The obstacle is the way.

By PeopleIT News

The obstacle is the way. The obstacles do not obstruct the path. They shape the path. They are the path. 

Ryan Holiday invites us into a new perspective and posture to obstacles and adversity. Well, not new really. It is actually rather ancient. He bases his premise on the words of Marcus Aurelius and roots the text in the wisdom of the Stoics.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

As individuals and as a collective, our team is wired to seek out the hard stuff and dive into the things that a lot of people would walk away from. We can see the other side, the future, the solution – and this is what carries us forward through obstacles and failure. Failure is inevitable in our work, so much so that it is embedded within our core values. Though this does not always make it easy. 

When working on a project recently, Charlie shared with John, “This thing I am working on could be my first big failure.” 

Quite surprised, John said, “Charlie you have designed your life by failure. Why is this one scaring you more than others?”

We have wound ourselves so tight in today’s world to avoid it at all costs, but “failure shows us the way by showing us what isn’t the way.” It is in the presence of failure or potential failure that we are faced with an opportunity, an invitation to choose our response. In each moment we must focus on what we can control and what we can change: our perception, our emotions, our judgments, our creativity, our attitude, our desires, our determination. In this way, we shape our reality. 

As we engaged with this text, our team found a strong connection between the maneuvering of obstacles and building trust. There was a renewed commitment to use the challenging moments to build more trust with each other and with our clients based on how we react and move forward through the obstacle. 

Especially in the industry of tech-based problem solving we get the chance to build deeper relationships of trust through failure every day. Sometimes this will call us to slow down and zero in to see a problem resolve to solution – a process that can feel painfully slow when we hold the future state in mind. But the slowing allows for learning, connection and most often leads to a far better outcome.

“Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well.”

This is our commitment to all of you as we collectively Keep Buggering On. (Thank you Winston Churchill for the very catchy tagline).

A fly-by with Peter Boumgarden.

By PeopleIT News

We’ve had the privilege of working with our friend and Professor Peter Boumgarden over recent months as we’ve developed the core strategy and goals for PeopleIT. Peter is a breath of fresh air as he brings new thinking with practical tools to implement and experience real impact. 

We recently caught up with Peter while he was navigating his way through the airport after a family vacation. With a backdrop of gate calls and seating instructions, he shared his insight and approach for strategic work within growing companies. Let’s hear from Peter:

Noticing when it is time to hit the pause button

There are many reasons a company or team may decide to enter into strategic planning and vision casting. Here are some indicators that it may be time for you to press pause and enter in. 

Strategic “Mindlessness”
For some companies, it can be easy to slip into a state of reactivity in day-to-day work. Allowing the immediate needs, issues, and demands to dictate workflow and direction can stifle the forward-thinking necessary to create a growth edge and reach new goals. It is critical for companies to notice the early stages of “mindlessness” with day to day minutia overpowering the living strategy.

Settling Into B+ Behavior
One of the biggest problems for organizations is when they settle into B+ performance. In this space, a lack of “crisis” means many leaders fail to see that this might be the best time to rethink your approach, especially if a B+ is a signal of an early problem. Mindful strategy means discerning when these early indicators might, in fact, be signs of a real need to rethink one’s current strategic approach. 

Old model is not working
Leaders are often more open to change when the original systems and processes from the past fail to work in the same way. This is similar to when a team keeps hitting the same wall or coming up against invisible limits and barriers for growth. Teams here are more open to rethinking “the way we have always done it.”

Growing discontent
One of the keys is to pay attention to early indicators of more complex issues. People metrics such as high turnover or employee disengagement can be signs of deeper issues. In these cases, it is important to recognize the signal for what it is and then to dig into what might be a more systemic problem.

So what happens in the pause?

When stepping into a season of Vision Casting and Strategic Planning, Peter invites companies to a thoughtful approach with these four guides:

A Fresh Set of Eyes
Standing smack in the middle of our work and daily grind makes it hard to see clearly and objectively. Peter engages case-based thinking to offer a chance to look at the current problem through a fresh set of eyes. Case thinking helps leaders engage with a sample from an external company and then find ways to apply the insights found to their own organization. 

