Street Level Influencer – Meet Aly McKinster

Aly McKinster.

“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” — Robin Sharma

For the first time in almost 10 months, I bring you the Street Level Influencer series! It’s been a minute, that’s for sure! Now more than ever, we need reminders from those individuals at the ground level making an impact in our daily lives – many times without us knowing it – that life is overwhelmingly good, even when it’s “bad.”

Street level influencers provide that for us.

COVID, social unrest, systemic racism, insurrections, hatred from seemingly all over. These things have caused cracks in even the most tempered of personality foundations. Concrete, eventually, will crack under the weight of the burden.

When I began my idea of the Street Level Influencer, I had no idea how positive people would respond to it! I’m excited that it struck a chord with people. Remember, the Street Level Influencer is a reminder that everyone has the ability to radiate positive light in the world around them, and light is brighter when surrounded by shadows.

So far in the series, I have shared stories from:

  1. Kirk Hamsher
  2. Kristy Freewalt
  3. Sue Oswalt
  4. Okie Smith
  5. John Newton
  6. Olga Piehler
  7. Blake Quinlan
  8. James Woods
  9. Anthony Eaton
  10. Jane Murtaugh
  11. Rhonda Owens
  12. Dan Huber
  13. Shenise Cook
  14. Scott McCullough
  15. Kim Bozeman

One of the most consequential lessons I learned in workplace life (or just life in general) is the importance of relationships. Relationships guide and direct all we do, especially in an HR context. If the relationship sucks, chances are the experience will suck. If the relationship is awesome, chances are the experience will be awesome.

The next Street Level Influencer is a MASTER of the relationship! Aly McKinster is a Client Manager at Wipfli, Inc., and her expertise is in the Predictive Index (PI) behavioral assessment.

I first met Aly in 2021 when we were bringing PI into my workplace. The main reason we wanted PI was that it offered a comprehensive tool to strengthen relationships, communication, and development of our staff.

I could not be happier to have Aly by my side as I took on the massive undertaking of introducing PI to the organization! Aly was kind, patient, understanding, and pretty much an amazing human being the entire time! Since I first met her, I can honestly say that she’s now a good friend. She has challenged me to think differently, and she has been an advocate in my corner – propping me up when I want to slump! She is simply, awesome.

So, without further ado, here is my interview with Aly! ENJOY!

So, tell us about Predictive Index. What is it about PI that you find so valuable?

I am a scrappy human that likes creative solutions that solve problems quickly, without a ton of pain. I also like anything in life that helps bring people closer to their authentic self. PI’s tools support this from multiple facets.

I’m also an artist so a lot of business things are challenging for me, so I like to remove as much friction as possible and then teach other teams how we achieved this.

I HATED team sports growing up. I am a perfectionist; I over think literally everything (including all parts of human behavior) so the chance that I could perform in a way that would ever affect others negatively is really tough for me. I have never found a tool that works as quick and well as PI as it relates to understanding teams.

My Why is to help as many people not feel the way that I have in multiple dynamics in my life. I like to remove any friction I can between people, systems, and technology. PI empowers humans to have better relationships and team dynamics where open communication is encouraged.

The tool also encourages diversity of thought which is so so important in today’s world. If we come at a problem only viewing it from a few degrees, we are missing the totality of the issue. We therefore cannot create the best solution and outcome.

I care a lot about mental health, more on this in a later question… but poor mental health is either enflamed by or originates from stress. When you stop making people work in a way that drains them, they can have more energy for their work, families, and communities. These tools help identify the things that really drain and stress each person out. When you’re working with your gifts you feel valued.

Do you have any stories you’re willing to share of you using PI to improve a workplace relationship?

PI has improved all of my workplace relationships. We use the tools internally at Wipfli when we have any discussions around people. Often, when two people are very similar, or completely opposite, they can have the most dissonance. It’s human nature to form connections between data (people’s actions) and then assume things based on previous experiences. These tools break down the barrier of communication and allow people to objectively describe themselves so that they feel more comfy discussing the more subjective topics with their colleagues.

PI doesn’t solve all things in relationships, but it does pull back the curtain so that deeper topics that need to be discussed can be discussed.

I have too many stories with my clients to share here, maybe that could be another blog!

We’ve discussed before the importance that mental health advocacy has played in our worlds. Why do you feel mental health conversations need to happen more frequently?

This is a topic I am deeply passionate about! I believe every situation is an opportunity to find strength and use our gifts in unique ways.

If we’re talking from a pure business standpoint, mental health issues critically affect team dynamics and the way we engage in peer relationships and client engagements. But it doesn’t need to be a negative.

For example, one employee may have had challenging family dynamics. These folks may often turn to people facing roles with lots of collaboration. They can have gifts in assembling teams and noticing literally everything no one else sees as they often had to find creative ways to get their needs met in their family dynamic. They will also bring that strength to their clients, no one will care about clients more than these people.

Business is about relationships. Relationships between people, processes, and technology. When a product is broken, it’s noticed and fixed. When a process is broken, it’s noticed and fixed. And hopefully, the pain points are minimized due to addressing the needs.

When a person is broken, though, a lot of times no one sees it. Ultimately, when someone can’t get help or get an opportunity to get a fix (like a process or product), the organization has unattended, unseen pain points.

