June 3

Episode 38: Define and Implement Self and Team Accountability with Erin Gallimore


In this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target, Mike speaks with Erin Gallimore and her work in the water and wastewater fields. Erin also tells us about how she works with small businesses and non-profits to look at the big picture to understand all the little pieces of their business and how they fit together.

While working as a professional engineer, Erin led teams in the office, on the road, and on the night shift. Erin’s passion for coaching is infectious. She is also an amazing presenter who has a passion for helping others achieve their full potential.

Erin Gallimore’s Biography

Erin is a leadership coach, and she has worked with corporate teams and 1:1 with professionals of all experience and management levels and been teaching continuing educations courses for 10 years.

  • Middle School Science Teacher
  • Licensed Professional Engineer 
  • Licensed WWTP Operator
  • She trained with a Krav Maga coach for a year while in Graduate School

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • Classes for continuing education should be interesting and involved and conversational, not someone standing up there presenting or reading a PowerPoint presentation to people.
  • Learning a big concept, you really have to understand the big picture in order to understand all the little pieces that go in between. And so focus on what is the big picture first.
  • So as small businesses grow, they start to do things just organically. They do what works, what are the methodologies they use to meet their clients, to give them what they need. Over time, a system has developed.
  • Establishing repeatable processes early on will pay dividends long term. 
  • Take a step back from trying to make your business succeed and look at what is working and what is not working.
  • Quality is the focus. Of course, businesses want to be profitable. And that’s where putting those systems and protocols come together because


  • “I did, I tried to spend a lot of time out in the field as an engineer because that’s where the good stuff happens. It doesn’t happen in your cubicle or in front of the computer.”
  • “Let me tell you, everybody should have to be a middle school teacher at some point in their career path. Oh, the things you’ll learn.”
  • “I love to help people make realizations, to try to paint the picture a little differently so that they can get it, whatever that is that they need to get.”
  • “You really have to understand the big picture in order to understand all the little pieces that go in between.”
  • “Just because something is efficient, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective.”
  • “If you’re going to help someone, or even if you’re going to help yourself in any situation, you’ve got to meet yourself or that other person where they are. Not where you wish they would be, not where you want to be, but you’ve got to start where you actually are and then build from there.”

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Episode #38

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck & on Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we're business coaches who love to help leaders get unstuck and sleep better. In this podcast, we're talking with thought leaders to uncover tips to help you break down the barriers that may be keeping you or your business stuck. Joining me today is Erin Gallimore. Erin is a consultant and coach who leverages for training as a chemist and engineer to help fellow engineers, water and wastewater professionals earn their certification. But in addition, Erin works closely with nonprofits and small businesses, and it's her work with these nonprofits and the small businesses that I like to spend most of our time on today. So welcome Erin. 

Erin Gallimore: Thank you, Mike. I'm so excited to be here.

Mike O'Neill: Yeah I had to laugh. For those who are not watching on video, as I was saying, joining the day is Erin, you did this kind of welcome. I can just see the energy in your eyes and, and your, and your mannerisms. And I'm looking forward to our conversation today. Can I share a little bit more about Erin?

Erin Gallimore: Of course. Yeah. I'm excited to be here too. Mike.

Mike O'Neill: I'm glad. Erin is speaking to us from Raleigh, North Carolina. And so she is a diehard Wolfpack, not only fan, but a graduate. Now, do I recall correctly? You got a chemistry degree from North Carolina state. And a master's degree in engineering and civil engineering with an environmental emphasis. Does that sound close to being right? 

Erin Gallimore: That's correct. Good memory Mike? 

Mike O'Neill: Ah, well, let's start with that. Erin, what drew you into chemistry and engineering? What about those things that just kind of said, I want to go that route. 

