HEATHER: Hi everyone, this is the Leadership with Heart podcast and this is Heather Younger, your host. Employee experience is powered by emotions. Managers and/or leaders within organizations get to choose which emotions they unleash from within the people they lead. Leaders, meaning supervisors or above in an organization, drive much of the positive or negative emotions by their actions or inactions, their words, or what the fail to say. When a manager chooses their words and their actions carefully, they exhibit great emotional intelligence. These managers are often thought of as, “Leaders who care,” or I as I call them, “Leaders with heart.” This special brand of leader drives engagement and loyalty simply by being themselves. Are the leaders perfect? Absolutely not. It is in their awareness and sharing of some of their imperfections that we realize their brilliance. In this podcast I ask you to see yourself in the stories my guests tell about times when they were not the best versions of themselves, but how they used their heart to guide them to a place of deeper connection with their teams and heightened leadership prowess. Today I’m very excited to welcome such a leader in Brigitte Grimm, treasure of Adams County, Colorado. I have witnessed her leading with heart, her team, and have actually heard their feedback as a result. Stay tuned for this wonderful podcast.
This is the Leadership with Heart podcast and this is your host, Heather Younger, and I’m so excited to have Brigitte Grimm, the treasurer of Adams County in Colorado on the phone with us today. She is an amazing person. Hello there, Brigitte.
BRIGITTE: Good Morning, Heather. How are you?
HEATHER: Oh, I’m doing great. It’s Monday and it’s beautiful here in Colorado, isn’t it?
HEATHER: So, I’m doing well.
BRIGITTE: Yep, yep. Great.
HEATHER: So, for those people listening, for the show, it’ll be people that will be coming on the show based upon who — I’ve invited them on or some people have referred them to me. So, anybody who’s listening will just know that they’ve pretty much been screened. These are people calling in asking if they can be on the show. In most cases they’ve been referred or I’ve handpicked them based upon what I see as a leader who leads with heart and is more emotionally intelligent. So, Brigitte — the reason why I invited Brigitte is because I’ve worked with her and I also saw how she was with her people and her people would self-reflect on her leadership style when I would do employee focus groups or what I would be doing in training and so I could just see she was just one of those people who naturally liked people and was emotionally intelligent. So, that is why I have her on the show. So, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy our time together. So Brigitte, tell us a little about what you do for Adams County and your role as treasurer and that would be great for us to hear that.
BRIGITTE: Okay, great. Well, yes, so I’m the Adams County treasurer and it is an elected position. So, in 2010 after a decade in the private sector in accounting roles, in finance roles, CFO roles, and director of accounting and finance type roles, I decided to enter the public sector. And so, I brought with me a decade of experience and then I also brought an MBA in finance and accounting and a bachelor’s degree in information systems. And so, what I found was, eight years ago when I ran for my first system and then ran again four years later in 2014 for my second term, I found that I had this perfect blend of public/private experience. And so I think that has actually been one of the reasons that we’ve been so successful in this public sector because we all know that government hasn’t always been the most efficient and effective operation. And so it’s been wonderful and an amazing experience with amazing results to come here and take everything that I know through experience and education and apply it and the outcome has been really the most rewarding professional experience I’ve ever had.
HEATHER: Oh, that’s awesome. So, what drives you? As a person and as a leader, what is it that drives you and where does that drive come from?
BRIGITTE: Well, I think I’m a big believer in investing my time and energy in something that I’m passionate about, that I love, because I think you lose interest if you don’t have that passion. And so, with that said, I think what gets me out of bed every day is accomplishments and results. And as I just mentioned, you know, in the public sector there is an expectation that it will be a bad experience and so every day I am driven to change that experience for, in this case, our tax payers.
