Michael Epps Utley (01:32.935)
All right, hey everybody, welcome to The Narwhal Pod. This is a digital marketing and business podcast from GoEpps Digital Marketing in Nashville. And I'm joined today by Amy Norton. Hey Amy.
Amy Norton (01:43.33)
Hello, welcome, hello, I'm glad to be here.
Michael Epps Utley (01:46.415)
Yeah, yeah, glad to be here. I'm glad you're here. Amy is co-founder of GiANT Southeast. Just a quick headline, I may not get this exactly right, but they're the trust experts. We might put this in the category of leadership development, but if you've got communication, culture, trust issues, building in your leadership style or in your team culture, Amy is the person to help.
Amy Norton (02:15.438)
That's right. That's exactly right.
Michael Epps Utley (02:16.627)
Yeah, yeah. So Amy, we know each other going back to Gotham Group and now EO, EO Nashville, which is a great chapter. EO is an entrepreneur organization. And so yeah, let's talk about, I want to get oriented here. You're the co-founder. So can you tell us about your company, how it came about and what we need to know about kind of who you are and what do you all do?
Amy Norton (02:41.342)
Absolutely, absolutely. So leader development, I think is the generic term. You got that exactly right. And I jokingly tell people that I help, I help people play well in the sandbox together, that if I were going to boil it down, that's sort of what we do at GiANT Southeast. GiANT Southeast spun off as its own thing a few years ago. We're powered by a company called GiANT Worldwide, which is what, when we met, that's the company that I was working with as a consultant. And GiANT Worldwide and GiANT Southeast are all about raising the standard of healthy culture and making sure that everybody has an ability to communicate effectively through a process of becoming self-aware for the purpose of elevating trust in our relationship. So that's really where we've come from and what we're focused on.
GiANT Worldwide has a technology platform and a lot of resources that help power the engine of GiANT Southeast. But I spend my time hanging out with people in the coaching space, consultative, facilitated conversation space, helping make our conversations better. And we certainly need that in this day and age, I think.
Michael Epps Utley (03:50.835)
Oh yeah, we do. I think we all need training and I think everybody feels so much pressure right now. There's so much negativity happening in the world. And so you're working not with leaders and teams or who's kind of your direct point of contact? Is it everybody? How does it work out?
Amy Norton (04:06.274)
So if you have a pulse and you have any kind of relationship, we can be friends. But we, I typically am working with leaders of teams, leaders of organizations. I do work at the individual level, most often with middle, senior, upper level leaders. We do work also with entry level people, but it's really about equipping people with a language and a process to be able to think through the challenges that we face every day.
Michael Epps Utley (04:36.375)
Okay, it sounds like you've got some options that would be helpful maybe for executives or C-suite folks who have maybe a good manager who needs to be leveled up. Would that be a good fit for GiANT Southeast?
Amy Norton (04:44.992)
Yes. Absolutely, because a lot of times when you have a manager who may be new to leadership or has been doing it a while, they've got a great CV or resume, they're great practitioners at whatever they're doing, but the leadership part may be a challenge. If you think about what we spend our time doing, we're driving for performance and driving for results. And when you overlay leadership on top of your regular job, then there's this tension that can become a little bit overwhelming. Where, how do I actually lead people? Because I can't force people to do things. So how do I influence? How do I conduct myself in a way that makes me somebody you want to follow versus only follow because I write your paycheck?
Michael Epps Utley (05:31.455)
Yeah, that's amazing. Yeah, I think, I don't know, I've been an executive now for 12 years and I just don't feel like I'm getting it right. That feels, I think I need to be in your program and use your services very much so. It's a struggle. Yes, yeah, you get into this mode of driving and focusing on the bottom line and as the economy's tightened up, post-COVID and everything, I feel like it's made everything feel transactional to a degree.
Amy Norton (05:45.553)
Class starts in an hour.
Amy Norton (05:59.498)
Right? It really does. Transaction will always be a part of business because we have to transact in order to keep the lights on and take care of our clients or do whatever we do. But when it's at the expense of relationship, that's when things become problematic. And frankly, none of us, unless you study psychology, most of us did not go to college to learn how to navigate the liminal space of relationships.
Michael Epps Utley (05:59.762)
And that runs against culture, right?
Michael Epps Utley (06:28.299)
Yeah, I think some leaders do real well when there's a real clear flag to capture, but they forget about all the hands and knees and elbows they're stepping on the way, and it can become detrimental to one's objectives. And so, yeah, I think that's a much needed area of growth and development. We're in a group of entrepreneurs with EO, as I mentioned, but it just seems to be
Amy Norton (06:35.008)
Amy Norton (06:41.143)
Michael Epps Utley (06:57.951)
The thing that everyone craves the most is to grow and get better and feel better about their own performance. So it doesn't just benefit teams, but also I think maybe the individual too. Have you found that?
