Traci Austin: Talent Optimization, Seasons Of Life, and the HR Implications of Divorce

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Episode Description

How can small businesses cope when their employees are distracted by divorce?

In this episode, certified HR professional Traci Austin shares her insights about how understanding the unique needs of each employee contributes to business success.

Traci explores how the seasons of life (marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or dealing with an aging parent) can affect an employee's performance. She also explains that by providing grace and empathy to employees during these difficult moments an employer can foster trust and gratitude that will ultimately lead to a more successful and fulfilled workforce.

In this far-ranging conversation, we dive deeply into talent optimization, trust, personal responsibility, and more.

Don't miss this informative and engaging episode with HR expert Traci Austin!

Show Notes

About Traci

Traci Austin is a certified HR professional with two decades of experience building HR departments from the ground up for small businesses. Her mission is to create the container for every employee, if they choose, to be fulfilled in their work while meeting business outcomes. She does this through employee development and engagement, performance consulting, training facilitation and coaching HR professionals.

Traci uses her consulting expertise to serve clients in applying behavioral concepts to hiring and selection, designing and implementing talent pathways, coaching, motivation, and leadership.  She is a highly sought after expert on these topics.  She hosts a weekly podcast titled, Talent Optimization with Traci Scherck and has been distributed to thousands of HR professionals and business leaders across the globe.  


She is the Chief Strategy Consultant and owner of Elevated Talent Consulting, a certified women owned business, that impacts small business and HR professionals in exceeding performance expectations while being fulfilled in their work. 


Where to Connect with Traci


Traci is the Chief Talent Officer at Elevated Talent Consulting and the host of Talent Optimization Podcast.  You also find Traci on Facebook at Talent Optimization Podcast, Twitter at Traci L Scherck, at LinkedIn at Traci Austin and via email at [email protected]

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Talent Optimization, Seasons of Life, and the Implications of Divorce

Traci Austin


divorce, traci, karen, hr, talent, employee, engagement


Karen Covy,  Traci Austin

Karen Covy Host00:03

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making so we can try to figure out what keeps us stuck, what keeps us from making good decisions and, more importantly, how do we get unstuck. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur, and with me today is my guest, Traci Austin. Traci is a certified HR professional with two decades of experience building HR departments from the ground up for small businesses. Her mission is to create the container for every employee, if they choose, to be fulfilled in their work while meeting business outcomes. She does this through employee development and engagement, performance consulting, training, facilitation and coaching HR professionals. Traci uses her consulting expertise to serve clients in applying behavioral concepts to hiring and selection, designing and implementing talent pathways, coaching, motivation and leadership.


Traci hosts a weekly podcast titled Talent Optimization with Traci and has been that has been distributed to thousands of HR professionals and business leaders across the globe. Traci is the chief strategy consultant and owner of Elevated Talent Consulting, a certified woman owned business that impacts small businesses and HR professionals in exceeding performance expectations while being fulfilled in their work. Traci, that was a whole long mouthful. You are amazing.

Welcome to the show.

Traci Austin

Thank you so much for having me.

Karen Covy Host01

So I want to jump in because I noticed that you call yourself a talent optimizer, and that title intrigues me. What is a talent optimizer and what do you mean by that?

Traci Austin Guest01:51

Absolutely So. Here's the deal Every single one of us are created perfectly the way we are.


We are not created perfectly for every job, and so much of what we do is we look inside of organizations and say, hey, how do we each tick, how do each of your employees tick, and what does the job need?

Because what we know is the person and the job are two sides of the same coin. So we want to make sure the heads and the tails are for a quarter and not for something else. Right, and so what we know is, when we do that, employees are going to be much more engaged in their work, much more fulfilled, and as business owners and leaders, you want that because you want the productivity and the profitability. So when we optimize talent, it's looking at that the behavioral strengths of individuals for the job. The second piece of it is we look at it as it specifically relates to how is this individual being led. We want to go by the platinum rule, meaning we lead others the way they want to be led, not the way we want to be led. And then we look at on teams, how do we turn up the strengths of each individual on the team versus play whack-a-mole based on the strategy that we're executing.

Karen Covy Host03:09

So that intrigues me, when you say that you lead people the way they want to be led. What impact? and maybe this is just my ignorance and I fess up to that, but what impact is the way somebody is being led have to do with their performance? I don't get it.

