EMPATHY AND UPHEAVAL ON THE ROAD TO DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Julie Brown, Executive Director of Business Transformation — Services, Johnson Controls
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In this episode, our guest is Julie Brown, the extraordinary leader architecting and executing on a massive transformation strategy for the nearly $7 Billion HVAC, Fire, and Security division of Johnson Controls.
Julie helps lead a team of folks who are keeping critical systems running smoothly at schools and hospitals around the world. Behind the scenes, though, they’re navigating the uncomfortable upheaval of a digital transformation journey, a journey Julie is uniquely equipped to lead.
Julie cares a lot about her work. But she cares even more about her customers and her team, and she is relentlessly committed to leading with empathy.
In this episode, Chris and Julie cover:
- The joy Julie got from going on HVAC calls with her dad as a kid
- The lessons she learned during her time at Alcoa in the midst of the sub-prime housing market crash, and how this helped her avoid the typical blind spots of planning for the future
- The horrific loss that changed Julie forever and redefined her as a leader
- Transforming care for patients and education for students
- Why empathy is critical in helping employees create a better future
And much more!
004 Julie Brown: Empathy and Upheaval on the Road to Digital Transformation
Julie Brown 00:00
It's just too important to customers and to their mission for us to keep doing things the way we're doing them now.
Welcome to The Storied Future Podcast, with Chris Hare, a show that provides the knowledge and inspiration C-suite leaders need to shift the future. Hear from experts, innovators, and purpose-driven leaders who have harnessed the power of strategic narrative to create lasting change.
Chris Hare 00:28
Hi, and welcome to The Storied Future Podcast. My name is Chris Hare, and I'm glad you're here. Each episode, I interview C-suite leaders, experts, and innovators who have created new narratives that are changing minds, changing behavior, and changing the future. This summer, my 11th grade son blew out his ACL at football practice, and his season was over before it started. Weeks later, my wife and I found ourselves in the waiting room anxiously awaiting word about the surgery. You know, as a parent, in that moment, there are a lot of scenarios that go through your mind. And as someone like me that has a crazy and wild imagination, I think I tortured myself with all of them. Of course, everything went off without a hitch. He had an amazing surgeon and all the staff did their jobs with excellence, as far as we can tell. But while the staff and providers often get the credit, there are people far away from the operating and recovery rooms that are working hard to make sure patients like my son, Ethan, are not only comfortable, but also safe. The thing is, though, we never get to see these people. And while we might occasionally see their logo on equipment in the hospital, we rarely get to truly feel the impact of their work. Because when they do their job right, we never notice. And that's the way it should be. Well, today, you're going to learn about these people, folks who are keeping critical systems running smoothly at schools and hospitals across the country, while behind the scenes they're navigating the uncomfortable upheaval of a digital transformation journey that will help them bring even better care to people like my son. My guest today is Julie Brown, the extraordinary leader architecting a massive transformation for a nearly $7 billion HVAC, fire, and security division of Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls is a 130-plus-year old business that was founded by a relentless inventor, and Julie is going to tell you that story. What you'll notice about Julie right away is that she cares. She cares a lot about the work. But she cares even more about her customers and her team, and she is relentlessly committed to leading with empathy, no matter how hard it gets. Julie talks about the joy she got from going on HVAC calls with her dad as a kid, the lesson she learned at Alcoa in the days leading up to and following the subprime housing market crash, the horrific loss that changed her forever and redefined her as a leader, how Johnson Controls is transforming care for patients and education for students, and why empathy is critical in helping employees create a better future. Let's dive in.
Julie, welcome to The Storied Future Podcast.
Julie Brown 02:59
It is my sincere pleasure to be here, Chris. Thanks for the invitation.
Chris Hare 03:04
Absolutely. I'd love to start where I start most of our podcasts with understanding what you were like as a kid, because that shapes so much of our story throughout our life. So let's start there.
Julie Brown 03:16
Ah. You know, I am very blessed, grew up in Minnesota. And on a little hobby farm. I'll tell you that one of my favorite things when I was a kid, I and my sister played Olympic rounds of hide and seek. When you've got kind of a small farm and you got barns and sheds and nooks and crannies. And just all of that exploring and making up stories was a huge part of at least when I was youngest. Part of growing up in beautiful Minnesota with summers with the blue skies and white puffy clouds and, you know, green pastures, it was really quite a blessing.
