Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Deb Terry, Founder of Skillblenders & Simona Pappalardo, Senior Director at Whirlpool Corporation - Episode 1047



Randy Ford: Welcome to the Success InSight podcast. I'm your host today, Randy Ford, and we've got a return guest with us today but with another guest. So I want to welcome back Deb Terry to the podcast. She's the President and Founder of Skill Blenders at, and if you have not had a chance to hear from Deb, we've had two opportunities to talk to her on the podcast and I would recommend that you go back and listen. That's episode 1005 and 1002. But Deb, first of all, welcome back.

Deb Terry: Thank you.

Randy Ford: And for those people who have not yet had a chance to listen to those, just remind us again about what you do and what Skillblenders is.

Deb Terry: What I do is I work with people and organizations to become more effective and building teams, leading, and leading others.

Randy Ford: And what kinds of organizations do you typically work?

Deb Terry: Well, a range of organizations, some nonprofits all the way up to large fortune 200 corporations like Whirlpool Corporation and a few others.

Randy Ford: Okay, and you mentioned that you brought a guest today. Why don't you introduce us to the other person joining us today?

Deb Terry: Sure. I'm really happy to introduce you to Simona Pappalardo. I had the opportunity to meet Simona about 3-4 years ago. Our paths crossed. We talk about leadership development and personal effectiveness development and had the opportunity to work with her and see her success as a people leader, as well as a technology leader in her field.

Randy Ford: Great. Simona, welcome to Success InSight podcast.

Simona Pappalardo: Thank you, Randy. Thank you for having me today.

Randy Ford: Why don't you tell us a little bit about you, your organization, and what you do there?

Simona Pappalardo: So I'm Simona Pappalardo. I am currently Electronics Electrical Systems Senior Director for Whirlpool Corporation. I am located in Benton Harbor, Michigan. I'm originally from Italy though, from Milan, and I've been working with Whirlpool for eight years now. My biggest role and especially the roles where I've been working with that the most, I've been in the quality organization for Whirlpool. And so I have taken roles of increasing responsibility; starting as an individual contributor or taking care of electronics components quality till I became the Director for our Global Electronics Quality team.

Randy Ford: Great. What were some of the challenges that you had that made you think about reaching out to someone like Deb?

Simona Pappalardo: Well first of all, as you can imagine, I lead a team of engineers, so typically these are extremely smart people, very detail-oriented, very fact-based, data-driven. And so sometimes I've seen them develop leadership skills. So the soft skills, communication, how to interact better together doesn't come necessarily natural to these type of people. There is no education in engineering school about this kind of soft skill. So when I became the leader of the team, I started wondering what I could do to foster an environment where enhancing leadership skill that was a priority for my team, and which kind of tools I could give to them. And that's when I met Deb, and it was very, very beneficial for me to bring an expert in approaching this area about developing a strategy related to these.

Randy Ford: What were the things that you knew about Deb's work that made you think that she might be the right fit to come in?

Simona Pappalardo: Well, first of all, Deb was one of our trainers in one of our leadership development programs at work at that time. So, of course, I was able to interact with our doing the class, but especially I really appreciate her openness and especially the work she did around this. It was to be an eye-opener about how different people can approach work with different styles- and I thought that that was like such an eye-opener as I said. And I wanted to share with my team the same learning that I am going through this course. So that was leading at the time.

Randy Ford: Deb, one of the things that I love about the work that you do with the DiSC model, but also all of your other training is finding the way to help everybody bring their skillsets to the table. So you need those soft skills and those leadership skills that Simona was just talking about but celebrating the other skills that everyone is already bringing to the table. So talk about what that experience was like when you first came in and met this team and the kinds of specific challenges that you saw they were facing.