Erin Gallimore: Yeah, those are good questions. So I originally wanted to be a medical doctor, you know, right out of high school. I enter college and I focused in chemistry. Cause I thought it would be the best pathway to prepare me for med school. And as I continued the volunteer hours that, you know, you need to have in order to apply to med school at different hospitals and other medical facilities, I decided, you know, this just isn't really going to be a fit. For me. And so I went, got out into the working world and worked for a few years, trying to figure out what in the world I wanted to do with myself. What did I want my career to be? And eventually landed back in school, pursuing my master's in civil engineering, focusing in environmental watering, wastewater, and I've always just loved. Yeah. Being outside and working in the environment. And so for whatever reason, and I can't even really tell you how I ended up there, but I ended up working with a focus in water and wastewater, and that's where my, my thesis was focused in, in math, my master's degree. And I've just loved it. It was, it was a great, educational expense for me.

Mike O'Neill: My understanding is you didn't stop with just with educational experience. You actually have real world experience, both from a corporate and in the field, not just the day shift, you've worked the night shift. You've really been on the ground, kind of honing your craft. I imagine you could probably relish with lots of interesting stories. Water and wastewater. I imagine that's very interesting topic at, at a gathering. They pull you aside and want to know tell me about your experience with water and wastewater, right? 

Erin Gallimore: Yeah. Not so much, Mike. I know you're being a little sarcastic. Yeah. So when people ask me what I do where I'm not necessarily a practicing engineer anymore, but they used to ask me, Erin, what do you do? And I would say, I'm a wastewater engineer. I helped treat your poop, you know? And, there usually wasn't much followup after that, you know, people just wanted to change the topic really quickly. Understandably. And I did it just to see what kind of reaction I would get from folks. But honestly, Mike, it was, it was a great time. I did, I tried to spend a lot of time out in the field as an engineer because that's where the good stuff happens. It doesn't happen in your cubicle or in front of the computer. And so there's a lot of, you know, Nights and weekends that I spent out, you know, working on the wastewater lines and a few times jumping in a few man holes. And so, yeah, I definitely have some stories there I can share. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, I introduced you as someone who also helps those professionals with continuing education and I hope and no way to come across as being judgmental here. We actually have a client that works in, in your industry. And so I've learned a lot about water in particular. But when you're tasked with continuing education, I'm imagine, there's a lot of relatively dull things that you kind of have to cover with this continuing education. How in a world, can you keep energy in the room? How do you make it fun for those folks seeking certification? 

Erin Gallimore: Well, between my undergrad and my master's, I was a school teacher for a number of years. And so I taught middle schoolers. Let me tell you, everybody should have to be a middle school teacher at some point in their, in their career path, the things you learn. And so I just love to teach. I love to help people make realizations to try to paint the picture a little differently so that they can get it, whatever that is that they can that they need to get. And so, you know, I've sat through a lot of continuing education classes, myself for my teaching license, for my professional engineering license, and also have my operator license as well. And some of those classes are just dreadful. You know, you just kind of want to bang your head on the desk because you just like, I only have to be here another 30 minutes. And so I wanted the classes that I would teach to be different. You know, I wanted them to be interesting and involved an conversational, not just me standing up there presenting or reading a PowerPoint presentation to people. And so those that's how I put my classes together, so that they're interactive. And so that they're interesting. And I focus on lots of topics. For the classes that I have, we focus on math. We focus on communications and safety and leadership. That's all kinds of different topics that, that I focus on. And so I just love it. You know, there are a few students always that kind of start the class with their arms crossed. Like, what is she going to teach me that I don't already know. You know, and so usually they ease up once we get past about the first hour where they realize, oh, she's not so bad. So yeah. It's I love teaching those classes. I just love teaching. That's probably, it's just what I'm meant to do. I just love to teach.

Mike O'Neill: You love it. It shows. So how does your love of teaching and that passion carry over to your work with nonprofits and small businesses? 