Chris Hare 03:57
That's amazing. For a little while we had the privilege of living on about 110 acre farm, and it was the same. You just run and run for hours and make up stories in your head and I miss those days. Going from there, how did your upbringing and what you believed as a kid or what you were taught, how did that shape your own kind of personal narrative about what was possible?
Julie Brown 04:18
Wow, it's a great question. You know, I've kind of always been wired to look out for others. I don't know where that necessarily came from. I guess I credit that to my parents and trying to do your best. And I think that's something that my parents were constantly pushing, right? If there's a job worth doing, it's worth doing right. “Hoe to the end of the row” was another big part. And that really, on all the paths that I've done, whether it was in school, some of the volunteering that I've done, and especially in my career, been a big motivation is just try to do your very best. The viewpoint that a lot of luck is actually the result of hard work was real. You know, I was the first one in my family to go to college and had to work my way through college. I actually spent my first years working custodial, taking 20 credits a semester for the first three years I was in college, you know, working full-time so I wouldn't have debt. Doing that, and you know I think it was a good thing. It was certainly exhausting at the time. But that's that same thing of hard work is what creates the opportunities for you.
Chris Hare 05:33
I don't know if you've ever read The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. But she talks about exactly that in terms of the hard work producing luck. And Charles Goodyear, when he invented vulcanized rubber. He had been doing all kinds of experiments and he wasn't able to figure it out. And then one day spilled some chemicals on a hot stove. And it turned into vulcanized rubber. And everyone around him said, that's just luck. You didn't do that. And he said, No, actually, I was putting in all the hard work and I was primed to be able to see it when it happened. And I created the environment, right. So, that's really cool. So what was it that then ultimately took you into the world of business after college?
Julie Brown 06:12
My dad worked HVAC construction, which I have huge respect for at Johnson Controls. And I think it's neat that I've kind of come full circle on that. In fact, when I was growing up, when we had winter break and stuff, you'd never get away with this today with EHS. But I used to go on service calls with him and carry his toolbelt. But it also, you know, we would go into places like, he worked a lot with 3M and places like that. Being able to see that was part of what kind of attracted me to say, you know, I want to work on things that drive growth at a bigger scale. And at the time, at least believing that that happens in corporations. It happens entrepreneurial as well, that just wasn't kind of the same draw to me as the work and the structure that happens when you're working in entities like companies. I have huge respect for entrepreneurs, it's just, I think it's a talent, there's people who are gifted in it, but again, they put huge amounts of work into it, and just realized that that's not naturally how my brain is wired.
Chris Hare 07:29
And so I know, eventually, you landed at Alcoa. And I'd love to understand kind of how your role and your experience there shaped how you operate today.
Julie Brown 07:39
Yeah, Alcoa was a wonderful opportunity. I started by working for the Chief Commercial Officer. And one of the things that Alcoa was bringing together at the time is essentially a growth practice, where they would take business people, leaders out of the businesses, bring them in for a two-year rotation that would work on strategic growth problems in partnership, actually, with an outside firm that we used, that had practitioners in that area. And what I really appreciate about my journey and my time at Alcoa is you kind of started off as internal consultants working on growth problems. That's really great. Thank you very much. Now, we're gonna take you and we're gonna put you in a business. And have you do that not as advisors from the outside, but looking on the inside and had the opportunity to work in the building and construction business of Alcoa. Once you got there, it was, well, that's really great. You're coming up with plans and strategies. But to be really, really good at what you do, you actually have to go do it. So the next rotation was actually as general manager, running one of the sites, it was actually out of Houston in South Texas. So all the strategies that you'd been thinking and dreaming and designing, you really get the reality of, okay, the strategy is great. So when you're managing supply chain, and inventory inside of that, and the reality of managing team members, or in my case in Houston, taking over the facility a couple months before Hurricane Ike comes in and shuts down your entire facility. You had to understand all of that, and the viewpoint was knowing that, it's going to make you better at strategy. And I completely agree. It certainly still serves me to this day when I talk to business leaders because I know making the month, making the quarter, making the year, trying to keep all the levers together, and that their viewpoint is kind of the language of business, finance. And that's how they're filtering a lot of the questions and things that they're trying to solve.
