People Processes Interviews: Jacqueline Throop-Robinson

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the People Processes podcast, where we dive deep into the tools, laws and processes that you need to know in order to scale and grow your organization. We help organizations all across the USA, streamline, awfulize, implement, and revolutionize their HR operations. We’ve helped hundreds of companies, thousands of HR leaders across the world get their people processes right. 

Today we’re going to be interviewing Jacqueline Throop Robinson. Did I get that name right? Jacqueline? The Thoop Robinson?

That is correct.

Awesome. And she is the founder and CEO of Spark Engagement. A Spark Engagement is a Global Analytics Company in human resources. They focus on employee engagement and passion. So we’re going to be talking all about that today and we can’t wait. Before we do, I want to give you a quick reminder to subscribe to us on your favorite podcatcher of your choice, whether that’s iTunes or Google play. Check us out on our social media. We’ll have links to Jacqueline’s social media on the website and we can’t wait to see you there. 

So Jacqueline, here we are. Got the interview together.

Yes. Wonderful. Thank you.

I’m excited to have you here today. Now, I always ask this question because we’re in kind of an interesting field because HR world of ours, not many little girls and boys dress up as HR people as children. So I have to know, how did you wind up where you are, how’d you get to running a company that’s focusing on this analytics and engagement for your clients?

Well, you’re exactly right. It is not what I thought I would be doing when I started to get my master’s in English literature. But however, interestingly, I ended up working for a very, very large corporation in my mid twenties and I had absolutely no HR background and yet I found, I just gravitated toward it. So I think because I was given a fairly senior position at a very young age. I didn’t have any baggage. So I really had to rely on the people who were reporting to me to do their jobs, to do it well. I could not give them advice from a technical point of view. I’m only in one small facet of what we were doing and they had the expertise elsewhere. So it really led me to nurturing the relationships and ensuring that I removed obstacles for them and to really enable them to do their job to the best of their ability. And seeing the magic of that is what started to lead me to look more into formal HR processes and education. And so I really went from being a senior manager in a field operations into a head office position in human resources. So it really just naturally evolved.

That’s really cool. You know, a lot wind up in HR one way or the other. And it’s so fun to kind of see the through lines. And I’ve heard that many times that the reason we’re here is because we were put in a position where you were forced to realize that your people are the most important thing. It’s not about how much you personally know skilled wise, but to really grow an organization, it’s about the quality, the talent the abilities, and passion of the people you bring on.

Yeah. So it does and it’s just so interesting because really I was recruited because the manager felt I would learn quickly and I would have a different perspective, but I really didn’t have the formal training. And it’s so funny when I think about it, I just kept listening to my parents’ voices and saying, “Trust people, just trust the people you’re with.” And I let that guide my decision making and it’s really quite amazing to see how that mantra has just kind of evolved into this whole employee engagement business and really looking at passion at work and just how much those two ideas connect.

Really a world-class career. I mean, you have clients, not just in North America, but I mean in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, all over the world.


Do you get to travel to meet with them? Are you out there or are you more a remote person?

Well, no, I travel.

Now that you’re here, kind of you’re at maybe not the top of your game yet, but a really high point. And a lot of our listeners, especially those younger HR people out there who are trying to grow a career, they’re looking at you and going, “Man, I wanna I want to do that. That sounds outstanding.” But rather than focus on how cool things are now, I think they can learn the most from hearing about our hardest times. So I really want you to tell us a story to take us back to in the journey of your entrepreneurial career. You run your own company or being an HR person in a larger organization, what do you think your hardest point was, your biggest failure? What did you learn from it?

Two things come to mind actually. One when I was a corporate employee and one as an entrepreneur. It’s quite interesting that both of those sort of emerged simultaneously when you asked that question. I think, probably speaking of the corporate career might be most relevant when you’re thinking of younger listeners, people who are starting their careers. I rose very quickly through the corporation in which I’d been hired in my early twenties mid twenties and I had many, many ideas of what I wanted to do. I had a lot of aspirations and I loved my team. I really was sort of a natural born leader with people who reported to me and we were just kicking it like we were having this amazing time and getting a ton of support until we didn’t. And it was really quite stunning for all of us. It was just like, we’re hitting all our targets, we’re making all these changes. It’s just like an amazing time. And the support just seemed to all of a sudden go away. And I had to really sit back and look at that and think what has happened?

