The recent pandemic has certainly changed our perspective, making us reflect on how we lived our lives, our goals, and what is important to us. If you are going through transitions in life and are in pursuit of financial freedom, you cannot miss this episode of Learning from Leaders!
Sandi Bragar and Cammie Doder from Aspiriant, a leading wealth management firm, join Patrick Veroneau to talk about money and leadership and share their strategies for achieving financial independence. So before you take the plunge and make that shift, tune in and get valuable tips to prepare you for what might be the biggest decision of your life.
Listen to the podcast here
Managing Wealth And Achieving Financial Independence With Sandi Bragar And Cammie Doder
We are going to talk about finances with Sandi Bragar and Cammie Doder. Sandi is the Chief Client Officer and a Certified Financial Planner. Cammie is the Chief Marketing Officer for their wealth management company called Aspiriant. They also host a great podcast called Money Tale$, and that is where I was first introduced to them, where they provide such valuable information for people that are trying to figure out how to manage their wealth.
In this episode, we tie that in with leadership. The two are intertwined because if you are not in a good place financially and worried about finances, it distracts you from being able to lead other people effectively. We talk about that as well. We are looking in terms of people that might be retiring, what things are important for them to take into account, people changing jobs, what is important for them, and if you have got an entrepreneurial itch, what things do you need to be thinking about as you start your journey as an entrepreneur.
I would encourage you to take a look at their website. It will quickly come out as we have this conversation on how much they care about what they are doing and the mission of helping other people to manage their wealth. I would say also make sure or help people to understand how to create wealth. Let’s get into it.
Cammie and Sandi, thank you so much for being on the show. I had fun when I was on your show. I was like, “How can I not want to return the favor and do this all over again?” As I mentioned ahead of time, “I am going down to Florida. I still have not played Pickleball.”
It is a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having us. We are excited to have this conversation.
As we talked about before, the idea of leadership and finances goes together. My perspective on it is that if I am not in a good place financially myself, the stress that that can provide is going to bleed into how I interact with those around me. That is such an important perspective for us to talk about. Something else that I would love your perspectives on is how COVID has changed many things in terms of how people reflect on what they want themselves.
The Great Resignation is one thing that has come to mind. I hear from the standpoint of people leaving organizations to start their own businesses or they have finally gotten to the point where it was earlier than they wanted to but they said, “I am going to retire now.” They feel like they have got enough.
I think about it from the opposite of I know how difficult it is to run a business financially. How do people make sure that they are set up to be able to survive the uptake of that? If I am one of those people that is retiring, how to make sure that I am stable enough that I can do this? That is a loaded question, but I thought we could pick away at those things.
Why don’t I start, and Cammie, if you would like to add in afterward, we will move forward that way. The pandemic has been a great trigger of transitions for many people, changing jobs, starting something new, and retiring. We have also seen divorce happening, which is another big transition. Regardless of what the transition is, the best way to prepare for it is to give some thought in advance before taking action, envision what you want the future to be, and have crisp vision goals that are aligned with your values.
That is important, Patrick, for everyone because it will help you through the challenging times. With the transition, there is a big passage period. You get ready to make a decision. You make the decision, but there is a lot that is happening in your life to go through that transition of big passage phase. That is usually where there is a lot of redefining of identity, and ultimately, you get to the new normal.
To prepare, not only do you want a clear, crisp vision that is aligned with your values and encapsulates your goals, but you want to understand where you are heading into the transition financially. What does your balance sheet look like? How are you going to pay your bills during the transition time? Changing careers or doing something different career-wise is a lot different than retiring.
We can talk about those two separately, but the beginning phase is the same in terms of taking stock. What do you have? How are you going to cover your expenses? If you are making an investment in a new career venture, how are you going to fund that investment, and what pathway do you have? How long of a runway do you have to prepare and keep you financially afoot while you are building something new? Those are the key parts to getting started.
Patrick, you talked about the stress that comes with if you are not in a good financial place and what we hear clients who are hiring us. It is not necessary lacking money. Sometimes, there is a lot of wealth, but the stress comes with not understanding the wealth, what it is, and what it is for. That planning can be powerful.
I will add one more thing that I have heard, “It is not the Great Resignation. It is the Great Redirection.” It makes a lot of sense. That is the change that Sandi was talking about. One of our podcast’s guests talked about having a plan A but also having a plan B and C. Thinking through what options are and how do you prepare for them. It will help with that stressful feeling.Sometimes there's a lot of wealth, but the stress comes with not understanding the wealth or what it's for. Click To Tweet
It is funny you say plan B and plan C. It all depends on who you talk to because you will hear some people say, “I do not have a plan B because when you have a plan B, you are going to lean on that and not stick with plan A.” I am not in that camp. I am a plan B person. I like to have a little backup something, but I do think that is important.
To your point about the Great Resignation or Great Reshuffling, look at this. I am one of those that when I hear the word the Great Resignation, will often say that we have missed the biggest heart of what is going on. We have named this the Great Resignation. We have missed the real count on people that have left organizations because this has been going on for more than a decade. People have left their organizations in record numbers mentally and emotionally. It is only now that they are finally at a point where they are physically leaving the organizations. They have been thinking about this or wishing they could do it.
All you have to do is look at the Gallup surveys that have been done over the past decade that shows that 1/3 of employees are engaged with organizations. Those are all people that were wishing they could get out and go somewhere else, but there were no options at that point. That is the difference now. Now there is, “I am going to start my own business. I am going to retire or I am going to go work for a different location.”
I find it all to be quite thrilling. There is nothing better for me than working with a client at Aspiriant. We work with corporate executives, family business owners, and entrepreneurs. There is nothing more exciting for me to see a client achieve that vision that they have set for themselves. A lot of the vision has to do with lifestyle.
It is doing work that they are not only passionate about but achieves a purpose that drives their life or when they are retiring, having that vision of what they are going to do and what is going to bring purpose to their life when they are not going to an office or wherever they were going day-to-day. It is thrilling. I believe that people should be spending their time and their productivity doing the things that add the most meaning to them. The pandemic has crystalized the fact that life is fragile, it is not limitless, and it is not important that we do what’s driving us.
I did a show in 2020 and it was in this looking at all the things that have gone on. We had experienced an impeachment, social unrest, a health crisis with COVID, and a financial crisis as a result of COVID. All of those things in a period of a year that many of us had not experienced over a period of our lifetimes.
I was saying this back then, “This provides us an opportunity to look at our financial health.” What do we want in our careers, environment, and personal health? What do we want for ourselves in terms of taking responsibility to make sure that we are strong enough to be able to fend off some of the outside diseases that we are impacted by? Since 2020, I would agree it has provided an opportunity for people to have a lot of time to think about, “What do I want?” You guys play such an important role in that because, let’s face it, financially, you got to pay the bills.
You have to pay the bills and you want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. If you have a family, you want to make sure they are protected. If helping support your community is important, you want to make sure that you are dedicating resources, whether it is financial time or your human capital, toward helping your community. All these things you mentioned, Patrick, are interrelated.
What is important, and this is why Cammie and I started the Money Tale$ Podcast, is in all of this time of transition, it is important to talk about money. Not only to think about it and plan with it but to be talking about it with your partner, family members, whether they are your parents or your kids, and with your friends.
We need to be in this conversation because a lot of people have been afraid to take action because they are afraid of the money implications, “My paycheck is going to go away. What is it going to be like? How am I going to survive? How am I going to pay this bill? What am I going to do about this debt?” For in conversation, it helps normalize a lot of the emotions around money. We can learn more about ourselves and find ways forward.
Another thing we hear a lot is by talking about it makes this elephant in the room, this thing that feels big, becomes smaller. People realize, “This has happened to many other people, this thought, financial decision, or concern. Others have felt it before. It is not just me in this burden.” We hear through these conversations that everyone feels this stuff and thinks these things, so we think about that.
When you liken it to physical health and mental health, that being financial health, as you are having these conversations, is your working on it. You do not tackle it all at once. These are bite-size. You look for partners, coaches, and mentors. That is what I love about Learning From Leaders. You are talking about how do you help people? We do not have to do all this by ourselves.
I always chuckle when I hear somebody say, “This person is self-made.” It is impossible. If you think about it, unless you birthed yourself, made your own clothes, schooled yourself, and made the roads that you drive on the car that you drive in. None of us are self-made. Self-motivated, yes. We can be that, but that still requires other people to be able to help us and we need to help other people too.
It makes life so much more rewarding to be collaborative, to be able to rely on one another, to rely on someone else’s expertise or someone that they know. Whatever the case is, achieving your goals when you have a team of people, a group of friends or a huddle around you makes life much more rewarding.
From your perspective in terms of the leaders that you are working with, are there any things that you have seen over the last couple of years that have weighed on individuals more as it relates to finances?
What I have seen with clients is a deviation of attention from the investment portfolio and more of a focus on how are we using the money in our life? It has been less about maintaining the wealth that has been created and more about how best to use it. It has been interesting. We work with individuals, couples, and families.
In the case of the families, there has been a lot of conversation about getting the rising generations, the family involved in the conversations and help make sure that they have the right competencies, that they are engaged in conversations about family wealth. Have a sense of what is expected of them, what they should expect, and help them stay motivated in building their own lives with the support of family. Not necessarily financial support but with the support of the human capital, the spiritual capital, and intellectual capital.
Have you seen more on the leisure side where people are spending money on taking trips or more experiential type spending?
There has been a lot of pent-up. Certainly, there are many clients who have continued to travel. We are still seeing a lot of energy and financial focus dedicated toward a second home or a family home. A meaningful place where the family can aggregate together and spend time together. You raise your hand, Patrick, because you are heading down to Florida.
I don’t mean to gloat or anything.
Where we spend our time, and how we spend our time, all of that is super important to all these aspects of our overall health that you have been talking about. We have been working with clients to help figure out the best financing plan and how the home is going to be maintained. In some cases, there are more than two homes, and that is always fun and interesting. I have learned a lot about different strategies for that.
I will share one because it might be interesting to you. I think you are about to furnish your place, a client who has a couch that they adore. It is comfortable and big. They have a large family. Everybody is comfortable. They have bought that same couch and have it in their various homes because that helps make it feel more homey. I thought it was a brilliant idea in keeping certain aspects of your wardrobe in different locations. You are not always having to pack and making it a big deal.The pandemic has crystallized the fact that life is fragile and not limitless and that we must do what's driving us. Click To Tweet
As we have talked to guests since 2020 and there has been this pent-up demand, the energy has gone into whatever they are pursuing from a career standpoint or growth standpoint that might not have been travel or buying a second home but was, “Where do I want to spend my energies?” They all weave in together.
That is a good point because there also has been an even greater focus on philanthropy. We have seen clients who are wanting to be much more strategic in how they are giving. When I say strategic, they have goals in mind, there is an impact that they are wanting to have, and they are figuring out how best to align their financial capital that is earmarked for charitable giving. As well as their skillsets, their networks, and trying to pour into organizations, make a difference and make the world better for all of us, which is exciting to be part of from an advisory perspective.
I read an article and it was fascinating to me. It was in the Wall Street Journal. It was talking about couples that were buying larger houses. These were couples that were of the retirement age. They were going from a 2,700 square foot, and now they are buying a 6,000 square foot home. This trend that the Wall Street Journal was trying to talk about. I did not read the whole article about wanting to expand to be able to have places where if they have got kids or extended families that can come back. They are not empty nesters as much anymore. They have enlarged the nest to make it more comfortable for people to come back.
Especially in the pandemic where there has been such a moratorium on being able to be with large groups of people to create a space where you can have the people that you want around you to be with you, feel comfortable and not have everybody stepping on their toes. That is a great solution for people who can afford to do that.
That was what I was thinking as I was scanning that article. Taking a step back, let’s say I am one of these soon-to-be Great Resignation individuals, and I am thinking, “I have got a great idea for a business. This is something I have always loved to do. I am going to go off on my own.” If they were to come to you too and say, “Here is what I want to do.” Is there any checklist that you would say, “Make sure that you get a good handle on these things first before you do it?”
For someone who is leaving a job, it is important to think about what are you dependent upon your job? That is where many people get their health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits. You want to be thoughtful in making sure you have a plan for continuing whatever benefits you will need in the foreseeable future.
A lot of people will go on to COBRA, for example, to extend their health insurance and retirement plan contributions. To the extent that you have not maxed out your contribution and you have the capacity to do that, making the contribution and maximizing as much as you can before you leave was a good idea because you might not have some income for a while if you are starting something new.
A lot of people purchase life insurance through their companies. Sometimes, if they need that coverage, they can continue it. A better idea is to get life insurance coverage somewhere else if it is needed because you can control the cost and the time period in which you have it. Getting organized on what you have that you are relying on your employer for what you need, figuring out a plan to continue what you need in some way, whether it is with the employer coming up with something new, is important.
Doing some cashflow planning. If you are starting something new, it takes new businesses oftentimes a while to get up and running. You can talk a lot about that, Patrick. You have been there before. It is important to make sure that folks know how they are going to cover their bills in the meantime. Sometimes, making sure that you have enough cash on hand or determining and advancing what expenses you are going to cut back on. Being aware of what your current lifestyle is and what levers you have to control during the transition period to the new business is super important.
Understanding what is required from a financial perspective to launch this new business. Are there capital investments that need to be made? Oftentimes, there is at least buying computer equipment, maybe some office equipment, and understanding what the new expenses will be. Again, how you can cover those expenses in the meantime are the key pieces from a financial perspective.
There is one other that we have heard from clients that there is value before people step away from something. Maybe they are even downsizing their work, they are retiring, or they want to do something on a much smaller scale. It is understanding the value perceived that you got from having this company and these people to work with.
I am about to say, “Go to the office and have this community.” We are not going to the office these days, but we are still in this valuable community when you are at the job and understanding when you give this up. We spoke with someone on Money Tale$ who did not realize how they may be a little bit of an island or feeling a little untethered as a result of not having this place that he got such value from working for.
One of those things is that if you are not used to being by yourself, it can be lonely at times when you are doing this. If you are not in an office anymore, you are all wrapped up and trying to make this thing stay afloat. It is like the Maytag repairman. I don’t know if you remember those. You are on your own.
I had the good fortune that I had an office out of my house for all the years that I was working for an organization. I had that ability, but even that, I was still going out and meeting with a lot of individuals on a regular basis. That is where I got my socialization. It was not until I went on my own that it was less time. I was more time by myself so you better like yourself.
That brings up a good point of what I was talking about earlier about vision. Thinking through what is it going to be like on a day in and day out basis when you make the change because you never know until you do it. If you think through all the different aspects of your life in your current routines and how they might be changing as a result of a transition, it gives you an opportunity to try it on and prepare yourself for certain things that you know will shift. You can decide whether you want to do something like having a networking lunch on the calendar every day for the next month so that you have someone else with that you are interacting during the day if you are going to be on your own for a while.
It is easier now to have a side hustle. There are many more opportunities to branch out and give it a test run without having to jump in completely. You can nibble away at it and see how it works.
It is a good point to side hustles and test. The younger generations talk about the fact that if you do not have a few things going at once, you are crazy.
I do think there is a lot of value to that.
From a financial perspective, once things start kicking into gear and the revenue starts coming in, there are a lot of great planning opportunities, especially on the side of setting up self-employed retirement plans that a lot of entrepreneurs miss. I will mention that so your readers can put a pin on that idea.
What about the people that are in organizations who are tired of what they are doing? They say, “We have got enough to be able to pull us off right now and retire early.” I am imagining you are seeing a fair amount of those that are saying, “We want to travel now. We want to do whatever, but I want to go to the office.”
Retirement is another one of those words that probably does need to change because most people think about retirement like, “If you stop working, you spend some time traveling for a little bit, and life is over.” That is not what we see from our clients. When we talk about it with our clients, we will focus on financial independence.
Financial independence is a point when clients have created in amassed enough financial resources to take care of funding all of their goals for the rest of their lives. We do a lot of detailed long-term modeling to help clients make sure that they are at that point where they are financially independent. We can look at it under different stress testing variables. What happens if returns are lower than we expect? What happens if inflation is higher?The best way to prepare for change is to give some thought before taking action, envision what you want the future to be, and have crisp vision goals aligned with your values. Click To Tweet
We help people through a modeling exercise to get comfortable that they have achieved financial independence. When they stop working, that is a big change. Some of the things that Cammie was mentioning about people who stop working and start their own thing are true for people who stop working and achieve financial independence.
From our experience, it helps to have a plan in place for how you are going to spend your time, who you are going to spend it with, and what you are going to be doing. Do those activities require more money than the lifestyle that you spend? That is another thing. Clients think, “We will retire. We are not going to spend nearly as much.” That is not true in our experience because people have more time. They want to travel and do things that they have not had the chance to do. We usually see a spike in spending for the first several years. Ultimately, it does start to trend downward again.
Having that purpose of what is my identity as someone who is no longer working, what is going to feed my soul, how am I going to spend my time, and what impact do I want to have on the world? If people can answer that question, in my experience, they have a much better “retirement period.” It can be decades because some people do not want to work. They stop working when they are quite young. Being able to project out what is the time period in this stage of financial independence and is work going to fall off completely?
What we see with our clients is oftentimes, they will join corporate boards or they will do advisory work. There is still come coming in and they are working on their own schedule. Clients who do that enjoy those opportunities to stay engaged and use the careers that they developed during their careers this time in a different way.
I would agree with that in terms of what retirement looks like. I know for us, in 2022, our youngest will be a sophomore in high school. We have still got some time to go here, but I don’t think of ever retiring. I am going to cut loose with everything, and I don’t have to do anything anymore. I would go crazy doing that. I would imagine it is people having the flexibility to decide what they want to do as opposed to what they need to do.
The point is it is important to ask yourself those questions before you stop working or reduce your work life a lot. Especially with married couples, it is like, “Will you go back to work? You are driving me nuts.” It can take some time to figure out. It is best to go into that period with some ideas.
I would think, whether it is retirement or entrepreneurship, that coming to speak to experts like the two of you is like a coach. You see things that I am not going to see myself. I am going to take the optimistic side generally of why I am going to do something. I miss the nuances of what this is going to mean. That is where an exercise of coming and speaking to you about what I want to do. You help make sure that I am on the right track.
You are emotionally tied, so it is helpful to have that external. We all have blockers. We can’t see certain things. That is where the beauty of coaches. In our case, we are wealth managers coming in and have that expertise. Each client is unique. Some of the circumstances and situations overlap. We can bring that to the relationship, which is powerful.
The only thing that I remember of the first time I went out on my own is related to healthcare because Sandy, my wife, was not working at that point. Our healthcare was not something that I had fully comprehended. We were spending $1,500 a month, and we had a $10,000 or a $15,000 deductible. We had catastrophic insurance. That is all that we had it for is that if something went bad, we were going to be covered. The first $25,000 was going to have to be out of our pocket at a point when we didn’t have $25,000 to be rolling around that easily.
It is important to understand all those different coverages that you have because people do not understand. When something happens, you get that big doctor’s bill and you are like, “What?” They can be avoided.
If I wanted to reach out to you, what is the best way to do that?
For me, I think LinkedIn is always great.
The Aspiriant website is a great place to go to because you can always start a dialogue with us there. We enjoy that.
As always, it has been fun having you guys on the show and also leaving some great information in terms of the environment that we are in now. There is so much opportunity here for people to expand where they want to go and the things they want to do. With your help, it provides freedom for people to be able to do that. Thank you for that.
Thank you, Patrick. It has been a pleasure.
I hope you enjoyed this episode with Sandi and Cammie. Please have a listen to their podcast, Money Tale$. You will enjoy it. I would like to make you aware that my first book will be available. There is a pre-launch to it. The title of the book is The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence.
This book is the culmination of years of personal experience and research observation. It is something that I believe has the ability to make a difference in terms of how you create bridges with those people that you are asking to follow you. That is all it is. We build bridges and that is what this book is intended to help people do. Build better bridges, not only with those people around you but also build a better bridge with yourself. I hope you have an opportunity to read that. Take care.
- Money Tale$ Podcast
- COBRA Insurance
- LinkedIn – Sandi Bragar
- Cammie Doder – LinkedIn
- The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence
About Sandi Bragar
Sandi is the Chief Client Officer at Aspiriant and leads our Planning, Strategy & Research team. The group is responsible for our state-of-the-art wealth planning platform that fosters intimate client relationships and helps families navigate the complex facets of their financial lives. Sandi also co-hosts our Money Tales podcast. Sandi joined Aspiriant in 1999 and became a partner of the firm in 2002.
Sandi began her professional career in 1993 at Ernst & Young, where she spent two and a half years as a senior tax consultant in the firm’s Personal Financial Counseling practice.
Sandi is a member of the Financial Planning Association and serves as a mentor in the Financial Planning Association’s Residency Program. She is also an active member of the Purposeful Planning Institute and chairs the Vision Expedition that is planning the organization’s annual Rendezvous conference. Sandi has been frequently quoted in the media, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox Business News, Yahoo! Finance, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among other accolades, Sandi has been named one of Forbes America’s Top Women Advisors and Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2021.
Sandi holds a B.A. degree in Business Economics from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She earned her Certified Public Accountant credential in 1996 and her Certified Financial Planner™ credential in 1999. Sandi is Treasurer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco. She also serves on the Investment Committee of Kiddo!, the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation.
About Cammie Doder
A marketer at heart, Cammie is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of Aspiriant, a leading independent wealth management firm serving an elite clientele. she joined Aspiriant in 2005, originally responsible for sales and marketing. In 2016, she was chosen to take the firm’s marketing direction to a higher level and lead a team of professionals on a variety of initiatives to build the brand and grow the business.
Cammie is passionate about empowering our current and prospective clients by helping them navigate the murky waters of the industry to make informed decisions about their financial lives. Working in a client-centric, fiduciary-focused firm, means the she is a listener, educator and advocate, first and foremost.
As the Chief Marketing Officer and a partner of Aspiriant, Cammie works to ensure consistency across the Aspiriant brand, highlighting the warmth, passion and forward-thinking approach we bring to wealth management. Her role spans across branding, digital, content, client experience, inbound marketing, automation and messaging. Cammie believes the Aspiriant secret needs to be shared with more people and looks to connect with the next client whose goals we can help them achieve.
Cammie holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California and a Masters of Business Administration from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She spends her time outside the office with her husband and two daughters. They are either enjoying their local environs or visiting family in Southern California, on the East Coast or in Ireland.
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The past few years have been difficult for all of us. The pandemic has affected us both physically and mentally. Although it is slowly getting back to normal, we can’t remove the fear of uncertainty and chaos just around the corner. This is why in this episode, Chris Littlefield of Beyond Thank You shares the importance of appreciation for people to move forward and overcome these difficult times. A great leader knows how to build meaningful relationships with his people. The power that it can bring is very evident. People would gain more courage, motivation, and positivity. Listen as Chris cites examples and instances of what a simple appreciation could bring to the table!
