The Nonprofit Exchange Podcast


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You Can’t Change What You Tolerate

Robin Osborn

Robin Osborn

For business consultant and executive coach Robin Osborn, overcoming adversity has become a constant theme in both her personal and professional endeavors. A capable family business leader for more than three decades at Chromal Plating in California, after undergoing emergency surgery to remove a sizable brain tumor in 2021 Robin trudged through the frustrations of physical therapy for over a year until she was finally able to walk a single mile. Combining Robin’s operational, financial, and leadership prowess with personal experience, “The Frustration to Freedom Framework” emerged as a result of one of the most trying times in Robin’s life and today serves as the backbone of her consultancy to help executives achieve a kind of freedom that, as a business owner herself, she could only dream about before experiencing her unexpectedly profound transformation.


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The Interview Transcript

0:01 – Robin Osborn Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou, Founder and President of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where we work with leaders to create synergy with their vision. It’s the vision of the leader that makes a difference, but it’s also being able to create the synergy with your team. We’re talking with a fascinating guest today. I’ve just met Robin Osborne, but she found us and wanted to tell her story on the show. And what I know about it, it’s a fascinating story and a very encouraging story.

0:33 – Robin Osborn So Robin Osborne, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. Would you tell people a little bit about your background? I mean, you’ve got quite a varied background and your journey and your most recent journey. So give us a little bit of information about Robin Osborne.

0:49 – Hugh Ballou Absolutely. Thank you, Hugh. Well, I would say my journey started off, I’ll go back even to when I was 21. Unfortunately, my dad took his own life. And we were an all American family. My mom gave us the opportunity to run the company. So alongside my twin brother and my sister, we took over the business in one day, we had 40 employees. And it was the School of I would say my DNA, I’ve always been a natural leader. So I was an athlete, but I also have more dominant, confident personality style.

1:32 – Hugh Ballou We all took a seat based on our unique abilities and the learning began. So for us, we have successfully ran the company for the last 35 years. Uh, 25 years in, we got stuck. I didn’t know how to take the business to the next level. I read a book called Traction by Gina Wickman, which really enlightened and gave me a new perspective on what we needed to do. I got trained on those tools. It’s a business operating system and it focuses on strengthening the six core components in your business.

2:16 – Hugh Ballou I came back, my brother and I implemented it in our company and we doubled our revenue in 24 months. So for me, the journey, the learning was that I wasn’t being an amazing leader. I wasn’t actually in alignment with our, our core values in our company. And hence this was part of the stack of why we couldn’t grow. So the value, do what you say. Wasn’t my strength. I think I had a bit of an ego, a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. So once I really started to look at myself in the mirror, understand how I needed to step into leadership and truly drive the tools, we created transformation.

3:06 – Hugh Ballou And I forgot to tell you, we are an FAA repair station, so we overhaul aircraft components. And I’m proud to say we’ve worked for the last 30 years. In government contract work, we overhaul the missile silos. We do the launch components that throw the trap door open. So high liability. And for me, it’s been a massive learning journey. I, through the process, fell in love with coaching and consulting and those tools once I learned how to master it. So in 2014, I set out and built a second business.

3:55 – Hugh Ballou What I do now is coaching and consulting, and I go into businesses. And create transformation, not only in the business, but I would say. People grow and change. Not only professionally, but personally as well.

4:14 – Robin Osborn That is profound. You know, we forget that we’re not the same person when we started this enterprise is when we are 10 years in or 20 years in and allowing ourselves that room to change. Now, we teach our audience, which are primarily clergy and nonprofit leaders, mostly nonprofit leaders, probably 90%. So. We teach them that we are in fact running a business. Businesss. It’s not a It’s profit not a for-profit for business, it’s a for-purpose business. And it’s really a lot more difficult because you have a lot more rules and you got this volunteer dynamic and there’s a lot of variables here.

4:54 – Robin Osborn So we talked a little bit about head trash. How do you unpack head trash? For transformation, so you can get from chaos to clarity. So, before you answer that, the title of the show is you can’t change what you tolerate. So I just gave you 2 questions. Explain what you mean, you can’t change what you tolerate. And then talk about getting rid of the head track.

5:20 – Hugh Ballou Okay, awesome. I love this. You can’t change what you tolerate. Tolerate is really about, it’s about you. It’s about we can sit around and complain. We can continually be resistant to dealing with people issues, because whether you’re a for profit or nonprofit, we’ve got to have the right people in the right seats. And what I find is people are not, they like to, you know, they’re aware of the issue, but they’re not addressing it. They’re not actually having the difficult conversations.

