Grategy Founder Lisa Ryan Reveals Her Secrets to Retaining Your Talent

PostedThursday, April 20, 2023 at 6:09 PM

Grategy Founder Lisa Ryan Reveals Her Secrets to Retaining Your Talent

The following is a partial transcript of the full audio of Lisa Ryan's appearance on Talking Industrial Automation. Lisa Ryan is a certified speaking professional, an award-winning speaker and best-selling author and founder and owner of Grategy.

Lisa Richter: How did you end up becoming a professional speaker?

Lisa Ryan: I have been speaking as part of my career since 1997. I spent years in the welding industry, and I was not only doing things like oxy-acetylene safety seminars, but I was also their corporate computer trainer.

When I left the welding industry, I went into healthcare, and part of the way that I decided to build credibility for myself was do a lot of continuing education programs.

I was able to take boring topics -- latex allergies, double gloving, occupational asthma and hand hygiene --  and make them interesting enough that I did more than 500 programs in the 7 years that I was there.

Then when my medical sales position was eliminated via group conference call on October 12th, 2010, with 12 of us getting canned at the same time, I basically said, “No company will ever do that to me again.”

I started my business on that day, and I have been a fulltime professional speaker ever since.


Lisa Richter: What are some of the topics that you talk about professionally, and how did you come to get that expertise to share?

Lisa Ryan: My program is focused on workplace culture as far as keeping your top talent from becoming someone else’s. I have programs on generations in the workplace, which isn’t as hot as it used to be when everybody was trying to figure out millennials. It’s like, for goodness’ sake, millennials are in their 40s. Leave them alone.

But now we have Gen Z who’s coming in and they’re a lot different.

I have programs on onboarding strategies because in today’s market, it’s hard enough to find good employees that it’s important that you start from Day 1 to onboard them correctly so that you can keep them.

My company is Grategy, which is gratitude strategies, and all my programs have that underlying focus on the power of gratitude and appreciation and how that works not only in the workplace but in your personal life as well.


Lisa Richter: If you’re willing to share, what is a mistake that you made and what did you learn from it?

Lisa Ryan: Oh, wow. The funny thing is I think that we make mistakes. But when we look back on them, we find out that they really weren’t. For me, in high school, I never thought about college.

I didn’t know anyone who was going to college. Neither of my parents went to college. It literally never crossed my mind when I was in high school.

Then I started working for an executive search firm and basically started seeing, “Ha! People with degrees make more money than people without them. So, I should go to college.”

Fourteen years later, I have my MBA. But it was going to school, working all day, and going to school Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 to 8 and 8 to 10.

The reason I didn’t go to school on Wednesdays is because Dynasty was on TV, and I had my priorities.

I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I had been more aware of college and I had been paying more attention because I was always good in school. I just didn’t know that there was that additional opportunity for me to pursue it.


Lisa Richter: What makes you optimistic about the future of industrial automation?

Lisa Ryan: There’s so much about just being able – the productivity changes that we’re seeing. I had on my podcast one person and the way that they figured out how to automate is they asked their employees what was the job that they hated doing the most and they started there.

So, we can get rid of the routine tasks. We can free up human workers to focus on more creative and innovative tasks that really require their critical thinking and their problem-solving skills instead of just their hand, their labor.


Lisa Richter: What was the job that they hated the most?

Lisa Ryan: On the line, there was a casting that they had to basically pick up from the line. It weighed 20 pounds, 20, 25 pounds and they had to physically pick up that casting and take it to another part of the plant.

So, you think about that and that was kind of like of course we can automate that. But until you ask your employees what’s the worst part of their job – because sometimes you’re afraid of the answer.

But having that open, honest conversation and then also gives them the buy-in that they need to alleviate the fear that their job is going to be eliminated, but basically their job is going to be made better and easier, and they can focus on other things.


Lisa Richter: What you will be talking about at the 2023 CSIA Executive conference?

Lisa Ryan: We’re going to look at the grategies or gratitude strategies to attract and retain your top talent and remain competitive in your industry. What are the things that you can do little by little to change the culture so that you build a nice reputation?

The good thing about it is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money, anything that we talk about. But the bad news is, is that your company culture took a long time to build. It does not change overnight. So, it really takes that level of commitment in the different gratitude strategies that we will be going through.

I encourage my audience members to pick one. Pick one thing that you commit to over the long term.

Sometimes that starts with the apology approach to say, “You know what? I have not let you know how much I appreciate you and the excellent work you do around here. I’m going to do a better job of it.”

Because if I come into work and I go up to you and I say, “Hey, Lisa, thanks so much. Great job!” and I have never thanked you in my life, you’re going to be like, “Uh-oh! What does she want?” Because you don’t trust me.

But if I come up and say, “You know what? I’m so sorry. You’re such an awesome worker and I just haven’t taken the time to let you know that. I’m going to make more of an effort.”

Now in your mind, you’re going to be saying, “Wow, it’s on her.” And there may be some accountability in there that now you know I’m trying.

And there’s vulnerability on my part that I’m kind of letting you know that, you know, I’m not all that and a bag of chips in everything that I do.


Lisa Richter: So, continuing that theme, what else can you share for those people who maybe aren’t able to attend the conference?

Lisa Ryan: It’s the little things. It’s letting your employees know that they’re part of something bigger than they are -- sharing your mission.

You are just not making instrumentation and automation. You are making people’s lives easier. You’re making quality go up. You’re improving the lives of the customers. You’re doing all these things that are just letting employees know that they’re a part of something bigger.

