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Enjoy your journey: Brad Voorhees

Michael Hunter


Welcome to Uncommon Leadership.

I’m Michael Hunter, with Uncommon Teams.

Today, I’m talking with Brad Voorhees.

Brad is the cornerstone of ScaleTx, bringing a wealth of experience with over 15 years in leadership roles and a track record of building and scaling HR departments from the ground up. His expertise lies in providing strategic guidance, hands-on leadership, and mentorship, driving HR departments to become instrumental in organizational growth.

Welcome, Brad!

Brad Voorhees

Thank you, Mike, for having me. I’m excited to be here.


I’m happy to have you here today.


Great, and I appreciate the reschedule.


You’re very welcome. I’d rather have you up at your best than trying to drag through when you’re down with the flu. That’s never a fun thing.


I apologize to your audience in advance. There is still a bit of a lingering cough. Especially when I get long winded, it has to come out. I have no other choice, Mike, it’s natural. It just comes out and I can’t control it whatsoever. We may have to use some of your editing skills to knock out some of my cough, but everything else you have me for.


That sounds great. That won’t be a problem. I had another guest here, had a coughing fit and we had about five minutes that got edited out because they coughed and coughed, went and got a drink, coughed some more, and eventually we were good to go.

It’s just a conversation. No big deal.


Just a conversation. Coughs happen naturally, right?


That’s right.

In your journey to seeing people as people and learning to leverage their unique gifts to best accomplish your goals, when did you first recognize this might be a valuable approach?


I don’t know if there was, when I first recognized it, when I just look back at my experience in HR [human resources], if there was a particular moment, but I certainly can give particular examples. Whether that was the first or not, I am not exactly sure.

One of my gifts that I had, not only that, but something that I truly enjoyed doing, Mike, is a part of the talent acquisition process.

Working for small companies, startups, I worked in a lot of HR departments where it was an HR department of one. That experience has helped me be now able to advise small businesses who don’t have any HR teams . Because you have to be more resourceful when it is a smaller team.

So, a lot of that corporate experience has really come into play into what I do now. I can give a couple of particular examples that I remember off the top of my head.

When somebody applied to a Customer Success job, it was at a software company that I worked at years ago. Now, this individual worked at a; I’m sorry, she applied to a Customer Success role; that’s what she was interested in, that’s what her background in other software companies had been in.

But I looked at her LinkedIn profile, I was looking at her resume, and I spoke to her in the first interview, like a standard phone interview. And I left that call, Mike, and I said, “I bet this person would be fantastic at sales.” Something just told me that she was someone I bet would be great on our sales team.

So before we moved forward to the hiring manager, I called her back, maybe the day afterwards, and I presented that opportunity. We just so happened to be hiring for the sales team as well during that time.

I called her back and I presented her the opportunity and she was like, “I have never thought—ever about being in sales, but it’s something I always wanted to try.” That’s what she told me. It was like, it’s yes. And, of course, I explained to her how those two teams work together, the job that she applied to, and then the sales job I was telling her about. Of course, I was telling her, and this is in most organizations, that the ability to earn more definitely comes on the sales side naturally. But it’s also higher risk.

We went through the entire process. She ended up getting the sales job, being wildly successful at it.

And now it’s been about six years. She’s still in sales. For different companies now, but she’s still in sales.

That one conversation that I had that very first phone interview; and this was, Mike, this was before COVID where, most initial interviews were just done over a phone. I didn’t meet her face-to-face like this or any type of video call, which is fairly common now with first-round interviews. But I left that conversation saying she was super articulate; she had the right amount of energy; she was able to explain the product; the words that she was using.

I remember leaving that conversation saying this candidate can do something more than Customer Success. I bet she’d be a fantastic salesperson.

That’s where it led into being able to carve out a different path for her, that she now is still on that path and wildly successful.


I love that example.

I see this all the time as well. That a person does a thing because it’s what they’ve always done, where it’s the box they’ve been shoved into, and they do fine there, they may even be doing really well. And yet when we see more of them, see, understand who they truly are, then there’s somewhere else that may be just a tiny shift or a completely different shift, like in your case, and they just go off the charts amazing.



It ended up working out so well for that particular candidate that it was about six months later, where something similar happened, another candidate applied to a Customer Success role, I left the very first conversation thinking, this is that person all over again. And we went down that exact same path.

