Steve Morris began as a mechanical engineer designing sailboats for high-performance teams in 1989. In 2005, as a certified Project Management Professional supporting the Navy, he led and managed engineering projects and learned the value of team collaboration and communication.
In 2015, he founded Catylator to enable and facilitate creativity for individuals and teams. Steven received his certification as a LEGO Serious Play facilitator in 2018, Steven helped teams in the creative ad technology space solve critical problems in their organization.
- As a leader, you have to provide psychological safety
- Playing with Legos allows teams members to explore difficult issues with ease
- Your team has the answers to difficult problems if you help them get there
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello, everyone. This is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster, get ready for another episode.
Umar Hameed 0:37
Today I have the privilege of having Steven Morris, the head honcho at Catylator, and it's got nothing to do with felines. Steven, welcome to the program.
Steven Morris 0:46
Thank you. It's great to be here. It's nice to meet you and to be able to talk about interesting things, being creative.
Umar Hameed 0:52
Absolutely. And I see that before you have a bag of Legos. Mm hmm. And the reason I love that is everybody has a connection to Lego. And it takes you back to that childhood space. Where there was you could build anything you wanted. And even if it didn't look like an airplane we thought it did. And that's all that counted.
Steven Morris 1:10
Umar Hameed 1:11
And you use that as a mechanism to help teams become stronger. Why don't we dive right in there? Why are you doing this crazy thing? And why does it work?
Steven Morris 1:19
Why does it work? Well, there's a lot of science and research behind using Lego, which is really good and interesting. It was actually a process. This Lego series pre process was invented by the Lego Corporation 20 years ago for their strategic management development process. And they used a lot of different aspects of technology, psychology, organizational development, brought it all together and came up with a better way of getting a team around the table. Instead of the whiteboards and the post it notes, it's actually I'm gonna make some noise here, pulling out Lego, and putting out onto the table. And then people start picking up bricks and building. And the way that they build is using the Lego to make models that are metaphors for the problems that we are facing in business.
Umar Hameed 2:14
Brilliant. So it's a lot like when you have a really long, a young child that has been traumatized in some way. And they use play as a way of bringing out the real issue because if they talked about it to the adults, they would shut down. But if they talked about it to a teddy bear, or did a little animation themselves, they could communicate and it's almost taking that same thing, although some people feel traumatized in companies, but it's uncomfortable talking about the real issues.
Steven Morris 2:42
Yeah, people don't want to talk about themselves or a lot of people are introverted. I'll raise my hand and say that I'm an introvert and I don't like standing up.
Umar Hameed 2:51
I just noticed when you raised your hand, it was actually very slight, it was hardly erase. So you are an introvert.
Steven Morris 2:55
Yes, I don't want to bring attention to the fact that I'm an introvert. So there's a lot of safety in the process with using the Lego bricks because as a facilitator, I asked a question of the group. And then everybody
Umar Hameed 3:09
Give me a, give me an example of one of those questions.
Steven Morris 3:13
What would be a nightmare boss? That would be a question that you would start a group off with, that's dealing with like a lot of issues. And then people can start building a little model of what a nightmare boss looks like.
Umar Hameed 3:24
Had have you taken pictures of those models?
Steven Morris 3:27
Well, I don't always take sometimes we don't always want to take pictures.
Umar Hameed 3:31
'Cause it's too close to the other guy in the room. I love it.
Steven Morris 3:34
Yes. But there's a safety in building the models because the attention becomes on the model on the bricks.
Umar Hameed 3:42
Absolutely. This is quote that I love. I'm not sure who said it. But it's totally brilliant. It's like why did God invent fleas, to give dogs something to do. And while you're doing the Lego it allows you to, it's almost like you're distracting your conscious mind on that. And your unconscious mind can reveal what you're really thinking. So that's totally amazing. So tell me, Steven, when you go into a company, and you go in and say, I'd like to do this strategic thing using Lego. So give me an example of a leader that got it. That said, I love it. And how that turned out and maybe one that thought you were a nut but still did it anyway and then realize the power of it?