Deb Terry: Well, I have the opportunity to work two different sessions with Simona. When she had her manager bring me in, it was mainly her peers, and then when she was the Director, I came in and work with the managers and her different engineers on the team, and in both situations as she's talked about the light bulb for her real light bulb went off. What I loved is two of her managers came up to me and they said, I love this because it helps me to understand why I had some challenges working with this person or Oh, so when she comes to me being in a high D, right Simona?

Simona Pappalardo: Yeah.

Deb Terry: A D, I'm a C. that's how, why I feel this way because I want her to go into more details and she's not, because this is where she's coming from. So what was great to see, knowing the excitement, but over time, hear stories about how not only those two particular people and several other people that were on our team have applied it to be even more effective, not just in face-to-face communications, but as you heard in her title, she has a global organization, but people working costs, regions cross-cultural. And that was me. It was really exciting to see that happen with their team.

Randy Ford: And that's something you and I have talked about before to Deb, about how that may not always realize that some of those different strengths and perceived weaknesses that people are bringing are actually just cultural differences geographically, which may not always be clear to people within their organization. They don't step back and think about that.

Deb Terry: If I can just jump in there with those. To me, it goes on to beyond the cross-cultural because people are people. What DiSC does such a nice job of, it looks at fundamental human behavior? So even though I may live in Shanghai, I'm a high C, behaviorally, it's very similar to someone sitting in Benton Harbor, Michigan who's a high C, and they'd have that understanding. So that's the beauty of DiSC. I think that was a view of what works in our organization because it went beyond the fact of national origins and went beyond that.

Randy Ford: Yeah, that's great. Simona, what was the process like when Deb came in?

Simona Pappalardo: So it was very interesting because the first time we did these, I was heading all of my North America team at the time. I was a senior manager and so that came in and we immediately give some exercise by using the space in the room. So she asked us to go, going on my side of the room if we were more action-oriented then, or if we were more cautious that we go on the opposite side of the room. Right. So trying to use this space to help us visualize that we might have different approaches toward different things. And so this was the first exercise that we did when we were all together. The second time though, that we did this exercise, a larger team, a global team, I really appreciated the fact that Deb could turn the program a bit upside down because we did a sort of introduction first about what these keys when we were connected on the phone. So people were when we had done the face to face meeting, we brought everyone in, right, and so we repeated the exercise. But at that time people were already aware of what this was. And so it wasn't any more necessarily used as an ice breaker exercise, a surprise exercise, but still used it in a very effective way to narrow down exactly the differences and so on. So that was very flexible with us. And as I say, hopefully, the different situation, Right?

Randy Ford: So you mentioned that the second time people knew a little bit more of what to expect. Tell us about any reluctance that some people might have had the first time going into to it. Knowing you say we're going to be doing this and there are some people, you mentioned these are engineers too, who may not think that this is something that's worth their time. Who were some of those people, you don't tell me names, but who are some of those people who were a little skeptical that this was something they were gonna find out?

Simona Pappalardo: Of course. So, sometimes in a big organization, you can have overwhelmed people sometimes. And so people that at the beginning were like, why aren't we doing these? What are you trying to tell us? What is the work? Right? Instead, on the contrary, very good news here was that as soon as this step into the training they needed to understand the value of doing something like this and, wants to really be happy with this, right. And they immediately wanted to keep the discussion going. We kept working on these, even after Deb left, doing our standard routine reviews as we were revisiting some of the things we learned. And I remember one of my manager mentioning that this was a sort of a cheat sheet on how to interact with people using terminology, Right? And so the team is like, ah, I see that you want me to get to the bottom line because you are a D, right? But actually, can you give me a bit more because I'm a C, and I need the details, right? And so just calling out the certain behaviors as associated with the DiSC style, helps people understand where are we coming from, and they saw an incredible value.

Randy Ford: Deb, is that kind of the typical experience that you've seen?