Listen to the podcast here
The Power And Value Of Appreciation With Chris Littlefield – Episode 140
Thank you for joining me on another episode of Learning from Leaders. This episode is an interview with Chris Littlefield. He was a guest several episodes ago. His whole thing is around appreciation. He takes a novel approach to the importance of recognition, appreciation, and how it’s defined. What do we do? How do we most effectively recognize or appreciate those around us?
In the times that we’re in, never is it more important than right now in terms of understanding how we do this. If you look at a lot of the surveys and things that are coming out, you hear many more people talking about the importance of feeling valued and appreciation plays right into that. Let’s jump into it.
Chris, thank you for joining me again. This is episode number two for you. You are the appreciation expert, what a great time to bring you back on with everything that’s going on. One of the things that we’re struggling with over the past few years is making sure that we understand how to continue to appreciate people. I wanted to bring you back on to get into a discussion that can be valuable not only for individual leaders and managers but also for teams.
Now more than ever, people need to know their value and appreciate it. 2021 has taken an emotional toll, physical toll, and mental toll on people. As we get into this next iteration of what work might be, now more than ever, we need to be consciously building relationships and finding ways to be able to do that regardless of where people are located.
As the appreciation expert, you look at where things were before the pandemic and where they are now. Is there anything that you see in particular in terms of what’s changed?
First, I want to answer what hasn’t changed. What hasn’t changed is that to have people feel valued and appreciated, we need to make a conscious effort to build and maintain relationships with people. Appreciation is not an outcome. It’s like trust. It’s a status that we build and maintain with somebody with actions over time. One-off things don’t do it. Our relationships are constantly built and maintained. What hasn’t changed is that we need to be constantly doing that. How we do it and the way we do it has changed a little bit.
The fundamental mindset shift and the reason why I wrote the book, 75+ Team Building Activities for Remote Teams, was to give people tools to help them update their mindset and then think about the methods they’re using to connect and then give them the means to connect. What has changed is we’re not always together. Before, we can count on that physical environment to nurture our relationships.
That downtime beforehand, running into each other, walking into the building, or walking by someone’s desk and seeing a photo or seeing their face and realizing, “They look a little upset today,” and then slowing down and having a conversation. We had those physical cues and those unintentional run-ins to build those relationships. Now, we don’t have that unless we go into the office. Even when we’re there, people are behind masks, behind plexiglass, or whatever it is. We need to build that time into our existing meetings.
The time when we can ask people to come in for a virtual happy hour is over. People are done with extra time online. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do after a day of meetings is to have another one online where we continue the awkward conversation. Now, leaders need to consciously build it into that existing time that’s there. We don’t want to ask people to come to some other 1.5 hours thing after work after you’ve already spent eight hours. We want to build it in.
In the book, one of the things I share is the 1/6 rule. We should be doing this in person anyway. The 1/6 rule is that for every hour of meeting time, 1/6 of it or 10 minutes should be used for relationship building. For every two hours, twenty minutes. Nobody should have a three-hour meeting. That’s inhumane. We shouldn’t even do that. For every ten minutes, that may be getting on the call and saying, “What’s something that made you smile recently? How was your weekend?” It’s making that time for connection and going beyond asking the ceremonial, “How are you doing today?”Now more than ever, people need to know they're valued and appreciated. Click To Tweet
People realize that when leaders ask that question, rarely do they want to hear the answer. It’s trying things that get people going. You can use a welcome question. My favorite one to ask at the beginning of the meeting is, what were you doing five minutes before the meeting today? The reason why we ask this is that what we’re doing five minutes before reminds us that people have lives going on and things happening before meeting with us.
You ask, “What were you doing five minutes before?” “I was running and trying to grab lunch before I got onto this call. I was wrapping up a report. I was dropping my kid off at school.” When we hear those things and people share that, it reminds us that they have other things going on. “You didn’t get food? Do you need five minutes to grab a cup of coffee or something to eat? Please bring your lunch here if you haven’t got to eat.” It gives us an opportunity to take care of people because we asked and gave an opportunity to understand what’s going on for them.
That is such a great opportunity. I love that 1/6 rule. I’m going to try and implement that where I can. That is powerful. One of the things that I’ve heard in regards to some of the organizations that I’ve worked with on the healthcare side, they haven’t been remote. You’ve got to be there. There’s no, “I’m not showing up. We’re going to do telemedicine for COVID and all these other things.” They have to be there.
From the standpoint of appreciation, what I have recognized in that industry is everybody has been head down for so long trying to navigate every crisis that comes along that they haven’t had a chance to come up and appreciate all of the sacrifices that people have had to make around them. Before this, you talked about the lines of work and the home being blown up. I would agree. They don’t exist anymore. Even though hospitals are remote or not remote, there’s still no disconnect. They’re always on.
In a conversation with somebody in Maine, we’re working on a program around what’s this next stage of leadership. How do you succeed with people in 2022? This is a person who is a mental health specialist and head of an EA program at a large, outdoor retailer. One of the things we’re talking about is that there’s a new skillset that’s needed right now that we didn’t need before. We needed it before. We had to be empathetic. We also need to be facilitators of reflection. One thing is that people try to recognize others for what they see. People don’t often want to be recognized just for what people see. We want to be recognized for what we don’t see and, specifically, what it takes to do what we’re doing.
We’re over the two-year mark of life in a pandemic. We need to practice what I call reflective recognition. Standard recognition is a process where I see something that Pat does that he appreciates. I see it and I appreciate what he does. I then acknowledge him for what I see. That’s important. We need to also make time to see what we’re not seeing. These past several years, many people are going to try to move back to business as usual. All of a sudden, the pace is going to slow down, the beds are going to stop being full, and then it’s going to go back to that normal grind where people didn’t feel appreciated before anyway.
I was doing a lot of work with hospitals before. I worked with Maine Medical Center up in Maine, which was cool because I got to work with people. I’m like, “This is where it all began for me. I was born in this hospital.” People don’t feel appreciated because we don’t see what they’re dealing with. Reflective recognition is an inquiry-based approach. This is something that I created. We often focus on the gap and people’s performance. We forget to see what it took to produce the results that they did.
Instead, ask the question, “What do you want to be recognized for? What are you proud of over these last two years?” Give people an opportunity to share. When they share, we say, “What was it like for you to be able to do that? What was it like for you to be able to hold the hand of somebody passing away with their family on the other side of the phone? What was it like to see people coming in that you couldn’t help because there weren’t resources to help them? What was it like for you? What were those vivid moments for you over this last year? What did it take to get through that?”
We need to be able to debrief. Many people are trying to shuttle people into mental health support, “Go see a counselor. Go see this person.” Not everybody wants to go and do that. We need to have a collective discussion to debrief what’s happened over these past several years. Give people an opportunity to be able to celebrate, reflect on, and acknowledge what’s happened.
I was working with a bunch of risk managers and hospitals and we’re talking about the risk of burnout and the risk that it has on care. If we have people burning out and making bad decisions, that has an impact both on our health care and our ability to provide service but also the legal implications if someone does something. Taking that time to be able to take care of people is not saying, “We have these health benefits, so use them.” Your 70-year-old nurse who’s been working for however many years is not going to say, “I’m going to go sit down with a counselor right now if I never have.”
We need to create time to have people go through that journey of reflecting on what happened over the last few years. This is where senior leaders come in, sit down, and say, “Let’s have a couple of roundtables. I want to reflect. I know we don’t have much time. I know you’re constantly busy but I want to hear what these last two years were like for you.”
What are you most proud of? What vivid moments were hard in the moment where you don’t want to ever forget what that was like and you want to capture that? What lessons do we learn about how we work together? As a team, how are we able to navigate through what is arguably the toughest time in our industry, in our field? How do we get through it? What was the impact of that on you? What was the impact of that on your family? By giving people an opportunity to share that, they don’t just acknowledge what happened but it also acknowledges them in the process.
Along those lines, we know that when we talk about things, in and of itself, naming what we’re feeling can be powerful in terms of helping people to deal with stuff. One of the conversations that I had with a healthcare director was saying that it feels like Groundhog Day for all of us. We show up, we grind, we go home exhausted, we go to sleep, we probably don’t do much other than that, and then we wake up and we start all over again.
Her point to this was talking about how all of the other outlets that they used to have, “I’d meet somebody after work for drinks. I’d go to a game. I’d watch my kids’ sporting events.” Whatever it might be, all those things had been taken away, so there were no other outlets for people to be able to have discussions around that. For her, that was what she was seeing in terms of some of that burnout.
There’s no rest. There’s no break. It’s important to understand the progress we’ve made. It’s not to ignore the difficulty of what’s going on but to also realize we are not at the same point we were back in 2020. We’re not at the same point we were in 2021. When those triggers come up and we see those numbers of beds start to fill again, it feels like that.
In January 2022, all of a sudden, the Omicron wave went up. My daughter’s school was like, “We’re going back to virtual for a week.” I wanted to cry. I was like, “I can’t do this again.” What it did is it triggered where I was in 2020. For four months, I was living in Santiago, Chile at the time. I’ve moved since you and I talked. I moved countries because it got so bad where we were. We’d had a revolution. We had four months in the pandemic where we couldn’t leave our building.It takes less than a second to say, “thank you.” It takes less than a minute to make it meaningful. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, going back to a remote school triggered all of those experiences from 2020, where I was locked inside. I was scared for my family. I was scared for our well-being. There was a revolution, in my case, going on outside at the same time. All those emotions came back. Every time there’s a wave of increased numbers, it’s going to trigger that trauma.
I did an interview with Mark Goldstein, who used to work at UCL as a trauma specialist. He goes, “We’re going to post-pandemic PTSD.” It’s going to be there. It’s not PTSD in that normal sense of someone getting shot at, domestic violence, or things like that. People are going to have trauma. It’s there because we had that experience. Anything that looks like that again is going to send us in that direction.
It’s important to remember that because we need to be aware. As leaders, we need to understand that the impact of these past several years is going to be showing up for years to come. We need to be able to understand that there’s been an impact and to decipher that not everything that looks like a performance issue is a performance issue. It may be a mental issue.
Also, probably more so something else than a performance issue. People had so much to deal with. When everybody has their head down grinding, nobody steps back to think of appreciating other people the way they would have before because everybody thinks, “This is what we’re supposed to be doing now.” Who has time to appreciate right now?
In appreciation, we need to expand how we think about it and move it beyond just saying thank you or giving a reward or award. I may have shared this when we spoke last time. When I think of the term recognition, many people collapse it with rewards and awards. Rewards and awards are not recognition of themselves. If you think about it as a spectrum, you’ve got rewards and awards a teeny little bit over here. I don’t put it as a pyramid because if we put it as a pyramid, we always put rewards and awards at the top, which is the least important thing. Those are those gestures we do.
Employee Appreciation Day is like celebrating someone’s birthday. We need to appreciate them all year long. That Employee Appreciation Day or that Nurses Week thing is when we put all the attention on this person for a day to celebrate that. If we take recognition, I break it down into appreciating the person, acknowledging the circumstances, recognizing effort in progress, rewarding results, and awarding standout results. All of those are separate skillsets.
That day-to-day appreciation is the one that makes the biggest difference right now. That’s appreciating people’s lives outside of work, appreciating their lives inside of work, and those day-to-day saying good morning when they come in, asking them what I can do for support. It’s giving somebody going in and saying, “Let me come in and cover you for twenty minutes. You can go to the bathroom and take a break. I got some food here.” Go and be able to do that. Carving time out and not asking people for additional hours at a time. It’s respecting their time at work by respecting their time outside of work. It’s not sending messages on the weekends.
Constantly acknowledging those circumstances they’re working in and thanking them for being there. “I know we’re down staff. I know the wave is up again and we can’t keep up with this in the healthcare industry.” Acknowledging that we’re down ten staff right now and you’re covering that, acknowledging that, and then letting them know what you’re doing to work on addressing it is as important. Also, acknowledging the circumstances in which people are working and then recognizing people for the effort and progress they’re making regardless of what’s going on. It’s making sure that we’re not pointing out all the things that people are doing well.
Those things that you mentioned take about ten seconds to do for somebody.
It takes less than a second to say thank you. It takes less than a minute to make it meaningful. If we want to make it meaningful, we simply remember that we let the person know we’re acknowledging them. Why are we acknowledging? What specifically are we appreciating about them? Focus on the process and not just the result that you saw. Let them know why you appreciate them specifically and what specifically you’re appreciating them for.
That goes for a lot of research that’s out there in regards to how we motivate people. When we motivate for effort, appreciate for effort, or recognize effort as opposed to outcome, the long-term benefit is much better in terms of keeping people motivated. It’s not about the outcome. You only get it when you reach the top of the pyramid. You get it because you’re putting in extra time and we appreciate that.
Imagine if you’re in a sporting game and everybody up in the stands was waiting to see if you won the game before they were going to cheer. Imagine what it’d be like to play with everybody up there looking at you and not saying anything and be like, “You won the game.” You wouldn’t play that hard. This is something we’re doing along the way. You reward people for the results they produce. Those are rewards.
Appreciation and acknowledgment recognition is what we’re doing along the way that keeps people performing, keeps them showing up, knowing that they are valued, knowing that they’re cared about, and knowing that they shouldn’t leave this place. This is a place where I feel good and where I get to be my best self.
It’s not an endpoint anymore. To me, it’s almost a thread that continues to run through the fabric of what we do. There’s no end to it. It’s woven into our day-to-day and what we do if we want to work.
Yes, if you’re not building your relationship with a person that’s breaking down, whether that’s at home or work. In Chester Elton’s book, Carrot Principle, he’s got an absolute phenomenal line. He’s like, “Imagine if you got married and you said I love you on your wedding day.” “I’m done.” No. You will still be married. It doesn’t work. It’s that constant actions over time to signal the people that we care. It’s making sure that the equation is not just me asking for things all the time but me showing that I care about the person and that I value more than what I need from you.
Along those lines, I want to shift gears for a minute and talk about caring about people’s time. When you are remote and you’re running meetings, it’s even more important to tighten things up. People don’t want to be in meetings a lot. Especially, I don’t want to be at a meeting that you told me is going to be 30 minutes long and we’re 38 minutes and we’re still going on because there was no real agenda or structure around this. What are your thoughts on that?It's that constant actions over time to signal to people that we care. Click To Tweet
One is that we need to be more conscious about it. We need to understand that because I’m enjoying the meeting, it doesn’t mean the other person is. It doesn’t mean they have something else that’s going on afterward. This is a mistake that many leaders make. I had this conversation with somebody and this was a woman in the Philippines. She goes, “This boss that I’m coaching, he was having everybody in his team work over the weekend because he enjoyed working over the weekend.”
He’s not realizing that everyone else felt like they had to be there too because he was the boss. He was making people work seven days a week and everyone was burning out on his team but nobody was speaking up because he thought everybody was loving it, “We’re having great meetings.” That’s where we have to be aware of people’s boundaries.
We need to ask, what’s working for you? What’s not working for you? We spend so much time talking about work that we forget to talk about how we’re working together. Specifically, as we transition from one iteration of work to another, it’s to be able to have those conversations, “What’s working about how we’re working? What boundaries do you want to keep?”
One of the tools that I sent out in my newsletter is understanding each other’s activity, which is having people check in right now. Reflect over the past year on what worked and what hasn’t been working. What do you need for support? What are your conflicting responsibilities outside of work and inside of work so we can understand that? Also, talking about what worked this last year as a team, what we want to do next year, and what we don’t want to do next year. Having those conversations can be simple as, “What’s one thing that you love that we did last year to one thing that you would hope we don’t continue this year?” It’s to start the dialogue.
For leaders, make sure you use that 1/6 rule, make sure that you always make time for connection before content, and always make time for gratitude before goodbye or before you leave. That can be five minutes on either end, which is doing little things. When it comes to doing it, try welcome questions. Do pulse check questions when you get into your meetings. When people are in there, don’t expect them to say everything out loud. Have them open up the chat.
If you’ve got 4 or 5 people on your team, say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your energy level today? Put it into the chat.” “How are you feeling about your ability to keep up with everything at work and home on a scale of 1 to 10? Put it in the chat.” Once people put a number in, we can then have them explain out, “Why did you pick the number you did? Is there anything you, me, or the team could do to be able to bring that number up?” It’s simple things to be able to understand where you’re at and realize that appreciation. One of the best ways to appreciate people is flexibility and understanding.
As I look at our conversation so far, to me, even though it’s around appreciation, recognition, and different approaches, the theme is listening. Heightening how we listen is something that’s got to be strengthened. To me, I can ask the question but if I’m not curious about understanding how I make this better and what has impacted you, it falls on deaf ears and we demotivate people even more.
When do you feel most valued? Think about it, when someone’s asking about your expertise or they’re listening to you and the conversation, you’re like, “I feel amazing right now.” It’s a simple thing to ask a question and listen. Share back that you value what that person shared. It’s the easiest way. People forget that feedback is one of the best ways. It’s not negative and critical feedback all the time. That feed-forward that we’re giving to people is one of the best ways to acknowledge your staff.
Many people are like, “I know one person who left because they hadn’t had a performance review in three years.” I want to know how I’m doing and how they can improve. People skip that process. They forget that many people are like, “I want to talk about my future here. I want to talk about my career.” One of the best ways to acknowledge people is to show that you care about them. It’s not just saying, “Good job.”
People don’t need to hear about a good job most of the time. They need to know they’re doing a good job. They don’t want to hear good jobs and platitudes. They want to know that you value them and showing you value them is valuing their career. I outlined in the book how to have a stake conversation, how to check in, talk about your performance, and what’s working. What do you care about? What are your career goals?
That’s what establishes the future that’s going to keep the person in your company because they realize there is a path forward for them and they’re going to grow. If you want to have people feel appreciated, it’s not just about compliments. It’s about showing that you understand them, their direction, what they care about, their goals, and you’re there to support them. Asking questions and listening and following up is what is going to make the biggest difference.
These all become more challenging in a remote setting. One of the pieces of information that I had seen years ago was that people are ten times more likely to leave an organization in the first year of employment than at any other point in their career. If we now remotely onboard people, if you think about that, I’m even more disconnected from the group. It becomes even more important to ask better questions and to be a better listener so that people feel as though they are invested and there’s a value that’s placed on them being part of that organization.
You have to create a relationship. You always had to do this. With onboarding, I would argue that the only thing that changed was the location but the intention needs to be the same, which is this person is coming on and my job is to connect with them intentionally. The problem is you don’t have them as a physical cue anymore to remind you to check in with them. You have to be intentional about it.
I’m back in the US but I spent a decade living abroad. I had to nurture and build relationships with my family and friends from 5,000 to 10,000 miles away, the Middle East and Chile. No matter where you are, it’s remembering that if I’m not building the relationship, if I’m not intentionally making time to connect, then I don’t know where that relationship is at. I need to make those small moments to send things to people to let them know I’m thinking of them, sending them resources. It’s those little things that you do where you’d say good morning to somebody. You’re saying good morning on the chat now but you’re checking in.
One thing that leaders can do to remind themselves is to get a picture of their team and put it up on their desks. It’s that physical reminder that I’m working with these people and remembering, “When was the last time I checked in with them?” Also, tracking that to be aware of it. It’s like, “I haven’t talked to so and so. They haven’t been complaining, so they must be good.” No. If they’re not complaining, they may be looking for another job and you just don’t know about it. I had one leader who was shocked when his person quit. He’s like, “I didn’t even know they were thinking of leaving.” I’m like, “That was probably the reason why they did.”
Even along those lines, you can have somebody that says, “I don’t need to be contacted every week. That’s not what I need.” That comes through having those questions and listening to what people like in terms of, “What’s the best way for us to continue to make sure that we stay in touch and we feel connected with what we’re doing here?”One of the best ways to acknowledge people is to show that you care about them. Click To Tweet
One night, we went out for my wife’s birthday. There was an option when I was booking this Uber and I got a fancy one for the birthday. There was an option, “Would you like a chatty driver or silence?” We need to go and ask people their preferences and say, “Do you want me to check in? What’s the right amount of checking in for you? What’s the right amount of support for you? What am I doing that’s been helpful? What would you like me to do differently?”
Some leaders also need to factor in some people who may ask the questions and nobody gives you an honest answer. Instead of asking the question, “How can I best support you?” “What support do you think people need right now on our team?” Have them talk about others opposed to themselves and then usually, what they’re sharing is what they need.
I talked about it in terms of bridges. What we do is the more we behave in ways that make connections, the stronger our bridges become. If you don’t pay attention to that bridge and maintain it, eventually, it’s not going to be safe to cross. You won’t be able to do it. Those are the relationships that we constantly have.
That goes back to when I was in sales. I always used to go into offices and I used to talk about or ask myself, “When I go into this office, what am I doing to add a cable to make my relationship with this office stronger?” It could have been with the receptionist that maybe it’s finding out a little bit more about that person or about a nurse I was dealing with. Going in there, the intention was, how do I make this stronger? What cable can I add to this relationship to get stronger? It’s the same thing with any relationship we have. That’s what we do.
There’s an added value to what you’re talking about that people miss. When you have a strong bridge, when the wind picks up, it’s going to withstand it. My background is in conflict resolution. One of the biggest findings from our research, when I started looking at recognition as conflict prevention, is that we’ve built that relationship over time, we’ve built that trust, and we’ve done those things.
Many people are sharing it right now where it’s like, “The way that my boss showed up over the last couple of years to support me when I was dealing with everything that was going on, when I got sick, when I dealt with cancer,” all those things are happening in people’s lives. The way that people show up in those times is what strengthens that. It puts a cable down. It puts a brace underneath. When things fall apart, all of a sudden, you have the relationship there that’s going to withstand that.
I’ll never forget, one of the Under-Secretary-Generals at the United Nations was telling a story and he was like, “I had a woman on my team. When she got cancer, she said, ‘You go do whatever you need to do. You have a place when you come back.’” He goes, “When I got moved into the position I’m in, she was about to retire.” She goes, “I will never forget what you did to support me and that year. I’m going to extend my retirement for another two years so I can support you until you get through your term in this office. I won’t leave until you’re ready for me to leave.”
When we show up at a time when people need it or do those day-to-day things like talking to the person who’s working there, meeting the nurses, whatever, that’s what builds that foundation that’s going to make us withstand those difficult times like a global pandemic and the Great Resignation. It’s because we’ve built those relationships. If you haven’t built it already, you need to be doing it right now for the next wave that’s coming.
Without question, I fully agree with that. You mentioned something about marriage. I think of the same thing, either marriage or hiring somebody. On the first day that you hire somebody, I don’t think anybody says, “I can’t wait till the day that we don’t get along. I can’t wait till the day that I’m going to put you on a performance improvement plan.” It’s a relationship.
