page title icon 229: Karen Martin: The lack of clarity is costing us

Karen Martin Show Notes Page

Karen Martin had well more than fifty-percent of her revenue tied up in one industry back in 2008. When the economy went into shock she did as well. Fortunately, she was a saver and she survived. Since then, she has written numerous books and her most recent reveals how smart leaders and organizations achieve outstanding results through clarity.

Karen was born and raised in a small steel town 30 miles outside Pittsburgh. Her childhood household was filled with business-minded people: her father owned several businesses, her mother was a buyer for a children’s clothing store, and her younger brother began exhibiting his entrepreneurial spirit in his teens with an innovative approach to shoveling snow from sidewalks.

Because Karen excelled in math and science, her guidance counselor urged her to pursue medicine. She headed to Penn State. However, as she learned about the long path through medical school and residency, she was drawn to microbiology and became licensed as a clinical lab scientist. But she’s also a people person and her lab career had her spending most of her time interacting with Petri dishes, autoclaves, and analyzers.

She landed on teaching as a way to connect what she already knew about science to a career path that put her face to face with people. She began teaching undergraduate courses at California State University, Bakersfield, while pursuing a Master’s in Education (adult learning emphasis). There, too, she saw a mix of elements she liked and some that weren’t for her. While her passion for teaching remained, she didn’t care for slow-to-change academia.

Armed with a Master’s degree and a growing interest in wellness and preventive medicine, she moved to Los Angeles where she took a job with Health Net, a rapid-growth health insurance company. Over her four years at the company she explored operations, legal, and sales and marketing, and loved each one. She moved to another organization and was charged with building an operation from scratch. With a 100% annual growth rate, Karen faced some of businesses’ most vexing problems and her teams still managed to outperform the competition. At 30 years old, Karen had found her true passion: business management and performance improvement.

In 1993, she was about to be promoted to VP and decided she no longer wanted to climb the ladder working for someone else. She left the corporate world and launched her own consulting firm focused on business performance improvement for service companies.

Over the last twenty-five years, Karen has grown what is now TKMG, Inc. from a solo consultancy with local clients into a global firm with a team of consultants and support staff who focus on helping organizations become outstanding through the application of proven management principles and practices. Her love of teaching continues to manifest through her hands-on coaching of leaders and improvement teams—and through her five books, two of which are Shingo Award winners. Though she owns a home in Dallas, Karen is often in the air or on the ground working with clients across the globe.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @KarenMartinOpEx to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow – Click to Tweet

“Frontlines are not escalating quickly enough when things are going amiss” Click to Tweet

“Fear is at the core of dysfunction in a lot of organizations.” Click to Tweet

“You can’t get work done if you don’t have a proper escalation strategy.” Click to Tweet

“Product development decisions should be very aligned with your why.” Click to Tweet

“Trust emanates from clarity” Click to Tweet

“You have to understand the verb or emotion that any product is tied to in the customer.” Click to Tweet

“We’ve created this environment in customer service that actually cuts the customer service rep off from the customer.” Click to Tweet

“It is senior leadership that needs to drive and constantly reminding people about the why.” Click to Tweet

“We’re so product centric that we forget the people at the end of it all the time.” Click to Tweet

“The customer is at the center of it all, and yet we get tunnel vision on products.” Click to Tweet

“Having no clarity on the why makes it difficult to run a smooth operation.” Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Karen Martin had well more than fifty-percent of her revenue tied up in one industry back in 2008. When the economy went into shock she did as well. Fortunately, she was a saver and she survived. Since then, she has written numerous books and her most recent reveals how smart leaders and organizations achieve outstanding results through clarity.

Advice for others

My job with a staff is to develop them, not to order them around.

Holding her back from being an even better leader

Striving for perfection.

Best Leadership Advice

Listen, listen, listen and you don’t know it all.

