page title icon 003: Dee Kohler: You got to trust in this

Podcast Show Notes with Dee Kohler

What do you trust in? Join me as Dee Kohler shares her story (more than one) about trust, finding your place, and how you can model a very important and powerful behavior that is most often overlooked in work and life.

Learn how Dee found greater success and peace of mind in her career and self.

Dee is a wife, mother, grandmother and a long-time customer contact management executive. She is a J.D. Power & Associates award-winning operations professional with experience applying contact center best practice principles across multiple industries. And is a creative problem solver offering solutions that meet the needs of the client.

Dee has over 20 years’ leading the customer experience in corporate, not-for-profit, and government settings, with companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Prime Therapeutics, and Boys Town.

Dee has established herself as an industry leader. Her commitment to excellence in team performance earned her company the J.D. Power and Associates excellence award three years in a row. Dee specializes in improving the experience of both internal and external customers through the integration of strategy, people, process and technology.

Dee shares, “I am having the time of my life.”

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @kohldee getting over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“You love it, you embrace it, and you deal with it every day.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Things will change or things will change.” -Ron Rhoades Click to Tweet 

“Are you going with the flow or are you helping being a change agent?” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Trust, but verify” –Ronald Reagan Click to Tweet

“Find an organization that will accept me for who I am.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“You are who you are, but you need to be adaptable.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“You need to be adaptable to be the most successful.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Know who you are and be able to best present that best person.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Steady wins the race.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“You got to trust in yourself that you know what you know.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Old fashion communication is probably the best when it comes to success.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“People, phone, paper. Prioritize people face-to-face.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“I made sure I was physically present.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Role model how important it is to be present and available.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Holding me back is taking appropriate risks.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

“Change management has changed my leadership.” -Dee Kohler Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Dee was sought after for bringing the energy to the meeting and projects and not necessarily the content. And so over time Dee began to feel that she was being over looked for having the ability to bring the answers. Dee was in a dilemma. Listen to the show to find out what Dee learned and what she did.

Leadership Epiphany

Steady wins the race and you’ve got to trust in yourself while verifying with your network.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Love what you do. Work, play, or otherwise.

Best Resource

Her daily devotionals.

Recommended Reading

Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership

Often Sold with this Book

The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life
Jesus, Entrepreneur: Using Ancient Wisdom to Launch and Live Your Dreams

More Resources

Where is Dee Kohler poster; like Where’s Waldo.

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Show Transcript:

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break up performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Jim Rembach: Thanks Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, today you’re going to get a treat. You’re going to hear somebody that has both energy and wisdom, and it’s a good friend of mine by name of Dee Kohler.

Dee has been leading Customer Care Operations for different organizations for the past twenty years primarily in the health space. She has so much insight on health care that we could really spend hours talking just about that particular issue alone. But she’s led both the people and the operations and the strategy for companies like Blue Cross, Blue Shield in Nebraska as an executive. She’s a speaker, writer, advisory board member, been an internal and external consultant. But one thing about Dee is that she brings a very unique energy and insight to the innovative and creative process that helps organizations get things done. And I’m really glad that we have her today on the show. So, Dee are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Dee Kohler: You bet, yeah.

Jim Rembach:  Alright Dee, I have given our listeners a little brief introduction about you. But could you tell us a little bit about you, so that we can get to know you better.

Dee Kohler: Sure. You’re right, a lot of my customer service and operations had been in health care. I also managed one of the crisis lines innovation, the Boys Town national hotline, so that was quite an experience. And sales and retentions, so that kind of wraps up the industry on the professional side. Married got a couple of kids, they’re grown and grandkid. I don’t know about any of the other folks that are out there but my kids, both of them had been boomerang kids, so dealing with the juggling of aging parents and having a grandkid running around the house. But you love it you embrace it and you deal with it every day.

