Creating A Culture of T.R.U.S.T. with Poonam Natha | GP 143

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A photo of Poonam Natha is captured. She is a LMFT and co-founder of Level Up Leaders Inc. Poonam is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Do you transfer your clinical skills from the therapy room to the business environment? How do you become a great manager for your team? Can you learn the best ways to effectively communicate with your team?

In this podcast episode, LaToya Smith speaks about creating a culture of T.R.U.S.T. with Poonam Natha.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

An image of Therapy Notes is captured as the sponsor on the Practice of the Practice Podcast, a therapist podcast. Therapy Notes is the most trusted EHR for Behavioral Health.

Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try TherapyNotes! It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and telehealth a whole lot easier.

Check it out and you will quickly see why TherapyNotes is the highest-rated EHR on TrustPilot with over 1000 verified customer reviews and an average customer rating of 4.9/5 stars.

You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support 7 days a week, so when you have questions, you can quickly reach someone who can help, and you are never wasting your time looking for answers.

If you are coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. TherapyNotes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away.

Use promo code ‘JOE’ to get three free months to try out TherapyNotes, no strings attached, and remember, telehealth is included with every subscription free. Make 2022 the best year yet with TherapyNotes.

Meet Poonam Natha

A photo of Poonam Natha is captured. She is a LMFT and co-founder of Level Up Leaders Inc. Poonam is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

After becoming a licensed practitioner of the healing arts Poonam Natha sought to lead her own teams in non-profit community-based mental health settings. In her 8+ years as a leader in mental health, she has been able to develop trusting relationships with her employees and create healthy working environments in which people want to stay and grow. 

As a co-founder of Level Up Leaders Inc., Poonam helps her clients navigate the path to their success and the health of their practice or organization by prioritizing the working relationship.

Visit Level Up Leaders Inc. and connect on Instagram and LinkedIn.

FREEBIE: Take this free leadership assessment: The 5 Archetypes of Cultivating Trust

In This Podcast

  • Use therapeutic principles in business
  • Become a great manager
  • Poonam’s TRUST framework

Use therapeutic principles in business

We learn all these skills from a clinical perspective and we apply them with our clients, but we forget that we can actually apply them in our work settings.

Poonam Natha

You don’t have to only practice and use therapeutic principles with clients, because they are valuable with your clinicians too!

Discuss with your clinicians how you, as a company and culture, can apply conflict resolution and effective communication skills within the team. The skills are transferable between the different settings.

Become a great manager

If you are starting as a new business owner and manager for your clinicians and staff, or you want to revamp your process, start with:

  • Your values
  • Your vision for the practice
  • How these values manifest in reality
  • How to share these values with your community

What is the shared language [you] can bring into [your] organization and practice that will help us meet each other where we’re at and not create confusion.

Poonam Natha

Poonam’s TRUST framework

T – Transparency

R – Repair

U – Unify

S – Seeking

Seeking is about being grounded and having balanced thinking [because] it’s so easy to react or just trust our intuition, but really how do we ground and how do we gather both story and metrics to come up with ways to problem-solve?

Poonam Natha

T – Tact

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet LaToya Smith

An image of LaToya Smith is captured. She is a consultant with Practice of the Practice and the owner of LCS Counseling. LaToya is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

LaToya is a consultant with Practice of the Practice and the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fortworth Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or the place they became wounded. In addition to this, LaToya encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome.

She has also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal communities through the power of storytelling.

Visit LaToya’s website. Connect with her on FacebookInstagramStrong Witness Instagram, and Twitter.

Apply to work with LaToya.

Email her at [email protected]