Don’t end where you begin
Teams can be eager to take off running with the first great idea. Some of the greatest insights of methods like design thinking tie to the importance of generating multiple ideas before moving to the conclusion. The first ideas that emerge when you enter this space should only serve as kindling. Don’t stop with the first great idea, but rather let it spark and blaze into another thought and another until your sitting in the heat of a roaring fire. This process can uncover potentially groundbreaking results.

Play like Jazz
This work cannot follow a strict template. It needs space for a creative dance, where all parties come in openly, finding their unique way to enter the collective rhythm. Each participant brings a specific set of tools and experience and together they hold space by removing constraints on the process and any specific outcomes. Peter says, “Let it be more like jazz. Find a way to play with the scales rather than staying line by line on the sheet music.”

Leverage team strengths
As leaders, we all have slightly (or sometimes vastly) different perspectives. There is great opportunity in bringing distinct visions to the same conversation. For example, within any group, there are usually people who align more closely with dreaming and others that feel more comfortable doing. It is critical for those people to have space to both lean into their independent strengths while also pairing them with the other to make dreams a reality. 

Thank you, Peter for your time, energy and insights!

If you want to stay connected to Peter and get a fresh dose of his thinking in your inbox on a regular basis, sign-up for his newsletter.


Peter Boumgarden, PhD is Professor of Practice of Strategy & Organizations at Washington University in St. Louis. He works with clients who are really interested in creating healthy companies and thriving places for people to work while also producing outcomes for the world that are contributing to a more good + true + beautiful place for everyone.

The New Gold Standard

By PeopleIT News
Have you ever stayed at “The Ritz?”

If so, then you would have noticed the unparalleled customer experience in which your unspoken and potentially even unknown-to-you needs were met with gracious empathy from the professional, empowered and engaged staff. This high level of service is foundational to The Ritz-Carlton Credo which is unpacked in Joseph Michelli’s The New Gold Standard.

If (like us), you have not had the pleasure – the next best thing to get a feel for their leading approach to human-focused growth and service is to read the book. Which we did. It should not come as a surprise that the books we select & read as part of our culture-building efforts will resonate strongly with our values and approach, and yet is still really refreshing to see it play out on the pages and be mirrored in the culture of organization like The Ritz-Carlton. Here are some of the things we that resonated and aligned with our work most strongly…

At the core of The Ritz-Carlton’s model of lasting success is a truly human focus, which we clearly appreciate at PeopleIT. They invest heavily in building trust with employees beginning with the intricate employee selection process. They then leverage this trust for employee empowerment and engagement – elements that serve the end goal which is a highly engaged and loyal customer base.

Employees have the trust from leadership, freedom and tools to implement exceptional service that is both intricate and intuitive. 

They use their judgment and freedom in decision-making to create Wow! experiences for customers. Connecting with them on an emotional level to create a lasting and memorable impact.

The leadership at The Ritz also recognizes the fundamental need of all people to be seen, heard and understood.

With this in mind, they equip employees with strategies to remember customer names, use them often, and greet them personally. They also place value on empathy as a core skill in customer service – encouraging their team to listen to customers, identify their needs, anticipate unspoken needs and act quickly to resolve problems. Can I get a “Yes First!

The final elements of The New Gold Standard that we drew great energy from is the dance between Being the Same – providing a consistent and familiar customer experience – and Taking Risks to always be improving with a focus fixed on the future. As these are two of our foundational values (Be The Same & Small Steps Big Adventure) it was enlightening to watch them follow the steps of this dance throughout years of growth and expansion.

For us, consistency is important in how we show up and how we approach our work. Taking risk for big adventure is about the freedom to learn from what we have done and where we have come, exploring new ideas, tools, solutions to best deliver on our mission to unleash the full potential of those we serve by providing the most trusted and progressive I.T. strategy, advice and support services.

