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Tri-Cities Influencer Podcast with Paul Casey

Nov 8, 2021

Paul Casey:                         Great team leaders notice an imbalance in the team and have the ability to adjust to it. But again, don't attack the person attack the problem.

Speaker 1:                           Raising the water level of leadership in the Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington, it's the Tri-Cities Influencer Podcast. Welcome to the TCI podcast. We're local leadership and self-leadership expert, Paul Casey interviews, local CEOs, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit executives to hear how they lead themselves and their teams, so we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience. Here's your host, Paul Casey of Growing Forward Services, coaching and equipping individuals, and teams to spark breakthrough success.

Paul Casey:                         It's a great day to grow forward. Thanks for joining me for today's episode with Jeanne Dillner, she is the CEO of SIGN Fracture Care. And I asked for a fun fact about her and it turned into a whole story. And so, Jeanne, I'm going to just let you roll with it.

Jeanne Dillner:                  One of the women at work gave me the idea of playing with watercolor to relax. And so, I've been doing that for about a year now. And then on June 17th, at 9:30 at night, I was petting my dogs goodnight and somehow fell over and broke my arm. I'm lefthanded and I broke my left arm. So, I wasn't able to use that for about three months. And so, but I still needed to have that creative outlet. And so, I started to not only learn how to write with my right hand, but also do my art with my right hand. And so, I've just as a joke, decided to call it wrong handed art. And so, that my funny thing.

                                                And then another thing that I do with my dogs is entertaining to people who decide to walk with me, sometimes I just don't want to because I do this, but I make up voices for them and kind of relay what they're really thinking to others. And Wally has a weight problem. He has a lot of conversation about how I force him to become anorexic, but it's not true. It's really nice. [inaudible 00:02:11].

Paul Casey:                         Oh, that's awesome. And Tri-Cities Influencer listeners, Jeanne put up to the screen, one of her wrong handed art watercolors and it's lovely. She did this lovely. Well, we'll dive in after checking in with our Tri-Cities Influencer sponsor.

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Paul Casey:                         Thank you for your support of leadership development in the Tri-Cities. Well welcome Jeanne. I was privileged to meet you many years ago. You reminded me that it was at the hammer facility, I was doing a training back then. I didn't remember. That was the first time I met you. But so since then I've enjoyed a tour of SIGN Fracture Care. I know a few of the employees there were leaders in the organization. I'm a donor of the organization and I just love the mission. So, I'm looking forward to interviewing here today. So, our TCI influencers can get to know you, tell us about what SIGN does and what do you spend about 80% of your day doing as a CEO?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Those are two big questions. The first thing I'll answer is what do we do? We are a nonprofit organization. We are very unusual because we not only provide training to do orthopedic surgery in developing countries, but we also provide the implants. Our founder is Dr. Lewis Zirkle, a long term orthopedic surgeon here in town, and who dedicated his time off to helping surgeons in developing countries, get the skill and sustain the skill. And the only way he discovered to sustain the skill is for someone to provide the implant on an ongoing basis. And it just turns out that after many years of trying to get other people to manufacture it, it really meant that he needed to manufacture it. So, he, 22 years ago opened up a manufacturing plant and I've been working with SIGN ever since then, as well as a handful of our employees.

                                                Now, many of them are getting to retirement age. And so, we're doing exciting things to transition SIGN into the next generation is sort of what I call it. What I spend 80% of my time doing really is the people parts. It's not just the people overseas that we have to train and nurture, but it's also our own staff. So, for 2021, it's in everybody's goal to work on succession, sorry, succession planning. And that for us just means identifying tasks that need to be taught to another individual, so that you have the cross training that's there. And then also thinking about when we're doing new hires, especially in management, what's their potential for helping out in future positions in science? So, that's what we're working on in the near term. And it's really funny because I remember it was about 10 years ago that I started seeing other CEOs who are my age now, doing the same thing.

                                                They were saying, "Now, my focus is to prepare the company for when I'm not there anymore." So, that's what I'm, sounds kind of harsh to say, but that is what my next several years is... The goal is to have things set up so that SIGN can continue on with the successes that we've had so far.