People need time, space, and opportunity to heal. Some of the smartest people you have ever worked with in business have been through some very complicated things mentally.

Being open and talking about mental health is the only way to address the pain points – it’s not only the human thing to do, but it’s good for business as it allows people to address and hopefully fix their pain points. They can then get back to sharing their gifts with the company and world.

Something that is also close to my heart is the connection between neurodiversity and mental health. It is so important to talk about neurodiversity from a mental health context in the workplace. Neurodiverse people have special gifts and special challenges. For example, I have ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and OCD, which leads me to overthinking.  I need quiet to best focus and reset, but the gifts I’ve been granted are hyper-creativity and the ability to quickly connect and share stories with people. I’ve been able to build communities and teams rapidly. The blind spots, well there is a lot of them, so thank goodness for PI tools and great mentors!

You mention that Wipfli has been such a great company to work for. What makes them a great place to work?

I truthfully never thought I could sustain working in the business world as the creative that I am, until I met Wipfli. Wipfli is the first company I have worked with that’s truly seen my gifts and allowed me to use them without putting me down when I fail. Wipfli lets us use our gifts to best serve our clients. They support growth in a nurturing way like something I haven’t experienced before.

Leaders in this organization saw things in me that I had yet to discover about myself. Example, aligning me to the nonprofit industry. Employees in nonprofits have a level of empathy that a lot people cannot understand. They often serve people that are just like them growing up. This means, they really, really get it. Sometimes too much. There is no lack of passion, people all care so much about others that they sometimes need someone to remind them to care about themselves. Back to my why, I love to help empower others to be the best version of themselves and this includes a ton of self-care (communication tools are self-care).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I get to be myself. I feel seen. I feel heard. I could not sing better praises about Wipfli, and I plan to retire here if they will let me. 😊

What is one simple thing that HR leaders can do today to make their place of employment a better place to work?

Bring tools to the workplace that can help people feel seen and heard – tools that highlight individual strengths. These tools allow us to bring the human to the forefront. When people feel seen and heard, they feel safer, they form better relationships, and they do better work. Period. We are all humans that ultimately seek connection, love, and acceptance. Start with figuring out how everyone in the org can have the opportunity to feel these things if they so choose.

What is one book you’ve read that has influenced your leadership style? Why?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I have always been an incredibly curious person. I have found if you can discover what motivates everyone at their core (their why), you can connect with that person much quicker and discover what they actually need and what can help them. Life is so complicated at times.

Oddly enough, Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie is another one. I have always struggled with being in an environment where others are upset because I am a “people feeler” myself (naturally inclined to respect feelings).  Especially in the workplace because I know how hard it is to get things done when people are feeling disconnected and/or are in a space where they are not open. This book allowed me to realize that I cannot change others’ feelings. All I can do is become the best version of myself. Don’t adapt to the room – influence the room!

Who’s one person in your network that readers should know about?

I have to pick 2, and this is hard as I have been blessed with more mentors than I could have ever hoped for at Wipfli.

First, Marcie Bomberg. She is my mentor at Wipfli, and my life has been completely transformed by her brilliance, kindness, generosity, and time. Marcie leads strategy for our organizational performance sector. If you have a business or organizational strategy, just call Marcie. Marcie is a master in helping people and businesses/organizations reframe the way they think so that they can become the best versions of themselves. She has helped me change the way I view myself as a professional and has empowered me to bring my gifts to the world. She taught me that being myself is my power, what I’ve been through is my power, and that I do not have to dim my light to uplift others. She has helped me reframe the way that I view myself in business, which was needed for a hippie like me! 😊

Second, Kathleen Dubois. She is the leader of our Non-Profit sector at Wipfli. She cares about people in a way that is incredibly rare to find in business these days. If you have an issue, Kathleen is the guide you need to find the solution because she just simply gets it, and cares. Everyone feels better after being in a room with Kathleen.

I know some people say that work should not be family, but for me it is. Being around energy like what Kathleen and Marcie bring to work helps me in all areas of my development and life.

What do you feel is HR’s biggest challenge going to be over the next six months?

People are burnt the F out. Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Many studies have shown that our brains are literally short-circuiting short-term memory situations as our brain is trying to the pandemic from our memories as a defense mechanism. The pandemic changed the way that people look at the world, how they relate, and fit into it.  Business changed; relationships changed.

Not everyone fills their cup and regains energy the same way which is also why I love the PI tool set. It helps you understand, quickly, what motivates, demotivates, and drains a person. It also shares what will help people gain their energy back (for me it’s getting in with a team, helping them all figure out their best and highest use and how to make work easier so there’s more energy for them outside of work).

How can people connect with you?

Message me at Alyson.Mckinster@Wipfli.com! I would love to hear from you. I am also on LinkedIn.

What’s one thing you think the world should know about you – personal or professional? Have fun with this one!

I’ve been writing music since I was 4! I play 8 instruments and have written over 1,000 songs. I try to use my knowledge for song writing in the way that I engage with business. I also love to create food without recipes as part of my neurodiversity. I literally cannot read directions! 😊

Oh, and I’ve sang at Carnegie Hall, and also fell asleep singing for Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. It was a long flight over there. 😊

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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