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What is your one thing? Raphael Triemer

Michael Hunter


Welcome to Uncommon Leadership.

I’m Michael Hunter with Uncommon Teams.

Today I’m talking with Raphael Triemer.

Raphael helps founders scale their businesses by enhancing their customers’ experiences. He’s taking his nearly two decades of experience building relationships with customers and leading international teams at B2B SaaS and tech companies into a thriving solo practice. He has a talent for bringing a company together across and beyond departmental borders, showing his clients how to build great customer experiences by having them experience one of their own. Plus he’s fun, warm, and puts people before everything else.

Welcome, Raphael!

Raphael Triemer 0:52

Thank you so much, Michael, what an introduction. Thank you.

Michael 0:56

In your journey to seeing people as people and learning to leverage their unique gifts to best accomplish your goals, what has had the biggest impact on your progress so far?

Raphael 1:12

A mix of three different things.

One is I have been lucky enough to find some mentors in my life that teached me some important lessons. I was not always on the same opinion with them, but I learned a lot from them.

The second thing that was the biggest impact for me in terms of leadership and everything is doing it.

Just trying it out.

Starting and learning by doing.

I am a big fan of asking for feedback, feedback from everybody including my direct reports and the people in business 360 surrounding me, and that gives me the most.

Michael 2:14

Across all your experience and learning, what surprised you the most as you put all these experiments into practice?

Raphael 2:33

Let me think about that. That’s a good question.

What comes to mind most there is, how powerful it is to be authentic.

When I started, when I became a team leader, I had a couple of leadership trainings. It’s a craft that you can learn, that you need to train, and all of that is right and you should do that.

Leading people is not something super sophisticated and you need to be born for it.

That’s not true.

You can learn it.

But if you want to have a team that is really following you, then you need to be authentic.

What I mean by that, and that was something for me personally at the beginning, I had that clear idea of how things should go and how things should be done.

Because I was an individual contributor. I did sales for a long period in time.

When I then went into leading a team of sellers, I had a specific opinion how to have conversations with customers, how to write an email, how to write that sentence, how to react to certain persons on the customer side.

That is good if you have junior people, if they need to learn that from you. That’s all fine.

What I learned is to be authentic in a way that I can learn to delegate and just accept the fact that others are better in something than I am.

That was one thing.

The other thing was, I started becoming vulnerable. Putting myself out there.

There’s that saying, that resonates to some, that there are two parts, business and then private, and you need to separate the two of them because they are not connected with each other.

I learned that.

Put the emotions aside.

I tried that hard.

I wasn’t really successful with it.

Because it took away from me so much.

Eventually, I just ran out of gas to do it.

So, I became vulnerable involuntarily.

I didn’t do that on purpose.

But I had to.

I had to ask for things and say, “I can’t do that. You need to help me now.”

Then it started to click every now and then.

I learned, that is so powerful.

And people want to help me.

They want to be with me.

If I put myself out there and say “Hey, I did that. It was a mistake. I didn’t know that before. Now I know. And here’s my idea how to get out of it. Let’s move on,” that gives a lot of power to the people that surround you.

That is a big lesson that I learned.

Michael 6:34

When you say that you came to this realization involuntarily, does that mean it showed up in a really awkward way?

Raphael 6:49

It was kind of a process.

It didn’t come like an epiphany or something like that.

It was more things piling up, and you can’t have everything under control.

At least I can’t.

I’m just a human.

I remembered that back when I wasn’t in business.

I was—that might be a silly example—I was leading, together with my brother, a choir when we have been teenagers.

It was all, put the emotions out there. Be yourself. Be a human with everything that makes you you.

That is the most powerful thing.

Whenever these things started to just happen because my guard fell off sooner or later, I put down my mask, then it became powerful.

That was a process.

It took a lot of courage to do that on purpose. To say, “We are here together. It’s all new for us. We want to build that together. I have that idea of where we want to go. Here are my five ideas. Now it’s up to you.” Then really delegate and put that trust into others and they give it back to you.

