The Happy Engineer Podcast

071: Why the Great Resignation is Quickly Becoming the Great Regret with Kon Apostolopoulos

You’ve heard about the Great Resignation, but what are the long term impacts of this shift in the workplace?

How is this impacting your company, or your own career path?

Why are leading experts saying this is quickly becoming the Great Regret?

In this episode, I’m honored to welcome back an incredible coach, CEO, and dear friend, Kon Apostolopoulos. We answer these questions and more based on thousands of hours spent coaching and consulting with industry leaders during the Great Resignation.

Every engineering leader from IC to VP needs to hear this conversation.

Coach Kon is a speaker, author, and sought-after expert in performance and change management that has delivered hundreds of workshops and events for leaders in North America and Europe. His work helping leaders navigate a crisis during the global pandemic has set him apart as a leading voice in how to build high performance teams during challenging times.

So press play and let’s chat… so you don’t look back on your career decisions with regret!


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Previous Episode 070: Avoid the #1 Enemy of Excellence and Learn How to Leave Your Legacy with Aaron Walker




At the risk of information overload or overwhelming you, I actually want to add to what Kon and I already discuss in this podcast episode. 

This topic is worth it.

The Great Resignation is now either The Great Regret or The Great Reward

Where do you fall?

Regardless, I want to share with you three key distinctions that have differentiated my clients who experience The Great Regret from those who have experienced The Great Reward during this time.

Running from something or to something?

So the first thing coming from a place of regret is led by running from a bad situation, running away from something that you don’t want, as opposed to The Great Reward, which is running to something that you do want. 

It’s a subtle thing, but it does make a difference.

There are a lot of engineering leaders who made the decision to change their career path, change their company, change the direction they were going simply because they wanted out of a bad situation and they took the first escape hatch they could find

Yes, we want to get out of a bad situation. I absolutely understand that. 

But in your life, running away from something leaves you going any direction, which doesn’t necessarily along with who you’re vision and values.

You want to get clear on what you want. 

If you’re right now considering leaving a bad situation, stay as long as it takes to get the clarity on what you want to run to, then make your move.

Is your focus on the external or internal?

The second thing that separates folks who have had regret from those who have experienced reward during the great resignation is their focus.

Regret is always associated with an external focus, such as feeling unhappy with your title, your pay, or your boss.

Externally-focused folks focus on HAVING the things they want. 

You might be saying, well, “Who wouldn’t want a good pay, or good co-workers?” The answer: NO ONE would not want that. 

But this is counterproductive when you make them the highest weighted factor in your decision.

On the other hand, the folks who are experiencing incredible reward had an internal focus

They were driven by purpose. They understood their mission and the impact that they wanted to have in their company, life, on the world around them.

Contrary to a focus on HAVING, here the focus is on BEING. 

Being comes before doing and having. 

Regret is an external focus. It’s about having things. Rewards come from an internal focus, being somebody. And when you begin there, those external factors will take care of themselves. 

Pain now, reward later vs Reward now, pain later

Regret is when we make easy short-term decisions that have hard long-term consequences.

Reward comes from making the hard, short-term decisions that have easy long-term consequences. 

This model of recognizing that taking the easy way out today almost always leads to the harder long-term consequences. 

Take the classic example of cookies at work. You’re walking down the hall and right there on the counter in front of everybody in the coffee area is a big tray of cookies or a cake from somebody’s retirement.

The easy thing to do is to grab a cookie. Tastes great. 

But if you do that every single time over and over, the long term consequences, that extra weight around our midsection, and losing our health. 

Whereas the hard short term decision is to say no to that cookie and to go eat a salad. That equals a positive long-term consequence. Health, energy, vitality. 

When you’re healthy, you’re strong, you have vitality, you’re not at the doctor’s office dealing with the issues that might come from being over.

Make decisions now that are gonna serve you in the long term. Later, you will experience the rewards. 

The engineering leaders who made decisions from that mindset are the ones who resigned into a path of reward.

If you’re having trouble with this, then let’s connect, and let’s talk about it

A great place to seek support in our very own Happy Engineer community

We want to support you. We have the tools and the resources to help you get to your career goals and dreams as an engineering leader. And it’s so much fun to help you do that. So let us support you.



Konstantinos Apostolopoulos is the Founder & CEO of Fresh Biz Solutions, a Human Capital Management consulting group that provides performance improvement and training solutions to help organizations develop their people, improve business results, and reap the benefits of a comprehensive Talent Management strategy. He is also the coauthor of the timely book, “7 Keys to Navigating a Crisis: A Practical Guide for Emotionally Dealing with
Pandemics & Other Disasters,” and a regular contributor to Thrive Global and Achievers Engagement Blog

Konstantinos is a recognized speaker and sought-after expert in performance and change management that has delivered hundreds of workshops and events for leaders in North America and Europe, sharing fresh ideas and best practices that engage his audience and empower participants to take the next bold step forward in their professional and personal life. Drawing on many years of experience as a consultant and award-winning coach, Konstantinos has been helping organizations manage their transformational change efforts and prepare their leaders to handle difficult transitions.

As a young man in Greece, he experienced firsthand the devastation left behind by natural and economic disasters. As an adult, he was fortunate to help play a small part in the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Today he helps others navigate the challenges brought by major events in their lives. When not working with business leaders, “Coach Kon” gives back to his community by developing young soccer players in local, state, and Olympic Development Programs. Sports is a great way to teach important life skills!





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Coach Khan, it is amazing to welcome you back as the first ever two time guest of The Happy Engineer Podcast. Welcome. 

