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About Carol Schultz

She is the founder and CEO of Vertical Elevation and is a talent equity and leadership advisory expert. Recognized for her proficiency in corporate leadership, she's spent three decades helping executives gain clarity in their careers, make bold leadership moves, and create cultures of performance. Schultz and her team have helped hundreds of companies—from seed stage pre-initial public offerings to publicly traded companies—transform their organizations and create sustainable, talent-centric cultures that run at maximum efficiency. She's the host of the popular podcast Authentically Successful and author of the new book Powered By People: How Talent-Centric Organizations Master Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue (and How to Build One) (June 7, 2022). Learn more at


In this episode, Jason and Carol Schultz discuss the following:

  • Always start with alignment 
  • What does talent centricity mean 
  • Hiring for cultural alignment 
  • Why coaching is important


Key Takeaways 

  • Companies and organizations must always begin at alignment. What do people in the organization believe is the most important? If people give different answers, there's a problem with alignment. 
  • Talent centricity means that every person from every aspect of your organization contributes equally in their area of expertise. 
  • Don't only hire for expertise; also consider how culturally fit a person is in your organization. For example, a competent person who cannot communicate with others is not a good candidate for your team. 
  • Great people don't become great all by themselves. People who go on to do great things often have somebody or a group of people they are accountable to that help them improve and succeed. That's why coaching is important for people who want to advance their careers. 


"Until we can get into those blindspots with somebody, we cannot elicit change. Until we have the distinction, you cannot put a structure in space to keep it from limiting you and your progress." - Carol Schultz



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Carol Schultz: Talent Centricity

I'm pumped because I've got a guest that a lot of times when we do this little pre-interview session as 1 minute or 2 and then we dive right in, I had to stop our discussion that has already gone 25 minutes or so because I'm like, “We're supposed to be recording something.” Carol Schultz, welcome to the show.

It’s a pleasure to be with you, Jason.

Who are you? We get the most interesting guests in conversations and there have been times when we dive right in and then I'll get a DM from one of our readers going, “That's great. I loved Joe, Sally or whoever but who are they?” I'm going to ask you right off the bat, who's Carol Schultz?

I don't know how much time we have. It’s not enough to fully answer your question. I will ask you a question back. Where would you like me to start?

You're not going to win this one. I know you're from the East Coast, New Jersey. You live in Montana, Colorado or somewhere cool. You neat professional things. You coach people and do leadership but I want to know what you want to tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in St. Louis. I went to college undergrad in Montana. I went to graduate school in Michigan. I moved to New Jersey for sixteen years before moving here to Colorado many years ago. I got my good solid roots growing up in the Midwest then I got my adult training on the East Coast. I decided I needed a quality of life change when I moved out here almost many years ago. I got back into horses. I love my horses. I have three. They live on a beautiful 900-acre working ranch where they raise cattle and cut horses. I own Rocky Mountain Horses. I love to garden. You would find that I'm pretty much a, “What you see is what you get,” kind of girl. My deal is not to sit here and blow sunshine up your skirt or anyone else's skirt. It doesn't serve anybody.

I already have twenty more questions on the geography of where you've been, ranches, horses and all kinds of different things. Maybe you and I will do interview number two and we'll talk about riding and horses. On the professional side of Carol, what would we need to know about that?

I've always been an entrepreneur from the time I was a kid. I got my start in executive search headhunting back in the old days before the internet. That'll be 30 years in September 2022. In 1998, I was introduced to coaching, training and development work. I started doing that work for myself and learned how to be a coach and what that looked like. In 2008, I got out of bed one morning and have worked from home since 2002. I could not make the trip from my bedroom down the hall, around the corner and into my office emotionally.

I hate to look at it from this standpoint but it's the only way I can. At that point, I was thinking recruiting is the most broken industry we have, in my opinion. It doesn't work for many reasons that we don't have nearly enough time to talk about in the time that we have. We can talk about it a little bit depending on your questions. What I realized was recruiting was broken not because of recruiting. It's broken because the executive team doesn't understand it and how it should work. The executive team isn't fully aligned. I built this whole process, which is what my book is based on and what my whole practice has been pivoted to.


Recruiting is the most broken industry we have

We're starting to get into the deep end of the pool. We've identified who you are, at least a little bit. I do have a bunch of questions about that. You do have a book and as someone that has gone through the process of writing a book, you've thought about things a lot. You have experienced and observed a ton of things to the point where you said, “I got to write about this.” I know that your brand new book is called Powered by People and you've got some subheadings there. Tell us exactly what the book is about. I do want to dive into what you said about the problem with recruiting which might be the leadership.