Secret to Success


Best tools in business or life


Recommended Reading

Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence

Contacting Karen Martin




Resources and Show Mentions

Call Center Coach

An Even Better Place to Work


Show Transcript: 

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

229: Karen Martin: The lack of clarity is costing us


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


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Jim Rembach:    Okay Fast Leader legion, today I’m excited because we have somebody on the show today who’s going to help us with something we all need some support and assistance with. Karen Martin was born and raised in a small steel town 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Her childhood household was filled with business minded people. Her father owned several businesses her mother was a buyer for a children’s clothing store and her younger brother began exhibiting his entrepreneurial spirit in his teens with an innovative approach to shoveling snow from sidewalks. Because Carolyn excelled in math her guidance counselor urged her to pursue medicine. She headed to Penn State, however, she learned about the long path through medical school or residency. So that made her be drawn to microbiology instead to become a licensed clinical lab scientist. But she also liked people and so her lab career had her spending most of her time interacting with petri dishes and autoclaves and analyzers. She landed on teaching because teaching undergraduate courses at California State University gave her that people connection. And while pursuing a master’s degree in education she was able to get that mix of elements that she liked but found out that education really wasn’t her place because she didn’t care for the slow to change academia. Armed with a master’s degree in a growing interest in wellness and preventative medicine she moved to LA, Los Angeles not L’Oreal Alabama, where she took good job with Health Net.

She moved to another organization and was charged with building and operation from scratch. But at 30 years old Karen found her true passion, business management and performance improvement. In 1993, she was about to be promoted to VP and decided no longer did she want to climb that corporate ladder, she didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. Over the last 30 years Karen has grown what is now TKMG Inc. From a solo consultancy with local clients into a global firm with a team of consultants and support staff who focus on helping organizations become outstanding. Her love of teaching continues to manifest through her hands-on coaching of leaders and improvement teams and through her five books two of which are Shingo awards winners. Her latest book, Clarity First is her most provocative to date and is garnering deep praise. Though she owns a home in Dallas, Karen is often in the air or on the ground working with clients across the globe. Karen Martin, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Karen Martin:     I am. Hi, Jim. 

Jim Rembach:    I’m glad you’re here today. I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better. 

Karen Martin:     Just recently I’ve been seeing this pattern in clients where there’s just this very vague sense from front lines all the way up to senior leaders on how to properly escalate. And so I’m finding over and over and over frontlines are not escalating quickly enough to their leadership team when things are going amiss. And leaders are not clearly identifying what is an escalatable issue to bring to them and so leaders are often very much in the dark. I actually don’t know where this is going yet this is very recent. So I’m going to start with a couple of posts and just so I could work out my ideas in writing and then figure out. I don’t think escalations a whole book but I don’t know yet. So it’s a common problem.

Jim Rembach:    What you’re talking about right there is something that in the contact center industry that I’m involved with so heavily is quite common. When I look at this from somebody who’s been on the frontline helps leaders develop on the frontline. Those frontline supervisors in the call center coach Academy is we find a lot of times that the metrics and the processes that are put in place essentially just make the job one to which, my responsibility is just to get the work in and out. Fix the system. 

Karen Martin:     Yeah, I think that’s a very big problem. It’s a block of standardization and written criteria for when do you escalate and when do you not? And those types of things help a lot. The other thing that is just—I’m a big fan of W. Edwards Deming, the father of Total Quality Management and have long believed very much like he believed that fear is really at the core of a lot of dysfunction and organizations. The fear of escalation—I just had a conversation with a junior-ish improvement professional on a client and something was going amiss that she wasn’t escalating. And I asked her why? And her first answer was what I commonly hear as well I think I should be able to take care of this. But there are things because your level in the organization that you don’t have the authority to push someone to commit or to deliver something that you’re asking for then you have to escalate. It’s that fear and your feeling like you’re not going to look like you’re doing your job or whatever or throwing people and robust  that’s there but you can’t get work done if you don’t have a proper escalation strategy.