So, it happened twice, which was great too, because from just a recruiting standpoint, salespeople are hard to recruit for. People who are successful in sales careers are hard to recruit for because usually, if they’re really good at their current employer and they’re making great money, they’re hard to pry away because they’ve already put in all the time to build up the pipeline, learn about the product, a lot of times sales cycles are long. They’ve put all of their self-resources into making themselves successful at their current job, where the ramp-up is very long. And so good salespeople naturally are hard to recruit. Especially in the software industry, where it’s hyper-competitive.

Being able to find some diamond in the roughs applying to something else and being able to shift their mind and their thinking towards something new really was a great strategy for that company.


How can I, as a leader, identify those diamonds in the rough, whether it’s candidates that I’m interviewing or considering, or people on my team, around my team, that already work in the company, may already be in my team, and yet may not be in that best-fit position for them?


Yeah. A lot of times when you are, I’ll use the example of the exercise I go through my clients when they want to establish a set of core values.

I’ll go into a small business. They may not have a set of core values established. And that’s one of the things that they want to build up, along with my services.

The exercise that I have my clients go through is I say, “Look at your team and take your best people and write down all of the great things about that particular individual or this group of people. So now you have all of these sets of qualities that your best people have given you.

And all you had to do is you had to take time to just sit down and write about them.

Because of course, naturally it’s not something that you would normally do, where you’re like, “Hey, I’m just going to take my free time and write down all of the great things that I like about Mike.” That’s not a natural exercise.

So, me telling my clients to do that, it really forces them into that.

The reason I say this story is because it is a great way to identify potential talent and leadership capabilities with your people.

I was just giving the example on how to set core values. But if you know what you look for in your leadership levels, sometimes all you have to do is go through an exercise to step back and actually look at who you have as a leader currently on the bench where you just may not even realize it.

If you establish, along with the rest of your leadership team, “This is what we want. These are the qualities that we want. In all of our leaders, let’s take a look at our current work, our current staff, our current team and establish who has that right now.” I’ve seen that be very successful for smaller organizations to help identify the next up-and-comers, because it’s not always the person that performs the best at their job as an individual contributor.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they would, it would make them a great manager.

For example, if we’re going to stick on sales, just because you’re crushing your quota and hitting it every quarter, that doesn’t necessarily make you a great sales manager.

I could say that for just about every position.

Companies naturally, they want to do that. They want to take their best performers at the individual level, and they want to stick them in some sort of management or leadership role just because they do their job really well.

That’s important. That’s not something to say, let’s not use that, but that shouldn’t be the only qualifier to become a manager or a leader at your company.


Absolutely. In software, this still pretty much has become a cliche really that, Rose is doing great as a programmer or a tester or a program manager, so of course they’re going to be an awesome dev lead, test lead, head PM.

And that’s not necessarily the case.


It’s not. It’s not.


That’s really saying, just because you’re an apple, of course, you’re going to be a great orange. They’re really two completely different things. And there’s overlap in the skills that are needed in both those roles, but it’s not anywhere near the same.


Yeah. I always thought, because naturally, I can, from the earliest times I can remember, Mike, junior high, even elementary school, myself being a good communicator. I have never ever struggled with discomfort and being able to communicate not only with people individually, but public speaking, any of that.

I’ve always been able to, if you ask me to right now, “Prepare something. Brad, you’re about to speak in front of 500 people. You’re about to make an intro in thirty minutes. We want you to introduce our guest speaker. There’s going to be 500 people sitting in the audience.” That’s not something that I would even bat an eye. It’s just something that just comes to me naturally.

I have always felt that individuals that can communicate with that level of confidence that I hold myself to, they become really good leaders because so much of leadership is being able to just communicate both the good and the bad, have the good conversations and the tough conversations, hold people accountable.

Doing all of these things is how you communicate those things.

If you are about to have a tough conversation with one of your employees, if, you know how to deliver, that conversation can go one of two different ways. And those two different ways are polar opposites.

You could take a bad conversation and it could go from, here to down here really quickly, or you can deliver the bad news, for example, or if it’s a coaching conversation, they can leave feeling inspired and know exactly what they have to do and what to work on. And it comes from a level of care .

That’s all about how the leader communicated that one message.

When clients say, “How can we identify leaders within our current staff?” communication is a skill that I say, “You guys need to tell me who your best communicators are.” That is a great start to being able to tell you if they can be, if they’re destined, for more of a managerial or leadership role.


How can we assess communication skills, our own, those of our team, those of our peers, if we’re not certain what good communication looks like or feels like?


