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Episode 9: Bringing No Barriers into Business — Meet SVP Steve Rae

After establishing Steve and Dave’s Chicago connection, the hosts dive into why he’s been brought on as a guest: after Steve attended a No Barriers Corporate retreat he was able to recognize the core No Barriers elements that he could bring back to his own company to reinvigorate his teams.

Corporations face their own types of barriers but in more “invisible” ways. Steve talks about how employees are not willfully disengaged but they have perhaps lost their connection to the mission or are checked out:

“Something about their environment is disabling for them to give their best and have the fulfillment that comes from work.”

By providing the No Barriers elements to employees Steve feels can reinstall a sense of agency to their job life.

We dive into Steve’s background growing up overseas. His father’s job involved moving the family around quite a bit and exposed him to diverse experiences and cultures, igniting his sense of curiosity and passion for learning and adventure. He tries to carry that over into his style of leadership:

“The most innovative companies, they stimulate a sense of curiosity in their employees and encourage risk-taking.”

Jeff asks how difficult it is to “turn the tide” for struggling companies: What causes the shift? Steve explains that it has to come from leadership and their understanding of the importance of the culture of the company. He talks about the elements and how each of them contributes to the process of confronting these barriers and ultimately leading to positive change over time — it’s not as simple as hearing one speech and walking away ready to change everything.

“Culture trumps strategy.”

Steve’s thoughts on motivation stem from the importance of motivating employees behind a “Vision” and rallying the troops to see the bigger picture as to why they are showing up for work. By providing leadership that’s respectful and with a focus on the mission, it enables employees to really engage and come to work ready to take risks and branch out.

“Empowering people to do their best and bringing them a vision they could really relate to and treating everyone with respect.”

Dave, Jeff, and Erik all ponder how No Barriers translates from the mountain experiences that corporate leaders attend or the speakers they hear and how they can bring those types of abstract concepts down to the everyday work environment. Steve muses on a few perspectives: one being that, no matter what, there are always about 10% of employees who will not engage regardless and to keep that in mind and it is largely about receptiveness. The second is that No Barriers has authenticity and folks like Erik who are living examples of what is possible and therefore this isn’t just about buzzwords and clever marketing but effective principles.

“These principles that you’re teaching are proven effective ways of sort of rewiring human software to create a belief system of what is possible and arming them to achieve things they never thought were possible.”

And then, to actually experience these transformations in the field — like climbing up a daunting mountain — that experience “creates the permanency” and translates to the workplace.

The concepts of struggle and risk are discussed as positive vehicles for change for businesses and leaders. Steve talks about one of his first international sales jobs that was initially a source of struggle for him and ended up propelling him to success. Another problem he faced was having difficult employees, but it drove him to learn how to be nimble, how to motivate others, and how to ultimately be a better leader.

A final discussion point is about “cutting the rope” and figuring out how to retain or not retain employees who are not helping the team. Steve speaks from a place of compassion and how he came to realize that letting go of employees who are not fulfilling their duties was actually an act of kindness to not only that individual to find a better job fit for themselves but it helped the rest of his team to perform better and not drag them down.

Our hosts wrap up some of their thoughts on Steve’s points about bringing change to struggling companies or leadership with values like authenticity, culture, and ownership.

Learn more about participating in a No Barriers Corporate Leadership Program.

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————————— EPISODE TRANSCRIPT —————————–
Steve: I believe so much that this can’t be a lecture in a room with a bunch of leaders and just a little bit discussion. You got to build these experiential missions that people go on. They realized that when you apply these things to these challenges, that it actually works, and they feel that little bit of transformation happening. It’s the experience that transforms them and creates the permanency, I think.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, climbed the tallest mountain in every continent to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It’s been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process, this process of growth and change and transformation that we’re all a part of and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way like holds on a rock face that lead us forward and give us clues to why it’s so important we get there.

Erik: In that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map, that map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

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