Steven Morris 4:24
Well, I haven't had so many of those yet. But certainly, I want to talk to people about what I do I see that there are two different types of responses. There are people when I say, well, we can come in and work on the problems that you have in your business using Lego people's eyes light up, right? They like, Oh, that's cool. How can I get engaged, you know, when can we start? And then I do talk to people about this methodology and they kind of look at me with a little tilt on their head and they can't quite see how that is going to apply in their company. However, it's really is just about a methodology for giving people around the table and it can be used in all sorts of different companies. And the nice thing is, when we, when we get a group around the table, there's really no barrier to starting to actually pick up bricks.
Umar Hameed 5:14
Because you cannot srew up on it, right? Like if you're drawing something, certainly you're self conscious about, I'm not a good drawer, or what's going to happen. But with Legos, pretty much.
Steven Morris 5:23
There's no technical barrier.
Umar Hameed 5:25
Steven Morris 5:25
And I've done workshops where, in fact, I've had people who have never actually used Lego before. I think we're quite privileged here in the United States that most people have probably encountered Lego in their lives. But there are other people and other parts of this world that have not.
Umar Hameed 5:40
Only because you have to take a mortgage out on your house to get your kids a couple of sets these things.
Steven Morris 5:45
Yes, they're really expensive. But, you know, I remember Lego, when I was a kid, getting that first model and building it. And a lot of people share that. So when we come into the room, and there's Lego on the table, people relax. And then they can start talking. And so when some of the the workshops that I've done, there can be a subject on the table, like, we have a new strategic vision for this group here. And you're going to have to change from say, being a service provided to a strategic partner in your organization. And for people that have been doing a job the same way for 15 years. And now they're being asked to come with a new strategic vision, that can be quite a journey. And you need to process that and talk about it and make it safe for people to be able to go on that journey. And so for example, to go through a workshop, I did a workshop recently like that. And we worked through who the team was who the individuals were, they talked about themselves, they talked about what was important to themselves, they talked about what they wanted to do. And then at three o'clock in the afternoon, finally, they got it like somebody had come up with a model and talked about this concept of who they were as the team.
Umar Hameed 6:59
Steven Morris 7:00
Everybody was suddenly like, "Yes, that's it, that's us".
Umar Hameed 7:03
That's what we want. Is that us or is that what we could be?
Steven Morris 7:07
No, that they, there was a moment of crystallization, I think about who they were, as a group, and the where they were going to go in this new strategic vision. But it took all day to work through there to like, talk through the issues, the challenges, the environment, all of the stuff, they had to work through it all before they got there.
Umar Hameed 7:31
So let me pause right there. Because I think one of the problems is, people have a notion of us. And if they did it in the first 10 minutes that that wouldn't, that'd be a fallacy. Whatever strategic direction that we're going in, probably is not going to work. So it takes time to let it reveal the authenticness of it. If it was just a you lecturing, it'd be hard to get there. But if you got them participating with Lego and playing and letting the inner child come out, I can see why it works so effectively.
Steven Morris 8:00
Yeah, well, there's a structure to their process. And it's a facilitation facilitated meeting. In other words, I'm not the sage on the stage, standing at the front of the room telling them what's going to happen, right? People are building their models, I'm asking a question. Everybody gets to build they build separately. So it levels the playing field, because you are stopping the usual sort of loud voices that dominate a meeting, even the quietest, most reserved, people still have their role, they get to build their model, and they get to share their thoughts. And now you start getting the group around the table listening to. And I think that that brings everybody along. Because 12 people around the table, you have 12 opinions about what's going on, everybody gets to talk, everybody gets their opinions on the table, everybody feels like they've been heard. And I think that's such a rare thing these days.
Umar Hameed 8:57
You can have a family, Mom, Dad, let's say three kids, let's say dad is abusive, not physically, but you know, yelling, screaming, maybe not so happy when he's drunk, starts picking on his wife, it could be very likely that the youngest child ends up being the Savior that will get in the way, and be the person that will protect them on. So we each take on these roles in family units and family dynamics. Similar things happen in organizations, where some people are the bold ones. Other people are like saying all the right things, but they're not doing anything to actually make it happen. How do you transcend that fundamental makeup of the team? Certainly they go on a journey. But once they've got that vision, how do you keep them on track and not let the fundamental DNA of that team dynamic? get in the way of sabotaging what they're thinking about?