The same thing in a marriage. Nobody stands on the altar and says, “I can’t wait till the day that we’re going to get divorced.” It happens and it’s because of the behaviors, the relationship that we were starting to build or had built to that point, we don’t maintain it anymore. It becomes unsafe. It can’t handle the stress and strain that is part of our natural existence. The more we build those cables, the stronger it becomes.
The work and fundamental mindset shift that people need to make is the idea that one action builds that bridge. It may build one cable, to use your analogy. It may put a brick out there. Because I did one action, it doesn’t mean that we have a relationship. Because I did one grandiose thing months ago, it doesn’t mean I checked the box. There’s no checking the box. There’s no one action that’s going to do it. It’s actions over time. It’s that compounded interest. As soon as you take it, it starts pulling it down.
It’s that famous study from The Gottman Institute. Everyone says that it’s a 1 to 3 ratio but it’s a 1 to 5 ratio of negative to positive interactions. I know you’ve heard this before and people have been quoting it for years. What people don’t realize is why that matters. Do you know this study that I’m talking about?
I know the study.
The study was that they filmed couples for fifteen minutes in the first year of their marriage talking about a difficult subject and that’s the part that often gets left out. They coded the fifteen-minute video to positive to negative interactions. They were able to predict with 92% accuracy when couples would be married in five years. It came down to how they communicated around a difficult subject. Was it more positive or more negative? When it was five positives for every negative, the couple stayed together. If it was below that, they got divorced. After it went over 13 positive to 1 negative because you’re up in the clouds anyway and you’re not having real conversations, they also got divorced.
That same thing applies in the workplace. We’re thinking about, “If I was to rate my communication from positive to negative with each one of my team members right now, what number would I have? If I was to do it with my spouse right now, what number would I have?” My wife and I went through a rough spot when we were both unemployed in Boston in 2008. We put two jars up because we realized we were more on the negative. At the end of the day, we’d be putting beans into the jar. I was like, “I love you. You’re beautiful.” I was like, “I need to up the numbers.”
Consciously think about our relationships, where do we stand, and what can I do today to be able to do that? If I’m asking for things or giving feedback, it’s coming in the negative. The negative is going to go up, so I need to counterbalance that by, “How are you doing today? How are the kids?” It’s not just doing inauthentic reaching out but checking in and pausing. When you think you don’t have time to do it, you don’t have time not to do it. If you don’t do it, you’re going to be spending time replacing that person or dealing with an even worse disengaged employee who’s not leaving.
Along the lines of your book, there are many valuable pearls in there and exercises. I can’t wait. I’m going to read through the whole thing. I know that there’s more than I can pull out of that. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you to get a hold of this book?
You can find it on my website at BeyondThankYou.com/book. You can get it on Amazon. If you go to the website, you can also download an assessment that’s in the book right there. It’s one to check on how you are doing at building and maintaining relationships on your team, you can find that there. Also, I have a newsletter, The Nudge, where I send out tools and reminders every two weeks. Of course, connect to me on LinkedIn, Christopher Littlefield.
Chris, as always, great conversation. I love this. This is more valuable and more needed now than it was even several years ago. I’m excited. There’s a lot of opportunity for what’s to come. I do think that this is going to ship things. If we look at it that way as opposed to a crisis, there’s a lot that we’re going to be able to grow from here. Thanks for your input on this.
You’re welcome. We have a huge opportunity right now and that’s what’s amazing. People can connect from anywhere and we have the ability to be in people’s lives and their worlds. Let’s take advantage of it and use this.
- Christopher Littlefield
- 75+ Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
- Carrot Principle
- The Gottman Institute
- Amazon – 75+Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
- The Nudge
- LinkedIn – Christopher Littlefield
About Christopher Littlefield
My mission is to transform the global conversation around giving and receiving recognition by providing programs that develop awareness, support authentic communication, and make a tangible difference in people’s lives at work and at home.
Over the last few five years alone, I have worked with more than 7000 managers and employees from around the world to rethink their relationship to giving and receiving recognition and transform the conversation in their workplace to one where people feel fully valued and appreciated every day.
I started my career designing and facilitating programs to bring individuals from the most protracted international conflicts (Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, Armenia/Azerbaijan and most recently, Syria) into the room together to challenge their perceptions. For twelve years, I have committed my life to humanizing relationships and supporting people to authentically connect, communicate and see the good in the person across the table. Although these experiences greatly influence and guide my work, it was the way a 15-minute acknowledgment activity transformed what had been a toxic, seemingly irresolvable conflict with my partner (yes, it is ironic we are conflict resolution specialists),into what to this day is the most authentic and productive work relationship I have ever had. It was the power of this experience that ignited my passion for employee recognition, launched my research, and subsequently, my training programs and company Beyond Thank You.
I work internationally and I am based jointly in Lebanon, Chile, and the United States.
When you read a phrase like “bossy girl” on a company name, you probably won’t know what to make of it. This was how our host Patrick Veroneau felt when he heard about Bossy Girl Leadership, whose founder graces today’s episode. Kristal Murren will tell us today exactly why her business’ name makes sense despite all the negative connotations of the phrase. For too long, society has equated the “bossy girl” archetype to women who have a purpose, a mission, and a voice. But is it really a bad thing? A big, resounding NO, Kristal says, and you’re about to find out why. After listening to this episode, you will understand why when somebody calls you “bossy”, you might as well say, “Thank you.”
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Bossy Girl Leadership: Inspiring Women To Own Their Brilliance With Kristal Murren
This episode is special for me. This is a woman that I met in a workshop we were doing together. We were in a breakout group together. Her name was Kristal Murren. She runs a company called Bossy Girl Leadership. At first, when I heard that, I did not know how to take it. After hearing her story and what her mission is regarding Bossy Girl Leadership, it made perfect sense to me. I knew I wanted to get her on an episode and be able to talk about it. I hope you enjoy this episode and reach out to her as well. Let’s get into it.
Kristal, thanks so much for being on the show. I had been looking forward to this Bossy Girl Leadership. We are going to get an idea of what it means in terms of redefining bossy girls. Thank you for being on the show. I would love for you to be able to share how this whole thing come about for you.
I could not be more honored to be here. I love everything that you are about and what you stand for. I am grateful that you offered me this invitation. Before I tell you my story, as we were prepping for this, you said to me, “My wife is a bossy girl and my daughter is a bossy girl too, but we are trying to work with her on what that looks like.”
The story that I wanted to share with everyone as we get started is if you have a woman in your life that is on a mission, has a purpose and has a voice, she has probably been called bossy. What I’m all about is taking that and using it as our motivation to grow and do better. Let me tell you why that is. My story is one of great triumph but also a lot of failures. When I was 37 years old, I was on my way to work one day. I was a single mom of a nine-year-old little girl. I was stopped at a red light waiting to go to work and I was hit from behind by a truck at 55 miles per hour.
When I got out of that car, I did not realize at that time that my life would never ever be the same again even though I could stand up on my own and there was only a little bit of blood from the glass that had broken through and cut me through my hair. I could walk at that point, but I did not realize at that time I no longer had any of my memory. I did not remember where I had been or who I was to any large degree. I could not read and write. I spent a year in the darkness looking for answers and trying to do what doctors told me which was, “Do not think and not use your brain.”
When I started to fight back against that prescription, the doctors started telling me I was bossy and even wrote that word in my charts. I went to the parking lot oftentimes crying, but I knew that there was more to this than what I could ever have imagined. I realized that time that I was given a gift, a voice and a talent. I had to come back from what I was facing now so that I could make sure that my daughters were not called bossy like I was. If they were called bossy, their only answer to that would be, “Thank you.” I want that for my daughters and I want it for yours. That is why I’m here and that is what I’m about.
We had a conversation before we got on this. As a male, if I’m assertive or I’m pushing on something, it is often like, “Go get them.” It is not the same thing if it’s a female. I think we both know the word. That is almost a gaslighting. You force somebody to take a step back like, “I do not want to be seen as that. I guess I do not say anything.”Women are by far our most untapped resource. Women systematically underestimate themselves every single time. When given an opportunity, men will always over-evaluate themselves. Click To Tweet
To a large degree, I believe that the way this plays out in our society is subconscious. We have seen this is the way. If somebody says something you do not like or even just pushes you outside your comfort zone, you can use a B-word like bossy or the other one. You can subconsciously shut them down and stay in your own comfort zone so nobody with strength can push you to be somewhere you do not want to be.
Biologically, our brains are inclined to keep us safe. They do not want us to have any discomfort. Unfortunately, we have to have discomfort in order to grow. There has to be friction, but when somebody applies friction and they are women, oftentimes, we have an easy out by using a quick B-word. It shuts her down and it allows us to stay in our comfort zone. I do not see it as something that is happening in our society as a malicious thing, but I do believe it is something that does happen.
You go through that process yourself. Now you are seeing it like, “Even in my charts, I’m being called bossy.” What was the point where you said, “I’m going to turn this into a business and create a company where I would help females build this level of confidence in themselves and not shy away from that?”
What I did with my recovery is I ended up enrolling in one of the most challenging Master’s degree programs I could find. I started researching women’s behavior. I used my motivation to understand women in leadership to power my recovery in learning to read and write again. What I learned is that women are by far our most untapped resource. Women systematically underestimate themselves every single time.
When given an opportunity to evaluate themselves, men will always over evaluate themselves. I’m speaking in absolutes. There are always exceptions to the rule. Women will underestimate themselves typically. This is how this goes. What I realized is that if I wanted to make a difference in the world, I had to support women in owning their brilliance and purpose, and be willing to use their voice.
One of my greatest gifts was courage. I have been given the gift of courage, maybe not so graceful. There are a lot of gifts that I was not given, but courage is one of them that I was. What I learned is that I could use my courage to go first, shine a bright light and allow people I love. One of my favorite things to do is go to a large conference and I will introduce myself. I will stand up and say, “I’m Kristal and I’m the bossy girl.” Everybody will laugh hysterically. It is so funny.
When we start talking about the story and why I’m the bossy girl, everything changes. Nobody is laughing anymore because they understand how it feels when somebody does that to them. They know they have done that to somebody else and they suddenly have a recognition that they were unconsciously hurting someone.
What I have done is use that brash nature and my courage and boldness to go first, shine my light, use my voice, and allow people to laugh. Allow it and show that it is okay to allow them to laugh and to say, “I know who I am. I’m going to let you laugh because if you laugh at me and you are willing to hear my story, I’m hopeful that next time you won’t laugh at somebody else.”
It is funny because, in your story, you say you get up and tell people, “I’m the bossy girl.” They laugh and they hear the backstory. I was in that same boat. When you first were introduced in one of the calls we were on, I chuckled at the beginning and all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh my.” It puts a whole different perspective on what you are talking about and what that means. That was why I was like, “It is a great fit to have you on this in regards to talking about leadership.”
To your other point, in much of the work that I have done with executives, especially in healthcare for females, it is one thing that I have noticed. They discount their significance in the group that I would not see in a male. They are far more competent than most of the males that I deal with, yet there is almost this self-deprecation that happens. It is interesting and you speak to it.
We know that we need to be strong or almost behave as if we are men or behave the way we have seen men behave in order to be successful. When we look up the chain of command and toward power, we see men who are sitting in those seats, and we often believe that we have to behave that way if we are going to be successful.
When we behave that way, we are not accepted. We start to realize, “I do have strengths as a woman. Maybe I need to be softer, more nurturing and listening, but then we are not considered competent and we’re not respected. People do not believe that we know what we are doing. We get caught up in this double standard and we do not know what is expected of us.You would not be where you are if you were not worthy. Click To Tweet
The truth is one of the things that we need to know as leaders if you want to be successful, you have to know how to set expectations. People need to know what is expected of them if they are following you because if they know what is expected of them, they can either rise above it or know when they are falling below. That allows them to course-correct.
As women in society, we do not have expectations. We don’t know what is expected of us. Which side of the coin do you want us to live on? Do you want us to use our natural strengths? Do you want us to behave the way we have seen others behave? What is it that you want from us? What happens is when we do not understand the expectations, we get quiet and we get small.
If we do not know that we are exceeding the expectation, then I can’t say, “Patrick, I am among the top 3% of leaders, and let me tell you why.” We do not know what makes an amazing female leader. We do not see it and we do not talk about it. That is why I’m out there talking about this is what it looks like. When I say assertive, I’m not talking about aggressive. I do not give license to women being a b*** or hurting other people to get what she wants. That is not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about is being willing to be assertive and use your voice because I guarantee, if you look at the women in your organization, they have far more strengths than what they have shown you. If you are not having real leadership conversations about what she is capable of, you have an untapped resource. She will always play small unless you allow her to use her voice or if she is someone that has done the inner work to accept that there are expectations that she will never be able to live up to, and she is okay with that.
I go back to what you had said earlier about courage. When I think of courage, you spoke about that part of our brain called the amygdala, we are always trying to protect ourselves. That is what we do. If I’m thinking I’m going to speak up in front of this group, my brain is saying, “Do not do it. This is not going to end well for you.” It tries to keep us from that. Certainly, men experienced that too. What we are talking about now in terms of this example, I can see that where you are like, “This isn’t good.” It is trying to talk that amygdala out of the conversation of saying, “I have got to do this.”
I often talk to women about fear, vulnerability, shame and things of that nature. One of the things that we talk about is how we avoid pain with our amygdala and flight or fight responses. We see pain and fear as the enemy. What is difficult is there is no possibility for courage without fear being present. When we are afraid, that means there is something that could possibly be worth exploring here. Only by making the choice of courage will we find out what that is. Many of us live a life of mediocre. We live a life of just okay. The truth is if we were willing to explore the fear and make the choice of courage, excellence could be available. That is what I do. It is to help people discover excellence.
Along those lines, how does that happen? When somebody shows up, who tends to come to you and say, “I need to figure some things out here?”
We have a couple of different options and ways of what things can look like. First of all, I have been doing leadership development, servant leadership, and character development for many years. Most of my work has been in the government. What I did was I developed the leadership development institute that was used in Pennsylvania state government and is still the hallmark of leadership development in our state.
What that looked like was a year-long leadership development program that changed the way that people looked at life. It’s not just work or supervising, but what does it mean to be a partner? What does it mean to be a friend, lead a team, and be a wife or a husband? What does that look like and how do we do that well? That is what that looked like for me for many years.
What happened was after my accident and after creating Bossy Girl Leadership, I continued doing long-term leadership development work with the government and with other large agencies. I work within large agencies and build their teams to be the best they can be. That is still what I do. What I realized was there were a lot of women. I had men that worked with me one-on-one also, who came to me and said, “Kristal, I do not know where to go. I do not know what to do.”
I built a community for women who do not necessarily have a government agency or a hospital that they are working with that can come to www.BossyGirl.org and they can join my community. It is $23 a month and we work one-on-one to build their confidence. For men, we do the same thing, but that is more in an individual coaching relationship.
For a lot of what you talk about, I go back to the concept of clear expectations. I put that in there with courage from the standpoint of looking at being promoted within an organization. If I do not have the courage to ask, how do I get to the next step? What am I being evaluated on? Those two things become important. From my experience with organizations, that is where I often see the breakdown. We do not have clear expectations of what is necessary to get us to the next step.With all of the fear, the war, sickness, loss and loneliness, there are only two things that will help us through this: leadership and purpose. Click To Tweet
I have people that work with me who do incredible work around performance management. If you have not set expectations in your workplace, you must do that. I have one thing that I want to add to that as we are having this conversation around courage, bossy and all of these things. It’s not just women but as leaders, if you do not believe that you are promotable and you deserve it, it does not even have to be spoken out loud. People know that. They feel it in their bones.
They are not going to promote you, seek you out and push you forward if you do not think that you are worthy of that. If you are at a place where you do not think you are worthy of that, that is where we have the start. We have to start looking at our own ability to think that we can meet these expectations. The truth is you would not be where you are if you were not worthy. You can do this. It is understanding that and projecting that to the people that you touch. They need to feel that you know that you are worthy, and then they will probably understand that as well.
It is such an inner talk that we need to have with ourselves.
It is the energy that you are sharing, and people know right away. Is that something they want to be a part of or is it something they don’t want to be a part of? It is interesting when you watch leaders who try to lead with power and control. It is very negative. People know right away, “I will do what you want me to do now but as soon as I can get away from you, I’m out.” The organizations wonder why they have such turnover. People know.
People do not recognize that. Oftentimes, we under-appreciate mindset and how important that is. Years ago, I used to help people interview. I used to volunteer at a group called The Unemployed Professionals. That group used to have people which were over 50 years old. There was this stigma that once you are over 50, it is over. You do not get a job and nobody is going to hire you. I would tell people that if you go in with that mindset of “I’m already behind,” you are done because it bleeds out of you in terms of how you show up. You do not walk and talk the same because, in the back of your mind, you are saying, “I do not deserve to be here. I do not have a shot at this job.”
It is funny that you use the words you did because the first thing that came to my mind was it’s like you are in the ocean and you are bleeding. The sharks smell it and they come for you. The mindset is the same thing. People smell it.
You are willing to accept less when that happens. If I’m thinking, “I’m over 50. I’m out of the market.” If it does not go your way, you are like, “I knew it was not possible.” It’s the same thing with courage in this regard. If you don’t think you are worthy enough for it, you are willing to not fight for it.
Think about how you are going to perform when you walk into an interview and on this hand, in your mind, you are saying, “They are not going to hire me. I’m too old. I’m over the hill. This is over for me. Why would they even want me? I won’t be here long.” On the other hand, you go into an interview, and you think, “Aren’t they lucky to have my wealth of experience, wisdom, and all of these things that I can bring into their organization that they can’t get from somebody with less experience, how amazing of a difference can I make in their organization. This is going to be an incredible partnership.” Think about how you are going to project yourself with that one mindset versus the other. It is incredible.
As we are wrapping things up, a question comes to mind in terms of we have been in this pandemic and we certainly hear so much now about the Great Resignation and all the people that are leaving their jobs. I’m curious from your perspective, has this environment shifted people in regards to being more open to looking at, “I need to do something different. I’m willing to take a risk here, go out on a limb but things have got to change?”
The answer is an absolute yes. It has changed the way that people look at things. I will say for myself as I look at the Great Resignation, and when I think about it, unfortunately, most of those resignations are women. We have made many steps backward because the household needs somebody at home now. I’m going to share a quick story from my own life.
I’m a single mom what happened over the last few years is every time I would set an appointment, something would happen at daycare, and they would shut down with no notice. I had no one else to support me in that initiative. Consistently, with every step forward I would make, I would make two steps backward because I did not have the support that was normal that other people would have.
My children were not going to school. Daycare was closed. I had no idea what to expect and I could not plan for it. If I was in a different situation, I would have lost my job or had to resign. There would have been no other option. I’m lucky that I have built a community that allowed me to continue through this, but there are many people who have not had that.Leadership is a choice and we all have an opportunity to choose. Click To Tweet
What I see happening is a rising of people in this time finding their purpose, understanding that courage is possible, and starting to live in the direction of what they were put on this Earth to do. That is where we are going. With all of the fear, the war, sickness, loss and loneliness, there are only two things that will help us through this. One is leadership and two is purpose.
I believe in our resilience, and I know because I have been in the dark. I have walked a path of pain. I truly believe God gave me that path so that I could share it with other people and inspire them to keep going in the darkness. This is darkness and we have the opportunity to keep going if we choose that. Resilience, courage and purpose are there for us. Go after it.
Looking at the environment that we are in, it does provide. For those that are willing to look at it that way, there are huge opportunities here either for personal growth. The organizations that understand that the shift that has happened will attract the best talent and will retain it because they are continually being curious as to what the needs are of the individuals that work for their organization. We are in a different world now. One that will be much better if we choose it to be that way.
Everything about what we believe in and what we do is all a choice. Often, there is a debate on leadership. Is it a skill or is it art? When we define it and you look it up on Google, which one is it in? Oftentimes, it does say it is a skill. I will go against Webster, Google and all of that. I will say that all day, leadership is a choice and we have an opportunity to choose. When you look at leadership skills such as honesty and trust. You do not have to learn how to be honest. You choose to be honest and that is how we become leaders. It is a choice we all have available to us.
If people want to get ahold of you, what is the best way to get in touch with you?
The best way to get in touch with me is at www.BossyGirl.org. Get on there, join the community and reach out. There are a million ways to contact me and the book will be out in the very near future. We are having a good time.
Kristal, thank you so much for this. It is always a pleasure. I knew this was going to be an awesome conversation. I love your energy and what you stand for. I wish you the best of luck.
Thank you. You, too.
About Kristal Murren
Kristal, the Bossy Girl made her debut in 2016 with a novel idea to redefine BOSSY and help women to own all of their power. This idea became a movement, a wave, that has been adopted by everyone it touches. She is now a renowned motivational speaker, thought leader, influencer and leadership authority, and an up-and-coming best-selling author.
Kristal has motivated leaders to change their lives by discovering their full power while building maximum influence. As women, we are so often not seen or heard. People do not understand all that we have to offer or what impact we bring to the table.
What is your leadership formula? Former AstraZeneca executive, Larry Freedman, has recently developed a success strategy for leaders of different organizations; the Leadership Success Sequence. Larry talks to Patrick Veroneau about how this special sequence allows leaders to perform effectively and contribute greatly to their companies. Larry discusses why it’s important to tap into employee engagement and enhance the employee experience that each person is having. Listen in as Larry takes us in on his knowledge of the pharmaceutical world and sets out on the next phase of his journey to help others become better leaders.
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Pharmaceutical Senior Commercial Director Larry Freedman Talks About The Leadership Success Sequence – Episode 138
Thank you for joining me on another episode. In this episode, we’re going to talk about a model, specifically the Leadership Success Sequence. It was developed by a former AstraZeneca executive named Larry Freedman, who I was so happy to interview for this show as he sets out on the next phase of his journey in helping others become better leaders.
A couple of things that stood out for me in terms of our conversation that fit in line directly with what this show is about is that he talked about the continuous drive to improve as a leader. The tagline of this show is, “Leaders are learners.” It’s so true. He spoke to that throughout this in his model. I’m so honored to have him on the show and talk about a model that he used. In the short time that I had to meet with him and interact, I saw this model in him. Let’s get into it.
Larry, thanks again for being on the show. You have capped off a pretty distinguished career in the pharmaceutical industry, leaving as an executive business director in the sales arena. You have so much knowledge that we can tap into. As you get ready to embark on the next space where you’re going to make your mark and impact, I wanted to see if we could dig into something you had provided, which was a model you created. The title of it is the Leadership Success Sequence. As I looked through that, I thought, “This has so much to it.” Your lengthy experience of using this has so much value.
Pat, thanks a lot for the opportunity. It’s an honor. Certainly, one of my favorite topics is leadership and how we can help leaders be even more effective in their roles. I’m excited about the conversation. Thank you.