Erin Gallimore: Yeah. So it's, you know what I love most about teaching, and this is regardless of what the topic is, is just trying to figure out the big picture. And this is how I learn too. So this is probably why it's teaching is such a big thing for me, because excuse me. Whenever I'm learning a big concept, especially when I went back for my master's in engineering, you really have to understand the big picture in order to understand all the little pieces that go in between. And so I've always had a big focus on, you know, what is the big picture first? Let's figure that out first. And then once we get that, we can kind of break it into pieces and parts so that we can meet people where they are with their current understanding and then get them to where they need to be, to fully understand something. And so that's really, well, that's really what life's all about. That's what education is about. That's what learning anything new is about. And so that's really the same focus and method that I go about when I work with small businesses. And when I work with nonprofits in order to help them put together an effective and an efficient system process protocol to help their teams run more smoothly and to help them be more effective and efficient and produce more quality products for their clients. So yeah, that's, it's just for me the big picture. That's, that's my focus. 

Mike O'Neill: As you know, Erin, our listeners comprised mostly of decision-makers. These are leaders in organizations. It could be for-profit could be nonprofit, that they have decisions that they have to make that influences the organization. And you mentioned it sometimes starts with a big picture. You find that if people understand the big picture, then you can start that drill down. Now you made an interesting comment. You said that if you're going to have a plan that is efficient and effective, those terms sometimes are used interchangeably. Those are not interchangeable terms. When you use those two terms, what do you mean by that? 

Erin Gallimore: Yeah. So oftentimes, you know, as well, I'll give an example through businesses that I've worked with. So as a small businesses grow, they start to do things just organically, right? They do what works, what are the methodologies, the methodologies they use to meet their clients, to give them what they need. And over time, you know, there a system has developed, you know, and so. It's best when you're trying to put together a business, that's going to be more productive is to let's establish that as a system so that we can be more efficient with what we do. But on the other hand, just like you just said effective, just because something is efficient, it doesn't necessarily mean it's effective. So then you kind of have to go back to before you even put the efficient system in place and say, Is what you're doing actually affective, you know, it is, this process is what you're doing. Is it giving you the result that you want? You know, is it what you need? And then if it's not, then you might need to go back and just figure out, okay, well then let's start over and go back to big picture. You know, what are the things that we want here? What are our goals? And then let's start from there. Does that make sense? 

Mike O'Neill: It makes perfect sense to me. So why don't we do this? Let's. Separate for a few minutes non-profits and small businesses. And let's continue on the small business path. And that is, you mentioned as a, as a small business starts, sometimes they are doing things because that's how they did it at the beginning. Right. It worked and they continue to do that. Let's drill that down a little bit. When you, and working with small business and you're starting with trying to help them understand the big picture for a small business, the big picture could be profitability, what other things might be the big picture, things that you're trying to draw attention to.

Erin Gallimore: Yeah, for a lot of small businesses, one of the main focuses that I've found is quality making sure because they're small and the way that you build yourself and the way that you've established your reputation is by providing quality products, quality interactions, quality communications, quality deliverables, whatever they are, and no matter what your industry is to your current clients. And so for a lot of my clients, I've worked with quality is the focus. Of course they want to be profitable too. And that's where putting those systems and protocols come together because you want to be more effective and efficient with your time, but it's really the quality piece, you know, how do we make sure that we are focusing on providing a quality product? And that's a lot of where the big picture comes in and then getting that feedback from their clients what's working, what's not working, you know, go to the source. I mean, a lot of times businesses forget to go to their best, the best person who can give them that feedback. And that's not everybody inside the company, that's the people who you're serving, you know? And so, you know, for a lot of the companies that I work with, the quality piece is the piece that I work with folks on the most. That's where we focus, because when you're providing the quality, oftentimes the profitability comes along with it. 

Mike O'Neill: And you mentioned quality. It could be the product quality. It could be service quality. And so you're encouraging our listeners as leaders. Don't forget about your customers. Go ask them. That's a great, great suggestion. So you find that oftentimes you began working with them. Then what you begin working with them is helping them define I quality and whatever it might very well be. How else are you helping these small businesses?