Our feedback was amazing. And you know what? It took me a minute to think about what really happened there. And when I had the insight, it hit me like really like a ton of bricks. That was that we were so focused on what we were all about. That we were not paying attention to our environment, to peer groups, to people in other departments. And really probably does a little bit too arrogant and just not nurturing the relationships needed across the organization to really sustain our success. And it was a hard road back up. I mean we did it, we did it! But I’ll tell you, it’s so easy to become very focused on what you want, what your team’s doing, even what your clients want, which sounds so great. But if you’re not paying attention to your entire landscape, you can set yourself up. Your success can actually hurt you if you aren’t nurturing those broad relationships and networks.

Okay. Well I think that’s an interesting idea. Now, I think a cynical listener would say, “So what you’re saying is we need to play politics too while we’re doing an amazing job?” Is that part of it or is it that you also need to just have a broader focus or how would you respond to something?

That’s a really good question because I actually don’t mean politics at all, but, I can completely see that question. And sometimes I think also, I guess it depends on what we mean by playing politics. But I think what I was really talking about and the lesson we really learned is how to be inclusive. How to bring people along on our journey, how to stay open to others’ ideas and other ways of doing things. How to see, how we can connect and collaborate with others instead of sort of staying in our silo and just being very focused on our own internal needs. I think it’s very easy to slip into that, especially when you’re passionate. I think in some ways it’s the downside of passion. You have to actually make sure that others are with you on the journey in an authentic way, but that they understand what you’re up to and they want to support you and you want to look for ways of supporting them. So that was really more what I was talking about.

Yes. And whether you’re talking about inside an organization, a larger organization with multiple silos and departments that you need to reach out to and make sure you’re all in line or even from an entrepreneurial perspective. I see this a lot in clients sometimes. There’s a focus thing, a passion thing as you mentioned for entrepreneurs where you’re building your company and it’s like, do your thing. We talk about shiny object syndrome moving from thing, whatever attracts you that day and how it can totally destroy your business. But there’s a flip side to that. Some of the greatest growth connections opportunities I’ve ever gotten have been because our business was working hard on it’s thing. And at the same time, we managed to help out a client or even a person who was not a good client or not a client at all with something outside of our mission. And it was like, “You know what? We have a little extra time. Let’s help them do this thing.” And those have turned into amazing long-term relationships and opportunities. So keeping an eye out for that, just outside your direct focus. Ability to help others really can pay off. And I think that applies whether you’re internal or external.

I think what you’re saying is 100% true. And it’s actually why I have clients around the world in so many interesting ways. You can help people and it doesn’t have to be like the new shiny object. It can be, of course you can let that really distract you. But I think there are often very many simple opportunities to really support someone else’s aspirations. And in that gift, the reciprocity that comes from that, it’s not your reason for doing it, but I think it’s just amazing how that kind of support you give others comes back. And I think more than what you give really, I have found, that has always been true. And just trying to be a good advisor to clients, small clients, big clients, challenging clients, easy clients, you know, it’s interesting. It’s one of the principles in which we operate. Like how can we always support and help the people we touch? Right? And sometimes that’s a vendor, sometimes it’s a client. I have an interesting situation right now where one of my clients through the HR procurement process has three competitors working together. And it’s been fascinating to go into that process and to just ensure we all keep an openness and an inclusivity has been a challenge sometimes. But it has really ended up creating a situation where it’s the best thing for the client and we are expanding our own horizons as a result. So, yeah.