[00:00:09] Kon Apostolopoulos: That is a title I will cherish my friend, Zach. 

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:13] Zach White: That is a title I will cherish. I couldn’t have picked anyone better for this honor, And I’m so glad that you wanted to come back and I’m pumped about what we’re gonna talk about.

[00:00:21] So for those who don’t know, Coach Kon is, back in episode nine, someone who poured in some incredible nuggets of. Pure gold on this podcast. Before most of you out there were listeners, you know, then the early, early days when I was just a, a small fish and a giant pond of millions of podcasts, Coach Kon was so generous to come on and share about peak performance and, getting out of the comfort zone and the growth zones, and I mean, there’s so much good stuff in there.

[00:00:50] So if you haven’t listen, to our previous conversation. This is not inherently a continuation of that. It’s not like you gotta go back right this moment, but please do listen to that. I don’t know. Coach, what was your highlight from our last get together? Did anything stand out to you? Well, 

[00:01:07] Kon Apostolopoulos: some of the big parts, Zach, as we talked about, peak performance and we talked about potential and how business and elite athletes, business leaders, executive leaders, top talent, regardless where they’re in the business world or in the sports world, they have so many things in common.

[00:01:25] They have so many things in common and the way that they approach their success, is very predictable from that cuz they simply do the things that others are not willing to do. And that’s the part that really, really excites me, whether I’m working with athletes and whether I’m working with executives.

[00:01:40] Yeah. And speaking of that performance and that potential, yours was very evident even then, 

[00:01:45] Zach White: my friend. Oh, I appreciate that. To set the stage, back then we were talking also about your amazing book and, you know, not in any way like the, the pandemic was done or is even done now, depending on who you ask.

[00:01:58] But the seven keys to Navigating a Crisis, and we really were focused around that body of work. But that was August, 2020. Yeah. and here we are over a year later and you and I reKonected and we’re talking about how much has shifted in industry and the macro climate inside of companies. And one of the labels that’s been put out there about this season of, company life is this great resignation.

[00:02:26] Mm-hmm. . And you made a couple of comments to me and I was like, Coach, you gotta come on and let’s have this conversation because people need to hear what you’ve seen as you’re. Your work and what it means for individual leaders who are part of these companies trying to get to that next level and succeed and struggling on both ends.

[00:02:45] So maybe tell us again for the first time listener who doesn’t know you and your work, what it is that. You do, and let’s dig into that topic. 

[00:02:56] for those that don’t know, I am the CEO and founder of an organization called Fresh Biz Solutions, and it’s an organization that focuses on.

[00:03:06] Kon Apostolopoulos: Talent management on growth, on helping organizations essentially create a pipeline of ready, leadership talent that can take their business plans, their well thought out plans and make them real. Because let’s face it, no company can execute that strategy without the right people making it happen.

[00:03:23] And that’s where I love Our paths cross exec, because you do so much great work through OCO and through your organization and through your team about developing that talent, and essentially that’s what we’re talking about. If it’s an engineer that’s aspiring to become, to move to that next level, where do they go?

[00:03:42] And my job is to help leaders within organizations identify, evaluate that talent, evaluate their needs, and find the right fit so that talent can flourish, that talent can find its passion within the organization to really blossom, to find an opportunity to achieve their individual career goals, life goals for that matter.

[00:04:03] But doing it within the organiz. Now, I love the way that you approached it, because when we first talked it was still early on in the pandemic. It was right after that first year we were going through and evaluated where we at. Mm-hmm. . But if we take listeners back, even. Just before the pandemic, at the early months of 2020, what were we dealing with?

[00:04:23] We’re dealing with a war for talent. At the time. At the time, organizations were struggling. They were fighting over the top talent that was out there. Yes. Many of them, Again, your clients, I mean, they were in high demand. Now, fast forward now, we are back in war for talent, but it’s d. It’s not the same. 

[00:04:42] You mentioned a couple of terms, like the Great resignation. Well, the Great resignation happened last year, around the end of the summer. It was the September shuffle, as another good friend of mine mentions it and it says, You know, we saw this. It was this pent up. Pent up movement of yes, personnel of people that over the course of a year, year and a half would’ve normally migrated.

[00:05:04] It’s almost like all of a sudden a stampede started. It’s almost like this situation where people reevaluated their life, reevaluated their relationship with organizations, and said, to hell with this, life’s too short. Mm-hmm. , and all of a sudden it really flare. And we have this mass exodus. The scary thing, Zach, is that it’s not just the people that left their current positions and had a plan or had an offer to move to.

[00:05:35] I mean, by the tail end of this, we’re seeing people just quitting because, hey, I’m not gonna be standing here by myself. I’m gonna quit too, just for the experience. So they were going through this process now, and they’re going through that. Case in point last year, if you look at the numbers of new businesses, That were established.

[00:05:57] Everybody went out and started their own company. Everybody went out. There was a record year for the establishment of new businesses. 

[00:06:05] Zach White: Yes. Do you have those stats, top of mind or ballpark even like the percentage above maybe a normal year over year growth for something like that? I’m trying to think of 

[00:06:14] Kon Apostolopoulos: it cuz I wrote about it.

[00:06:15] Oh, that’s probably, That’s right. 

[00:06:16] Zach White: I’ll have my team look it up. We’ll throw it in the show notes. But I, That is a huge indicator, and I’ll give you an anecdotal one on my side. Coach Kon that agrees with this, if ever there was an audience that is conservative and practical and pragmatic around planning their careers, it’s engineers.