Erin Gallimore: Yeah. So all these small businesses I've worked with as well, I've kind of done what I would call an audit. And when I say audit, I mean just kind of big picture. And it's where I go in and spend some time with every employee. And when I say every employee, I mean, every employee, not just the senior leadership team. And I ask some pointed questions and I asked the same questions of everyone and asking questions like what's going well? What's not going so well? Where are your biggest struggles? Where do you feel like your time is being wasted? What are your biggest concerns as we move forward as a company? What are you, what are you most excited about as we move forward as a company? And things like that. And I modify them based on, on the company sometimes, but when I bring together the responses of everyone and give it back to the company, say, Hey, you know, this is what I heard. And these are the things that I recommend for you. It's eye opening for smaller companies, because, you know, not only does it give them perspective on how people are thinking and feeling, but it also lets them know about is this, you know, is the employers, the senior leadership team truly given me employees, what they need to succeed, to deliver the product, to deliver to the clients, their mission, their vision, their products, their deliverables. And so that's usually where I begin. Goodness gracious, Mike. I forgot what question I was answering, but, but that's usually where I begin. And that's usually the most eyeopening for companies, especially smaller companies, because smaller companies are typically younger companies. They've only been around for a few years up to a 10 years or so. And, and by then, They just been so busy trying to succeed, trying to pursue clients, trying to keep things running that they kind of forget to take a step back for a minute and figure out, okay, what's going well, what's not going so well? And what can we do to make things better? 

Mike O'Neill: I love your response. In terms of working with small companies, you oftentimes find they're, they're young in terms of how long they've been around and they may have been early on in survival mode. 

Erin Gallimore: Right.

Mike O'Neill: But if business is good, it's all they can do to take care of the customer. And what you offer the leadership is perspective. You give them feedback that they may it's if you think they can just walk right out on the shop board or around the corner in the cubicle and ask and they can, but it seems as if business owners in particular we're so absorbed with just the day to day, we can lose that perspective. So that, that makes very good sense. You know, I don't want to bounce too fast, but we're talking about small businesses, particularly young businesses as they grow encourage, you know, you have to kind of be mindful of the big picture and you need perspective and you get perspective sometimes by going out and asking, before I move to nonprofits, let me ask another question. When you go back and report back to leadership, what you find you say that sometimes they're just really surprised what they, what they might hear. Are there any things you seen kind of emerge the things that often they're most surprised about? 

Erin Gallimore: Hmm. Well, I think a lot of times the thing that, that I initially, when I started doing this, the thing that I found most surprising initially was that the, the senior leadership team, especially the CEO of these companies didn't know what was really going on around them because their senior leadership team had been so good at trying to protect them. And what do I mean by protection? I just made the CEO has this job, right. And he, or she is busy doing a million things, moving at a million miles a minute. And the senior leadership team is trying to keep kind of the weeds. If you will type items out off of their desk, but sometimes I think senior leadership teams kind of mismanage or misunderstand what's weeds and what's important. And so sometimes I feel like, you know, the CEO doesn't have all the tools and all the knowledge that they need to have in order to make the best decision, not only for the company and for its customers or its clients, but also for the staff. I think sometimes I'll especially with smaller businesses because they're just so concentrating on continuing to stay in business. And like you said, they're in survival mode. They forget that they have this team that is working their butt off to work for them and with them and giving it their all too. And sometimes they forget about them and take them for granted a bit. And so, you know, in these audits and in my conversations with small businesses, that's the one thing that initially surprised me the most was. Was that lack of knowledge the CEO had about kind of what's going on, like you said, on the shop floor. And so that's been the biggest, that's been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Mike O'Neill: You know, we talk about small businesses. It seems as if people have in their mind what a small business is. Yes a mom pop retail operation is small business. I'm reminded the small business administration says we can offer our services to you if you have up to 499 employees, the federal government still views that as a small business. You ask me that's a large business. But many of our clients fall into that kind of category. You know, we were talking about nonprofits a moment ago and that is non-profits versus for profit. But when you're working with nonprofits, what are the things that really differentiate how you might, would engage a nonprofit versus a small business?