Chris Hare 09:41
I love that you had that opportunity to have responsibility and accountability across the entire business versus just in your silo, right, where you don't have to worry about the downstream impacts of what you're doing necessarily, right?
Julie Brown 09:54
Exactly. And you get a bunch of stories and it takes, especially for what I'm doing today. You know, when you've got a manufacturing plant, you're in charge of quality and stuff, it just, it endears you to the people that are on the floor that are smart, talented craftsmen, work really hard for their families. That kind of whatever you're doing, whether it's behind the desk or working quality in a shipping department. It's everybody's bringing something to the table and how you unleash that.
Chris Hare 10:29
Was there at Alcoa, whether it was Hurricane Ike or was there another time, that your worldview was really tested? You know, when there was a big dip or something that you had to really manage through?
Julie Brown 10:42
Yeah, well, so I was there as the subprime housing market crashed. That was a pretty big clarion call. So I joined the building and construction division at Alcoa. A lot of people don't remember this. But after the .com bust in the early aughts, there was actually a housing dip that was kind of a ripple after that. This is before the big 2010 downturn. And the building and construction business we were in really had some challenges. And so they brought in a new leader. And one of the things that that opened my eyes to was the leader going, We're in a cyclical business. And it’s still true. Housing has, you know, got a seven to nine year cycle on it, he's like, I want to know what our plan is, at whatever point we get to the next downturn, so that we know in advance how we're going to batten down the hatches. Because the slope, the trajectory of the curve, as you come out of a downturn is actually based upon the moves you make as you go in and survive the downturn. And that was, you know, that kind of thinking forward was a big part of it. That kind of changed how I look at growth is not just coming up with new idea, but looking at the entire kind of economic system. Then, as I moved kind of into my GM role, as I mentioned, I took that over literally a couple of months before the subprime housing market crash. Now, we were in B2B so there's a little bit of drag on it. But, you know, we had the subprime housing market crash, we had Ike hit in Houston, and just understanding, it feels like the plane’s going down and you're pulling up on every level you can. But understanding the downturns and how you find growth and how you find opportunities, even when you're maybe in a market that isn't expanding.
Chris Hare 12:49
And I think it's interesting, too, that discipline of, because I've been in very large business units where you're planning for the future, but you're planning for a positive future. Right? But that idea of planning for a potential contraction, which I think a lot of people are, you know, we're seeing all around us caught off guard in this moment. And so it's making decisions in the moment and by emotion, because, hey, we're all caught off guard. Right?
Julie Brown 13:18
I love how you say that, Chris. I think it's, it's a blind spot a lot of us bring into planning as we plan, assuming things are going to be positive. And then a pandemic hits or a war in Ukraine unfolds, you know, to make sure you've got the discipline to put that into your thinking as well. Really kind of shift a lot of how I look for the trips and traps and question what we do.
Chris Hare 13:47
When we last talked, you talked about how you've really evolved as a leader over the past 20 years. And you're not just telling yourself as they're observing this, you're hearing it through 360 feedback. What are some of the things you're hearing? And then how do you contrast that Julie versus this one?
Julie Brown 14:04
Yeah, so we're actually in annual performance. And I've reached out to a number of people for feedback. And what I've been reflecting on in this cycle is one, how many of those people are actually very early in their careers? And it's a joke I have with someone that I mentor who came to me and said, Hey, can we set up regular time for mentoring? And I was like, I thought I already was. I think that there's two parts to that. One, I'm at a point in my career where what I really get a kick out is actually seeing how many people we can get into bigger and better and stronger roles. As I look around it, intern challenges, that I'll help people that report to me, that has really shifted how much about the scorecard is how much you get other people into spots. Or as I joke with a lot of them, it's because someday they're all going to be great leaders, and I'm going to need a job. And I really like them to actually think about me. Because they're, I mean, they're just so impressive. You just look at some of the innate skills they have. It's hoping that if you put them on a really great path, and in the future there's places to work with them and help them even more.
