Supporting both the leader and the employee with Rebecca Chabot

Rebecca joins us today to discuss the challenges HR managers face in the corporate world, how important culture really is and the reality of what HR work looks like.  She shares what she loved most about HR and what finally caused her to step away and start a new coaching/consulting career.

Where to find Rebecca:

Transcription below (May contain typos...):

[00:00:00] Rachel: [00:00:00] I've always viewed that our role in HR is really to try to balance that, that. We are there to take care of our employees and to understand their needs and to hear things from their perspective and to really advocate for them at times. And there are times where, you uncover in a situation that it's appropriate to advocate for the leader or for the organization.

And I think our job is to really enter those situations as best as possible. With a balanced view and to get, facts and information, and really hear from both parties and then understand in any given moment who really needs the advocacy and the support and who needs coaching and redirection.

And sometimes it's the employee, but sometimes it's the leader.  [00:01:00]

Matt: [00:01:19] Good morning, Rebecca. I'm so glad to have you on the show today and really looking forward to talking to you about your life experience and what you've come from and where you've been. And just for those of you who don't know Rebecca is an agent has been in HR for over 20 years here.

In the area, advising business leaders and coaches and developing people and helping senior leadership really create more positive environments and helping shape that kind of organizational culture and inclusion. And all of the things that we know are key kind of topics these days. And Rebecca's kind of come into a new path.

She's taken a new route in her life right now and has come on as a as a coach [00:02:00] in her life. And I just want to know a lot more about that. Rebecca, first of all, tell me a little bit about herself and your background. Where are you? Where are you from? And

what's

Rachel: [00:02:08] your deal. Yeah. Thanks Matt.

I appreciate you having me on today. So I am a Michigander born and raised and have lived all over the state of Michigan. So I love grand Rapids. It's been my home for almost 20 years. However, it's not where I was born. So I was an import into the region 20 years ago. Back when a time when there wasn't a lot of imports in the region, that's obviously changed over the last number of years.

And I grew up all over the state mid in Northern Michigan, small towns, primarily, and then went to college in Detroit and kicked off my career there and then moved to West Michigan, really to get closer to family. And I love the outdoors. So just a more green space over here, but from a professional standpoint as you said, I've spent a little over 20 years in HR [00:03:00] and really in the generalist side.

So for those of you don't know what any church on those days there. A role where people do all areas of HR, everything from, employee relations comp and benefits leadership development, training, really everything in HR. And that was my career. Just over time, it grew from a position of an individual contributor to certainly leading, a couple of individuals working for me and then gradually to leading a team and more of an organization.

And so that's what I've done and working in a variety of industries, so started in technology and started there for a number of years and then moved into manufacturing. And then more recently in the construction industry. So three hat industry

Matt: [00:03:49] kinda ran the gamut of of industries here for this area, especially I find it interesting that we've talked to before.

HR and some of those things and the correlations between [00:04:00] really the HR side of people development and kind of the coaching type role of people development, because what I've seen and just knowing from what I know, which is very little, and I'd love to hear more about your opinion on it. There's the structure, HR has to have a lot of structure and you've got to make sure that these things are done and that the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted.

And. For the business coverage side and also for the employee. Tell me a little bit about the struggle just faced in the industry, in HR with keeping both of those. I want to keep, the person are really close, but I know I have to protect the organization.

Rachel: [00:04:36] Yeah. Yeah. It's a classic tension in the function.

And I think that my I've always viewed that our role in HR is really to try to balance that, that. We are there to take care of our employees and to understand their needs and to hear things from their perspective and to really advocate for them at times. And there are times where, [00:05:00] you uncover in a situation that it's appropriate to advocate for the leader or for the organization.

And I think our job is to really enter those situations as best as possible. With a balanced view and to get, facts and information, and really hear from both parties and then understand in any given moment who really needs the advocacy and the support and who needs coaching and redirection.

And sometimes it's the employee, but sometimes it's the leader.