Deb Terry: I see it fairly often, but I was really thrilled with the openness and receptivity of her group, because when you have a very strong analytical mind, so the engineers, sometimes they're a little cautious when it comes to this touchy-feely stuff. So I was thrilled by the receptiveness of this whole idea. Again, a lot of people will buy it, but you know, some people, for example, I've dealt with interior decorators, they just jump into this as like, Oh this is great. And most of the time people do embrace it. But I come to manufacturing, engineering people, a lot of times there's a little bit of cautiousness just because they tend to be analytical, very fact-based and say, well, what exactly are these soft skills?

Randy Ford: Well, wouldn't you say that that's also a beauty of this model in that it is analytical, it is an opportunity to not just be touchy feely, but to see data about what works, what doesn't work and what each of us is

Deb Terry: Most definitely. That's the beauty of, I mean there's research behind it. There's a whole model, there's a proven history of it. There is substance to it and research.

Randy Ford: And Simona, this is all going to be much more successful obviously, if you're able to keep that going, and with, and I assume tools that you got from Deb, but also policies and things that you've put in place. What is that process like of coming up with the ways to make sure that this success is not something that people forget over the weekend, but it sticks?

Simona Pappalardo: Yeah, as I was trying to describe it like that, but trying to describe, DiSC is really something that clicked for us. You know what I'm saying? So I don't think there is any way you can go back after you have been explained how this works, you just know and before you even know, right. So I don't think that the problem is people will forget, because it's very easy and straightforward and it makes perfect sense because when you receive your first report of who you are from a DiSC perspective, you are like, Oh yes, this is me, who wrote this? They know me. They spied on me. It's so perfectly on the spot on the continuing to use the tools, right? It's important that you know what I'm saying. So continuing this discussion is really, really critical so that the team could see that I was committed to these, and that else build a lot of trust, right? Because now if you as a leader are able to explain to your team that you do certain things in a certain way because you're a certain style, but you know that is one of the different possible styles. So you know that your style is not the best, it is just one of the many, right? And this creates the, because basically what you're telling the team is not perfect. You bring some diversity to the table and I value your point of view because it's different from mine, right? And so right into this conversation helped me rate that I want to hear from you, your perspective. Diversity matters, your point of view matters and that builds an incredible circle of trust. That is what really makes the DiSC be high-performing for me, right? If you don't create that, you don't have the right mindset, you don't have the right empowerment for people to really reach the highest level of performance.

Randy Ford: What did you learn about yourself?

Simona Pappalardo: I learned that as a leader it's important to master all of the different styles. There is always one natural style that comes in each and every one of us, but you become a better leader in the moment in which you are fully aware of what your style is and you understand that in certain situations other styles fit better. Okay, so I can give you a clear example of my current role. I'm an ID. I am a decision-driven, action-driven. Go, go, go, never stop right. Now. I stepped in recently in a new role. First of all, I needed to learn, listen, and I don't know what to be told, right? I needed to listen first, and pause for a moment because people have been in these roles for a lot longer than me, and even if, let me say I'm the boss in a certain way, they know much better than I do. For example, this is my moment to be more supportive and more looking at data before drive actions, right? And so the ability to know that my tendency is to go go go, recognizing that the situation is think, aim, be careful, understand the extent to where other people are coming from, and understanding that this situation drives me to be a bit different from my natural self. It's very, very powerful. Does it make sense to you Randy?

Randy Ford: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm curious how then you apply that diversity that you're able to acknowledge and celebrate in a new way when for example, putting together project teams or knowing who's going to work best together, is that another practical application that comes from it?

Simona Pappalardo: Yes. So Deb and I have been talking about this a lot, right? Because we know there is plenty of research that diverse teams deliver better results. What we have also thought about is not to not give opportunities to people expand themselves beyond their natural style, right? I would say that it would be wrong to create a team of eight people all in the eight slices of the DiSC pie, right? Because that makes it artificial. If you say, it's more about making sure that we have some of the styles represented and especially empowering people. If a team doesn't have an "I", right, okay, that's the team. But they deal where a team that you don't have that style. So think about these are the aspects that you might be using. So I am more for not building the concept on purpose using this script, but more about making the teams as they are aware of where they are from a DISC perspective so that they can understand what are their blind spots.