If you’re not certain, if it’s a one person running the show that’s making the calls and you’re uncertain about what communication is, or you’re letting your own bias and your subjectivity tell you what community good communication is. Which every CEO [chief executive officer] loves to have their opinion on if what’s good communication or not.

I deal with a lot of all, my business is small business, so the owner is usually also the CEO, the president of the company, the director of operations, it’s usually the same person. There’s always like this man or woman at the top of the hill that’s calling all the shots.

If you’re unable as that person to determine what is good communication or not, I actually take that as a really good sign.

The reason I say that is because you’re at least being open to the fact that you don’t know the answer to this, which is different than about what ninety percent of the CEOs out there say.

Normally you would say you would hear, “I know exactly what good communication looks like. It looks like how I communicate,.” So for when I get an owner that tells me, “I don’t know what that looks like,” I take that as a fantastic sign of them realizing their own deficiencies in communication right there.

That’s where somebody, whether it’s an HR advisor, or you want to create a council within your own company, or if you want to continue to pour resources into consultants outside of the organization, and maybe those consultants would give you advice like mine, or maybe those consultants will bring in some sort of test or qualifier, which we’re all familiar with, to tell us what works and what doesn’t; there’s different ways that you can do it.

One of the telltale signs that is very encouraging is when I have a CEO that tells me, “I am uncertain what great communication looks like. We need help here.” Because it tells me that they’re going to be open to suggestions, whether it’s from me or somebody internally or somebody else, because they realize the severity of what you’re trying to accomplish and what good communication can do for your organization.


Have you found, over all of your experience, a constant definition of communication that holds true across pretty much every organization you’ve worked with?


I wouldn’t say there’s a constant from that angle, not one that I’ve stepped back and said, “I’ve noticed this. This is something that,” because again, it comes rather naturally to me.

That’s probably like my own blinders on, because it comes so naturally to me, I fail to really recognize the patterns from one to the next.

But what I would tell you, and it’s important to communication, but other behaviors as well, is that leaders tend to have this gravitas that others want to emulate.

That is what I do notice is a trend from one organization to the next.

Maybe that leader has great communication skills, among other things, that naturally people want to emulate and behave.

That’s why it’s so important when you are, to go back to the analogy I was using about setting core values, if you’ve got people that have these behaviors that you’re like, “I wish everybody in our organization had these set of behaviors, what our company could look like? How can we perform if everybody fit this mold?” I shouldn’t say fit this mold, but to the extent where everybody had these shared behaviors, what would it look like?

That is what I do see as a trend from one organization to the next: is leaders just behave in a way that others naturally just want to be like.


Those shining examples can help us understand what our company values, and also help us watch out for where those values are becoming binders.

Because there’s this balance between the values that we uphold in this company, and we want everyone to exhibit and live these values, versus diversity and how might we benefit from having some people work here who, those aren’t the values they care about at all. They may never exhibit those values.

There’s this tension between, “I really value honesty,” to make up an example, and what would be the benefit of having someone working here who honesty isn’t something that they care about? Which is not necessarily to say that they’re being dishonest; that’s just not what’s top of their importance values ladder for whatever reason.



There’s a difference between values and behaviors.

When I first started off in this field years ago, company core values wasn’t even something that most companies even talked about, and if they did, they certainly didn’t have the widespread appeal that they do now.

How many times that I’ve been in an interview with somebody fresh out of college, and I get asked the question, “What’s your culture like?” or “Tell me about your values.” You get that asked all the time because that’s what professors are telling their students to ask.

But that wasn’t happening when I was in college.

People naturally think about core values as a poster on the wall. And honesty, honesty is one of our values. And it’s like on white lettering with an orange background, size 32 font, and it’s framed really nice and it’s up on the wall of values.

You’re smiling because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Because people, HR departments and exterior consultants, come in and say, “You need to have a strong set of values.” Why? Oh that’s just because you should. It’s good for your business.

What I help my clients with is, again, establishing those values, but what are the behaviors behind those values?

If honesty is one of your values, then how can people act out honesty and interpret honesty in their way? And we’re using an example that is hard to flub, right? Honesty is there, it’s rather black and white, but you understand my point where it’s not just a value. It’s how is honesty perceived and acted out at that particular company.

And you do that from one to the next.

What happens there is everybody gets their own flavor on what honesty means to them.

Why this helps is because it helps with your point about diversity, from one value to the next, from one person to the next.

Everybody’s goal is for, from a company standpoint, is for each person to be a net positive to the culture.

