Better Leaders = Better Organizations with Rod McDermott and Zach Smith

What if your employees and future leaders didn’t struggle with challenges at home or with their finances? Do you think they’d perform better at work?

According to this week’s guests, they sure would! And they have the data to back it up.

Everyone brings stress and anxiety to work. It’s a normal part of being human. But when leaders and aspiring leaders spend too much time in stressful situations they’re not as effective in their roles. Coaching can help, and organizations that offer coaching to employees help to improve the humans in their charge which creates better results for the company. It’s a win-win and we don’t do it enough. 

This week on the podcast, Rod McDermott and Zach Smith of Activate 180 share why it’s so important to provide coaching for employees, no matter where they are in the organization. Especially now, with so many leaders leaving and younger employees moving up quickly to fill their roles.

This conversation is so hopeful for the potential of organizations overall and the teams and individuals the organizations support. Coaching isn’t designed to improve performance that might be lacking; it’s for helping team members show up as their best selves to help maximize their impact in the company.

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About Rod McDermott:

Rod McDermott is the CEO + Co-Founder of Activate 180, which helps companies elevate employee performance, productivity, and happiness through affordable coaching for all; the CEO + Co-Founder of McDermott + Bull, one of the fastest-growing executive search firms in North America with offices domestically and internationally; the President + CEO of M+B Interim Leaders, which he founded along with Angela Anderson in 2011 to address an increased client need for time-sensitive solutions to important leadership challenges; and the Founder of the M+B Executive Network, a community of in-transition senior-level executives seeking guidance to land their next role, serving over 10,000 members since inception.

Rod has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, growing companies from the ground up and challenging industry norms. His ultimate goal is to meaningfully contribute to the greater good, which is showcased through his passion for hard work, fostering relationships, and conceptualizing solutions for professional development. Connect with Rod on LinkedIn.

About Zach Smith:

Zach Smith is the Chief Activation Officer + Co-Founder of Activate 180. He has been a trusted voice in mindset, career optimization, and leadership coaching for over 10 years. Zach has coached thousands of employees across mid-market and enterprise-level organizations, aligning their careers with true calling and passion to create total life fulfillment.

Before becoming an award-winning coach, Zach spent more than 10 years in senior marketing and client relationship management roles for well-known, international consumer beverage brands. Zach trained with the Ascension Leadership Academy’s coaching program, graduating from their highest level course. He is a sought-after keynote speaker who regularly appears before audiences at industry conferences and events. Connect with Zach on LinkedIn.

Connect with Activate 180 on LinkedIn and Instagram.


Mentioned In This Episode:




people, organization, mindset, coaching, lindsay, company, life, activate, create, feel, employee, mental health, leaders, zack, helps, years, best selves, great, challenges, stress


Zach Smith, Lindsay Recknell, Rod McDermott

Lindsay Recknell  00:01

You are a People Leader or a HR professional, working hard to create an amazing employee experience for your team and your organization. But between the operational tasks of your job, managing emotions and politics both up and down the corporate ladder, and trying to find some semblance of work/life integration in your own life, I suspect you could be overwhelmed and burnt-out. Even the thought of navigating the complicated world of mental health at work probably seems like too much to handle. Let this podcast can be your not-so-secret weapon to help fix that! I am your host, Lindsay Recknell, and my mission is to help great leaders like you feel less awkward and more confident talking about mental health at work so you can stress less, take more action and continue to make a valuable difference in your job as a leader, positively impacting the lives of your people. I’ll be bringing you the experts, insights and actions that will give you the skills you need to navigate mental health in the workplace and foster a workplace where everyone’s mental health can thrive.   

Lindsay Recknell  01:03

I have two special guests with me today. So let me introduce you to each of them. Rod McDermott is the CEO and/or Founder of four companies focused on time sensitive solutions to important leadership challenges, executive search, and in transition senior level executives seeking guidance to land their next role. Most notably for our episode today, he is also the CEO and co founder of Activate 180, which helps companies elevate employee performance, productivity and happiness through affordable coaching for all. Rod has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years growing companies from the ground up and challenging industry norms. His ultimate goal is to meaningfully contribute to the greater good, which is showcased through his passion for hard work, fostering relationships and conceptualizing solutions for professional development.