Traci Austin Guest03:29

So I love this question, Karen. Thank you so much. So let me give you an example. If you are an individual that's very process oriented, so you like to do item A, then item B, then item C, then item D, you're typically somebody that is an implementer of change and you need that space and that time to really think about what's happening and get to work.


So, I am someone who is a change agent. I move really fast and I may show up in your office, Karen, and be like so, Karen, what about this? And then, 20 minutes later, hey, Karen, what about that? And you're like Traci, do you realize? every time you interrupt me, it takes me an hour to get back to work and you are killing my productivity and you're driving me crazy. And so if I'm leading you the way you need to be led, I need to know that that's your work style. And then what we do is say, hey, let's do like a five minute conversation at the beginning of each day, because I may need to reprioritize your day based on what's going on in the business. and you're totally okay with that as long as you're not already in the middle of something.

Karen Covy Host04:38

That makes a lot of sense and it sounds like I know. one of the other things you do is you work with employers to start HR departments, like to build HR departments from the ground up. So, let's say you're an employer, you're a small business, you don't have a lot of people, but you've got this person. How are you supposed to know before you even got an HR department? How do you know that this person needs to be led a certain way, like who they are? how do you figure that out?

Traci Austin Guest05:11

Yeah, so there's two questions here, so I'm going to answer both of them. Okay, so how do you know how an individual needs to be led? There's a ton of behavioral assessments out there and there are some fantastic ones. So, the one we use is called Predictive Index, and we use that one because you need to have things validated for hire, meaning they actually do what they say they're going to do, and Predictive Index does do that. When you look at what's the job assessment, what's the job and then how are we leading them? There's a ton of others  Meyers Briggs, all the things so that's one way of doing that. So that was,I think, the second question, and the first question was when you're building HR departments from the ground, like, how do you know? Did I get that question right?

Karen Covy Host05:58

Yeah, Yeah, how do you know who's who what to do? Yeah, what are those things?

Traci Austin Guest06:04

Yeah for sure. So here's the thing with small organizations is typically someone is volunteer to do the HR function right, and it typically starts with payroll, or hey, can you hire these people and put them into payroll? and sometimes it's someone in accounting or sometimes it's a receptionist, and so what we do so often when we help organizations build an HR department from the ground up is saying, hey, who drew the short stick in HR? And I want you to think about that. You know like, really think about that Who drew the short stick in HR in your organization? My guess is you got a name. So who is that person and do they have the support that they need to be successful?

Karen Covy Host06:55

Interesting. Well, let's back up a little bit. I think I sort of jumped the gun. Let me take you to a small business. How, at what point does a small business decide or know it even needs an HR department? because I work in the world of small businesses, I have a lot of colleagues who are entrepreneurs or in businesses that are on the smaller side. How do they get to the point where they're like okay, yeah, now I need an HR department. How do they make that decision?

Traci Austin Guest07:27

Yeah, absolutely So. There's two different sides of this and I'm going to go across that. So the first side of this is really looking at this and saying any organization that has employees on payroll has an HR function. Okay, Okay.


So anytime you're hiring, anytime you have someone on payroll, that is an HR function. And so one of the things we really look at is how do we strategically build the HR function So we have the compliance and the HR foundation that can be transformational as your business grows. And so often what we're doing is we're working with the HR short stick person at these small companies that a fraction of their job is HR. It could be 10 hours a week as HR or five hours a week as HR. So we really look at it and say almost every organization has some function of HR. that is typically an administrative task. that is, we're doing the bare minimum on it because that's all we know how to do, and to bring in someone or an outsource with that it's really expensive, and so that was the problem when I started this organization five years ago that we set out to solve.

Karen Covy Host08:45

Okay. So at what point? I mean, there's so much in what you just said that I want to dive into, but let's start here. So, let's say I'm a small business, which I am, you know, and I've got, maybe, you know, contract employees or maybe one or two employee employees, and it's growing. At what point do I decide I actually need an HR department? Is it based on number of employees, based on like you've got, the one person that you said drew the HR short stick and they're doing payroll, or they're doing the thing right, the whatever. Okay, great, but is it a function of how many employees or how many HR tasks? or at what point do I, as a small business owner, you know, have enough that I can decide? yeah, now is the time.

