Life transformation  With Kurt Treu, The Growth Coach on Biz Chat OhioBreak out of “Survival Mode” and transform into your best self.

Kurt Treu, The Growth Coach, explains the universal limitation and how to break free from it. Kurt also answers these profound questions:

  • Why is it what always worked for me in the past does not always work now?
  • Why are continuous improvement techniques and strategies not enough?
  • What is limiting my full and true potential?
  • What is the source of all my stress and irritations?

#entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #SmallBusiness #podcast #NEO #Ohio #SBDC #leadership


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Kurt Treu:
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Transcript of Biz Chat Ohio’s podcast 2.6:  Kurt Treu

Hello, everyone. Welcome to BizChat Ohio, the podcast bringing you big ideas for small businesses and the best of small business news and industry trends from Ohio’s thought leaders. This podcast is made possible by Lakeland Community College and the Ohio Small Business Development Center. I’m your host, Cathy Walsh, director of the Small Business Development Center. And I’m joined by my co-host, Gretchen Skok Disanto, director of the Lakeland Community College Entrepreneurship Center and business advisor for the Ohio Small Business Development Center.

Leadership– it’s an absolute must-have for a business owner. And oftentimes, a business owner may know how to operate at that business, but not really lead a business and the people in it. So how does one become a leader in a small business? It’s more than just telling people what to do or how to do it. It’s really about developing your leadership potential from within so that you can be the most effective in leading your organization forward and all the people that are stakeholders within it.

So during the past two years companies, have either died, survived, or thrived. So what set the thriving companies apart from the others? I think we can agree that leadership played a huge role in those companies that made it through the pandemic and continue to make it through. Let’s face it. Leadership– a huge part of it is about motivating others towards common goals. A huge part of it is about innovation and change management. And all of those things, obviously, were critical for success here in moving through the pandemic.

So how does a business owner weave leadership into the culture of their business? And if you are short on leadership skills, how do you start to learn them and incorporate them into your role in your business? Our guest today is going to help us unpack all of that.

Today’s guest is executive business and transformational leadership coach Kurt Troy. Kurt began his business and executive coaching practice in 2015 after a successful 32-year career in the banking industry, including 22 years with US Bank, where he held the positions of market president and executive vice president. While at US Bank, Kurt was already a certified coach, where he motivated, inspired, and coached his teams to exceptional results.

He is also certified as a transformational leadership coach, a methodology that he would like the world to know and practice. Troy has worked with numerous executives, management, and sales teams to achieve true transformation, both personally and in their organizations, without having to sacrifice their wellness or their family lives in the process.

Kurt was named domestic coach of the year for The Growth Coach in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. He is a graduate of Wittenberg University and received his MBA at Baldwin Wallace University. And before I welcome him, I also want to disclose that Kurt and I go way, way, way back in our banking days, where he was actually my boss for part of that time. So I can attest to his good leadership skills, even before he got into all of this. But Kurt, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here with us today.

Thank you, Cathy. It’s an honor to be here with you guys. And thank you, Gretchen, as well.

I’m going to preface some words from Kurt before we get into the Q&A. So I’m doing my little quotations. “Do we wish to transform or only survive? Know it or not, you are in a survival mode, an unconscious condition which is driving all of your decisions, thoughts, and actions, essentially living your life with one hand tied behind your back and using half your brain.

The only tools you have available to you are what we know as continuous improvement tools. And they are not enough to achieve the power of transformation. The good news is that true transformation is available to you. It is learnable and repeatable. And it is where your true power is hidden.” Quotation, quote. That is a mouthful. So let’s unpack this. Transformation, potential, status quo– Kurt, why is it that what always worked for our listeners in the past does not always work now?

That is a great question. And it’s the root, really, of all of our frustrations, of our burnout, of our stress. But to understand it, I want to maybe go up about 30,000 feet. So we’re not going to go on a rocket ship. But you know, let’s get up there and think about this from a big perspective.