You had created the Leadership Success Sequence. There are four components that you talk about. I’ll hit on them quickly. I hope we can dig into them individually. You talk about building a relationship. Creating a strong culture is number two: enhancing capabilities and driving results.
Over my time as a leader, I was always trying to do things better and differently and evolve as a leader each year. Over my years, I had some great teams. I’m proud of the performance we had and the patients we served while doing so. I started to think about it after a while. What were some of the commonalities? Why were these teams, aside from having great people, having the success that they were having? It came down to this somewhat basic formula that you described and that I’ve deemed the Success Sequence. The word sequence is important because it does follow a specific order.
The first part of the Success Sequence in leading a team is to build relationships with the people on your team. It may sound basic, but sometimes leaders don’t take the time necessary to build the relationships in a genuine, authentic, and meaningful way. Get to know the person beyond what they do at AstraZeneca and who they are as a person, their interests outside of work, and their family and hobbies. Those things matter. It’s key in doing so that there’s a genuine and sincere interest and that it certainly doesn’t come across in any way, shape, form, or fashion as transactional.
Once you’ve built the relationship with each individual on the team, and it is individual conversations that happen over time, you start to create a culture. Culture is the tie that binds each individual that’s on the team. What is it that connects them all? What is that North Star that you’re all shooting for or that common vision, mission, and passion that creates the culture? It depends upon what your role is within the organization. I lead second-level leaders at my organization. Does that cascade to the next level, which is district sales managers?When you inspire accountability, you're more likely to gain that person's commitment. When you hold someone accountable, you’re, at best, going to get compliance. Click To Tweet
It would go from 8 regional or commercial business directors to 54 district sales managers. Are they buying into the culture, belief, and mission? The district sales managers cascades to between 400 and 500 sales representatives. When you have that and it’s done well, you have a culture. From there, you have great relationships, a culture, and a belief system. Enhance capabilities and identify within the organization but also within each person. What are the skill gaps that may exist with each individual? What are the holistic skill gaps that the team can get better at?
It comes down to enhancing capabilities or developing people. One thing I wanted to say ties into the sequence. Constructive feedback lands as criticism and less as a relationship. That relationship is important to have. Feedback without a relationship could land as criticism. Once you have the relationships and culture and you’ve worked on those gaps and opportunities to make the team and individuals better, the natural manifestation of those three things is driving performance and results.
I’ve been asked about this, especially if we have new leaders that have said, “How long do I spend on each one?” It’s more of a concept than anything else. It’s not, “We’re going to do relationships for two weeks and then move to culture.” It happens organically and more conceptually as you think about it. What you don’t want to do is your first sit-down with your first rep. Perhaps a common mistake of new managers that want to impress with results is you take out the market share charts and the volume charts and start going through it before you’ve even asked the person his or her name. I’m being facetious, but it happens.
There’s a lot to unpack here. If we take a step back and look at relationships, to me, this is the foundation. It seems so simple. What is simple and what is done or what’s common sense and what’s applied are oftentimes not the same thing. The behaviors make the difference here in terms of the relationships, “If I don’t feel as though you care about me as an individual, I don’t care how much you know, your title, and your success as a manager or a rep. It misses the mark if I don’t think that you care for me as an individual first.”
I love that you bring that up because I do think it’s an important component to this. I look at this in the environment that we’re in now, which we haven’t even hit on yet. The market or industry has changed so much over the years as the pandemic started. We had this conversation. I got into the industry back in 1998. I remember coming into the industry at that point.
Old-timers or people that have been in the industry for a while said, “It has changed so much. This is the end. It’s never going to survive because of the changes.” You hear about that every five years. We’re in that environment. How cliché is this? This time it’s different. There is a seismic shift that has happened because of access and things like that. If you don’t have good relationships with those individuals, it makes it difficult to have difficult conversations about what are the real challenges that reps are facing in the medical field in this environment.
We will talk about the environment. There’s something I wanted to build on. I want to make sure I get the T word in as it relates to relationships. That is trust. That’s foundational to everything because behind the trust, then people understand your intention, which is important.
To me, it’s the mortar between the bricks of all the other stuff. If you don’t have trust, this step doesn’t work. You mentioned something else that I thought was interesting. You dealt with second-level managers. How important is it for this to start at the top? You’re setting the course for this. You need to make sure that you have eight people that report to you, that they have all bought into this, and to ensure that they then buy into it before it ever gets to the people that are going to be impacted by this like the people on the frontline and the salespeople. Is there anything that you did, in particular, to ensure that was happening?
One of the things that we led to was the concept of leading two levels deep. I was the executive business director, and some people may know that term as national sales director. I led the second-level leaders from a functional responsibility and had daily interactions seemingly with each one. When you lead two levels deep, it’s also important that I develop meaningful relationships with the district managers or those frontline managers.
I did that anytime I had an opportunity, whether it was a one-on-one phone call. For example, during the pandemic, I spoke with all 54 of them individually over time to see how they were doing, how their teams were doing, and what was keeping them up at night. There were a number of different forms that I would create to talk to those district sales managers to get a better sense of the culture. Two levels deep also mean it was important for the second level or the commercial business directors to have relationships with the representatives.
As a concept, if the district sales managers are going two levels deep into their organization, that’s customers. It’s important that they have those customer relationships. As a concept, leading two levels deep is a way to gain insight into the culture that you’re creating as close as you can possibly get it. That’s not to say I didn’t have a lot of conversations with the representatives. If any of them are reading this, they certainly know that I created a number of forums to talk to them as well.
That’s a great concept. We move on to sequence enhancing capabilities. What better area to start talking about enhancing capabilities than the environment that most reps are into as a virtual selling environment. Historically, that’s not something that was regularly done. There were times when we would do it, but that’s not the standard way we’re doing this. I’m curious. How did you approach that?
Prior to the pandemic, we would use Skype, which had a camera capability, but no one ever thought to even turn the camera on in 2019 and early 2020. Now every meeting is on Zoom or Teams. It’s the exception if the camera is off. You’re wondering, “Why is that camera off?” Things have certainly changed. Virtual selling, I do believe, is here to stay. What I’ve seen is it falls into two camps. The first camp is, “We will do it if we have to do it. Maybe I’m not 100% comfortable doing it, but when everything locked down, that was the only opportunity.”
You have others that have embraced the hybrid selling environment and look for opportunities to sell virtually and bring value to their customers. In some cases, depending on the environment, you can be in almost two places simultaneously, give or take, when you’re selling virtually. During the pandemic, and we’re still in the pandemic, I was often invited onto calls. I could start to forge relationships with customers in one specific case who was out in San Diego and was able to meet this customer, HCP, doctor, or cardiologist virtually.
I forged a great relationship and exchanged cellphone numbers. The doctor then called me when he changed his prescribing behavior to the product that was being promoted at the time. When I went out to San Diego, the doctor changed his schedule to meet the representative and me for lunch. There are all different things and ways to be creative, leverage people in headquarters, and lend their expertise to customers while they’re at home or in the headquarter office.
Without question, you bring up a point that I would hit on. There’s always going to be a lack of resources. There’s always a time when we’re not going to have what we need. The budget and time aren’t there. We all have equal access to resourcefulness. If anything, this pandemic has created an environment where being resourceful is what’s going to make the difference. The other part that I thought was interesting was about adding value. This has created an environment where you need to demonstrate value quickly because people don’t have a lot of time.This pandemic has created an environment where being resourceful is what's going to make the difference. Click To Tweet
I do a lot of work in healthcare and see the other end of this. They spend most of their day in Zoom calls. What they have termed it is Zoomitis at this point. The other thing they have said is that the people they have as participants on these calls are what they call Zoombies. They’re so tired of being on the Zoom calls that they’re not truly present. In the biotech environment, this is something where there’s a real opportunity. If you can present value in a shorter period, it does earn you the opportunity for other things down the road, like the story you mentioned about the physician in California.
You have to. Many of the interactions in pharmaceuticals are often by chance, meaning the representatives in the hospital run into a customer in the hallway. Representatives in a hospital run into a customer in a cafe. There are appointments, but when you go to virtual, those serendipitous meetings, or if you’re in the office in the Sample Closet or by the front desk, don’t happen. It has to be an office staff, the HCP, or the customer going to the laptop, iPad, or PC and logging on and turning it on. To do that, they have to perceive that there’s going to be an absolute value in doing that. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.
You mentioned something that, in my experience, many managers didn’t want to address, whether it was out of their discomfort. There’s serendipity. A lot of interactions are going to happen by coincidence or being in the right spot. In sales, in general, I thought there were three C’s to selling. One is Coincidence, meaning it happened. It’s the right day and right time. One was Causal, meaning the rep directly impacted choosing the treatment that was done based on being there. The other part was there was a Correlation to the selling. It wasn’t direct.
You didn’t need to be there, but because you had laid the foundation long enough, it was going to happen. Too often, we get nervous, thinking that means we don’t add a lot of value. We can talk about territories that were qualifying for President’s Club that were vacant. That says that there were a lot of coincidences and that it just so happened. That doesn’t take away the value that reps provide. Let’s realize that some of this is going to take place by itself. To move the needle to get the most value, the rep has to do those things that add value to create more correlation.
You could look at every different study, analysis, and so forth. There’s no greater value than a representative’s positive influence or persuasion with a customer. You could send all the emails you want and do everything else you want with digital journals, congresses, and so on. At the end of the day, that representative having a relationship with that customer and presenting the features, benefits, and value proposition of their specific product and how it serves patients ultimately will always be the most effective way to sell a pharmaceutical product.
I don’t think that sales representatives are going away anytime soon. There’s a great value proposition for them. A point worth mentioning is in COVID, many of the rules have changed. The representatives that are able to get the most time and have the most influence, whether it’s virtual or live, following the rules of the office or institution, are those with relationships and connections to the customer and the office. That is a competitive advantage and always will be.
Along those lines, if you look at the Success Sequence that you’ve set up and at 2019 to 2022, is there one in that sequence that you say needs a little more attention in this environment? Are they all equally the same?
It’s every aspect of the Success Sequence. We didn’t talk a lot about driving results because driving results are the manifestation of the relationships, culture, and capabilities, but we certainly cannot lose sight of driving results. That’s super important in serving patients when you drive results. Suppose I looked at the sequence and asked, “Which one as a result of the pandemic has been impacted the most?” This is personal taste. It was culture. We’re able to form a connection with the team virtually, but we have so many stories of people that were hired over the years. They were hired by someone via Zoom. They had never met that person. There were always jokes if they finally met live that so-and-so was taller or shorter than they thought because everyone is the same height on Zoom.
The thing that I missed the most, especially when everyone was in lockdown in 2020, were the opportunities, hugs, handshakes, team meetings, dinners, time in the car with the sales representative, and the getting-to-know-you aspect of it. That’s how the culture truly gets built over time. We’re at the height of another wave of COVID. Hopefully, when things can return to some degree of normalcy, the great things that created culture are able to come back and then some because it’s important. It makes a difference. Capturing hearts and minds is hard to do through a Zoom meeting.
I would agree with you there overall, regardless of where we are. I would label it as isolation. The more we have been isolated, the harder it is. We’re herd animals. We need each other. There’s a huge drive for that. For what it’s worth, at least anecdotally, I’m hearing that people are ready for that. They’re willing to take whatever a little more risk might involve. They want that connection as opposed to a Zoom call. It’s going to happen sooner.
I hope it does. I’m laughing because you talk about isolation. If my former colleagues were reading this, I would remember when the mailman used to pull up. It was the highlight of the day if I could get out there and say hello to someone that was either not on Zoom or outside of my immediate family. The isolation part of it is certainly hard, especially with the type of people, generally speaking, that make up a salesforce. That’s not to say that salesforce doesn’t have introverts. There’s nothing wrong with being introverted. Generally speaking, the profile of a sales leader and sales representative is one of an extrovert. It’s someone that doesn’t like to be locked in their bunker for hours on end on Zoom calls.
Along those lines, it will drive my wife nuts. If we’re out in public and I sent any type of opening for a conversation with somebody in an elevator or wherever it might be, she will give me an eye every so often like, “We don’t have time for this. Do not get into a conversation.” She knows I can’t help myself. I want to step into something that we had talked about briefly around accountability. It was interesting to hear how you phrased it because I share a similar opinion. I would love to hear you talk about your view of accountability.
One of the terms that I’ve grown to hate over the years and I want to qualify is, “Hold accountable. I’m going to hold you accountable. I’m holding you accountable for the quality of this show.” To me, we can even debate the word accountable. I like the word inspire accountability because it’s more of a partnership between you and the person when you inspire accountability. You’re going after a goal together. You’re motivating and capturing hearts and minds.
When you inspire accountability, you’re much more likely to gain that person’s commitment. When you hold someone accountable, you’re at best going to get compliance. They’re going to do what they think you want them to do because you’re their boss. That, to me, is not the secret sauce. It’s how you inspire, capture hearts and minds, gains commitment, and together go tackle a goal.
To me, it’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic is, “I’m motivated to do this not because I’m afraid if I don’t, the stick is coming out. I believe in this.” I look at it as ownership. We’re all going after the same thing here. What’s interesting about the sequence itself is it’s not as though we’re going to spend two weeks on relationships and culture. Even if there is a sequence to it, it’s a dance at this point where inspiring accountability builds a better relationship with that person and impacts culture as well in a different way. We’re known as a culture that isn’t about whacking each other over the head and pointing fingers. We’re in this together.
I know that you do a lot of reading and research into analytics. It doesn’t matter what Google search you do. Engaged employees are more productive employees. It’s that simple. In the end, it comes down to, “How do we get that discretionary effort, tap into that employee engagement, and enhance that employee experience that each person is having?”
We’re in a strange time with this whole Great Resignation where people not just in pharmaceuticals but everywhere, perhaps uninspired by their jobs, seeking to do something else, need to be at home, or whatever the case may be, are not connecting with their employer. The employee experience and how they feel about their organization, jobs, manager, and culture are massive. I’ve used the term secret sauce a few times. I’ll use it again. That’s what it is. It’s tapping into that.Engaged employees are more productive employees. Click To Tweet
I would agree in relation to the Great Resignation because I’ve heard that so much. Certainly, you can’t deny the number of people that have quit their jobs and are going to other places. I would argue, especially in what I’ve seen personally over the years of research in different areas, that a lot of people resigned many years ago emotionally and intellectually. It’s just that physically, they are now resigning.
That’s a result of more opportunities being available and also people deciding that enough is enough, “I don’t want to do this anymore. Either I’m going to start my own business. I’m going to retire early because I’m not going to put up with this anymore.” It’s the thought that all of a sudden, everybody had a light bulb moment to say, “I’m going to quit.” If you look at the research from Gallup, people quit a long time ago. It’s just that physically, their bodies are now going with them.
The mental resignation precedes the physical one. A perceptive, intuitive, and insightful manager can pick that up in his or her people and understand when that has happened.
What’s important is that if you follow the research from Gallup, and I can say from my anecdotal experience in working with organizations, about 70% of that feeling of engagement or disengagement is the direct result of who the person reports to. That’s a huge number for organizations to recognize. That’s a huge responsibility to put on a manager who supposedly takes care of your most important asset, your people.
You also have to more than assume. You have to know that the manager is checked in as well. That’s the first dysfunction of a team. If the manager has checked out that mental resignation, what do you think is going to happen to the 8, 10, or 12 individuals that he or she is responsible for? Responsibility is right up the line as it relates to leadership and ensuring that the emotional connection and engagement are there with everyone.
Here you are transitioning to your next phase. It allows us to then talk about legacy, which is another topic that you find important. You’re living it now.
Legacy would be the fifth part of the Success Sequence if there was a fifth concept. Legacy is interesting because legacy is what you leave behind. Legacy can be a certain individual thing or, depending upon your impact, will be a broad consensus type of thing. Once your legacy has been formed or shaped, there’s generally not a chance to go back and make it better or worse. It is what it is. That legacy and impact you’ve had on people should be important to every leader. What you find is a legacy transcends time and organization.
I can remember back when I started as a sales rep the first national sales director that we ever had. He would come on stage and there would be a room at the time of 200, 300, to 400 people. He’s such a dynamic public speaker and influencer. You think he’s looking at you the entire time. You’re looking around at your friends, “Was he looking at anybody else?” That’s the legacy. When I talk to colleagues from back then, we all have that same perspective.
I hope for the people that I’ve led over the years that I’ve been with my organization that I left a lasting legacy. Maybe it was a quote, strategy, tactic, resource, relationship, or connection that we had. Something comes up and they go, “I remember that.” You get a text years later. That’s special. It should be important to every leader. What’s the legacy that you’re leaving behind for folks that invested in you and followed you as a part of your organization?
What a great exercise to do right out of the gate in terms of a leadership development course, if you think about it. As you’re developing leaders within your organization, that becomes an exercise. What would you want your legacy to be as you start your leadership career? What do you want that to look like? That says a lot in terms of how you shape the direction you go to and the behaviors you exhibit. For you, as you’re looking into the next phase of your career, you want to be able to do that again and help develop legacies for others. What is the best way if somebody were interested in wanting to find out more about Larry, your experiences, and what you can provide them to get ahold of you?
It’s LinkedIn. On my LinkedIn profile, my email is certainly there. The messenger function on LinkedIn works. Feel free. I would love to hear from people, whether they’re people that I’ve known, new friends, or somebody that read this show and say, “I had a question. I would love to talk to you more about the Success Sequence.” I would love to talk to them about it as well. This is slightly off the question, but one thing that’s important is also your network. Your legacy isn’t mutually exclusive from your network.
While I was at my organization, anybody reached out to me from a networking perspective, whether internal or external. I was always quick to respond and do whatever I could. Now I’m on the other side of that. I’m very grateful to the network of people that I’ve known over the years. Some are still with the organization and many are not because I reach out. You’re a great example. We hadn’t spoken in quite some time, we reached out, and we’re doing this show together.
I’ll add to that in terms of what you talk about because it has been years since I left. We met through my proposals and what I wanted to try and bring to the organization that you’re with in regards to some leadership ideas that I’m doing. When I left and started my own company, I reached out to you in terms of having a connection. There was nothing in it for you to connect with me. You didn’t see down the road, “I’m going to want to reach out at some point because I’m going to be starting a new venture.” There was none of that.
You did it because we had a connection. I won’t forget that in terms of the conversations that we had. You were an executive, yet you took the time to listen to what I was proposing for the organization. You did it sincerely and I felt that. What you’ve talked about here in this sequence, in a short period of time, our interactions, I experienced it. It’s legitimate.
I would be remiss if I went this entire show without thanking AstraZeneca. They’re a great organization with great people and products. To express my gratitude to an outstanding organization and at the same time acknowledge I am excited to start that next chapter, I wanted to do that and also if I could leave you with a quote. I love this quote and it’s genuine, “As a leader, your goal should be to make every interaction count and leave people better than you found them.” If you can replicate that through one-on-one conversations, conversations with 10 people, conversations with a region of 60 people, or conversations on Zoom with 500 people, you’ve had success. With that, I thank you so much for this opportunity. I wish you luck and continued success, Pat, at what you do. Thank you so much.
Thanks. I wish you the best. Take care.
About Larry Freedman
He built a strong reputation for being an inspirational leader, who is passionate about his people and the patients they serve with best-in-class medications. Throughout his career, he created and led highly engaged selling teams, who maintain outstanding culture, while driving top-tier sales performance. He’s been able to do this by building trust and inspiring personal accountability with his team members. He has a growth mindset and a natural curiosity, which helps him to solve critical business challenges.
He places an emphasis on developing and growing strong, authentic relationships, so that he can tap into each individual “why,” and TOGETHER can exceed their goals. One of his greatest strengths is his unique ability to attract, retain, and develop top talent, which has resulted in numerous promotions.
At AstraZeneca, he was one of the organization’s most decorated commercial employees, and won several awards and distinctions. Examples include, but aren’t limited to the following:
Five Circle of Excellence and one Presidents Club Award for leading the top-selling team in my division.
CEO Award- For the outstanding turnaround of Brilinta (46% year over year) after a relatively flat launch.
Two Leadership Excellence Awards, which were presented to the top leaders in the organization for outstanding leadership.
Led the total buildout and launch of the Neurology Selling Team, which included the placement of all leadership and sales personnel, territory design and account lists.
Led several successful product launches, most recently a heart failure indication for Farxiga, which quickly achieved market leadership status.
The world is a crazy place right now, with the pandemic and violence. People really need to find ways to prevent these issues from rising. This is where the book, Strengths-Based Prevention comes in handy. Join Patrick Veroneau as he talks to the authors of Strengths-Based Prevention, Dr. Sherry Hamby and Dr. Victoria Banyard. Sherry is a research professor of psychology at the University of the South. She is also the Director of Life Paths Research Center. Victoria is a professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers. Learn more about their book and why the prevention of drug abuse, suicide, and sexual abuse is tougher than you think. Sometimes those prevention programs can actually cause more harm than good. Understand how prevention programs should really run in today’s episode.
Listen to the podcast here:
Strengths-Based Prevention Programs Done Right With Drs. Sherry Hamby And Victoria Banyard
Thank you for joining me. In this episode, I have two guests. They are coauthors in a book called Strengths-Based Prevention: Reducing Violence and Other Public Health Problems. This book was published in November of 2021. The first author is Dr. Vicki Banyard. She is a Professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The second author is Dr. Sherry Hamby, who is a Research Professor of Psychology at the University of the South. She is also the Director of Life Paths Research Center. Dr. Hamby’s work has appeared in publications like The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News, and hundreds of other media outlets.
The conversation that we had around their book looks at prevention that focuses on building assets and resources. It draws on so many different disciplines to help with prevention and preventing things violence, drug abuse, suicide or risky sexual behavior. We also talk about the prevention or uptake of vaccines. If you are interested at all regarding prevention, this is a proactive approach to how do we draw on the research and theories that are out there from a variety of different disciplines to reduce violence and other public health problems. Let’s get into it.
Vicki and Sherry, thank you again for being on the show. This to me is such a fitting time to talk about your new book, congratulations on that, Strengths-Based Prevention: Reducing Violence and Other Public Health Problems. What was the driver for you in terms of this approach to prevention?
We talk about some of our own prevention stories in the book. It comes from when I was of an age for being exposed to prevention. In fact, the story for me was more of the absence of prevention, which is there weren’t a lot of these kinds of prevention messages in the public school that I went to. There might have been some conversations at home but there wasn’t very much of it. To become a prevention researcher and reflect on the absence of those conversations made me interested in studying prevention but also in thinking about strengths.
The more I have spent time with college students and in my research with adolescents in middle and high schools realizing that prevention is not always the first thing people want to sign up to do. Having taught some of those early prevention programs where it was hard to get the butts in seats starting to think about, “How can we do this differently because I don’t think what we are doing is working?”