What do they bring to the table that makes the work environment a more positive place?

You want to stay away, of course, from individuals where it’s a net negative right at that point they’re a detriment to the culture.

And you’ve got a lot of people who are maybe just neutral, they’re doing their thing.

But the goal is to always get people to add and be a net positive to their culture.

This is where I really think having those behaviors described and where diversity can really shine and add to a company.


I love this, your description or definition of people being a net positive.

That fits really well with this example of, honesty is one of our core values; honesty is not something, a core value for this person. And yet they can still behave in a way that aligns with what honesty, looks sounds, feels, tastes, smells like, for the people at the company. As long as that person is still bringing the company up overall, then honesty, not being something that they are especially fluffed about, isn’t a big deal because they’re bringing other things.


They’re bringing other things. That’s right.

That’s why, Mike, I avoid using terms like “fit in.”

That’s why I corrected myself about three minutes ago when I said it, because success is reliant on standing out, not fitting in.

When I say that, I don’t mean to the most extreme examples where everybody stands out, everybody’s a superstar. Everybody is the loudest person in the room; that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I am referring to is that you’re standing out in a way that you, Mike, are adding something as a net positive to the company.

That’s how you stand out: how you come to work every day. And you’re adding something that’s a net positive.


It’s a cooperative standing out versus a competitive standing out.


That’s right. That’s right. And again, going back to diversity and inclusion, when we look at it more as a cooperative, compared to a competitive, then you can really start to embrace that. Because we know some people are just more competitive than others; naturally, they just are.


And that can become extremely cooperative.

If we know that Joe and Sally and Bob really get off on the competition, that’s super, that’s motivating for them, then we can frame what we’re asking them to do in competitive ways against themselves, against each other, against other people who don’t care that they’re being competed against. And it helps them.

It doesn’t mean the whole team has to be in on the competition.


That’s right.


Even when something that might seem to be antithesis, a competition is, a core value of how the team or the company operates, we can still celebrate and instigate and encourage competition for people for whom that’s important.




What else should I ask you today, Brad?


We can talk a little bit about how my business, how we view development, since we’re on that track.

I recently did a post about the linear nature that most companies view development at this point, still. Decades later, development has been rather unchanged for how most companies view development of their people in a much very traditional linear way.

I’ll use an example.

At an agency, you start off as a buyer specialist, next step would be strategist, team lead, manager, director. That’s a very linear. And each track that you hit, comes with a set of accomplishments or years of experience, mainly, to qualify to get to your next level.

I was thinking about this.

Humans just don’t do stuff in a linear way naturally.

We love being sporadic and doing weird things and doing weird things because there’s a sense of enjoyment in adventure of going off the beaten path.

This concept of learning journeys that I’m advising clients on now to really help them think outside of, and this could be for leadership development or anything, to think outside of that linear structure and think more about a natural human progression of getting from one place to the next, is something that I’m advising clients and helping them develop right now, as they look to fill out the rest of their organizational design, and they’re thinking about roles that are going to be important to them and their future to help achieve the goals that they’ve set out.

That’s something that I’ve been enjoying working with clients on recently is learning journeys and developing programs that really hit more for how humans learn now, which are even more important in the environments that we’re in with it being remote and people not knowing their manager to the level that they did just five years ago.


I love this term learning journey. That it highlights that it’s a process, not a destination.


That’s correct.


The process, the journey, is as, perhaps even more, important than the destination of, okay, now you’ve exhibited all of the behaviors and knowledge capabilities that we believe means you’re ready to take on this additional role.


I’ll give a great example personally.

Where I live, as far as I know, there’s no other state in the country besides Michigan, where people who live in the area that I live in, which is Metro Detroit, so that’s the southeast end of Michigan, and that’s of course where the majority of the people in this state live, is in the Tri-County area that I live in, that’s where the majority of the state live in. Everybody lives down here to use “the mitt,” and everything above here and up, that’s inclusive of the UP [upper peninsula], is considered by down here, it’s considered Up North Michigan. And I don’t know any other state where that says ” Oh, we have an up north this or an up north,” that so everybody that lives here where I live when I say “Up North Michigan,” they know exactly what I’m talking about.

This year is the twenty-fourth year that me and my best friends are going up to our cottage in Up North Michigan. Around here, right? Right here on the west side of the state. Lake Michigan isn’t that far away. Up North Michigan.

It’s close to a four-hour drive from where I live.