Paul Casey:                         That's very wise to have a succession plan, TCI listeners. Do you have a succession plan, no matter what position do you have? Is there someone coming up behind you who is getting equipped to take your spot when you get promoted to your dream job? I like that better than getting hit by a bus.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah. We just recently got inform one of our most experienced machinists is having to move on. So that puts a real challenge on us because that's a kind of a position that's harder to replace than others that we have at SIGN. So yeah, it's not just the CEO or the founder who needs to do succession plan.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah, totally agree. And one thing I recommend to companies is you have a duty handbook, some kind of documented of your major processes and procedures. So, if you did this appear tomorrow, somebody could at least pick up the book and say, all right, here's what he did. Here's what she did.

Jeanne Dillner:                  That's a great idea. I just wrote that down. Thank you.

Paul Casey:                         Well, why do you love what you do, Jeanne?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, I love helping people and while I do it indirectly by being CEO, I don't get to go in and I'm not a nurse or a doctor, so I get to go in and watch surgeries. During disasters, there are times when I help more directly, but I just love knowing that we're helping patients in developing world walk again and return to work, and children returning to school. If the parents don't return to work, then children get pulled out of school. So, we're really helping, not only families get out of poverty, but we're also helping the communities grow and expand, and improve because people are able to stay in their jobs and contribute to the society.

Paul Casey:                         What a fantastic mission. Yep. It'd be easy to get excited about that for sure. So, in your journey to where you are today, you probably learned a lot from people that you watched, bosses, supervisors, leaders, what do you keep in mind, good or bad, from that education that you had while you lead today?

Jeanne Dillner:                  I love that question because you did give us some questions ahead of time. And I love that one because it reminded me of Gary Coker who owned funny enough, a sign company. And I was hired as the office manager. We made signs, we were actually called the right name for once. But he gave me a lot of leeway. I just had to make sure that people paid their bills and we paid our bills, and that I managed the money appropriately when we had loans. Those are the days of 20% loans and we had a revolving loan kind of thing. And I made sure that got paid down as fast as it could. So anyway, he just really gave me the confidence, his trust in me gave me the confidence that I could do and learn just about anything.

                                                And then I moved from, that was in St Morgan where I was born. Then I moved there to go to Portland State as a night student. And worked full-time at another company. And that manager just the opposite. He was very nitpicky. He complained about any mistakes and it didn't take long for me to lose the confidence that I had built up under Gary Coker. So, not that I've been perfect at it, but that's what I've been trying to do at SIGN, is give people the leeway, step in at times maybe they don't like it. But when I feel like I haven't conveyed well enough what the path should be, but you can't just let people run free and not step in if they're going off track. But anyway, I've been trying that and I'm getting better at it over the years, I guess, I hope.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  [crosstalk 00:10:37] would say that about me at SIGN.

Paul Casey:                         Let's get him on the line right now. I was kidding.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Okay. Call him up.

                                                [inaudible 00:10:42] 107 [inaudible 00:10:47].

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. It sounds like you're more of a guide, right? You change your style and I think Ken Blanchard developed a situational leadership model right? Some people need more directions. You have to be super clear with your expert expectations. And this is the deliverable. This is what a win looks like. Other people want autonomy. Let's leave me alone, clear away the obstacles and let me do my job.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah. And sometimes it's not easy to find out who needs what, but...

Paul Casey:                         Right.

Jeanne Dillner:                  But we're figuring it out.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. Well, how do you keep yourself fired up Jeanne? Where do you go for inspiration as a leader?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, one of the things that is inspiring to me course is the patients that we help. So, we get pretty frequently. We get patient stories and surgeons will send those to us, or they'll send us a story about just what it's like at their hospital. And that really is an encouragement to keep on going, especially during the pandemic when we can't travel there ourselves, because that was like the biggest high is to go see the people, see the dignity of even the impoverished, and know that you're helping their lives become better. It's not just the patients lives that are better, but it's also the surgeons because now they're doing something worthwhile. They have the tools they need to help their patients. So, that's what I would do during travel times, but now we're in staying at home times and I think you know that I'm Christian and that I have a faith in God.