Randy Ford: Absolutely. Deb, where do you hope that Simona and her team are in a year? If we were having this conversation again in a year, which would be great, and we should do that, but what do you hope they are able to do as they further progress?

Deb Terry: Simona started off talking about using this as a way to build trust, and trust is fundamental for a cohesive team or high-performing team and just seeing the progress she's made the last couple of years building the team and the different roles she's had, she's worked really hard to build that trust even though some people may have not met each other face-to-face. And so when you look at the development there, how does she use this as a resource and tool to take her teams to the next level of performance, especially in the roles that she's in, dealing with electronics, electrical systems. Those are fundamental to appliances as you would imagine. So knowing Simona and how she leads, to see or continue building on this to continue to build very cohesive and high-performing teams who achieve the results. I see her doing this and building upon that and I'm sure she will. She's a very strong leader.

Randy Ford: That's great. It's great to see how this has worked in practice. Before we go, we always like to do the Insight-2-go which was the opportunity we give for you to recommend anything you want to, to our audience. It can be something personal. It can be just something that you're enjoying this week. Whatever there is. Deb, why don't you go first? What's your goal for us?

Deb Terry: I picked up a book that I enjoyed reading. I am a big fan of Second City growing up in Chicago and a lot about them. It's called "Yes And", and what I love about the book is there some line says how improvisation reverses the "No But" thinking and improves creativity and collaboration. And what I love about it is it takes elements of conversation and comedy. If you didn't know Second City, it's really the birthplace of this and they've, they have a wonderful show in Chicago, and Toronto, and other parts of the US, and what they do is they look at what are the different elements, and probably tie them to be an effective leader and building teams. So when you said "yes And", you use it to build on ideas and to take chance and then you leverage the strength of an ensemble, i.e. Your team and you co-create, you showed me authentic news, several other elements there. Be a good listener, follow the follower and just really there's another tool and resource and building strong teams and also for the leader to be aware of that really they are weaving in an ensemble. So, it's one that I'm really enjoying.

Randy Ford: That's great. I just made a note of that to make sure that I check it out is actually being in Chicago and knowing the Second City scene as I do too. Simona, do you have an Insight -2-go? I know you told us you won't give us your Tiramisu recipe. That's fine. Something that you are willing to share and recommend for us.

Simona Pappalardo: For sure. I also have a book, it's called "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shonda Rhimes is the executive producer of Grey's Anatomy, one of my favorite TV shows, ever. I love her. But this book was really inspirational to me. It talks about in the end of the day, leadership, no matter in which industry you work for, no matter what you, what you want to be your own self. Let me say, bottom line, being a leader means own your personal development and by taking chances, taking risks and go out of your comfort zone. So, it's an extremely nice book to read that really easygoing and I would suggest it, especially if you're a Grey's Anatomy fan.

Randy Ford: That's great and such positive answers, '"Yes And" and "Year of Yes" are today's insight-2-Go recommendations. Well, I want to thank both of you again for being here today. It's Deb Terry, the President and Founder of course of Skillblenders and Simona Pappalardo, from Whirlpool who has also joined us today to talk a little bit about the work that she's done with them in Skillblenders. So thank you both for being here. You can find both of them on LinkedIn.

Simona Pappalardo: Thank you so much.

Deb Terry: Thank you.

Randy Ford: For my co-host, Howard Fox. I'm Randy Ford. We will talk to you next time on the Success InSight podcast.

Deb Terry is the Founder of Skillblenders. Deb is an Executive Coach | Mentor | and Facilitator who is passionate about helping people grow & expand their understanding of themselves and working with others. Deb invites you to visit her at

Click here to connect with Deb on LinkedIn

Click here to connect with Simona on LinkedIn.

Deb & Simon's Insights-2-Go, Yes, And, and Year of Yes can be found on Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment