Transcript:                    Thanks Allan, this is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our special guest is Karen Walker from One Team Consulting in Jupiter, Florida. She’s an executive coach, consultant, speaker and author, she focuses on helping senior leaders create internal strategies that support their organization’s external growth. She’s been doing this for a while, very well educated from Texas A&M, Columbia.

David Brower:              Karen, welcome. From Jupiter, Florida, to Loveland, Colorado. How are ya?

Karen Walker:              Thanks David, and I am particularly happy to be in Jupiter today, where it’s a little warmer than the rest of the country. I’m also not on an airplane today, so that’s … that would be some good news.

David Brower:              Well, that’s a good thing. That’s one of the things I laughed out loud when I was looking at your website, and it says, “She resides in Jupiter, Florida, although she can most often be found aloft in seat 2C.”

Karen Walker:              Yes, that’s my second … my home away from home.

David Brower:              That’s great. So, how did you … I know you started a company several years ago, how did you get your start in doing all this magic training that you do?

Karen Walker:              Yeah, so, I [inaudible 00:01:19] my consulting work in a little different path, I think, than many people who are in it. I’m actually an engineer by degree. I started working at a big Fortune 100 company, not so unusual, but I noticed some people leaving and starting a new little tech startup down the street. So I inquired, went to work there when they were about 100 people, and we hadn’t shipped any products yet, and that turned out to be Compaq Computer-

David Brower:              Wow.

Karen Walker:              And I was fortunate to be part of the senior team that led that company from no revenue to about $15 billion by the time I left. You know, from my little party of one, to hundreds of employees in my staff, 1000’s of contracts and consultants worldwide, in charge of all the global infrastructure.

Karen Walker:              I did that for about 14 years, and then I realized I needed something different in the rest of my life, so I took a little time to figure out what I wanted to do next, and I went into consulting. I met my now husband, who’s a psychologist, and he was working with CEO’s on organization growth and leadership. So, we formed this company together, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

David Brower:              Called One Team.

Karen Walker:              Yes.

David Brower:              $15 billion in 14 years. I got goosebumps on that, that’s just absolutely remarkable.

Karen Walker:              It was [inaudible 00:02:38]

David Brower:              Wow.

Karen Walker:              It would have been something if we’d known it was gonna happen, but we didn’t know, so it was like every day there was so much-

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              So much more to do than anyone could possibly do, and we were at that time the fastest growing company in American history, and the fastest two billion dollars.

David Brower:              Wow.

Karen Walker:              It was wild and crazy and amazing, and it was a great fortune to be part of that, to be part of a high performance team that made it happen.

David Brower:              Absolutely. So now with that experience, and you and your husband joining forces to create this consulting company, One Team, now you get to kinda pay that forward, as a matter of … another way of saying it, and helping executives and CEO’s better organize their teams.

Karen Walker:              Yes, I’ve been working in the tech sector, primarily, not exclusively, primarily working with people who are leading growth companies. I say that’s the one thing all my clients have in common, is that they are C-level, or executive level, and their companies are growing. It’s sort of like once you find your product market fit in what, so working with them to make sure that they’re able to deliver on the promise that they’re making their customers-

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              By creating these internal strategies, and making sure that their teams are functioning, that their executives are aligned, and that people are really pulling in the right direction altogether, in order to deliver, and to support the growth that you’re able to create through your product market fit.

David Brower:              Well, and you want … not only wanna satisfy the customer, you wanna satisfy the stockholders, right?

Karen Walker:              Exactly.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              It’s the … One thing about CEO’s, there’s no shortage of people they need to please, right? So, there’s the board, the investors-

David Brower:              Exactly.

Karen Walker:              The shareholders/stockholders, employees, customers-

David Brower:              You name it.

Karen Walker:              Friends and family. So, all around.

David Brower:              When you’re working with C-level CEO’s and such, I imagine, I’m guessing here, because it’s way above my pay grade, to be honest with you, but I would imagine it’s a fairly small universe, that with their success, creates a lot of word of mouth and referrals for you. Is that a fair statement?