So, as the treasurer I am the tax collector, probably not the most popular role in county government, but that’s what excites me is to be able to have this great relationship with our customers. And so, I’m motivated, really, by leaving a legacy here of inspiring my team and my coworkers and those that I interact with every day. And I want a legacy where my teams, the people that work here with me, see growth, where they feel good about where they were, where they are now, and where they’re headed. And, I don’t know what that growth looks like, it could be educational, it could be better critical thinking skills, maybe better time management. And maybe if I could have my way, it would be being motivated to be a mentor for somebody else. So, I love being a resource and helping others in my office and in this building, actually, achieve their personal, their professional, and maybe even their educational goals.
HEATHER: I love that. And for everybody listening, I’m not sure if you heard her describe the people that she works with. She didn’t say, “The people that work for me, the people that report to me,” she said, “The people that I work with,” and that is really a defining characteristic of a leader with heart and somebody who is more emotionally intelligent, because they don’t necessarily put themselves up on a pedestal, they put themselves in equal, knowing that they have [0:05:25.4] to have added responsibility for the team. So, I just wanted to point out that little nuance if you didn’t already catch it about how Brigitte described herself. So, how would you define your leadership style?
BRIGITTE: You know, I love this question because I think if you’ll Google leadership styles, you’ll get five to maybe seven or eight predetermined styles, but I have known for a very, very long time that I’m a visionary and I’m also a coach. And so, what I would like to — Oh, I didn’t mention earlier I’m also an instructor. I teach at night. I teach accounting at night. And so, as a visionary, I think this style is really effective when an organization needs new direction or new process. And that’s been the beautiful thing about working in this government sector is I’ve been able to take that private sector experience, which is what I did also cleaning up accounting departments and working with different companies to improve process and create effective and efficient ways to do the job. And so I think that visionary goal is a style that is — it’s to move people towards a new set of shared outcomes, right?
So, as a visionary leader I think I like to articulate where my team is going but not necessarily how we’re going to get there. And so, this means I vet to empower the people that I work with to innovate, to experiment with different ideas, maybe to asses and sometimes take these calculated risks to improve the way we do business. And so, I’ve always had this tagline that I’m here to change the way government does business and this visionary style is a big, big piece of that.
Now, the coaching style, this is a little bit more on the one-on-one and it aligns with why I actually love being an instructor. So, even in my classrooms I’m always trying to work with students individually to help them get where it is that they want to go, and that rolls over into my work life as well. This one focuses, really, in developing individuals and showing them how to improve, either their performance or connecting, maybe their goals with the goals of the organization. And this is really the fun part of my job because I see people grow. And it really works best with employees who have a desire and an initiative and love what they do. That’s a big piece, right? The people that work with have to want to be here. And so, this coaching style is really great with them.
It’s a delicate balance because you have to avoid micromanaging an employee but it’s by far the most challenging but the most rewarding. And I do want you to know that I’m really clear with my team that my job is to manage process, not to manage them. My job is to motivate them, to inspire them, and I hear a lot of leaders talking about managing people and I actually don’t think we manage people, I think we manage process and we motivate and inspire people.
HEATHER: I love that. Just everything you said encapsulates so many elements of this emotionally intelligent leader. And keeping it in mind that when we talk about someone who is emotionally intelligent, it doesn’t mean that we’re all perfect, we are all striving to become better and the best versions of ourselves. And so, everything you mentioned, you mentioned the word empowered, you mentioned the word innovate, coaching, and the fun part — I love the fact that the fun part is seeing them grow.
HEATHER: This is a real sign of a leader who leads with heart. I love it. I just actually love all of it. It’s just wonderful.
BRIGITTE: Thank you.
HEATHER: So, describe for me a time when you were maybe not the best leader you could be and what did you to come out of it?
BRIGITTE: Yeah, I think we all experience this as leaders. Well, first of all, I think that when you no longer feel effective as a leader, it’s really time for you to re-evaluate. Is it time for you to change? Is it time for you to move on? And you will know, right, when the people that you work with no longer refer to you. But what I want you to know is that we all have bad days. So, this is really what I’m going to talk about is just a bad day, right? And so, I’ve always felt that people that come in in a bad mood and ruin the entire day for somebody else — I’ve always felt that really wasn’t okay. So, when I started with the county, I implemented a policy that held everybody accountable for the energy that they brought into the room, and that policy applied to me as well.