Podcast Transcription

[LATOYA SMITH] The Grow A Group Practice Podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice Network, a network of podcast seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like the Practice of the Practice podcast, go to You are listening to the Grow A Group Practice podcast, a podcast focused on helping people start, grow, and scale a group practice. Each week you’ll hear topics that are relevant to group practice owners. I’m LaToya Smith, a practice owner, and I love hearing about people’s stories and real-life experiences. So let’s get started. Welcome back to the Grow A Group Practice podcast. I am your host LaToya Smith. We’re on here and we talk about all things when it comes to group practice, whether it be areas that will help you grow, areas to help you with hiring, anything related to group practice this is what we chat about. You know what, I’m just going to say this too, if you ever have any ideas, for those listening, and you’re like I really want to hear about this topic, be sure to send an email in, [email protected]. If you’re ever interested in any consulting, you’re welcome to do that too. Make sure you send the email in and then we can go forward from there. Today’s guest, I have Poonam Natha on, and I am extremely excited. Once again, I’ll meet some people through social media now, like I think by now for those that listen know I am not shy about introducing myself to individuals on social media. That’s how Poonam and I began our discussion, and I am so grateful to have her on. Poonam, welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. [POONAM NATHA] Thank you. Thank you so much for having me today. [LATOYA] Awesome. I know it’s early for you, you are in California as we are recording this. Introduce yourself to the audience, tell them what you do, all that good stuff. [POONAM] Sure. So, hi, I am Poonam Natha and I am a co-founder of Level Up Leaders Inc. I’m also a leader in a nonprofit community-based mental health organization. Specifically what I do with Level Up is help group practice owners develop cultures of trust, figure out employee management strategies, and really prioritize that relational leadership. We often get caught up in the operations, policy, procedure but we forget about how we need to pour into and invest into our relationship. That’s really what Julianne and I do together at Level Up, is we really help those group practice owners really consider that relational aspect of their leadership. [LATOYA] Awesome. So Julianne’s your partner? [POONAM] Julianne is a co-founder of Level Up, yep. [LATOYA] Awesome, awesome. What we’re chatting about today, we’re definitely talking about employee management and then just building that cultural trust but tell us a little bit about Level Up, how you two came together to start it. What was even the inspiration behind it where you’re like, oh no, we got to do this. [POONAM] Oh man, there’s stories. So Julianne and I met because we became supervisors right around the same time, and we were next door to each other because the universe definitely collided and said these two ladies need to need to talk to each other. What had happened was we were in this setting where we were maybe the fifth or sixth supervisors for a set group of employees, and people just weren’t able to stay. There was a lot of turnover happening and there was a lot of lack of safety to be frank in those team settings. We didn’t have a whole lot of guidance ourselves. We felt like, it felt like walking on hot coals and trying to figure it out without any protective gear on. Ultimately what it came down to is we didn’t want other people to learn the same way we did. It felt really lonely, it felt really discombobulated and we don’t want other people to have to experience this alone. I’m so grateful that I had Julianne because without her, I definitely wouldn’t be the leader that I am today and I think she would probably say exactly the same. At level of leaders, what we do is we’ve created this framework, this trust framework that can feel almost like a friend, if you will, where if you get stuck in how to maybe prepare a relationship or you don’t know what to do, when you start to feel frustrated or angry because of a situation that happened, there’s this whole framework you can turn to and say, oh, this is what I need to do. This is how I can ground myself. This is the strategy I need to utilize so that when I go into this next conversation, I can be really grounded. It really helps somebody have guidance in a way that maybe leaders don’t have guidance. We certainly didn’t, there’s all kinds of books and theories out there, but there’s not a whole lot of practical application. [LATOYA] Yes. That’s a great point. I love the idea of like, I know it, sounds like you found your way by what you didn’t get, like turning back and giving the community what you all didn’t get, knowing, okay, I don’t want anybody else to have to come this way and being a space with poor leadership. I think we’ve all, if we be honest, most people, let me say that we have worked in places where the leadership was poor. Either they didn’t address the elephant in the room, they didn’t know how to talk to people, it was about the bottom line when it came to money. There was so many issues where we can point out yes where the leadership, I mean, not that every employee was the best, like, but still leadership also is a driver of culture and why people want to be there. [POONAM] Exactly, and specifically in mental health we’re all about relationships. So how could these, or the question is how could these mental health environments where we are all about relationships, this is what we do with our clients, how do we not foster that in our work settings? How do we not create psychological safety in our work settings? [LATOYA] Yes. What a great, let’s and let’s explore that because that’s huge. You would think that, listen, we’re all human beings, even therapists. I was just having this conversation earlier, don’t forget now, therapists