Jim Rembach:    Yeah, for me I think that this is a multi-faceted problem. Without a doubt. And I would also probably go as far to say that it’s a problem that is unique to the DNA of the organization in which it is the problem or is a problem.

Karen Martin:     I agree. 

Jim Rembach:    Without a doubt. You touch on a lot of these things in a little bit more that’s strategic way and getting down to the tactical looking at excavation specifically in the book clarity. For me you look at clarity from an ecosystem perspective. And that is clarity and communication. Iits clarity in those processes and in those procedures its clarity in and the intent there’s just so many different aspects of clarity that for me I really didn’t look at the full scope of it like you did in this book. So what brought you to look at clarity from that perspective versus maybe just looking at just the escalation component?

Karen Martin:     Yeah it wasn’t something I planned either, it was very interesting and it was a much more difficult subject to write about than I thought it would be. So what happened was I had a book called, The Outstanding Organization that’s arranged around four common conditions or behaviors that I find often missing in organizations and are necessary for outstanding performance and it’s, clarity, focus, discipline and engagement. That clarity chapter I got so much feedback from people saying, “oh, my gosh, I had no idea that we were operating with such a prevalent lack of clarity and what that was doing to us individually and collectively as an organization and how much it was costing us.” And one gentleman said and he was a guy I knew I was working with a client it was kind of a big burly guy not given to showing his emotions and he wrote me this very heartfelt email and said that he actually cried when he was reading that clarity chapter because he felt somewhat not vindicated but released from this not understanding why he felt so every day. The first step is awareness and the second step is doing something about it so that spawned clarity first I thought it’d be a simple book to write because it’s one topic but it was not it’s very difficult actually. 

Jim Rembach:    For me I think the complexity is just inherent in what we do almost, if not every day personally, but then also professionally. I just want to point out—you talk about something from a definition perspective that I think we all struggle with. When I came to page 40 in this book, it talked about the different things in an organization that can cause a lot of these clarity problems just as far as the initial start the foundational component. And we talked about the elements of mission, vision, values and guiding principles. To me when I get to look at the definitions of these five things I’m like, “ah” I want to use this in so many different ways because I think so many people get confused. Like mission it’s a statement of what? Vision is a description of where you’re headed. Values provide clarity about the behaviors and work attitudes. Your guiding principles are more specific version of the values. And then purpose is a verse that reflects why you have a mission, vision, values or guiding principles. I think everybody really needs to be reminded of these definitions on an ongoing basis.

Karen Martin:     Agree. I’ve worked with hundreds, probably not thousands yet I haven’t added up all my clients,  but hundreds of organizations now and even organizations I used to be an employee out before I started my business it’s just those seem like buzz words but they have precise meanings. But the meanings that you read about in books even with business management academics not everyone agrees on what the word mission means for example. I’ve been working with some people who are experts in purpose and what’s interesting is in conversation they’ll talk about our organization’s purpose and I’ll  tip my head and say that’s actually their what that’s not why. And it’s tricky but it’s important to get clear on it so that it can drive every decision every prioritization strategy and even the overarching business strategy going forward. 

Jim Rembach:    So for me I started thinking about standing and where do I stand how do I know what to stand for, when to stand for all of those things. Like you were just saying if I am saying one word but yet defining it in a different way therefore I can’t make a stand.

Karen Martin:     It’s true. Ambiguity is the opposite of clarity. Ambiguity around these words does not help us at all in business or in life. And so I do hope that there’ll be some sort of coming to the common understanding and if someone needs to write that like the definitive book on each of these elements and why they’re important and I’m not sure it’s me. But it is critical the why though the purpose is so important because product development decisions for example should be very aligned with why not what. A lot of times I see organizations spending a lot of time and money on new products that they’re doing because they have the skill set to do so and not because it aligns with their purpose or not because the customers are really asking for it or in the case of the customers not knowing about something even having good evidence that this is a problem to be solved that this particular product would solve. So getting clarity around all of that is fundamental and hard it’s not easy to do.