The book is filled with stories from 30 years of experience at things that have worked and often not worked by how leaders run their companies. What I discovered in 2008 and what I began to build was, “What does it mean? What needs to fix this problem? What's going to fix the recruiting problem?” I can't tell you the number of executive leaders that I interviewed and talked to about this. Ultimately, what has to happen is you must have a fully aligned executive leadership team. They have to be aligned with the board and vice versa. If the leadership team and the board are not on the same page, you've got an equally challenging problem.

Ultimately, it is the alignment that must happen first. Alignment can look different depending on the size of the company and who they are. I always ask a question in my discovery in this process of each individual, “What do you believe is the most important department or function in the company for it to be successful?” I might imagine all the different answers I get. If I'm not getting the same answer from everybody, they're out of alignment somewhere.

What I'm looking for in each of those conversations is on a scale of 1 to 10, where are we in alignment? Where is this or that person aligned? It is only then can I go in and start to align them. Maybe it's communication or how are they leading. If we are aligned in our vision or business strategy, we can take that and disseminate it throughout the entire organization. It is only then can I start to build a talent strategy. That can happen while we're working on some of that alignment, leadership coaching and training.

TII Carol Schultz | Talent Centricity

Talent Centricity: Suppose we are aligned in our vision or aligned on our business strategy. In that case, we can now take that and disseminate it through the entire organization, and only then can I build them a talent strategy.


It makes sense to me what you're saying. When I saw the cover of your book, I was attracted to it because you've got an eight-person shell on there. I rode in school. I happened to be very familiar when people in the boat are not rowing in the same direction or they're rowing in the same direction but they're not rowing exactly in alignment with one another, that boat doesn’t go as well as it does when everybody is not in the same direction but paddles in the water at the same time and the same strength of pole coming out of the water at the same time. I like the cover of your book.

What you said about, “I'm asking these questions and I'm getting different answers,” I think about the different oars going in and out of the water at different times. I love that the boat ain't going anywhere. Thank you for writing the book and talking about this because my observation is a lot of boards and C-Suites can nod their head at the things that you're saying. When you put a microscope on the organization itself, there's a lot of misalignment.

That's not an accusation. We're all human beings. This is tough stuff. Nodding heads is one thing but putting a microscope and a focus on your organization and going, “We can improve what is it that we need to do.” I love what you're doing. You've got some terms that you use in your book. Throw out 1 or 2 of them and then give us some definitions. Talent centricity is one of them. Tell me a little bit about that.

Everything I've described is talent-centricity, your entire organization is not lip service. They're just not sitting. They are nodding their heads. Talent centricity is truly looking at your organization and realizing no matter what whether it's sales, which is your only direct revenue generator or development, without which you wouldn't have anything to sell, customers success, without customers, you wouldn't have anybody to help them succeed, AP or all your back office stuff, without every single one of those people contributing equally to their area of expertise, you don't have talent-centricity. You have to get that. The minute somebody thinks, “Sales is the most important function here,” it is not going to work.

When you explain that term, I'm attracted to it. I dig it. I like it. What types of conversations are you having around this? Talk to me about the rubber meets the road when you're implementing, working on this or collaborating with an organization.

In my early conversations with usually the CEO and/or Founder, although I can be brought in by a board member, a lot of the pre-work before I'm hired is anything. Like any salesperson, I'm asking questions. I want to know where they think their problems are, why they think they have a problem and what they think is. There's nothing that chaps my crap more than getting emails and LinkedIn spam from people who tell me they're going to solve my problems. You don't even know what my problems are. How can you solve problems that you don't know?

Everybody reading has gotten that email and/or LinkedIn message, “I can help you by doing this. We help companies like yours.” “Like mine? What do you mean?” That certainly chaps my crap. I have to go in and discover. I have to ask questions. I don't know if or how I can help anyone. I start to have that conversation with the person who would be the one who would ultimately hire me to discover what it is that they think their issues are. If you look at the whole process of building a town center organization, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It could take 1 year or maybe 6 months. It depends on the size of the organization. Consequently, it's a land and expand model. It has to be.

What do you mean by land and expand?

Land and expand is a term often used by different organizations where you land yourself into a deal with your client or your prospect and then expand it once you're there. The land is the discovery at the executive level. Once I'm hired, I go in and meet each executive team individually. We spend a couple of hours together. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. It depends. Only then I'm asking each of these people questions to determine, “Where are we on the alignment scale of 1 to 10? Where do we need to get to?”