Because you see, I have a client, it’s a weird situation actually. But my little sister is a marketing person. She’s 24, I think. I hope I got that right. She is now a marketing client administrator services rep. She’s the account manager. That’s the words for a SEO company in town. The company that she’s working for. And so they’ve given them a budget and six months or three months or something and like, “Hey, go forth.” But they’re trying. They’re trialing like four other companies at the same time. It’s a big client and they’re like, “We’re going to hire for marketing companies, give them each a budget and you’ll just go run wild and we’ll pick the one we like the most.” That’s a rough situation because it’s just like HR marketing is one of those it kind of needs to have a throughput, right? It needs to be coordinated and you can’t just go out at it alone and we were talking about that. Some of the weirdest stuff is that, If she’s finding a ton of value in working with her competitors. It’s like this is really interesting stuff. You get to see a lot more than you normally do.

It’s really interesting from a point of view of finding out what your unique offering is for that particular client cause it actually might be that the best solution for that client is all four companies stay involved as collaborators but bring different unique strengths to the table and that takes quite

Spoken like a true HR person right there. We can all be friends. I agree.

You know, what’s so interesting like this competitive mindset is really challenging both internally and externally. And yet we all have it because most of us were nurtured in that kind of an environment. And to really do your best work. And I guess, because I’m all about passion, right? And I find that people end up taking on work that is not meaningful to them. And so they never can get to that point of passion. Right? But if you really find your sweet spot and really do the work that’s most meaningful to you. Your level of fulfillment will be exponential. Sometimes it means saying no to work maybe that you’ve always done or saying no to a part of a contract that is really lucrative. So that can be challenging in another way. Right?

Well, and on that, I mean, I believe the number is something like 60%. 60% of the workforce is completely unengaged. Right? They aren’t much less passionate. They’re barely alive when they’re at their desk. Why do you think that is? And is there something that we could do about it from your world? What do you think it is that we can really move the needle on that with?

Well, that number is a little bit leading. It is one source of information on engagement, which kind of puts engagement into an all or nothing bucket. But what we have is a much more nuanced model. Where we have eight different states of engagement that we’ve been able to identify. But to your point, however, if we look at some of the states that are a little bit more challenging like where meeting’s not very high and there’s not a high sense of progress. You get a solid 25% of people within organizations that are really struggling. No.

Not really sound more right because those headliners, those like 60%. And you look in your organization. We both run companies, but we work inside other people’s organizations and numbers high. But still 25%, one in four are just not really going anywhere or not really feeling like they’re doing much. That sounds very…

Yeah. And it varies a little bit like when we find it in Singapore. It’s a solid 25, sometimes in North America, but again, North America is huge depending on what part of North America, it can be a little lower. But yeah, I think 25 is sort of a reliable number. And the other piece that’s really interesting when you look at our research, which we’ve been doing for like 20 years, so this is really robust research. There’s a state of engagement that we actually call neutral, where people are negative, but they’re not bringing positive energy into the organization either. And that’s somewhere around 35%. So those numbers often get brought together to give you like the big number. But actually neutral’s not bad.

The headlines, as you say, make it all sounds so grim, but what it is a real opportunity to take people who are looking for something a little more, looking for a little more challenge, looking for a little more meaning, and looking to feel like they’re making a difference in what they do. And you can pretty easily, if you have the right strategies, move those people into a more positive state of engagement and people want to be engaged. You know, if they’re not, it’s simply because they don’t know how to be. They haven’t figured that out. And sometimes managers in the organizations don’t know how to help. So there’s a lot of hope. We’ve worked with organizations who started off at that solid 25 with 30% in neutral or more like half the organization. And we’ve gotten them to the point where it flipped so that they were down to like 5% of truly disengaged with about 15 to 20% in neutral and everyone else in these positive states that we call energized, engaged, passionate. So there’s a lot you can do and that’s been the part that’s been so fantastic about the research that we’ve done, is that it comes down to a pretty simple formula and I think that’s the beauty of it.

Yeah. Well, let’s say, I mean, I know this is obviously a large body of work. But, for our listeners, what can you give us? Maybe that’s the formula or the shortcut that, I mean, I know there’s no one sentence. Well, if you just put smiley faces on everyone’s desk, they’ll feel great. But what would you say is maybe a nugget of wisdom that you’d be willing to share with us. That maybe are smaller businesses out there could go and implement quickly on their own or our larger businesses that could get their brain turning around an idea or a concept?