5:58 – Hugh Ballou And in order to create change, we really need to get open, honest, and transparent with what’s in the way. And I would say, first and foremost, we need to start with ourselves. Truly look in the mirror. So the term head trash, which I really like and actually own the domain head trash dot com um how can you unpack it? It’s what I like to think of head trash is your inner voice. So the inner roommate, what is it that internally that your negative self talk? What are you saying about yourself?

6:45 – Hugh Ballou So are you not enough? Are you not smart enough? Are you not good enough? Like, what is that that we need to get to the root of Where are you, you know, holding yourself back? Because you have, you’re telling yourself a lie. Basically, so I like to peel back the layers with my clients. The other thing is, you know, how are we operating in assumptions or interpretations that actually aren’t true? So those can be blind spots that really create or keep us in chaos. And then the other thing is the limited beliefs.

7:33 – Hugh Ballou And limited beliefs can start from when we’re very young, but I’m a very strong advocate and really listening and hearing what words people are using. So if they’re in always or never, or I don’t know, sort of, kind of, probably, I think so, there’s no clarity there. So we need to really pause and dig deeper. So head trash, as far as working with your colleagues, is first and foremost, I would say, seek to understand. So don’t make an assumption and really ask how and what oriented open-ended questions to really understand what’s going on.

8:29 – Hugh Ballou Rather than, we always, we think, We know what’s truly going on, but pausing, and I call that power of the pause, is very enlightening when you’re looking to improve your team. And it’s just, you know, even in your personal relationship with a significant other, it works the same personally as it does professionally.

9:00 – Robin Osborn Power of the pause. Elaborate on that a little bit.

9:04 – Hugh Ballou So the power of the pause is, are we listening to hear or are we listening to react?

9:14 – Robin Osborn That’s right. When I first started coaching, my coaching teacher said, pause 3 seconds after they finished talking. And which does give you time to think, but it also validates that you’ve been listening. And, you know, sometimes I can tell when I’m talking to somebody, they’re not listening. They’re formulating their answer. So I don’t want to set the wrong role model. So there’s a lot of things you said in that short narrative to answer the question. But I think we have inherited, and it’s magnified somehow in the nonprofit sector, we’ve inherited some myths.

9:51 – Robin Osborn About leadership. And whether you’re dealing with a $100 million revenue company and you have people that are paid high salaries, or you’re dealing with a community charity and you have volunteers, there’s still a responsibility to respond to people who are not functioning up to standard, up to the… So there are a lot of ways that we set it up as a leader with not clear expectations, but we make it worse by not doing what you said. We don’t address it. And of course there’s things you can address in a group and things you have to address one-on-one.

10:28 – Robin Osborn But what happens when there’s… So let me give you an example. As a conductor, and I’m doing a rehearsal, And if the trumpets are too loud, if I don’t address it, people are saying, what’s wrong with him? So that’s a bad leader. So if I stop and I say trumpets is too loud, take it down one dynamic. Well, I didn’t insult them. I didn’t criticize them. I had analyzed what’s going on. They made a note. I said, let’s do it again. And they fixed it. So I addressed it. I didn’t make it personal. I said, this is what we do.

10:57 – Robin Osborn And then I said, let’s have another go at it. But I find leaders, even power leaders that don’t want to do that because they got some myth about it’s not polite to do that. What’s going on there?

11:11 – Hugh Ballou Well, again, I think part of that is their own head trash. So, depending on what what it is, they’re assuming, like, if they want to, they don’t want to come off, you know. Mean or overly aggressive or negative. What I would say is what is their, you know, the pattern, what is the trend in their, their life where that’s been reinforced? Um, the other thing that I like to do is, which is wonderful for a nonprofit because they are a purpose-based business is always communicate from the values.

11:52 – Hugh Ballou When you’re really wanting to let someone in on. What it is they need to raise the bar on, use the values because it’s not personal. It’s always for the greater good of the organization. And so I like the compliment sandwich. So, hey, you’re really doing well and going above and beyond in this area. But where I really need you to raise the bar is Commitment to excellence in that, you know, we’ve repetitively had 2 or 3 times now where this hasn’t been done. That sort of thing. That way I, I, you know, it, it takes that, uh, hesitation, fear, and truly that’s where I say, look at yourself in the mirror.

12:54 – Hugh Ballou Are you yourself aligning in those values? Truly live and breathe them. You’ve got to, you’ve got to own them and be them. Otherwise you have, Culture that is dysfunctional.