I can produce a report that says, “Here's my council moving forward.” We work from there. We take a step at a time because somebody safely would say, “Let's bring in McKenzie and spend $3 million to $5 million initially.” They may or may not solve your problems, first of all. It can be overwhelming. That's a lot of money to spend out of the box for anybody, even McKenzie.

What's the most common challenge that you see when it comes to misalignment? I'd love to know a story of a test case. What is a common observation that you're making with an organization and maybe 1 story or 2, almost like a test case? What you did and what the outcome was? I'd love for our readers to read, “We're having something like this. Maybe there is a solution to it as opposed to feeling overwhelmed.”

The lowest common denominator is thinking you have a recruiting problem. I hate to say it because I don't use this word lightly. That's never the issue. The issue's always going to boil back up to the executive level not being aligned. What do you do? Go to companies. They turn people over and hire new people, “Why do we keep having so much turnover?” It’s because you don't have an aligned vision and business strategy. You had somebody, for example, a CEO, who had a thought leader in his area who had come into his industry. He is a thought leader in the particular industry, grew his company to about $300 million, came out with a new platform that fell right on a tiny and laid off a considerable number of people.

That happens, then what happens after that? A bunch of other people quit. What do they do? They bring in a new Head of Technology and that guy then fails. They bring in a Head of Sales who has never sold anything in his life but he came from a particular well-known firm and built their practice in the vertical market they were calling into. I was shocked. I was still doing search work back and he didn't know anything about even how to put a sales plan together.

He's had a sale. That's wonderful.

The mistakes are hiring people only for their expertise and not worrying about the cultural piece. I'm telling you this negative story to set an example here. I'll never forget, I had a candidate flying in for a final interview and the guy flew out to Europe the night before. All of a sudden, somebody said, “Here jump.” He said, “How high?” How do you not say, “I'm sorry, I have an important interview tomorrow. I can be there the next day?”

TII Carol Schultz | Talent Centricity

Talent Centricity: The mistakes are hiring people only for expertise and not worrying about the cultural piece.


I'm sorry. I don't care who you are. I don't care if you're the president of the United States. When you start treating people where somebody's more important than somebody else, I have issues with that. I'm sure people reading are going, “This was like putting a fire out.” I get the fire but maybe he could've flown to Europe the following day. That's the far and negative side of it. People who couldn't communicate. I thought, “The guy was a legend where he came from. How can this guy not even communicate? Not even a little bit.” Where things work is when that CEO or founder says to me, “We got some issues. We've got a huge amount of turnover.” We start looking into why that is. People don't leave companies. They leave managers.

What happens is I start talking to people and listening to how they communicate. In that discovery, I'm learning that already how they communicate. I can start the coaching process immediately. The amazing thing is I had this with the CEO of a company, where he was using some language. I don't mean geological language, I mean the particular language he was using. I said to him, “I've heard you use these words a lot. What do these four words have in common?” When I asked him that, some people get that answer instantaneously, “Most don't.” A lot of that tells me where somebody's EQ is, their Emotional Intelligence.

I work. I continue asking questions to get them because my goal with anyone and that's what as you know, great coaching is to not give them all the answers. When we discover it and have that a-ha moment ourselves, it is far more impactful for our lives and businesses. Ultimately, I said that to him. When I finally got him to realize, it was like, “What the common denominator was among these four words?” He was like, “I never realized that.”

Think about when you use this word that you're thinking is no big deal, how that lands in the world of somebody else. They unconsciously may be hearing it that way, especially when it's buried like that. They don't even know. That's why the alignment piece is important. Start getting into people's blind spots and seeing where they are and what they are. Until I can get into those blind spots with somebody, you cannot elicit change. Until you have the distinction, you cannot put a structure in place. I cannot help you put a structure in place to keep it from limiting you and your progress.


Start getting into people's blind spots and seeing where they are and what they are. Because unless we can get into those blind spots with somebody, we cannot elicit change until we have the distinction. You cannot put a structure in place.

You're doing the discovery conversations but as you've landed and you're expanding, you're having these deeper conversations where you can ask questions like you did about those four words and have that executive come to their insights. That's why we call our show. That's not by mistake. I'm intrigued, where does that story go? What happens with this organization?

What happened, in this case, is like, “What do you charge?” I would think anybody who's in sales got music to their ears when the prospect is asking you how much you charge. Ultimately, that's whatever we happen to be selling. What I'm selling is a transformation of your organization. You are transforming it into a talent-centric organization. He says to me, “What do you charge?” My response is, “It depends on whether are you looking to have coaching for yourself or you want it for your whole team, which is where it should be. Is your team even open to it?”