Well, the key thing to remember is to get to the point of passion at work, you need two things. You need to see your work as highly meaningful and you have to have a sense of high progress that you’re getting somewhere against those things that are meaningful to you. So the formula is, “meaning” times “progress” and you need both. Meaning alone is not enough. You also need a sense of forward movement, impact, making a difference, however you define progress. So that is the lens in which everyone needs to think about their work right before we get into the…



It’s progress.

Yeah. Exactly.

And then there are tactics to try and move some of those. Provide meaningful work or give them a sense of progress, some of which are probably large structural changes. Some are hopefully a bit easier to implement. But okay. So the idea is evaluated. Do you have to evaluate the person or do you evaluate each job position or how do you look at this inside an organization? Is this meaningful?

Yeah, that’s a really good question. So the reality is that it has to start within the individual. That’s just how it works. Because passions and emotion. So what we find is that the individual needs to do some reflection. We can give tips and we can talk about that as well around, “How do I identify what’s most meaningful to me?” “How do I know what kind of progress I’m looking for?” And once they’ve had that insight, then they know how to self manage their passion.

Now, managers, organizations, we can support individuals. We can create these shared experiences that say what’s meaningful and celebrate the progress we’re making. But at the end of the day, each person needs to know what that is for themselves. Because at the end of the day, no one can make you passionate. It has to come from within. So it’s very subjective. You can work on the same team. We can work with a group of people who are doing exactly the same job. Just to come back to your question, right. And they can have very different levels of engagement even though they’re doing the same job. Because what drives meaning for me could be very different than what drives meaning for you. And what I can celebrate as progress may not feel like that to you. So it is down to the individual,at least, as ultimately as where it should sit.

Well, what would you say? So, and I’m sure you have an in depth strategy to do this inside a company, but for those out there and I always think I’m a contrarian at heart. I try not to be, but I am. So let’s say we have a business that’s, I don’t know, I don’t want to pick a business then and single them out as something bad. But let’s say you’re a tire change shop. You change tires, you change oil. There you go. You’ve got five locations, 50 employees and it’s work. It comes in every day. You ask people, “all right guys, there’s progress for growing the company, but do you find your work meaningful?” And they go, “No, I’ve always wanted to play with animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian, but instead I changed oil. I find no meaning in this.” Is that something that occurs or how do you structure this so that you don’t wind up with people going, “I always wanted to involve her outside. I love painting. Oh my gosh!”

So that is so interesting. So that can occur. That sometimes happens. But what we find more often than not is that, people have made decisions in terms of the career they’re in for reasons that are authentic to them. And there was something that attracted them to that. So let’s just use that example. I actually come from a family of mechanics. It’s sort of funny that you ask that scenario, right? So my father loved to tinker with cars. I mean, he did that as a kid. He did that in his teenage years. He would buy these old jalopies and fix them up and then sell them for five times the price. Right? And so that was really a place for him where he was very passionate. He was mechanically inclined, he loved taking something that was broken and he loved the end result of making it work well again. And that for him was authentic.

Now my uncle ended up going to this big machine shop and ended up being streamlined and all he did was change oil every day. Well that became a huge blocker to his passion because he wasn’t able to tinker and to really apply his broad knowledge. He was just like an assembly line doing oil changes all the time.

And of course from a business owner perspective, we’re encouraged a lot of times in the traditional literature down to the assembly line, the Ford method, right? It’s like specializing and being able to put someone in such a simple job that they can’t screw it up. So that you can scale and grow, have standard operating procedures, and never let people go outside the line. I mean, of course not everyone says that, but that’s very much kind of business 101. So do you think that structure can lead to a block or a lot of times leads to a business structure that…

Yes. Absolutely. And in fact, what we know is that everyone has a different view of what is quote-unquote routine work, right? Everyone has a different definition of that and everyone has a different level of tolerance for that. So this is the subjectivity piece. So for one person it might be they’re quite happy to change oil 50% of the day, but they need for the rest of the time more variety or they need to challenge themselves in a different way. So everyone has their own different view of that. But what we have found is first of all, those jobs are coming out of the industrial revolution and it’s really not how people truly want to work anymore. 