Jim Rembach:    I think it’s also important to point out that when we start talking about this clarity when you start talking about ambiguity and those things they ultimately are foundational and create something that we all need to have and that’s trust.

Karen Martin:     Yes. Trust emanates from clarity. The number one thing that ruins trust is not really understanding or someone’s coming from and not understanding what you’re supposed to do. It’s very costly to an organization if you add up the minutes, hours, weeks, months, years of people trying to figure things out that could otherwise be far more clear and people can wrap it up take of them it’s just an enormous expense that’s unnecessary.

Jim Rembach:    So it also is a scenario where having this clarity at this strategic and visionary aspect and leading aspect of an organization for you, you take it through the book through basically looking at all of your processes evaluating, assessing like you’ve talked about, this what we should be doing even though we may have the skills. Is it going to really affect who are major person that we want to affect, meaning the customer? We’re all in some type of customer effecting, facing type of business. Even if we’re a government entity we have stakeholders, constituents, we all have a customer. Sometime they’re not clear in front of us, like a manufacturer my customer is actually my retailer or somebody who’s selling my product and my users, so there’s a can seem to be a little bit clouded but the fact is that we all are serving somebody.  

Karen Martin:     Right. And they why has to be directly tied to some sort of a problem that the product whether a good or a service solves and it needs to be tied to something emotional. For example, I was talking with a car tire manufacturer and I asked what they did to make tires? Why do you do it? We make really good tires was the answer. And I said, “But why?”  Why do you make really good tires? And it took a long time for him to finally understand that it’s building confidence in the customer that they’re going to get from point A to point B without a flat tire, that they’re going to be safe, that they’re not going to have flats in the middle of the night stranded in a remote road, all of those things. You doesn’t have to be top of mind every single day and every single conversation in a business but you do need to understand the verb or the emotion that any product is tied to in the customer. Whether it’s to your point of a business customer or an individual customer whether it’s commercial no matter what it is there is some emotion your product should make life easier in some way or safer. And if we start going all the way to that then, first, it engages the employees in a very powerful way but then it also drives better decision making.

Jim Rembach:    You talk in the book about knowing thy customer and you go in that to a great degree but part of what you’re talking about in the book is like, hey, essentially embed yourself and do some psychographic type of studies and be there with them and see how they use your product but everybody an organization can’t do that. If I’m a person who’s in a customer support or customer service environment I don’t have that luxury. All I know is they call me about these things and I need to do these things. I don’t really know thy customer and so then we also been have an empathy problem and we have an emotional intelligence lack of connection and all those things. So how can an organization really know thy customer when they can’t, they sit in their living room and see how they’re using the product? 

Karen Martin:     Video. One of the most effective things I’ve ever seen, it was a commercial it might have been during a Super Bowl game that I first saw it was years ago like probably a decade ago it was a GE commercial, about their health care division and about the equipment that these manufacturers these guys on the front lines in a in a plant we’re making. They actually took these guys in a bus out to talk with customers. All of the sudden everything crystallized for them on why it was so important to get that boat turned exactly right and why it was so important to make sure that nothing left the line that had some sort of a problem and all of those things that make the work for a better quality, for more efficient. I am a huge fan of getting testimonials from the customers that aren’t just fluff not just sales stuff but like how is that product really helping? How is that service or that good really making a difference in that person’s life? And in industry it’s mainly safety at least a lot of it is safety but it’s also work ease. We should be striving first and foremost for safe and easier work environments because they’re cheaper they’re better for people and safer and easier work environments are less expensive to operate. Anyway, I could go on and on about this, but video is a very powerful medium that every single new hire could be exposed to and maybe even reminders throughout the year or the years that they’re there.

Jim Rembach:    I would say that you have to have those reminders that’s how you really have it to be sustainable. Because otherwise we all get caught up in that, hey, I have to do these things oh, I forgot about that your constant reminder. 