I would pick up on the last piece that Vicki said is, we invest a fairly good chunk of money, teacher time, and other resources into prevention. When you read the literature, it’s quite discouraging what the outcome effects for almost all of that are. Things that it seems like would be a no-brainer, like who wants to become addicted to drugs? This doesn’t seem like that’s a big population pushing on the other side going, “Yes for opioids.”
At the same time, despite our prevention efforts, to take that as one example, the drug crisis is worse than ever. In 2021, we broke a record with fatal opioid overdoses. We are motivated by our desire to help people reset and feel like there’s a lot of information out there and other fields that if we brought that into prevention, we could provide some guidance about what a reset might look like.
To me, that is so fascinating, too. As I was reading in the book, you mentioned things like D.A.R.E. that clearly is one of those programs that probably hasn’t been as successful as many people thought. Going in the opposite direction, I think of “Say No To Drugs.” That campaign or the commercials that were out there about the person that put the egg in the frying pan and said, “This is your brain on drugs.” Those things you would have thought would have made a difference but in fact, there’s evidence that would suggest that those probably did more harm at times than good. In terms of drug abuse, in Maine where I am, in 2021, there was a 30% increase in overdoses.
It’s huge and sad. The stress of the pandemic has taken a toll there as it has in so many other realms of our life. That’s exactly right what you are saying about the D.A.R.E. effort or the “Say No To Drugs.” I had something like that when I was in school. It was the very first time that I saw a lot of that paraphernalia. They don’t come in and say, “Don’t use drugs.” They came and spread all this paraphernalia out there. It’s like, “Here’s a bong. The weed goes in here and you put your mouth here.”
It was almost like this educational session. I knew so much more at the end of that about how to use drug paraphernalia than I had going into it as an adolescent. It’s that idea that knowledge transfer doesn’t work. Teens are worried about peer impressions and rejection. Maybe a team who didn’t know how a bong worked, if it got passed to them at a party or something like that, they would say, “No, thanks.” Try not to make a big deal of it instead of risk humiliating themselves.
These nice police officers have come in and showed us all how to do that. What they are unintentionally doing is lowering obstacles to use. There is some evidence that, at least, in some of the outcome studies students who received that program were slightly more likely to use drugs than other teens were. The Surgeon General came out and said that this isn’t a good program. One of the major psychological associations said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.” None of that has had any real impact on it because it has this brand and momentum of its own that’s almost in the total absence of the scientific evidence in support of it.
Along those lines, we talked before about confirmation bias, which raises one of these things that continues to come up. Would you say that there’s even confirmation bias there in terms of those that don’t want to admit that these programs don’t have the intended impact that they want but will look for evidence that shows that it is there and discount all the stuff that says the opposite?
I think that’s a piece of it. The intention is good that people want to be doing something. When you have something that has a lot of longevity and that people know and recognize, it does become the thing that you can default to. Sometimes resources and funding specifically state the program. It can create challenges to pivoting off of that program to something else.Drug prevention could actually do more harm than good. It's really discouraging what the outcome effects for almost all that are. Click To Tweet
It’s hard sometimes to move away from the idea. This is something we explore a lot in the book about how some of the things that may be most useful in preventing substance use and violence may not involve talking about those things at all. It isn’t to say we don’t talk about it at all ever but we have become so focused on knowledge transmission and it’s not violence prevention if we are not talking about violence.
When in fact building strengths, a sense of belonging, mattering, purpose, these things can have a much bigger moving needle effect on reducing behaviors related to violence than talking about it. The bigger picture there as well, is a resource one because to Sherry’s point, we have spent a lot of money on prevention, not always well-spent or effective but we don’t overly spend on prevention either.
I think people become very siloed. They have to justify their lane and program so that they can be doing something. It leads to a very siloed approach that focuses on, “The reason I can say my program is special is that I’m focused on this particular thing, and this is what we talk about.” I don’t know if that makes sense.
I was thinking as I was reading this, so many things are relevant to what we are going through around vaccines. It’s the thing that kept coming into my head. I’m wondering, when did you decide to put this together? The reason I asked that is, was this pre-pandemic that this idea that both of you said, “We are going to coauthor this book?”
The idea was pre-pandemic. It’s an idea that we had been tossing back and forth for a few years now. It came out of some earlier work we had done on something called the Resilience Portfolio Model, which similarly tries to take a broader view of thinking about what helps people overcome trauma. It’s not necessarily always talk therapy or things like that being the solution. We wrote a lot of it during the pandemic.
We do have several examples in there that relate to the pandemic but we also were trying to envision a time when the pandemic will hopefully be over, so we didn’t want to make it too focused on the pandemic. In terms of vaccine uptake and all kinds of other mask-wearing and things like that, lots of prevention messages that are going out are not working that well. Some of the points in our book would apply to those.
I’m not even thinking about the vaccine portion of it but I look at some of the topics on here, talking about drug abuse, overdoses, and suicide rates. We know that those increased. As you were writing this, were you thinking like, “This is different now than prior to the pandemic in terms of how we are putting this together?”
What we have thought about is the urgency. As Sherry mentioned earlier, part of our goal in the book is to draw together lessons learned from a lot of different fields. Something that at least has happened during the pandemic is that we are much more talking about all of those things in the same breath because the pandemic itself has elevated and worsened a lot of those things. We know that it’s worsening interpersonal violence in the home, substance use, mental health concerns and suicide.
The pandemic itself has created conversations where those areas and thinking about prevention in those areas is not only more urgent but those conversations are referring to include all of those things together, which have usually been more siloed. That is a very similar goal to what we have had in our book to say, “There are some things that interconnect all of these different issues and that we can learn to enhance prevention that might help across these public health concerns.”
Along those lines, one thing that I found interesting is the way that you break out each of these different theories or approaches to prevention and in the end saying, “What are the pros and cons to them?” It was very helpful for me to say, “It’s not to say that this is the next best thing or this is where it fits.” It’s to say, “This is where this one might be better served than this approach.”
One that stands out to me that I have always found very helpful is motivational interviewing. It’s underutilized in terms of trying to create an environment where people take responsibility. It’s not about admonition here or knowledge transfer but as I would see it, it’s more about getting people to align with making the change themselves.
I’m a huge fan of motivational interviewing. In our framework, we would think of that as something that helps with meaning-making. A lot of times if somebody might get referred or mandated to treatment for substance abuse or violence, those are some of the fields where it has been used a lot or even something like quitting cigarette smoking. Motivational interviewing is a great way to help them reconnect to their own reasons for being there. How does this connect to a larger sense of purpose and goals for your own life?
Those are all meaning-making processes. Sometimes the way we approach treatment is that we jump in and assume that work has already been done, anybody who’s seeking help for drugs, violence or whatever the case may be, already know what the reasons they are there for. Making that explicit and giving that chance to organize the therapy, help them figure out what they are motivated to do and what they are not motivated to do is a terrific evidence-based practice.
It’s shown to be helpful in so many different therapeutic problems. It’s a relatively easy thing to learn in its most common use. It’s like one session at the beginning of a treatment program. It’s a great example of something that doesn’t take a lot of resources either to make a meaningful improvement in how well any program works.Some of the most useful things in preventing substance abuse may not involve talking about it at all. Click To Tweet
It’s an example of how we can be learning from strategies that work in other contexts and bring them forward to address a variety of issues and center the strengths. As Sherry was saying, meaning-making and part of that is the meaning-making, which is a piece of the strengths portfolio that often gets too little attention, if you will. It’s also that pivot to helping people think about strengths and helping them think about, “Choose to be here and where is it that I’m headed?”
Our focus is on prevention, treatment, and a lot of times, with good reason and urgency because the risk and the problem are writ large and it is what people are trying to deal with. We also get so focused that we don’t inquire and build in enough time to talk about what’s going well or what’s the goal toward what could be well. The goal is not the absence of a problem and a big problem in our prevention work is that we don’t have a good picture of what should it look like. What’s the presence of as opposed to, “We want this to go away?”
Along those lines, how do you address suicide? What I have read is we are seeing such an increase, especially during this timeframe. How would you use strength-based approaches in that environment?
Several things come immediately to mind and I’m sure Vicki can weigh in on this, too. Ideally, what you would do for a good suicide prevention program is that you would start well before there’s a crisis and focus on the high-risk group like adolescents, older people who have become unemployed, had some financial crisis or something like that.
If we stick with young people where maybe it’s a little easier thinking about it developmentally, a lot of people are motivated to go through difficult times and do push through periods of depression or feelings of rejection because they are connected to something larger. They have dreams about going to school or a good social support group that gives them a sense of belonging.
Prevention programs that focus on those things before there’s any crisis that you are helping kids develop a sense of meaning-making, find out what their purpose in life is and identify some goals. You could probably do a little preparation for them that you are going to go through times when you might feel low. Not hide from that or pretend that’s a rare experience because it’s not a rare experience at all. Brainstorm ways that they can work their way through that and also work on their social networks and make sure that there are good resources for them to turn to when things get tough and a broader system level. Good suicide prevention also means investing in resources.
I was at a meeting here in our local county and our school system is short of five guidance counselors in this relatively pretty small rural county. More than half of the guidance counselor positions are vacant, which has been part of the challenges around the Great Resignation and all the other things that have been happening. That systemic limitation is also not doing suicide prevention. They need to find ways to fill those positions. What they probably need to do is find funds to give market rates of pay for those positions for one thing.
There are lots of things that you can do as like a coordinated suicide prevention approach that would be at all different levels of the social ecology. Some of it might be coaching individual young people who might think is an at-risk group but it’s also thinking at these larger system levels about what do we need to be in place so that people don’t get to the moment when they are sitting there with a bottle of pills or on the side of a bridge.
I would underscore that broader systems perspective. That’s something we talk about in a number of different sections of the book. We tend to default to the one person at a time view of prevention. Even a lot of our curriculum that I have been part of, it’s about teaching this one person or this other person and they can think differently. That interconnected we and that broader community set of resources for, not only being available to somebody when they are getting into a difficult place but even beforehand.
To have the resources in school, the after-school programs, the music programs, the sports programs that are free, and the resource neighborhoods. Prevention is ultimately a social justice enterprise. We need to be thinking about that broader context because a lot of our programs fail because we are so centered on the individual and that individual is in this bigger context and we need to be attending to that.
Along those lines, especially over the last two years is that we have been so isolated. We had a difficult time with my son in 2021 through remote schooling to the point that we made the decision to basically leave the state. We went down to Florida for almost six weeks and rented a place down there. We didn’t know what to do quite honestly but felt like we needed a change of environment.
It was very restrictive up here. We said, “If we are going to be remote school, we are going to do it in a different environment.” It worked for us the change of environment but he got involved in sports when he got back and that made a huge difference to have that outlet that so many kids don’t have those outlets available to them.
That’s why we talk about prevention in terms of our portfolio so that you have lots of different assets and resources. One crisis is not going to eliminate everything that you’ve got. My son is a freshman in college in 2022. He also had a tough time with the switch to online schooling. He needed that three-dimensional environment to even keep up with his assignments and stuff. I didn’t realize how much he was relying on like, “What did you get for problem twelve in the cafeteria and stuff?” You’ve got to cue him along like, “This is what’s happening in these classes.” When he was sitting by himself in front of that computer, it all went out the window and it was very difficult.Prevention is ultimately a social justice enterprise. Click To Tweet
I do think that getting involved in sports or even moving to Florida, a change of scenery can be healing in and of itself. We have all probably felt that on vacation but I imagine that also going to the warmer climate might have meant that he got to spend more time in the sunshine and the outdoors. Those things are also very healing. It also points back to this systemic issue because we have been dealing with the pandemic here in the United States in a way that puts a lot of the burden on our children.
We have been closing schools and pushing them into online schooling environments. There’s no question that they are not as good as in-person environments, meanwhile, we are still keeping bars, restaurants, and things open. If you sat almost anybody down and said, “If you had to close one thing, bars or schools, which one would you close in an emergency?” I don’t think that there are very many people that would be like, “I would pick the schools. Let’s keep the bars open.” If somehow, we have found ourselves in that situation anyway, our kids are bearing the burden of it.
I made that argument multiple times. The generation that is the least impacted medically from this has been asked to pay the largest emotional price for this.
You think about the developmental moments of what they are also learning in school about social relationships and all of that stuff. We know that’s very different to navigate online than it is in person.
The topic that I try and talk about less because it raises people’s emotions the highest is around vaccines. As I was reading this book, I thought many times that, “This fits.” If you talk about strengths-based prevention, I looked back on this whole process. Somebody who has been vaccinated and spends a lot of time in the space of persuasion or influence in leadership is, “We mess this thing up in terms of getting people to buy into the benefits of vaccination.” I would love your thoughts on that.
There are a lot of things related to this but one of the take-home messages for me in writing the book and being in this prevention space is that we need lots of strategies. Part of how we go awry if you will is that we want to find one answer. We want one social marketing message that we can put out on the TV. We want one thing that’s going to reach everyone, turn them around and get them to think differently about this. We know that it doesn’t work. You talk about leadership. People turn to different kinds of leaders, informal leaders in their networks, and leaders who are famous people. People resonate with different influencers.
That’s one dimension about who is the messenger. We tend to try to find one thing that’s going to address the problem rather than taking a more nuanced approach to say probably one message isn’t going to work for everyone. We also tend to focus a bit more on the risk part. There’s a study we talk about in the book that some researchers did. I’m not sure if it was specific to vaccines. It might have been related to masks but it was talking about if you use a message that’s more about, “Do this, so you can avoid death,” versus, “Do this to help your community.”
They’ve got some more positive responses for more of the positive help your community thing. It’s the testing of different messages to try to get things that will resonate with people, understanding that not everyone will resonate with the same argument. If you are using an argument that someone is not resonating with at all, saying it more forcefully, is probably going to lead them to resist more forcefully.
I totally agree with all of that. I would add a couple of things. If some emergency like this comes up again and as people say, it’s not unlikely that we will be better prepared, there are still a lot of obstacles to getting vaccines that are not being thought through. On one hand and certainly, compared to many other countries, we have incredible accessibility. Even here in the small, rural county where I live, you can go to any of the pharmacies or the health department.
It sounds easy but if you scratch it a little bit, it’s not as easy as it could be. For example, the closest place to me is to go to a pharmacy and that’s one of the national chain pharmacies. Also, you have to go online and make an appointment. You can’t just walk in. When you go online and make an appointment, there’s this rather long form you have to fill out. Even though my whole family has been picking up our prescriptions at this place for years and they have all of our insurance information. When I bring in a prescription or if I call on a refill, I don’t have to provide my insurance information because it’s not changed.
When I had to sign up for the vaccine, I had to go dig my insurance card out and re-enter all of that information. That assumes that you’ve got access to the internet and the computer skills to fill out those online forms. It’s not as easy as it should be. Even if you have all of that, you still have to take time out of your day and go over there during regular pharmacy hours.
As a University Professor, I have that flexibility in my work but a lot of people don’t have that flexibility, so it’s a burden for them. My youngest is in college now. I don’t have childcare issues about getting over to get a vaccine or the next day I felt some of the side effects of the vaccine. I was tired. If I had a house full of small children, it might be more problematic than it would be otherwise. We are not thinking through like, “How could we reduce those obstacles? How could we make it easier for people to walk in if they feel an impulse to go get a vaccine?”
We should let them act on that impulse. We shouldn’t be like, “Maybe in a day or two, we can fit you in.” That gives them time to think about it. We could be going to workplaces. They bring vaccine centers here to my campus but there are so many workplaces in the county where you have to somehow manage to get time off to go get a vaccine. There’s still a lot that we could be doing.
As Vicki said, we could be doing a lot more to test right away what seems to be working and what doesn’t. I saw an article earlier that a bunch of analyses had been done and all these incentive programs of giving away lottery tickets, cash prizes or whatever. It turned out that those don’t seem to have had much effect. We should be much more systematically trying different types of programs and seeing which ones are moving the needle in terms of uptake with vaccines. There are things that work. We need to find out what they are and implement them faster.If you can get people together with some different points of view, then some new ideas can emerge from that. Click To Tweet
Along those lines, Vicki, as you were saying, as somebody that’s a nonacademic reading this book, what I enjoyed about it was that it was like a buffet of different approaches with commentary on, “This is where this might work or might not work. This is a plus to this.” To be in that space though, especially if your idea is not to have an ego involved but you think that your approach is the one that is the best approach.
There’s a lot of curiosity that has to be in play in that situation that I don’t think this is the direction that we are going to go because this is what’s going to move the needle. You are right about that. Being more open to exploring who has the right answer as opposed to, “I have the right answer,” is a huge thing.
We talk about collaboratives. We talk about how prevention is an enterprise that lots of people need to be involved with. As professionals, people who are doing this prevention work, are often super under-resourced. It’s very difficult for them to have time and they don’t get paid for spending a day sitting with other people who are doing other forms of prevention.
It’s very much, “We’ve got to go in and do something.” Stepping back and making more room for that because we also know from the psychology of groups that if you can get people together with some different points of view, then some new ideas can emerge from that. A lot of times we are so like, “Let’s put a Band-Aid on it or pick a program and go in there.”
I think about this quite often over the last few years is the isolation we have been under, has that impeded our ability to have a variety of ideas? When we are isolated, who have we generally been around? It’s the people that have been exactly like us. Not the variety of people that we would be around more often if it were at the water cooler or in a work setting. It’s not based on any research but other than my own observations around what I do is, I feel isolation has undermined so much of what we have done.
It takes a terrible toll. As you probably know, there has been quite a lot of research over the past couple of decades that loneliness can be one of the most dangerous and toxic effects on our physical health. People who are lonely have higher mortality rates. It’s a bigger risk factor than lots of other things that we are used to thinking of as risk factors like diet and exercise. All of us have been trying to navigate this with the pandemic and taking such a toll on everyone.
As we start to wrap things up here, I’m curious as both of you were in the process of co-authoring this book, is there anything that surfaced to either of you as you were going through this that was even a surprise to you?
For me, it was how a shift to thinking about strengths, which is something that I have to keep coming back to. My training in psychology was not oriented towards prevention but it also was not oriented towards strengths. I continue to be surprised and challenged in a good way by how resetting and saying, “What is the strengths-based approach?” I can find myself slipping back into the risk deficit kind of orientation.
Writing the book was a privilege because it gave more space and writing with Sherry, who has been a friend and colleague for my whole career to be able to have someone not writing this in isolation but to be able to have it be a true collaboration. Even writing a book on strengths, I still have to constantly challenge myself to be using the strengths lens and that different perspective.
It was definitely a big gift during the pandemic to be working on this with Vicki because it helped with my own meaning-making. It gave me a sense of purpose and also gave us a chance to connect regularly. In terms of surprise, I talk about this a lot in terms of how there are so many different silos, where people get into their own little specialty area, and then they don’t talk to people in other areas. Working on this book, I was surprised at how many different people are working on these same problems.
How many people are interested in substance abuse or suicide or things like that as an outcome, even in fields as disparate as urban planning as well as things you might think of like criminology. It was people feeling the elephant. They all have a little piece of the puzzle. It’s frustrating that there’s not a better way for people to come together. We hope with this book that we have created a resource where everyone can step back and see the whole elephant.
Along those lines, I was telling you that from a standpoint of leadership development, as I read this, I saw many components of leadership development involved in what you had put together here. It’s another piece of the elephant.
Leaders are often trying to create strengths-based environments and insulate people from different bad outcomes. These prevention messages probably aren’t used to calling it prevention but their goals would also be something that would be totally familiar to anybody working in these other fields under other names.
Back to the idea of admonishment or knowledge transfer in leadership, those oftentimes have not been effective behaviors or approaches, the same thing with this. There were a lot of crossroads.
A strengths-based prevention approach is also about training future leaders in the classic way of thinking about leaders if we think about a strengths-based approach to youth prevention. We are giving them the foundational skill that is going to enable them to be formal leaders and the way that we might define formal leadership but also informal leadership. As we talked about earlier, some of our successful prevention models are about how you get those first people who are willing to try something new, and then how they become informal diffusers. How they become the folks who go out into communities, try to get other people and you get those ripple effects.
If somebody wanted to reach out to continue to promote this, what would you recommend?
For me, the best way to keep up with my work is to go to my website. It’s LifePathsResearch.org.
I have a website at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. That’s where I work and can be found very easily for ongoing conversation.
Vicki and Sherry, thank you so much for this. Again, as somebody that’s a non-academic but somebody who is pretty nerdy on this stuff, I love this. I see all the connections here. I appreciated this and wish you both the best of luck.
Thank you so much.
Thanks so much for the opportunity. It has been great.
- Strengths-Based Prevention: Reducing Violence and Other Public Health Problems
About Sherry Hamby
Sherry Hamby has taught at Sewanee since 2008. She is Research Professor of Psychology and Director of the Life Paths Research Program at the University of the South. She is also founding editor of the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Violence, which has a top 10 ranking in Family Studies and Criminology, based on Impact Factor.
A clinical psychologist, she has worked for more than 20 years on the problem of violence, including front-line crisis intervention for domestic and other violence, involvement in grassroots domestic violence organizations, therapy with trauma survivors, and research on many forms of violence. She is the Principal Investigator of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation that focuses on the Laws of Life Essay program and is conducted from the Life Paths Research Program here on campus.
She is co-investigator on the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, which is the U.S.’s primary surveillance of youth victimization and the first national effort to measure crimes against children under 12 that are not reported to authorities. She conducted the first reservation-based study of domestic violence among American Indians and collaborated on Sortir Ensemble et Se Respecter, the first Swiss dating violence prevention program. She is a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors at the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and was selected in 2013 as a “Woman Making an Impact on Children’s Exposure to Violence” by the Safe Start National Resource Center, among other recognitions.
About Victoria Banyard
Victoria Banyard has dedicated her academic career to finding better ways to help communities prevent and respond to interpersonal violence. Banyard – who received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (and a Certificate in Women’s Studies) from the University of Michigan – has worked with colleagues across the U.S. and abroad to help shape policy at the national, state and local level through a rigorous examination of violence-prevention programs centered on a critical question: Do they work? Banyard uses multiple methods, both quantitative and qualitative, to understand how, where and why prevention strategies and programs succeed or not.
Her research, begun more than 25 years ago, underscores the importance of listening well to survivors and empowering those in a position to help them – be they policy makers, social workers, or bystanders – with the best practices available. Originally from New Jersey, Vicki is excited to return to the Garden State and join the School of Social Work faculty. She is eager to meet new colleagues and students at Rutgers – to learn from them, and join in their important work.