Chris Hare 15:31
Yeah, I love that. And I love the value that I'm hearing coming through is really humility, and then also serving others versus this kind of internal view. I'm definitely hearing that. And so that's, that's really cool.
Julie Brown 15:44
Yeah, and it definitely wasn't to the degree that it is now when I was earlier in my career. So that's why we're human. We keep learning and growing and getting better.
Chris Hare 15:55
Yeah, for sure. So for you, what was the biggest inflection point that transformed your narrative and would love to understand how that changed?
Julie Brown 16:05
Yeah, so not a lot of people know this, but my family is part of a fraternity of victims of homicide. I'd lost my sister about five years ago from a really just breathtaking, horrific loss that impacted everybody, including me. And when you walk through something like that, working with just such honorable people in law enforcement, we're really blessed. We got justice. And you start to see how many people don't get that. You start to see as you walk through that, my coping mechanism was gratitude that as dark as some of those early days were, finding something to hold on to, and how many people go through that. And whatever their coping mechanisms are, they don't work. And how much the waves and the ongoing tragedy keeps impacting lives. I mean, I'm here, almost six years out, and last week was dealing with more repercussions of this, and it changes you. There's people at work that when I get on Zoom, I'm beaming, and they're like, man, Julie, you're on a call, you're always smiling, you've always got great energy. And I'm like, Well, yeah, because I'm here. And people get to that point sometimes through other things, like loss of children, or cancer, or other tragedies. I don't think you have to go through hard things to get that. But it definitely shifted my tone. My focus on people that was always there sort of amplified, and it amplified in a way at work where noticing the hard stuff and making sure they are okay became a lot more prominent. But by getting through that, and some days are really still ugly, and I don't get through them real well, it's standing on that and realizing how many people circled around us to help us. And realizing the best way to give back is to be part of the circle for other people, when they're going through whatever their version of Hell is.
Chris Hare 18:29
Wow, thank you for sharing that. It sounds like, you know, in asking the question of, How are you doing? It seems like, you were that much more – as you're going through your own grieving process, and continue to do that – you’re that much more attuned to how other folks are doing. And being able to draw them out.
Julie Brown 18:52
Yeah, I mean, it’s less at work, but it's just telling people Listen, bring me the ugly stuff, I can handle it. Right, it's going to be a safe spot for ugly stuff. This is just Julie's conjecture, but I think when you go through something that's incredibly heart wrenching, and again, it doesn't have to be this, it's almost like your heartbeat changes. And when it's in the presence of another heart that's been scarred and hurt, it notices it. Because I've had people where you don't know. But you're just drawn and asking, Are you okay? And you find out there's something there.
Chris Hare 19:43
I'd love to shift a little bit, and you started working at Johnson Controls in I think 2015, is that right? Let's start with just talking a little bit about how the company got its start and where it's at today.
Julie Brown 19:57
Yeah, so Johnson Controls started off actually over 100 years ago. It was founded by a gentleman in Wisconsin named Warren Johnson, who was a teacher. And he was looking to solve a problem. If you live in Wisconsin, winters get cold. Even when you get to May, September, when classes start it can get hot. And in the buildings at the time, his room was uncomfortable. It would be too hot, too cold. And the janitor would have to go down to the basement and turn up or down the dampers on the furnace to warm up and cool down the classroom. And so he spent, I believe it's over three years, developing what we now consider the thermostat where you could actually set a temperature on the thermostat that would automatically signal to a system, It's getting cold in this room, it needs more heat, open up the dampers to let more heat into the room or turn it down.
Chris Hare 20:56
I remember in college, there would be the heat would be on and you weren't allowed to touch it. It was in Chicago, and so we do the old stick the ice cube on there, pull it off before it does damage to tweak it and get the heat off.
Julie Brown 21:10
I hadn’t heard that one!
Chris Hare 21:12
Yeah. There's always a hack. So talk to me a little bit about the division that you're leading transformation for and the size. And I believe you're focused primarily on healthcare and education?