Lindsay Recknell  01:49

Also with me today is Zack Smith. Zack is the Chief Activation Officer and co founder of Activate 180. He has been a trusted voice in mindset career optimization and leadership coaching for over 20 years, coaching 1000s of employees across mid market and enterprise level organizations aligning their careers with their true calling and passion to create total life fulfillment. Before becoming an award winning coach, Zach spent more than 10 years in senior marketing and client relationship management roles for well known international consumer beverage brands. Zach trained with the Ascension Leadership Academy’s coaching program, graduating from their highest level course and is a sought after keynote speaker who regularly appears before audiences at industry conferences and events. I can’t wait for you to hear from rod and Zack. So let’s get to it.

Lindsay Recknell  02:37

Before we get started, I want your time to be valuable here so in order to get the most from this podcast, head to my website at and download the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work which has the step-by-step action plan you’ll need to embed a focus on mental health into the employee experience of your workplace. It’s totally free and will give you the start to your action plan – steps to follow to create engagement, build a budget and a method to measure the value, influence and impact you’ll be making as you lead this transformational change in your organization.  We haven’t been taught the mental health skills we need to truly lead our organizations into the future so let this Guide and podcast be the advantage you need to elevate your career, your leadership skills and the positive impact you’ll bring to your organization. Head to and download the free Guide to Influence & Impact at Work now. The opportunity is yours and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do!  Alright, now lets get to our guest.

Lindsay Recknell  03:37

Hello, Rod. And Zack, it is such a pleasure to have you both on the show. Thanks for joining me today.

Rod McDermott  03:42

Lindsay. Thanks for having us. Very excited to be on.

Zach Smith  03:45

Yeah, I’m really, really excited to be here, Lindsay, thanks for having us.

Lindsay Recknell  03:50

I just feel like the three of us have such a, I don’t know such an alignment in how we go to business, how we think how we really want to support the employee experience. And I can’t wait for people to hear how exactly you do that. So maybe we’ll just jump right in. And Rod, could you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?

Rod McDermott  04:08

Sure, sure. So my background is executive search for the last almost 25 years, I’ve either been a partner in a large firm, or we found our own firm 21 years ago, we built it into an I’ll call it a semi global. We’ve got European offices, Canadian offices and offices throughout the US. We’re top 25 executive search firm and and the fun thing is I run that business also run an interim leadership business where we rent executives to companies and we started out about 10 years ago, and then Activate 180, which is our corporate coaching business, which we’re incredibly excited about. And we started three years ago and it’s really about you know, I call it democratizing coaching. I’ve had an executive coach for over 20 years who has changed my life but it was at a level that we can never offer that to all of our employees. It was just too expensive. But you know, we came up with a model where we can offer coaching to companies and they can offer it to any employee that wants it at a really affordable price point. And so we’re excited about that venture. And the fun thing is I get to spend a lot of my time with CEOs at companies and hearing about what keeps them up at night, what challenges they’re facing. And, and each one of my businesses can kind of translate to solving some of those problems.

Lindsay Recknell  05:19

It sounds like a really, a really fun job, you know, you get to interact with a lot of different kinds of people and solve a lot of problems. Feels very rewarding.

Rod McDermott  05:31

It’s, it’s not work, Lindsay, I’m telling you what, I’m having a blast. And I pinch myself that I get paid for what I’m doing, because I’m getting to change lives. And, you know, I’m not pushing a whole lot of paper, you know, most of most of what I do is I get a little little stuff like this note notes here and there. And, you know, we do candidate summaries and few things like that, but really, it’s about it’s human work, it’s people work and, and I did that, so doesn’t feel like work.

Lindsay Recknell  05:57

Very cool. Zack, do you also do work that doesn’t feel like work?