Traci Austin Guest09:35

Yeah, that's a great question. So, there's a couple of different and I'm not trying to not answer it, by the way, but there's a couple of different things that go into it. So, one is how robust do you want your HR department to be? Do you truly want it to be a transformational HR department where they're doing training and development with your staff, where they're really getting in and doing things like the predictive index and they're doing the assessments, they're doing really good performance, leadership, training and development?


So, we have clients that have 30 employees, that have a full time HR person that has come in and is really building this from the ground up. So typically, what we see in our experience is that organizations will bring that first HR person in full time somewhere between 30 and 60 employees, and before that it's typically whoever drew that HR short stick and you know. Then we're working with them to build it out and tell a word at the point where we say, hey, either you're really not a great fit for HR, lovingly, or they're like this is not what I want to do And we're like, yes, we know, let's get you in the right seat, we'll do a fit gap analysis, let's get you in the right seat, so you're happy and engaged and let's find the right person for this role.

Karen Covy Host10:56

So, I know a lot of people who are independent HR consultants. So, they work with companies that don't have an HR department oftentimes, and they, like the company outsources a project to them or you know a piece of their HR. What's the benefit, pros and cons of doing it that way? Like, should the smaller organizations do that first? Or, you know, should they immediately start thinking of how can I build it in house?

Traci Austin Guest11:28

Yeah, absolutely.


That's such a great question, and so I'm going to name our approach to this and how we've done it, which is we really don't do outsourced HR, and here's why We're a knowledge transfer company, meaning we believe that we want to set up that infrastructure, best practices with you so that you have that internal knowledge of it.


There is absolutely a space and a place for outsourced HR. What I have found with small businesses is that we can build this department much stronger, much faster and at a price point that works very well for small businesses as they grow. So, essentially, like we've got a yearlong program where we're just saying, hey, let me take the hand of the HR short stick, and here's the deal I was that person, right, so let me take that the hand of that, or our team to take the hand of that person, and what we're doing is, not only are we teaching them that, but they've got an executive sponsor inside their organization, which is typically the business owner. We're feeding them questions each week to go back to their executive sponsor, so the executive sponsor can make the strategic decision. So the executive sponsor can make the strategic business decisions that the HR person is then implementing, because what that does is that transforms. I love your face right now.

Karen Covy Host13:00

I'm just like this is fascinating. Okay, keep going.

Traci Austin Guest13:03

That transforms the organization from being a tactical HR department. That, let's face it, we all hate HR, so we don't want to be hated, so we need to be a strategic partner with our executives and our business owners. So, the whole program is built around saying hey, executive sponsor, here's questions. We're feeding the HR to go get the decisions and be a part of that decision making process with the executive sponsor and the business owner. And what it does is it weaves HR into the leadership team while also really changing the organization to optimize the talent and meet the business results.

Karen Covy Host13:46

That's fascinating, and is that what you mean? Because the next question I was going to ask you is what do you mean by transformational HR? I've never heard that before.

Traci Austin Guest13:56

Yeah, so transformational HR is all about how do we put a people strategy in place so that the business meets their business outcomes?  Often, there's two key things that have businesses fail that we see. One is you do not have the right processes in place, and the second is your people are not producing results for you. Well, guess what? We need to create the HR and the people processes that allow our people to perform at their highest level.

Karen Covy Host14:31

Interesting And as you're building this department, what do you do if you find out that maybe the HR short stick person or somebody else is like, yeah, they are a good fit in the position that they're in? How do you help the company make the decision to either move them or let them go? potentially, yeah.

Traci Austin Guest14:56

How about I tell you a story from last week? Perfect, okay. So I was on site with a client last week and again, i use people, data and science. So we use predictive index. And so we had just had all of the employees in this organization It's about 100 employee organization. take the predictive index, so the behavioral assessment. And then we did the job assessment, saying, hey, here's the job.


And so they kept complaining to me about this very specific individual. And so I said, well, let's take a look at her, at her PI as compared to the job. And so PI will score on a scale of one to 10. And I think she was a three And I said, so, tell me about her strengths. And so they started telling me about her strengths And I said So, this job needs her to be incredibly outgoing.


It requires her to lead independently and she leads through the team. It requires her to be flexible. So she needs to essentially know, hey, when I need to use bullet points and when a deadline is negotiable, because there's some sales conversations in. Here I go, you guys, I’m going to be analytical. She works through the team and she's incredibly detail oriented. She probably hates life right now. They're like she does And I like the. Why is she in this role? And I said you have this other position available. I go, look, she's a 10 out of 10 match for this position and it pays more. Oh no, i go, and she's been with you for more than 10 years. Oh well, yeah, yeah, let's. Let's try that. Let's have that conversation. So we do something called a fit gap analysis. Are you loving this care?

