For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of collecting best practices. Why invent the wheel if someone already has a great idea? My journey has been a lifetime of continuous learning in the classroom, on the job, and from mentors who have guided my own self-development. Along the way, I realized that there are certain tips, techniques and procedures that I follow as best I can to yield results that benefit the mission and team.
When the University of Texas IC2 Institute invited me to join their “Best Practices” series, I immediately said yes. While it is only 10 minutes in length, its chock full of a bunch of my favorite stories. You can play it back at 1.5x or 2x and get the gist pretty quick. (Which is one of my favorite techniques in learning from videos, podcasts and audio books.)
Below the video is a rough transcript of the interview discussing how to be a catalyst to help people using your networks and connections
Thank you, Joseph. And I apologize, I should have asked this I should have led with this question. Can you tell our audience because you have an incredible and very unique background to why you can speak about Being a catalyst and change. Could you just share with us a bit of a bit of that, please?
Yeah, for my personal journey, you know, the backstory can be summed up in one simple phrase, which is if you see a problem, fix it. It started with my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Audrey grievious. She was a NAACP civil rights icon. She was the person at the lunch counters defending her rights and demanding service. So as a little kid, 12 year old in her class, that made a huge impression on me that if she could change the world, there’s no telling what we as students could do when we got older. So in my 20 years in the Army, I had assignments that lasted almost 5050 50% of my time was in the muddy boots side of the army that you think about when you watch television or read the news, but then the other time in my army career, the other half was really spent on what we call the strategic side or looking around the corner and what we need to do for monetization, because if there is one advantage that the United States military has our adversaries is we have the best people, and we have the best equipment in the world. But if you rely on your laurels for either of those two, you’re going to get passed up. And so that’s the culture. I came from that. Okay, we’ve got it now. But what can we do to be better? we’ve mastered this task, what can we do to improve on it next time. And so you take that mentality, you combine it with an entrepreneurs need to fix problems when you see it. And that’s what led me into the private sector after retirement. I was just trying to fix my commute going to and from work, whether it be traffic like I had in Washington, DC, going to the Pentagon, or here in Austin going to and from the University of Texas. And what resulted out of that was an idea. That idea became a PowerPoint and it became a patent. And then it became a company. And then before we knew it, it was up and running because of the ecosystem of entrepreneurship, not just here in Texas, but really nationwide. And then with that Mercedes came along during the time of Uber and Lyft, and people trying to figure out what are these changes in mobility and how do We go from being a manufacturing company to a mobility company. And so they bought our technology bought our company, to be able to be a part of that. So as you can naturally imagine, I’ve seen shifts in how people adapt to changes outside of their world, and how they internalize those as teams. And I’ve seen a lot of people be successful. And I’ve seen a lot of people come up short. So that’s why I was fun to write the book catalyst to be able to apply all those lessons. That’s just
incredible. Just the fact that, you know, we’re looking from combat to entrepreneurship in Austin, to strategic coaching that you do. That’s how we know you to the Institute, as well as that you’ve been a great supporter and coaching in our students and our faculty as well. But it’s, I’d like to ask you, catalyst, does it only apply to the corporate world? Or can you know, folks out there community leaders that we speak with and engage with everyday, can they use some of these principles? And how would you How would you, how would you use those?
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. So First of all, we wrote every one of the chapters after the opening section on how change works with a private sector and a public sector mentality in mind, because we know that we have to have leaders at all levels working together to solve these problems. So it was a focus on the beginning. So for instance, if you’re in business school, you’re going to read a lot of business school cases. Or if you’re in a policy school, you’re going to read a lot of government policy. Rare is the book that actually brings both those worlds together, and so you can’t have one without the other. We were very proud of that. And then I think the second part of your question is, what are the steps that they actually take? And I think the first thing to do in any organization is look inward. So are you as the leader role modeling the resiliency Are you role modeling the agility and the adaptability to meet the needs of today and this has nothing to do with COVID. This could be about the changing manufacturing base in the US or the risk to our supply chain to dependent on overseas. Whatever your challenge before you, are you embracing it as the leader or are you like too many people do sticking your head in the sand hoping that it will go away if you just don’t watch it or pay attention to it.
And in addition, just in addition to obviously, preaching the word on capitalist, you are actually new and your team is actively involved in future of work in mobility and transportation and a lot of the manufacturing sector. Can you mention some of the trends that you’ve seen specific to this disruption and some of the ways that our our audience can learn from them?
So two areas I know very well first is with my nonprofit us tomorrow. We are working with organizations across the state of Texas right now and then nationwide later on, to address the fact that employers have a need for a workforce have a certain level of training or human capital, but unfortunately, our school system systems, our higher education is not producing enough of those trained and ready people. In fact, at the last time the governors report on 60 by 30, meaning that by the year 2030 60% of all jobs will require education and training beyond high school. When that report was done several years ago, only 14% of our Latinx population in the state of Texas as at the age of 18, were trained and ready for college or career only 14%. We can’t sustain an economy that’s the strongest in the world at that rate. So that’s what I do with us tomorrow. The trends of not having enough trained and ready people for our workforce to be hired is alarming. And we can’t just keep importing them from other states like we’ve been doing for a very long time. We have to make Texans trained and ready for the workforce. The other work that I do is with a private company called sustainment that is focused on really specifically the five to 20 personnel, machine shops. These are shops that basically make everything that we use when we’re bending metal to these, you know, to support our industries and to support business. And these often called the tier two tier three shops are usually second and third generation shops that have been in the family for 60 or 100 years. They also were hit with a one two punch 20 years ago, the first punch came from the fact that we brought China into the WTO. And we passed NAFTA in a very short period of time together, moving a lot of that manufacturing overseas because it was perceived at first to be cheaper. So that hit him with the one punch the two punch for those 20,000 plus businesses across the United States came when the internet got huge in the early 2000s. And it was very easy for American companies to use the internet through services provided to be able to find sources for their manufacturing. overseas. People are Simply not focused on those same mon Pol, small manufacturing, you know, capable companies in the US. And they got left behind in many cases, meaning that they were too dependent on one industry, oil and gas or automotive or aviation. And what’s the statements technologies are doing? It’s flipping that paradigm by saying, Okay, if you tell us what equipment you have the various pieces of machinery to do this work, we can then take the CAD drawings that that companies are asking to be made, reverse engineer them, and then create a new marketplace. So in both cases, a trained and ready workforce for measuring the true capacity of our manufacturing here in Texas and nationwide are two things that get me out of bed every morning. I have a lot of fun trying to solve these problems.