Karen Walker:              Yes. It’s actually a fairly large group of people-

David Brower:              Okay.

Karen Walker:              In terms of what one consultant can handle.

David Brower:              Yeah, there you go. There you go.

Karen Walker:              But, yes, from a referral standpoint, that’s been the basis of the growth of my work over the years-

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              Having successful clients. Also, you know, this is a group that tends to move around from time to time. I think the average tenure of a CEO in the US today is four years, or only really 20 quarters. So-

David Brower:              Oh my gosh.

Karen Walker:              There’s a fair amount of movement, and when someone leaves a company, and goes to company B and takes me with them, then of course that gives me two clients in at once.

David Brower:              Oh, what a treat.

Karen Walker:              Yep.

David Brower:              That’s … One of the many things I like about your website, unlike so many people in business, no matter what the business, on their websites almost always say testimonials, and you say results. I love that. That’s … I mean, it’s just a word, but it signals quite a different message than most websites I’ve looked at.

Karen Walker:              Oh, I’m thrilled that you picked that up. That’s my engineering degree, right? I am a problem-solver in my core, and success for me is solving problems, and that’s about getting results. When I work with teams, I tell people, you know, it’s good to have a high performing team, it’s good to have a team that’s functioning well.

David Brower:              Sure.

Karen Walker:              But it’s not about the team, it’s about what the team can do. So, I’m really focused on results, and I think that’s part of why I’ve been able to be successful as a consultant. If the clients don’t get results, then … Well, in fact, that’s how I contract with people.

David Brower:              Okay.

Karen Walker:              I contract, not on an hourly basis, but on a first what needs to occur within the business, and here’s how long the [inaudible 00:06:28] occurs, it’s a measurement.

David Brower:              Oh, brilliant.

Karen Walker:              Then that’s the basis of the work, not you need 60 hours of [inaudible 00:06:36] over the course of quarter or something.

David Brower:              As a CEO of knowing right up front that it’s … we’re not talking about billable hours, we’re talking about a specific goal target that we wanna reach, here’s how we’re gonna reach it, and here’s how we’re gonna analyze the success of that, right?

Karen Walker:              Exactly.

David Brower:              I mean, you’re just speaking their language. That’s fricken brilliant, pardon my French.

David Brower:              So, the many services you provide, and there are a lot, from public speaking, CEO coaching, consultations, executive team development strategy, planning, mergers, acquisition, leadership development, coaching, change management. One of the things you talk about though, are the internal teams, and so, do you work specifically with individual teams within a company to see if they play nicely together, and what you can do to help them improve?

Karen Walker:              Yeah, it’s definitely part of what I do for my clients. So, I typically will be called in at a C-level, or and SCP level, something like that, I’ll work with an advisor and coach for that individual, and then typically will work with their team as well. It’s usually not the technical stuff that gets in our way, it’s the how we work together, it’s the cross-functional pieces.

David Brower:              Sure.

Karen Walker:              Stuff in the white … it’s sort of the white spaces on the [inaudible 00:07:56] chart. So, making sure that people are clear about what they’re doing and why, and then how to go about executing on that from a processes’ behavior’s tools standpoint. Then importantly, how they hold themselves accountable for getting those results they set out for. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ever change, right?

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              You can set a goal, we often do, and then in six months we find out something in the market changed, or something didn’t go the way we thought, or we have a new opportunity, and that’s great. But know that that’s what’s happening, and change your plans, change your goals, so that you can lead sort of these new milestones you set for yourself. But make sure that you have accountability plan, otherwise you’re just having the so-what moment.

David Brower:              Yeah, absolutely. Nobody needs that. Absolutely right.

Karen Walker:              Yeah.

David Brower:              So, in a team, I’m just gonna focus on a team for a minute, so in a team-

Karen Walker:              Oh, sure.

David Brower:              Obviously, there has to be some accountability, obviously there has to be some communication, trust, vulnerability, those kinds of things to get people to work together to be on the same page, and go towards the same goal. How do you orchestrate putting a team together like that? Or if there’s already a team there, how do you kind of vet them to see if, “Oh, maybe that person’s on the wrong team.”