Matt: [00:05:28] That's a tough balance. I I can't imagine it. And it just, since that it would be difficult for some people to really do that well. And so I'm just always impressed with with HR directors who have done that successfully.

As long as they have, yeah. Almost have to have that personality piece, but you have to have that structure and some of that critical thinking and some of those things, so kudos to you on that. So question for you, this is the most fun question I ever have. So obviously you're passionate about people.

What took you from this 20 plus [00:06:00] years of HR experience to walk out one day and be like, you know what, I'm gonna do my own thing. I'm going to, I'm going to go into coaching and tell me about that moment. Yeah.

Rachel: [00:06:09] So great question.  Would say that, I've worked in large and small organizations.

And as I said earlier, all different kinds of industries, but the thing that I've found pretty universal about my experience and I feel really blessed and thankful to have experienced this in my career. I can honestly say that all the organizations I've worked for really believed that their people were their differentiator.

And as a result, believe that culture really mattered. And that, that was critical to attracting and retaining and developing the best talent. And so I, had the chance to operate within that in a corporate environment. But the reality is in traditional HR, what you often spend a lot of time doing is, firefighting, crisis management.

Policy, [00:07:00] a lot of the stuff that, as you said earlier, has to get done and is necessary and as part of structure and process, but ultimately is not the most enjoyable aspect of your job. And so when I thought about the days where I was excited to go to work, or the days where I would come home, really energized to talk with my husband about my day, It was really always a day where I had come alongside either an individual leader or a group of leaders to help them with their people challenges.

And, over time you start to realize that's really where your passion is, where your love is, where you want to spend the bulk of your time. And, in corporate HR, you. You can only do so much of that. There are times where there's just other things that need to get done. And so I made the choice that I wanted to make a shift and be able to do more of what I love and less of what I didn't.

And so that drove me, making the change. I did good

Matt: [00:07:56] for you. That's a fantastic place to be. It's interesting [00:08:00] looking at it and hearing you speak of it. I've had a similar experience when I got out of corporate and decided to just start coaching and going in and working and walking beside alongside leaders.

And it's a really refreshing exciting experience. Give me a little bit about. Your first cause I know you're just stepping into this. It's new and it's still fresh, but you do have a lot of contacts and relationships. So what do you think your biggest challenges?

Rachel: [00:08:30] I think the biggest maybe issue I'm wrestling with, as I think about going into the space and coaching is really understanding what kind of coaching I want to do.

There is coaching for performance coaching for development. And I also think there's coaching that is often really just about listening and helping the individual come to their own realizations. And I think all of that is beneficial. I also know from my years of [00:09:00] experience that at the end of the day, leaders usually come to you when they're really stuck and jammed up and, sure.

They certainly want you to help them navigate forward. But they're already at their wits end. And I like to use the questions to really understand what's going on, where the person's at, what they've already done, what they're thinking about. But I do think there's a time and a place where, what someone really is looking for is a little bit more advice and direction and not just pure coaching.

And so I think my goal is to really try to blend the two of those together to help someone grow and develop. But also when they're really stuck in jammed up to be able to give them some advice and direction, help them move forward.

Matt: [00:09:39] Yeah. And what a great way to pair that yeah. With your past experience.

I truly believe there's some great coaches out there that just never had that consulting or advice space that they haven't experienced that. So you have really the best of both worlds, because there are definitely moments I know where you had to just advise people to make smart [00:10:00] choices and smart decisions within an organization.

As a director of HR. So it certainly is a perfect fit for you. So let's talk a little bit about your current business. So you're doing that right now. You're starting out and going in that direction, where would let's say there's a leader that needs some help. Why would someone reach out and say, you know what, I need to call her back?

Rachel: [00:10:18] Let me answer that map, but maybe let me go back and add one more thing to it. You were just talking about. I do think that real world experience is a really critical aspect to being an effective coach. Although I've been in the HR world for a number of years, we would often reach out to consultants or other experts to bring them in occasionally on different projects or special initiatives.