Thanks to Brendan Pool at Strategic Blue for turning us onto this book. It is literally dripping with goodness which we will continue to unpack and explore.

Three friends getting together.

By PeopleIT News

Openness and transparency are non-negotiables for Dave Jessup at Koops, Inc. While unpacking the history of his partnership with PeopleIT, Dave shared his philosophy for IT operations.

“John and Charlie have been somewhat surprised with the openness and transparency that IT has had within the rest of the company. We build manufacturing equipment. The purpose of our IT is to serve the team to produce our products for customers better and faster. I believe they also embrace this philosophy and bring that approach and mindset to other clients and companies.”

Dave Jessup has worked with PeopleIT for over two years and the partnership has grown into one of relational ease. Providing space to talk about things beyond IT strategy, like HR issues, approaches to build & strengthen teams and what it looks like to be growing a new team.

“Discussions are an informal by-product of what we are doing and they have had an influence within our company in various ways. It feels like three friends getting together and chatting.  A great time to check in.”

Koops takes a unique approach to IT – with the Director of Sales & Marketing (Dave) also managing IT. They use one contractor to provide day-to-day helpdesk support and felt a need for a partner to take a proactive approach to optimizing IT within the company. PeopleIT initiated their work with Dave and Koops through the Copilot Advisory role – taking the pressure off Dave to always be aware of the new trends and tools, providing a strategic approach and fresh ideas. Now the three of them are always looking for ways to challenge the status quo and identify opportunities to grow and expand together.

“It is crucial for us to maintain this model and have PeopleIT at the table to bring new ideas, drive innovation and wrestle together about the best way to move forward.”

This multi-contractor model allows Dave and the leadership team at Koops to move forward with confidence in direction and decision-making, knowing that they are accessing the knowledge-base of two trusted resources. This confidence is a large piece of Dave’s IT philosophy – that the IT department and its functions should serve the company, support the team and lend to mission attainment.

“I would encourage anyone in charge of IT in your organization – put in the work to get to a level of openness and transparency within your team, having open dialogue about what is working, what is not and how to grow together to support your work. It is so important to create a space where you can have open and honest conversations internally or externally that focus on strategy, growth, improvement. If you don’t have that internally – like here at Koops – seek out partners to develop that relationship with externally, like we have with PeopleIT.”

It is a joy to work with Dave and Koops, Inc. They are aligned with our people-focused approach and though we are in different industries, there are many shared values which make authentic connection and honest conversations not only possible, but effortless. Thanks Dave, for letting us be a strategic partner!

Hey there, Josh!

By PeopleIT News

Josh began his adventure with PeopleIT as an intern and is now an official member, working as Customer Service Leader. We are super glad to have him.

Everything about Josh just fits. He fits with our team so seamlessly that it feels like he has been here all along. He is a kind and genuine human who loves being with others. Growing up with his Hungarian family in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood he has cultivated a deep appreciation for exploring other cultures. Especially through their food – which is #1 of his top four areas of expertise. Followed by photography (soon you will get to enjoy his work throughout our site), pallet racking and video gaming.

The most important thing for you to know about Josh is that all of these things and more – he loves most when doing them with others. His favorite thing about a recent trip to Pennsylvania/Washington DC was the company (his wife – Laura). I am not kidding, these two love each other so much it’s the cutest. When commenting on it at our last team hang to celebrate Jason’s graduation from Davenport (woot woot), Laura replied,

“I know, we love each other so much it’s kind of annoying.”

It is not annoying. We LOVE it. We are all about our people and our connection to them, and it is not a surprise that Josh aligns strongly with our value of Better Together. He is glad to be a part of a team that sticks together and enjoys each other’s company in and outside of work. He is also a fan of Be The Same and if you have connected with our Customer Service team – you will experience firsthand, the consistency and attention Josh brings to his work.