Zach Smith  06:02

How do you know? How do you know? I do I do. So I’m I’m the chief activation officer and co founder with route of activate one ad and my background was one that I followed a path of, of climbing, and becoming a corporate executive at a pretty young age, and then realizing upon climbing that ladder, that it really wasn’t what I was after it felt it felt like something was was missing for me in a pretty big way. And that that piece that was missing for me was was deeper purpose and meaning. And so throughout my you know, throughout my childhood, and even early on in my career, I was always really focused on just the potential of myself and of human beings and really looking at, and studying emotional intelligence and mindset and nutrition, and fitness and how all of these different elements and components go into pi can become the best version of yourself. And so I was always incorporate that, incorporating that into my, into my leadership in my teams and how to how to empower and, and really unlock the potential in people. And so the time came where I really had to follow that path fully. And I saw that it was being able to bridge those two worlds of, of showing a more effective way more synergized way of being able to, to cultivate cultures and to do business in a way that not only drove incredible results, but also really had people feel connected to the work that they were doing feel alignment and purpose in the work that they were doing. And in one route and I met and connected it, it just everything, everything really clicked into place as far as what we got to bring to the business world. And that is the ability to be able to create that synergy within within teams to be able to provide support for people within company so that they can they can go after and accomplish their mission, which is, which is typically one that that they all deeply care about once you really understand how they play into it.

Lindsay Recknell  07:57

No, it makes me feel so hopeful for the potential of of organizations, when they really embrace this work. And, Zack, you talked about activation, you talked about alignment. But you also talked about performance of an organization. And you both know that this show is all about mental health in the workplace. And sometimes we talk about the ROI of these kinds of programs in less than tangible terms. But I imagine that the work that you guys are doing is seeing real tangible results for organizations and the bottom line and I wonder rod, could you speak to? Actually, maybe you could you talk to us about activate one ad and then how that contributes to the bottom line of an organization will also, you know, raising collective wellness and increasing psychological safety.

Rod McDermott  08:49

Yeah, for sure. Lindsay and by the way, I think the work you’re doing is, is incredibly helpful along those lines too. Because, you know, we believe that when people show up as their best selves they perform as their best selves, right? And so I don’t care who you are, you could be you know, Tom Brady, and things aren’t going great in your life, and you might not have a great game, you’re not going to show up? Well, we’ve seen it with professional athletes, having having an off day or having a bad time or something’s not going well in their life. And it brings them down. You know, Tiger Woods was a great example when his life was was not in great places. You know, he didn’t show up as his best self. And so we believe the same thing exists for corporate employees, right when they show up as their best selves. And that means kind of across the spectrum of things, whether it’s relationships at home relationships at work, connection with the vision of the company connection with the purpose of the company, feeling good about where their careers going, all these different things and taking some stress out you know, people have stress about about you know, how am I ever gonna buy a home interest rates are going up now and and the affordability you know, was already bad, but now interest rates, high interest rates make it even harder. What do I do? There’s Stress and anxiety out there that people bring to their jobs. If we can help people create a plan for how we can help them solve some of these problems, by giving them a coach who’s going to help them really find in seek out solutions for the things that are given them their most ace that are really stopping them or slowing them down, they’re going to perform better. And we see it in so many companies, I was talking to a CEO of one of our clients the other day, it’s a it’s a high flying company, they’ve raised a lot of venture capital, they’re kicking butt in their space, they’re about to go public. And you know, as asking the CEO, we’ve been there for about a year coaching a whole bunch of their people. And they offer it as an incentive to get people to recruit people now. And he said he actually brought it up at his first of the year board meeting with his board as one of their key accomplishments last year, is, is rolling out activate one ad through the entire company, and offering it’s one of the reasons why he feels that their performance has been phenomenal. And they’ve put themselves in a position to take the company public this year, because they’ve been operating a ton of stress. I mean, you can imagine a pre IPO company raised a lot of venture capital, there’s, you know, they’re under a microscope, they’ve got to deliver every single day. But at the same time, you know, with all that pressure, how do you show up as your best self, if you show up with fear, you’re going to play tight, you’re not going to play your best game. And so we see a direct correlation between helping improve the human being, and the results of the company.

Lindsay Recknell  11:37

I mean, I mean, really, I love the analogy of not even analogy, I love the idea that if you can support people in their lives, they’re gonna show up as their best selves in the workplace. Because often, the thing that I think about and I hear a lot is, why is this a responsibility of me as an employer to help you with your personal life, but stories like that really prove the value of that. And Zach, as a coach, I wonder if you have similar stories of, of why organizations kind of almost have the opportunity or the privilege to support employees in this way? And why, why it matters?