And when we did what I was always looking for is consultants or experts who had enough real world experience to really add value. And you can definitely tell when you reach and connect with someone who just doesn't, they haven't been there, they haven't done that. They don't really understand what you're experiencing.

And they're [00:11:00] trying to give advice and counsel from, I really called an outside perspective and sometimes that's healthy in terms of they have. An unbiased view, but if they've never really lived a day in your shoes, I think it's hard to give great advice. And so I do think that my years of experience will help me in industry, will help me give better advice and counsel to my clients

Matt: [00:11:20] very well said. And and certainly not appoint to misc that outside experience really does. Give you qualifications. So I always laugh when I look at a job description it's or this many years experience while yes.

I've had this many years experience, so well, fantastic. Thank you for clarifying that. And back to that piece what where would a leader need to be or what would it be a good reason for a leader to call you?

Rachel: [00:11:42] Yeah. So I work independently and I work with the team of individuals at Blake talent, another local organization here in town, who does HR and leadership consulting.

And so we, have an interest in a desire to support leaders at different life cycles. [00:12:00] So whether that's an emerging or a new leader who is, really just starting to advance in their career and need some guidance and coaching. And how to build a great team and how to navigate some of the dynamics of that.

We're able to come alongside and help those individuals, whether, or if it's a senior or mid-level leader, who's running an organization or a function, or even the business to come alongside them, whether that's to help them with strategic initiatives, as they think about their culture longterm or their talent attraction or retention issues.

Certainly in this day and age, we're all very focused on inclusion. And we recognize that, despite the fact that diversity inclusion has really been around in the industry for years, we're really having to come to a reckoning of recognizing that we are not where we need to be. And we haven't advanced.

As we need to advance in our workplaces. And so coming alongside leaders who are challenged with [00:13:00] that and trying to help them grow and shape their cultures and their leadership teams differently. So a variety of challenges, and then helping individuals who might be making career transitions or, struggling in their role and need some development.

Those are all things we can help with.

Matt: [00:13:16] So true. It's I love that you said that we, maybe we haven't come as far as we think we have, right. Just gosh, it's such a, it's such a, what I think what we feel like is an inclusive world with an underlying non-inclusive foundation that we have lied to ourselves that was built, so it's really not there and we have to work harder to. To do that and to make people really feel genuinely included into every aspect of the business and the life of the company and the life of individuals.  Love that you're a lot of your work is in that space and yeah, people need it.

They really need it. So one last thing,

Rachel: [00:13:55] I was just going to say, businesses want to get great business results. Let's be honest about that. [00:14:00] And yet, I think what we continue to forget is that our results really come through our people and our people are going to perform better. They're going to bring their best selves, their best problem, solving their best innovations when they can show up as they are.

And so I think this desire to create an inclusive work environment, isn't just about the fact that it's the right thing to do, but it's also about, getting better business

Matt: [00:14:26] results. I love it. So good. That's a great point. I want to ask you one more thing, tell me a story about a time where you really came in as a coach.

You remember, something in the past that brought you into this space.

Rachel: [00:14:43] Wow. There are so many I would say there probably every day there would be someone in my office with a question, or a challenge that they needed help with. I can, I'll go back to a time where I remember a leader I was working with who [00:15:00] ran a function and, she had been.

More of a technical expert, right? And as many leaders are, they get promoted based on their technical expertise or functional expertise. And she was starting to build a team for really the first time in her career and was struggling with some of what that looks like. One of her first employees is really high performer.

And that's always an easy situation to navigate, or I shouldn't say easy. It's always easier than having someone with difficult performance, but high performers still take a lot of time and energy and you want to invest that time to help them grow. But she was struggling with a performer on her team, and that was really a new challenge for her.

So had never had an individual under her who was not performing well. And wasn't sure what to do. And so we just, I came alongside her from the beginning and to [00:16:00] understand what was going on, what had she already done? What was her kind of goal and hope for that person? And we just plotted a path together on how to navigate that, hoping that we could, correct the performance and the behavior and get things back on track, but also helping her feel confident that if that couldn't happen, that we would be there to help.