So, let’s say for example, I’m having a bad day where everybody annoys me, right? And that includes the person who cut me off in traffic, the traffic light that isn’t changing fast enough, maybe some lackluster service from a bank teller or a barista, or maybe even just as simple as a gas pump not printing out my receipt. That’s when I pause. I literally pause and I ask myself, “What’s the common denominator here?” and if I determine that it’s me, I do one of two things, and I ask my team to do this as well. I either go to work and let my team know that I’m having an off day so maybe I’ll close my door because I need to get something done, but I always give them the heads up that today I’m just off and so don’t internalize anything, you know? And then, if it’s really bad enough where I’m just really, really the common denominator, I really turned around and I called the office and I say, “I’m not coming in today, I’m working remotely.” So, taking a mental health day or working remotely is what I ask my team to do if they think the energy that they’re bringing to the office is negative.
I love this quote by Ray Kroc. He says, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves,” and so I think that’s why it’s important that when you implement policies that you don’t exempt yourself from them. So, I don’t get a free pass on bringing negative energy into the room, into the office, and neither does my staff. And that is what — And we all respect that. So, we have the freedom to say, “Today’s a day that I need to take off due to negative energy.”
HEATHER: Wow, and I think that’s just amazing. Thinking about how many leaders may not think that’s okay — They come in and they yell at or bark at or throw orders at their team members because they just start off the day wrong or —
HEATHER: — their team members aren’t just having a great day and they aren’t empathetic enough or compassionate enough [0:13:18.0], “Okay, you obviously are having a bad day, why don’t you go take a break, why don’t you close the door, why don’t you take some deep breaths —
HEATHER: — counseling their people through that tough time, but also allowing that space to happen, because you know, as an intelligent leader, that not everybody is perfect every single day. So, I think that’s awesome and I’m sure they can take some deep breaths knowing that you’re somebody who allows that space for them to not be broken —
HEATHER: — but to also — I love some of the words you used earlier, you know, the risk taking and the innovation, and things like that. Those are some key things. People want to know that they are allowed to step out on stage, that they are allowed to try new things for the benefit of the customer and the team. And one of the other things that I know about you, again, because I’ve worked with you, is that you’re so hyper customer focused. So, in this case a tax payer but it’s customer, whether it’s internal or external, you’re all about the people. And even though you do drive process and innovation, you start with the people first —
BRIGITTE: That’s right.
HEATHER: — which I think is just amazing.
BRIGITTE: Thank you, Heather. Thank you.
HEATHER: Yeah, good stuff. Okay, so what do you do to connect to your team in a deeper way? So, sometimes you feel like you are doing lots of tasks throughout the week or they’re on lots of projects and you know everything is kind of crazy, what do you do to connect with them in a deeper way when that happens?
BRIGITTE: You know, I think the one thing that I have found is none of what I do is rocket science. Sometimes a simple smile, just acknowledge of their present — I say good morning to every staff member when I come into the office. I also make it a point to have some visibility into their lives outside of the office. I want to know — I want them to feel comfortable to share any challenges that they might be having so that we can — if someone’s having a daycare issue we rework the issue so that they can, during spring break, get their kids picked up from school. So, it’s important to understand some of their outside life — outside of work life. I also love to put the spotlight on my people; I love to give them the opportunity to shine. So, when we have our monthly birthday meeting/info meetings, if someone’s taking a class, I like them to get up and share with us some of the great things in the class that they learned or that they want to share with us. So, we really focus on giving each employee time to shine. I really like to know what motivates them. So, I have a conversation with them and say, you know, “What motivates you?” and then I try to implement that into my working relationship with them. So, that’s a real big one because we know everybody is motivated by different things.