And so that’s been a real challenge in some sectors of course to try to rethink that. But, I grew up in a company that also had a lot of assembly line type of structures and I say grew up because it was such an amazing thing to watch as a very, very young manager. Like how does this get, how does this actually work. And what we learned is, although it was an assembly line and people had to do certain things in a very by rote way. How we engage them as human beings became what was critical. So, for example, we got them involved in quality assurance. We got them involved in thinking through how to make the assembly line better. We had team huddles, we pulled people off the assembly lines and had them work on special projects. So although we were restricted, that was a constraint we had with the plant was to keep people working on those assembly lines. We could then activate these other drivers engagement outside of that space. And it worked really well. Really, really well.

That makes me think. You know, we have a lot of ethnicities that come from our industry. One of our main referral sources as CPAs. And I don’t know exactly when this episode will air probably. Well, before April 15th, tax time, but they are often a high level CPA. May be involved in engagement in terms of overall client, advice and tax planning. And I don’t know, profit planning, CFO work. There’s a lot of pieces in the CPA world. But many people, especially this time of year, they’re on that assembly line where your documents, I’m making the tax return, and they go spend four to eight hours per return and they’re doing 500 of them between now and April 15th. That’s a hard thing to find. You can find skill in it. But gosh, it would seem like that would preclude…

Well, so this is so fantastic. I’m so happy you raised that question because I was just telling a story last week. One of our very, very, very first clients, so this is going back a long time. We were holding a public workshop and so she attended and it was just after tax season. And so what the situation is you’re describing is exactly what she had just lived through. And if you think back to our formula of meaning and progress, what she told me has always stuck with me and she was drawn to the profession because she really does love to work with numbers. She gets very a sense of satisfaction when she’s able to balance her books. And there’s a lot in that for her is personally meaningful. But tax season is not something that a lot of people look forward to. So the store staples has this little button that if you hit it says, “That was easy.”

And so she purchased one because she wanted to get a better sense of progress cause it just felt like a slog. These 500 files that had to be sent in according to certain deadlines and the slog was dragging her down. So she put this easy button by her computer and every time she sent a file off, she hit the button, “That was easy”, and it celebrated every piece of work she successfully completed even though she had to immediately then go to the next one. That moment of celebration and uplifted furnace just kept her going and helped her enjoy her job significantly during a traditionally very stressful time. So it was her way of managing celebration and progress as she was slugging through tax season, which is a perfect example of how you maintain passion and tough times.

That makes a lot of sense. My wife and I are very different people, but we started this company together a little over 10 years ago now and it works very well. Well, I came from a background of sales. I like to go out and meet people and talk with people and I like complex problems. And if you asked me to do the same thing the same way, more than like three times, I’m ready to just, “eh, let’s sell the business and move on.” I can’t handle it. I just like things different every time. I haven’t re-watched a movie since I was like 13. I already know the ending. 

However, she loves the feeling of crossing a thing off the list. So we learned early on, that one of the ways to make this goes to that progress idea. You’ve put such good words to this. She always scopes her work, very well. She always goes, “Look, here’s what I have. Here’s the things I need to accomplish.” And at first I thought it was a matter of keeping organized, it is to a degree, but bigger than that, I think it’s the feeling that she gets by laying the project out or the 20 projects out and then being able to mark those milestones along the way. It’s like a video game. She’s like, “Yes, just one more. I’m going to get one more done. I’ve got to close that one out.” And you’re exactly right. That’s a passion. That can be applied to any sort of work. The ability to make progress. Very interesting. A very good way of thinking about it.

Yeah, it’s really important because I think in not just the literature there, just for those of us who have been in the workforce for a number of years or even decades, “meaning” has gotten a lot of attention. Where do you find the meaning in your work? And I think rightly so, by the way. However, the piece that we were able to uncover through our research was the importance of progress, that sense of progress that’s as important. And it’s just not very prominent in literature or in practice. So one of the things we do with our clients, and you can do this on a personal level at a team level or across the organization, is yes, let’s review the kind of things that help people feel a sense of meaning in this organization. 