Michael 8:38

100%. Completely agree. That matches entirely with my experience.

The reason I asked whether that involuntary vulnerability showed up in a really awkward way is that sometimes, when we try to partition off our emotions and anything that’s not what we think we’re supposed to bring into that work environment, it can come bursting in at the worst possible times and in really awkward ways. For you, it sounds like if those experiences happened, they were lower-key and not as embarrassing. Which I’m happy for you.

Raphael 9:34

I never had that super cruel situation where I was that big [Raphael puts his fingers a micrometer apart] afterwards and then need to run and never come back.

There are always situations happening where I feel a little bit embarrassing. “Oh, come on. I could have done that better.”

That’s how it is.

It’s a learning.

Michael 10:00

How do you handle those embarrassing situations?

Raphael 10:10

In this situation itself, it is what it is. It happened. I cannot change it.

But it’s the same for any other situation as well.

So, first of all, I need to find out, what really happened?

Oftentimes, it is rather simple.

Like if I am associated, so to speak, with myself, I’m really into that situation, it can be really, really bad.

I learned to pull myself out of that situation a little bit, like having a little camera in my head that I can take like a drone and look top-down into that situation and figure out how silly that whole situation is.

And maybe give it a laugh.

Then, it is what it is.

We all do mistakes.

When I started building teams from zero to fifty, I put a lot of effort in finding the right people.

There is always that one person that you need to have, at least in my world, that I need to have in my teams, that is doing bad jokes at the right time, because they can release so much tension.

If you have these awkward situations, that it’s getting so bad, that everybody’s giving it a short laugh and then you can continue.

That is so powerful.

So, worst case is having a laugh about yourself.

Michael 11:54

What helps you start being able to have that separation and objectivity to pull back in the moment and understand what’s going on?

Raphael 12:08

Where that’s coming from?

From a personality, I think quite a bit and do some reflection on myself and thinking about what just happened after a situation.

That always helped me and that is kind of who I am.

Eight years ago, I started learning something that’s called NLP, neurolinguistic programming.

That really helped me to figure out how I am wired between my two ears and how I process information and what I should do with it.

You go into the structure of events that are happening and do not be too much distracted of the contents.

It might sound a little bit silly, but that is something that was so eye-opening for me to really see and accept that, now I’m talking to you Michael, but I can’t judge who you are.

But I can tell what I see, what I hear, what I smell, whatever.

I can take my senses.

That’s really what’s going on.

Then I process it.

You have your landscape in your head of things and I have it now.

If I tell you something about NLP, then you might have a picture of it that is totally different than mine.

That sort of skill that I learned there helped me personally a lot to become better in reading situations and especially observing myself.

Michael 14:07

How do you bring all of this self-growth into helping your teams become comfortable and bring into practice this vulnerability and reflection and transparency?

Raphael 14:22

I became very good in giving and taking feedback.

Emotions are emotions and every human has them.

When it came to what is happening, what’s going on, I learned to be very, very specific.

“Here is what I observed, this is how I saw it, how I perceived it, and here’s what it made with me. So what I would wish for next time is that you do that a little bit different and specifically in that way so that would help me to more easy ingest what you want to say.” Something like that.

Be very precise and very specific in giving and asking for feedback.

One thing that I started pretty much early on is, whenever we have been in customer meetings and we have been in a lot of customer meetings, I asked one of my team members—and it might be a really junior team member, “You have one special task for that meeting today, maybe two or three hours. I want you to observe me and the client, and I want you to give me feedback afterwards. Where have I been good? Where have I been connected with the customer? Where did I lose them? What did I do there? Do I have some tics, some unconscious movements that I do, whatever it is, or unconscious words that I’m using all the time, and I don’t even know it because it’s a blind spot for me? You tell me. I want to learn from you.”

That gave them the freedom to give me that feedback and then take it from me again.