And this is going to sound a little out there. But it really starts with the fundamental human condition. This is a condition that all humans share. And that condition is about survival. And if we think about that, that makes sense, right? I mean, the humans that are here today have survived in its most real sense.

But survival– I want to be clear on this. It’s a continuum. At the low end of survival, we’re breathing. You know, breath is life. And at the high end of survival, you have success, a certain level of success. And that’s– I mean, that’s great.

The challenge comes that throughout time, we’ve all reacted to threats, right? The threats of the environment, threats of the circumstances that we’re facing. And we have designed strategies to survive. And there’s this core strategy that we all follow. But for this conversation, I really want to talk about the importance of the fact that we all have our own unique version of this survival strategy.

The dirty secret of it is that our survival strategy, which has brought us any level of success we’ve ever had, is unconscious to us. That’s the key of this, is that our survival strategy is unconscious. And yet it controls every thought we have. It controls every decision we have. It controls every choice we have. And yet we don’t know we’re doing it.

That is a little confusing, right? Because we think we know what we’re doing. And we’ve all taken personality profiles and tests. And we can learn about ourselves. But there’s something here that was created in this methodology by Tracy Goss. And Tracy’s been using this methodology for over 35 years. And it is proven. It’s certainly worked for me.

I work with Tracy as a coach when we have our programs. And I will tell you, I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people go through this transformation. Now, this strategy that we have, it’s a good strategy, right? Because we have survived. I’m not going to tell you to throw that strategy away. You couldn’t if you wanted to. But figuring out what it is, and decoding that, and understanding what it is, is the key here.

The really important point here is that although this strategy has been the source of all of your success, it is also the source of all of your limitations. And so those big dreams that we have, the Spice Girls question, tell me what you want, what you really, really want, which sounds like a simple question– what do you really want? When we really try to answer that question, it’s difficult. And it’s difficult because this survival strategy that we have won’t let us go there, because there are threats out there. And our survival strategy is created to protect us from those perceived threats out there.

So without that, without something to go to, all we have left are what we all know as continuous improvement tools. And listen, there is a place for continuous improvement tools. The folks that I work with, we do a lot of continuous improvement coaching, because there’s so much opportunity to grow there. What we find is that when you’ve tried all the continuous improvement tools, and you can’t break through on something that’s truly important, you have to change gears. And that’s where the transformational methodology comes into play.

I got a quick question to make sure everybody’s on the same page. Like, when I think continuous improvement tools, I’m thinking back to my business education, and I’m thinking Lean Six Sigma and Five Whys. And are those the tools you’re talking about? If you could just clarify that for everybody listening today.

Yeah. Thank you, Gretchen. You know, certainly, those are excellent tools. And yes, they’re included in this conversation. But it’s even more basic than that. It’s goal oriented. We’ll use one we all know and love. You know, I want to lose 10 pounds. OK, that’s my goal.

So then I set continuous improvement process, right? Well, let’s see. How am I going to do that? Well, I’m going to get better sleep. And I’m going to count my calories. I’m going to walk a quarter mile. Those are continuous improvement tools. I have trouble with time management, right? OK, there are a lot of continuous improvement tools, habits that we can put into place. And those are all continuous improvement tools. And as I said, they’re wonderful. And there’s absolutely a place for them.

OK. Thank you, thank you. That, I think, helps. It certainly helps clarify how you’re using that term.

Yeah, yeah. Thank you.

So Cathy mentioned earlier in her introduction of you that, yep, these aren’t enough. You’ve echoed that. So why are they not enough, what we’re currently using?

Yeah. They’re not enough because they all come from our survival strategy. They are tools that our survival strategy will allow us to use, because we can see gains in those. Maybe this helps as well. For something to be improved, it has to already exist.

So if all we need to do, and want to do, and desire to do is improve something that already exists, that would fall under the category of using continuous improvement tools. But transformation is very different. Transformation is creating something that doesn’t yet exist. It’s the creation process. Continuous improvement tools will not work to create something new, because they’re only capable of improving something that already exists.

