The Power of Winning Relationships with Morag Barrett

For sure you’ve heard people telling you about the right systems, and the right strategies are the most important elements of your business.

In this episode, our guest Morag Barrett, will smash this idea with her unparalleled knowledge and years of experience managing high-performing teams.

She believes that business is personal and relationship matters.

Visit Morag’s website


Cultivate at Work:


Ally Mindset Profile:

Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hi friends. I’m Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs, realtors and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode.

Welcome back to Rocky Mountain Marketing. Today, my guest is Morag Barrett. She’s the author of cultivate the power of winning relationships and the future proof workplace. Her mantra is businesses personal and relationships matter. As the founder of sky team, an international executive development company, she supported the development of more than 10,000 leaders in 20 countries and on six continents. Wow. Well, welcome to the show today. I’m so excited to have you on. Okay, see, I can’t wait for the conversation. And I love your accent. Well, you know, let’s but let’s dive right in. So tell everybody a little bit about where you grew up and what life was like growing up for you?

Morag Barrett 1:05

Well, you’ll tell from the accent. I’m from a little town just east of Texas. here in Colorado for the last 16 years, but originally from the UK, and grew up and my early career was in England.

Katie Brinkley 1:21

I love it. And you know, you say you could tell from the accident. Yeah, I love it that you still have such a strong accent because you’ve been here in the states for a while now.

Morag Barrett 1:30

Oh, I’ve been practicing all the yalls and all yells but apparently I’m not very good at it. But I’m also have a sufficient age where somebody actually turned to me Katie and said, well, women of a certain age, at which point I wanted to scratch their eyes out, but I’m too old to lose it but my sons who were seven and four when we moved here and and now all six foot somethings. They’ve got hybrid accents so they can turn the dial up or down depending on who the audience is for me, you just get this.

Katie Brinkley 1:58

And I before I hit record here we were talking about your name because I didn’t say it right because it’s actually a Scottish name. So usually your fancy R and pronounce your name for all listeners. So

Morag Barrett 2:10

yes, it’s a Scottish name. I was born Morag McLeod and I don’t do it justice. And when I do bump into somebody with a true Scots brogue, trust me, I’d love listening to my name pronounced properly, but here in the States, it does cause a little stress. So I have a Starbucks alias, which is Emma. There you go, potted history, and it’s Gaelic, or at least the Morag is Gaelic, and it means great.

Katie Brinkley 2:35

Well, I’m excited that that is what your name is. Because I think that that means we’re, we know exactly what we’re in store for today, because you have quite the story. And you’ve done a lot. But take us through your career journey. You talked about how you know you’re from Texas, if you’re from the UK, and then Texas now, Colorado, but take us through your career journey. Tell us where you started out and some of the different professional stops that you’ve made along the way.

Morag Barrett 2:59

Oh, well wait, if you take me back to when I was a wee girl, then I wanted to be a long distance truck driver, because I thought you’d get to see the world. And then in high school, I was going to be an engineer. I didn’t know what flavor of engineer but I wanted to be an engineer. I like math and science. I’m a very logical thinker. I have a healthy dose of curiosity, some might say nosy. And I like joining the dots. So when I’m working with clients, whatever the industry, I’d like to understand the business that they’re in how they make money, how their systems and processes work. But in high school, one of the chapters in economics that I had to study alongside physics and applied mathematics was how banks create money. And I thought all this is fascinating. So I ended up actually 15 years in finance, working for one of the big banks in the UK and all about the numbers. And I can tell you now, Katie, it’s nothing like that chapter in economics. But I thrived on it. And I got to work with companies large and small, established and startup across industries and across Europe, all who came to my bank with, I’ve got a great idea, Katie, we’re going to be rich. And then they would show me the cash flow forecasts, they’d show me their profit and loss balance sheets, I would analyze the numbers. And the reason I do what I do now is that so many of those businesses didn’t make it. Or they didn’t at least live up to the promise that they had that the numbers said, and what I realized is it doesn’t matter how good the idea is Katie, or the systems and processes you have, if you aren’t as diligent in investing in the people, whether that’s the employees who manufacture or deliver that service, or your client relationships or your community relationships, then you are not going to deliver the numbers that that forecast predicts. So that’s why I pivoted into now. Global Leadership and high performing teams. And of course, as you shared in the introduction, written my book, cultivate the power of winning relationships.