Yes, that’s really great, because it’s not just the coaching and the leadership, you you actually rolled up the sleeves and you’re down in there and especially you’re down in Texas, where where majority of the audience is going to be fought for for this video. Going forward, can you just your top key takeaways of what this disruption has caused to Texas and where those opportunities are for our leaders?
Well, so a couple of things are conspiring against us all at the same time. 30% of the revenue that goes into our state comes directly from the oil and gas industry. Because of COVID and the shutdown of economies across the world, we’ve seen that drop in oil prices and natural gas prices. That’s not good for the tax, Texas revenue and tax base. Simultaneously though, a lot of energy companies are realizing that if they use the opportunity now to diversify their supply, ie expanding into renewable expanding into geothermal, having real discussions about nuclear, we could come out of this even more energy resilient and less dependent on foreign sources of energy than ever before. So that’s both a problem and a silver lining at the same time. The other long term trend I see right now in this period that we have and how change is impacting people, is we’re really beginning to come to grips with what I call our foundational workforce. These are the hundred and 30 million Americans across the country who don’t work behind a computer screen. They don’t put their hands on a keyboard every day, they put their hands into Building America every single day. And for too long in this country, we didn’t pay them attention that they needed. We didn’t have the services, we didn’t have the employee offerings, we didn’t have that support network that we that they deserve. And so what we realized as soon as everything stopped, and there’s a lot of people that were at their keyboard now moving home saying, well, where are my groceries? Where is the produce? Where is the supply? Where is the delivery? Oh, that’s the foundational workforce of America. And it is large here in Texas. And so that again, it is unfortunate that we’ve had to go in through COVID. But I think it’s a great opportunity to focus on that. Understanding that the foundational workforce is the backbone of the American and Texas economy.
That’s really great, really great observations from your practical engagement with with the state as your final message, just as if there were a few things you could say to the community leaders to government leaders or other partners that are nonprofit and donor agencies that truly care about Texans. What are some of the messages that you would give? That combined being a catalyst that combined your observations of industry, manufacturing and disruption and opportunities for COVID?
Right, so it’s important to remind everyone that because of how young the Texas population is, one out of every 10 Americans right now kids enrolled in school from K through 12, one in 10. Live in Texas. That is the trajectory of the United States we are going to have an outsize impact on the future of not just Texas but of the United States. So what we do now to get it right with K through 12 education, and that also means looking at how we work with higher education organizations like ice square and the University of Texas a&m system, all the different resources at our disposal. We cannot afford as Texans and Americans to let this generation of K through 12 fall behind because of COVID. And we’ve exposed the gaps between those with access to broadband and those without we’ve exposed the gaps to those with computers and those without, and now is a chance for us to really come together, pour more resources, time and effort and energy into strengthening and bringing these, you know, these these, this this gap together, because if not, we’re going to continue in two different trajectories. And that’s not good for Texas or the country. And the last thing I’ll say is in terms of the mindset of leaders, nobody knows all the answers. Nobody knows the future, especially of this COVID disease, but what we do know That leadership always matters. You know, I encourage audiences everywhere I go, and leaders at all levels, Be the change that you want to see. Set the example because people will be what they can see. And if you provide that calm head, if you provide that understanding and that care, I remind audiences all the time, people do not care at all what you have to say, until they know that you care. And then as soon as you care, as you said, care, think and do when they know that you care as an empathetic leader, then you’re going to get the results that you need, whether you’re working in the private sector, or the public sector, and a tragedy and chaos like this gives people the chance to do it and whether it was my time and the chaos of combat in Iraq on two different trips there or the chaos of growing a small business here in Texas. I’ve seen chaos at all levels. There’s not much that scares me anymore. But it certainly is fun for me to be able to work with Organizations at all levels public and private, to be able to allow their leadership to become more resilient to create organizations capable of the change that we need in these trying times.
Thank you, Joseph. I think it’s very, very apparent how much you do care how passionate you are. And the fact that you jump out of bed every morning thinking about the manufacturing sector and everything else. But we thank you for your time, your expertise and your support for our students, our faculty, and Texans and Americans. I really, really appreciate your time.
Thank you and I’m associated with you associated be with you and your efforts and keep it up. We need it.
Thank you very much.
About the Author
Joseph Kopser is a lifelong problem solver, committed to designing strategies and building teams to overcome our toughest challenges. He is a husband, father, teacher, 20-year Army veteran, mentor, philanthropist, author, White House-recognized clean energy wonk, non-profit founder, and leadership and change management speaker and consultant. He is also a former tech startup founder, global business executive, and congressional candidate.
To concentrate his experience and expertise to deliver the greatest impact, Joseph’s work encompasses 5 bright lines which impact the whole of American society and America’s evolving role in the global community.
1- Fixing our Broken Political System
2- Updating the Workforce and Preserving the American Dream
3- Mainstreaming Innovation
4- Building Infrastructure for the 21st Century
You can read his full bio here.