And I will tell you, it’s a pet peeve of mine. We hear often, oh, transformation. Turn on the TV, the radio, and you hear, we have transformed this and transformed that. And it’s an abused word, frankly, because it’s not really a transformation. It’s new and improved, is really what it is in most cases.

And I’m not saying that it can’t have been a breakthrough. It very well could have been a breakthrough, something that is new, but it’s still an improvement on something that existed. The power to create something out of nothing is what transformation is all about. And we have to start ourselves by understanding what our strategy is, what our survival strategy is, so that we can break down that machinery and use the tools of the methodology to create something new. This is another word that can trip people up that heretofore, we thought was impossible.

So when you’re working with your clients, can you give us some examples of what is limiting them in attaining their full and true potential?

The limitations, first of all, are– they’re enormous. It’s because people don’t have an alternative for them. An example might be– and we see this so often as people get promoted, right? A great example that a lot of folks on this podcast might recognize is, you need a new sales manager to manage your sales team. And who’s the person that usually gets picked if it’s an internal candidate? It’s usually the best salesperson.

Now, that salesperson has tools, continuous improvement tools, that they have used to become great salespeople. Now, all of a sudden, they’re put in a position where they’re a leader, and they’re a manager. And they don’t have those tools.

Now, they can learn some things. But chances are not just good, but predictable, that their survival strategy, the thing that they got good at, is in its sweet spot as a salesperson and not as a manager and a leader. That can be a big breakdown, because we’ve seen too many people fail in that role.

Yeah, they know how to sell. But they just expect everybody else to know how to sell. And they don’t. But they don’t know how to lead people. They don’t know how to develop people. And they don’t know what they don’t know about themselves. And that is that there are limitations there. There are threats there that are in this survival strategy of theirs that will not allow them to take on the threats, the risks that they unconsciously perceive, to become a great leader and to become a great manager of people.

So it sounds like in your coaching, you help folks identify their potential. And how do you harness growth and turn that into becoming a great leader?

That’s a great question. And this whole thing is about leadership, right? The first thing I would say about leaders is they took the realization that yes, leaders’ responsibilities include creating a vision for the organization, strategy for the organization. And that’s great.

But once you become a leader– now, I figured this out, Cathy, perhaps after you and I worked together. I’m not sure. When I first became certified as a coach and became a leader of people, and I’ve had the joy of managing thousands of people in my career, I figured out one thing, as dull as I am– that when you’re the leader, you no longer make the sausage. And you’re only as good as your team, because your results are the results of everyone else.

And so with that, I made the decision that I was going to be all about developing my people, empowering my people, and unleashing the power of people. Now, the joy that came to me from that is endless, and watching people succeed, and watching people’s careers grow and blossom, and all the good that came from that.

So selfishly, I got a lot out of it. But I also got great results as a leader and for what I was responsible in my career. So you can call it selfish, but the bottom line is, no matter how you go at it, if you cannot develop, and empower, and unleash the power of your team, you cannot be as successful as is possible.

Well, and in thinking back to being a manager or leader of people, being put in that position, I think you and I shared that we always wanted to provide our teams opportunities for improvement and to learn new things. The frightening thing about that for some people is that they may end up leaving you, because now they have these great skills. And they’ve found that they have a passion for something else or they’ve got an opportunity to follow.

Can you just talk a little bit about, as, say, a business owner, you want to develop your team there in your shop or in your place of business. Why should that not frighten you? Why should you want to do that, even if they end up flying the coop?

Yeah. There’s a real selfishness in that, isn’t it? And it’s real. It’s real, Cathy. I get that. I will tell you that on more– many more than one occasion in my career, people would look at me and say, what are you doing? You just allowed somebody to transfer to this area or transfer to that area. And I’d say, what a great problem to have.

My responsibility as a leader and a manager is to develop people and for them to be able to obtain what they’re capable of, and maybe even to exceed their potential in their own minds, which is typically where the limit is, in their own minds.