Katie Brinkley 5:09

Wow. Well, Mike drop, and I think that that is so true. It’s so true it, if you don’t invest in the people, you know, then the business plan and all of the great ideas, they really aren’t going to amount to much. And I’ve learned as a starting my own business, you know, I was a solopreneur. And now I have employees that work for me. And it is so important to cultivate a relationship and an environment where everyone thrives. So, if someone’s listening right now, and they’re, you know, one of those people that we’re walking into the bank with, they have their business plan, they know, this is this is their million dollar idea is going to be a success. What would you tell them? What is the biggest piece of advice that you’d give them as their journey starts.

Morag Barrett 5:57

So as their journey starts, when we’re sitting there clinically, looking at the numbers, that’s the logical piece, it’s then thinking about the emotional connection, because you have to engage with the hearts and minds of the people who are either going to buy that product or service or lend you money if you’re walking into the bank, or the team that are going to take a risk to come join your startup. And so that’s it. Are you as excited about this message? And do you have a story to tell about how you’re going to deliver it, who is going to deliver it, that is what connects the dots. Unlike UK tea, I started sky team. Now 14 years ago, it was just me. And then it was me and one other and now it’s me and sky team, hence the team of sky team. And we make those decisions together. And every day, it’s being intentional, not just about what we do, but the how we do it, and how people feel in our presence during our programs, and more importantly, the ripple effect of how they feel. And they make their teams feel as they apply that learning and flex those new behavioral muscles to deliver their own business goals. So my advice, don’t just focus on the logic, you can prove whatever you like in your Excel spreadsheet, but think about the story. And how are you going to engage not just the minds, but the hearts of the people that are going to work with you, or consume your product and service?

Katie Brinkley 7:28

Now I think it’s really interesting that you say that because you come from an Excel a numbers and spreadsheets background, what kind of made the shift for you to realize just how important it is to have that relationship?

Morag Barrett 7:42

Well, it’s funny, I talked about this in in my first book, cultivate, and my team and I are currently writing the sequel, which is all about best friends at work. And early in my career, I didn’t understand this. I was definitely a heads down, work hard. And eventually my value will be recognized. And you got to remember when I started my career banking was a very male dominated environment. It was definitely length of service that resulted in promotions. And here was i a young, upstart, female upstart that was looking to get on faster, much like the next generation is doing for us today. And as I look back on that, I realized that yes, it did work. I mean, I went through the bank management accelerated management program, I did deliver success and get promoted rapidly. But with hindsight, it could have happened sooner, and it would have happened sooner for not just me, but for the people around me. Had I intentionally nurtured those relationships, those critical stakeholders, the people who I depended on for my success, but also those people who are up and downstream who depended on me for my success. And so for the people listening to this conversation, just think about two things. One is, when was the last time you felt your voice wasn’t heard? Or when did you last leave your office, whether that’s the bedroom office or an office office and go home and say, Oh, you won’t believe what happened at work today? Well, both of those are signs and symptoms, that the relationship that you have with yourself, and the relationship that you have with your colleagues isn’t yet what I describe as an ally. And there is an opportunity for you to be able to turn the dial up on both so that your voices heard and you can influence and be part of the decision making process. But also, in terms of strengthening those relationships so that you’re not going home frustrated at the end of the day, but going home to celebrate the successes, the milestones that you and your team have achieved. So can you explain to us what it would mean to what it means to be an ally? Oh, well, I can tell you right now that I am on a team of allies and I look forward to work every single day. And I have friends and family who look at me with a slightly skeptical eye. But when you have an ally, a best friend at work, and remember, Gallup has been doing their engagement data for more than 20 years, Katie, and they’ve been asking us through that 20 years, do you have a best friend at work? And we should come back to that question. And when you have a best friend at work, when you have an ally, there’s somebody who has your back, not just on the good days, when things are going well, but they’re there, especially on the tough days, whether it’s a COVID curveball that comes out of left field, or a missed deadline, they’re the ones that are going to give you the feedback that you need to hear not just the feedback that you want to hear. And when we have that sort of high trust relationship, then I’m more willing to take informed risk. I’m more willing to say, hey, that’s a daft idea that will never work. And here’s why. But here’s another idea, can we do this instead. And so the when you have a team of allies, creativity, innovation, collaboration, your speed to market, it all accelerates. And who wouldn’t want a bit of that?

Katie Brinkley 11:19

I love that. And I think that that’s what’s helped me with my business over this past year tremendously. In addition to hiring a business coach, I have surrounded myself with other solopreneurs that I know have my back. And whether or not it is just checking in with each other or, you know, giving each other that swift kick from behind you know, it, you need those people in your life. And if you don’t have them in your circle, I think it really can impact how you go home. At the end of the day.