Josh brings with him a wealth of experience from his work at Herman Miller and Ziglift prior to that. This is where the Pallet Racking expertise comes from in case you were curious. Have any pallets that need racking? Josh is your guy! Oh, and he can handle any of your IT support needs too 🙂

Alex Fisher shares his Insights

By PeopleIT News

Alex is amazing. Alex is kind. Alex is generous.

Here he shares what it has been like for his company – Opus Packaging – to journey through the Insights & Roadmapping process with us.

What was the experience like?

The Insight & Roadmapping process was one of the most intentional and impactful analysis of a business unit that I have been a part of.  It helped to re-instate the importance of strategy, alignment, and root-cause analysis. 

On a personal note: the process reinvigorated and empowered me to think critically, engage effectively, and greatly increased my level of confidence in my role and in my impact on the organization

What did you discover & uncover?

The approach to planning from an insightful perspective really drove home the need for deep and intuitive understanding of the business and how best to serve and grow it.  A lot of the process pointed towards empowering our staff and recognizing the strengths that they have to assist in leading the different areas of the organization.

The process completely reshaped the IT Department’s structure, strategy, and alignment with the organization.  It assisted by putting in place strategies that directly affect the growth and synergy of our company.  We are also immensely more deliberate with our approach to opportunities that benefit not only the company, but also our customers. 

Where are you on the map?

We are a number of major projects into our roadmap and steadily completing more.  While important to complete all aspects of the roadmap, we understand that businesses change and being able to pivot is important.  This process has allowed us to be flexible enough to include new projects while also giving us the tools to ‘stay the course’ and remain aligned with the overall organization objectives.

Final thoughts…

The engagement started as call for help with a specific project concerning Windows Server Deployment and evolved beyond anything that we ever had planned.  It has been a long and difficult journey, but the benefits that the organization has seen, from the beginning of our journey to now, is incredible.

Major thank-you to Alex Fisher (IT Manager) and the whole Opus team for letting us be a part of your amazing work. It is an honor to join you and work alongside you. Cheers!

Curious about what this process could look like for your organization or team? Reach out and let’s chat!

April Book Read: Ideal Team Player

By PeopleIT News

In April, our team explored Patrick Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues. These three virtues are present within people inherently equipped to be high-performing team members. According to Lencioni, an Ideal Team Player is all at once:

  • Humble
    Ideal team players are humble. They lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.
  • Hungry
    Ideal team players are hungry. They are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.
  • Smart
    Ideal team players are smart. They have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.

It is at the intersection of these three attributes that the guts of the ideal team player live. Underneath the core message, our team drew many great insights and applications for our work. In the very simple and everyday acts of asking questions and letting others speak, we found a challenge to approach our conversations and relationships with a commitment to presence and active listening. In this we are opening up to the chance to discover something new, learning from others and inviting them to share their experiences.

We drew connections to our previous book read (Dare To Lead) with a call again to be vulnerable in building the virtues of hungry, humble and smart, and also to be vulnerable in conversations and interactions – asking for clarity, especially when offended and confused by something that was said.

In addition to vulnerability rising as a core practice, authenticity also surfaced with a challenge to explore together what it really means to become authentic in the ways we show up, the contributions we make to the team and the attention given to our role in every relationship.

Finally, we collectively felt a challenge to embrace conflict. Learning how to have healthy and courteous disagreements and debates because conflict is really important. The absence of conflict does not mean peace. It is often the ground for growth, understanding and innovation.

Have you read Ideal Team Player? We would love to hear your thoughts and the applications for your own team or organization. Thanks to Dave Jessup at Koops, Inc. for turning us on to this book and modeling a culture that holds this at the heart. If you want to dig beyond the pages of the book, they offer a self-assessment which could provide new awareness. Enjoy!