Zach Smith  12:22

Yeah, I certainly do. And there’s so many incredible examples of of this, of this working. Yeah, and I think it really starts with this piece that Ron was starting to speak into of, yeah, I think gone are the days of seeing people as workers. And that’s it, you know, it really is starting to become that people are asking for more from from their employer, they want meaning they want to feel valued, they want to feel taken care of. And if you’re able to do that, you’re able to help people in their own search for meaning be able to be able to weave that into the purpose of the company, and to create a culture where people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. And that could be just having a great inclusive culture, that could be the product that you represent, whatever that might be. But if people feel that it’s one of the main drivers of motivation, if you look at some of Daniel Pink’s work around the main drivers of motivation, you look at things like purpose being one of them, autonomy, right, so the ability to make decisions and be able to influence your future. And, and then you look at mastery, so people need to be had do they have the ability to develop, and to be able to grow both personally and professionally. And if a company can provide that, they’re going to provide fire, to the people that are driving the results in their organization. And we do see this time after time. And you know, a great example is an organization that we work with that had a partner in the company that had been having a challenging time. And, and as we started to dig in, and understand, it was a lot of just things that were happening at home, and he shares the story openly. So I feel okay, Sharon mentioned a name, but he loves sharing the story because we were able to activate his ability to be able to communicate at home with his wife and with his family. And that was what was really holding him up from showing up at work. And by being able to help him communicate more effectively and resolve the conflicts at home and become more connected to his family to his life. He showed up so much bigger at work, and he became the number one contributor within about three months, just by helping them and supporting with his life, and the gratitude that he feels toward the organization for that support. He’s never gonna leave he feels like that is his. That’s where he belongs. And I think so much of this is creating a culture where people feel like they don’t have to fit in, right. I think it’s not about creating a culture where people fit in anymore, and let’s create a culture where people feel like they belong. And if you do that, you’re going to retain people and they’re going to show up really big for you.

Lindsay Recknell  14:58

Yes, creating a culture serve where people feel valued, and belonging. Imagine that to be a thing. What would an organization look like? What would a world look like if that was something that every organization strived for? I mean, really? Um, okay, activate one ad we’ve we’ve generally spoken about it, what is what is it? What kind of a framework? Is it? And how does it work?

Rod McDermott  15:24

Yeah, so I’ll dive in Zack, follow me up on this, you bring your perspective. And, uh, but you know, as a, as an employer, and you know, as a CEO of a couple of companies, you know, I’m always looking at how can we be an employer of choice to make sure that we can attract the best talent that we can retain that talent. But I would say over the last probably 10 or 15 years, and we’ve had our firm over 20, so the first five to 710 years, I didn’t have this mindset. But, you know, as we had typical retention challenges and things like that, you know, it started feeling a little I started taking a little personally, you know, I started saying, Well, how can we can’t keep these people longer term? What are the things that we need to be doing. And what I realized is, from a, from an organizational perspective, our purpose was really outwardly driven, it was about serving our clients, it was about, let’s be the best at this, and the best at that and do all this. And it didn’t really have a lot of our own people in it. And we’ve kind of done a shift on that, where now we feel like, if we can have a purpose that really focuses on our own people, living their best lives, performing at their highest level, developing their careers moving their careers ahead, and we have great examples of that people that have been with us 10 1215 years who have moved up from from literally the bottom level to, you know, my COO, she, she was, you know, started at the bottom, and now she’s coo after 13 years at our company. And we have numerous stories like that. But it took us a while to kind of come to that mindset and say, we can take care of our people, we don’t really have to worry about our customers or our competitors, because they’re going to help us create a processes and create a go to market strategy, that’s going to be incredibly competitive, because they’re fired up. And that’s really what we’ve been able to find. And so if you look at, you know, our first seven to 10 years growth, it was pretty good. And then you look at you know, kind of stalled a little bit in the last seven to 10 years has been pretty phenomenal. And we’ve been able to add people and add offices, we’ve reduced our turnover significantly, we still have a little bit very, very little and it’s rare. And more importantly, we have a lot of boomerangs. We have people we had somebody who left went to the largest firm in the world. Last May. And great employee, we said, hey, we get it, we understand. And she was kind of blown away by this offer. And by November, she’s calling us and saying, hey, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be? Can I come back in January? And we said, Sure. So she’s back with us. And she’s performing and doing a heck of a job for us. And we’ve had four boomerangs in probably the last six, seven years. So it’s kind of neat to see. But from my perspective, Lindsay, HR people get this, right. They’re tasked with how do I create a culture and an environment that might people can perform really well, CEOs also want it but they also report to a board, they report to shareholders, they’ve got to look at their bottom line. And so how many of these things can be looked at as an investment and not a cost? You know, there’s a lot of things you know, when you buy health insurance, or you do this, some of the benefit programs, those are just really pure costs. Now they can be viewed as investment, if it brings your company to a level that helps you with retention, it helps you with attracting people and things like that. But but the rest of it is really kind of cost. Anything that I can do where I can bump performance means that maybe I don’t have to hire quite as many people next year. And I can get better results from the team I have, which allows me to do two things. Number one, pay my current people even more, which helps my retention. And number two, improve my bottom line margins, right? If I can do more with less, I don’t want to overwork my people. I want to I want to smart work my people. And I want them showing up without a boat anchor tied around their legs, slowing them down, because we help them perform at their best levels. So that was a mouthful, Lindsay, I’ll turn it over to Zack Zack to dive in with with your thoughts.