Morag Barrett 11:54

I couldn’t agree more. And as I said, early in my career, I had a very independent mindset. Give me the challenge, show me which Hill you want me to take, and I’ll go take it. Well, now with the power of cultivating allies, as you’ve said, it’s now about interdependence. And whether you’re the solopreneur of your own business, you still depend on others for your success. And whether you’re the CEO or the Vice President, or a new manager of a team, there are others looking to you for guidance. And much like you last year, when COVID here, obviously it through everybody’s world upside down and gave it a bit of a shake. And I did the same, we started what we called a castaway call. And we met initially every day, but it was every week through the pandemic and through this year, and it was a small group of solopreneurs small business owners much like my own. And for others outside of this sphere, they might look at us and say, but more like you’re sharing trade secrets with competitors. Well, for me, being an ally, one of the foundational elements is abundance and generosity, there is more than enough work to go around. And if I can be generous in sharing my experiences, and avoiding helping others to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made, then we all win. And that was the intent of that mastermind group was in a time when the world had gone upside down. How do we support each other to not just stay in the game, but to change our game and approach to how do we do this now in a virtual environment, versus in a face to face environment?

Katie Brinkley 13:30

1,000,000%. And I think that look, you know, when you and I had our critic call before the interview, you know, that was one of the things that I loved about you is this philosophy that you preach, because there is enough, you know, business to go around for all of us. And that’s kind of the basis where this this podcast came from was, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If it were not for people being willing enough to give me free advice to give me the gift of their time to share different insights that have worked for them and mistakes that they made that they’re Hey, you know what, make sure you do XYZ because I made that mistake. And if looking back, it would have saved me a lot of time and money. And those little things make a world of difference. And exactly like what you said collaboration over competition. And there’s absolutely so much work out there to go around, that we can all kind of help lift each other up and help each other succeed. So absolutely love that.

Morag Barrett 14:31

And I want to build on you. You mentioned their competition, and of course, being an ally competition doesn’t go away. In fact, competition is heightened. But it’s healthy competition. Because in a toxic environment, what tends to happen, it’s a win lose zero sum game in terms of Can I beat you to the finish line? Can I win this client over your firm etc. Versus in an ally relationship? It’s the May the best Service win. But it’s continuous improvement in action. So within Skye team and my group we outcompete each other in different ways. But we do it in a way where we all learn and grow, and have a heck of a lot of fun with it. And it can sound like group hugs and lollipops are more serious than this. And it’s harder than it sounds. And this is why I wrote the book on why we have all of the online resources, there’s a free self assessment that people can take to understand their own airline mindset. Because if it was easy, then everybody would be having a great time at work, a place where they could thrive and continue to grow. And yet, you know, you’ve seen the headlines, we’re in the middle of what’s being now described as the great resignation. 54% of employees are apparently considering changing jobs right now. I was coaching a leader this morning that was just talking about the toxic environment and the high stress levels that she and her colleagues were experiencing right now. And she was considering leaving. And the other statistic that just breaks my heart is we know what great leaders look like. Because when I asked people in our class, you know, who are the best leaders that you jumped at the chance to work with? Again, people can list them off, and they list off the characteristics. But McKinsey shared earlier this year, that 56% of employees in that survey described their boss as mildly or highly toxic, and that 76% said that interacting with their boss was the most stressful part of their workday. So when you think about that, the great resignation of the who, whether it’s your boss or your peer, or somebody on your team, if this is adding to your stress, is it any wonder that people are looking and considering going elsewhere? And it’s down to each and every one of us to take ownership for the quality of the relationships we have? And as an ally, to think about how do I want others to feel in my presence? Am I being intentional about how I show up? And for example, in this call, what does Katie need from me today in order to make her podcast episode, the most successful it can be? versus can I make this all about not Reagan The best thing about more at No, because it’s got to be a two way street. And then the third question is always Am I doing my best? And so whether I reach the gold medal podium, or fluff the landing, the key to Am I doing my best is, so what did I learn. And in my next meeting, at three o’clock, or in my next meeting next week, am I ready and willing and present enough to change my game and show up slightly different so that I have a better chance of a successful outcome for everybody involved? So there’s a lot there.