Her navigate that process to help ensure that we try to treat him that employee with dignity and respect along the way. And that we can, help things work out in whatever way they were going to work out. But. To help her navigate that. And it took a number of months of doing that to work through that process in the end, the individual did end up leaving the organization.

But I think we had done a really good job of trying to help make that person successful, concluding that it really wasn't a great fit for them. And. No, the leader frequently was just very appreciative of Oh, thank you so much for coming alongside me and [00:17:00] helping me navigate this. And, it was very stressed and overwhelmed.

And so yeah, that's, just one of many, but like I said, almost every day, there's someone in your office asking for advice and counsel and you're helping them navigate tough situations.

Matt: [00:17:16] Yeah. And it sounds to me like it pairs perfectly with. What you want to do really on your own and for black talent and just doing the things of helping leaders navigate waters that maybe they haven't been in.

And I know just from my experiences as well, and I love that you told that story, that sometimes there are just great employees that they get promoted and don't really have the leadership or management skills to. To work with people, right? They're just not there yet. And so having someone to come on beside them and help them navigate that is, is so needed.

So it's

Rachel: [00:17:50] fantastic. We often, I think it's a really common pitfall of leadership is that we promote people with really great technical expertise and we [00:18:00] forget that they need a very different set of tools. To do a job, the job of a leader, and, some organizations do a great job of helping employees investing in the skills.

They need to do that well, but some, it just gets lost in the shuffle, it's a sink or swim. And I've put together leadership programs to help grow those skillsets, but then I've come alongside and helped coach people one-on-one as well.

Matt: [00:18:23] Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking a little bit of time with me today.

I want to give people the opportunity to get ahold of you. Let's talk about your business a little bit, or any links, how would someone get ahold of you? They want to do? Yeah.

Rachel: [00:18:35] Yeah. They can certainly find me on LinkedIn. I'm out there and they can find me there. And then I am, as I said earlier, doing work with  talent.

So that's M B L Y T H E talent.com. And you can find us there and then doing work with a human workplace. So that's an organization nationwide that's helping make work more human. And so we host [00:19:00] gatherings, which are really events to help build more connection amongst people in the workplace. And so you can find us there@makeworkmorehuman.com.

Yeah.

Matt: [00:19:12] Fantastic. Thank you so much. Any last parting words for someone who's maybe I'm going to become a coach one day and I'm not really sure. And it seems like a big step. Anything like for somebody like that?

Rachel: [00:19:22] Yeah. I think the, the other thing I would say about coaching is. I think we have this myth about leadership and an experience where that as people grow in their career and advance into further and further senior roles, we believe that they have all the answers and that they encountered everything they need to encounter. They're always going to have the best solutions and know how to navigate all situations. And we put senior leaders on a pedestal. And I think the reality is that we're all just people learning and doing the best we can.

[00:20:00] And ultimately I think, we need to make sure that we support our leaders well, and coaching can be really a great way to do that, to provide some outside perspective, to provide some support. And so I think the chance to offer that to your employees can be really a valuable experience. It helps that individual grow and develop and ultimately helps them to drive better business results.

And so I think, as a coach I look forward to the chance to really just help those leaders feel seen and heard and valued and supported at a really critical point in their career.

Matt: [00:20:36] Yeah, that's a great point at the end. It really ties a bow on the whole discussion is as far as what people think they need, what leaders think they need and putting those leaders up there as the know, all of all things is really sometimes more damaging to them than it is to us and the people around them.

Thank you for that. And thank you for just giving me some time today. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing you soon.

[00:21:00] Rachel: [00:21:00] Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having me.

Teams also need to get away and have time to think together and reflect together. Be able to spend just an hour to be curious about each other. -Denise Van Eck, Owner of Thought Design

Check Out More Stories