You know, your vision statement, mission statement, values.Of course they have to be authentic. They have to be lived and demonstrated of course. But we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make work more meaningful for people. But what we haven’t done, apart from maybe key performance indicators, is to really look at what gives people a sense of progress. And your spouse is a great example. Our organizations cater a little bit more to people who are good at setting milestones and are good at measurement in kind of an objective way that our organizations are more geared toward that. But what about someone like you who maybe not so much… your traditional…

That’s all I can ask. Maybe you have a better answer for myself.

It’s partially, it’s about helping people discover what are your signals of progress, you know? So for example, I just interviewed a bunch of millennial around progress and it was really interesting to hear how they mark progress because we might think that a lot of it is around. You know, I got a raise, I got a promotion, that sort of thing. But it can be simply gaining more responsibility, but not in a traditional hierarchical way. It could be, you’re allowed to lead an account. It could be given more autonomy. It could be an opportunity for growth, for participation in a special career development program.

So there’s lots of ways that people kind of measure progress. For some people it’s the quality of their relationships. It’s not even something that is easy to measure. It is, but they still know if they’ve evolved a relationship with a client, they know it. They know it because the client reaches out to them for advice. That’s a signal of progress. The client’s reaching out to me for advice. So there’s loads of ways to measure progress. It’s just something that we often don’t think about. So we miss it. And it can be a little bit discouraging if we feel like we’re not getting the signals of progress we’re looking for. They may be there, we might just be biased in terms of which ones we’re noticing.

Absolutely. Well, in my own organization, I’ve heard this. This is one of those things that we’ve had, you know, we’re growing. But in a small business, we’ve doubled and doubled and doubled, which is great, but that also isn’t that huge. There’s not a huge line of jobs you can go to, right? It’s like we have maybe six positions. We have like two managers. It’s hard to think about growing, on the hierarchy, at least for everybody. Not everybody in the whole organization can be a manager today. Now in another couple of years, as we continue to grow, maybe there will be more and more opportunities for that. But one thing we’ve often pushed back is, I feel like I’ve got this. It’s never ending, right? It’s that feeling of, I’m doing this work. I’m going to clean clothes, I’m excited about this thing. But next week I’m going to be doing the same thing. I’m gonna have that same pressure again.

So one of the things in terms of maybe three tips, I could leave your readers and your listeners, because we have so much data. But, it’s shocking to me how regardless of the country we’re operating in, regardless of the sector, there are three critical drivers that are not leveraged the way they could be an organization. And one of them is feedback. And it’s interesting cause that’s been like a super hot topic for a very long time, but it’s still not happening nearly enough that people need ongoing feedback, completion of feedback loops to really understand, “Am I on track? Am I off track? Am I being appreciated for the work and effort I am doing?” Like your sense of progress is dramatically supported through feedback. Plus it also reinforces meaning cause it keeps telling you this is meaningful. This is what we have to be focused on. So feedback, you can’t almost overdue feedback and that is something that sometimes is a real challenge. But if you really want to support passion in your workplace, really looking at feedback loops that aren’t just reliant on a manager but they can be self-directed, they can be peer directed. It’s a really, really critical piece that everyone knows it’s important, but our research says it’s like Uber important.

I like that. The feedback is the way that, whether you’re making it. It’s a way of creating progress. You need a way of understanding that. And also focusing in by saying, “Hey, this is important. I need you to do better at this or you’re doing great at this. Here’s the next step that feedback loop.” It’s like if you’re pulling a string, if your job is to lift a weight, that kind of thing and you can’t see what it’s actually moving. You can’t see that result. You have no feedback on it. It will rapidly become engaging. But that’s a great point. Okay. Feedback. I got that highlighted. That’s going right. That’s going as the quote on the…

A really important piece. And then linked to that like really closely linked to that is the ability to end the practice. Not just everyone has the ability, but people don’t create a practice at a celebration. And it’s funny, but people even get squirmy around celebration almost like it’s a bad word in the workplace. When I talk to organization and managers about how critical it is. Celebrating is the key differentiator between people who are truly passionate and people who are not. Not even just not passionate, I mean, it’s the differentiator between people who are in various states of engagement.