                                                And so, I've tried to use this time to believe that it's something God is doing to help us get closer to Him and to pray more, and to consult, and practice, and strengthen our faith. So, I'm doing that quite a bit right now. And especially, in terms of just, I know this is a hard time for people they're working from home. They don't have that same social connection, human connection with people and it's not as energizing sometimes. So, I've prayed a lot to be energetic about my job and find something really intriguing to focus on so that I can get revved up and make progress.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. I think people do play off their leader, the energy that they bring or the vibe that they have. So, I love that you're really being intentional about that. Amping it up with a little bit more charisma or energy, or whatever that would take...

Jeanne Dillner:                  Right.

Paul Casey:                         To be a model for the team and also...

Jeanne Dillner:                  [inaudible 00:13:30].

Paul Casey:                         Agree that yeah, that's true. Right. Some days harder than others. Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yep.

Paul Casey:                         And the spiritual connection being sort of the key to mental health, emotional health, physical health, it's sort of like the core. And faith over fear, we've got that sign in our house here in a culture where there's a lot of fear.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Oh yeah. Yep. Well, there's probably always been that fear. It's just that now we're seeing it. And so, how we handle what we see is what God, we have to go to God to understand what to do, so.

Paul Casey:                         Absolutely. Well you have to keep improving yourself. You've probably shared little nuggets already there what you're working on as a leader, but what are you working on like right now and maybe even for the months to come as a leader to better yourself?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, I think the other thing we're working on besides succession... That's such a hard word. Succession planning because it's psychological that it's hard to say [inaudible 00:14:33] is the long term. Well, I think a three year long term goal is good. Because it's not so far in the future that you can't touch it in a way. And it is hard to plan for three to five years right now just because you really don't know what the... It's just, things are so uncertain.

Paul Casey:                         Yes.

Jeanne Dillner:                  But we are working on that. I mean, we're more intentional about that now. And we're trying to learn and convey the lingo of that kind of thinking that is more than 12 months out thinking. We've been doing 12 month planning for a long time, but now let's turn that into 36 months planning.

                                                And so, we're learning how to define and report on KPIs, key performance indicators. Things like that, that are more businesslike as a nonprofit. We haven't had to be as rigid or disciplined. I don't know. We're disciplined, but we haven't had to use business lingo as much, but now we're transitioning into a new ERP system. So, we're going to have to change a lot of the ways that we do our work and it's going to, for the most part, be better than what we're doing now. And some of that is getting better information out of the data that's going in there about our costs or time to manufacture things, or whatever things that this new ERP will be tracking for us. So, we need to be thinking about what does it look like to have a new product, significantly different products.

                                                So, we're looking into, and talking very seriously with a few people about starting science spine. So, what it does that look like for us and how do we incorporate that into our database? It has ramifications that are tremendous. And we think that people would be excited about funding that, but we don't know yet until we get a core group set up and really a pilot project going, how it's going to work and whether the local surgeons really want to benefit from it. But that's the exciting thing for the next three to five years, is to see how that project pans out. We're pretty confident it's going to happen and going to start next year sometime.

Paul Casey:                         Wow. SIGN spine. You heard here first.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah. Right. Well...

Paul Casey:                         How exciting.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah. You try here first.

Paul Casey:                         Yes.

Jeanne Dillner:                  [crosstalk 00:17:23] a conversation within our walls for quite a while.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. Very, very exciting. And I love how you brought up key performance indicators. And no matter if you're in a nonprofit or in a for-profit or you're a solopreneur, I think tracking those KPIs for yourself and your performance, and as an organization just make you more effective. So, Jeanne, how do you balance or integrate your personal time, your family time with the work time, so that everything gets the priority it needs, right? It's a little bit of a Tetris trying to fit all those things into your schedule. How do you do that?