I will tell you that it always paid dividends for me. When people got promoted, because they had developed and grown, and if I played a small part in that, it always came back to me. First of all, people wanted to work on my teams, because they knew the investment that I would make in them. And the people that moved on, whether it was inside of the organization or outside of the organization, would have good things to say about working in that environment.

And honestly, above that, that’s our role as leaders. And if we intentionally hold people down and hold people back because we don’t want them to be too good, shame on us. And if you’re leading that way, I would call you not a leader.

We’ve talked a lot about continuous improvement tools versus true leadership. So let’s kind of round the corner with all that information. And can you give us three verbs that you think make a great leader, and what we can work on within ourselves to make that leap?

Oh, I’ve got so many words here. You’re going to have to decide if they’re verbs–

You can do more than three.

–verbs, or adverbs, or whatever. The first one, which is a skill that we all need to learn, practice, and make real, is presence and being present. We can’t help people achieve what their potential is unless we truly listen and here. And presence is a very, very powerful skill.

Unleashing might be– I’ve used the word empowering and unleashing. And again, as a leader, that’s what we should be doing. That’s everything. That’s everything. It will drive the success of your organization. It’ll drive the success of your people.

And the last one– and this gets deep into the methodology, but it’s being. It’s, who are you being in the face of circumstances? Who are you being to the people in your life? Who are you being to the people in your business? How are you showing up might be an easier way for people to grasp that concept of being.

But that’s really what it’s all about. We’re here in this world. Who are you being during COVID? Did you let it control you, or did you control it? Where are you being in tragedies that occur in your life? Where are you being with an organization that is floundering? Are you someone who’s adding to that confusion and frustration? Or are you being a leader?

And a lot of that, I would have to imagine, is just being– I mean, a lot of business owners were very fearful, of course, two years ago, at this point. They were afraid. They were calling us for help in getting money. And yet, we did see those who were afraid still rise to the top and understand that their staffs were afraid, that people– people were generally afraid when that first happened. So being– they not only had to worry about their business, but their own personal family life as well. They had families too, parents they were afraid of.

And so it really was a time where we saw a lot of leadership come up, whether they knew they had it or not. Sometimes it was in people we may have been a little surprised by. But you heard stories from friends of mine or people I work with about stories they knew of business owners who led and did a good job, even though they kind of didn’t know what they were doing.

Leadership kind of– maybe you don’t even have the tools. You don’t even know what those tools are now that you needed to improve yourself or improve your business. But they were still leading. They were still allowing their employees to be themselves. Like you said, it became more– it was so human at that point in time. This wasn’t about work and x’s and o’s. This was about so much more than that. And I think this pandemic just exposed a lot of that. And I think a lot of people found they were leaders when they really had to be, even though they were frightened too.

Yeah. Yeah. You’re absolutely right. And it’s unfortunate that it takes something like that, a true crisis, for people to be willing to take on some of those threats. But that’s what happened, right? Some people floundered. Some people crashed. Some people rose to the occasion.

The tragedy of it is, in many cases, they don’t know how they did that. They did it because there was a crisis, and they reacted. But they don’t know how they did it, which is truly the root of this methodology. This survival strategy in the methodology, we call a winning strategy, winning because you’re alive. You survive, even a level of success.

But the limitations of it and the ability, then, to live outside of it, you cannot achieve until you know what it is that’s holding you back and the cost of it. There are costs to our winning strategy. And it’s just everything, right? It’s love. It’s health. It’s full self-expression. You name it. Those costs are in there. And we’re all guilty of it, not by choice, but unconsciously.

But there are leaders that push through. And they tasted a little bit of that. Unfortunately, they’ll probably also go back to their old routines, and their old habits, and their old ways when things get better for them. I hope not, but it’s possible.

I’m actually really glad that Cathy brought up this concept of fear, because I’m thinking about my own experience as a leader in running a number of different departments. And that can really be debilitating for some folks, when you enter the situation, and you’re fearful of it. You don’t know what to do.