It’s very simple.

One thing to mention here it is then simple if I concentrated on only one thing.

I’m a believer in micro changes.

I don’t believe in, “Here are these ten things that you did bad.”

No, I’m more believer in, “Here’s that one thing that that is so you, you should really make that more often that is so powerful. If you do that, like your smile, whatever it is. There is one thing, one word that I give as a present to you. Listen to yourself and listen how often you say that one word.”

That might change already the behavior a lot.

Then, a month later, the next one is coming.

And then the next one is coming.

Little iterative steps and a lot of them.

Michael 17:38

So much genius in what you’ve just said.

I love the idea of having someone, of tasking someone, specifically with giving you feedback.

Because that demonstrates your vulnerability.

It shows them that it’s okay to give you feedback.

You’re telling them, “Your job is to give me feedback.”

Not just, “I welcome your feedback.”

But, “Your whole job for the next few hours is to record and give me feedback.”

That gives them permission and empowers them in ways that just saying, “Give me all the feedback,” often doesn’t.

And then, focusing on one specific thing focuses their entire being on that one thing rather than trying to keep track of ten different pieces of feedback that might be coming on and trying to prioritize between those.

It’s crystal clear.

“This is the one thing I really want you to understand about what I’m observing right now.”

Raphael 19:09

That’s enough.

If they change it, they likely changed more than if I would have said them ten things.

Michael 19:26

Even if they don’t pay heed to, “Here is this one thing,” then you can probe into together, “What was the impact that hearing this had on you? How is that changing you even if that hasn’t been intentional or unconscious? What’s going on for you receiving that feedback?”

Then you can help them process and make use of that feedback.

Raphael 20:05

I completely agree.

What I learned with that is creating a habit of becoming better and of challenging each other in a very positive and energizing way.

You have these team meetings going on.

Then you might have meetings where you sit together in the evening, then have a beer or two, and then you ask about these things and you talk about these things.

“Hey, I changed this habit. I’ve learned a new habit.”

That is that one thing.

If that is then spreading like a virus to the whole team, then everybody is thinking about that.

Here is something that I can learn from somebody else in the team because everybody is very different and we always have very specific characters in the team.

That’s the thing that I love so much and you need to have that—and I’m sorry to use that buzzword now—you have to have that diversity and a team or that set of different characters that complete each other.

If I understand the team as one body, then you need to have these different parts.

That makes it a complete thing.

If that team would be just the same thing in five different, slightly different flavors, it would just be boring and not as good.

There is little you can learn from the others and there is little new feedback that you will get.

So you want to have different things in it.

And you want to change it piece by piece.

Michael 22:05

I love the image of a team as a body.

Because our bodies are made up of a million different pieces.

Some of those are teeny tiny.

Yet, without each of those pieces, the body isn’t as capable and may not even be able to survive for very long. While other pieces, we can make do without them, but we’re going to suffer in certain ways. It’s going to impair our abilities, in specific ways.

What has been your biggest struggle as you’ve moved along this journey?

Raphael 22:57

Big question.

Maybe I can pick one specific situation that I had a while ago.

I was in an American company but I am still living in Germany.

The situation I came across was the cultural differences between US corporations, quote unquote, and German corporations, and their culture and how they understand people.

The big challenge that we faced with that American leadership, they came to the German team and asked them for solutions.

This team never learned that.

What they learned is to be very, very specific in describing a problem.

That was their job.

Then you had that one side that was just asking, “Don’t waste my time. Just tell me what I need to do and I will make it happen so we can move on.”

And the other team was there and said, “Here’s what’s wrong. Here’s what’s not working and here’s why. Lalalalala.” Very detailed and very long-winded if you wanted.

So, bring that together.

The situation there was already a bit heated when I came in there.

I needed to build quickly a bridge between two very different cultures.

Because both of them mean it good.

But it’s so different that there have been situations where they didn’t even realize that they talk to each other but that they talk about totally different things and from very different angles that you can’t connect.