Amy Norton (07:10.294)
That leader development is important for individuals?
Michael Epps Utley (07:13.907)
Yeah, that makes them feel better about their jobs.
Amy Norton (07:16.946)
Absolutely. I think fundamentally humans want to be seen and understood and valued. And it's really hard to do that for somebody if you're their leader, if you don't really understand how to navigate relationally. So relational intelligence is sort of the magic thread that is required to do that well and to have people that go the distance, go to the mat if you're a Godfather movie fan, you know, you're willing to fight through the difficulties that require a lot of persistence and resilience, those things that we talk about. But it's, that's, I think, the undercurrent that's not often addressed well.
Michael Epps Utley (07:58.015)
Yeah, that's good. Well, so let's dig into that a little bit. So here, I'm gonna read a question. We kind of plan out our questions, but this is, I think, a good jumping off point here. What have you discovered is the number one factor that can negatively impact team performance? So what's sort of a nugget across the board that would be useful to people to learn? But what do you see as like the, what's like a big thing that hurts teams?
Amy Norton (08:24.67)
Yeah, all day, every day, my answer will be the same. It comes down to trust. I think in the media sphere, you hear the word engagement a lot. You hear engagement statistics and how that's on the decline and the drive for performance. But really, I think what's underneath ineffective engagement or poor performance is always trust. Do you trust what my intention is for you?
Do you trust? Can you rely on, am I credible? Am I a person of character? Do you understand what my intentions are? All of those things work together either for me or against me as it relates to your ability to step closer toward what we're doing or back up. Think about people that you have an easy vibe with, that it really doesn't require a lot of work to get things done. Chances are very likely that you have a high level of trust in those relationships. And if you have somebody that you can think of that it's a struggle to work with, they may be doing something in their communication, they may have something that they're not aware of that they're doing that's creating a perception in your mind that they're not trustworthy. And that causes a lot of problems.
Michael Epps Utley (09:43.995)
You said something interesting there. You sort of described it as understanding one's intentions. Can we dig on that a little bit? What does that mean? Because I could see a lead, I mean, I'm a CEO of a company, we've got a team, but sometimes the leader's needs run counter to the team member. Sometimes, you know, somebody might raise a hand and say, hey, I don't want to do this job anymore. Can I have a different job? Or, you know, like something may change where they're kind of in opposition to one another. What do you mean there about, uh, understanding each other's intentions or can you talk a little bit more about that?
Amy Norton (10:16.65)
Absolutely. So I think we all create some kind of perception in the way we show up. So it's not just the words that we say, but it's our demeanor, how we carry ourselves, what it is that we communicate, the tone that we use. And those things act like signals. So if you were super focused on moving your company forward, which you are, I know you're a very results focused, strategic thinker thinking about the future of your company and the impact you can have. And that is wonderful to have that sort of big picture idea about what you want to do. When you are under stress, it is harder to do the things that are learned behavior. And if you tend to be a results focused leader, the relational side sometimes is harder to manage. So if you and I are working together and you're really under the gun for a deadline for whatever it is, you may be less focused on making sure I feel connected to you. I'm on the relational side of things in terms of my personality preference. So it's possible that your extreme focus on the result that you're pushing for, which is important, may override how we engage. So maybe you become a little short in your communication or maybe you say something that makes me feel unvalued somehow, and it's not your intention - It's a product of being under a lot of stress, but the problem is that what it may cause is a question. I might be left thinking at the end of our meeting, does he really care about what I'm doing to help our company? Or is he just concerned with the bottom line? I'm not really sure if his intention is for me or against me or maybe just for himself. So anything that we do that undermines us causes a question of intent sometimes with people on the other side.
Michael Epps Utley (12:12.875)
Good. So yeah, so sort of the opening of relational intelligence may be listening for, you know, receiving trust signals and listening to how trust signals can be received. But on to question number three, you all have a process for this. So if anybody's intimidated by that quagmire of emotional intelligence and relational intelligence, you all have a process to build and sustain trust within a team. Can you tell us about the trust equation?
Amy Norton (12:39.466)
Absolutely. So trust is like love and hope and fear. It's a vague word. And trying to understand it's like sticking jello to the wall. So GiANT Southeast has systematized and turned building trust into a process that is concrete and measurable and something that you can really codify in real words. And that's what I love the most is that we take something that's fuzzy and hard to understand, but it's like air. When you trust somebody, you know it.