Karen Covy Host16:45

I love this. This is this is fascinating to me. Keep going.

Traci Austin Guest16:48

So we do something called a fit gap analysis, where we're going to essentially look and say where do we have the most mismatched people inside the organization? Okay, and typically meaning they are turning themselves into a pretzel to perform at work. And so that's the first thing we look at, you know, and I always say hey, give me a list of your worst performers before I do this exercise. Hey, give me a list of your worst performance. And then I go, pull the data And I go so is there any of those worst performers that performed really well in the past? and typically there's some, like the example I just shared. So with that I go well, what if there was positions for them that actually had them shine their brightest? remember, every single person is created perfectly the way they are. They're not created perfectly for every position. So we look at that and they go oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, this is great.


So we're going to start strategically moving people around on the bus, so to say, right, to get them into that right role. Of course, it's a conversation with them. Of course it's. Hey, have you thought about? we have this position right now. What do you think? and what happens is people feel validated, they're actually paying attention to me. The comment I had at this organization when I was there last week is Traci, this is the first time I felt so incredibly seen in 10 years.

Karen Covy Host18:11

Wow, that's amazing.

Traci Austin Guest18:15

That is transformational.

Karen Covy Host18:18

And I can't you know, and maybe, maybe in my mind, I’m putting together apples and you know, grapefruits.


I don't know but listening to you talk in the world that I work in, which is divorce, and listening to you talk about how you, you know everybody is perfect, just the way they are, and analogizing to what you're saying in the job, to what people feel in marriage, because so many of my clients are like, look, my spouse is a good person, you know, and I think to validate people as you say, to say you know what, sometimes people just aren't a good fit, you know, and that it's not about I'm right, you're wrong, or you're a bad human being, or I'm a failure, or you're a failure, or any of any of the stories that we put on top of relationships, and that it's really about this just wasn't a good fit to begin with and we're trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Traci Austin Guest19:27

Right, and so often, just like I said, with this organization, for this individual. what are the facts? give me all the facts, because they made up a story about her.

Karen Covy Host19:37

And it wasn't sure they did. Yeah, I'm sure they did.

Traci Austin Guest19:40

And it was a horrible story. However, she has amazing, amazing skillsets. It is incredibly committed. So how do we get her in the right role so we can change her story? Because stories are so powerful the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that we tell about others become reality and become facts.

Karen Covy Host20:01

Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more, and I think that part of the challenge, though, for us as humans is to recognize the story right, because we take our own stories as gospel truth. This isn't a story, this is just the way it is. Well, yes, but or yes?


and it's also a story, so, and the ability to transform your life, your job, your role, your relationships, your marriage, by changing the stories that you're telling yourself and changing the role that you play And I know that's probably less easy to do in a marriage or a relationship than it would be in a big company, where you might have you could slide into another role, but even still, i think there's a lot more possibilities in the world than what we allow ourselves to think.

Traci Austin Guest21:02

Absolutely. And the thing I love is we always create a friends and family folder And I always say, go home and have your spouse take this, And when we can have common language around what our natural strengths are. It's just like doing the five love languages right, Like if you know how someone else is appreciated and you realize, oh my gosh, I appreciate my words of affirmation and they appreciate by tasks are doing. I don't remember what it is.


We are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, especially when one of us is 80% one way and the other's 20%. That way We've got big issues if we're not aware of it. But if we have common language and awareness around it and the willingness to work it, we're good right. And the same of predictive index, Like if we can see hey, guess what This person's super detail oriented, This is really important to them. This is a drive that shows up as a need, that is going to show up as a behavior. If I'm aware of that and we have common language around it, we can work through that. But we have to have the trust.

Karen Covy Host22:02

Yeah, and that's a big one as well, because by the time people come to me, often the trust in a relationship is blown. And if you want to, yet at the same time, people a lot of times they want to make their marriage work, and that's awesome. I really believe that if there's a way that you can do that, then do that before you go through a divorce, especially if you have kids. However, doing that requires the awareness that you're talking about. It requires the knowledge that different doesn't mean wrong, it just means different, and that if you want someone to hear you and appreciate you, like this woman was appreciated or felt appreciated, you've got to speak their language Right, and whether it's a love language or just communication, so often it goes back to the whole Mars and Venus concept with John Gray Women speak one language, men speak another, and it's no wonder that they don't understand each other. Or, to your point, the five love languages, which is also same concept. You have to meet people where they are and talk to them in a language they can understand.