Karen Martin:     One more quick thing, we’ve created this environment in customer service in many organizations that actually cuts the customer service rep off from the customer. What I mean by that is as a customer I get—I know how businesses can run and so I’m not necessarily the most patient customer when things aren’t going well and I don’t ever blame the people because it’s the work systems that are there that are at fault not the people. But oftentimes I’ll say, “Hey, did you guys ever considered ….? Or could you please escalate this and get my voice up the ladder so that people in decision-making positions can consider this? And I almost always get—“Well you can put that on our website, we have a forum.” And I’m like, “Why are customers expected to go do the work to give necessary feedback back so that the people that are delivering goods and services can provide better value? Why is it that they don’t believe their own people?” I have people tell me this all the time, they won’t believe me. But if you put it on our website they’ll believe you. Well that’s just messed up. And so anyway—it’s just the wrong work environment those people are the ambassadors for the organization that are on the front lines and customer service. They know the customer more intimately than any VP or above will and yet they’re not listened to, and that breaks my heart.

Jim Rembach:    But it is true. So the saying that I always talk about is that you can’t be a prophet in your own land. But then again you as a consultant, isn’t it? 

Karen Martin:     I guess. I wouldn’t, business has run really, really well and I could retire. But, yeah, there’s definitely a lot to be done in business today, a lot. 

Jim Rembach:    I think these are human problems they’re not just business problems. 

Karen Martin:     Yes that is true. 

Jim Rembach:    Okay. You also talked about in the book from what to why and you have three different levels of being able to make that transition from what to why. There’s clarity within these different levels. You say level one is what do you do? What are the products? The market segments? Who’s your competitors? Simple very tangible things. And then it’s, what really do you do? What problems are you solving for? Be very specific. Why do you do it? Why does your organization do it? What is needed or desired and all of those things. And part of that is the customer contact but it goes much deeper than that. Especially today we’re talking about societal impacts, the saying goes I don’t want to work as far as an employee for the customers that are best in the world I want to work for a company that is the best for the world it’s happening now. 

Karen Martin:     Yeah, that’s a good one. 

Jim Rembach:    From a what to a why—you said you even had an example of a consultant that was not able to really do this correctly, of course we’re keeping them anonymous not naming names. But how do we actually take this and effectively apply this with where I am? I’m not getting it from up above, the leadership isn’t doing it they’re not helping with this clarity, how do I start with me?

Karen Martin:     Well it’s a good question. Because if you’re all the way down at the front lines it’s very difficult to get enough insight into the operation in order to find that out. But the first thing would be raising the issue and having a conversation with the next  leader up the food chain and see if you can get it up to the leadership level because it really is senior leadership that needs to drive and make that an important point that they’re constantly reminding people on the why. We are so product-centric, and I’m talking about a good or service as product, we’re so product-centric that we forget the people at the end of it all the time. We all practice lean management in the work that we do and that’s all about providing greater value to the customer but doing so in a way that’s good for the business, good for the shareholders, good for the employees, good for the environment and so the customer is at the center of it all and yet we get kind of tunnel vision on products. Having no clarity on the why makes it difficult to run a smooth operation.

Jim Rembach:    You also talk about some of this problem-solving issue, talk about the system being broken and you talk about Deming and so you actually have an acronym that represents a pretty easy process to be able to follow you call it, CLEAR, remember? Clarity, that’s what the first C is, so it’s the clarity. And then we have to learn, we have to experiment, and then we have to assess and then we have to roll out. Just give me at a high level run us through that.

Karen Martin:     I practice underneath clear is plan to study, adjust, PDSA, which was Demming’s core way of getting people to solve problems more effectively. The problem with PDSA or the actual terms that that acronym represents, PLAN, people think, oh, okay I’m going to make a plan to implement. No, your plan is really figuring out what is the problem? Why is that a problem? For whom is it a problem? How big is the problem? And then you get to the root cause. What is the root cause or causes of the problem? The word plan doesn’t really seem to say that. Over and over and over I’ve been practicing PDSA and teaching people for 25 years now and over and over I’ve seen that they struggle with it. Which is why I came up with CLEAR to layer on top of PDSA with those specific questions that everyone should be asking in order to get better problem solving at the end of the day, that’s the genesis of it.