Katie Brinkley 17:55

So there is a lot there. To say there, there is a lot there. But I think that all of it is extremely important in and like you said to like this, we are going through a crazy time right now. I thought that 2020 was crazy. But the aftermath apparently is what’s really going to test the waters even more for businesses because people aren’t going to put up with you know, toxic environments anymore. They’re not going to stand for that. And it’s absolutely something that as a business owner, whether you’re a large business, a small business solopreneur. All of that is something that you need to keep in the back of your mind that you need to consider about how are you showing up, not only for your clients,

Morag Barrett 18:42

but for your employees, as well agreed? And people will remember how did we respond to the crisis for the last few years, and it’s all about channeling curiosity. And for many of the inexperienced leaders that I’m coaching, or who might go through some of our leadership programs, they’re worried about asking, What do you need in order to be successful? for fear of the answer, which might be well, I need the moon and without a budget for the moon or the resources for the moon? Well, the risk of not asking the question is I’m going to sit at home if I’m working from home, and I’m going to assume that you don’t care. And if you don’t care, then why should I go the extra mile and work a few hours overtime to get us out of the latest pickle. And so then I start to withdraw. What again, Gallup calling their engagement data, the discretionary effort. So better to have a conversation that says how does working in a hybrid environment work for you? How is our team dynamic changing for those who are in the office or those who might be dialing in? What can we do to ensure that everybody is feeling valued, and keep that conversation going so that we can iterate and grow together? But if we don’t, then that’s when that sense of isolation occurs and we start getting subpar results. And then I start writing a story that you’re not loyal, you’re not committed, then I start looking for the case for the prosecution and more examples of why Katie isn’t cutting it. And before we know it, we’re in a downward spiral versus asking and being curious and sharing our own struggles, and then resolving them together. All To be clear, all whilst keeping an eye on the business goals that need to be attended to. Because if we don’t achieve those, then as you know, we don’t make payroll and we and other issues come out. So everything is connected. And that old adage, when I was in banking of, it’s not personal, it’s just business. I’ve turned it on its head because all business no matter how big or small your company is, all business is personal, and relationships matter.

Katie Brinkley 20:54

So someone listening right now they say, Man, Morag, you have given me a lot of food for thought, a lot of things to think about, what would you say to them? How would you help guide them to start cultivating that sort of relationship with their employees?

Morag Barrett 21:12

So first of all, I’d say Well, think about the goals that you are being tasked to personal and professional that you need to get achieved between now and year end, or now in the next quarter, depending on when you’re listening to this podcast episode. And then write down the five or six people who can directly help or hinder you in achieving those goals. And now that you’ve got that list of names, think about how would you diagnose the health of that relationship and in cultivate, I talked about allies, your best friends at work, I talk about supporters, your fairweather friends who are all Yay, Katie, you’re the best. But as soon as it starts hitting the fan, crickets, you’ve got nothing. You’ve got rivals where it’s a little bit more elbow jockeying. And when it suits my agenda, I’m for you. And when it doesn’t, I’m against you. So now we’ve got a Jekyll and Hyde moment coming on that causes all sorts of distractions. And then the fourth relationship dynamic is adversarial where it just feels like we’re forever butting heads. So for those listening, first of all, what is it that you’ve got to achieve in the near term? Who are the five to six people who can help or hinder you? And then given that quick introduction to the four relationship dynamics, how would you diagnose the health of your relationships? And then it’s down to you to take the first step. I’m coaching a senior leader after this conversation, Katie, and she’s emailed me and she said, she’s written down this list of six people from her LinkedIn network that she wants to reconnect with. And then she says, but how do I do it? And here’s the answer, Katie, you pick up the phone, or you send an email and you say, hey, Katie, I was thinking of you. I know it’s been a while or Hey, Katie, it’s, you know, it was great to see you last week. I just wanted to check in and see, how are you doing? Now? What are you doing? How are you doing? And it’s as easy as that is just crack the door phone call or an email, and start making deposits into those relationship bank accounts. So that as and when you need help answering a technical question, or you need an introduction, or Heaven help you, you find yourself on the market looking for your next big adventure, then that relationship is already warmed up and ready to help you to realize that next goal.

Katie Brinkley 23:29

And Morag i think that that is such an important point, it’s something that I talked to a lot of my clients about to with social media, you know, in selling in the direct message, and they say, Oh, I don’t know how to show up and not be sent spammy. And I’m like, well, you don’t everything that you’re doing online as a relationship builder. And that’s why you need to show up as yourself on Instagram, as instead of just a logo, people want to do business with people. And it’s cultivating these relationships that maybe they’re not going to buy from you right now. But maybe they’re the perfect, I’ve met some of my best friends on Instagram. I’ve never met them in real life. But there’s some of my closest friends that I know, I can count on, day in and day out. And it’s all just by starting genuine conversations. How are you? Why do you like living in Denver? Yeah, that is how you form these relationships. And it’s amazing to me that we’ve gotten so far away from that. And I don’t know if it’s because of, you know, texting and emails and the fast paced nature of the online world. Whereas like, before, you know, you actually did have to pick up the phone and you know, when my grandma called, I’d have to plan on spending a half an hour with her on the phone. And we don’t have that anymore, and I think it almost has become a lost art.