Julie Brown 21:27
Well, so I started at Johnson Controls, as in our North American business, leading kind of our institutional customers. So at the time, what I tell my mom is, it's all about helping hospitals and schools, with the things that Johnson Controls does in buildings, which is heating, air conditioning, security, and fire systems. The role that I'm in now is in our global services business, which is a specific business focused on helping customers maintain those particular systems. So when I talked about the journey of Johnson Controls, and where we're at right now, for over 100 years, we made chillers, we've made control systems, with the merger with Tyco where I joined. And then we've got places that then either install or service and maintain and integrate that stuff. What we realized about three to four years ago is that those systems are getting way more sophisticated, a lot more electronic, a lot more digital. And inside of that digital was the opportunity to bring new value to customers, to do new business models, to have new capabilities. Are there things that today you've got to put someone in a truck and have them go out and touch a security camera or deal with on a chiller? Are there things that I can do remotely so that when I bring that person out, they're actually bringing what they enjoy? And what customers have told us they value is their expertise on how to run these systems better, because we know when they do that, the systems run more efficiently. And now you're really impacting things like more energy efficiency, which helps us help our customers be more sustainable or hit their missions more effectively.
Chris Hare 23:14
So if you fast forward 10 years down the road, like maybe you're still on the journey then, but what does that fully-realized vision look like that you're aiming for?
Julie Brown 23:22
You know, that vision involves a lot more sophisticated technology that allows us to align a lot tighter to the missions of customers. I think about K through 12, in schools, which is something I worked in for years, is that not just the building, but especially the services that you put around it digitally, now allows you to make sure that those classrooms stay not only as comfortable as they can, but also have things like indoor air quality that we know impacts student's ability to learn. So now the building is actually contributing to helping students get better outcomes. They learn better, they learn faster, because they're in a space that's conducive to learning. When you get to things like commercial office buildings, right? That people that are in buildings are more productive because they're in a space that they can think, that they can create, that they can collaborate in. And we're coming out of a pandemic that helps keep that space healthy because we can treat the air, we can treat what's going on inside that building.
Chris Hare 24:42
What I'm hearing from you is Yes, we need to grow this business and we're going to, but it's really about the future of the patients, the future of the doctors and other medical staff, the future of the students. I look at how the last couple of years have impacted my own kids and one of them with learning disabilities that’s had have massive impact, and can have a massive impact on their future, right? So I love how you shifted it off of you, and that narrative is really about the customer.
Julie Brown 25:09
It's really about what they're doing. When I look at health care, we know buildings can help patients that, when you've got places like burn wards, if you control the environment that patients are in, when they're recovering from burns, there's lower chances of infection, and they can heal from their wounds faster. It's a lot of work. But it now puts us on the same side of the table as far as advancing the mission of hospitals where they're trying to help patients heal. It also helps clinicians, right? I mean, if patients are more comfortable, that allows the clinicians to focus on clinical items and less on comfort items. It helps you when you look at things like universities. How do I create an open space where ideas are shared, and yet we're helping keep students and faculty safe in that space? What can you do to help them feel safe at work? That, again, helps them be better clinicians that help the neighbors and communities that they're serving. And if you think about it, when you're in a hospital, you're actually really vulnerable. You know, one of the businesses I work in is fire. If a fire alarm were to go off right now, Chris, you and I can walk out of the building. There's a whole lot of people in hospitals, that if a fire alarm goes off because there's a legitimate fire, they can't get up and walk out. And so making sure that you're being as protective of them in that vulnerable space as all the other clinical protections that are putting around them to make sure that it's sterile, and then making sure that they're getting good care, right? It's how's the building help the mission, and that's one of the things that I love about this is it allows you to get drawn into these very noble missions around sustainability and learning and communities and healing.
Chris Hare 27:01
What I loved when you're talking about Alcoa was how that really taught you about, you weren't just looking at the P&L, you weren't just looking at the product or looking at strategy or things like that. It's really about the people within the business, and their livelihoods and the value that they're creating and adding and all of that. So when you're going through this big of a change, and I would guess this is probably the biggest change you've ever led, but what are some of the emotions that you encounter personally, but then also the emotions that are at play for the people within the business?