So it’s one of the things that with my clients, I never let them off the hook even though people want to be let off the hook and it’s to really think through what does celebration look like here? You know, people sometimes instantly think of big parties, right? Let’s have a big social gathering, let’s have a big party. But celebration can also be really quiet and intimate and it’s an acknowledgement that, yeah, we just did something that mattered. We pulled something off. It can be a small win, it can be the end of a big project, but it deserves to be acknowledged and uplifted and to be able to do that in ways that function at the individual level, not just at the organizational level. It’s the one differentiator around passion at work.

I can’t emphasize how important celebration is to really sustain and create. If you don’t have it, your passion at work, it’s really, really important. And the work is figuring out what it looks like for you personally and then for your team and for your organization because it can look very differently. It’s going to depend on what is suitable for you. The accountant who is hitting that easy button, that was easy. That’s a form of celebration, right? Someone was just telling me that when they close a deal that like stand up at their desk and do a little dance and that’s the celebration, at a very personal, intimate level. It doesn’t have to be like this big party, but it’s still a celebration.

Very interesting. Okay. I love that. And I know that’s a thing that a lot of, especially small businesses, I think that that work in a constant stream of work, I think that can be a huge game changer for them.

Oh, you are? I mean, you are right. Yeah, absolutely. And in fact, what you said, I’d like to underscore because I think in so many industries now and so many jobs that we’re just trying to keep up with everything. And so, you know, you get something done and you just move on to the next thing. You’re not really taking even a moment to kind of go. That was actually pretty cool. I got that done. And you know, this is the difference that made to the company and this is a difference that made to me. This is what I learned from it. This is the skill I gained. Whatever it is, like whatever the progress is, we do not take enough time and it doesn’t have to be hours.

That’s the thing about celebration. It literally can be a few seconds, but to just to make it a practice so that you really, you know, at the end of each day acknowledge the progress you’ve made or the end of each week. And one of the things we do with our teams is we build it into their meeting agendas. You know, what kind of progress are we going to celebrate? And, and even if there’s been a disappointment, how do we make that into a learning, that idea of failing forward, I suppose. But how do we really ensure that even in our disappointments, we make sure we can frame them for progress, right? Meaningful progress, let’s say it is, but we don’t feel it is. How do we really see this failure or this disappointment as a way of learning something to take us forward. Because it’s that forward orientation is what’s going to sustain passion.

Because that’s the property.

That’s the progress piece. And that’s the part that just doesn’t get worked enough.

No, you’re exactly right. I’m literally, and this happens in all of my best interviews, I’m going, “Gosh, I need this.” Well, it’s not that we don’t have anything, but this is an amazing place to move the needle.

It’s an amazing place.

This is a way to do it. You said there were three things we’ve covered, feedback and celebration. What else do you think? What’s the other?

Well, one that comes up an awful lot and you have kind of referenced it a few times and kind of referring to traditional management. And this one is part of what we would consider to be autonomy. And it’s to really look at things from a personal accountability point of view. To really understand at an individual level and of course it scales up, but to understand it at an individual level. Just how important it is for you to feel you are able to make decisions about the way your work gets done. So even going back to the assembly line, decisions are made for the assembly line. But if I have a mechanism to input, if I’m able to be part of a team that discusses problems and how to overcome or improve things. Then even if ultimately the decision isn’t mine, I’m still part of that decision making process in a way that’s real and authentic, right? And so it doesn’t have to be consensus. It’s because that often sometimes people misunderstand that, but it’s feeling like my opinion matters, my experience matters and that I’m consulted on things that are going to, especially things that are going to impact me ultimately. And that becomes both something that supports meaning and progress, right? It’s meaningful to be asked your opinion. I’m providing it’s authentic. Right? And when you see decisions get implemented, even if it doesn’t go your way, if you feel you are part of a meaningful process, then that’s going to feel like progress to you. So that can be really challenging. And organizations, I think smaller teams, it’s a little easier. Right?