Zach Smith  19:29

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Rod. Yeah, and the way that we we approach this on an individual level Lindsay is we we take a structure that focuses on these different elements of the whole person, as we talked about, and we take these based off of some really comprehensive research that was done by Enron, Gallup of what you know, what brings people the most fulfillment, what brings people the most happiness, the most connection to their lives, and therefore translate into them showing up in a bigger way at work and those are two You know, is our career and relationships, health and wellness, life experiences and finances. And and we support people in all of these different areas of life because again, if their life is working really well, they’re gonna thrive. And so we support them by taking a look at all these different areas of their life and help them understand what they want to prioritize what’s most important to them, what is the level 10 look like in every single area of this, of the of these five pillars, and where are they at currently, and then what’s between where they’re currently at, and a level 10. And that’s where we help them get to. And as you can imagine, along that journey, there’s a lot of things that will be presented to them of limitations of why they haven’t gotten to that point before, or conversations that they haven’t been having, or ways that they’ve been holding themselves back. And so we really couple, the tangible with with the mindset, because that’s a major component of it. So we take that system, and we work with the individual. And then what we also do is we within a team, we also create cohesion through through monthly team coaching and workshopping around a different topic or subject. And so what that does, is it helps people learn and grow together as a team. And it’s all experiential. So they’re actually going through different processes and experience that helped them change the way that they, they, they view a certain situation or a skill set. And so we’re actually skill building with individuals as well. So we’re helping them develop higher levels of emotional intelligence, we’re helping them see that you can have alternative perspectives in a situation and that they’re, you know, within conflict, there’s not an objective reality, but we have so we teach people to be able to have cognitive dissonance and be able to hold to differing perspectives at once. So that you can actually understand how to resolve conflict and a really effective way. And when we teach them frameworks to be able to do so. So that teams are speaking the same language, they’re they’re singing from the same sheet of music, and when you have that type of that type of synergy, and also people sharing within these breakouts, because we always, we always do breakouts within a record, they’re also getting to know teammates better. So they’re getting to know each other on a deeper level, which helps them build trust, which is so fundamental within an organization being in alignment, and being able to drive real results together. So that’s some of the that’s some of the how, as well as the why of what we do, and we find it to be highly effective.

Lindsay Recknell  22:24

It feels highly effective and interactive and relationship building. And I love I love some of the the Gallup research that you mentioned, because it’s nice to hear that the program of the work you’re doing is grounded in science and evidence. So often we get these programs and they’re cool theory, but there’s not a lot of evidence, you know, scientific research and evidence to support them. So it’s, it’s extra encouraging for me to hear, especially gallop who is, you know, so highly respected in this space in the in the space of, of workplace performance and team cohesion and all of that. It just adds a nice, I don’t know, it just Yeah, it’s wrapped it all up really nicely.

Zach Smith  23:08

Yeah, it’s, it’s so important, because that’s also how people can digest these different concepts and understand how it applies. And and in that same Gallup poll to because something that we discussed is what are the what are the what is the ROI of this? So if you look at Gallup did a follow up some follow up research on those same five areas. And what they found is if anyone was below a six or seven, in any one of those areas, they were two times as likely to leave they leave an organization. So that directly correlates with turnover.