Morag Barrett 24:50

It is a lost art. And I know that I’m not as eloquent on a phone conversation as I am face to face or over dinner or whatever, but needs mass and so it’s Looking at LinkedIn, and if you see somebody got promoted, then comment and wish them good. Congratulations. Make yourself as somebody mentions, like I’m coaching a leader at a technology company. And he mentioned that he and his wife are expecting a baby and a couple of months. Well, there’s no secret, I made a note on my calendar to check in with that leader in two months time to welcome the new arrival. So whatever your tool system is, just start doing it. Eric on my team talks about to 515. And Katie, you might like this, and he just uses these numbers as a memory jogger. And you can choose your timeframe, maybe it’s a week and his idea. And his intent is that you have to face to face meetings a week with people outside of your immediate team. So given that we’re all working remotely, let’s count zoom and teams that’s face to face. Then he talks about five interactions. So that might be text messages, it might be a phone call, and then the 15. Now remember, we’ve already done seven outreaches, with two face to face meetings and five phone calls. The other 70 says you can do them how you like the LinkedIn comment, another phone call, conversation, while you’re standing six foot apart in the coffee shop, however you want to do it, but he thinks of relationship building like a flywheel. And so once you get that flywheel spinning, then people are calling you back, and they’re remembering you in a different way. And certainly, as I remember, I was coaching the CIO for an engineering firm. And at the beginning of the pandemic, he was talking about how he had set up a real world visit to each of their eight offices around the US. But of course, when the shutdown happened, all of those flights and travel were canceled. So we’ve explored it in his coaching conversation, I will how do you do that in a different way. And so he set up a virtual road trip. And they were even more effective, he was able to connect with more people in a deliberate thoughtful way. And as a result, they have seen their retention, and employee engagement go up during the pandemic, versus the trends that they saw before the pandemic.

Katie Brinkley 27:17

Or Morag, I think that I love this conversation, because you and I are very much in alignment of well for me social media, being relationship building, and to you with business in general being relationship building. So this has been such a great conversation. I’d love to have you come back on the show again someday. But for now, that is it. Our time is up. It has been an awesome conversation. Where can we find out more about you and sky team online? And where can we find your book.

Morag Barrett 27:48

So the good news is with an unusual name, you just Google more ag beret, and I will fill the first few Google pages but you can find me on LinkedIn. The company page is that sky team. That’s SK y ET Named for the Isle of Skye where the clan MacLeod is both and then my book cultivate the power of winning relationships. It’s available from all book retailers. And if you drop me a message on LinkedIn, I can also share there is a free online ally mindset profile, which people can find at Sky team dot cloud forward slash a. m. p for ally mindset profile. Thank you again, so much for coming on the show today. My pleasure, Katie, thank you.

Katie Brinkley 28:34

One of the biggest takeaways that I have from today’s discussion with Morag his relationship building is essential for your business. And I know that I talked about it at length for social media, and how important it is to show up authentically on social media. And as Mark said, reaching out to people and with a how I heard that you had a child or congratulations on your promotion. It is a simple outreach that is all about building relationships and really just treating others with kindness and helping each other through this game called life. I know with social media again, that’s one of the biggest struggles that I hear many businesses have is I don’t know what to say in the comments or I don’t know what to say in the DM without sounding salesy. And I have to tell you, the best outreach best cold outreach you can do is a conversation starter, show up in someone’s comments or show up in someone’s dm. With a genuine conversation starter, and I say this time and time again, you might think that someone on paper looks like your ideal client or customer. But then once you start shooting them dm like getting to know them and learning more about their business. You might realize well hey, this I might be the perfect ideal client for them or we’re really good friends now. So I can’t stress this enough. It is all about the relationships that you’re building, whether it’s in person or online or on social media, it all comes down to treating other people how you want to be treated. So as you head out today, keep the golden rule in mind. Treat others how you want to be treated. It’s all about the relationship building for both your business and on social media.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at www dot next steps social connect with me on LinkedIn or check me out on Instagram. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.