Now more than ever, it has become salient that the way leaders have led before needs to change and adapt to the new environment forced onto the world by the ongoing pandemic. But how do we bridge the divide between employee disengagement and organizational excellence? In this episode, Patrick Veroneau breaks down the C.A.B.L.E.S. Model of Leadership. His model focuses on six “cables” to build a stronger bridge between leaders and their teams: congruence, appreciation, belongingness, listening, empathy, and specifics. Gain valuable insights on team building and creating a healthy and productive culture by tuning in!
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Bridge The Divide Between Employee Disengagement And Organizational Excellence
Thank you for joining me in another episode. In this episode, I wanted to talk about how do we bridge the divide that’s happening now between employee engagement and organizational excellence. We hear so much about The Great Resignation. We can’t deny that 4.5 million people in November 2021 quit their jobs. It’s not as they didn’t go anywhere else.
They went other places. I would argue that The Great Resignation, in some regard, is a myth. I believe certainly over my experience is that the same number of people have been quitting their jobs. The difference now is that in the past, they quit intellectually and emotionally. They didn’t physically leave their jobs.
It has been only through the pandemic that we are starting to see that people, for whatever reason, have either gotten to a point where they are fed up with it and said, “I’m going to try and do my own thing and be an entrepreneur.” There have been enough other opportunities out there that they are looking for new avenues or jobs, and finally had the courage to leave wherever they were or they had retired early.
This idea that somehow people have not thought about quitting before November, October or September 2021 is crazy. It’s that we have finally gotten to the point where people have the courage or have found the opportunity that they are going to go somewhere else. With that said, it’s even more important for leaders and organizations to recognize that the way they led before and the behaviors that are necessary for terms of leading in this new environment have changed.
One of my favorite quotes is by a philosopher named Eric Hoffer. He once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth while the learned find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” I fully believe that those that are not open or willing to look at their own leadership behaviors in how they lead and find ways to develop those or improve those are going to be left holding back. It’s as simple as that. You will not be as effective.
Organizations are under so much more stress now that unless they have people who are engaged or onboard, it’s going to be much more difficult to reach that level of organizational excellence. It’s not to say that you can’t do well but I would argue that you are not going to do as well as you could if you behaved in ways that people were engaged when they showed up for work.
I remembered not many years ago that I was working for an organization. The CFO of that organization had horrible behaviors. He was very disruptive and disrespectful to those people that reported to him. I was working with his team. We are talking not only about emotional intelligence but what behaviors created a better environment and got people to follow your lead more effectively? His response was, “I get what I want with my behaviors.” I couldn’t disagree with that.'In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.' – Eric Hoffer Click To Tweet
They had a group or an organization that was doing well but as a CFO, somebody looking at return on investment, I could argue that he was not getting the best return. Like any other investment he was going to make within an organization if employees are our most valuable asset, he was almost damaging his most valuable asset by his behaviors. He was lucky to be getting the production that he was getting.
At that time, those people probably felt as though they had fewer options available to them in terms of leaving that organization. How do we do this? What can we do to bridge this divide? One more piece of thinking about in regard to teams. I do a lot of work with The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni’s book through DISC.
It’s an assessment that we do, which was created by Patrick Lencioni called The Five Behaviors of A Cohesive Team. What we do is we look at all five of those levels. If you don’t have trust, it’s very difficult to be a successful organization, and you oftentimes don’t have a real conflict. We need conflict. In DISC, we call it Productive Conflict.
A lot of the work that I do around that is how do you create productive conflict? We need conflict. That’s how we improve and get better. The problem is that we have conflict in ways that we become difficult on each other and not on the problems. It’s a whole different ballgame. If we don’t have real conflict, we don’t have real commitment because people will either back away because they don’t want to get into a conflict, so they don’t do anything.
They will go along with it but they have not committed to it. That, to me, is a lack of engagement. The fourth dysfunction is around lack of accountability. It means that we don’t hold each other accountable. I don’t even like the word accountability because when we hear the word accountability, we think it’s punitive. There’s something that’s going to be done negatively to you to show you that you are going to be held accountable.
We need ownership, and that’s part of that bridging the divide between employee engagement and organizational excellence. It’s about behaviors that create or cross that divide. The last dysfunction that we talk about at the top one is inattention to results. Within an organization, the people who are showing up are trying to get through the day. That’s 2/3 of employees almost.
If you look at work by Gallup or Press Ganey, the most popular ones that do a lot of the engagement surveys that I run into will talk about how 1/3 of employees are engaged, and 2/3 of employees are disengaged. More importantly, there’s a lot of research that would suggest that 70% of that disengagement is the direct result of the person they report to.
That’s a lot of responsibility or liability on one person, all based on their behaviors, the manager or the leader. That’s why we talk about cables as an approach to building better bridges. That is how we cross that divide between employee engagement and organizational excellence is through behaviors. The model that I use is called CABLES. If we think about this in terms of the Golden Gate Bridge, that one cable that runs tower to tower on the Golden Gate Bridge is about 3 feet in diameter. In actuality, if you were to do a cross-section of that, you would find that it’s about 27,000 individually wrapped cables.
To me, that’s no different than our relationships. We are building cables. The more we behave in ways that are positive toward stronger relationships is what happens. Those become stronger. It’s like with the Golden Gate Bridge. If I were to cut 100 cables on that bridge, there are so many there that structurally is not going to impact the integrity. Those need to be repaired but the bridge is not going to collapse. It’s the same thing with our relationships. If we have behaved consistently and long enough, we have built a strong relationship or leadership bridge. We cross it every day with each other.
Congruence: Walking The Talk
The more we build on this and the more cables, the stronger this bridge becomes. When we talk about CABLES, the first cable in this, the C, is around Congruence. It’s all about walking the talk. Here’s what I say and what I do the same thing. When I’m out of alignment with what I say and what I do, we build distrust. We can’t have a strong bridge when that happens.
A world event that’s going on now about the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, there was an article about how he had all of these lockdowns. The British people were under all of these lockdowns, yet there’s an email going around about how they were having a bring-your-own-booze party around Christmas for 100 people.
There’s a lack of alignment there. We see it with our own politicians in this country where that can happen. We set up these restrictions about gatherings, and then you find a picture of a politician that was at an event without a mask, completely going against what they are trying to make everybody else do. It’s this, “Rules for thee but not for me.” When we do that, we cannot build trust.
Another example of that was an organization that I was working with that had a physician that was very disruptive and had a number of people leaving that department. The argument was that they could not deal with the leaders of this group because this physician brought in so much revenue for the hospital. They were afraid to get rid of this person or to address it because if they lost this person, they would lose significant revenue.We need conflict. That’s how we improve. It’s how we get better. Click To Tweet
Appreciation: Recognizing with Sincerity
That may be so but what it says to everybody else in the organization is the values that we have that are around respect, integrity, compassion, and collaboration for each other don’t matter if you bring in $4 million in revenue a year. You get to do whatever you want. There’s a lack of alignment there. The next CABLE that we move on to is around Appreciation, and this has two parts.
It recognizes people for who they are but also for what they do. In this environment, we hear so much now about diversity, equity and inclusion. I would say that appreciation hits on the diversity part of this because recognizing people for what they do or who they are, is that part. It recognizes diversity on our team. That’s so important who people are, not various races, religions, sexual preferences, whatever it might be. We all have different backgrounds and histories. The more we are able to open up and appreciate the differences we have, we create diversity.
The other part of appreciation is recognizing people for what they do. In this environment, so many people have put in many hours in their roles that have gone unnoticed because people are trying to navigate getting through this. We have not taken time to take a step back and appreciate all that people have done in terms of staying focused and showing up for work.
We need to do more of that. There’s an acronym that I use within that called RPMs. It’s like in your vehicle, and you have RPMs that tell how efficiently the vehicle is running. If your RPMs run too low, the vehicles stalls. That’s not recognizing people enough. It becomes disengagement in organizations. The flip side of that is that when we recognize people in ways that seem insincere, maybe employee of the month or the week, and telling people they do a great job, people feel that it’s a tool manipulating them to try and get them to do more.
We miss opportunities. There are real opportunities to recognize people, and we need to do that. The three things that you can use to gauge is making sure how you recognize people at its unexpected. It’s not always on Thursday that somebody gets recognized. They are expecting it. It happens whenever it needs to happen. It’s meaningful to the person.
If I have an employee that doesn’t play sports and doesn’t like to go to sporting events, and as recognition of something special, I give them two tickets to a local basketball game, that’s not going to land very well because it’s not meaningful to them. The third thing that you want to do is to make it specific. It’s not, “You do a great job,” it’s, “The other day, you did this. I want to thank you for that or tell you what a great job you are doing because of this example.” It’s something specific.
Belongingness: Being For Others
The next behavior in CABLES or the next piece of this bridge we are building is around Belongingness. We talked again about DEI, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Belonging is about the inclusion part of this. We are herd animals. We need each other. If there’s another thing that has been seen over the last few years is there has been so much isolation. It has negative impacts on all of us when that happens. People are less tolerant toward each other when we are more isolated.
We are not around people that are different from us, as part of that appreciation. We don’t have the connection with people that we need. Belonging is incredibly important if we are going to bridge that gap between employee engagement and organizational excellence, that when employees show up, by my behaviors, they need to feel as though they are valued and part of where this organization or team is going.
Listening: Practicing the Four Ways to Listen
We move on to the behavior of listening in our CABLES model. That’s the cable of Listening. This one is one of the most important but also can be one of the most difficult. We talk about listening in this regard in four different ways. We listen with our eyes. We look for facial expressions, body language, and how a person is standing. These are important things to recognize.
As we are trying to read other people, is what they are saying and their body language congruent? Is it the same? Next, we listen with our ears. We are listening for the tone of voice, the words that somebody might be using, the pace they are speaking in, is it sarcastic? Is it angry? Those are important things to recognize and to pick up on.
I can do a very simple example of saying, “I didn’t take your book,” but if I say, “I didn’t take your book,” you can think that it means that I didn’t take it but somebody else did. I know that. If I say, “I didn’t take your book,” it could mean I borrowed it but I didn’t take it. The last is I didn’t take your book could mean, “I didn’t take your book but I took your computer or wallet. I took something else but it wasn’t your book.” It’s the same sentence, but how I stress words in that changes their meaning completely. That’s why that’s so important.
The next is listening with our minds. This is about being curious. This causes or relies on us to be silent and to pause. Is what somebody is saying what they mean or am I taking this the wrong way? What else might be going on here? Rather than jumping to conclusions, maybe I’m going to clarify. “Jim, this is what I heard you say. Is this what you mean?” I’m going to clarify that. It’s important for us to do.
Lastly, the fourth part of the listening component is we listen with our hearts. That’s about listening with empathy. It’s about trying to imagine if I was the one that was involved in this conversation, how would I want somebody to listen to me? If you listen in all four of those modes, it’s going to be very difficult for you not to make a connection with somebody, even in conflict or try and start to see things from their perspective because those in and of themselves require that you do that, especially listening with your mind and with empathy. To do those things opens things up. This doesn’t say that you necessarily have to change your viewpoint. It’s to say you are going to have a much better opportunity to have a real dialogue with somebody else.
I will tell you that there are so many times that I can recall what we thought was a disagreement in some of the work that we have done. We find out after people have had an opportunity to talk about things, and there’s a curiosity that has been demonstrated, we find out what the concerns were that the other person had been easily addressed.There is still this thought that it’s weakness as a leader to be empathetic. And it's the opposite. To demonstrate empathy is one of the greatest strengths that you have. Click To Tweet
Even if they were not easily addressed, they were able to be addressed in a way that allowed for collaboration, not even win-win but collaboration, where both walked away feeling as though they didn’t necessarily have to give up anything to gain agreement but almost came up with a solution together, all because they were able to listen better toward each other.
Empathy: Creating a Stronger Bond
The next one is around Empathy, and that stands by itself. We certainly hear much more about empathy now. Although I do think that there is still this thought at times, empathy somehow is a weakness as a leader to be empathetic. It’s the opposite. Demonstrating empathy is one of my greatest strengths because it takes courage to do that. It also takes courage to say to somebody, “I was wrong or I’m sorry or I don’t know the answer.”
As leaders, we think, “We’ve got to have all the answers or people are not going to follow us.” We never have all the answers. There’s more credibility, and that bridge becomes stronger when the person knows, “This person is like me. They make mistakes. They don’t always have the answers.” It opens up other people to be more open to coming to you when they don’t have the answers because they know you have admitted to it as well.
Specifics: Setting Clear Expectations, Accountability, and Ownership
It builds a stronger bond in terms of them following you because they know that when you are focused and directed in a certain way, you are confident where you are going. It wins on both sides. The last behavior that we build here is around Specifics. That’s the S cable in our model, and that’s about clear expectations and accountability or ownership, as I like to call it.
The first part of this is we need to have clear expectations with each other like our values within an organization. What do we stand for as an organization? What are our values? Those need to be clearly stated because when they are not, individuals in the organization may not know what’s our mission. What are we meant to do here? If it’s a relationship between a leader and a follower or a manager and an employee, what do we need from each other? What do I expect from you? What can you expect from me? It’s very important.
The other part of this is even when we have clear expectations, we need to have ownership or productive accountability. Accountability, when we hear that word by itself, conjures up images of retaliation or punishment. That’s not the best way to move forward or develop the strongest bridges. It’s about ownership.
When we have that, we have the clear expectation but we also have the ownership to that clear expectation. Our bridge becomes complete at this point. With this bridge, it’s not as though we have to start with the C and go to A as the next building material. It becomes fluid. We will generally do these. When you start to have issues that might come up with people that you work with, as a tool, what I would often use or do use is this is a troubleshooting guide that I can look at cables and say, “Which behavior in this model is not being satisfied now?” What am I responsible for that I’m not doing that is creating some of the problems.
Notice that I didn’t say what the other person was not doing right because they may not be online with all of the CABLES pieces but that’s not where I need to start. I need to start with me first because the better I am at understanding what role do I play and what responsibility do I have to challenge the conflict I’m having now, the more likely I’m going to have the other person open up to look for a solution to the conflict we are having. It’s not going to be by me going to them and saying, “You are not doing a very good job of listening or you have not been very good about appreciating me for what I have been doing.” It doesn’t work that way, at least not most effectively.
That’s it. We have six cables that build this bridge. We cross it every day, whether it’s professionally or personally, we are building relationships by our behaviors, and our behaviors are these cables. You can think about it as you are the architect, engineer, and the builder of your relationships, your bridges. The more you behave in ways that are productive, congruent, demonstrates appreciation, creates belongingness, shows that you are invested in listening, demonstrates empathy, and set clear expectations through specifics and ownership, you will build the best and strongest bridges available.
I hope you found this helpful. I hope you will have an opportunity to test this out yourself. Take a look at some of your relationships and question, “Which of the cables do I need to work a little more on? Is it congruent? How am I going to build this bridge that crosses this divide so that my employees are more engaged?” If that’s true, what you are going to see is your organization is going to become better. We need more of that. Take a moment, ask yourself what cables would make your relationship stronger, and go out and do it. Until our next episode. I’m wishing you all the best.
Tom Dahlborg wrote The Big Kid and Basketball to tell the world how his son Tommy endured child bullying and what must be done to end such an attitude. Now, he releases a second edition to include brand new advice after learning that his son tried to commit suicide years ago because of being bullied. He joins Patrick Veroneau to discuss his new insights about addressing bullying, particularly the things parents must avoid doing and the best approach from the lens of healthcare. He also talks about the needed work to put bully coaches in check and revamp workplaces that value incentives more than compassion.
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Tom Dahlborg: What Should Be Done To End Child Bullying
In this episode, we have a repeat guest, Tom Dahlborg. He was first here discussing his new book at that point, The Big Kid and Basketball. In this episode, we talk about his second edition of this book, which was based on some additional conversations that he had with his son, Tommy, who the book was about. After the first publishing and pretty significant stories, that’s what drove him to say there was more that he needed to do.
He said he continues to learn the impact that bullying has. That conversation deals with the story with his son, Tommy, and goes on to look at bullying in other areas. How do we address it? How do we identify it? How do we make the environments, whether it’s at school or in the workplace, better for all of us? Let’s get into it.
Tom, I want to thank you for being back on the show. I had to go back and look the last time that we were on was December of 2018, when we were talking about the release of your first book, The Big Kid and Basketball. I saw a post of yours about an updated version of the book. I thought, “What a great opportunity to come back on and have a conversation about that,” and you were kind enough to do that. Welcome back. I’d love to have a conversation about what prompted you to take another crack at this book.
First of all, thank you for the invitation to join you here. You have a terrific show and messages around leadership and so much more. I appreciate being here. I hadn’t intended to write the first edition of this book, but because of people who have read some journaling and some blogs I had done around bullying, coaching and parenting, they said, “You must write the book,” so I put that out there.
It was interesting that it got a lot of traction and lots of news stories. I was asked to go speak on TV and all these other things, not only in America but beyond. I was doing that for several months. My bride and I were out on our deck one day and my son, Tommy, came out to us. The Big Kid is Tommy and my story about him being bullied predominantly by adults and how we both grew through that situation and some of the things we did.
After the first edition of the book came out, my bride and I were on that deck. Tommy comes out and he says, “Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something.” When I wrote the book, it was about his age from 8 to 18. Now, he was 25 coming out to us and telling us something. He said to us, “Back when I was in fourth grade, I put a belt around my neck. The pain was so great from the bullying that I didn’t want to live anymore.”
I had no idea. We had no idea. You talk about being humbled. I wrote that book. I’m getting all this press and then hopefully helping people, and then I realized I had no idea the extent of the pain my son had gone through. It made me take a step back and think about the messages. It was another call to action to take it to the next level.
The first edition of the book is a story of lessons through a story through my son sharing that with my bride and I, and continuing to speak, share and learn. I was learning so much more that I didn’t know when I wrote the original book because I didn’t intend to do it. It wasn’t like, “Here’s how to.” It was more of a journaling and a healing process for Tommy and me. I decided that with this additional humility and all these additional lessons learned, I wanted to help more.
I wanted to provide to people the what to dos and also the what not to dos when it comes to bullying. How can we best support our children, help them deal with adverse childhood experiences, and ideally amplify positive childhood experiences to help them have a healthier life, both short-term and long-term? That was that call to action. It was that discussion on that deck on that particular day.
It’s interesting when you talk about Adverse Childhood Events and in one of the highlights that I read, you talk about ACEs. For those people that might see that acronym, that’s what that stands for. There’s a lot more research done in terms of connecting the impact that ACEs have on kids throughout their development.
Bullying is now being included in ACEs. Historically it wasn’t. It’s about drugs, parents who are divorced, incarcerated parents and a lot of different forms of abuse and so forth that the child is experiencing themselves or they’re witnessing. There are tons of research on and I’m blessed to know a lot of experts in this field that I get a lot of information from. What I’ve learned over this course of events over this course of time was that one of the best things we can do as parents, as coaches, as human beings in a community is help children have more positive experiences to counteract the adverse childhood experiences.
Coming out of Johns Hopkins, some of the latest research is all about that. It’s all about creating those positive opportunities. It doesn’t mean sugarcoat everything. It doesn’t mean everything is roses, but rather it’s about that love, caring, compassion and those opportunities to help a child grow in a very positive way, which sometimes means tough love as opposed to or to counteract as I noted the adverse childhood experiences.
A researcher named Barbara Fredrickson does a lot of research in this area of positivity that talks about the number of positive events somebody needs to experience to even nullify a negative event. You will often see either a 3 to 1 or a 5 to 1 ratio of 3 positives to 1 negative just to get to neutral.Most of the time, the person who had been bullied in the past becomes the bully in the future. Click To Tweet
The books are about me coaching young men through basketball, life’s lessons and so forth. I also get to coach leaders in healthcare. It’s interesting to that point that there is so much focus on accountability, healthcare and feedback, which is great. To your point, the feedback typically is in healthcare is negative. It’s, “You’ve done something wrong. You need to fix it.” Even working with adults, it’s 3 to 1. You need to provide people with positive reinforcement for the real good thing. Don’t make them up. The real good things that they’re doing for every opportunity to improve.
What they’re finding through the research from the individual you had talked about and others is for the newer generations that are coming into leadership positions, it’s more like 7 to 1 as adults. When we think about these children, we have the opportunity to impact them. It’s not all about roses, but it’s about how we can truly create an environment in a community that’s healthy and allows them to experience positivity more so than that negativity they’re experiencing in so many different ways, especially nowadays.
I’d love to talk about the adults, too, especially in healthcare because bullying has its own ramifications that go far past the interaction between the bully and the person being bullied. Patients are at risk significantly in those situations. When we talk about bullying in school, what about the bully? I asked that from the standpoint of bullies. Those individuals are that way because of lack of happiness in who they are.
I will speak from my own experience. As a kid, I remember when I clearly would say I was a bully. If I look back on those moments when I behaved that way, it had nothing to do with the other person. It was because I was insecure about who I was. I wasn’t happy with who I was and they were the outlet for me to not feel good about myself.
In The Big Kid and Basketball, in the book, both editions, I talk about a time when Tommy had been bullied. To your point, oftentimes, that person who had been bullied in the past becomes the bully of the future or the abusee becomes the abuser. Luckily for us, it didn’t happen with Tom. In fact, I tell a story about being on a school bus and one of his friends being bullied, and Tommy standing up for his friend because being there for another while they are being bullied makes a big difference. We all need to do that, both as adults in this. We need to help children do the same thing.
This floored me when I learned this. The next day, Tommy went to the two children that were bullying Tommy’s friend to make sure they were okay because you’re right, these children and we found out later, one of them was from a very abusive home. They’re acting out not because of the target but because of how they feel. Tommy says this so well, “We need to be caring for and loving the child that’s being bullied and caring for and loving the child who is doing the bullying. Hold them accountable. The behavior is unacceptable and yet still helps them deal with what they’re dealing with. That’s manifesting in that behavior.”
This was an African proverb that says, “The child that’s not accepted by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” When you think about that, the power is there.
I haven’t heard that before. That’s incredibly powerful.
When you think about that, these people feel as though they’ve been outcasts. It’s not to make excuses for it, but when we see even adults that do unbelievable things in a workplace setting, they harm or murder coworkers. Oftentimes, when you come back to it, you find out that a person felt ostracized. They weren’t accepted as part of the group. It’s not the right approach, but this is how they deal with it.
That’s why we need to learn to love all. Hold accountable, love all and address all the negativity out there as best we can because if we don’t, that cycle of events is going to continue. People are going to be heard and that’s the last thing we want to see.
When you mentioned that Tommy comes to you and says, “This is what happened in fourth grade,” and now you’re back at it again, saying, “I need to do more in the next version of this book.” What things do you know now that you’d say, “This is what you need to be aware of as a parent?”
One of my biggest learnings was what not to do because I remember what Tommy was being bullied in my bride and I thought we were the worst parents ever. Every time we tried to help, we seemed to be making things worse. In fact, there’s a child his name is Seven Bridges. He had 26 surgeries. He ended up with a colostomy. He was bullied by his peer group in school and similarly to how my bride and I felt, his parents tried to go to school. They tried to do all these things and everything made things worse. This poor child did end up committing suicide. Every time we thought we were taking a step forward and to make things better, we were making things worse.