Erin Gallimore: Well, you know, Mike, I don't know. There's a big difference there. I mean, no matter whether you're a for-profit or you're a nonprofit, you still have clients, you still have deliverables. You still have to provide a quality product, even nonprofits, you know, they're trying to bring in money. So their donors are like their clients. And so the way that they interact with them and you know how they have to think as a business, even though they aren't, you know, even though they're regulated as a different type of business, they still have to think of things the same way. Those donors. Are their clients. And so I really don't have that much of a different way that I work with nonprofits as for-profits, because it's really the same thing  in so many ways. 

Mike O'Neill: Hmm. It's interesting point. Now, a number of nonprofits oftentimes have boards. And do you work with nonprofit boards as well? 

Erin Gallimore: Well with some of the nonprofit boards I have. So, you know, oftentimes after I'll do the audit, I'll sit down with the CEO and the board. And we'll talk about what I learned because oftentimes the board, you know, the board is who is holding the CEO accountable, right? The board is the CEO's boss. And so sometimes it's really helpful because I, I like to focus on accountability because you know what, what's the point of having any kind of guidance or teaching or systems or protocols, if you don't have accountability that goes with it. And so I often like to sit down with the CEO and the board and share with them what I learned and what my recommendations are, so that they can better understand what I heard and what I saw and what I recommend.

And then we can kind of, you know, go back and forth and discuss it a little bit, you know, and so that everyone better understands. But yeah, it's, it's helpful to talk to the board because sometimes they have a perspective that is different than everyone else's, which can be very helpful. 

Mike O'Neill: Erin you've shared how you've worked with, for utilities, for small businesses and nonprofits. May I ask, reflect on a time where perhaps Erin Gallimore might've gotten stuck and keeping with our podcasting, will you share with our listeners maybe an example where you got stuck and what did you have to do to get unstuck? 

Erin Gallimore: Right. Yeah. Well, I think that the last year and the pandemic has brought about a, a huge stuck moment for me. You know, I started my business, in, in 2018. And, you know, I had just built up the momentum in my business, in early 2020, and I had clients and I had contracts and things were going well, and I was so excited and proud of myself. And once the pandemic hit. And things started to become, you know, reality for a lot of businesses in March and in April of 2020. That's when I lost a lot of my contracts because of business, because we're having to decide, you know, do we keep Erin on board or do we keep our staff on board? And, you know, understandably they, it shows their staff as they should. But that left me in a situation where, I was kind of with my hands were in the air. What do I do? How do I survive this. Is this going to last for a few months? Is this going to be long-term and who knew that, you know, we're a year later now and we're still where we are. No one thought that, you know, no one was thinking of that reality back then. And you know, it was really hard. It was mentally, it was hard. I mean, it's devastating, you know, and financially it was hard and, you know, I had to quickly figure out, okay, Erin, you're stuck. You're really stuck. What do you do? You know? And so there was this other small side of my business where I was teaching continuing education classes. I was teaching them, but I wasn't purely focused on them a lot. Like I am now as a part of my business. So I started thinking of what am I going to do? You know, how am I going to start paving the way forward to bring in, you know, opportunities to teach these continuing education classes? And so I started doing that. And then on the other side, you know, how do I pivot?

How do I diversify? How do I keep moving forward? You know? And so I also started reaching out to my connections, my network, which is another conversation to have, right. While your connections and network are so important, but you know, reaching out to them and saying, you know, I what's, what else can I do? Kind of. He does trying to strategize with some people that I trusted. And so I happened upon a number of small businesses and nonprofits, and started working with them kind of with the knowledge that I had an engineering background. And they knew they needed new systems and structures in place because they were these small companies, they were creatives, you know, they had these amazing ideas and all this innovation and all this experience working with clients in a creative way. But not necessarily in a system systematized or a, They hadn't developed any protocols for what they do or how they do it. And so every time they would work with a client, they were starting over and that was starting to wear on them. So the thinking was, we know Erin she's organized, she was an engineer. She's dealt with all of this craziness before. Let's see how she can come in and step in and help us. And, you know, I loved it because the one part of being an engineer that I probably loved more than anything. Was taking a project at the, from the very beginning and figuring out big picture again, we've heard that word for me a lot. What are we going to do? What is the goal? How are we going to get there? How are we going to lay things out? How are we going to lay it out in bite sized pieces so that we can actually accomplish the things we need to, rather than saying these big objectives that have no meaning actually breaking it into pieces that can be accomplished, you know, check off the box.