Traci Austin Guest23:19

Absolutely, absolutely, and I think oh, did you have another question?

Karen Covy Host23:23

Go right, ahead, go right ahead.

Traci Austin Guest23:27

So, as I look at HR through this too, one of the things I do want to look at is we have to ensure we treat people as humans and not as numbers and not as just an employee and a cog in the wheel. And, as I said at the beginning, there's really four levers that happen when we optimize talent inside the organization. So those four levers are the fit to roll. So, as you talk about marriage and divorce, hey, what are the roles in the home? What does that look like? Do we have a fit or does somebody start hating the role that they're in?


If they hate the role they're in, they start to resent their spouse. So, you've got fit to roll, you have. Am I being led the way I need to be led, not the way you need to be led? And so that happens at work as well as it does at home. Are you giving me the things that I need to be successful, and vice versa? And then, hey, are we on a team where we're playing to our strengths? And then the fourth is the organizational culture, meaning, hey, are we aligned to that? In, the fifth that I always throw in, especially in organizations, to pay attention to for the humanness is this season of life. There's so many different seasons of life. Like, i just got off a podcast interview with someone that has three boys And the third just last weekend got on a plane to go to basic training, so all three of her boys are now deployed.


And she's going. I didn't realize that the season of life was gonna be so impactful.

Karen Covy Host25:00

Yeah, let's talk a little about that. I'm so glad you brought this up because I know you and I've spoken before about the idea of seasons of life and how that impacts people at work, at home, in relationships. Can you tell the audience a little bit about what you mean when you say seasons of life and the role that it plays in the decisions that you make, personal and business?

Traci Austin Guest25:25

Yeah, absolutely So. When we talk about seasons of life, there's different seasons that happen in life that have different impacts on how we show up. Now, we are always 100% responsible for ourselves and you can never give that away. It is always your choice of how you show up. However, there's different stressy situations that happen, right.


So let's talk about getting married That's the season of life. Let's talk about having a child That's the season of life. Let's talk about a kiddo going to kindergarten for the first time. Let's talk about a kiddo graduating from college or high school, and now they're leaving, or we're empty nesters. Let's talk about I now have to take care of a parent that's dying in a hospice. Let's talk about a divorce right.


All of those areas pull you in different ways and they have an impact on how you show up at work. And it could be as simple as there are 700 meetings that okay, maybe seven a day that I need to attend to for a parent, or for a divorce, or a mediation, or meeting with an attorney, or you know what? I've got a child that just got diagnosed with autism and is on the autism spectrum, and now we have to go to all these different medical appointments. Those are all seasons of life that are short periods, that really test us in that period to move through it. It has a huge emotional toll, it has a huge time toll and it probably has a huge financial toll. So that's what I mean by a season. I mean by a season of life.

Karen Covy Host26:57

And how. When somebody is in this season of life like, let's say, let's talk divorce, let's say that there's an employee who is going through a divorce, that's their season of life, how can an employer react, respond, understand that season of life and yet still get from the employee what they need for business purposes to in terms of productivity and the performance of the employee? Because the employer can be sympathetic to the employee that, hey, I’m really sorry you're going through a divorce, but I still need to meet my numbers. So how do employers do that?

Traci Austin Guest27:40

Yeah. So there's a couple of key things here. One is do your policies allow for grace? right? That's really important, grace is something that is really important. And empathy Do we have empathy? There's a key difference between sorry and empathy, right? Do we have empathy for an individual to say, hey, I’m gonna kind of hold the space for you And yet I'm gonna support you through it, and at the same time, there's key things and so I'm gonna. So policies one of them. The second one is   there enough trust in the organization that the individual will even tell you that they're in a season of life?

Karen Covy Host28:23

That's an interesting question.

Traci Austin Guest28:25

Yes, because if there's not enough trust in the organization, they are never going to tell you and they are going to suffer alone and you're going to watch their performance go down significantly. And so you know, take a hard look in the mirror and say have we built a culture that our employees can trust us to share things so we can support them?