Julie Brown 27:34
Yeah, well, it's complicated, right? I mean, I'm really excited. Because you see, again, just how much more we could help the mission of our customers in doing this. But then there's also frustration, right? We're going through the details, we see the vision, I've been through it now over and over and over and over again, and then you get to someone who's got all the questions, and no, that doesn't make sense. And you shouldn't really go that fast. And you just get frustrated sometimes about well, why can't we just do this? And the reality is, you can't, you have to bring them along the journey and start where they are. But that's very real. You run into, I think it's a lot of complicated emotions. There’s certainly, you know, as you look at things that are going to change how people work, that includes often a lot more digital technology. Well, if you've been with Johnson Controls for 20 years, maybe you're a little reluctant about the technology because deep, deep down, you're not really comfortable with it. You really know what you're doing over here, but when I get over here, I'm not as confident and I don't want people to see that vulnerability. Right? I go back to the respect for the people in the plants, for the service technicians, from watching my dad be a service technician. When you have so much respect for what they do, you want to do everything you can to make their jobs easier and simpler. But it doesn't always come across that way sometimes. And if I'm the guy in the truck, or the gal on the shop floor, it may not feel like that to begin with. Right? Why are you bringing in all of this technology? Is that going to take away what it is that I do? And in doing so does that lower what you respect me for? Does that lower the amount of value? The inverse is true. Making sure they feel that and understand that is a really big change. It's going to take a lot of creating proof points, proving over and over and over again, and trust, communication, massive amounts of listening, and being upfront that changes can be messy. To me the emotions – it’s not just fear of change. A lot of times it's, Is what I'm doing at work somehow getting diminished, because then I feel vulnerable. And so as a leader, what you're thinking about and trying to anticipate is, is there something in this that's going to make them feel uncertain? Is there anything I can do to reassure them? And if I can't, then be transparent that you can't. We had a conversation a few weeks ago on an element that we're looking at, and bringing through to everyone and just being transparent to go, Listen, we've brought everyone through this. Not everybody agrees. And that's okay. It's just too important to customers and to their mission for us to keep doing things the way we're doing them now.
Chris Hare 30:43
And so I know you're still early days, I think. I mean, some of the things I'm hearing in terms of operating principles are definitely that transparency being really key, putting the customer at the center, and then quickly after that putting the employee close behind that in terms of here's how this is going to kind of advance your own personal mission, right? How are you thinking about kind of shaping that narrative that really aligns everyone around that future?
Julie Brown 31:13
I think it starts around three things, Chris. One is something that most of us here all are really passionate about, which is what the customers want. The second part is having the respect for the work that's done and for the objections they have, for the questions they have. Understanding that they're not just doing that to be roadblocks and obstinate and deny change. I mean, there's absolute kind of antibodies in the system. But usually, the intent is, they've been doing it, they know in detail what they've experienced before and what that means and how that could put the customer at risk. And the other one is, you know, you mentioned it, really having the humility to kind of own up to your mistakes. Because when you're doing this, you're not going to get stuff right. And being able to say, you know what, I'm sorry, I got it wrong. That was my mistake. This is what I learned. When you offer that up, and people don't have to ask for it, that again gives them something to make sure that they're continuing to approach and raise the objections. And that's what you need in order for people to share and help you see what your blind spots are. So you can get them covered as a team.
Chris Hare 32:37
Yeah, I love the perspective that you have, where so many businesses get the strategic narrative wrong is, yes, it should be owned by leaders, the leaders, but the inputs to that come from being as close to the customer as possible. So they come from the customer. And to your point, they come from the technicians, and the people on the shop floor, etc. Because they are seeing those really transformational moments, but they're also seeing the risks and opportunities that you all just aren't able to see, right? But having those inputs there as you shape that up, I love your approach to that. So I want to go back to your farming roots a little bit, or you're growing up in farm country. So when I was 16, I worked on, it was pigs, peanuts, and corn in Virginia. And it was the worst paying job I've ever had. It was $100 a week plus room and board. I didn't know how to negotiate back then. But I remember the first two weeks they were trying to get rid of me or see if I could last. And I remember the owner dropping me off with a cooler of water and a hoe and sticking me in a peanut field and basically said you're chopping peanuts for the whole week, which is basically just hoeing to the end of the row essentially. Right? And it was absolutely miserable. But I stuck it out, stuck with it. I'm curious, though, with a vision this big, and I know there's other times where you've had to envision the future and then march to get there, right? What are some of the things that help you stay on course and motivated in that lag time between the vision and bringing it to life?