My major challenge was there to really get very personally.

Be on site.

Have one-on-ones and understand what’s behind all that.

Then translate that—literally translate that—into something that is digestible by the leadership team coming from the US.

That was a journey.

I say that this was a challenge for me because before that I have been in European, mostly German companies.

I thought American and European culture is the same, basically.

But it’s not.

I learned the hard way how different that is.

Michael 26:01

What helped you through that challenge of identifying what the problem was and then building a bridge between those two very different intents.

Raphael 26:16

It was simply my job to do it, so let’s do it.

I’m tasked with it. So go forward.

Then, I knew both sides, quote unquote.

I love the people in Germany and the US people saying it happened, just different.

I took it as a big learning challenge for me and I wanted to dive into these cultural differences.

I took it really as my personal challenge.

It’s a puzzle that I want to have solved.

Piece by piece, element by element, not overthinking it, which is sometimes a challenge for me, really be very pragmatic, very down to earth.

That was it.

It’s quite easy and it was the same pattern again.

The first thing is understand, recognize, and accept what’s really going on.

That’s just the regular practice that I’m taking time in everything that I do in every interaction, to not just listen to the contents, but also have a look at what’s going on structurally.

That helps me to understand what’s really going on, what’s the problem behind all these symptoms that you hear if you listen to contents.

If I recognize and accept what the problem is, then half of the job is already done.

The rest is mostly easy, because then you just find a solution for it. Done

Michael 28:22

Acceptance I find is often the hardest piece.

Raphael 28:28


Accept, “That thing is what is broken.”

It doesn’t feel good.

It’s kind of awkward.

It’s silly.

But if it is that, then, well, get it out of the way and move forward.

Michael 28:46

How have you found helps you help your teams accept what the problem is?

Raphael 29:01

Talk about it.

I take an example again, I have been building teams of different flavors.

And the team that I mean here specifically with post-sales teams, everything coming after the signature: professional services, customer success, everything.

With growth are coming a lot of changes and a lot of tangents.

Conflicts between different parties.

There was a lot of back and forth.

What I did with my leadership team was to figure out what we believe is the root cause for all these struggles, if you want to call it that.

That was, to us, how we dealt with conflicts internally.

We met in one place, we put together the whole team, and it was a two-day workshop.

The good first half day, we only worked on, what is a conflict.

Why is conflict a good thing?

How do you handle conflicts?

How can you change perspectives and not be bogged down by conflict because, “He did that again or this again”?

Pulling energy out of it.

Because only conflict is bringing you sort of development.

Because only something is slightly off, you correct course.

And that is called conflict.

The conflict is, you can’t go in that direction that you think you should go. Something is hindering you.

So that’s a conflict.

So that’s a good thing if you know that.

There is a course correct, and then you can go again.

That was enlightening for a lot.

It was really simple.

In most cases, it’s really, find out what is the most simplest, the most direct way to address something.

Then take that one thing and work on that.

Ignore all the complexities.

Because there’s so much going on that you could use to be distracted.

But if you ignore all that and just focus on that one core thing, then the team will figure out the rest.

Michael 31:58

How do you recognize that you’ve found the one thing versus you’re still really looking at ten things and you have more refining to do and focusing to do to get to what the one thing is?

Raphael 32:16

We had a couple of iterations in the leadership team and we asked a little bit for feedback.

It’s a lot of observing and then find out patterns.

There are a lot of situations, again and again and again.

Then, we took some time to figure out, what are the patterns that we see again and again and again?

And then start to figure out, why do we have these patterns? What’s really happening there?

And then it is, to be fair, a good amount of just guesswork.

There are always different things in it.

But what just needs some, might be experience, might be just gut feel, intuition, on so what is the one thing that we believe in, so if we changed it, it would make a huge or maybe the biggest impact of habit changes for instance.

So that’s first thing.