13:12 – Robin Osborn Well, and it’s a conductor. I know very well what they see is what I get. The culture is a reflection of the leader. And so it’s, but it’s magnified in real time when you’re in a concert. So, you talked about the right people in the right seats. So there’s a There’s a competency match sometimes in nonprofits who want to put people we like in the certain seats, whether they fit or not. So there’s a, there’s a, there’s a competency match for the role responsibility. But there’s also a values alignment.

13:42 – Robin Osborn So what kind of mistakes do people make in putting people in authority positions that they need to not make?

13:49 – Hugh Ballou So, 1st and foremost, I don’t believe I think you’re making a big air if you’re building a structure around people. So, a baseball team doesn’t have 3 short stops. It’s got 1. What is that structure we need? To get us to where we need to go.

14:13 – Hugh Ballou Secondly, if we may have too many people in one seat, or they don’t, there’s not clear boundaries on what the defined roles are. So we’re actually creating our own chaos. So really sitting down and simplifying the business and letting them know what their high level defined roles are. For them to be accountable and responsible. So, simplifying it and then right seats. Is, you know, if if we’ve got someone that’s a, uh, you know, does things on his time, his way, or her way and and they’re.

14:59 – Hugh Ballou They’re basically unruly. Child, and we’re not taking the reins and correcting that behavior. We’re sending a really. Bad message to the rest of the team. So it’s simple, it’s just not easy, but effectively you’re being a bad parent as a leader in the organization. And that’s, you know, to me, the structure is everything. That’s where you start. When you have chaos, you’ve got to look every quarter, every 90 days and ask yourself, do we have the right structure? Do we have the right people in the right seats.

15:47 – Robin Osborn And you’re making decisions based on your, your principles based on your values. This is how we make decisions. And so it’s really not you being mean, it’s you and I guess part of the intake process is clarifying what you’re just talking about. This is what your role responsibility is. And a lot of leaders don’t do that. Do they.

16:07 – Hugh Ballou No, and that’s where the title of our show, You Can’t Change What You Tolerate, we’re allowing it. We’re allowing the dysfunction.

16:17 – Robin Osborn We’re encouraging it. I mean, there’s enabling behaviors and then we blame other people. So come on. So let’s hit on this. Let’s come back to the summary. Why can’t we change what we tolerate? Hit on that one time real hard.

16:37 – Hugh Ballou Well, you can’t change what you tolerate if you’re not initiating and taking action and creating a plan. In order to really transform We, we, we have to build a strategy and become something new, something different if we’re just sitting around complaining or noticing that the same person’s late for the 4th time. But we’re not addressing it, then that’s on us. That’s poor leadership. So really you can’t change what you tolerate is about stepping up, leveling up and creating the new version.

17:19 – Hugh Ballou So I love, you know,

17:20 – Robin Osborn The

17:22 – Hugh Ballou New year every year is really, we’ve got to create the behaviors by action.

17:33 – Robin Osborn That’s good. I wanted you to highlight it because you talked about it, but that’s just square on. That’s what this is all about. So talk about a miracle mindset and why is that important?

17:49 – Hugh Ballou Gift of being a miracle two years ago. I was diagnosed in COVID. I thought I had depression and I had a baseball size brain tumor. Benign, but, uh, shocking for, you know, myself, my husband, everyone around us, and evidently I’d had it my whole life. And it had grown to the point where it was really impacting and affecting me. They did emergency surgery. They said I had a couple of days to live that it would take my life. So from going just into the emergency room, knowing something’s off, I’m asking him to scan my head because I kept seeing a purple circle on the wall.

18:40 – Hugh Ballou I had a life saving surgery. We didn’t know if I was going to ever speak again. They said if they hit a carotid artery, I’m not going to make it. But the pressure was really, really bad in my brain. So I woke up and I my life has changed dramatically because I’m grateful for every moment. And I went through quite a recovery process in the healing from that surgery. It took me 1 year. To walk 1 mile. And so to me, Miracle Mindset is really first and foremost is creating hope, creating hope in your life that envisioning what, you know, what does the goal look like when it’s complete, really spending time on what you can’t do, but what you’re going to create and what you will do.

19:42 – Hugh Ballou So Miracle Mindset to me, again, is about creating action. It’s about really, you know, stepping into the possibility and leaving the head trash behind. Because taking a year to walk a mile, I never looked back. Not one day. Some days I could go a quarter mile and then my neurology would give out on me. I would drag my leg back home. And then the next day I would start back. So having the inspiration and motivation every day for the greater good of whatever that goal is. And for me, honestly, I used values.