Jim Rembach:  And you know you’re one of those people—when you tell about somebody who just continues to roll and persevere, to me you’re someone that I look up to in regards to that. I know I can always find some inspiration in a lot of ways through you and the things that you share with me. We oftentimes swap and share a lot of leadership quotes, because for us they kind of ground us. And so do you have, I know you have several, but is there kind of one that stands out for you?

Dee Kohler:   Yeah. I think one of my favorites was—the person that I kind of look to that snagged me into the service industry is Ron Roach. So give a shout out to Ron Rhoades, so give a shout out to Ron. He’s managing [inaudible 2:55] senior director in the Philippines right now, with a major outsourcing organization. Ron use to take the time and we’d literally take walks around the building, I don’t mean inside the building I mean outside the building. And they were walks of just talking and understanding and sharing his experiences and being able to take those. One of the things he used to always say was, “things will change or things will change”, it was just his way of offering that different inflection and emphasis if you will on the words and the phrase that book you up and that was a little bit of a reminder. And for me, it made me reflect, am I being change agent or am I going with the flow. And then as I’ve adapted that quote, if you will, over the years now it helps me remind my team—it’s kind of a time check or a gut check for your team members. Are you going with the flow? Or are you helping being a change agent.

Jim Rembach:   You know that’s a great quote because the words in itself are real simplistic and some was oxymoronic because they’re the same, but it’s still the inflection which will give a whole different meaning and it really causes you to kind of pause and take things in and absorb, I think that’s a great quote. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Now at the Fast Leader show, we really get also inspiration by having people tell us their stories on what they’d had to get over for a hump. Things that they’ve learned in the process so that hopefully we don’t go through the same frustrations and really come to some conclusions faster by learning through others. I know, because we shared many of these types of stories that you have, some that you can draw on. Is there one that kind of stands out for you as the defining moment that has kind of shaped you?

Dee Kohler:  I actually have two real quick ones. One I can think of is—it comes back to I think it was Ronald Reagan that said, ‘trust but verify’. So, I was responsible for a startup and responsible for bringing in the service organization, make sure we were staffing it correctly. And with that start up I was trusting others for the data to help me in forecasting the staff, and I didn’t verify. And so we get started and I’ve got 14 [5:32] sitting out there. And hindsight the data that I was given was for a mature organization, not a startup. The number of calls that we were going to be getting was 125% of orders being received not 20% which was in that mature organization. What I learned from that is just that, it’s the trust but verify, you really need to—and that was 15 years ago. And so now that’s been a lesson that I’ve learned along the way that you’ve got to really do your homework. Yes, trust the resources that are giving you the data but verify it in a number of other resources to be able to be sure, especially if it’s something you’ve not done before, you can’t pinpoint your experience on that. So that’s probably one quick story.

Another is probably more self-retrospective of self-reflective–I hope my energy’s coming across on the phone. I’m just a very energetic person and sometimes a little bit over the top and I have to dial it down in certain meetings, certain things and even in certain cultures. I was promoted to an executive role and oftentimes I think I was looked to in those meetings for bringing the energy to the meeting and not necessarily the content. And so overtime if you’re not being aware of yourself and how others are perceiving you and your level of energy and what it is that you’re bringing to the table, you can become to a certain extent overlooked and that you’re not that person that they’re looking to for the answers.

I came to that through a number of ways, I was working with a professional coach who was very, very great to work with and just really helped ‘unpeel that onion.’ I’ve learned a lot then in that you have to make the decision on whether or not that’s going to be that long term relationship. Is it the culture that you are going to have to dial it back so much that you’re not yourself? Or do I need to make a culture change? Do I need to find an organization that’s going to accept me for who I am? So, that’s I think the thing that was my biggest learning is that, you are who you are but you need to be adaptable within the cultures in organizations, and with clients and in speaking engagements to be able to be the most successful. And so it’s really, really knowing who you are and being able to present that best person.

Jim Rembach:   You know that’s really important for all of us to kind of recognizes and realize the adaptability component, the flexibility component. Being too rigid can cause some serious problems for a lot of us when we’re trying to move things forward to get ahead or even be part of a group. Thank you for sharing that with us. You had mentioned something about two quick stories, so do you actually have one that gives us a little bit more detail and some specifics that you have in mind that you want to share?

Dee Kohler:     I guess no. I just wanted to fill the time I thought of those two as we were preparing for it. Of the two of course, the one with the more self-reflective carries not only across here on my professional life but gives me that courage even in my personal life. If there’s a stranger that you meet in the airport or in the airplane or whenever it might be, to be able to have that random at the finest or whatever it might be to be able to make someone else’s day a little brighter.

Jim Rembach:     All often times we have what is called an aha moment, I can refer to them as epiphanies. Those epiphanies can come in different places and different time, so when you start talking about those two stories that you shared with us, is there some moment, that epiphany that you can reflect back on, can you share that with us? How did that happen?

Dee Kohler:     I think probably the biggest thing was the teamwork when being part of Blue Cross and we’ve earned our first J. D Powers. When we got that first one, I cried, I truly cried. It was because I was happy that the work that we had done for the two and half almost three years before that, was so successful. I guess the aha moment was when it’s [inaudible 10:14] wins the race, and you’ve got to trust in yourself enough that you know what you know. Going back to my trust but verify is that you reach out to those network that you create. Jim you and I we reach out, “Hey, Jim have you ever experience this? Or I call Ron or I call those people in your professional career that you can reach out to. And all of those reach outs during that period of time paid off. And so I think that was—is that you’ve got a strong network and that you trust and that you just slow wins the race and stay the course.


Jim Rembach:     For me as a person who’s kind of wired to be impatient, I have to keep using that as a reminder myself. You’re right, you have to use that network, you have to use that circle a lot of times in order to really keep you from being too anxious. Because when you’re too anxious that also will affect your ability to think properly, and we know that, that’s been proven. I actually read a study where it talked about people’s IQ actually drops when they have to go to the restroom. You know sometimes we’re just sitting in the meeting—I got to go, I got to go, that IQ drops because what are you doing? You’re focusing on the fact that you’ve got to go instead of what’s happening. [Laugh] I think that’s kind of comical but we just don’t realize that, but it does happen.

There was a situation a couple of years ago, when you and I are chatting about—to me also  something that’s often forgotten in today’s, let’s just say, remote working or virtual world and that was some of the findings and work that you were doing around a word called, proximity. I think that’s very important concept for us to remember and to talk about. Can you share with us a few things that you learned about proximity?

Dee Kohler: I guess when I think about proximity, of course, we all think of something close to me or something that’s—whether it’s a group or a team or whatever it might be. I was working from home and I was consulting and I found out that I’m not wired for that, I’m wired to be around people all the time. So the proximity that I had with people and the teams that I was working for, it was virtual and it was all working out great I was doing it exceptional, I was making sales, I was exceeding client expectations, but me myself I wasn’t being fulfilled because I needed that long term relationship and the opportunity to develop people. And I think that’s I guess another self-realization, another aha moment. Okay, I gave us a try and it wasn’t working so it’s when I put myself back in the market and the neat thing was I was able to really, really be conscious in how it was that I was picking that next organization that I wanted to be a  part of for that next part of my journey. And I’m just having the time of my life developing people and working through that and being in the proximity of others to be able to influence and them influence me and be a better person.

Jim Rembach:   And you also use that in part of your project work. I remember, for me, it was a story associated with some work that you were doing when you were a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Nebraska where you were studying this thing, about proximity. The thing meaning–often times we just shoot a quick email, we have a conference call, we do these things and we have all this project work. But that really having that one on one time, even in the group settings shouldn’t even say one-on-one probably, but having people look at each other in the eye. Normally if you’re doing it from a video conference, what did you find out about that?

Dee Kohler: Well, I think what we found out about it is that, we kind of had this rule, it’s the three email rule. If you’re going back and forth through the email or something like that, pick up the phone and then if the phone isn’t working then walk down the hallway. And so it was just a matter of making sure that you’re understanding that the old fashion communication is probably the best when it comes down to success. And the other thing I use to always work with my leadership team that I was grooming is the three piece—people are always first, then I’ll come to the phone and then I get to the paper but you’ve got to prioritize, and that people and that face to face is so important. Talk about proximity, I was juggling two offices in two locations just in Omaha and they were only 8 miles apart, trust me I knew every which way to get from here to there. But that was important to me—the proximity—that I made sure that I was physically present at either of those offices, try to be once a day. And it was the only time I can tell you during work that I’ve got my tickets. [Laughter] I was trying to be in close proximity to my team but I wish I had it but the marketing team, it was kind of a joke, and they did a where is Dee poster. It was just hilarious at how my team, they understood that I was trying to make sure that—a role model, how important it was to be present and to be available to your team.

Jim Rembach:   Dee, so much wisdom and a lot of truth that you’ve shared with us, and the whole proximity thing is again something that we just don’t talk a lot about but we have to be more aware of that. I love the three piece and I look forward to sharing those things on our show notes page. And for you listeners you’ll be able to find that at

Now we come to the fun part of the show, Hump Day Hoedown. Okay Dee, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Dee Koehler, are you ready to hoedown?

Dee Kohler:     You betcha!

Jim Rembach:   Alright. So Dee, what do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader?

Dee Kohler:     Holding me back is taking appropriate risk. Sometimes I’ll be too risky and sometimes not enough, so it’s finding that balance.

Jim Rembach:   What is the best leadership advice that you have ever received?

Dee Kohler:     I would say that it is love what you do. Whether its work, play or otherwise, just love what you do.

Jim Rembach:     Sometimes you have to find that love, right?

Dee Kohler:    That’s exactly right.

Jim Rembach:    So, what is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

Dee Kohler:     I would say the good old manage by walking around, that is it. This morning even though I was getting prepared for this I take the time, my team knows if I’m running late or anything though, they know because they know that’s my morning routine.

Jim Rembach:     What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps you lead in business or life?

Dee Kohler:     One of my resources is my daily devotionals, it gets me started in the morning. I love it, I just get up I open my devotional book and just take a few minutes with me and the Lord above.

Jim Rembach:     Alright. So what would be one book that you would recommend to our listeners?

Dee Kohler:     On that same line, I love Jesus CEO, I’ve probably read it three or four times and that’s by Laurie Beth Jones. And I love it because it’s a daily little work out, that’s exactly what it is, it’s a work out. [Laugh]

Jim Rembach:     That’s great. Alright, so Fast Leader listeners we are going to find links to that book and several others by going to Dee we’re down to our final question on the Hump Day Hoedown. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you were 25 years old again, you’re supposed to begin a new job as a member of a team that is underperforming and disengaged, you actually had to lead this team, you were blessed because you have retained all the wisdom and skill that you currently have your task is to turn the team around. You get up, you get ready, you head out to work, what do you do now?

Dee Kohler:     Oh! I just think that that piece was scary, [Laugh] I guess what comes to mind first is, I would be afraid that I would just overwhelmed because I would know so much more than I did at 25. I think the biggest thing would be right now is that I would step back and I would start executing and implementing change management. Change management is probably the other biggest thing that I would turn to that has changed my leadership–is being able to incorporate change management on what it is that we’re doing.

Twenty five years ago I would have been the bull in the China shop and just said, do it because I just said so. [Laugh] And now I recognize that there’s a different, better way to be able to bring about change when we need to improve performance or we’re having to just move you to a different cubicle. It could be that what we might think of a simple change but to that person that’s a big deal, they’re moving spots, “I don’t want to go seat over by that window because it’s cold over there or it’s hot” or whatever, change management was the one thing that I would probably start with instead of just because I said so.

Jim Rembach:  Dee Kohler, it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with Fast Leader listeners how they can get in contact with you?

Dee Kohler:     Certainly. They can get in contact with me, my personal email is

Jim Rembach:   Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot Woot!

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. Recaps links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.