Jeanne Dillner:                  I can say I've been super weird at that. Right now, my family consists two golden retrievers and myself, and then one of my brothers decided to move here. So, I make time for him and his wife. Every weekend, they come over and help me walk the dogs. And I just got back from Lake Oswego where my one year old grand niece had her first birthday. So, I am, I would would to say the first 20 years, I wasn't very good at it. And now that I'm looking more to the distant future. I'm focusing more on my brothers and their families, and making sure that I'm staying healthy, and able to participate in their lives more than I had been in the last 20 years, let's say.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah, good stuff. It is a work of progress for all of us in leadership because we like the work, we do. There's so much that has to get done.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah.

Paul Casey:                         But if we put ourselves off or our families off for too long there's consequences on that side of things. So, we have to raise it up the priority scale.

Jeanne Dillner:                  We do. And some of that is they were busy with their careers too. So, it's just now that we're all able to really see the value and the need for us to stay connected because we need that. We need each other. And honestly, SIGN is out of a point where it can now afford to have more people. So, like in your situation, you are everything. And for many years I was a lot of more things than most CEOs are. So, we've got some incredibly talented and competent people on board now, who can and want to have that responsibility, share the responsibility, which is also healthy for the word I have a hard time saying, succession planning. To make sure we have more managers now that are, and they are all quite capable of handling things, whether I'm here or not. And all I'm doing now is fine tuning their knowledge to make the transition easier in the future.

Paul Casey:                         Yes. I want to pick your brain more on employees, but let's go to a break here before we head into our next question on hiring and retaining great employees. Let's do a quick shout out to our sponsor.

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Paul Casey:                         So, Jeanne, what's your process for attracting great talent. You said it's sort of the key to work life balance is to have great people underneath you. So, I would agree with you there. And then how do you keep good people? How do you make the workplace a place where employees want to stay? You've had some long timers there. And I know the mission is probably one of those reasons, but it's probably culture. So, talk to us about that.

Jeanne Dillner:                  So, I think mission is key to the fact that we're able to keep people for so many years. The machinists they're making the implants that go into the bodies of the patients. So, they know that the every day they make... How many nails do they make a day? Let's say they make a hundred nails a day. They're helping a hundred people walk again.

Paul Casey:                         Wow.

Jeanne Dillner:                  And that's pretty impactful, I think. And keeps you going when times are rough. And of course we try to pay a fair salary just because we're a nonprofit, we still have to compete for good employees. In terms of hiring the right people, the rightest people have come to us providentially. We've just been made aware of them or they found out about us, so we feel very strongly and thankful for that.

                                                There are some positions for us that are very hard to find the right fit. And so, we are having to change how we interview and assess a person before we bring them on because we consistently choose not the right person for it, or they're just not coming to us. Especially right now, it's hard to get people to apply for work for some reason. So, we have a one or two positions opened and we're just being a lot more selective now. Because it's very painful to hire somebody, have them not work out and then have to start it all over.

Paul Casey:                         Yes.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Painful for them and painful for us. But in terms of keeping people besides the mission, we're also fairly flexible. We can be more flexible in the non-manufacturing jobs, but we're pretty flexible there too, in terms of time that you work. So even in the shop, the shop is open, say from six o'clock, till 17:30. So, the people that want to come in at six and work till a certain time, they can do that. As opposed to always everybody having to be here from seven to four. And then we're also flexible for the office staff, like the engineers and the clerical people, et cetera. If they need to be off for a child's school play or sports or whatever, they just make it up on Friday or something. And I'm not being super forceful about people coming back into the building. There are some of our staff who are very afraid of the pandemic and about catching COVID, and they feel the safest place at home, and their work is fine from home.