If you're in a toxic air environment, you know if it's unhealthy air, if it's pollution. So we've taken that vague thing and we've turned it into a process. And there are sort of three steps involved in being able to unlock and build and maintain trust. So the first thing you have to be is self-aware. I think there are a lot of people walking around who don't have a ton of self-awareness, and they're not evil people. But in fact, rarely do I go home at the end of the day and say to my husband, I ran into an evil person today, but very often I run into people who are not aware and they don't realize that what they're doing is causing a problem. So becoming self-aware of the vibe that I'm creating, what it feels like on the other side of me is step one. And that is actually a learnable thing. We have this amazing neuroplasticity in our brains as humans. So maybe I haven't known these things before, but I can learn and I can do something to engage with this new knowledge that helps me move the needle in relational dynamics. So self-awareness. The second piece is effective communication. So when you communicate, you're delivering a message and then the person on the other side has to receive that message and it can be clear or unclear, effective, ineffective, but learning how to effectively communicate so that you're picking up what I'm putting down and we're actually making progress toward whatever the resolution needs to be - that is also a learnable skill. And then the final piece is relational intelligence. And emotional intelligence, relational intelligence are all similar concepts, and they center around paying attention to what's going on with me and in me, and paying attention to what's going on with you. So right now, you're listening, you're nodding your head. I can tell that you're following what I'm saying, but if you were looking off into the distance or maybe giving me some body language, I might want to pick up on the fact maybe he's not agreeing with what I'm saying, or maybe I'm talking too long and I should actually be quiet and let you ask some questions. So it's paying attention to that dynamic between yourself and the other person and prioritizing what that other person needs so that they'll be willing to step a little closer to you.
Michael Epps Utley (15:27.799)
Wow, that's a really great overview. I know for folks listening right there, that's a nugget and it's hard. It's hard to do that. I feel like I'm in the audience on this one of leaders who want to grow, be better communicators, be more empathetic and perceptive. I think perceptivity gets overlooked. You can think you're in charge. I'm the one who has figured out and sometimes couldn't be further from the truth.
Amy Norton (15:55.246)
Now, I think perceptivity is important and also a willingness to be responsive because we're either responsive or resistant. And if I'm responsive, then I'm thinking about what's happening and I'm doing something proactively to navigate it as opposed to just having some sort of knee-jerk reaction and learning how to deal with that. That is a playground for me. I love thinking about that with people.
Michael Epps Utley (16:14.463)
Yeah. That's good. Yeah, responsive and reactive are very different. Reactive is almost like a compulsive response, but responsive is maybe could be a little more reflective. Is that what I'm hearing?
Amy Norton (16:32.19)
Maybe I like to think about it that responses are automatic, even subconscious unconscious, and responses are not bad. It's a you're reacting to some kind of stimulus and that stimulus gives you information. So if I get angry about something, the anger I feel is not bad, but how I navigate that in a responsive way makes all the difference in how somebody chooses to trust me or not. So learning how to respond the right way to feedback or criticism or a situation where there's conflict, all of those things require your ability to be responsive not only to what you're feeling but what that other person needs.
Michael Epps Utley (17:16.959)
Yeah, that's good. I think, yeah, the leadership opportunity seems to be sort of taking responsibility for the tone of the scenario, whatever it is, even when objectives are maybe not aligned because of whatever. Yeah. Well, so yeah, you mentioned earlier, when we're functioning out of our core personality versus stress. So let's talk about this. How does trust come into play when effectively managing change?
Amy Norton (17:43.778)
Hmm, that's a big one. So what do you think the biggest issue with change is? We're gonna boil it down into a word or two. What do you think it is that freaks people out?
Michael Epps Utley (17:51.092)
Mmm. I think everyone gets comfortable and likes to have, I think people like to function independently. And I think to do that, they like to know what's expected and have real clear signals about like, am I okay? Am I doing okay? Did I do my part of the equation for you? Did I ride the seesaw in the right way for you to get to have a ride? I think everybody's thinking about that with their manager or their team members. But yeah, I think, I think stability and ability to know what to expect.
Amy Norton (18:29.514)
Yeah, stability, can I, am I safe? Am I gonna be okay? Am I gonna lose anything? Those are things that people worry about when there's a change that's eminent. And change is everywhere all the time. But the thing that I think is important is navigating it with relational trust allows people to not worry, are we okay?