Then the second thing is, do we believe that it is easy to accomplish?

You don’t want to start with the hardest thing.

That might be the most significant and maybe even the most important, but if I don’t believe that I and my team can fix it, then I rather not do it.

And I focus on thing where I believe, if we make that now, that still makes a huge difference and we can be successful with it.

If you are successful with one change, then it is way more easy to go for the next one.

Michael 34:06

This has been a great conversation today, Raphael. What else should I ask you?

Raphael 34:15

You could ask me why I have that family picture here behind me.

Michael 34:21

Why do you have the family photos behind you?

Raphael 34:25

That’s my lockdown bonus that I gave to myself.

So I was always a person being a lot traveling to customers, for instance.

That changed when the lockdowns came.

I was sitting in that very office here all the time.

I was staring at my own background all the time.

I was thinking, “All these Zoom meetings. Gosh, that is so boring. It’s disappointing to always see that same thing.”

I then had the great idea of, search for some of my biggest things that I love.

So that is cycling with my daughter, in that picture she was like three or so. And then we have the caravan there.

That’s our way of doing holidays.

We go out there with a caravan and call it a vacation.

So I have that there for me.

That’s a little motivation for me even in the most boring meetings.

It is part of what makes me me.

That’s again being authentic, and showing that I’m not only that businessman, I’m not only that leader, I am as well a father and a husband and yes I love cycling and I love being out in the nature.

That’s part of me.

Feel free to ask me about it.

Michael 36:01

That’s great.

It makes that visible for you.

It brings that into all the meetings for you because you always see that in the background of your self image.

Raphael 36:16

That’s not made up.

That’s not made up specifically to pretend to be someone.

That’s just me.

That’s what it is.

Michael 36:28

It brings you into your space in every meeting, and then it also brings these other aspects of you into that meeting space for everyone else.

Even if they don’t consciously realize that this is happening, having that in the background and seeing these other aspects of you, is coloring their impression of who you are and directly impacting the way that they interact and understand you and what you’re seeing and doing. That’s lovely.

If people would like to get in contact with you to learn more about cycling and caravanning, or your way of being vulnerable and authentic and all the other wonderful things we’ve talked about today, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?

Raphael 37:35

I think the easiest thing is to find me on LinkedIn. Raphael Triemer on LinkedIn. I guess there’s just one guy with that name out there.

The second thing would be my website, which is Triemer, which is my last name, dot consulting.

And I guess you will put some links in the description of the podcast.

Michael 37:59

I’ll have those links in the show notes.

For people watching the video, your name is right there in the bottom left corner of your image so they can get it through there as well.

What would you like to leave our audience today with?

Raphael 38:18

There is one thing that I want to leave your audience.

If you are a leader, I strongly recommend to every single leader out there, maybe to every person, but to people in leadership position specifically, is figure out what your personal values are.

Write them down.

Don’t stop at writing down, “Being brave,” or whatever it is.

Don’t stop there.

Translate them into action.

Think about specific situations.

How would you handle a specific situation based on your values?

Write that down.

Then the minimum that you should do on a daily basis, whatever you do, is at least to be mindful of the fact if you are living up to your own values, or if you are bending them, or if you are maybe even compromise them hardly.

The least thing that you should do to yourself and to your health is just recognizing that this is happening.

Be one way or the other way.

That made a big difference for me.

At least to be specific about, “These are my very personal values. And this is how these values translate into action, into my habits, into my behavior,” and then figure out what you should do to live up to your own values the most in each and every single day.

That’s that one thing.

Michael 40:14

Thank you for that wonderful one thing.

Thank you, audience, for being with us today.

Please let us know: what resonated with you? What maybe didn’t?.What would you like to know more about? What do you agree with? What do you never want to hear about again? What do you completely disagree with? Raphael and I want to know.

Raphael 40:40


Michael 40:42

Thank you so much.

Have a great day.

Thanks for joining us on Uncommon Leadership today.

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