Karen Walker:              Yeah. So, that’s one of the strategies that’s in my book, No Dumbing Down, and No Dumbing Down is all about creating an atmosphere, and creating teams who are able to get the results, because people are able to work at their potential. What happens I think often is, we have teams and organizations, because we recognize we need to get things done cross-functionally, and to do that, people have to work together [inaudible 00:09:36] a team. But a team can only function at the level of the lowest performing member of the team.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              Sort of like the weak link, right?

David Brower:              Sure.

Karen Walker:              So, what happens is we get eight players, we get our stars, they show up to work on the team, and they realize they can’t work at their potential, because there is one or more members who aren’t playing at their level. Of course that happens for a lot of reasons-

David Brower:              You bet, yeah.

Karen Walker:              One is, you know, skill and talent, one is differing, you know, goals and priorities, people might be focused elsewhere. Sometimes it’s just that they don’t have the team skills, as opposed to the, you know, individual superstar skills to work together.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              So there are all kinds of reasons that these things happen, all of which can be addressed, and sometimes you just have the wrong person on the team-

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              That can be addressed as well. But I think at the basis of all of this is respect, and you have to respect the other team members and their skills. You might or might not want to have a beer with them after work-

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              But you have to respect their skills.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              When you do that, then almost everything else is possible. If you don’t have that, then very little is possible.

David Brower:              Yeah. You gotta have trust, all those things. So, your book, I love the title of it. Again, as an engineer, you have magic with words. It’s really cool to read through some of your stuff. So, No Dumbing Down, ’cause everybody wants a dumb down book, you know? Here’s CEO management for dummies. I mean, why would you do that? No Dumbing Down: A No-Nonsense Guide for CEOs on Organization Growth. A no nonsense guide, I like that.

David Brower:              So it’s a book for a company senior most leaders, teaches them how to do a job only they can do. So, you’ve worked at that level, you speak at that level, you coach at that level, obviously this is something written in their language that they need to have their hands on.

Karen Walker:              Yes, and that was very much my intent. The audience for the book is clearly for senior level leaders and organizations, and I think it’s also really useful … Some of my work is sort of developing that next level of leadership and growth companies, because as companies grow, certainly the senior leaders need to be able to take on more, and as a result, they have to … they are able to do less than what they were doing last year. So we have to develop that next generation of leaders to be able to take on that work as well.

Karen Walker:              I think it’s important for everyone to know what’s important for your senior leader, what’s important for your CEO. What are the focused on? What language do you need to speak, to speak with them?

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              That’s some of what I try to cover in the book. There are certainly other books as well, but-

David Brower:              If a CEO is … yeah, if a CEO is leaving every four years, just hypothetically, are they trying to build their replacement? Or are the replacements trying to build themselves? How does that assumed transition play out?

Karen Walker:              Yeah, so, that’s a really important question, and I think the best CEO’s do both, right?

David Brower:              Yeah, right.

Karen Walker:              They are constantly developing themselves, they’re in areas where they can grow and be challenged, and be ready for whatever that next opportunity is, and the people around them should be developing themselves as well. That’s not to say that that needs to be true for everyone, I’m certainly working with people who have “made their money,” if you will, and are really just doing work they love, with people that they enjoy doing it with, and they’re not interested in anything else.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Karen Walker:              That’s fine. Know where you are, and if you … and where you want to go, right?

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              But I think developing both yourself, as well as your staff’s important. One of the ways that senior leaders do this, is by, I call it taking time to think, or learning to levitate. So it’s sort of stepping out of the day-to-day and looking at the bigger picture. People don’t do that, because we’re so busy running from meeting to meeting-

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              Solving problems, making decisions. If you’ll step out a little bit, you will, not only bring perspective to your job, and a deeper understanding of what’s important, but you’ll allow your staff an opportunity to step in and to develop. I’m not suggesting you throw problems over the wall at them, ’cause-

David Brower:              Right, right, right.