The situation around us may not be okay, but when you and I have a highly trusting, effective working relationship, we know we've got each other's back. So we actually can take some risks, step out in a different way, or be bold and try something we haven't tried before, experience a little productive discomfort when we trust each other. It's far harder. If I don't trust you, and I can't get a sense of what the uncertain environment is, I may go into shutdown mode. So it's really critical when you're facing change to have highly trusting relationships.
Michael Epps Utley (19:29.419)
Yeah, I feel like everything, you know, we're part of an entrepreneur group, but I feel like everything's sort of entrepreneurial has become even more. I don't know. It's just been a high pressure external environment for the, for the last couple of years, we're, we're at the end of 2023 and I'm just ready for this year to be over.
Amy Norton (19:40.767)
Amy Norton (19:47.142)
Right? I know. Let's just mark it off. Let's turn the calendar page on to 24, right?
Michael Epps Utley (19:53.499)
never felt that way about a year before, but I just want to delete this year. It's just like, yep, nothing good came from that. It's not true. I've got a lot to be thankful for, but just such a hard year in terms of the headwinds of the economy and so many different waves of things.
Amy Norton (20:05.342)
Yes, we're all feeling it and that what's happening out in the world, we can't control that. It is uncontrollable. And the only thing we can do is think about how I can shape experiences with people around me. I do have some measure of control over that.
Michael Epps Utley (20:25.279)
Yeah, that's good. Yeah, so one of the things that we've talked about before is you all help turn companies around. So is there a story or anything that kind of stands out for taking a company and walking them through a transition or a turnaround or fixing some big critical flaw that they had or even a leader or a team turnaround story where you saw transformation and growth happen? What does that bring to mind?
Amy Norton (20:50.358)
Well, I've got an individual role in that I would love to share. I want to talk about the team story first. So I've had the privilege of working with a company for a lot of years now. And over the last five or six years, they've changed a lot. They've grown a lot and they're in the financial services sector and had a couple of guys who were serving as the partners wanted to bring in some producers as partners, and I spent a lot of time helping them develop a lot of relational trust. So we did a lot of work for people to understand how they were wired, how they prefer to communicate, what their triggers are, what it looks like to really build a great bridge of varying expertise, personality, skill sets, all that, really identifying values. And what I've loved is seeing the ripple effect across all of their offices. So they're in several different southeastern cities and they've grown. They're twice as big now as they were when we started this work. And it's so fun to see them weathering the challenges that we all face, but doing it with a lot of relational integrity. And they have a language and a skill set and a process now when things hit the skids and they run into some kind of speed bump.
They're not having a lot of relational drama. They have a process to solve it. So they're not wasting time on repeat conversations that seem to go nowhere. And that feels like a real win because they are, their engine is on in terms of being able to maintain their culture and it's a great place to work. They still have the things to deal with that we all have to deal with, but they're doing it with a healthy approach. And it's really fun to see that happen. Yeah.
Michael Epps Utley (22:36.375)
That's awesome. Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you. This has been great. We've got one last question here and this is our kind of fun one here, but, and thank you for being on today, but what's your favorite sea creature and why? And that's obviously a nod to the narwhal, our mascot. He does have a name. This is officially Norbert, the narwhal. I think named by, named by Clear Hopple, but I could be wrong. But yeah, so what's your favorite sea creature and why?
Amy Norton (22:56.142)
Amy Norton (23:04.163)
I love it.
Amy Norton (23:08.255)
Amy Norton (23:12.674)
I think the octopus would be my favorite sea creature. They look, they sort of blend into wherever they are. And maybe the reason I'm thinking about this is because I saw a documentary during the pandemic and I read a book recently where the octopus was the centerpiece and they're highly intelligent creatures. And there's a lot more beyond just their surface appearance. And I'm imagining I could change the world if I had eight arms. So.
Michael Epps Utley (23:43.275)
So is it the blending in or is it the having eight arms? What would be like the Amy Norton reason to love the octopus?
Amy Norton (23:48.19)
I'm going to say yes to both. More than meets the eye, you know, what's underneath is not necessarily what's on the surface resonates with me. And I multitask. I don't think people really multitask, but I think I would multitask effectively if I had eight arms.
Michael Epps Utley (24:05.643)
That's great. Well, Amy, that was awesome. Thank you so much for being on the Narwhal Pod and for our friendship and knowing each other over the years in Nashville and being colleagues. So thank you so much for being on today.
Amy Norton (24:16.172)
Amy Norton (24:20.534)
Thank you. This was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being here.
Michael Epps Utley (24:23.676)
Awesome. Thanks so much, Amy.