And, and so I started working with companies, doing those things an one, one opportunity led to another opportunity as things usually do. You know, you get referred by people that know you and like you and trust you. And it just became a really amazing opportunity for me, that I hadn't really explored before and I'm loving it. Mike, I'm loving it. It's, it's really exciting for me. Cause I get to pull on that experience that I had as an engineer, that part of engineering that I truly truly loved, you know, and then, my other experiences working for corporate and working for businesses. And so it's just been a really nice, it's been a really nice pivot for me. And so I feel like I'm finally. I finally feel unstuck, what is it? It's almost June of 2021. Now I finally feel unstuck, but I felt stuck for a long time. And it was really unclear. It was really uncomfortable. 

Mike O'Neill: Erin, you are obviously not alone. I really appreciate your candor in which you shared that in large part is why we named this podcast what we did at the time, everybody was stuck. We had no idea what we're going to do and the stories that I'm hearing now, we're recording this in late may. This will probably be, published in June with a stories we're hearing all the last 12, 15, 18 months are just remarkable stories. Yes, lots untold tragedy has been, experience by many, but the stories I'm hearing the stories about personal transformation, organizational transformation, and a, what I hope would be a, a growing sense of hope on people's part individually and collectively. Now your enthusiasm kind of comes through loud and clear when you can marry up, the intellect and the enthusiasm, I can see how you would be so effective in working with your clients to kind of help them get clearer on who they are and what they're trying to accomplish. And you're using your God-given talents to that aim. You know, we've covered a lot in our time together. So reflect on a moment what we've covered thus far. If you were to say here's some closing thoughts, That I would have, or some takeaways I want to emphasize. What might they be? 

Erin Gallimore: Yeah, I think I just have one. I just have one and I say this to my clients all the time. No matter what client they are. And even in all my continuing education classes, I say the same thing. If you're going to help someone, or even if you're going to help yourself in any situation, you've got to meet yourself or that other person where they are. Not where you wish they would be, not where you want to be, but you've got to start where you actually are and then build from there. And so, and I say that to the business owners, I work with all the time because they just want to fix things quickly and put people in a box and be done with it. And it doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way and you're never going to be successful there. So the first thing you have to do is take a step back and meet your people where they are. And that's whether they're your clients or your staff, or heck even in your personal life, if your spouse or your friends or whoever, you gotta meet people where they are.

Mike O'Neill: That's fantastic guidance. This has been a real treat. I did not, make known. I learned of Erin through a past podcast, guest on Nicole Tschierske. Said, you know what? Erin would be a great guest and I'm so glad she recommended you. This has been a real treat. Thank you, Erin.

Erin Gallimore: Yeah thank you, Mike. And thank you, Nicole.

Mike O'Neill: I just heard from Nicole just yesterday. So I'm sure she will, in terms of just that, I just want to thank our listeners for joining us this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target. Now we upload the latest episode every Thursday. And if you haven't already please subscribe. You know, life is too short to let business problems keep you up at night. So our coaches, we love helping leaders solve the tough problems that may be holding you back from the success that you deserve. So if you've been listening to my conversation here with Erin, and you're realizing that something's keeping you or your business stuck, let's talk, go to our website bench-builders.com or just go to your browser and type unstuck.show. And you do that and you can just schedule a quick call. So I want to thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips that will help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.

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