And I focus on telling teammates how great their teammates are because I know that that gets around, right? I know that if I tell one employee how great another employee is, how their excelling, how they’re embracing, that is a really — that makes the person that I’m speaking to — there’s a trust there that I’m always sharing progress with everybody, right? Not just the person I’m working with. And then I do little things like I leave trinkets on a desk, you know, little things that I’ve picked up at different meetings. I bring them in and I give them to the employees and then I also let them know that we’re here also to — It’s work but it’s all so that we can have a good time. So, we have — We laugh. We laugh a lot. And so those are the kinds of the things that we do to create more of a — it’s not just a work environment, although I will say we’re incredibly efficient and effective. I really do feel like these people are an extension of my family and I genuinely care about how well they’re doing outside of work and inside of work.
HEATHER: So, again, for those listening, if you could just hear Brigitte’s voice, you can hear the sincerity of everything that she’s talking about. Again, I have seen her live this out in the work environment with her team members, with her coworkers. I love that concept of giving them the time to shine. Boy, if more leaders would kind of set that aside for the day of the week for their team, how much more could they get out of their team members? How much more can the business thrive with that idea of the time to shine? And also, customizing, “What is it that motivates you?” You know, I talk about this in my book, in The Seven Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty and it really is — if you can find out what motivates them and you customize the things you do to show appreciation and then based upon it, motivation, again, you will see the fruits of that labor pay off much, much more. So, I mean it’s just beautiful, all the things that we’ve said and you really couldn’t have said it better, to be honest. I think that a lot of people will learn from what it is that you’re saying here.
So, what is the one thing that you’re thinking about — maybe the leader who could be struggling with their team or the leader who — the team is just not seeming to be responsive, what’s the one thing you think that they can do or the one takeaway they should hear you saying today that might help them with that issue?
BRIGITTE: What do I do when my team isn’t responding?
HEATHER: Not you. What would you do if there is a leader — Let’s say if a listener now who may be struggling with a team member or with their team generally, and their team is maybe not responding to direction or not responding to something, what would you do to say — What do you think the magic pill may be to help them get back on track with their team?
BRIGITTE: Yeah, so I do think that communicating with your team — We know that size does not fit all in leadership and their oftentimes will be one or two members of your team that aren’t buying what you’re selling and you really do need to have trust, number one. They have to trust you, they have to trust that they can tell you what they need.
At the end of the day, we need to know what they need to be successful and sometimes it’s just giving them the freedom to look for something else. Maybe they want to move to another role and that’s the communication you need to have, so, identifying if you’re the problem or if they just truly are not passionate about being in that space. And so I think — And sometimes it helps if you can talk with people they work with because sometimes employees feel more comfortable talking with a colleague and seeing if there’s a way you can get that dialogue going. But, at the end of the day I think it boils down to having communication and trust with the people that you work with.
HEATHER: Wow, that’s great and I would agree with you. Trust is really the foundation for everything and if trust isn’t there you can’t do anything else we’ve spoken about if people don’t trust you. And keeping in mind that trust is earned and that it doesn’t happen overnight —
HEATHER: — and that you have to do the things that you know need to be done and you have to do it every day, day in and day out, but your people know that that consistency is there. So, yeah, this has been awesome. Again, remembering, provide your team a time to shine and remember that you have to pinpoint what motivates them in the process and everybody will really flourish much more. So, Brigitte, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for joining us in this call. [0:21:55.4] to wrap up, I want you to tell everybody how they can get a hold of you. If they wanted to follow up with you and ask you question or something, how would they get a hold of you?
BRIGITTE: Well, yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways to get a hold of me. You can call my direct number at the county, that’s (720) 523-6166. That’s directly to my office. I don’t have any assistants or deputies, so when you call my number I will pick up the phone. You could also email me at grimm, that’s G-R-I-M-M @adcogov.org. That’s A-D-C-O-G-O-V dot org.
HEATHER: And just for the listeners too, I will make sure when I put the show notes together, Brigitte’s contact information will be on there as well. So, you’ll be able to get a hold of her. So, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for doing the Leadership with Heart podcast.
BRIGITTE: Oh Heather, thank you so much. It was a great opportunity.