20:28 – Hugh Ballou So the four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, always do your best, don’t make assumptions, don’t take it personal and be impeccable with your word. I got there. So a little nugget, I have another opportunity. So I am deeply in the miracle mindset right now in that my tumor has come back and I have another major surgery in 17 days. And every day I’m stepping into gratitude. I’m creating the positivity. And I heard a quote that said, optimism is attainable through gratitude. And that really resonated with me, because here’s the truth.

21:27 – Hugh Ballou I could be facing, you know, death. But in my miracle mindset, it’s really about what is my next journey? I am, I believe being called for a higher calling. I am writing a book on this process. My goal is to share this hope and miracle mindset with the world. I believe we need hope, but I’m not, um, you know, spending time on what if, or why me it’s, I’m, here to really be open to the journey and to help people learn through me.

22:19 – Robin Osborn That is amazing. That is an inspiration. You know, many of us whine about things that are far less important. And, you know, that miracle mindset is just this possibility thinking, which is not fooling ourselves. It is, you know, I’ve accomplished things in my life that had no logical reasons to work. And so I’m, I know I’m proof that that does work and so I appreciate you. You’re brave, you’re a brave warrior and you are making a difference just by sharing your story with people.

22:53 – Hugh Ballou And I want to add 1 more thing. God’s the hero in my story. It’s not me, so I get a lot of certainty and comfort in that.

23:04 – Robin Osborn Absolutely, talk about adversity warrior and stepping into your power a little bit more about that.

23:12 – Hugh Ballou Yeah, so I mean, I look at my life and everything. And here’s the truth. We’re all adversity warriors. OK, life isn’t easy. We always have issues. So instead of calling it peaks and valleys, I call it peaks and pre peaks. Because we’re always on the cusp of a breakthrough.

23:35 – Hugh Ballou So again, adversity warrior is having a positive outlook on whatever you’re facing, no matter what. So an adversity warrior adapts and pivots and comes from what my definition of hope as an acronym is having only positive energy. So, again, it’s, it’s stepping into not. I would say it’s, it’s really, you know, like, right now, my mantra is I am healed.

24:17 – Robin Osborn Love it. Love it. That is that is powerful. So we’re recording this episode and December of 2023 and before the end of this year, you will be having your surgery. You, you’re redirecting your web page to your Karen bridge page. So, if people want to keep up with your progress. They can just go to Robin Osborne Rob I. N. O. S. B. O. R. N. Dot com and for the time being, it’s redirecting when you’re back and doing your work, it’ll go back to your, your website. So, it’s. It’s you had so many helpful sound bites in this interview, so people can see the transcript and read that they can also listen to it and view it.

25:07 – Robin Osborn So, if you want to find this, you’re listening to the podcast. You can go to the nonprofit exchange dot org. The Nonprofit Exchange dot org. That’s a function of Center Vision Leadership Foundation. We have a community of nonprofit leaders. We support each other. We learn. We learn to do better. And you can find us at Nonprofit Community Dot org. Nonprofit Community Dot org. We are taking applications for new members, and this is where we do the kinds of things Robyn’s talked about, but it’s the peer-to-peer Camaraderie and you’ll find this is like a workshop.

25:43 – Robin Osborn It’s a, it’s a Refresh how do we think of new ways about our work Robin? You’ve been a great inspiration to me. I learn every week, but I’ve learned some new stuff today. So, what do you want to leave people with the word of encouragement of thought a challenge? What do you want to leave people with today?

26:01 – Hugh Ballou I would like to say, you know. Take action and initiate. Hope starts with you. It really is internally about believing and continue to grow. So I just became commissioned as a C12 chair, which is a peer to peer advisory group. And I’m launching in Yorba Linda. And it’s for Christian CEO business owners and executives And I would just like to say, you know, I’m on a temporary pause. Because I have, I’m will be an adversity or warrior for what’s in front of me. And then I look forward to helping people business owners become better.

26:52 – Hugh Ballou And so my message is. Please pray for me, uh. I would like to ask everyone if they could please pray for me, but I would just say, um, believe.

27:07 – Robin Osborn Absolutely, absolutely. So that’s your I’ll repeat you’re brave and, um. Thank you for sharing your wisdom today with our listeners on the nonprofit exchange.

27:18 – Hugh Ballou Thank you.

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