Jim Rembach:    In our last episode of the Fast Leader show I had the opportunity to interview Doug Hall with Driving Eureka, you probably know Doug both of you are essentially disciples of Edwards Demings, Dr. Demmings is that correct? 

Karen Martin:     Demming…it’s Edwards Deming, it’s a weird…W. Edwards Deming, it’s a weird plural Edwards.

Jim Rembach:    There we go, I want to make sure that I get my clarity on that. Okay, so when I started looking at your book and started looking at the system’s thinking in the lien and all of those things that we need to do from an efficiency based perspective I also start thinking about his work in regards to innovation and to me I think the two need to go together.

Karen Martin:     Yeah. And it’s very interesting because  lien comes from Toyota Production system and then we learned that it wasn’t just about how they produced it’s about all those ways that they make decisions and now we finally understand it’s also about the product. It’s about the innovation that they’re constantly just going after and after and after and making a high-quality product as a result of that significant innovation. 

So innovation has been kind of left out of the lien vocabulary and discussion for all these decades that liens been around not because it doesn’t exist and not because it doesn’t drive almost everything Toyota does but because we were peeling back the layers of the onion using an overwrought analogy to understand what is it that they actually do and how do they do it. It just took decades to get to the point where like, ahhh, innovation is really at the core of all this. But it’s not just in a vacuum that you have to have everything else work along with innovation in order to be a top performer. 

Jim Rembach:    Especially in today’s world, without a doubt. Okay, so what we’re talking about here is just riddled with a whole lot of emotion, you even talked about it a second ago meaning connecting with your customer. We have to do that clarity component so that we’re connecting internally to that external. All of these things they overlay and they relate to one another. But one of the things that we look at on the show are quotes to help give us a little charge from emotion. Is there a quote or two that you like that you can share?

Karen Martin:     One quote I like, and I don’t know if I’m going to get this right, it’s by Shigeo Shingo he was the industrial engineer that codified a lot of the Toyota way that then became the way that Toyota operates. And so he has a hierarchy of what we should be striving for in terms of this is just now operations design and work design and it was easier first which was intriguing to me, I think it was easier, safer, faster—okay, I’m do not make a good student am I? It’s easier, faster, safer, better–oh no that’s…better faster. Sometimes the lien get us bad wrap as being something you just speed up the work and then…it’s not at all you don’t speed up the work and then get poor quality or worse safety conditions. 

But the thing I loved about that quote was easier is first. And so when people—this is another thing that we see that kind of goes a little awry in organizations is that leaders kind of mandate processes and dictate how the work should be done when they’re not the ones doing the work and therefore they’re not the experts in doing the work. If you go to a frontline person we want to make this easier and have higher quality and have lower cost and have safer environment. There are innovative people with creative minds and souls which is very engaging to get involved with and I just love seeing them light up with these wonderful ideas when given the opportunity.

Jim Rembach:    That’s a very good point. And I also can say that coming to a lot of these  conclusions and being able to make these pivots and make these adjustments and come like that comes because we’ve had mistakes and had learn from them and get over them. We talk about them on the show about humps that we’ve had to get over and how it actually made us go into a better direction. Is there a story or a time that you could share where you’ve gotten over the hump?

Karen Martin:     Hhmm, the most practical humps have been financial. When 9/11 occurred and when the 2008 mortgage meltdown occurred, actually 2008 was particularly painful, because I had done that business thing that you should never do and have well more than fifty percent of your revenue tied up in one industry never do that. Because if that industry hits a little bit of a glitch then it affects your business. Literally in 2008 overnight I lost, I think I had only financial services contracts at that time, and they pulled the plug on every consulting agreement they had every training agreement it was a knee jerk but it was a necessary reaction to the shock that we were all experiencing. I don’t think I worked again for six months after 2008 hit. Thank goodness I was a saver. Thank goodness I could get through it. But it was a very painful time and never knowing when it’s going to come back and when you’re going to work again. But I took advantage of that and started writing more books. I made lemonade out of my lemons.

