Special Edition: A Talk with Betsey Nash



  • Doing the best for your employees will do the best for your business (6:40)

  • Management teams need to know how to speak unhappy truths to people (12:20)

  • Get the most out of your employees because they want to give the most (19:00)


Betsey, in terms of whether the work people are doing is truly aligned with the mission we’re trying to achieve, what would you say has changed in the HR field from the time you began, however many years ago, and where we are now? What shifts have you seen?

Employees and employers have the same goal in mind, which is having the organization be successful.

The way the organization is successful, according to the employee, is that they feel good about working. They get to do what they do best every day. They have a meaningful and good relationship, not just with their coworkers but with, especially, their immediate supervisor and all of the supervisors. They feel in touch with the mission, so they feel that they are doing something worthwhile.

The employer feels that they’re having success by not having a whole lot of turnover – hello, that’s keeping the employees happy – and by having low workers’ comp costs – again, keeping the employees happy and safe. Taking care of the employees is also taking care of the customers. Your employees are going to be more likely to take care of their customers when they feel taken care of. Hello! So it all works together, and it goes in the same direction.

When I first started in HR, it was all of this adversarial stuff; it’s management against employee. It’s always been my mission to get that idea out of anybody’s head at any company that I worked with, whether it be employees or employers.

Well, I’m sorry to say, there’s still a lot of that out there. There’s still plenty of owners of businesses and managers of businesses out there who say, “Hey, I’m paying ‘em. I don’t care if they’re happy or not; they just need to show up.”

Well, they’re not going to show up if they’re not happy. They’re going to get hurt if they’re not happy. It all ties together: Doing the best for your employees will do the best for your business.

Tell us a little bit about your work with corporations and nonprofits and how you support business owners and presidents and managers and supervisors to really develop positive teams.

You have to keep the mission in mind. You need to know where you’re going so that you can make the right steps to get there, regardless of whether you’re a for-profit or nonprofit company. You’ve got to hire the right people – like I read in Good to Great by Jim Collins – get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. You’ve got to set the tone of respect. People don’t have to love each other to work well together, but they do have to be respectful.

Specifically, helping management teams deal with employees and know how to speak unhappy truths to people – they have to be coming from a place of love, from a place of respect. Earlier, Beth, you talked about the A-B-C of moving people on. Well, D is to have them keep their self-respect while you’re showing them the door. That’s a critical piece.

The manager has to, of course, stay diligent. You don’t want to micromanage, but you want to be able to give the person the supervision they need to be successful.

The manager has to say to him- or herself, “Alright, is this an issue of will or an issue of skill? Is the problem that I haven’t trained this person enough or that they just don’t have the capacity to be successful in this position? Or is it that they just don’t have the will to do it … that they’re not willing to do what it takes to be successful?”

If it’s skill, and you feel like you could still invest time and training into the person, fine, but at some point, you’re going to have to stop anyway and say, “I’m sorry. This just isn’t right for you. I think it’s in both of our best interests if you move on.”

And if it’s will, then you’ve got to get rid of them right away because they’re like a poison in your company. Everybody’s gonna see it. They’ll see it before you do, probably, and they’re going to resent it. You just need to be able to have those conversations.

How do you think the Navigating Challenging Dialogue® process supports all that you’re talking about?

Well, it absolutely does, because the dialogue that you want to have … I mean, sometimes we feel like: I don’t want to talk to that person. They’re going to be pushing back, or they’re going to be not listening, or they’re going to be any of the number of things that we can be afraid of when we want to confront somebody.

But if we can come from this place of curiosity, of approaching what’s getting in the way. If we can make sure that we can take the emotion out of it. No, let them be emotional, and then say, “Okay, let’s remove the emotion from this. What is getting in your way from this?” or “Why would you think that’s happening?” or “Tell me more about this.”

That’s the steps that you have put in Navigating Challenging Dialogue. They just mesh so perfectly with what I see my mission as an HR professional to be, which is to get the most out of the employees because they want to give the most. And to get all the other crap out of the way so that we can have a meaningful dialogue. And so that we can feel like the entire team is supported and that people can actually, at the same time, get in touch with their own feelings about things and move forward with those things out of the way.

Your Navigating Challenging Dialogue is incredible. You’ve articulated and been able to share some of the things that happen all the time in the workplace. It’s like the class used to be called “How to Deal with Difficult People.” Yours is so much stronger, so much deeper than that. It’s really life-changing.


“Betsey has been valuable to Stand Strong through a time of great transition. Her big brain, her big smile, and her big heart made her a welcome presence. She will always have a warm place in our hearts and our history.” ~Kirsten Rambo, Executive Director of Stand Strong, San Luis Obispo

“Betsey is an inspiration. She has led by example and taught my team how to be firm but always kind and how sometimes humor can drive home a serious message. She is a champion for women in the workforce … and for the LA Dodgers!” ~Rachel Dumas Rey, CEO, Compli

“Because of knowing Betsey, I understand more about being a better professional, boss, and friend. I so appreciate her astute, reflective observations, her appreciation of my family, and her incredible candor. Knowing her has been a gift. Hearing her beautiful musical talent and witnessing her wit has been a remarkable bonus!” ~Dawna Davies, real estate icon, owner Davies Company Real Estate and incoming president of the San Luis Obispo Association of Realtors

“Betsey has become the authoritative center of the universe on the central coast of California for HR and important human relations issues. During this time, Betsey has helped so many of us be better leaders through understanding perspective and by watching her example. Betsey has made life better for leaders and the teams we serve. I appreciate her contributions.” ~Jeff Buckingham, President and Chief Customer Officer, Digital West Networks

“As a new CEO 4 years ago, Betsey was an inspiration and reminder of why we live here. Honest, thoughtful, professional, and fun!” ~Heidi McPherson, CEO, County Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo

From the staff at the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO): 10 Ways Betsey Helped ECHO Improve:

  1. Team building exercises

  2. Continuous positivity

  3. Increased professionalism

  4. Creates energy and excitement

  5. Encouragement

  6. Supportive

  7. Helps staff to achieve ECHO’s mission

  8. Makes serious meetings fun!

  9. Sees and then nurtures staff potential

  10. Cares about staff’s personal lives! Makes staff feel important :-)


I wish my mentor and friend Betsey Nash all the best in her retirement!