Lindsay Recknell  23:40

Yeah, that is powerful. And do you measure efficacy of this work within the organizations that you’re working with?

Zach Smith  23:47

We do we do. And we, in we’re, we’ve produced some incredible results. And yeah, some of the stuff that we look at we, we measure, about 20 different metrics. And this is around things like mission and connection to the organization, clarity of goals, ability to manage stress engagement. So all of these things are we measure them so that we do have data to be able to share with companies and, and things, some of the things that we see, I’ll just share a couple that with that we’re, we’re proud of all of the results that we produce. But a few that I really love are things like elevated confidence levels. So we’ve seen an 83% increase in people’s self confidence. And this has taken this data’s taken before people have started the program, and then just six months in, and so on, you know, and imagine what you could do with what your people could do with an 83% increase in confidence, right? That’s authentic confidence. That means that they’re just showing up as themselves. They’re sharing ideas. They’re being bold, they’re taking risks in ways that are going to help innovate and drive the business forward. Another one is 70% increase in people’s ability to manage stress, which is huge because if you know right now, you know studies are showing that three fourths of people are currently experiencing burnout in the US. So we’re helping people, helping people regulate themselves regulate their nervous system have self management tools and habits and rituals that help them stay balanced, which keeps them out of fear, which keeps them focused and productive. So we also focus on things like that. But both productivity and time management, we see a huge uptake over a 70% increase in people’s people’s quality of their relationships they’ve reported have increased the increase in their clarity of their professional goals as increased 69%. So so we see some really incredible data to support that this is helping people get more in alignment, it really understand what their values are being able to live and manage their energy in a way that helps them contribute that to the things that they care about most.

Lindsay Recknell  25:51

Incredible, incredible. And Rod, I have to imagine that these kinds of results, this kind of these kinds of stats helps in those executive conversations you’re having.

Rod McDermott  26:01

Oh, yeah, for sure. So CEOs definitely want to know this stuff. Right. To your point before Lindsay, you know, it’s great to have a feeling about things. But it’s also great to see the underlying data and science behind it. And so we survey our clients or individual coaching clients on a regular basis, because it really helps us also gauge where we need to focus a little more effort and attention with them. I mean, you can see if somebody feels like in this finance category, they’re feeling a little stress. And it might be something that just popped up, right. So you know, their son or daughter just got into this university of their dreams, but it’s a private school, and it’s going to cost 75,000 A year, there’s a couple, I just had a good friend of ours whose daughter get into a school like that, and they’re kind of freaking out, right, and, and so between she and her husband is really creating some maze, because they don’t want to keep this dream from their daughter, but at the same time, they’re trying to figure it out. So having somebody in your corner who can say, hey, let’s bring in these other resources that we have it activate one ad to help you guys solve this, at the end of the day, you know, finance is really just a math problem, right? Whether it’s taking down student loans, or paying down student loans or buying saving for a house or doing it’s really math, right, so let’s figure out how we can solve for it. And what we find is, maybe you don’t get to the solution, that moment in terms of, okay, great, now we can do it, we can go pay for this or buy a house or do it. But once you know the path, right, and you’ve laid out that path, and we might still be two years down the road before you’re ready to do it. But now you know what you need to do, just the knowing part just removes so much stress. So that’s where we that’s where we see the ROI. And that’s where we help employees show up better. You know, one of the other stressors these days is, you know, the the war for talent is massive right now. And it’s it’s a it’s a forefront war, everybody’s fighting it. They’re either losing talent or trying to retain talent, or having to pay more money or do any of this stuff. So what’s happened is a lot of companies, the other thing that’s happened, at least here in the US, and I think to a certain extent in Canada, coming out of COVID, where we have this massive, you know, if you look at the what the economy did over over two or three quarters there, it’s not a recession, it was a depression. I mean, when you see that many people lose their jobs. But government stepped in and created a safety net, right. So you didn’t have a real, you know, a second Great Depression. The other thing that happened is the stock market stayed really, really high. And housing prices continue to go up. And so you have baby boomers, at least in the US that we’re thinking about retiring over the next five years in two things happen. Number one, their house is worth more than they ever thought it would be worth. And maybe they don’t even need that house anymore, because they’re empty nesters. And they can downsize. So they got a huge nest egg there. And number two, and this is something that doesn’t generally happen coming out of recessions, the stock market was at record highs. So if you look at 2021, we had a record number of retirements, more people retired in 2021, than ever, and way more than anybody ever accounted for. So what’s left at the company is you’ve got newer leaders who are moving up. And they don’t have as much leadership or man, they don’t have the years of experience. And so we’re hearing from a lot of HR people that are saying, our biggest gap right now is our young leaders, our new managers, the people that we’ve had to move up who have replaced people who have retired or their bosses replaced their boss who retired and so they moved up and so we’re moving people up probably two years faster than we would and they don’t have the training. They don’t have the emotional intelligence to be that kind of leader and so a lot of our stuff when we talk about clearing conversations and you know, creating great pathways for interpersonal communication with your team, where they feel like they’re really being heard and listened to. You know, those things are in short supply with some of these folks. So a lot of the HR people talking to us are saying this is that place that space, that middle management, where they need that help.