Karen Walker:              But there’s definitely a continuum between doing it all yourself, all the time, and not doing any of it. [inaudible 00:13:57] support and developed, I think that’s a key component of any leader’s job.

David Brower:              You know, if they’re able to step away and allow people to begin to flourish on their own a little bit more, because they feel a sense of trust and inclusion, that’s gotta do nothing but help everybody.

Karen Walker:              Exactly.

David Brower:              So, what do you recommend a CEO does to step away? Other than taking Tai chi with your husband.

Karen Walker:              Yes, well, that would be an excellent thing, I enjoyed it myself. I think that, for one, at the base, a CEO has to realize that they are in charge of the calendar.

David Brower:              Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen Walker:              And that if they’re not, someone else will be, right?

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              It’s not that the calendar won’t fill up if you don’t take charge of it, and you have to put this time to think, this time to look at the big picture, this time for strategy. You’re responsible for making sure that time happens, because no one else can put that on your calendar.

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              It’s not enough to have an annual strategy retreat, not in today’s fast-moving, fast-paced world.

David Brower:              That was my next question, yeah.

Karen Walker:              Yeah, and you need to do it on both a team level, you also need to do it on an individual level. There’s a great story, a guy named Ross Mason who’s the Founder of a company called MuleSoft, you may know. They make API’s. But they were recently purchased by Salesforce for $6.5 billion.

David Brower:              Hello.

Karen Walker:              Ross is the Founder of this company, and he started with a line of code, and he grew the company, he eventually realized that he needed a CEO who was not himself.

David Brower:              Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen Walker:              He brought in a CEO, and he says every year at the end of the year, he sits down, he puts his feet up, and he really thinks about, “What does MuleSoft need from me next year? And where can I make the most impact?” That’s where he focuses.

David Brower:              Brilliant.

Karen Walker:              So, he’s consciously stepping back and figuring out where … which are the highest and best use of his time is, and I think that’s an important thing for all C-level leaders to do. Where can you make the most impact with your time? It’s often not the meetings you’ve got on your calendar to go to every week, week after week-

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              That just sort of become rope for you. You really do have to create, carve out this time to think the bigger picture, the bigger thoughts, and then to apply yourself in the areas that need you.

David Brower:              Well, and I think candidly, I think that’s brilliant advice for any business owner at any level. I mean, if they wanna have a better than average chance of growing their business, and taking it from $100 to $15 billion, they’ve gotta step away at some level, right? And figure that … figure out that big picture for them. So, I think that’s brilliant advice for anybody in business.

Karen Walker:              Thank you. I would say to all the visionaries out there who can see things perfectly and clearly, and I know you’re there, because I work with some of you.

David Brower:              Right.

Karen Walker:              You also have to take time to think about how do you translate that vision, so that the people who aren’t, you know, 10 steps ahead of everyone else like you are, so that they get it, and understand it and can apply it.

David Brower:              Makes sense.

Karen Walker:              So there’s all kinds of goodness that comes from sort of stepping out of the day-to-day.

David Brower:              Brilliant. Brilliant advice. You’ve got podcasts, you’ve got a blog, you’ve got press, you do public speaking, what’s the best way for C-level CEO’s, companies and that sort to reach out to you and have a conversation?

Karen Walker:              Thanks for asking. Well, the first place would be just to get to my website, which is, and there’s all kinds of information there.

David Brower:              Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen Walker:              On all the social media platforms I’m KarenWalkerUS. If you want information about the book, you can find that on the website, or just go directly to, and that will take you to one of the many places that you can purchase the book.

David Brower:              That’s terrific. Karen, thank you so much, this has been so informative for me, and I know for our listeners as well. Congratulations on your ongoing success, and we wish you nothing but continued success, and hopefully you sell all the books that need to be sold to help the CEO’s before their four year window opens up again.

Karen Walker:              Terrific, thanks so much, I enjoyed it.

Allan Blackwell:            Listen to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower on the go. Downloads are available on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, any podcast app, and on our website at

Allan Blackwell:            Until next time, thank you for listening.