[00:06:32] Oh, and I’ve had. I don’t know how many conversations with engineering leaders who have already quit their job with no plan where they’re gonna go. Right. And that’s something I never expected to encounter in the work that I do with oaco. a lot of our clients want to make a change, right? But they’re usually on the total opposite end of the spectrum.

[00:06:51] They’re so methodical and detail oriented and analysis paralysis that they need pushed to take action. And during this season, we’ve seen a lot. what might be called the knee-jerk reaction to everybody else is leaving. Now’s the time or this sense. Deeper Konection to purpose and meaning and a desire for something that resonates with their soul more.

[00:07:15] And they think, Well, I’m just gonna quit and go find it. Right? And we can talk more about that, but Right. but that’s honorable. I mean, we all should embrace those choices. We all should embrace our options. I would never begrudge a person doing that, whether they’re a young student athlete that tells me, Coach, I want to go in a different direction.

[00:07:33] Kon Apostolopoulos: Or an executive that says, You know what? I’m really not happy here. I thought getting that promotion would really fulfill me. It hasn’t. I will be the first one to march them past the door and say, Hey, let’s go find what it is that you’re looking for. So there’s a lot to that.

[00:07:48] But think about it this way, Zach, you and I mentioned it even off air when we talk. That great resignation. Now at its tail end of this comment, when we’re coming down to it on the other end, what are we seeing? Those same record number companies that started are now shutting down. I mean, in a typical year, more than 20% of companies that start don’t last the year, that number is even higher because a lot of these people realized, That, you know what, Hey, maybe this is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

[00:08:18] You know, now I have to go out and find clients, do my billing, be my own hr, or be my own it. that’s not an easy task to do. So the great resignation is quickly becoming the great regret. 

[00:08:31] Zach White: Whew. We could put a little period and let that sit for a second. The great resignation quickly becoming.

[00:08:40] The great regret. So the war on talent, the tail end of this comment, a lot of people who went out and started businesses are trying new things, many of them realizing it’s not what they expected. I’ve also seen a lot of people who did change. Companies are realizing the grass is not always greener just because it’s a new organization and they bring a lot of their own internal struggles and challenges with them.

[00:09:06] Where does that leave us today? I like how you said it, the war on talent pre Covid was there. It’s still here, but it’s different. Right. Describe how you see the differences in that context. 

[00:09:18] fast forward over this period of time, organizations, for better or for worse, organizations are adapt.

[00:09:26] Kon Apostolopoulos: They start moving into a realm where they’re trying to adapt to the labor shortages, the talent shortages, the supply chain shortages, all of those other things in order to survive. So what in what? What I’m seeing out there with the clients that I’m consulting and the problems that I’m trying to solve today, there is still that labor shortage that, especially for top talent, there is still a high demand for that.

[00:09:49] But just like the housing market that’s cooled down, it’s not that demand isn’t there for good, good, good properties or good talent. But what’s happening is now companies are adapting and they’re creating greater automations. They’re creating processes now to deal with that shortage or.

[00:10:07] Some of them are even accepting less in their standards or shutting down operations in order to maintain those standards that they want for their clients. They’re nicheing. They’re trying to find ways where they can still maintain according to their priorities, quality, production, sales, whatever that might be, but still do it with an environment with fewer people.

[00:10:29] And what that does now, it creates a polarization because, Leaders, business leaders on the other end, entrepreneurs are looking at that and saying, You know what? Hey, either you come in and work according to my plans the way that I’m expecting you to do, or I’m not gonna hire you. So the top talent is still gonna be in demand, but there is a lot of people that are good that are gonna be left in a situation now where they’re gonna have to be adapting.

[00:10:58] all of those people that were adamant that, You know what, I can continue working from. are now feeling the pain when their peers are taking on those next leadership positions. They’re getting promoted, and these guys, because they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind. Mm. Are you seeing that with people that you’re working with?

[00:11:16] Zach White: Yeah. It’s actually funny timing too, because at the point we’re recording this, General Motors made an announcement that everybody needs to. Into the office and I’ve got clients at GM we had that conversation and curious what the environment around that announcement was and you know, got their feedback, uh, all colors of feedback from that.

[00:11:36] Yeah. And just days later there’s a, another announcement that they paused the date for that because they’re processing the employee backlash. But to your comment, absolutely. I’m seeing the tension of an individual. Loves working from home for reasons that are aligned with their own, vision and values for what they want for their life.

[00:11:56] And it’s commendable and it’s great, but you know, they work for an organization that has chosen to create a hybrid environment, et cetera. And the people who are in the office all the time are, to your point, it’s starting to create, you know, the slow divide of, like, you don’t notice it at first, but after six months, after 12 months.

[00:12:14] You start to see, oh, they’re getting more traction. Cuz they have that face time, they have those intangible, water cooler conversations and interactions. They’re building deeper Konection and rapport with the leaders above them and around them. And I think it is starting to surface as a real challenge for the individual to make a decision.

[00:12:33] What do I wanna do? And for the company who’s, Putting a, a billboard out that says we support hybrid work, and you can make your own decision here, but under the hood, it’s like, Yeah, but that decision has a consequence that we’re not talking about. And honestly, it’s hard, to see or measure until you’ve been there and lived it out.

[00:12:54] Correct. So, yeah, a hundred percent agree with you. the fact is that a third of the, workforce can. Work remotely because of the nature of their work. I mean, I work, for example, a lot of my clients are large construction companies. you can’t build a building. You can design it virtually, but you can’t physically build it right from home.