The reason why this story is applicable is because, to your point for us doing it, the amount of time that we have been, the destination is fun, yes, and the trip, but some of my greatest memories are the drives up there, the journey to get to Up North. Driving the three-and-a-half hours to four hours, stopping and getting breakfast, or whatever we do. It’s the journey that I can remember, the conversations that I’ve had with my buddies in a car for that long, and getting with the anticipation and the excitement of finally getting up there.

This is no different than how employees view their development.

It’s the journey that they get to take to eventually get the prize, get that, where they’re at the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

It’s everything that they learn and all the experience that they have on their way that makes it special.

I don’t know if you have a similar relatable story like mine, but that got me thinking about it, of how much I enjoy the drive more than anything else.


What comes to mind for me is that the teams who most consistently are high performers are teams who celebrate the journey through everything that they do.

Individual development, the journeys of projects down to individual sprints and tasks.

Yes, it’s great when we get the thing done, and we celebrate that.

And the journey to getting there is also celebrated.

When this pervades everything that the team does, then that’s guaranteed, in my experience, to be a high-performing team.


I would agree with you because it’s also in human nature.

When you accomplished whatever you set out to accomplish, have you ever noticed that the gratification of accomplishing that is very short lived? Oh, I’ve made this amount of money, or I got to buy this house, or I got to buy this car or I accomplished this or whatever. You psych yourself up that it’s going to be so much better when you actually get it.

And then it hits, and you are excited, but it dies off rather quickly.

Because we naturally say, “Okay, what’s next?”

We’re caught.

We’re constantly saying, “What’s next?”

That’s where the journey to, and like you said, celebrating along the way, that builds something of longer-lasting value than when you actually get it.


One of the reasons that ten turns out to be a two, I find, is that when we get to that end goal, we now can see this whole new vista that we didn’t realize was there, or maybe we had just the barest hints of, and so we realized that what we thought was a ten, it’s only a two . There’s so much more that we can go on and explore and enjoy.




If people would like to contact you, Brad, and learn more about how do you evaluate and enhance their own, their team’s communication skills, developmental journeys, everything else that we’ve talked about today and you help teams with, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?


Yep. You can, one, go to my website, which is very simple: It’s just scaletx dot io and you can read more about me there, but there’s a link to my calendar. And then the better way to get in touch with me is I am posting on LinkedIn every day, Monday through Sunday, I post on LinkedIn. Follow me and follow my journey there. I share great insights and tips every single day.

If you’re a small business owner and you’ve got talent related problems, I can almost guarantee you that I’m talking about those exact problems on LinkedIn.

You can message me through LinkedIn and again, book time that way.

I’m constantly giving free advice and free tips on LinkedIn on a daily basis that business owners find really useful.

So either through LinkedIn or directly through my website. And my email is brad at scaletx dot io, very simple that way too.


Thanks. And I’ll have all those links in the show notes.

What would you like to leave our audience with today?


I would just like to leave the audience with, we’re talking about individual lanes and functions of a talent experience.

On this great call, which I really enjoyed, we touched on core values. We touched on leadership. We touched on development.

These are areas that are just a part of the talent experience wheel.

There’s so much more that myself, as an HR advisor, that I advise on when it comes down to talent experience.

The real value is being able to connect all of those different functions of HR. So like the ones we talked about, but how we connect those to total rewards, how that impacts the right HR technology that you choose, how that impacts your employee performance management strategy or employee engagement strategy, or even your organizational design, or your recruitment process, or how you onboard employees.

It’s taking all of those things and connecting them to where you actually have a talent strategy and an employee value proposition.

In a environment where the talent market is super competitive, and there’s no signs of that slowing down whatsoever, it’s not just about pay.

That’s still important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not just about that.

It’s about what you can offer your employees through an employee value proposition.

Being able to connect all of those functions, some we talked about today, some we didn’t; and connecting them and actually forming a town experience is what I get super passionate about, what I love helping small businesses discover and adding value that way.


It sounds great.

Thanks for being here today, Brad.


Thank you for having me.

Again, I appreciate the reschedule.

 I had a lot of fun.

It’s when you find people that are willing and ready to talk about things that you like talking about, when every day you’re convinced that nobody else wants to talk about those things, it’s a breath of fresh air.



And audience, please let Brad and I know: what’s your breath of fresh air that you’d like to bring in, and how could we help you? Hit us up on LinkedIn, email. We’d love to hear more.

Thanks, and have a great day.

Thanks for joining us on Uncommon Leadership today.

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