                                                So, we accommodate that and we look to other companies for how they're handling it, and how they're informing how they're going to move back to the building eventually. But I've just not set a date because who knows when the next flare up will happen. So, I don't want to really enforce anything. And those that are staying home most of the time when I need them in, they come in and they're fine with it. But anyway, so yeah, it's a challenge though because we all enjoy each other's company. And I think ideas are exchanged much faster. If you're an innovative company, I think it happens more rapidly if you're in the same room together, but we're still making good changes despite being so far apart.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. Flexibility is such a key in today's work place. Many sources have said that's even more important than salary and almost benefits. I mean, it's just such a big deal for people to be able to have that flexibility. It used to just mean work hours and paid time off, and things like that, but now, it's working at home or working at the office, so.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah, I had one person who says, "Well, I'd really like to work in the office." And I said, "Okay, I'm not telling you can't, so that's fine." But the other thing that I was really excited to be able to offer to people when schools were closed is that they could bring their kids and have them learn alongside because not every child can study without some supervision, so.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  We were able to accommodate that as well. Since there were so many people gone, there were plenty of empty offices.

Paul Casey:                         Yes. I like how you led with the mission. And of course for nonprofits, that's the key of why people sign on, is the mission. No matter what job you have as a leader, I think it's important to connect your people, your team to the constituents you serve. No matter if you're making widgets or developing people or providing some kind of service. I think when you get a glimpse of who you're serving and how that actual end user is benefiting, it sort of kicks you back in as a motivator, so...

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah.

Paul Casey:                         That's neat that like what you said, I'm going to save a hundred lives or help a hundred lives today. There isn't much greater motivation than that.

Jeanne Dillner:                  But we're friends with Leatherman tools. They've been very supportive for SIGN. And their marketing is awesome and they sincerely believe their tool is saving lives. It's getting people out of predicaments. It's an amazing tool and series of tools that they've developed. And so, we're learning from them on how to reinvigorate your enthusiasm for the job that you have, so.

Paul Casey:                         Good marketing. So, you mentioned succession plan, I won't make you say it again, but delegation is a part of sort an early stage of that. Making sure you're too deep in every position. And how do you feel about delegation? What are struggles for you or do you have some tips on how to do it well?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, what I wrote was hire really good people. And it's true. It's lot easier to delegate when you're working with people who want to learn and who want to take on more responsibility, and have the aptitude for it. So, that's been very freeing for me. I've had a dream for one of our departments to be X, Y, Z, and the people that are in there are now, they have that same dream and so, they're making it happen. But if you have people that can't visualize that dream, then you it's just going to be slow coming. But now, that department is really swinging and helping educate more surgeons because of it. And then how do I encourage myself and others to delegate? That is harder, but I do check in with myself and say, "Jeanne, why are you doing this scan right now?"

                                                And well, right now, it's because we don't have a front desk person. So, after doing it for about a week, I realized this was not a good use of my time. So now, we're going to look at hiring a temp agency to fill that spot for at least part of the day, each day. Because it's a drain on my mental capacity, which should be thinking about [inaudible 00:29:26] not...

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  "Did I push the right button to scan this thing?"

Paul Casey:                         Yes.

Jeanne Dillner:                  [crosstalk 00:29:32]. Yeah. I do have a personal assistant now, which is very wonderful and also frees up a lot of time for me. And she's helping me learn to what things to let her just go do, instead of me wanting to start the process and letting her finish, kind of a thing.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  So, I'm very relational. And so, that's hard because I like interfacing with all the people that report to me, but really there are some things that are better done by someone else.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. It's a good question you asked yourself like, "Am I the right person to be doing this right now?" And I think leaders should ask themselves that question often because you've been promoted or hired for 15,000 feet or 30,000 foot view...

Jeanne Dillner:                  Right.

Paul Casey:                         Of your team or organization. And not that you're unwilling to make a scan or sling a chair because servant leaders, no job too small. However, the organization only has hired you for a reason. And it's great that if there's other people that love doing the scans can be employed to do that and everybody wins.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Yeah. Scan and file it and all those other things. So yes, there's a lot to those little jobs that really, if you can't find that piece of paper again, it can mean hours of work trying to remake it or whatever.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. Well finally, Jeanne, what advice would you give to new leaders or anyone who wants to keep growing and gaining more influence?