Foresight – A Courage Culture

By PeopleIT News

We are honored to work with many incredible companies. One of which is Foresight – an energy management company empowering energy reduction and increased profitability. They come straight to mind when reflecting on our value of Courage: Do the right thing, say the hard things, serve others, be wrong, choose to grow and change, even when you’re afraid. Be human. Give yourself, and others grace. Their culture, team & leadership embody the elements of courage in their approach to work and we are inspired by them.

We decided to ask Foresight CEO, Brian Pageau, to shares how courage shows up within their organization. Here is what he had to say:

Our team doesn’t run from conflict or disappointment with clients.  One of our favorite books is The Obstacle is the Way (Ryan Holiday) and at the essence of this book is the idea that the only way to get past hard things is to enter into them fully.  No avoiding or “going around” the problem… we own it and face it full on.

Our team works really hard on “getting it right” as opposed to “being right.”  This distinction empowers our team to not take failure personally, but to instead focus on owning what happened and moving forward from that point on.

We have a 3 part mission statement that is “How” we pursue our purpose as an organization: 

  • Pursue Individual Vitality
  • Build Long Term Partnerships
  • Embody a Growth Mindset

Being human and showing grace are big parts of becoming vital as an adult.  Having a growth mindset is all about treating failure as learning opportunities that give us the chance to be better the next time around.

It is our privilege to partner with Foresight by providing Fully Managed Support for for their team and customers. You can learn more about our work with them here: https://www.peopleit.com/portfolio/positive-energy/

Do the right thing, say the hard things, serve others, be wrong, choose to grow and change, even when you’re afraid. Be human. Give yourself, and others grace.

February Book Read: Dare To Lead

By PeopleIT News

One key way we are building our culture is through monthly book reads as a team. Each book is carefully selected and many have been discovered through our clients (thanks everyone!)

This past month we dug into Brené Brown’s most recent book – Dare To Lead The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures.

So much of her work resonates with ours and we found affirmation for our values and approach while also discovering tangible practices to build into our micro-moments as a team: Healthy rumbling, gratitude, “painting done” and kind humor to name a few!

What struck us most is the theme of humanity that came through in every story and practice. Our mantra is people first and everything else second. Daring leadership is centered on the power of bringing human connection to the forefront in our actions within our team and in our work with clients and partners. We are all people, people. Let’s speak, act and connect from a foundation of common humanity.

“To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organizations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armor is not necessary or rewarded. We have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Thank you, Brené, for providing a play book for us to continue leaning into as we seek to embrace courage in our culture, our work and in our lives. And thanks to AG Collaborative for the book recommendation!

We would love to hear from any of you who have read her work and are applying it in your work, life and leadership. Drop us a line, or better yet – let’s grab a beer and chat in person.

PeopleIT Welcomes Jason Helms

By PeopleIT News
Join us in welcoming Jason! You will soon discover – as we have – that he is brilliant, driven and always up for Big Adventure…

Jason Helms – IT Leader

Jason is a cool dude. His work as a dad of four, Firefighter (rescuing cats with the jaws of life), Medical First Responder & I.T. Extraordinaire is fueled by a strict diet of Mountain Dew, Nacho Cheese Doritos and Gummy Bears. He approaches all aspects of home and life with a desire to problem-solve, optimize, and improve – often giving “every waking moment” toward finding a resolution (in the words of his wife).

Jason closely identifies with PeopleIT’s value of Small Steps, Big Adventure – especially the call to approach work as a playground and not a battlefield. Combining this with his expert problem-solving skills, he is committed to minimizing frustration for end-users that encounter I.T. issues with a fun and exploratory mindset, creating opportunities for education and solutions for all.

In his “down-time,” Jason enjoys spending time with his kids in their basement/office, experimenting and tackling new projects or optimizing the home wi-fi while they color and puzzle.

If you catch him outside PeopleIT and his home office he may be adventuring to the family cabin, one of Michigan’s incredible state parks or surprise tripping to Great Wolf Lodge. Though be warned, if you strike up a conversation he may try to entice you to the Dark Side of the Force.