Julie Brown 34:12
You know, for me, it's field visits. It's going out to customers and usually listening to when things aren't going real well, and working with the team to get that root solved. And working with the people that are in the trenches. When you see it at that level, and you see it turn around, one, it helps you get critical input into what you're building. But two, it now starts to give you real important context as to what the impact is, it gives you a little taste of, Hey, I went to this customer, this wasn't working, helped get some resources to the team so they could solve a problem. And that just gives you one data point on what you're designing, but gives you a taste of, Well, okay, that was one customer. Now what if I could do it for all of my health care customers? Or what if I could do that for all of my Global Education customers? It's getting those data points. And sometimes it's getting some earfuls from customers. To me, that's the piece that, as your doing a really big vision, helps keep you grounded, but also keeps you motivated. And it can give you credibility as you're trying to bring people along on the journey because you talk about the story, the journey, where you're trying to go. So to me that's a really important play. The closer you can stay to boots on the ground on this, that gives you the ability to kind of endure through the larger upheaval of change.
Chris Hare 35:52
Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Julie, I really appreciate your generosity. And I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and learned a ton from you. So thank you.
Julie Brown 36:01
Oh, Chris, it's been my pleasure. It's just time well spent, to listen and learn and share ideas. It's all about sharpening the saw so that everybody moves forward and gets better at our practice in our careers and what we're bringing to each other, so I am most grateful for the chance.
Chris Hare 36:19
I loved Julie's story and was fascinated to see the connection between what she loved as a child – going to work with her dad in HVAC – and the business that she's leading now. Digital transformation is easy to talk about. And if you look around, almost everyone is talking about it. But true digital transformation is a journey that requires strategy, grit, and empathy, and a commitment to stringing together a series of small changes over years and even decades. I find it helpful to think about digital transformation as bringing together people, processes, technology, data, and culture to deliver exponential growth. And while so many people focus on the technology and the data, especially the software companies that sell you those products, I found it really refreshing that Julie assumes that those are table stakes, and she prioritizes the people because that's really the hard work. And she demonstrates that it takes humility to get a narrative successfully and widely adopted. And it's really an emotional skill that allows you to adjust your approach when you meet resistance. So here are my key takeaways of how Julie is leading through this transformation. First, she always considers how what she is doing is impacting people on the shop floor. Next, she earns trust by helping people feel that they are valued and creating lots of proof points along the way. Then she makes it clear that change is messy and welcomes earfuls of feedback from customers. She also recognizes that many people are afraid of change and she's comfortable walking through that with them. And finally, she creates a narrative that helps everyone make the journey together through countless conversations and actions, large and small. And that's it. Until next week, thank you for joining The Storied Future Podcast. Please subscribe, leave us a review, and be sure to visit TSFpod.com – that’s TSF, as in The Storied Future, pod.com – for a link to follow Julie on social, for Show Notes, and to check out other episodes.
The Storied Future Podcast is a production of The Storied Future, LLC, produced and edited by Ray Sylvester, audio engineering by Ali Özbay, logo design by Evan MacDonald, theme music by The Brewz. Your host is me, Chris Hare. Learn more about our work helping leaders create great B2B narratives for a change at www.thestoriedfuture.com.
As Executive Director of Business Transformation — Services, Julie is responsible for driving advantaged services for the Johnson Controls services businesses around the globe. This includes designing and deploying best practices and solutions around truck-based service teams in HVAC, Fire, and Security. Julie’s career with Johnson Controls started as an Institutional Market Leader where she was responsible for driving business results for key market and customer segments in order to build the Building Solutions Business within Johnson Controls North American Healthcare and Education verticals.
Julie holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Pennsylvania State University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Business Administration from Ambassador University.