Karen Covy Host28:46

Yeah, yeah. And if you do that, let's say you're the employer and you're concerned because you see a key employee starting to flounder. You don't know why the performance is going down, and you ask yourself that, first of all, you have the self-awareness to ask the question, which is, you know, questionable If you've got a culture that has no trust. Do you have that level of self-awareness to ask the question? Right, i guess it's the first step. But let's say you did and you're like I'm not sure, what do you do? How do you start to build that trust so that you can help a struggling employee or figure out at least what's wrong?

Traci Austin Guest29:28

Have a conversation, sit down with them and say, hey, Karen, what's going on? Look, I'm here to support you and you know there's things I'm seeing. I don't want to go down that road. I just want to know how can I support you, and I want you to know that I see you.

Karen Covy Host29:46

That's so, it's so simple.

Traci Austin Guest29:50

Right, and so many of these solutions in a transformational HR department are so simple. They're so simple, but we have to pay attention to the humans that are around us.

Karen Covy Host30:02

Yeah, and I know I've, you know I've had conversations with colleagues who work with companies in HR departments and try to provide them with an awareness of the things that an employee will go through during a divorce and how it does affect their performance, and try to persuade the employers that really, it's in their best interest to support that employee and give the employee what they need. Give them a little bit of grace now and, you know, provide them with, you know, whatever support they need to get through this time period and then thereafter the production and the productivity goes way up.

Traci Austin Guest30:45

And they're so grateful and then they're so engaged. So the second part of this is I want to talk about prioritization, because this may be an employee that you know blew it out of the water before and now you're like what's happening? Like they're treading water And so it's a conversation around. hey, here's the key three things that I need you to do on a day to day basis. We're gonna, if you want, I’m always going to give you the choice, but do you want to step off these committees and these extra things that you are on for a period of time so you can shift your focus to this?


And what do you need? as far as time frames, right, like what? do you need to go? take care of paperwork? Do you need to go? do you now have kiddo responsibility that you didn't have before because of a separation? What are those things that are now on your plate, that were not on your plate before? Did you never go grocery shopping? and now you're grocery shopping and cooking and doing all the things yourself. So what do you need in order to be successful? And how do we provide the flexibility, the empathy and the support? And here's the bare minimum of what we need from you right now And if you can do a bit more. here's what that looks like.

Karen Covy Host32:06

Let me throw a totally unfair question at you. I admit it. Okay. So and I just know this because of some of the people that I'm working with like, let's say that there's an employee and they're a pretty, they're in a pretty high level, intense job and their head has got to be in the game or they could screw up in a big way. Right, What would you talk? you know, counsel a company who's got this employee, who is going through a divorce, or it could be a death in the family. It could be like any illness, some kind of really traumatic situation. Is it better for them to just take a leave of absence or is it better for them to continue to show up? What factors going to making that decision?

Traci Austin Guest32:53

I think that these are decisions that you need to make with that individual, and setting really clear expectations of this is what we need. What do you need in order to do that? Sometimes it's as simple as saying look, you've got a ton of vacation time. I don't want to mandate you, go take vacation. But what would it look like if you flew down to the beach for four days and we are going like if we need to turn it off for you for four days? nobody's going to die, we're good, you know.


But how do we give you that space for you to truly process and for you to take a breath without feeling like you have this, because one of the worst things that, in my assessment, that can happen is you throw yourself 100% into crappy work, right, because you're not trying to focus on those other things. Take a breath and go away. Go do what you need to do. But the key here is you always want to have the conversation with the person. Don't make decisions for the person, especially if it's like a leave of absence, if there's a reason for it, because it has had a negative work impact, but always give the individual the benefit of the doubt that they can create what they need to create and handle their things with some grace and with some flexibility.

Karen Covy Host34:09

Yeah, it sounds like what you're really doing is empowering the individual to make the choice, or to make the choice with you, because it's not 100% their choice, necessarily either. I mean, they've still got to function as a part of the team, as a part of the organization.

Traci Austin Guest34:27

But what you're doing is you're giving them permission where they didn't think they had it.

Karen Covy Host34:34

That's huge.

Traci Austin Guest34:36

You're giving them permission where they didn't think they had permission to take off for three or four days and in that permission you're supporting them in ways that they didn't feel like they even had the support or needed the support, and that gratitude and that engagement comes back full force.

Karen Covy Host34:54

Yeah, I can. I can see that 100%. I mean it's, it's about In my words. I would call this being human.