need therapists but yes, we are relational, we’re meant to be relational buildings, period. Then we learn how to interact with people. We learn all about these feelings in school, and then we have a hard time communicating those or owning our own stuff or dealing with conflict. But let’s talk about that. How do you even, because is that uncomfortable for you to approach a therapist and have this conversation? Do they welcome it? What’s that like? [POONAM] Yes, it’s interesting. I think people warm up to it eventually, but I think initially people have a hard time with it because it’s vulnerable. The whole process is vulnerable. I think what happens is we learn all these skills from a clinical perspective, and we apply them with our clients, but we forget that we can actually apply them in our work settings. So once we can flip that switch a little and maybe say to somebody, well how would you approach conflict with a client? How would you address that? We can get them to see how we can do that in our workplaces, whether it’s with our colleagues or whether it’s with our employees or employers. All of a sudden it gets a little bit easier, oh, this is doable. I have the skills to do this. But people forget that they have those skills and that they can apply them to different settings or different scenarios. [LATOYA] Awesome. So what’s it look like when people just come up to you and say do you, are these your people you supervise and you help them? How do you find a therapist that, or how do they find you and you begin working together? [POONAM] Sure. Social media is a great platform. [LATOYA] How about that? [POONAM] You know. It’s interesting, when we first set out to start Level Up Leaders, and we we’re trying to find our people, we were like, we’re going to serve any mental health leader. We’re going to serve anybody who wants our services, anybody who wants support. What’s really interesting is we found on social media that there were group practices who just naturally seemed to find us. What was even more surprising is that group practices were experiencing the same sort of concerns and challenges that we were finding were happening in community-based mental health organizations. I didn’t think that that was going to be true. I had no idea. So social media became this area where people, we were able to spread that message of, hey that there’s hope and this is the way we can engage in leadership and naturally those group practices just started finding us and coming to us. [LATOYA] So what’s the first step when an owner does come to you? For the most part too, I think I’ve worked with a lot of owners who listen, this is the first time doing it. So you’re learning how you could be a manager. It’s different. You could be a manager in any nonprofit community based organization, but when it’s yours and you are the point person and the go-to person, and when you first start out, your hands, listen, this is you, your face, you’re the face of it. You set the tone, you set the culture. Then it’s like, woo, how do I set the tone? How do I set the culture? How do I manage all these personalities because now I have nobody else to go to? [POONAM] Exactly. You’re totally on your own. So when a group practice owner comes to me and says, “Hey, where do I start, what do I do,” the first thing I go to is, “Well, what are your values? What are your values? What’s your vision for your practice? Let’s talk about what that actually looks like in practice so we can profess our values all day long, but what does that look like?” Then how do we share that with our people that are coming in? For example, one of my core values is kindness. What that means for me is every action, every behavior is going to be led with compassion and kindness. There is not going to be a time that I’m going to be in an interaction where kindness isn’t the forefront. I’m going to always get curious. I’m always going to meet somebody with heart. If that’s a core value, then I’m going to communicate that with my employee, so I’m going to tell the group practice to communicate that, communicate those values, talk about what that looks like and how that’s going to play out here. We’re basically figuring out what our rules of engagement are and what our shared language is. How are we going to address conflict management if we have hard conversations here? Our core value is integrity. What that means is when we are struggling with one another, we’re going to approach one another and we’re going to say, hey, I’m really experiencing some difficulties in our communication so can we talk about how to communicate differently so that we can both get our needs met? [LATOYA] You made that sound so sweet. You made that sound right there. You made that sound like the sweetest exchange. It’s hugs, it’s high fives, it’s kumbaya. Is it real? It’s not that easy all the time. [POONAM] Well, no, it’s practice. It’s not natural maybe for us to speak that way or natural for us to use that language. It takes time and practice, but yes, 100%. It’s not always kumbaya. It’s messy. It’s definitely messy in the middle in all of it but that’s the I guess the way I would say that is that’s the heart of it. That’s the essence of what you want to go into in these conversations. But even things like conflict, like I said, conflict resolution or conflict management, what are our rules of engagement? I would say to a group practice owner, to any leader, identify what those things are and talk about them openly with all of your employees and have shared language. Sometimes we’ve brought in, I read a lot of Brene Brown and she references braving as part of trust culture. So maybe you’re bringing raving into your group practice, and you’re talking about what that looks like. Maybe you’ve come to Level Up Leaders Inc. and you’ve identified that our trust framework is what you want to use. So we’re talking about transparency and repair and unify and seeking and tact, trust, and you’re saying, oh, we’re going to do tact today. We’re going to really talk about how to package information. We really need to do seeking today and get curious and really understand where all of this information is coming from and how to make a decision. Today we’re really going to work on repair because maybe we’ve struggled in some interactions. So let’s talk about the steps of repair and how to get there. Or maybe we need to do transparency today. I need to have a transparent conversation with you and so what that looks like is I’m going to set some expectations. We’re going to collaboratively problem solve, and then we’re going to do some follow up so that we’re on the same page. So what is that shared language we can bring into our organization, our practice that will help us meet each other where we’re at and not create confusion? [THERAPY NOTES] Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try Therapy Notes. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. Check it out and you will quickly see why it’s the highest rated EHR on Trustpilot with over 1000 verified customer views and an average customer rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support seven days a week so when you have questions, you can quickly reach out to someone who can help. You are never wasting your time looking for answers online. If you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away. Use the promo code [JOE], J-O-E to get three free months to try out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached. Remember, telehealth is included with every subscription for free. Make 2022 the best year yet with Therapy Notes. [LATOYA SMITH] Okay, first things first owner comes to you, hey, what are your values? Oh, I don’t know. Well, this is important. It’s like, listen, if you don’t have your value straight, that’s step one, so you got to know what’s important to you, what you value, what you stand for. That way you can communicate, not only, it has to be in your every day. If you value integrity, which I hope everybody does, you value integrity but then you come in and you don’t, hey, when that, like, when nobody’s looking, you doing the complete opposite or you’re not owning your stuff. Listen, nobody else is going to do it, or they’re not going to take you seriously. [POONAM] Exactly, exactly. You have to know what your vision is. Who am I serving here? What’s my purpose and how do we also get to know what everyone else’s purpose is? What are their goals? What is their vision and how do we integrate that into this thriving ecosystem? [LATOYA] How long, and I love this, let’s break down again. I mean, you don’t have to go all the way into it, but tell me about the trust framework. That’s a model that you all use? [POONAM] Exactly. Julianne and I developed the TRUST framework. It’s basically like a reverse engineering of what we did with our teams. It consists of five elements, so transparency, repair, unify, seeking and tact. In those five elements, we’ve got steps to be able to do that, so with transparency, we’ve got four different steps that you would use to be able to have authentic connection with others. With repair, again, there’s four different steps and this is how we sustain our connections because we’re repairing ruptures that come up. Unify is really about the culture itself and how colleagues and employees even interact with each other. It’s about harmony seeking is really about being grounded and having balanced thinking. It’s so easy to react or just trust our intuition, but really how do we ground and how do we gather both story and metrics to come up with ways to problem solve? Then tact is about messaging, it’s about delivery, it’s about packaging information in a way that the person across from us can hear it, so lots of personalities. But maybe the person across from me is, maybe they’re an introvert or maybe they speak metaphors, so I need to speak in story to really inspire them, but maybe the person across from me really needs things like to the point and straightforward. They just need me to say, I need you to do A, B, C, and D. I need to meet them where they’re at. So tact is really about how do we package our information in a way that the person across from us can hear it, receive it, and not have a quick reaction to it. [LATOYA] Yes, so this takes time, it takes time to know how you communicate. It takes time that you have to know yourself, and then it takes time to learn the team. So how long do you normally tell people like, hey, I need this level up. What are we going to do, like a good 30 days? Or they’re like, are you in this thing for like six months? What’s the timeframe? [POONAM] Yes, I view this the way that we would view a client in clinical practice. You do this for the time that you need it. We’re going to walk with you on your path where you’re at. We’re going to meet you where you’re at, we’re going to teach you the skills and when you are ready to be done, you’re ready to be done. I would say, I don’t know that there’s a specific timeframe. I think there’s also nuance. There’s various situations and scenarios that come up and I think it depends also on where somebody is at in their, let’s say development. Maybe this is a brand new leader. This is somebody who’s never done this before. They might need to practice these skills for a little bit longer before they become second nature to them and maybe somebody who’s already been doing leadership already has some of these things, but just needs to enhance. Maybe they need a little bit less time. [LATOYA] Got you. Got you. You meet with the individual owner? Do you do like Zoom calls with the whole team or how do you do it? [POONAM] Yes, we do lots of different things. We’ll do one-on-one consultation experiences with the owner and we’ll run through the framework. We’ll talk about their archetype leadership archetypes. We have this whole leadership assessment, which is another tangent we could go on and we’ll address what their issues are. So we could do that one-on-one. We have a course that we offer for those that just need sort of self-paced learning. We also