[00:13:13] Kon Apostolopoulos: So you have to be there. You have to swing that hammer. You have to get out there, you have to pour that concrete, you have to install that light fixture. You have to do those things that physically require you to be there. within many organizations, that divide was evident before between the field people and the corporate people.

[00:13:29] Between the people that are closer to the sales process versus, or the manufacturing process, versus the administration that manages all the back office operations. I mean, these divides happen. These tribes exist within organizations. It’s a matter of can you make them work in your favor or are they gonna tear you apart?

[00:13:48] We’re finding that companies that and individuals that are struggling to adapt to this new situation are finding themselves really, really no pun intended, in a crisis. Yeah. Like 

[00:13:59] Zach White: our book set. One of the points you made, I wanna circle back to really quickly, cuz I know engineering leaders face this in their organizations and our part of being tasked to solve it was in the adaptations.

[00:14:14] That are happening at an organizational level, you know, whether it was attrition through the great resignation or an inability to find the talent they needed at the right time. Dealing with staffing shortages, Engineering teams that are, understaffed, they’re dealing with big problems.

[00:14:29] They don’t have the people. you know, initially they solved it by working insane over. I mean so many people putting in hours they didn’t want to, but they felt that if they didn’t, they wouldn’t get to keep their job. They had to, but over time, it’s not that all of the hours have disappeared, but they did adapt and create new systems, new processes, better automations, et cetera.

[00:14:50] And that level of staffing required to deliver the same output has, has dropped. So I’m curious for what you see is that trend. Creating a situation where the total talent demand, to your point, like top talent’s always in demand, but for people who are in that middle or even, you know, maybe they’re at the lower end of their field, is it, is it gonna push opportunities out of the ecosystem altogether?

[00:15:18] Like those, those roles will never come back, for example. 

[00:15:22] Kon Apostolopoulos: I do. I I really think that, I mean, think about it this way. Business leaders, by their very nature, very much like engineers, are always gonna look at that balance between effectiveness and efficiency. How can we make things better if we live, we operate in a continuous improvement environment.

[00:15:37] And when you ask people that are responsible for budget, What continuous improvement looks like. It’s more top line, less cost to bring more down to the bottom line. So if I’m looking at that and I’m a business leader, now I’m looking at it even with an engineer’s eyes, and I’m looking at it and saying, You know what?

[00:15:54] If I can increase production with fewer inputs with fewer people, And get max output from that, or still the same or close to that output, why wouldn’t I? There’s no sense of urgency for me to do that. Yeah, there we we’re at that point. Now we’re in this next normal, and this next normal is a different kind of battle.

[00:16:16] It’s a different kind of war that we’re trying to figure out. What I. Bring to my client’s attention as organizations, as business leaders is I said, Do not kid yourself. Do not lull yourself to this siren that is calling out and saying, Oh, but it’s cheaper to do this way. I’m lowering my overhead costs, my labor costs, which are one of the biggest costs on my bnl.

[00:16:39] But I said, You are going to burn out your top talent. Yes. And then you are in a situation where you’re not gonna be that high performing organization anymore because now you have to bring in two and three people to do that person’s job. So There are consequences yes. To running that engine in the red for too long.

[00:16:57] Zach White: Agreed. And I’m sure the engineering leader listening, who’s either in that situation or been through that over this last 24 months, is probably cheering wherever they’re at in their car or on the treadmill right now. . Let’s bring it back then to the work that you do, and you just alluded to the fact that now they find themselves in a crisis.

[00:17:15] And you know, a year ago you and I were talking about the pandemic as that crisis. Now we’re talking about a different thing and yet the keys and the work that you’ve done has, really layered into this organizational context extremely well. how do you see that crisis now for the organization and you know, as an individual leader, you know, I’m a director of engineering, or I’m, seeking to create a high performing team to execute the plans.

[00:17:41] Mm-hmm. , like where do we need to focus? Tell us maybe the couple biggest nuggets that you’re seeing, how we need to look at this current crisis and what to do. 

[00:17:49] when, when we look at what are the priorities of the organization, of that engineering leader, of that business leader, what are your priorities?

[00:17:56] Kon Apostolopoulos: Your, your job is to try to, first and foremost, make sure that your people are physically, mentally well, that you have a workforce that is Well, okay. The pandemic has shown us how fragile we are with so many things. You cannot afford to have people that. are not in a good physical or mental place. Then they’ll, they won’t be there for you.

[00:18:17] They won’t be able to be part of your team. they’ll be at home, they’ll be resting, they’ll be trying to recover from different things, whether it’s the impact of the virus or the impact on their mental wellbeing from other things. Yes, so the mental and physical wellbeing of my people is top of mind.

[00:18:31] While at the same time, I’m trying to balance how do I keep the doors open in my operation? How do I keep things working and functioning? How do I continue to produce the X number of widgets? I’m required to produce or the sales or whatever it is that I’m trying to do as a business leader. The wellbeing of the organization is just as important as the wellbeing of my people.

[00:18:53] Those two are not at odds. They should be one and the same. and that’s the part that I try to bring people to understand with the concept I call the Leadership Paradox. And the leadership paradox is nothing more than a leader’s ability in today’s environment to be able to take two concepts that seemingly on the surface are at odds, they’re binary, they’re other end two ends of the spectrum.

[00:19:19] Mm-hmm. and really bring them and synthesize them together. Let’s look at what we’re doing right here. Now, Zach, I mean, you and I are having a heart to heart conversation. It’s almost like we’re in the same room, but we’re not. Why? Because we have technology. So we are using high tech to improve and increase high touch.

