Featuring purpose-driven leaders who are making a meaningful impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Bob Tipton and I’m the CEO and principal change architect for an organization that we call Team Tipton, a collection of amazing, multi-disciplinary professionals. We focus on transformational change inside of organizations that serve humanity and the greater good, mostly in the public sector including municipal government and public education. We help some of the most bureaucratic and, in some cases, dysfunctional organizations you can find try to build a better future for themselves.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
It’s a long story. I don’t need to get into all the details, but I can say that I’ve been focused on transformational change really my entire career and using different levers to help create it. I spent the first 20 years or so working in technology and just found at a point in time that I, using a Stephen Covey-ism, climbed the ladder of success only to discover I’d leaned it against the wrong wall. It was a matter of resetting, refreshing, and understanding that I really had a passion for culture, team dynamics, and potential.
So for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been focusing exclusively on the world of organizational transformation, specifically for the public sector including education and municipal government. That’s evolved and it really came down to the fact that we want to help those who are helping others. We’re really focused on unlocking the potential of the benefits that can come from services in the public sector. When that group is at its best and doing what it does best, the ripple effect is significant. If we can help public agencies be more effective at what they do, they can serve others with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I guess it comes down to the reason that I believe we’re here as human beings and that is to work together to improve things. You know, when we’re younger, it’s all about me. And for some people it’s still that way, even all the way through their lives, it’s all about me. But as an individual, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, as a business owner and so on, for me it comes down to having been blessed with a series of life experiences, skills, hard-fought knowledge, and wisdom and the fact that I can’t take it with me when I go. It’s almost a moral imperative for me to share everything I can and to help create as much potential in others as I’m able to. This is just central to who I am, I can’t separate it from my DNA. The things that guide me and the work that we do are extensions of the things that I hold most dear relative to my values and guiding principles.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Our impact is in a number of areas. Let’s just talk about inclusivity, diversity, and equity in the realm of public education. For example, we worked with the Adams 14 School District as they were put on a severe punishment by the state board of education and found a way to bring together the community and the leaders in education, not only in the local school board but across the state, so they could focus on common interests instead of defending their positions. One of their common interests is that there’s inequity in the way that education has been delivered in Commerce City for a long time. We didn’t actually create the outcomes that they chose to create; instead, we created an environment where they were able to build up psychological safety so that they could say the things that need to be said. We helped drive trust and transparency so the real issues got on the table as opposed to the symptoms or the politically correct issues or the easy things.
So the impact that we help to facilitate is that people live longer. They’re healthier. They actually feel connected and to meaningful things, and they’re able to address real, systemic challenges.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
I’ve had a lot of teachers, mentors, and coaches over the years who have helped shape who I am and how I think about things. It all comes down to some really pretty basic principles with regard to what inspires me to do this work. Nothing excites me more than to see people reach a level of potential that they were unable or unwilling to see in themselves, in the team, the organization, whatever it might be. To watch people stand an inch or two taller when they’re doing their work, watch them lean into the challenges and bring the great ideas that they have forward.
It’s almost a drug that I’m addicted to when it comes to participating with people as they reach for their best selves and the best example of what they can do. It’s incredibly inspiring and humbling to be in a place like that with people who, in some cases, are not just in dysfunctional but toxic cultures. It’s hard work; I don’t want to minimize this. This is tough and it’s not for everybody. Most people would run screaming from this. But when it works, for me, there’s nothing better. It’s incredible.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We’re all about building up the healthiest teams that we can inside of organizations and have them be comprised of healthy individuals, not just physically healthy, but emotionally and psychologically healthy as well. The big vision is to have this become a conflagration, to use a bit of a fire metaphor. We’re sparking. We’re creating impact here and there with both smaller and larger organizations. The bigger vision is to turn it into a movement where people stop thinking in their historical biases and within their limiting beliefs saying, “We can’t,” or “We shouldn’t,” or other forms of learned helplessness and suffering in advance. They just simply stop themselves before they start.
It’s about having this catch fire and then creating a network of people who think this way and operate this way and that our impact goes way beyond what Team Tipton is actually doing. My vision as an individual is that I hope this lasts much longer than I do personally, and have it create impact and rippling effects across the planet. So it’s a big vision, but we’re working to get that fire started.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
There are really two parts to that. One is that we’re resource-constrained. The need for this type of support is everywhere and while there’s a fair number of people who do this and who really have a heart for this kind of work, there just aren’t enough resources. We have two guiding principles for people to join Team Tipton – first, you have to be drawn to transformation otherwise this work will eat you alive. Many people who call themselves organizational development or transformation professionals really just go through a perfunctory process. They check the boxes and they hope the outcome is different. Secondly, you’ve got to be over yourself. You can’t insert your own needs and beliefs and biases into the work. You have to be very objective and see the situation for what it is, not see it for what you are.
The other challenge we’re facing has to do with the lack of transformational leadership inside of organizations. There are a lot of people who operate from a perspective of fear and “Not on my watch,” and “I’m not going to lean in and take the risk.” So the other side of what we’re building is the tool, mechanism, and training to help people become confident about taking on transformation inside of organizations so they can actually start addressing the significant issues that they face. Those are the two big issues – having the resources to be able to do the work and being able to match that up with a corresponding transformational leader who’s willing to take on the challenges they’re facing.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
That transformation is possible and transformation can be better. The reality that people operate from, or I should say their perception of reality, is that change is somehow hard and it is worse. That it’s different in a worse kind of way. When people are uncertain about what the future looks like and they’re fearful about it, they tend to write a story where they’re the star of that story, and it’s a tragedy, and things are going badly. They make decisions about failure in advance and take them to an extreme. They have something we call “premeditated bitterness” – they’re already angry about something that hasn’t even happened yet.
So if there’s one thing that I want people to realize is being open to change doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Change is not a bad thing; it almost always results in significantly better outcomes. Yeah, there’s a little pain along the way, potentially. There’s some uncertainty, but that shouldn’t stop you before you start.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
My favorite quote comes from Harry Truman: “You can accomplish anything in this world if you don’t mind who gets the credit.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR WORK?
There’s one very specific thing. I wrote a book called What’s Right, Not Who’s Right and it’s a guide to heal our relationships and regain our humanity. We’re on a mission to get it into the hands of every elected official in the United States – I just didn’t realize that was 435,000 individuals. We’re chipping away at it and you can send a signed copy of it to anybody just for the cost of shipping and handling. We would love for people to sign up and do that. If we can help shift the mindset of our elected officials to focus on what’s right and not who’s right, I think the world would be a dramatically different place.
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