do workshops though, so maybe there’s a group practice owner who has a leadership team, so maybe you’ve got a clinical supervisor or a clinical director and we need to get everybody on the same page so we can do a workshop for the entire leadership team. We’ve done team building activities, so whatever it is that’s needed, we like to really personalize and customize our workshops to what’s needed for the group practice owners because it’s so easy to go to some stock training, but you’re not really going to get that personalized experience that you need. [LATOYA] I’m even thinking, and I know when you first start a practice, it’s a lot that goes into it. It is busy, sometimes finances resources are low, but this would even be good for somebody just starting out, like before you even hire your first person, what are we looking for in the culture you want to build? Because so often we talk about culture. Once we have an issue, now it’s like, oh no, let’s get this culture right. Like, nope, let’s back up and let’s build from a solid foundation, let’s make this part of the foundation. [POONAM] Yes, absolutely. So funny because I just worked with a leader who doesn’t have a team yet, but is going to have a team in the next couple months. She was so excited. She’s like, oh, this is so cool. Like, I get to practice these skills now, or I get to learn about it so that when my first employee comes on board, I already know what team building I’m going to do. I already know what values exercise we’re going to do together. I already know what I’m going to introduce so that this becomes the building blocks and the foundation of our practice or of our team. [LATOYA] Yes. What about like, oh man, I got to imagine there’s those tough conversations that some people have to have where it’s like, listen, maybe you and your business partner, listen, we examine your team, like this person, it’s clear it’s just not a good fit. Do you teach people how to say, Hey, this person needs to go and how to have that conversation? I have to say in the nicest way, something like — [POONAM] Yes, well, so I’m definitely not going to make a decision for somebody. But if somebody says, hey, I don’t know if this employee’s a good fit. Absolutely. We’re going to walk you through a script. We’re going to use transparency intact probably in this scenario, how are we going to package this information to deliver it but what are we going to say as clearly and kindly as possible in going into that conversation? Because if that conversation needs to be had, it needs to be had. How we deliver that information and what we say is so important. So scripting is something that we actually enjoy doing a lot actually. Because I think that’s what a lot of people come in and struggle with. How do I say this? What do I say? When do I say this? [LATOYA] Yes, when’s it time to say, okay, I’ve exhausted my efforts to make it happen. So how can people find you, level up leaders to say, hey, I want to reach out. Do you do free consultations or how’s it work? [POONAM] Yep, we sure do. You can find us on Instagram. We’re at Level Up Leaders. We have our website, which is Through either the website or through Instagram, you can schedule a free consult with us so we can get to know you and understand what your needs are and identify what would be the best course of action to support you in developing that trust culture that you’re looking for. [LATOYA] That is awesome. Awesome, awesome. Well thank you so much. Wait, and there’s also, do you have like a course too? Do they have to work with you directly face-to-face or can this go through a course or? [POONAM] Yes, they can directly go through a course. They don’t have to work with us at all. Actually, we also have this leadership assessment, which is really cool. It’s like a 10-question quiz, assessment tool I should say. Really you can identify what your leadership archetype is, so how do you uniquely cultivate trust already? What are the areas that you do really well and maybe what are the areas you need to perhaps work on? That’s really a fun way that we’ve found people come to us because they identify their archetype, perhaps it resonates and now they’re able to say, okay, well I’m an authenticator, which means I’m really good at transparency and I really maybe need to work on my tact and I really need to figure out how to deliver that information. I can say it clearly, but I don’t necessarily maybe know how to say it kindly. So those archetypes really help us identify what our areas of growth are. [LATOYA] This is so great. I think at any point, especially with the leadership assessment, anything like that, it’s just so beneficial to be an owner because you want to grow. Of course, our number one thing is we provide great client care. Of course, we all went to school for therapy and that’s what we’re here to do primary. But to be honest what, we need to create these teams like this culture of trust. There’s a lot that goes into it and put them, it sounds like a continuous work, like nobody’s arrived, you got to work this thing. [POONAM] Always, always, it’s like any journey in our human development and growth. You don’t arrive, you continuously work. It’s a constant mirror that’s held up for you and you get to choose whether you look into it and respond to it. [LATOYA] Yes. Well, awesome. Thank you so much for being my guest. I’m glad that we connected through social media and you’ve just provided just valuable information for any owner, employee, I think that needs to hear. So thank you so much and I look forward to being in contact with you. [POONAM] Yes, definitely. Thank you so much for having me. This is really cool. [LATOYA] Thanks once again to Therapy Notes for sponsoring this episode. Use the promo code [JOE] to get three free months to try out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached and remember, telehealth is included with every subscription for free. If you love this podcast, please be sure to rate and review. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.