[00:19:40] Yeah. So if I’m a leader that has a remote or dispersed workforce or a hybrid workforce, I need to use all the technology at my disposal to fill in those moments when we can’t have that water cooler moment. Yeah. When we need to be able to mentor each other, where we need to be able to collaborate and share.

[00:19:57] So high tech, high touch is one of those examples of a paradox that a leader needs to embrace. Another one that I talk about with the people that I coach. . On one hand I have to have empathy for your situation. Even with some cases during the pandemic especially, I had might have an employee, a member of your team, let’s say Susie.

[00:20:20] Susie is sitting at home, her stuff that’s brought out on the kitchen table, her fi or fifth grader is next to her. Trying to cope with remote learning. So she has to be not only your employee, your team member, your peer, the one working on the project with you, but now she’s school teacher, she’s short order, cook, God forbid, is actually caring for an elderly parent.

[00:20:43] That’s upstairs. Yeah. Yeah. And she has to do all of those different things and wear all those different hats during that same time. Now, She will end up putting the kids to bed, taking care of everybody, making sure the kitchen’s cleaned up, and all of a sudden now at 10 o’clock, she jumps online to do.

[00:21:00] Report that she needs to do or do that analysis that she needs to do, and now it’s two o’clock in the morning and 6:00 AM she needs to start all over again. I have to acknowledge that I have to be empathetic as a leader to understand that not everybody has the luxury of a home office like you and I do.

[00:21:15] Mm-hmm. , or to be set up in a different way. It people have different needs and demands in their moment in their life where they are. So I have to have empathy for. But the flip side, the other end of that paradox is that I need to show tough love. I need to really reprioritize my expectations of what I want Susie to be able to do and let her know, Susie, I don’t expect everything to be perfect.

[00:21:38] Here are your top three priorities today or this week. If you get those things done, then we’re good. So instead of manag. Outputs. How many widgets did you did Susie produce? How many hours was she on the computer? I needed to manage outcomes and those outcomes speak. What are the results that 

[00:21:59] Zach White: you’re getting?

[00:21:59] I love this concept of the leadership paradox in that you can paste it into dozens if not hundreds of things. Yeah. That a, an engineering leader’s gonna face every single day in the course of leading yourself. Mm-hmm. and leading your teams. I also wanna. Double back and highlight, I love those two priorities that you mentioned just to underpin this belief that they’re not in conflict, that the wellbeing, the health.

[00:22:25] Zach White: Of your people, Literally physical, mental health and the health of the organization, the wellbeing of the organization. hitting your KPIs, your OKRs, whatever approach the company, uses and the business results, the outcomes that matter for your clients, your customers, and your shareholders, whatever that looks like.

[00:22:44] Those two things are a virtuous upward spiral. the healthier your people are, the healthier the business will be every single time. Yeah. I, I really appreciate that. And I don’t think that’s the mindset we had in industry, you know, in the prior to. To now. No, 

[00:23:02] when you and I talked, we were, we were wrapping up our first year essentially of having the book out, The Seven Keys to Navigating a Crisis.

[00:23:09] Kon Apostolopoulos: It’s a practical guide. It’s intended to help individuals deal emotionally. with rapid change, Unexpected change in there. Like whether it’s the Covid pandemic, whether it’s a financial crisis, whether it’s a divorce, whether it’s, I lose my job tomorrow, whatever that is, there’s no shortage of crises in our life.

[00:23:29] Yeah. So the book is Evergreen from that piece, and it was written in simple terms to help the individual emotionally cope with that. Now, what happened in year two? The interesting thing is that the same people that I was sharing, there’s the same leaders that I was talking to about the book and loved it and applied it individually.

[00:23:46] Said, Okay, now what do I do with my team outside of buying a copy of the book and giving it to them? how does this translate to me as a team leader? As a business leader? And I said, Well, the same seven keys apply to an organiz. Like we talked about, that’s key one, self care, looking at myself and saying, Okay, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, how am I doing in the moment of crisis?

[00:24:09] That’s the first thing I need to look at. The same way that in Florida, we’re seeing the scenes right now of Hurricane Ian. At the time of our recording right now, we are still at the those moments where we’re looking at that and you see how many businesses are looking at that and saying, Okay, what’s going on?

[00:24:25] How am I gonna survive this? So self-care, Of that entity is key. You can apply it there. That’s the first step. Then awareness. Awareness for me as an individual might be taking a moment, pausing, reflecting. I mean, I listened to the other day, to your, one of your wonderful episodes where you talk about your morning routine and how beneficial that is to you to become mindful and aware and set the tone for your day.

[00:24:52] Well, it’s the same thing for an organization. Are you using that high tech, high touch, that empathy and tough love to be able to reach out to your employees and listen truly to what they’re. , because I can sit here, hear and me, I’ll ask, you know, and pass him whether it’s virtual or real. How are you doing today, Zach?

[00:25:10] And your answer’s gonna be, Oh, okay. And then I leave it. I move on to the next thing. Well, what about that report, Zach? No. Take a moment and say, Zach, what’s really happening? How are you really doing? Yes, those are the things that we 

[00:25:23] Zach White: need to focus on. I really like how you’ve opened the definition of crisis from maybe this idea of that was, that was Covid.

[00:25:33] Mm-hmm. to the experiences we have in life and business. That are rapid change, it could actually be a positive change. maybe in the long run it may, you may look back and say, That was a really good thing, but when it’s so fast and dramatic, these things matter. So, so much. And let’s make it really practical.