Lindsay Recknell  30:10

Well, and it aligns really nicely with mental health skills training that we offer, as well through mental health for leaders, and the SHRM Society for Human Resource managers, they just put out some research on on workplace mental health in the workplace in 2022. And one of the recommendations that they make is to train people managers about these topics, exactly these topics that you guys are that you’re talking about. I had a conversation with the President of the SHRM Foundation. And she said that the three things that came out of that research, the three top skills that HR managers and people leaders need to know, is communication, culture. And the third one was not I can’t even see it anywhere on my paper here. But was community communication and culture where we’re to Oh, and empathy was the third. And I feel like these are all the things that you guys are teaching within your program. So you’re well aligned with what the industry is looking for? What organizations are going to need, and that insight about this gap now in leadership skills, simply as a result of fine folks, well deserving folks moving up the organization, but maybe, before they have that training, that they really need to be effective and productive leaders?

Rod McDermott  31:42

Yeah, well, you know, it’s interesting, I’ll use my own company, one of our companies as an example, about 85% of our people are have coaches, and we don’t we don’t force everybody, right. So the interesting thing is, when you look at in our business, our main business last year grew 80%. Right. So massive growth, we couldn’t hire fast enough. Luckily, we only had that one person who left and went to Korn Ferry, and then came back. But that was great that we only had that one person. So we were able to keep everybody but how do we improve performance, as we’re bringing new people in, and in our business, new people aren’t fully productive for between 12 and 18 months, you know, because they have to start off the inherit something and then something else, and then something else, and then it takes them a good six months until they have a full, you know, search load, right for our executive search business. And so they can’t really, they’re not going to be fully productive as a as a full time employee or full time equivalent for for a while. So everybody else has to pick up the slack. And what we found is that our leaders were so much more effective, we kept hearing this from the people that report into them, because of the coaching and training. And then this is just a little, you know, my own little data set that I look at those. And we have some folks that have been around a long time, and they kind of are old school, and you know, they come from the place that coaching was given to people who needed it because they were failing somewhere, right. And I come from the school of thought that coaching is, you know, I want coaching because I want to I view myself as a growth person, I view myself as continually improving. And so I want a coach on that journey with me to help me continuously improve, it doesn’t stop, it doesn’t plateau, I want to keep going up into the right. And if you look at the interpersonal communication challenges that we’ve had in our company, invariably, where they haven’t gotten better is that people that aren’t getting coaching, and they’ve chosen not to so that’s our big challenge now is okay, how do we talk them into this? How do we get them bought into this, because they’re not going to be as effective in their organization at some point, you know, that’s going to be a real stopgap for them or the people that work for them, we’re gonna say, Hey, let me go move into a different group. You know,

Lindsay Recknell  33:53

I love that perspective of coaching because your writing traditionally we think of coaching, especially at work as you need because your performance is lacking in some case, but I love the perspective of coaching for increased skill development for increased gross growth mindset. reasons. And Zach mindset was something that you talked about earlier as well, combining the tangible skills with the mindset that these leaders, these coaches or mentees, or whomever you, whatever language you use, but how important combining both tangible skills and mindset is, how has the acceptance of that language changed over the last, I don’t know 1015 years when it comes to mindset and engaging in mindset work?