Jim Rembach:    Well good move for you and let you have the luxury to do that because you initially were that saver.

Karen Martin:     Yeah. I’m actually going through a hump right now where it’s a business model hunk. I’ve had a lot of incredibly gifted and skilled 1099 contractors on my team for a long time because they’re so skilled and they’re easy to pull in and out of projects as you need them. But I’m moving to a W2 model now with employees because I want greater predictability and greater ability to have someone be available to me and not their own clients because a lot of the 1099 people have their own businesses as well. So it’s not easy making that transition from 1099’s to W2s.

Jim Rembach:    If you started looking about that whole going to risk component talking about that 2008 thing if you were back then and you had a lot of W2s that would have actually do the whole dynamic.

Karen Martin:     Yes, that would have been a bad deal.

Jim Rembach:    Most definitely. Looking at that, how do you prepare for the next economic downturn, it’s not if it’s a when. How do you really make sure that you’re mitigating or reducing risks associated with that?

Karen Martin:     First of all escrow your money away, that tried-and-true save, save, save because you never know when…this is what business is struggling with they’re strangled with debt that they don’t have any flexibility when things don’t go as well. Every time we have flush like a (30:40 inaudible) in economic times we say woo hooo, it’s great. But to your point it is going to be a matter of time it’s not if it’s a when. So cash is important. And then the other thing is that Toyota has been masterful during tough times of never laying people off. What they do is they move those people into other positions where they’ve not been able to spend time. In my case business development, codification of our approaches, all kinds of things but it takes cash to be able to do that to make that commitment to no layoffs and things like that. I don’t think you can grow a business very effectively without employees I’m just now kind of facing that it’s time to do it and do it in a big way.

Jim Rembach:    Good for you. And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best.

Karen Martin:     Thank you very much. Thank you. 

Jim Rembach:    Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.

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Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time to do the Hump day Hoedown. Okay, Karen, the Hump day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and you’re going to give me robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Karen Martin, are you ready to hoedown? 

Karen Martin:     I’m ready to hoedown

Jim Rembach:    Okay.  What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

Karen Martin:     Striving for perfection.

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

Karen Martin:     Listen, listen, listen and you don’t know it all.  

Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

Karen Martin:     Tenacity. Like a dog going after a bone.

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

Karen Martin:     Listening. 

Jim Rembach:    What would be one book that you’d recommend to our listeners, it could be from any genre of course we’re going to put a link to Clarity First and your other books on our show notes page as well.

Karen Martin:     Since we’ve been talking about why a lot, Simon Sinek’s book—I think that’s how you say his last name—Start With Why, was really one of the things that started getting me down the path of purpose. None of my previous employers had really talked about it and I didn’t really understand how important it was because we talked about mission, vision, values, not purpose. So I love, Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Jim Rembach:    Okay,  you can find links to that and other bonus materials by going to Karen’s show notes page and that is at Okay, Karen, this is my last hump day hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity go back to the age 25. And you’ve given all the knowledge and skills that you have now and you can take them back with you but you can’t take them all, you can only choose one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

Karen Martin:     My job with a staff is to develop them. Not to order them around and have them do my bidding. My job is to develop people I didn’t get that early enough and I now do, thankfully.

Jim Rembach:    Karen Martin thank you for joining us today. Can you let the Fast Leader Legion know how they can connect with you?

Karen Martin:     You can check out our website, which stands for our older name We’ve got webinars, social media connections there. I’m on Twitter, karenmartinopex. LinkedIn, karenmartinopex…op ex as in operational excellence. The websites’ probably the easiest way because there’s one-stop shopping there.

Jim Rembach:    Karen, thank you for sharing your notes and wisdom and the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get for the hump. Woot! Woot!

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