[00:25:53] there’s so many things. I mean, I know you, as you work with organizations, the strategies and the way that you might apply it could have. You’re certainly in an adaptation to any given company or any given set of needs, but you know, if I’m an engineering director and I wanna apply these things into my organization to win the war on talent, to be able to have the high performing team, I need to execute, in the rest of 2022 and 2023.

[00:26:18] What are those first few areas that you encourage people to focus on? Taking meaningful action to start creating, maybe we call it culture or the systems of. That talent. 

[00:26:31] here’s what my research and my practical application and experience over these years has taught me.

[00:26:36] Kon Apostolopoulos: I mean, I’ve been doing this for more than three decades now, Zach. some of these are universal truths. Like I mentioned. These, this is human nature. So when we think about anybody that started, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as we look at how do we create an environment where people can be motivated in.

[00:26:52] when we turn that a little bit inside out, I found here are the pillars that will help you engage that workforce. The things that are at the heart of. People need. I mean, your clients, when they come to you and they say, Zach, help me get to that next role, or that next organization that I’ve got my eye on, they’re looking for a certain experience, so let’s break that down.

[00:27:17] Kon Apostolopoulos: If I’m an engineering leader and I’m trying to say, Okay, how can I get my people to be passionate, excited about being here, engaged in the work that we’re doing, and want to be part of my. Well, here’s how you do it. The first thing you need to look at is do your people feel valued? We all want to feel valued and appreciated.

[00:27:39] Yes, outside of the obvious monetary piece, there might be some discrepancies, but you know what? That 50 cents an hour, that $2 an hour, that $10,000 bump in my salary will only keep me entertained for so long. the example that I tell people is, did that add a large pizza? To your paycheck. I mean, most people look at it that way.

[00:28:01] I mean, when you look at it, most of these guys, when they break it down, it’s basically one large deluxe pizza on my paycheck. That’s what it breaks down to. So you gotta look for that value. Beyond that, the clients that I’ve worked for before this became an issue. Were already looking at right sizing and looking at market studies to see are my people equitably?

[00:28:22] And then coming through and really communicating in no uncertain terms in these one-on-one meetings beyond what is the true value. That you have for my organization here, and how do I wanna reward that value, whether it’s salary, whether it’s total compensation, and the benefits that I bring, the opportunities for growth, other things that are going on, how do I display value?

[00:28:44] So that’s number one. Show people that you value them, and sometimes that’s as simple as a thank you, Zach. 

[00:28:52] Zach White: Ooh, I love simple. And you’re so right about that. On this point, Coach Con, I’ll just put an exclamation point In this week alone, I’ve met with six engineering leaders who are new to the Oaco universe.

[00:29:07] They’ve been reaching out to me to, get support in coaching and helping in their careers. Five out of six, the money was not even in the convers. Only one of the engineering leaders I talked to today said, Zach, I really need a big increase in my salary. That’s the primary driver of what’s going on here.

[00:29:25] The other five said, I could care less about whether I get a raise or not. What matters is I wanna stop waking up in the morning, dreading going into the office, because I don’t feel valued. I don’t feel Konected to the people or the purpose of the business. And my morning starts with four letter words in my mind.

[00:29:43] Having to go back into the office. I just wanna wake up and love going to work again. Yeah. That’s the discussion that we’re having. And so for people to feel valued is so much more valuable than dollars. I just wanna. Exclamation point. So what’s number two? 

[00:30:01] Kon Apostolopoulos: I totally agree with you. Well, you’ve touched on number two.

[00:30:03] Do they feel Konected? I mean, ooh, We look at this generation now of young leaders that are emerging now, and they wanna be part of something bigger than themselves. They wanna find a purpose in work. It’s not enough to go punch a clock. Yeah. People want to know that they’re making a difference. I was talking to some young construction leaders not too long ago, and I explained to them that what they’re doing leaves a legacy.

[00:30:28] I remember from my young days as an apprentice, working out with an uncle of mine very early on. I still go back to Greece 50 years later, and I look at it and I say, That’s a building I helped build. When you can look at something and say, Okay, I helped build the school that my kids go to, I helped build the hospital that I had to take my father.

[00:30:51] When he was, when he needed help. These are things that are bigger than ourselves. So when we realize that our goals, our aspirations can be fulfilled as part of a larger dream, part of a larger vision, I can be the best engineer that I can be, reach my career goals while at the same time. During cancer or doing something that is such a big thing out there, moonshot or something as simple as, you know what, providing a safe home environment for kids.

[00:31:22] Yes. 

[00:31:24] Zach White: Yes. And and the thing about this that I think is so important is a lot of leaders hear you say that, and their immediate response, at least in my experience, coach, you tell me if it’s different for you, but it’s like, well, how can. Create some sort of big altruistic meaning out of this, you know, we just manufacture pins, you know, like this is boring stuff, whatever.

[00:31:44] And, and they feel like there is no mission or purpose that’s a higher calling in their company because of what they do. And what I’ve seen over and over and over is it’s not about you have to be Mother Teresa or be out there, helping in some capacity that looks like the stereotypical.

[00:32:02] Purpose driven company. When you simply Konect the dots, just say, Look, it matters how many people have changed the world with the power of the pen. The written word has, forter. You know, history passed, like the first pen things have happened with pens. Like, this is amazing. And how many times have you needed a pet?

[00:32:21] You can’t find one. just the little, willingness to open it up and say, You know what, it does matter. Cause if the world doesn’t have pin, That would be a really bad situation. Sometimes it simple, trivial Konection like that. Yeah. Changes the whole game for engineers and, and technicians and people doing the work.