Traci Austin Guest35:02


Karen Covy Host35:03

For sure.


You know, sure, and always having the conversation to engage someone and to say, like you said, hey, there's, I’m seeing a different, I’m seeing a change in your performance, what's going on? Yeah, yeah, and that truly also again analogizing between that you know, a work environment and a relationship environment. It also works the same way there. Yeah, you know, when you're all of a sudden your marriage isn't what, or your relationship isn't what you want it to be, or things are going south on you and you can't figure out why so many people jump to negative conclusions rather than just sitting down and saying, hey, what's going on, right, For sure.


I think we could all definitely benefit from as you put it having a little bit of grace.

Traci Austin Guest36:04

Yeah, the other thing I want to name a season of life is it's really important to create closure, so yeah.


So in any season of life, there's closure, right. Typically, when we talk about a season of life where it's really positive, you know you get married, you go on a honeymoon, that's the closure, right. You get a promotion. You, you know you get an extra pay increase. You, you know you switch jobs. You get all the congratulations on the new job on LinkedIn, right, like all the things. And yet when these other seasons happen, some seasons have closure. You have a funeral, you have a celebration of life.


How do we create closure for an individual in the way that they want it and need it, so that they can move forward? and sometimes that's a personal thing and sometimes that's an organizational thing. But it's a really interesting, i think, point of how do we have a conversation about what they want. Let's say it's a name change. How do we change that? because now there's a whole ton of paperwork and compliance issues from an HR perspective in a marriage or divorce that goes along with this, from benefits to emails, to websites, to all of the things, and there's a ton of it. So how do we do this? how do we message it? How do we ensure that we're putting our best foot forward in the way the person wants it and needs it.

Karen Covy Host37:28

And that's interesting because I mean, you do bring. I didn't think of the HR like aspect of this, but I know, being a woman and working in the world of divorce, that name change It's a big thing and it's an incredible pain in the behind. This is not. You would think that all of it is not as simple as saying I do. It's like changing a million forms and how, as a company, do you support a person and doing that? I mean, when they get married, usually this is a happy thing and they're excited to change their name. When they're getting a divorce, they may or may not be excited to change their name. So how do you discover what will work for them in a situation that's so incredibly personal?

Traci Austin Guest38:16

It's so simple are you ready? I'm ready. You asked them.

Karen Covy Host38:24

I love this. You know this is. You are making this extraordinarily simple, and when you say, you're just like, yeah, don.

Traci Austin Guest38:33

And I don't mean it as right, but it's like we're all human, we want to be appreciated, we want to be seen. How do we see our people and honor them the way they want to be honored? guess what, Karen? you and I may want two different things.

Karen Covy Host38:48

if I make the decision for you, Yeah, that's true, you know you are and that I think that brings us kind of full circle and it's such an important thing to to realize. I mean it. That that's what this podcast is all about is decision making and making your own decisions for yourself, but not trying to make someone else's decision for them, because that that takes away their freedom, that takes away their choice.

Traci Austin Guest39:22

And one of the key pieces that I love this and I mentioned it earlier is sometimes you have to give them permission to make the decision, because they don't even believe that it's a decision that they can make.

Karen Covy Host39:34

That's huge.

Traci Austin Guest39:35

It is huge.

Karen Covy Host39:36

It is huge, and I can't think of a better place to end on, then. that is, to empower yourself and your employees to make the best decisions for themselves, and to help them and be a partner in the process, but not do it for them.

Traci Austin Guest39:54

Love it. Thank you so much, Karen. You're welcome.

Karen Covy Host39:57

This has been absolutely wonderful, a fascinating conversation, at least for me. I apologize for my newness with HR and I'm just fascinated by all of this stuff, but if you can tell our listeners where they can find you and how they can connect, Absolutely So.

Traci Austin Guest40:14

You can find us on our website at I am also on LinkedIn and I'll just name it. Everything is still under Traci Scherck that will soon be switched over to Traci Austin, so my podcast is Talent Optimization with Traci Scherck.

Karen Covy Host40:32

That is wonderful, Traci. Thank you so much for being here. I have really thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much, Karen. If you are out there listening, if you enjoyed today's conversation, if you'd like to hear more of more conversations like this and on topics involving decision making, then I encourage you. Give this episode of thumbs up like subscribe, and I look forward to talking to you again next time.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


decision-making, divorce and business, off the fence podcast

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