Just because you're a CEO, you can't just put the hammer down and say, “We're bringing somebody in to do this work.” That may be more conversations that I need to have with people. They start to see what this is. The bottom line is I go in. I start doing the work. The rest starts to fall in place. A talent strategy is not posting on your LinkedIn, “We're hiring.” I'm sorry. It makes me crazy. Could that be an adjunct to your talent strategy? Yes, but that is not a talent strategy. It's like starting a tech firm and thinking that you can start a tech firm with a feature. A feature is not a product. You can't sell a feature.

We've noticed organizations that have a culture of coaching have a much better opportunity to be in alignment than others. You can have all the talent in the world that you want but if there isn't this coaching type of culture, people on the executive team, mid-level and down the line need to be open to coaching and development. We've had situations where executives that we coach go, “Everybody on the team needs to be coached.” In the early days, at least at Rewire, we're like, “Great. We're going to coach them. Let's go.” “What if they don't want to be coached?” The answer to that is, “It doesn't happen. It doesn't work.”

I am always willing to do this. What often happens is to have a conversation with people who are like, “I don't need coaching.” Nobody needs coaching. The question is, “Do you want to excel at what you do? Do you want to improve at what you do?” Coaching and athletes are not the same things as the coaching that we do. Human coaching is very different from sports coaching. Sports coaching is telling people what to do. That's a piece of coaching but that's not what coaching is when you're coaching humans. To use that as an example, Michael Jordan would never have been who Michael Jordan is without a great coach.

Anybody in any industry or endeavor of life doesn't do it alone. We all know that but it does boil down to that openness like, “Do they have a coaching spirit?” As you're expanding within organizations, you're looking for those people that want to learn and develop. You help put them in alignment with one another.

Talent Center Organizations or TCOs outperform the competition on the S&P 500 by 211%.

That certainly gets the interest of people, board members and executives.

ROI is exponential.

Thank you for that story. That's what I was looking for. Readers go, “I can see myself in that story. I can see some of the challenges that we're having at our organization and that story that Carol told.”

I believe a lot of people don't want coaching because they don't understand it and what great coaching looks like. As you and I both know and many people even reading this will be thinking coaching is a low or no barrier to entry job. You haven't noticed everybody's a coach all of the sudden.

TII Carol Schultz | Talent Centricity

Talent Centricity: Many people don't want coaching because they don't understand it. They don't understand what great coaching looks like.


You put up a shingle, it's easy.

You have never had any training. Some people are coaching in industries they don't even know anything about. Somebody was a hiring manager for five years and then another career coach. It doesn't work like that. “I stay in my lane. I work in the areas that I am an expert in. I don't try to coach people on human resources because I don't know squat about human resources. It’s distinctly different from what I know how to do. What I do is industry agnostic but I know tech better than anything else.” Often people who think that they don't need a coach or don't want a coach don't understand what coaching is. All I ever invite anyone to do is have a conversation. Let’s talk about what it is that you think coaching is.

If people wanted to come into contact with you and have that conversation, how would they do that?

They could do 1 of 2 things. They can send me an email, where they can call my office at (303) 805-7635. They can also reach out on LinkedIn. If you want to get me a little faster, those are the two ways to do it.

How do people find your book?

They can go find my book on Amazon, Powered by People: How Talent-Centric Organizations Master Recruitment, Retention and Revenue (and How to Build One).

I do love the cover because of the rowing on it.

I worked hard on it.

I like any package, service, whatever that says it is on the outside by the title. There's no question about what your book is about. That's great. I appreciate it. People, go by this book. Do yourself a favor. Go get ahold of Carol and have a conversation. Carol, usually we ask this question in the beginning and I was enthralled with your geographical travels and the different things that you started with. What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful that I slept almost eight hours, which is a rarity in my world. I'm grateful for the one morning a week I can get up and go ride a horse.

Any final messages that you have for our readers as we end our time?

Be open to a conversation. You don't know where it will lead. Maybe it'll lead nowhere or somewhere. Be open to the possibility of what you don't know, could learn and whatever that is.


Be open to a conversation. You don't know where it will lead.


I sure have appreciated this conversation. It's good to get to know you. We're in different parts of the country but I feel like we're friends.

I do too.

This is good stuff. Carol, thanks a ton for your time. I hope you have a great rest of your day. I hope you get more sleep but thank you much for being on our show. We've benefited from it greatly.

Jason, it's my pleasure to be here with you.


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