[00:32:40] So big time 

[00:32:41] Kon Apostolopoulos: may think about it, when you bought that first house you signed with a pen. That’s right. Imagine if you couldn’t find one or it didn’t work. . 

[00:32:49] Zach White: I just love that when an engineer gets Konected in just even that smallest way, the other thing, it’s like a seed gets planted and you start to see meaning and purpose bubbling up in more ways.

[00:33:00] Yeah. I’m saying all this to like, well, you’re hearing coach con, engineering leader out there, and you’re thinking to yourself, There’s nothing I can do here. You’re wrong. it’s simple. It’s easy. Don’t overthink it. Just make the Konection to something bigger than. What’s happening on the page right now?

[00:33:15] and let’s call it for what it is. It doesn’t always have to be externals act. Sometimes that Konection is, Do I feel Konected to my team, to my tribe here? Yeah. I love that. I mean, people wanna belong. that’s a fundamental need that we have from that perspective, that sense of belonging.

[00:33:30] Kon Apostolopoulos: I mean, Gallup asks a lot of questions when they try to engage how employees feel about their work and how engaged they are. one of the key questions that they look, which is a key indicator of retention if somebody’s gonna stay in a job, is, do you have a best friend at work? 

[00:33:46] Zach White: Ooh. Ooh. I love that.

[00:33:50] Kon Apostolopoulos: Because think about it. We spend On average, we spend maybe a third of our life at work. Well, if you don’t. Ties to the people that you work with. There’s no mutual respect or appreciation or like for the people that you’re around, Konection to them.

[00:34:05] How you gonna operate as a team, as a team is more than just individuals doing the same job. There’s more to it than that. So that Konection is key. And take that. Now, you touched on that as we, through the discussion, it’s naturally bubbling up. You can see it from your conversation, you instinctively know it.

[00:34:22] The next one is knowing that I make a contribution, That pen story that you just outlined, that’s the contribution. So feeling valued, feeling Konected, feeling like I’m contributing with anybody on your. Engineer, show them the value, where they fit in the process, how their contribution makes a difference.

[00:34:43] Look at that just like you would a team photo. If I was to take a photo of your team, what’s the first thing you would do when you get it in your hands? You’d look for yourself. Where do I in this picture? Where am I among my friends, my peers, my. It’s human nature. 

[00:35:00] Zach White: That’s a really powerful way to think about that.

[00:35:03] And you’re right. you give the old training photo, the weekend workshop, and you hand it out to all the people who go, and that’s absolutely what I do. It’s like, how do I look in this picture? Yeah. and even then, what happens for me is I look at who was I standing by? Right. Who was closest to me.

[00:35:18] Yep. and then maybe I’ll take in the rest of the photo. But that’s a really, Metaphor. Just a simple way to think about how everybody on your team right now is asking that same question. where am I and who am I in the context of this bigger organization? Yeah. 

[00:35:32] Kon Apostolopoulos: And those things are interrelated because you talked about if I know how I contribute, I know how I’m Konected to others.

[00:35:40] If I know how I contribute and I know how I’m Konected, I know the value that I bring. And those same people appreciate me. Yeah. Because they want me part of the process. They want me part of the. . 

[00:35:50] Zach White: That’s so good. That’s so good. , where do people fall short? what are the barriers when it comes to actually implementing and creating success in these areas for your teams? Is it that they don’t create a, a system or a process? Helps to automate this or, or in a, not automate, but to make it top of mind, Is it a lack of belief that these things actually matter and, and people just don’t buy in?

[00:36:17] Like, where do people hit the barriers on actually, because it seems so simple to me, coach, but yet companies aren’t doing it. So where do they get stuck? 

[00:36:24] Kon Apostolopoulos: It’s simple, but it’s easy. When you think about the average expert, the highly trained, highly skilled expert, especially one in the field of, science, like an engineer.

[00:36:35] Cultivating their mind to think in terms of processes and steps and everything else, but sometimes a simple conversation doesn’t come that. Yeah, because they have worked so hard on that part of their mind, that is the task focus piece that they have not strengthened the part of their mind that is relationship driven.

[00:36:57] You, my friend, are an exception because you purposefully cultivated both sides of your mind. When you were at Purdue and when you were at Michigan, you purposefully went out and cultivated both sides of your mind to find that balance. The reason that you are comfortable having those conversations is the same reason that you’re comfortable taking a partner across the dance floor.

[00:37:16] It’s the same thing. it’s a tango, it’s a step. It’s a process where we have to work in tandem, where we go back and forth. That’s the reason why you and I are seamlessly walking through this impromptu, unscripted conversation because I follow your lead. You follow my lead, and we’re willing to work together.

[00:37:34] But there is a comfort with that. That has to be. Cultivated. Yes. And for any of the engineers out there listening to this, they need to understand that at the end of the day, that person is not just an employee number. They are a story. They are a human being. Yeah. , they need to understand that they are managing things and leading people.

[00:38:00] Zach White: Yes. So good. So good. And for, for those listening who don’t know, my dance history, Coach Kon is , uh, you know, alluding to dancing is a really powerful picture of exactly what you’re describing. And in case somebody thinks I was born a dancer, Please know, the truth is, I was terrible at dancing when I started.

[00:38:21] I had no skill. I was embarrassed beyond belief. And it weren’t for Monica. Monica was my first ballroom dance partner my freshman year at Purdue. She was, really pretty and really fun, and she invited me and I was like, Well, there’s no way I’m gonna say no to Monica. Like, I’m gonna go dance.