When you think about high-reliability organizations, defer the experts, lean into the experts and I did so through The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality. I learned some of the things that do more harm than good because we all have all these good intentions. We want to make things better for our own child and for other children.
As an example, zero-tolerance policies make things worse. It sounds great. It looks great on paper, yet when you start to put it into action, this goes for both a healthcare system or hospital and a school or youth sports group or whatever it might be. What happens is the threat of someone else being suspended or expelled from a school discourages the other children from reporting what’s happening to them because of concerns about ramifications, repercussions and retaliation, but also, they don’t want to be that one that did that.If you don’t address all the negativity the best you can, the unfortunate cycle of events will continue. Click To Tweet
It decreased the amount of reporting of bullying. Added to that, they found that with zero-tolerance policies, the punishments for minority students were more severe. Talk about another unintended consequence. It was these types of things that I learned over time by being out there and listening that I said, “I’m not there yet, but I’m getting it. I can share some of the wisdom I’ve heard from others with others.” In the book, I talk about a number of things that we shouldn’t do. We have good intentions, but we shouldn’t do because it leads to the exact opposite outcome that we’re seeking.
You also talked in the book about coaching. You talk about the non-X’s and O’s.
I got into coaching because I wanted to help my son. I didn’t intend to be a coach. I played organized sports and stuff. I remember at first trying to help my son and then trying to learn the X’s and O’s, 5 yards as a player, but from a coaching perspective. In all the time of coaching for many years, I learned that it was the easiest part of the job.
I learned that as an example that boys or young men have body image issues. I had no idea. I tell a story about being blindsided on my own fault and not having a clue, but very quickly learning how to manage and help children with body image issues. I had a child who was being abused at home that ended up living in a mechanic’s garage. He wasn’t showing up for practices and then he missed a couple of games. I’m going to hold him accountable and similar to what we were talking about before, I then realized what was going on.
He was missing games and practices because of the abuse. I’m going to hold him accountable like I would hold someone who wasn’t dealing with those types of challenges. I will hold them the same way. No, you need to understand. I learned how important relationship was in coaching your players and their families. How much creating a safe place for those real nuggets of wisdom and truth to be shared. It was far beyond anything I could have expected. I’ve learned so much and I continue to learn so much. I’m trying to help others learn at the same time.
Being a coach is a huge responsibility for kids. I can only speak to it from coaching my two sons at this point because I know nothing about lacrosse and that’s my daughter’s wheelhouse. I’m lost at that. I would have loved to have coached her, but the thought of coaching was not about making the kid better in the sport. It was trying to provide them with skills to navigate life better. That, to me, is the responsibility that we have as coaches. They don’t remember the wins and losses for the most part. They’re going to remember how a coach made them feel.
You had a great perspective going into coaching and I learned more of that perspective as I was in the coaching and far beyond.
You look around and you see the damage that so many of these coaches do to these individuals. As a parent, it’s hard to watch, but I will tell you, I can speak from all three of our kids at this point in terms of sports. Things don’t always go your way. To me, that’s the other part that I love about sports is it’s our job to support them in every way we can as a tool to navigate them.
We were never the parents that called the coach to say, “How come Noah or Grace isn’t getting more playing time?” If you want more playing time, it’s your role to go to the coach and ask them, “What can you do to improve the chances of getting more playing time,” but not, “When can you put me in the game, coach?” Those are important lessons. Probably along the lines of bullying as parents, those of us that are around it who can support that is, “How do we provide them with the tools longer-term to deal with people that are not kind?”
It’s one of those, both hands or all the above. We as parents need to position our children as you described. We also need to be cognizant of the coaches themselves. There are incredible positive coaches out there and then there are some that don’t get it. Working with The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, I developed The 10 Steps for Benching Bullying by Coaches because 42% of kids, almost half the children, report being bullied by coaches.
As parents, it’s up to us as a community to keep an eye on the coaches. As you said, also position our children, so when the coach is a good coach, maybe they’re a hot coach and they have high expectations, “Beautiful, thank you. I’ll work with my child.” If it’s a bullying, abusive coach, it’s a totally different story and we need to address that as well. For a lot of these resources and also for the book, TBKid.org.
Where else can somebody get the book?When workplaces give too much attention on benefits, bonuses, and financial incentives, compassion is being taken off the table. Click To Tweet
We always appreciate that. What would your recommendations be going back to the healthcare side of this? I’m seeing this more and more in this environment with all of the stress and lack of resources. I’ve seen an increase, maybe not straight-up bullying, but disruptive behaviors. We also know The Joint Commission published in 2020, their assessment of Six Components to Creating Burnout in a Workplace Setting and bullying was one of them.
It’s a huge issue and it’s becoming larger. I did a presentation not that long ago with a hospital system in Massachusetts. We were talking about this very thing. One of the things that I highlighted for folks was number one, role model. We need to ensure that leadership is role modeling the appropriate behaviors. If that isn’t happening, it’s a lost cause. As I and others have found as many times, the leaders are the root cause for some of the behaviors.
I would completely agree. I often will go to the values that these organizations post up there and ask them to go through those values and look. If you have accountability, collaboration, respect, integrity as values, yet you have a physician or surgeon, as an example, that is treating employees in a way that is counter to that, you’re not living your values.
In one of these cases, it was as point-blank as to say, “What I want you to do is if this surgeon behaves this way and nobody’s going to do anything about it because we’re afraid that if we get rid of this person, there’s a revenue stream that’s going to be lost.” You are letting people know within the organization that if you bring in over $3 million a year, you’re exempt from values. You can do whatever you want and see how that goes because that’s what you’re saying, that it doesn’t matter.
Once you get to the income level, values are off the table. It sounds absurd and it should. We’re seeing this more now. I don’t want this to sound the wrong way like I enjoy seeing this idea of The Great Resignation, but what is finally being realized is that people are not going to tolerate this anymore. I’m not going to do this anymore. Now is an opportunity for these organizations to finally say, “We have to walk the talk.”
I’m thrilled that you went that direction because number two, it’s those values and the associated behaviors with those values. Developing those or reconfirming those with the team, not in some leadership retreat only, but including the actual teammate. I’m married to an amazing nurse and I work with nurses a great deal. How often do I hear from the nursing team that they have no idea what the values are, where they came from or the expectations associated with the behavior? It blows my mind. We then blame the nurses for some of the bad things that are happening there when they’ve been totally out of the loop.
As we were talking about your quote about burning down the village, it’s like, “What do you expect?” We hold people accountable. You and I have talked in another episode about the 94/6 rule. We, as leaders, created the system that led to those outcomes. We were successful in getting the outcomes that we get, good or bad.
I’m seeing this in certain hearings, the focus on benefits and bonuses to keep people, and don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making sure that there’s parody there or people are being paid fairly, but that’s not our way out of this. Bonuses are not the long-term solution. It’s behaviors. That’s what will make the difference in creating an environment where people attract the best talent and that talent wants to stay. It’s not bonuses. It’s not benefits. As long as they’re there, it’s behaviors.
I remember I wrote a piece some years ago for hospital impact. It was about financial incentives on healthcare. The research shows that the more we tie things to benefits, bonuses and other financial incentives, the more so we take the heart, care and compassion off the table. Instead of this intrinsic, “I want to do what’s best,” it becomes this extrinsic, “Pay me more. Give me more.” Not that these people are bad people. We leaders created that system. We created that outcome. We need to change that as far as how we fund everything within healthcare. We need to role model those values and behaviors and treat people with love, care and compassion.
Without question, it starts at the top. If you’re not modeling those on a consistent basis, why would you ever expect anybody else within the organization to keep those? Tom, as always, I’ve enjoyed this conversation with you so much. There is so much going on right now. I would guess there’s going to be another revision at some point down the road or maybe a different book altogether, but I look forward to the next conversation we can have on that.
I appreciate that, Patrick. I appreciate you and the message that you share and what you live. You live your values every day and I appreciate that. You make a difference. Thank you for having me on and I look forward to that next discussion.
- Tom Dahlborg – Past episode
- The Big Kid and Basketball
- The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality
- The 10 Steps for Benching Bullying by Coaches
- Amazon – The Big Kid and Basketball
- Kindle – The Big Kid and Basketball
- The Joint Commission
About Tom Dahlborg
A native of Brockton, Massachusetts, (home of the undefeated heavy weight champion Rocky Marciano), Tom and his family moved to Southern Maine in 1999. He lives there with his bride Darlene (a brilliant and compassionate registered nurse) and three children: Samantha (24 – a former Miss Maine USA and current signed model, graphic designer and PR professional (be sure to ask Tom about attending modeling school with Samantha)), Tommy aka The Big Kid (22 – a financial analyst who is also in the midst of developing his own servant leader ministry), and Haylee (20 – a world traveler and future history teacher); and their beloved Papillon pup, Gabriel (9).
With more than 30 years of experience leading and serving in healthcare, he also volunteers for a wide range of non-profits and loves his time coaching young men’s basketball. He is also a recognized national writer and speaker. Tom cares deeply about positioning individuals, teams, and communities to achieve their mission while living their values and cherishes the opportunity to engage in meaningful and impactful ways.
How do you lead and inspire employees when working from home? Increase the quantity of face-to-face to help compensate for the lack of physical experience of working together. Patrick Veroneau’s guest in this episode is Rich Salon, the Employee Relations Consultant at HR Sanity.
Rich talks with Patrick about how you should never underestimate the power of a little chat. Spend more time one-on-one with direct reports. Brainstorm together! These little communications boost the efficiency of the company. If you want more tips on leading employees during these trying times, this episode’s for you.
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Tips On How To Lead And Inspire Employees When Working From Home With Rich Salon
Rich, I want to thank you for taking the time to be on the show. We’ve been working to set this up for so long in had such great conversations around your depth in HR, your experience in terms of many of the companies you’ve worked for. As I look at your background, known as the HR Guy, I thought this was a great opportunity for you to come on and talk about some things that are very relevant in the workplace right now. One is culture as it relates to remote virtual settings, as well as psychological safety. It’s something that I certainly have been thinking about much more of lately. I’d love your input on it and thoughts as it relates to the virtual setting that we’re in as well. I’ll let you take it from here in regards to giving the audience a snapshot of your background.
Thanks, Patrick. It’s great to be here. I’ve been truly blessed to help some leading companies as a human resource and an employee relations professional. I’m fortunate to build both the Home Depot and Lowe’s, Circuit City and also the Penske organizations, all terrific organizations. I’ve met and worked with an incredible quantity of leaders, but my focus has been on the employee experience from hire to retire. Employee engagement, helping leaders become better leaders and also being able to help people with their careers along the way. I have enjoyed it, seeing some terrific cultures along the way and some awesome leaders.
I will also mention, fellow Rotarian.
I’m proud to be a member of Rotary International. I’m in Central Virginia. I’m an Area Governor. I’m a past president. I was installed as the District Membership Chair. In Rotary, we continue to do some terrific things locally within our communities, and we continue to do some terrific things internationally. Thank you for that, Patrick.
2021 has obviously been challenging. A year nobody would ever think about happening, where so many people now might be working remotely. It’s not that easy, especially when we’re talking about if you’re onboarding people, how do you create a culture in that environment?
It is a huge challenge. For so many years, we’re used to meeting people face-to-face, having formal meetings, group meetings, having informal one-on-ones and the infamous water cooler chat. Those things have gone away. It’s it feels like we’re in an employment culture with an asterisk next to it. It is different and challenging. The opportunity to help and inspire people do the best possible work got tougher. The future leads us to believe that we will continue to be in a somewhat virtual environment or a hybrid environment for quite some time.
Let’s start with onboarding. Now we’re onboarding, potentially remotely, which is even more difficult. How do you create a sense of culture when the person doesn’t even have the ability to walk past a water cooler? They’re at home.
Pre-COVID, if the onboarding looked like a combination of one-on-ones, meet and greets, group meetings, meet this department staff and do the proverbial eLearnings, the most important part of that was the one-on-ones and meeting people face-to-face, so you don’t have that. My take is, fortunately, the clarity of the virtual environment, if it’s Zoom or Microsoft teams, my advice is to utilize the virtual environment with a face-to-face.
We’re going to always have that phone, but being able to look at somebody in a screen and commune with them in a video screen versus just talking over the telephone can make a big difference. The other thing is, overcoming that lack of face-to-face, the water cooler chat, “I’m taking you to lunch on your first day on the job.” You need to work harder. I believe you need to increase the quantity of face-to-face to help compensate for the lack of the physical working together.
Which is difficult in some settings that I’m experiencing, a couple of the terms that I’ve heard is Zoomidas and the other is people on meetings they call Zoombies. Instead of zombies they’re Zoombies. People are not using the technology too much.Help inspire people to do the best possible work. Click To Tweet
I’ve heard those well. I’m fortunate to be a speaker as well and being a speaker, it’s difficult and taxing. You’re up there, you’re captivating. You’ve got to work that hard to scan the room, to captivate every member of the audience. That takes work. Our one-on-one or meeting interactions behooves each of us to work a little harder to make sure we are captivating and ensuring that the messages are getting across. To your point, you might be speaking somebody in the business situation with an employment and there might be their eight Zoom calls and they might be drooling on their desk at a boredom. We have to work a little harder to captivate people and to enhance our message on the Zoom virtual meetings.
You bring up a great point when you talk about speaking. We both do public speaking. One of the things is when you’re out in front of an audience, you have the ability to engage and energize people and you’re standing up, you’re walking around, and you’re moving. Are there components of that maybe we should try and employ as we’re on Zoom calls?
Maybe it’s standing up for some Zoom calls and you sit down for others. When I generally am doing some recordings, I will try and stand up when I do them so that it presents itself more as though I’m speaking to a group, just like I would, I wouldn’t be sitting in a chair when I speak to them, even though we’re doing this in chairs.
You need to break up the traditional rhythm, welcoming everybody. You received a copy of the agenda. “We’ll be here for the next hour. Let’s dive into the first topic on the agenda.” You do need to break it up. It’s got to feel different, otherwise, captivating half of the group may not happen.
It is much harder to be on Zoom than it is to be speaking on stage because it’s much easier to gauge the audience in terms of where they are. Whereas this sometimes you feel like you’re on your own. You don’t get a feeling for how things are landing for people. It is more challenging. As we move on this conversation around the water cooler, how important that is, what about companies that are trying to maintain a culture virtually? There probably are some individuals that our culture wasn’t that great. We’re happy that we’re not in that situation, but for those that do, how do you do that virtually? Any thoughts?
The water cooler is a great example. I had a former business partner and he had a framed photo in his office. The photo is the very famous picture of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt on the World War II peace talks. The photographer caught the three of them grinning at the same time, and the caption for that picture was, “Don’t ever underestimate the power of a little chat.”
In my experience, those little chats, if it’s the water cooler, coffee, the, “Come on in here at my office, and I grab a marker and we start scribbling on the whiteboard. A new concept and we move with it and it helps the company become more effective.” Those things are very challenging in this virtual world. Leaders need to increase the opportunity of people to speak one-on-one. Companies have an open-door policy. Now it’s a little different because in the past, people could say, “You got a minute? This was not a huge deal, but since you’re walking by, can I down something off you?” Those things are gone. The physical presence of a leader is the physical presence of your boss.
Let’s say your boss, every day it’s tough to overcome. From a leadership standpoint, my hope is that people are spending more time one-on-one with their direct reports. They’re frankly finding excuses to give their direct reports a call and say, “How’s it going? I need your help on something.” Work together and then follow up by saying, “What can I do for you?” It’s increasing the one-on-one time.
That is such a great point, too, where the efficiencies are much more challenged. You could be walking down the hall and you address an issue just on the walk. You don’t need to set an appointment where there’s more work involved now, that you have to almost schedule all of that time to be much more aware of making that happen from a leadership perspective of doing those things.
On a different level, even some of my coaching that I do now with individuals, has changed. It’s shorter bursts because I know how busy they are on Zoom, where that was the platform that I used for a lot of my clients. Knowing that they’re on Zoom all the time, what we’ve done for many of them is we do half the original coaching time is just check-ins. Where are we? It’s much more condensed. I’ve found we’re more focused when we’re on the call because we know our time is shorter.
The other major hurdle for people, it’s not just leaders and their role with their direct reports, it’s the team members, so their relationship with their leaders. We have a huge distraction in front of us in this virtual world, it’s called the internet. You’re talking to somebody in a Zoom meeting or a Microsoft Teams meeting likely, and it could be a one-on-one or a group meeting, but you’re also tied to the internet.
To think that there could be a tendency to drift to another internet site if you’re going shopping, if you just conveniently want to check your LinkedIn page or your Facebook page, or see if you got that message from your cousin that you’re awaiting on so you’d go over to your personal email, that is a huge distraction.Don't ever underestimate the power of a little chat. Click To Tweet
It’s incumbent on everyone when you’re in a meeting, either a one-on-one or a group meeting, it’s important to block out the distractions that somebody could get by jumping onto an internet site. It’s not easy. “What’s the Dow Jones doing? What’s going on with this?” It’s tempting to slide over, especially after your eighth Zoom call of the day, but you got to be laser focused. You got to overcome the temptation to go surf the internet.
You’re telling me that some people, when they’re on Zoom calls, might go to other sites?
I wouldn’t be guilty as charged. Somebody mentions a cool book on Amazon, and it seems to be bargain price at $15 and you get excited. How many people are writing down the title of that book on their post-it note on their desk? Maybe half. The other half are jumping on Amazon and could have ordered the book by the time the person’s finished their sentence.
When I’m on larger Zoom calls, I’m trying to zoom in on people’s eyes to see if I can tell if they’re reading a screen other than what we’re doing. They’re probably on something else and we are all guilty of that, which is much more the responsibility of the leader of making sure that when you do set up these meetings, that people feel this time is valuable.
That you keep people included in this, which I like to transition over when we talk about sharing meetings, this concept of psychological safety. It’s something that I know in the work that I’ve done, in a lot of the research that I’ve been reading. It is how important psychological safety is, even more so in the environment that we’re in over years, of people being able to talk about what’s going on, the challenges that might be faced with that. There’s a lot of concern to be able to do that.
Not just the virtual world we’re living in, but for people in employment, we’ve seen a lot of companies changed their products and their services, and we’ve seen companies proceed to change their labor model. Fortunately, some organizations have grown their labor force due to this pandemic. Many others have lost it and it doesn’t help that every week it’s announced, how many thousands of job losses were reported the prior week. There is a natural fear of many employed people of potentially losing their jobs. There are a lot of things that people can do to overcome it, and I go back to the face-to-face. You mentioned looking at somebody’s eyes. Think back to when we were in the office environment. I look forward to seeing people.
I looked forward to seeing senior leaders walk by in meetings and chatting. Their eyes can demonstrate their level of excitement and enthusiasm. How many times have we been in an office environment and we get excited just based on a senior leader or a mid-level manager, somebody explaining something and where the project or the concept is going. We lost that with the virtual world but it’s something we can overcome, reduce the distractions, get everybody to reduce the distractions, and focus and pay close attention to what’s occurring in the virtual meetings. It’s not easy, but I believe it can be overcome.
It’s hard for leaders, too. We’re expecting a lot out of leaders in this environment that they are experiencing these things, too. Maybe they have kids that are at home. They’re concerned that they’re remote school and they’re not learning anything right now, and maybe they’ve got a significant other that’s at home or maybe concerned about their job.
At times, we think of managers or leaders as somehow, they don’t have the same problems as the people that report to them have. That’s one of the things that I think in regards to psychological safety as well, it’s creating the environment for everybody, and maybe it’s with a leader can take a breath and say, “I’m struggling right now, too.” It takes vulnerability to do that, but it goes a long way to building an environment where everybody feels that they can talk about the challenges that are going on.
Personally, I’ve never met an overpaid leader. It’s difficult to be able to be a leader. They have the organization’s culture that they have to live. They have to instill it, and whether that’s a progressive culture, transparent, flexible, innovative, whatever the culture is, and then leading people and being consistent with their leadership style.
Be a servant leader, situational, empowerment, engaging, charismatic, whatever type of leader. Into your point, they also have a personal life that they’re juggling. Leaders have the same potential problems that frontline employees have with family, environment and health issues. They have a lot to juggle. I look up to leaders. They’ve always had a challenging job. They have a more challenging job now. I would still contest that there’s no such thing as an overpaid leader.
When we’re talking about this concept of psychological safety, companies like Google have done a lot of work in this, their Project Aristotle is. I’ve seen a lot of research. I do a fair amount of work in healthcare. Specific to healthcare, there’s research in regards to psychological safety, talking about when people don’t feel there is equal access to be able to voice concerns, shared voice, they found that the most effective teams are ones that you don’t have one person monopolizing the call. People have an opportunity to share in on that. Virtually, that can become more difficult where you might have people that are more savvy technically that they’re more comfortable in this environment.
You miss out on an opportunity of somebody maybe sharing something because they don’t want to speak up in this environment on a Zoom call or whatever the devices you’re using. Are there strategies or things that you would think of that you would try and employ to help a manager or a leader make sure that everybody was contributing on a call? My guess is it would probably help to get away from people zoning out as well.There's a lot of things you can do to overcome fear. Click To Tweet
Utilizing group meetings and group calls solely is convenient. Set a meeting invite. Create the agenda and get everybody on it. It’s a very easy trap to fall into. I still think that nothing can replace the one-on-one conversations. I do hope every leader employs the concept of group meetings to share, to collect ideas, no question.
The group meeting concept is never going to go away. However, supplement it with one-on-ones. If that’s a follow-up, if it’s an occasional one-on-one with your sixteen members instead of one group meeting with all of the six, it can’t underestimate the value of one-on-one meetings. To your point, many people remain uncomfortable speaking up in a group setting. To your other point, some people are still uncomfortable about the virtual meeting environment. They just have not acquired a comfort level. Many people have flourished, many people turn on a diamond and did great, but it’s not for everybody. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
One of the strategies that I used for a group that I was coaching once and I could tell the first meeting, people had things to say, but everybody was a little nervous about getting on the line, was to have assignments for individuals to speak about or present on. That helped almost prime the pump. It got the group engaged and also kept people alert to what was going. That’s another thing, leaders or managers on these calls, where you might’ve been able to get away with a meeting that wasn’t as structured, you have less ability to do that now, because people are so exhausted by some of this technology. It’s like a performance to keep people engaged.
There’s an incredible quantity of leadership members who have hired people, have onboarded them, introduced them to their team, got them up to speed, and they’ve never physically met the person. It is an incredible challenge. It is a true test of leadership. Each of them wants to create the best possible teams in these conditions. It’s more challenging. It’s caused the leader to work harder, look closer, and make sure that they’re providing the guidance, direction, and the support for each of their team members. It has caused leaders to have to work harder. My hats off to them. I continue to hear good stories.