Steven Morris 9:50
Well, I think it needs follow through and it needs regular engagements and coming back to the points of what we're working on. So One of the things that I've seen in workshops is we can kind of do a, you know, a one day workshop and get to that point of crystallization. But they need to come back and check in with that vision of where they were. Now, one of the nice things is after these workshops, people go home with a little model of what they built. So there's actually a physical, tangible reminder of where they were in that workshop. And then I also will do documentation of these larger models. Because when we're working through with a large group, a bigger problem, we might end up with 30, or 40 models laid out on a huge conference room table. And those models are telling a story. Unfortunately, we can't just pick that whole table up and take it back to the office as a reminder. But we do document the models at that stage. And I know that I can go back and look at a workshop from a year ago. And remember what those models stood for, because they're three dimensional, they're tangible. And there's so much encapsulated in a model in each little brick, when somebody builds a model, like each little brick tells a story. Like, why did you put that brick there? What does that represent? And people will talk about the fact that, you know, this gold brick here that I put on the top of the mind represents integrity, because that's the most important thing for me. And now everybody knows that that's the meaning of that brick.
Umar Hameed 11:36
How do you balance that out? Because you could have three people in a team, let's say a team of eight people, person, a, the number one most important thing is recognition for them, that drives them as human beings. So you've got somebody else, that's all about integrity, and you've got somebody else that is all about compensation. So how do you blend all those different needs, with keeping the team together? So I understand the process. So tell me about the follow up meetings, and how you keep everybody aligned?
Steven Morris 12:09
So I think it's there needs to be the sort of sense about where that team is going and how those different people are going to form together. Like, what are those strengths? And how are those strengths going to marry together for the team as they go forward? And that is a longer process of coming back and re engaging the team, looking at these issues of, you know, we talked about psychological safety, right, which is this idea that people can come into a team and raise their hand and say, I don't know what's going on here. I can somebody please explain to me, I missed the last meeting, and feel like they're not going to get ridiculed or blamed or shamed for not knowing what's going on. And that's sort of like one of those very sort of fundamental things that particularly Google's been doing a lot of research on, on that particular issue. So is that there? You know, are we coming back and seeing that? Or are we seeing that there are those usual behaviors that come in.
Umar Hameed 13:14
So when they when those usual behaviors come in? Because they will, because that's just the way the reality of the situation is? Give me an example of how you handled one of those situations where I was like, Okay, well, we need to do is, do XYZ to get the team back together again, or get this person who's starting to become an issue on this journey? Like, how do you corral them? And how do you reengage them?
Steven Morris 13:36
So we need to look at, you know, what is what are some of those the problem behind the problem right.
Umar Hameed 13:41
Let me pause you there right now. So rather than talking in generalities, can you go back to I remember this team, you know, change the name of the person, so we don't like call somebody out. But a real example would be useful. So it's not a cliché that anybody could use this, like a specific way it was in this company. There was a gentleman and this was going on, and this is what we did.
Steven Morris 14:02
So in one of the workshops I remember doing, there was, yeah, one person who came in and you know, just the body language. They sat back in their chair, they had their arms crossed, and you could tell that they were not going to be in with this group. Right. There was some resistance there. We work through the issues, you know, talking through, you know, just getting people going with these questions about what's going on at work. And I would say that the magic is that when you actually start going through the process and building the models, that because everybody has to build a model has to tell a story, that they are actually going to now start participating with the team. What was interesting was that individual had negative stories at the beginning but through The process of the workshop, what actually turned around was they probably cared more than anybody about what was going on is just through whatever frustration, cynicism.
Umar Hameed 15:14
The only reason somebody gets angry is because they get their feelings hurt. So that level of negativity often underlies what you just said that they really care.
Steven Morris 15:24
Yeah. And you know, because people haven't talked to them in the past or haven't taken care of their opinions or listened to them. So they haven't felt that they've been heard, then they, you know, tend to shrink up or they're not going to contribute.
Umar Hameed 15:42
Steven Morris 15:43
But the process of the workshop really forces them to come out of that shell, even if they've got something negative to say, they're still going to say it in a model. And then I think it goes going around the team, it builds the respect and,
Umar Hameed 15:59
Steven Morris 16:01
Yeah, and now everybody's like, Okay, well, there's, you know, Joe's got his opinion there. And, you know, we can take that on board. And I think in this particular instance, that I was thinking about, like what really transpired even though he might have been saying, what came across as negative things like people realize that underneath that there was a deep caring. And then I think once that came out, like, once everybody got that, then there was that resistance went away, like then, you know, his whole body language started changing. And then the reactions of the people to him, were all a system.
Umar Hameed 16:36
Change one element, and you change the system.
Steven Morris 16:38
Yeah. And we react, I guess, you know, in terms of the environment that we're in.
Umar Hameed 16:44
So before we part company, you've worked with a lot of teams, what would be three pieces of advice, you could give teams that would allow them to operate at a higher level.
Steven Morris 16:56
So building trust is one of those fundamental things with getting a team going. And as I was talking about with psychological safety, and trust, and psychological safety, certainly are going to together there. And so being able to have that conversation, I think, around the table to get to a place where people see each other where people can talk. And when people get heard, I think is, you know, it's a very fundamental part of building a team.
Umar Hameed 17:26
So making sure the trust is there and ongoing process to make sure that's happening, and getting stronger.
Steven Morris 17:35
Yeah. Structure and clarity. I think so people want to know, like, what are we here for, you know, what is the team? Which direction are we heading in.
Umar Hameed 17:47
A number of companies where roles and responsibilities people don't have any idea what people are doing?
Steven Morris 17:52
Yep. So we want to get them around the table and have that discussion.
Umar Hameed 17:55
Steven Morris 17:56
You know, and I think if we can get that structure and clarity, then people know when they show up to work, what's expected of them. And then I think number three, is dependability. And so I've seen that, throughout my career. When I started my career, I was designing sailboats actually for America's Cup and the Volvo race. And I would see teams who would be successful and wouldn't win the race. And then there would be other teams, despite all of the resources who wouldn't get there and want to achieve that. And that was kind of curious to me, like, why was that and you'd go on board the boats with these teams that had gel together, click together, they didn't even need to talk hardly in terms of operating a boat they just knew. And it's that dependability, is that structure and that trust.
Umar Hameed 18:50
Steven Morris 18:51
And that's you could see those teams, and you can feel it when you were onboard the boat with them. And I see that in companies now. There's, it's a hard world out there. Constantly. I'm talking with clients, the stories tend to be similar. We have change. Change is happening.
Umar Hameed 19:11
Who would have thought?
Steven Morris 19:11
Who would have thought, right? We're getting reorg. You know, we've got a new president, you know, new strategic vision, new competitors, and everybody just wants to feel safe in their jobs. They want to feel like they have valuable.
Umar Hameed 19:26
The fundamental human needs. And this kind of bullshit kind of circumstance has not changed since the dawn of time. And I suspect 100 years from now we'll have much nicer toys, but the same fundamental human issues will still remain. And that's why Shakespeare is still relevant today is because nothing's changed.
Steven Morris 19:44
Nothing's changed, except the pace that they've gone up. And that's the thing like, you know, the iPhones only probably 10 years old. And can you imagine what like I can't even you know, like, remember back to what was life before we had these computers in our pockets. Ruling our lives.
Umar Hameed 20:01
This is going to be obsolete. The whole concept of it. I suspect at some point, I'm not sure what that looks like, but it'll happen. And it'll be like, "Oh my god, you grew up with smartphones. How did you ever survive?" How can people get ahold of you?
Steven Morris 20:15
So I'm available on the web at www.catylator.com, which is Catylator. I'm also on LinkedIn, at Steven A Mars, you can look me up there.
Umar Hameed 20:28
I'm going to put those links in the show notes.
Steven Morris 20:29
All right, thanks. And you can call me on my phone too, 443-254-7711 and I'll be happy to talk.
Umar Hameed 20:38
Steven, thanks for sitting down with me.
Steven Morris 20:40
Thank you so much. It has been wonderful talking.
Umar Hameed 20:47
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.