Jeanne Dillner:                  I think new leaders oftentimes become afraid of failure maybe. And so, become micromanagy and they don't even know they're doing it. So, I would think a new leader would want to have someone who's honest with them, that they check in with, just to get honest feedback on how they're doing. And then to also find mentors that they've seen or feel like are good leaders and just spend time with them. One of the things that I realized I haven't done with my other managers, but the new managers I have, I am doing. I call it manager in training and I just let them pick my brain because I don't know what their question are, so. And they don't oftentimes either, so when we talk through how to let go of things, and how to train somebody else to do something, and how to think a little bit bigger than you are right now. So, that I can see that you're ready to take more.

                                                Those types of things that I didn't do with the other managers, probably because 20 years ago, when I was asked to do this position, we were all learning just how to do SIGN, period.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  And so, we're all busy learning together. We didn't have time to do manager in training because this manager was in their own training game, honestly. But yeah, I think that's been healthy for them and it's certainly helped us build a rapport that we might not have had, otherwise in trust that we wouldn't have had. So, I don't know, I guess that's what I [inaudible 00:33:05] of today.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah. Putting on that mentor hat and making yourself available, and then the questions. Really in mentoring relationships, I've often found the mentee is in charge of the questions and then the mentor is available and then speaks from their experience. So, it sounds like a pretty good MIT system you got going there, Jeanne.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, thanks. Because I thought, well, was I supposed to build a curriculum? I wasn't sure what I was doing, but it seems now they're just taking things they have quandaries about and then just talk through them.

Paul Casey:                         Yeah.

Jeanne Dillner:                  I meet just about every week with each one of, there are three, with each one of them. So, and then I meet with the more mature managers, I meet once a month or so.

Paul Casey:                         Well Jeanne, how can our listeners best connect to you and to SIGN?

Jeanne Dillner:                  Well, they can learn more about SIGN Fracture Care by going to We have a really nice website and it's very informative and there's places to donate if you find that you feel like you want to support our organization. You're welcome to send me an email. I look at that all of the time and my email address is Jeanne,

Paul Casey:                         Well thank you for all you do to make Tri-Cities a great place and keep leading well.

Jeanne Dillner:                  Thank you, Paul. It's been a pleasure.

Paul Casey:                         Let me wrap up our podcast today with a leadership resource to recommend. And it's a book I just read on vacation called, How to Say Anything to Anyone, by Shari Harley. And there's good stuff in there. And one of them hearkens back to one of Jeanne's last answers, is we need to get more feedback on ourselves from the people around us. So, who do you need to get feedback from today, specifically, on your performance? Because most people won't speak up and share that. So, that was one thing I gleaned from the book and also getting ahead of situations with your expectations right up front, even on a personal level, so people know where you're coming from. So, How to Say Anything to Anyone is a great read. Again, this is Paul Casey, and I want to thank my guest Jeanne Dillner from SIGN Fracture Care for being here today on the Tri-Cities Influencer Podcast. And we want to thank our TCI sponsor and invite you to support them. We appreciate you making this possible, so that we can collaborate to inspire leaders in our community.

                                                Finally, one more tidbit for the road to help you make a difference in your circle of influence it's by [Deep 00:35:45] Roy, he said, "Inspiration comes from within yourself. One has to be positive. When you're positive, good things happen." Until next time. KGF, keep growing forward.

Speaker 1:                           Thank you to our listeners for tuning in to today's show. Paul Casey is on a mission to add value to leaders by providing practical tools and strategies that reduce stress in their lives and on their teams, so that they can enjoy life and leadership and experience their key desired results. If you'd like more help from Paul in your leadership development, connect with him at, for a consultation that could help you move past your current challenges and create a strategy for growing your life or your team forward. Paul would also like to help you restore your sanity, to your crazy schedule and getting your priorities done every day by offering you his free Control My Calendar Checklist. Go to for that productivity tool, or open a text message to 72000 and type the word, "Growing."

Paul Casey:                         The Tri-Cities Influencer Podcast was recorded at fuse SPC, by Bill Wagner of safe strategies.