Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Vargas.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
Since I was a kid, seeing how people come together has always fascinated me. Over time I realized I wanted to help groups of people so I earned a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and worked at a residential facility for mental health. Supporting people who had Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, PTSD, etc. I provided one-on-one therapy, case management, and lead groups on a variety of topics.
This was one of my first experiences being a leader. Supporting people to come together and engage with one another to become better from the process. I immediately fell in love with the experience!
I was also working at an improv theatre company which was a lot of fun! I had been doing improv for nearly 10 years at this point.
Over time I was able to combine my psychology and improv background to create an experience that brought people together in an authentic way. People told me they learned how to communicate better with others, felt a sense of safety, built trust, and felt confident when navigating conflict.
One day, I was asked to bring the facilitation work into an organization. Employees and leaders had challenges with communication and saw how disconnected and siloed their team really were. One of the first companies I worked with was Dropbox.
Ever since then I have continued to work with a variety of organizations like Kaiser Permanente, Salesforce, ACLU, The County of San Diego, and many others. Supporting teams to develop a connected, high-performing team culture.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
When I started working with other organizations, I thought to myself, “Is this something I really want to do”. I was doing well financially and I felt good about the work I was doing. Also, looking into the unknown future of starting my own business felt truly terrifying. But I knew I could bring people together in a way others couldn’t and owning my own business could help me leave the biggest impact on this earth.
So, I made the jump to work on my business full time. It has not been an easy journey but it does feel a lot more rewarding. Certain things have gotten easier over time. As the business continues to meet new challenges and grows, I grow alongside it. Now I am working with amazing clients, such as a leadership team of a nonprofit for domestic violence. Helping them create a bigger impact as a team and organization.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
I work with teams to create collaborative and productive team cultures. Supporting the team in identifying the main challenges that are holding them back from doing their best work. I often start this process with one-to-one interviews with the team members. This helps me build a relationship with them while also helping them feel safe. The types of challenges can vary from team to team.
Some challenges include lack of clarity in the decision-making process, ineffective communication, broken trust, people working in silos, misalignment, disengaged team members, and so on. I then create a safe and open space to have honest conversations about the issues at play. I’ve come to learn that if the team can at least acknowledge the issues, they feel validated and can speak to what is going on.
Then I provide the team guidance on how they can come together to solve the challenges as a group. Rather than telling them what to do, I create an environment where people work together, get excited, and take ownership over the ideas that suit their particular needs and context.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
In my opinion, it’s relationships that help people become successful. Not just in business, but in all aspects of our lives. A large part of success is getting connected with people you can build a relationship with.
That doesn’t mean It has to be with people who agree with everything you say or believe in. I often disagree with many of my closest relationships and we can lovingly challenge one another.
At the end of the day, no matter what happens, knowing that you have good people in your life is a game-changer. It helps build a sense of safety and connectedness like nothing else.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
Success to me means understanding what you (or your team) want, along with why you want it, and making sure those align. Then achieving the goal in a way that aligns with who you want to be in the process.
What’s next for you?
I am really excited about working with leaders in the community to solve bigger issues. Using a Community Needs Assessment to identify the big challenges, connecting with the stakeholders involved, and work to figure out how they can come together to tackle those issues. I am very excited to start stepping into this world!!
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more.
You can learn more by going to Leadbyimpact.com