[00:38:38] But it was awful. I hated it at first. . You learn the frameworks, the steps, the basic patterns, and do it over and over and over and choose to make it fun even when it’s really uncomfortable. At the beginning it was a complete choice. Yeah. Six months later, Monica quit the team and I found a new dance partner and kept going because it was so fun and I so much fulfillment from it.

[00:39:05] And these are the same things, you know, these conversations, these uncomfortable leadership moments of your career. . Yeah. It’s gonna be awkward at first. Yeah. It’s not gonna go well. You may not wanna do it, but if you’ll make the choice and press through, eventually you get to that point like Coach Kahn here, where you almost look forward to that challenging conversation because you know how fruitful it can be.

[00:39:29] Mm-hmm. to step in and, show that tough love or to bring that empathy. Blend the leadership paradoxes we face. So, Awesome. But here’s he, 

[00:39:38] Kon Apostolopoulos: you hit, without realizing yet again, my different , that fourth pillar. The fourth pillar that I wanna make sure we outline upon. Okay. Do it. Getting beyond that comfort zone past the fear zone, like we talked about in our last conversation into the learning.

[00:39:53] and ultimately into that performance zone, the growth zone. People wanna know that there is a place for them to expand as they grow in their experiences. They grow in their abilities, their competence, their desire, their hunger. Their appetite grows with them. People need to know, the engineers listening to this don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over again 10 years from now.

[00:40:16] That’s the reason why they come to you is because they say, Zach, I’m ready for something next. Help me grow. And that desire to grow and learn needs to be embedded into every good engineering leader and any leader out there. That’s the fourth pillar that they need. Show people how they can learn and.

[00:40:34] Zach White: You’re absolutely right. I don’t think there’s anything that creates. Frustration faster in an engineering leader than stagnation and feeling like there’s no growth. That’s huge. That is huge. Yeah. Coach, we could keep going all day, but I feel like we’ve given, enough to chew on. And I’m curious of all these pieces, if there was just one action that a leader could take first, that’s quick.

[00:41:00] It’s easy, it’s high return and gets the flywheel spinning on creating. a distinct and differentiated culture around talent in their organization. Which one of these four pillars, or maybe there’s a different action that comes to mind for you, that you’ve used with your clients, What would you recommend?

[00:41:17] Kon Apostolopoulos: To me, it’s understand that all of these options are available to you. It’s like a toolkit, but if the only tool you’re looking at is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So rather than trying to do the same thing for everybody in your effort to be equal to everybody, don. Be consistent. And that consistency is give people what they need in the moment so they can, you can ignite their passion, you can engage them, they can feel motivated, and they can be at their best for you and the team.

[00:41:49] Zach White: There it is. if you wanna avoid falling into the great regret in your organization and this whole quiet quit. , discussion that’s happening around companies everywhere. If you wanna keep your teams for being in that place, take Coach Kon’s advice here I love that. Hey, really quick. We gotta give people the knowhow on where they can find you and Konect with you and honestly, you know, bring you in to support the organization.

[00:42:14] If that’s what they need. What’s the best place for people to go coach where they can learn more and, and sync up. The 

[00:42:20] Kon Apostolopoulos: two easiest places to find me. Um, I spent, uh, a lot of time publishing, writing, engaging on LinkedIn so they can find me under Coach Kon with a K Coach Kon, so they can find me there on LinkedIn.

[00:42:34] They can follow along, subscribe to what I publish, what I write. I, every week I put. little gems like this out there. The second thing is just go to my website. My organization is fresh biz b iz, and they can find or about me, about the organization, even about the book. Excellent. 

[00:42:55] Zach White: As always, those links will be right there in the show notes.

[00:42:58] Please click them and I can only say, Positive, amazing, wonderful things like Please follow Coach Con, check out what he’s doing on LinkedIn. And if you do need real support in your organization, engineering leader listening right now and you know you do take action, reach out to Coach Con. You’ll never regret it.

[00:43:17] I love the book. Please. go get a copy of the book. We’ll put the Amazon link there and, and get the copy cuz the seven keys to Navigating a Crisis is just as applicable right now where you are at in your organization as it was at the beginning. Of the Covid 19 pandemic. So, please do that.

[00:43:33] Zach White: And Coach Kon, I know there’ll be around three eventually. You have so much wisdom. I, I loved the last time we talked, you chatted about just the history, of your culture being Greek. We talked about 4,000 years of wisdom that’s been passed down. And I just, at the time was like, that’s kind of cool, but now that I’ve know you and I’ve been following you for this time, I’m like, it really is true.

[00:43:54] It’s like in the DNA of, of God. There’s, so. To learn and grow. And it’s not just about information. Yeah, exactly. , but, But here’s what I love. You’re not just an information guy. You’re not just out there spewing more info. You know, there’s too much information in the world right now. It’s like the information age is over now.

[00:44:12] It’s about implementation and curation and wisdom. And that’s why I love you and your work. So thanks again for making time for this. And I’m gonna ask my same finishing question, and I’m curious in around two maybe what’s on your heart and mind now. Great. Just like great engineering questions go. First answers come second.

[00:44:31] And if we want great answers, let’s ask great questions. So coach, what question would you leave the engineering leader with who’s been listening today?

[00:44:39] Kon Apostolopoulos: I want them to think, ask themselves the same question. They need to ask their people. What matters most to you, right.

[00:44:47] Zach White: What matters most to you right now? Ask yourself, ask your people, and take some action. Coach, thanks again for being here. It’s amazing. 

[00:45:01] Kon Apostolopoulos: Thank you my friend. .