Zach Smith  34:48

Yeah, wow. It’s, it has changed so much and so much even within just the last few years, I you know, of course, COVID had all of the components of it. That was so challenging, but, but I think within that, within that challenge also arose people realizing how big of a deal, mental health is. And it brought out the things that were swept under the rug for a lot of people that they, you know, that we can really ignore, as, as you were in the cycle of life got brought to the surface. And so, so it did create, and was a catalyst to people really identifying and seeing how important mindset was because you could see within those environments of the unknown, the people that are able to sit with the unknown, and to and to, to understand perspective, and how important that is, as well as you know, if you’re gripped by fear, or, or in a situation where you’re not able to sit with the unknown. And so that, to me, is just the importance of perspective and mindset. But the openness to this, of individuals, as well as organizations has been so incredible to see and some some whitespace has been created, for for change to happen. And for people to see that if they support people to, to increase their ability to have a more, a more impactful, or a more supportive mindset, to to, to their career and to their individual development and growth, what that’s able to achieve. And to give you an example, right one, one piece around mindset that I love is, you know, just looking at, are you willing to? Are you willing to take feedback? What is feedback mean to you? Are you willing to give big feedback? And are you willing to receive feedback? Because I think within an organization that’s so it’s so critical, because how else can we understand what’s happening outside of our own? Observe our own lens? Unless people are able to identify that with us, but we have to first understand, okay, am I making assumptions about what feedback means? You know, if I, if I receive feedback from somebody, does that mean that it’s tied to me not being worthy, or not being respected? Or does that actually mean that somebody’s trying to make me better? And can I see that as a gift, because if I’m able to do that, and I’m gonna get in that mindset, then I’ve got the opportunity to get different perspectives, that might be a blind spot for me, I might be showing up a way that I might not even know. And if people are able to identify that for me, and I’m in a place where I have a mindset that I’m open to that, and I’m also able to give that to people, then all of a sudden, we’re able to sharpen each other, we’re able to elevate each other. And creating a feedback culture is one of the most effective things that I’ve seen, as far as being able to elevate performance, because you’re constantly being able to identify for each other. But that takes trust, that takes trust in each other and trusting in your ability to navigate board can sometimes be challenging and, and in Rocky waters to navigate at times, but it’s a but it’s an art. And it’s a skill that you develop by doing it at the end of the day.

Lindsay Recknell  37:48

Thank you both for trusting me to have this conversation. It is my absolute pleasure that we get to have the time and space to have these conversations, the to talk about perception and mindset and how to elevate performance and increase the bottom line through these kinds of investments in our people in our organization. And in truly in the collective wellness and psychological safety of us as as humans as the human capital that work in our organizations. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you both. Thank you again for your generosity in time and sharing all of your brilliance with us.

Rod McDermott  38:21

Now, thanks. Thanks for having us, Lindsay. It’s been a pleasure behind.

Zach Smith  38:25

Yeah, that’s great. Thank you so much, Lindsay. And thank you for all the great work that you’re doing as well. So important.

Lindsay Recknell  38:31

Well, thank you very much before we leave, how can the audience get a hold of you when they are so interested in activate one ad?

Rod McDermott  38:41

Yeah, so so we have a contact page on our website, it’s The numbers 180. And so it’s easy to find us and just reach out. I’ll take emails personally to and, I should say So feel free to reach out to either of us. And we’d love to find out what’s going on at your companies.

Lindsay Recknell  39:10

And we will absolutely link to all of those places into the show notes of this episode as well. Thank you again, and I look forward to continuing our conversation real soon.

Rod McDermott  39:18

Thanks, Lindsay.

Zach Smith  39:19

Thanks, Lindsay.

Lindsay Recknell  39:20

Take care.

Lindsay Recknell  39:21

Take care.  Thanks for joining me for another awesome episode of the Mental Health for Leaders podcast. To make sure you don’t miss any future episodes, please go to and subscribe to have these episodes delivered right to your inbox each week. You’ll also find all the shownotes, links, and resources that my guests mention on the show and the link to the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work freebie I mentioned at the beginning of the show.  You’re listening to this podcast because you know our people need us more than ever but being a people leader and HR professional is especially hard right now. If the thought of figuring out how best to support your people, and yourself, feels overwhelming and impossibly hard, let’s talk. I don’t promise I can make it easy but I can make it simple so let’s do that together. Go to and download the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work now. Until next time, take good care and as always, call me if you need me.

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