One of my favorite examples: When I was speaking to the spring manufacturer’s industry, one of the audience participants talked about how they take a spring. They put it on a poster, and they call it their part of the week because they want their employees to know, no, you’re just not sitting here making springs. You’re making a component of life-saving hospital equipment or you’re making something for a 747 or, on Thanksgiving, you’re making the spring that pops up the turkey.

There are ways to communicate your mission, to recognize excellence. There are so many times that we – you know, when things are going great, we celebrate. When things are going poorly, we bring it to our staff’s attention. But when things are just going along swimmingly like they should, we don’t take the time to notice that wow, things are just going as they should be and realizing that and then also investing in your employees, creating a learning environment.

There’s still a lot of that mentality that oh, if I spend all that money in training my employees, they’re just going to take all that knowledge and leave anyway. The thing is they’re not. Your employees are looking to be better tomorrow than they are today.

What if you decide not to invest in them and they stay with you? I mean how helpful is that?


Lisa Richter: What advice would you give to the lay people, maybe who had to make a presentation in front of their department or something like that?

Lisa Ryan: The best resource for public speaking is an organization called Toastmasters. It gives you a safe space to practice your speaking, because it really is scary to begin with.

When I first joined Toastmasters in 1987. I was giving my first speech, and it was an ice breaker. So, 4 to 6 minutes about the subject I know best, me.

I shook for 30 minutes before that speech and for 45 minutes afterwards. I still get nervous every single time I talk, and I’m OK with that because I know that I get nervous because I care.

So, investing in some time to improve the craft instead of basically practicing in front of an audience. But some of the best ways is to realize that you are speaking for a reason. You were asked to speak to convey information because somebody thought what you have to say is of value.

You can get more and more comfortable with it. It is a fear that goes way back to the way that we were wired because, if you think about it, is when you are up and front, you have all eyes on you and that basically takes us back to our fight or flight when we were going to be attacked by the saber-toothed tiger.

Just giving yourself a break. Don’t apologize when you get up in front of an audience and say, “Oh, I’m so nervous for being here.” That’s the worst, absolute worst way to start a talk because it immediately takes away your credibility and people will think like, “Oh, no. Why am I going to be listening to this painful conversation?”

Take a deep breath before you go on. Say in your mind, “I’m going to rock this,” and go out and do exactly that.


Lisa Richter: What about people who maybe even struggled to stand up and introduce themselves in front of anybody else or even start a conversation maybe at a party or networking event?

Lisa Ryan: Because I’m an extrovert it’s a little foreign for me to – I walk into a room full of people I don’t know and I say, “Wow! People who haven’t heard my stories before. This is awesome!”

But for those who don’t’ feel that way, think about the ways that you are comfortable and try to expand on that.

So, if you’re going to a networking event, say – don’t set a goal that I’m going to collect the cards of 20 people. You know what? I’m going to find one person who’s standing on their own, introduce myself and I’m going to meet one person. I’m going to make one new friend.

And a lot of times too, if you’re by yourself and you see somebody else who’s by themselves, you know, the same thing. They’re just kind of looking around. They’re uncomfortable. To just go up and say, “Man, I don’t know anybody here either. Do you?”

So, a little bit of vulnerability and then just, “So what brings you here?” and make it all about the other person, asking them about them. But I think that looking for ways to make a friend in that and go in it that this isn’t a networking. I’m going to set a goal to meet one person that I didn’t know before.


Lisa Richter: And that’s great advice, especially the part about making it all about them. It takes the focus off yourself and maybe that lessens your nervousness if you’re really thinking about, you know, I’m just going to focus on this other person, and it will make a really good connection I think I can do that.

Lisa Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and this is part of active listening. But instead of listening to respond, which a lot of us do, listen until that person is done speaking, and then make a comment. One of the best ways, here’s a little tell. You know that person says, “Well, you know what. I just got back from going to vacation to Florida.”

You take that last word. Oh, you went to Florida. And they say, “Oh, yeah, we went on vacation. We went to Disneyworld, and we had a lot of fun and we rode Space Mountain.” Oh, Space Mountain? Yeah, it’s one of my favorite rides.

So, you can basically take the last word or two that that person says, turn it into a question. That person will talk to you all night long, and they will think you are the most brilliant conversationalist on the planet because you did it all about them.


Lisa Richter: So now we’re at the point of the program where I’m going to ask you what three books or podcasts you would recommend.

Lisa Ryan: You know what, my favorite books and this goes back years, probably Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It was written in 1937 but it really focuses on the power that we have in our mind to create what we want.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, which was also written around that same time, and the funny thing about The Magic of Thinking Big is he talks about the thought that they’re talking about building a tunnel from England to France, which obviously we know the Chunnel has happened.

Then by Lynn Grabhorn. It’s a book called Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting. It’s really about the power of the thoughts that we put in our head, because in a lot of cases, we don’t let anybody on the planet speak to us as badly as we speak to ourselves.

Just by changing the conversation that we have in our own heads, and Lynn Grabhorn’s book is a great way for that. It’s a great way to do that.


Lisa Richter: OK, final question. What is the best advice you could give your younger self just getting started?

Lisa Ryan: Thankfully persistence is my superpower, but I would remind my younger self to just be patient and trust the process because success doesn’t happen overnight. You know, to take risks, to try new things. Not letting anybody or anything hold you back and then with a single-minded focus to your goal.

Like for me, for my speaking career, there was no plan B. There was not anything else that I wanted to do. I have just found that with that level of persistence, continuous action and dedication to one thing that you can do exactly what you set your mind to do.


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Lisa Richter Director of Industry Outreach and Growth Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) Chicago, IL
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