At the same time, I personally have found it to be incredibly motivational if I’m afraid of something. So what– those leaders that did rise to the top, what do you think was in them that motivated them to just– no, I’m going to get past this. We’re going to turn this lemon into lemonade, that we’ve seen the last two years. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Well, I think that’s– when we talk about entrepreneurs, and we talk about small business owners, there is a certain amount of strength of taking risk, right? And so I think they’re a little bit better positioned, maybe, than somebody who has worked their way up a ladder. I did it, so it’s no– there’s no negative comment there.

But I think that the nature of people as entrepreneurs and small business owners, first of all, they’re willing to take risk. But they also, as Cathy said early, on it’s everything to them. It’s not just their business. It’s their life. It’s their family. It’s everything. When you corner a raccoon, they can get pretty nasty, right? You corner a small business owner, and they’re going to try stuff, right? They’re not going to give up.

Unfortunately, that trying– I’m a broken record here– is going to come from their survival strategy. What worked in the past is all they have to work with. But they might just go bigger with it, right?

I would totally agree with you. Thanks so much, Kurt. What helpful insight and great suggestions for our listeners to become a more effective leader and person. Now, I understand you have a challenge and an offer for our listeners today. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Absolutely. I’d love to. I referenced Tracy Goss. Tracy is an author. Tracy is, from my humble opinion, the most powerful transformational leader in the world. She has, for the last 35-plus years, worked all over the world with her transformational methodology. She wrote a book. And the book is based upon this methodology. And the book is called The Last Word on Power. And the power is not to be misunderstood as abuse of power. It is about unleashing your own power and that of others.

And my challenge would be that anybody that would like to get the book, it’s available on Amazon. And it’s hardcover. You can get it in paperback. Read at least the first three chapters of that book. The first three chapters will get you into this area of the winning strategy. And you’ll start to understand what that is.

And then, if you’ve read those first three chapters, I am more than happy and offering here today a free coaching session, 45 minutes, an hour, whatever it is. It’s fun for me to talk to people about this– to unpack that a little bit and say, what is this saying here?

Because it can be a little confusing. It’s not something that we read every day. So read the first three chapters of The Last Word on Power. And reach out to me. And we will connect. And we’ll have a good conversation about what that’s all about.

Oh, that’s a wonderful offer. Now, I got to say– I got to throw in here that I’m going to be beginning to teach a leadership course at Lakeland. We haven’t taught it for a couple of years. And I was tasked with finding a new book for it. And you start doing your Google searches or Amazon. And I mean, you don’t even know where to start, right? I mean, it’s just incredible books out there. So why does this one stand out to you?

Because it takes us to a place that we have not gone before. And it challenges us to understand the power of what that unconscious strategy is that we have lived our entire life with. It’s incredible. It’s an incredible revelation to say, oh my gosh, that is exactly it. I got good at something. And that something I got good at was to compensate for all the things that I can’t do.

And that, if you think about it, has an extraordinary limitation embedded in it. And understanding what that is and then the methodology with it that says, and here is how you can live outside of it– that’s a pretty powerful– that’s a pretty powerful statement. And I’ve seen it to be true hundreds and hundreds of times over.

Well, challenge accepted. I think I’m going to be looking into that myself. So let me call you for my 45-minute session.

You’re both included in the offer. So please do.

Thank you.

Again, Kurt, thank you so much for agreeing to be a BizChat Ohio guest. Listeners can find you at to learn more. And we’ll list your website, your email, and a link to the book review in our show notes on the BizChat Ohio website.


We appreciate that great offer you’ve made to our listeners. And it’s been such a pleasure having you on the podcast. Thank you, Kurt.

It’s been my pleasure, Cathy, Gretchen. Thank you guys so much. Enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks for listening. Look for BizChat Ohio on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And subscribe to receive our latest episodes and business blogs at If you would like to learn more about the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Lakeland, please visit our website at