Right, right. Yeah. Well you take over if you can do it, go for it. Yes. Well, there’s a counter, there’s a piece of that that is a personal experience, but I mentioned Liz and I. My wife and I started the company together and we’ve worked as a team directly and a lot of the things we do. We also tried to make little mini teams to handle. And I got some feedback. I don’t know, this was a few years ago, but it changed the way we structured a lot of things, let’s call them group projects to go back to the old. While those have an amazing and important place in work, autonomy means not just that you are able to direct your work, but it also means that you’re responsible for your work, which means you get the win.


And one of the things we got back with our CSRs sometimes was that they were talking about that kind of never ending stream of work, but they feel like they never got a win. Especially those in like tier two or three who are always dealing with the most complex problems. Their best by the time the client gets to them they’re upset. By the time, this is a role of triage and they’re already bleeding and our win is they’re no longer bleeding. Right. But it doesn’t feel like a wind sometimes, especially because it takes a lot of different moving parts. It doesn’t as one of them put it. It’s like we work really hard and we know in the end it works out. You know, it works out and we’re good, but I never feel like I won. I feel like my best case scenario is that, no one’s angry anymore. It doesn’t feel like a win. Right. And when we actually changed that to more a one-on-one, a less team based approach. The individual was able to say, “Hey, not only I was able to come up with something here, I was able to fix this.” And at the end, they’re excited. They feel like they did it. So autonomy isn’t just the ability to do things. It’s the ability to be responsible for the wind or the law.

Okay. So this is so brilliant because that is exactly why our measures, when we have a survey that goes with the measure of passion and in the workplace and within you, our questions under autonomy are all I questions. And we know from our research that I need to connect the action that I take to the progress piece. I can be happy for my team that we won an account. But, well, I need to in order to be passionate, to have taken the action myself and had the impact that I was looking for with that action. Right? We take action because we’re expecting a certain result from the action. I mean, there needs to be a direct line in order for me to really feel that emotion of passion. So what you’re describing, I see 100% in our data and working with clients.

Jacqueline, you are an awesome conversationalist and I’m so intrigued by what you do. We could talk for hours, but we’re coming up on the 48 minutes of chills going through the stuff. And I hope that our listeners have stuck with us. But I’ve found this riveting. I got to ask, where can our people find you and what would be the trigger if someone’s listening? I mean, and again you have five man nonprofits listening and also 3000 man HR, CFO, director of HR CPOs listening ,who should reach out to you and what should be the triggering event that’s like, okay, all right, I need to call up Jacqueline. Her company is going to… It would be amazing…

Well, we’re all about generating passion in the workplace so people can feel the difference in their productivity and ultimately the performance. So if you know that you have all this untapped energy in your organization, even if it is five people or 3000 people. We can help you figure out what levers to pull to unleash that energy to get you that productivity and performance you’re looking for. And we have an automated system so no one’s too small and no one’s too big. So it really, we can size up regardless. So is how you find us. And I can also provide some other links to some of our social media.

There’ll be in the description down below. If you’re listening on iTunes or Google play, you may need to go to This will be the episode on the homepage, so you can take a listen there. If you’re listening a little later on, just go up to the podcast button and look for the “Spark Engagement Podcast-Jacqueline.” Thank you so much for your time. I think this was an amazingly worthwhile conversation and I wish you great luck in your future endeavors.

Well, thank you for having me on. It was a sheer pleasure really.

I appreciate it. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s it for today. I hope you had a wonderful time. I hope you learned a ton. Reach out Make sure to subscribe and on social media post any questions or feedback along the way. If you felt like, “Hey, you know what? This is really interesting, but I have these burning questions.” Feel free to ask about them on social media. It may be something we pass on and have Jacqueline’s team reached back out to you or maybe we can help you figure it out ourselves. Connect with us at Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn. We’re all on there. We’d love to hear from you. Now it’s time for you to go out there, have a great day, and get your work done. Thanks for tuning in.

Learn more about Jacqueline here:

Website :

Email :

Contact : 902-229-8989

Skype : jacqueline.throop.robinson



About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the senior insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

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