call. Again, with Interaction Dynamics Group. One of the great things I'm going to love about the Professional Spotlight series is Kevin and I were in a conversation doing a spotlight, he said something that triggered me in terms of do we need to make everybody a manager or supervisor, and I able to circle back and further along the discussions with Matt B. by calling Kevin. Professional advisers, if you're interested in participating in the podcast, helping us with conversations promoting your business, please reach out. Contact information follows next. Remember if you're going to be in Vegas, also reach out and let's see if we can get together. And with that, everybody, Bitsy is going to tell you how to contact us and give the closing credits. Thank you so much for joining us today and I hope you have a great day and a great weekend ahead.


Bitsy McCann: 15:26 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.


Standard disclaimer: The views expressed herein are Bret Keisling's and don't represent those of his own firms or the organizations to which he belongs. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field, and the fact that he mentions an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement. But if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, we'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself!

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