You had experienced with such large organizations, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Penske. A lot of expertise here. As hopefully, we start to come out of this pandemic, things start to loosen up, if you were to pull out your crystal ball and look at it, what do you think are the challenges for organizations that are trying to transition back into a more normal environment? How do you help them?
If they had a winning culture, a culture that worked for them, my hope is that they not have abandoned this great culture. Stay the course regarding the culture. If it’s collaborative, inclusive, and innovative, stay the course, don’t ever forget what’s made it successful. Which is typically the employment culture, the company culture we’ve created from transitioning back to live.
It is going to be a big transition in-person, too. Some people will be resistant to coming back in-person. They like this remote thing and being able to start up the lawnmower at 5:15 in the afternoon on a Wednesday after walking on downstairs from their home office versus coming an hour home and firing up that lawnmower at 6:15 PM.
My advice, meet with your team members, understand their needs by asking them. It makes sense to move back into a face-to-face environment. Get their thoughts on how we can best do this, what’s important to them, how leadership can help them. It reminds me of Circuit City, several years before we went out of business.
We increased the level of engagement by ten points of a population of 44,000. Unheard of by American business standards. If you lift engagement by 1 or 2 points, you’re a hero, but we lifted at 10 points. The way we did that is we made a conscious effort to go to the front-line team members and saying, “What do you think? What are your thoughts? Help us understand what we should be considering going to the frontline team members.” It was an incredible shift from the proverbial top-down hierarchical environment. In this case, go to your team members. The best piece of advice will come from your frontline team members on how to return back to the old regular.
What I heard you say early in that is, “To me, there’s a lot around having clear expectations.” What is this going to look like? To me, it seems like for a lot of people, it’s like learning to walk again. To go back into an office setting because they’ve been in another environment. To go back into that, it’s a cautionary tale for managers or leaders, not to just think like, “We pick up where we left off.”
“Let’s make sure that we understand what the expectations are going forward if this is going to be successful.” One of the other things that I like what you mentioned here, too, it’s talking about helping leaders understand from the follower’s perspective. Rather than how to lead down, it’s to say, “If you want to be most effective with those people that report to you, put on the follower hat. Put on your employees’ hat for a little bit and see what that’s like.” You’re probably going to be more effective in terms of getting them to go where you’re asking them to go.Seek to understand other peoples' thoughts to make them feel they're important to you. Click To Tweet
Walk a mile in your team members’ shoes. Seek to understand their thoughts. The more people who were part of the solution, the better, clearly. You’re also going to make that team member feel more important, and many successful organizations have improved their employee engagement by making people feel important. I have many fond thoughts of working for the Penske organization. That is one thing that the organization did incredibly well. They made everybody around them feel important. It sounds simple. How many companies can profess that they’ve done that? My hats off to the Penske organization. It’s very simple. They made it happen, but it also helps the team member’s line of sight.
Team members need to understand where their duties fit into the company’s overall objectives, and the more we can do that, the more we can make them feel important. They’re going to remain involved. They’re going to produce. They’re going to be part of the solution. It’s not rocket science but helping people understand where they fit into the big picture of the company’s overarching goals will reap dividends.
It’s simple but it’s not always easy, and that’s the difference. We talk about a lot of things that on paper or we present, and you’re like, “This seems so simple.” These concepts that we’re going to talk about, not to confuse it with easy though, changing behaviors and doing those kinds of things is difficult at times.
Obviously, in our conversation right now, the things that you’ve talked about, your wealth of knowledge in this area. You’ve had decades of experience in this space. If people were wanting to reach out to you to hear more about what you do or can do for them, what’s the best way for them to get ahold of you?
As I look at your license plate behind you, I have to chuckle when I hear HR Sanity. It almost sounds like an oxymoron.
That’s the name of our consulting firm and we help organizations reduce the level of sanity within human resources in the organizations.
We need the sanity. Thank you for your time. I have appreciated this. I’m looking forward to our future conversations, as both professionals in this space, but also as Rotarians. Best of luck to you.
This has been my pleasure and it’s great to be here. Thank you.
About Rich Salon
Rich joins our team with over 20 years of employee relations and labor relations experience.
He has worked with both fortune 500 and privately held organizations.
Each client enjoys a customized approach and deep data analysis that will assist with the organization’s long-term success.
The April 2021 US Labor Report showed more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2001. There are a lot of factors, such as the pandemic, as to why the report is like that. However, this is still very scary for most companies because an employee that is unhappy is not 100% optimal for your business. Join your host, Patrick Veroneau, as he explores the leadership behaviors that will encourage employees to quit or stay.
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US Labor Report: Why More Employees Are Quitting Than Are Being Reported
I want to talk about the data that came out of the US Labor Department and it was looking at the April jobs numbers. In April of 2021, more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2000 or 2001. I’m not surprised at that number. I look at it from a few different perspectives that I wanted to talk about and how they relate. One is around poor leadership or management behaviors. The other is employee engagement or disengagement and lastly, smoking. Yes, smoking. How does that compare? I’ll give you an analogy that is relevant to what we’re dealing with now.
When we talk about the number of people that have quit their jobs in April’s jobs number report and why that’s so significant. Since 2020, so many people had more time on their hands on some levels to contemplate, “What do I want?” Maybe in cultures or organizations where they weren’t happy. They didn’t realize how unhappy they were until they were separated from that and were working remotely. We hear other things out there like it’s because of not being able to secure childcare. That’s one of the reasons and I’m not saying that’s not, but I think this is deeper than that.
I do believe that people, since 2020, maybe have looked at a lot of other challenges that have gone on. They’ve looked at their own fragility in some ways in terms of how this virus can impact some and healthy people and unhealthy people. You just never know. On such a large scale, that has created an environment where a lot of people have said, “What do I want? What’s this all about?” I look at work that was done by Dan Pink a number of years ago, where he looked at what motivated people. In his book Drive, the three things he talks about are purpose, autonomy and development.
I do believe that there are a lot of people out there struggling right now with purpose that have said, “I’m not doing this anymore,” especially as some organizations or many organizations start to put together policies as it relates to back to work. There are a lot of people out there that have been working from home that have said, “I don’t want to go back to that environment. I’ve been productive at home. I’ve gotten the things done that I needed to get home and if this organization forces me to come back into work into an office setting, I’m going to quit.”In April of 2021, more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2001. Click To Tweet
To me, the bigger concern should be for organizations. We’ve seen the number of people that physically have quit their jobs increase. I would say from the conversations that I’ve had with hundreds of individuals, and not necessarily about themselves, but about other things that they’re hearing, is that that number is exponential in terms of people that want to quit their jobs but won’t pull the trigger on it. I’ll call those people that quit and stay. That means that they’ve resigned emotionally, probably intellectually, but physically they’re going to show up for their job. Those are the individuals that are going to hurt organizations even more because they’re not invested and engaged. They’re probably resenting the fact that they have to be there. Maybe they know other people that have quit and gone somewhere else and that weighs on them even more.
Poor Leadership Management Behaviour
That’s not all doom and gloom on this. First, we need to recognize that that’s the case and we’ll talk about that as it relates to the piece on smoking that I want to talk about. There are two other things that are important here to think about that. When we create an environment where people want to stay with the organization that we’re with, it’s around behaviors. Specifically, if we look at some of the work that’s been done by Gallup, they would suggest that almost 70% of disengagement between an employee and the organization is the result of who they report to directly. If that’s the case, then we’re talking about behaviors.
In my work, I have found that there are a number of behaviors that leaders and managers will create an environment where people either want to stay or want to go. The things that are going to trip many leaders or managers up in this environment are around six behaviors. The first of those is what I’m going to call incongruence. That’s when you’re not walking the talk. If you’re the leader or the manager and you’re not doing what you’re expecting everybody else to do, then you’re going to have an environment where people lose trust in you and the organization. They’re like, “You’re asking me to do this or maybe you tell me that you want us to challenge what’s going on here, and to look at things critically.” When I do that or when I see other people do it, they get retaliated against or maybe they get ignored or ridiculed and told, “Don’t go down that road.” That teaches people what they say and what they do are not the same things. That creates an environment where people start to say, “Is this where I want to be? I don’t think so.”
Employee Engagement And Disengagement
The next is around appreciation. I would look at this in two ways. It’s about recognizing people for who they are. That’s from the standpoint of diversity. It’s also recognizing people for what they do. Since 2020, people have struggled in so many different areas that this isn’t just about work. If you think about working remotely, maybe you have kids or maybe you have adult parents and you’re worried about them through this whole pandemic. Maybe as a parent of young kids, you’re now a substitute teacher or were a substitute teacher and you add that on top of the other things that you have to do. Maybe you were concerned about the environment of your organization, wondering how long can we survive working remotely, especially if maybe you’re in a role that was involved with sales. You’re not able to get in to see your customers. On the pharmaceutical side, which is where I came from a number of years ago, I’ve done workshops in that space since then. I know that’s a big concern for any rep that’s in that space.
Next is we can think about errors in behaviors around appreciating people for who they are. Diversity and that can be in terms of experiences, viewpoints, generational, however, you want to look at it. We need to be able to appreciate the differences that we bring. When individuals don’t feel as though their backgrounds or experiences are appreciated, then we run into problems where people say, “I’m not valued here. I don’t want to stay here. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and I’m going to leave.”
The next is around inclusion. When leaders don’t create an environment where everybody on a team feels as though they’re part of that team, and there’s a lot of research on all of these, when we create an environment where there’s an in-group versus an out-group, then that person that’s on the outside is going to think, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t feel a connection with anybody. I don’t feel part of this team. I don’t feel like I’m able to contribute the way I’d like to. I’m going to leave.” To me, a leader has a responsibility and the ability to create an environment where people feel as though they are part of the team.Purpose, autonomy, and development are what drives people forward. Click To Tweet
Next is when an individual doesn’t feel as though the manager or those leading are truly listening to what’s going on. Maybe it’s to the environment and challenges that people are under. Maybe it’s the suggestions that have been offered. People feel as though nobody’s appreciating or listening to what’s going on here. We’ve been asked our opinion in a survey but nothing seems to change. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve been part of where they do an employee engagement survey and the numbers are terrible. Those that are disseminating the information are discounting or dismissing some of the data in there, “It’s not that important” or “People are overreacting.” I would argue the opposite.
Whatever your engagement survey numbers were, you can expect that they’re worse than that. The reason for that is if we think about it, it’s very logical. If I’m happy in an organization, I’m not going to fill out an assessment saying I’m unhappy. If I’m unhappy, it’s very likely that I could be afraid to say what I want to say here. I’m not going to say that this place is great. I’m going to take the middle of the road and say that it’s okay, but I am not happy here. I’m not going to say that because I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll be retaliated against.
The next one is when employees don’t feel as though other people can appreciate their own predicaments and where they’re coming from. You feel as though the leaders in this organization want these things from us, “My manager wants this but they have no appreciation for the struggle for what I’m having to deal with right now.” It could be an organization where the CEO is leaving every three weeks to go to a vacation home, to take some time for themselves, yet nobody else in the organization has the ability to do that. They have to deal with their own stress day in and day out. They look at that individual as somebody that doesn’t appreciate or get what they’re going through at their level. When we don’t have that sense of empathy, where the leader and the manager can’t sit there and say, “I wonder what it would be like to be in your house right now and all the different things, the pressures that you must have going on. Maybe your spouse did lose their job. Now you’re the sole breadwinner at this point. I need to be able to recognize and understand those outside challenges and how they affect your time being here.”
The next challenge you might run into is when individuals feel as though there are no clear expectations here, or there are clear expectations but nobody’s held accountable to what we say we stand for as an organization. It’s like the Wild West. People get to do whatever they want or maybe only certain people get to do what they want. It sets an environment where people have had time to contemplate on that and say, “I feel like I don’t get treated as fairly as other people do. I feel like some people get a pass on things. I don’t have that luxury and that same relationship with my manager or with the leaders. There’s no clear expectation or when the expectations are clear, I get held to them but other people don’t have to follow through on what they said they were going to do.”
Those are six areas or six behaviors that create an environment. When you have them on a positive level, when I’m congruent, demonstrating appreciation, creating an environment of belongingness, listening, being empathetic, and setting clear expectations, you’re going to have a positive environment. You’re going to have one where fewer people are going to be questioning, “Is this the organization that I want to be with?” When we don’t behave in those ways or we behave counter to those, we are creating an opportunity for people to question, “Do I want to be here?”
The positive behaviors almost immunize us or our organization to people either coming in and poaching our best people, or even creating an environment where people feel like they want to leave. They don’t. If those things are going on in an organization, I feel like this organization walks the talk. They listen to me and appreciate what I do. I feel like I belong here. They try and see things from where I am and be empathetic to the challenges that I face. I clearly understand what my role is here and what other people do as well. We’re held accountable to that and other people are accountable for what they’re supposed to be doing. That creates the best environment. When we have those, we have a team or an organization that supports, celebrates and able to challenge each other. Those are the three things. When you have those in an organization, then the sky’s the limit in terms of where you can go.
I mentioned smoking in here. This is where this is important. This is what is going to happen as it relates to this data that comes out. There are many and they are going to look at the labor data. They’re going to dismiss it and say, “Even though I know we’ve got behaviors and managers here that don’t treat others as good as they should, we’ve got certain engagement problems that we know of, but we’re in an environment where we’re not going to lose many people. We don’t have the resources, time or finances to deal with this,” which I always find interesting. When we say that leadership is so important and we attribute a lot of the problems within organizations to poor leadership, why wouldn’t you find the time to want to develop in that area? It doesn’t make sense.Support each other, celebrate each other, and challenge each other. If your organization has those things, the sky's the limit. Click To Tweet
When we think about this as it relates to smoking, we know there’s a correlation between smoking and things like lung cancer and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, strokes and other negative issues that can be attributed to smoking. There are correlations there, but it’s not causal. Meaning that just because I smoke doesn’t mean I’m going to get cancer or have a heart attack, stroke or any of those other things. That’s not necessarily going to happen. What I do believe we can all agree on is that smoking increases our risk that something is going to happen. We’re not going to be as healthy as we could be as if we didn’t smoke and we promoted a healthier lifestyle.
It’s the same thing with poor behaviors and organizations. There are strong correlations between poor behaviors and everything from theft to absenteeism, turnover, quality defects, patient safety, mortality and morbidity. However you want to look at it, we can find that there’s a correlation between poor behaviors, disengagement and the downstream and negative effects of disengagement within an organization or an institution. That doesn’t mean that every poor behavior is going to be causal and it’s going to create one of these things. Just like smoking, it’s going to make us less healthy. We’re not going to be as good and as fit as we could be if we didn’t smoke it at all or even if we reduce that.
It’s the same thing with our behaviors. We need to be healthier. I would say that we’re going to continue to see this trend. More and more people are going to start to act on their thoughts of leaving an organization because of behaviors. I would say it’s going to be very difficult to wind things back to what it was before this. Can I guarantee that? No, but I would say it’s going to be very unlikely. People are looking at their lives differently now than they did in 2020. It’s not to say some won’t slip back into it, but I would say we’re moving in a different direction.
I’ll end this with a quote that I use quite often. It’s by Eric Hoffer who said, “In times of change, the learners inherit the Earth while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited to inherit a world that no longer exists.” Unless you’ve been under a rock since 2020, the world has changed considerably and will continue to. It’s the learners or those people that will continue to look at, how do I develop better behaviors and skills as a leader so that I can prevent in my own organization those individuals that will be missed from this organization if they decide to quit?
I hope you found this valuable and helpful. This is based on a model that I use called CABLES as part of a leadership development program that I do. Each one of those letters in CABLES represents a behavior similar to the ones that I talked about. If you think of it this way, each of those behaviors is a cable that builds a stronger relationship bridge. The more that we model and demonstrate that behavior, the stronger our bridges become. We’re the architect, engineer and builder of our bridges. Those relationships that we have with our employees, coworkers, family members, friends and people outside in different organizations, it’s our behaviors that will create the difference. We all have the ability to develop these skills. I hope you’ll take some time to look at your own relationships and ask yourself which ones you’re adding and which ones you’re taking cables away from. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
Mental health issues have become even more felt in this time of the pandemic. With social isolation along with the uncertainties surrounding us, we can’t help but feel even more depressed and anxious. Diving deep into this very timely topic, Patrick Veroneau brings to the show Dylan Roberts from the Coast Guard Academy to shed light on the silent struggles many are facing with their mental health. Dylan talks about his journey through depression and suicidal ideation and how he was able to overcome them. He shares some of the things we need to do to have those tough conversations and develop the coping skills to deal with some of the difficult moments that come and go. What is more, Dylan then lets us in on his upcoming book, where he gives a peek into his own struggles and reminds us that it is okay not to be okay. Everyone is fighting their own battles. What all of us can do is by being kind to one another because kindness has a ripple effect with no logical end.
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Dylan Roberts: His Story On Overcoming The Stigma Behind Mental Health
In this episode, I’m going to talk to an individual I’ve known for many years. His name is Dylan Roberts. He’s from the Coast Guard Academy. I brought him on here to talk about his journey through some things that I didn’t even know that he was going through in his life. It’s around depression and suicide. In this environment that we’re in now, I think it’s so important. Whether it’s adolescents or adults, what are some of the things that we need to do to be having those conversations and developing the coping skills to be able to deal with some difficult times? Whether you know somebody directly or you know somebody that knows somebody that is going through this, this impacts all of us. I hope you stick around and read this inspiring conversation that I was able to have with Dylan. Let’s get into it.
Dylan, I want to thank you for being on the show. This is one of those episodes that can never be told too many times. I know we’re going to talk about some difficult things around suicidal ideation, depression and a lot of emotions. It’s important because at the age that you’re going to tell your story that had happened and there were many kids that are going through struggles and so many parents are struggling as well with how to address this.
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and share my story in the hopes that it can help others. I’m a first-class cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. I’m a few months away from graduating and commissioning as an officer in the United States Coast Guard. I graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School in 2016. In my senior year, I applied to the United States Coast Guard Academy. I received a conditional appointment pending a medical review. In my senior year, I find out that I’m getting medically disqualified due to suicidal ideation, depression and mood disorder from an incident that happened when I was fourteen years old.
When I was fourteen, I tried to commit suicide. Fast forward, I spent a year of my life at Marion Military Institute in hopes to get a medical waiver to prove that the stigma of what happened when I was fourteen years old isn’t going to define me for the rest of my life. I applied to the Merchant Marine Academy. I got medically disqualified from there as well. While at Marion, I got a temporary medical waiver to the Coast Guard Academy. They said, “You’re accepted, but it’s not permanent. You still have to prove yourself.”In my freshman year, I did well. I made it through Swab Summer, which is the equivalent of boot camp. We had to commission physicals for graduation. I got a full medical waiver for commissioning so that I can commission into the United States Coast Guard Academy. It’s a journey of my perseverance and trying to overcome the stigma of mental health, suicidal ideation and depression from things that happened when I was a teenager and in high school.People are only willing to go to the depth that you’re willing to go to. Click To Tweet
That journey from the time you graduated from high school and going through the Coast Guard Academy is a story in and of itself in terms of how you persevered and didn’t let this define who you are. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Dylan for many years. Back to when you were in junior high. You are a good-looking kid, a great athlete and well-liked by other kids. When I now know what was going on for you as a sophomore in high school, it’s even more of an alert for all of us like, what might be going on for somebody on the outside and how we look in terms of what’s going in for this person on the inside can be so much different. You certainly are one of those. With that said, the question that I think about, and I’m sure many do, especially parents in terms of how can we help, is there anything that you would go back to and say, “This was something that started to create this sense of unhappiness to me?”
I lived a normal life growing up. I have two happy parents. The misconception is that maybe you’re looking for what’s wrong or assuming that something’s wrong, but it can be in normal life too. I had two older brothers. They’re both smart, incredible and two great parents. What happened to me is when I was in eighth grade, my brother graduated high school. I was watching graduation. That was the first moment when I realized that my brother wasn’t going to be there for me anymore and that he was going to be going off to college. It’s that instance and also, that following year, my grandmother passed away, and I was very close to my grandmother.
Within six months of each other, the change of my brother leaving from home and experiencing the first person in my life to pass away for when the first thirteen years of my life growing up feeling invincible, I didn’t know how to deal with the passing of my grandmother. It was my dad’s mom and he didn’t show a lot of emotions to it because my dad doesn’t show a lot of emotion. I didn’t know how to cope with it. I didn’t know how to go on without even having my other brother in day-to-day life because we were close with each other. I wasn’t accepting change. I was diagnosed with seasonal depression.
In the fall, when the days get shorter and living in Maine, I suffered hard. I started having these feelings and I didn’t know how to cope with them. I was trying to keep up and stay in my social group. I felt like I was getting burned out, like a firecracker. I’m feeling every decision I was making at fourteen years old was so significant, the pressure to do good academically and to perform athletically. In my freshman year, I tore my hip flexor halfway through the season and being like, “Why me? Why did that have to happen to me?” I wouldn’t say it’s one major thing, but it’s a lot of little micro things that build-up to all these feelings and not knowing how to deal with those.
When you look back on that now, were there points where you’re like, “I know something doesn’t feel right, but I’m going to push through this.” When was the point where you were like, “This is more than I can handle?”
The point when it was more than I could handle was when I was a sophomore when I decided that I was going to make the decision to take my life. Leading up to that, my parents and I hadn’t been getting along. They’ve been headbutting between each other, maybe at me too, being defiant against my parents. Them saying, “No, you can’t do something.” Me pushing and saying, “Why can’t I do it? What’s wrong?” I’m fourteen years old and then comparing, “My friends can do this. My friends can do that.” My parents are laying down the law and I remember one night, my mom and I got into an argument. I went to my bedroom and said, “I can’t take this anymore.”
That’s when I made the decision that I wanted to take my life. I was successful. My mom found me unconscious on the floor. I tried strangling myself. I tied knots around my neck. I tied multiples so that I knew I wouldn’t be able to on time before I went unconscious. My mom thankfully found me because I texted my older brother and said, “I love you. Thanks for all that you’ve done. Thanks for always being there for me.” He texted her, but she came into my room, and that’s where she found me laying on the floor and unconscious. She called 911 and I went to the hospital. At the hospital, they said that there’s a voluntary program and that I would be going to a psychiatric hospital at Spring Harbor.
It would be a great opportunity to help with my depression and coping skills. It’s a way to take myself out of the elements that I’ve been in. It was a two-week pause button. Most times, teenagers and adolescents are in there for a month or more. I was only in there for two weeks, but it allowed for time to pause, to stop and let me be myself. I didn’t have my phone when I was in there, so there were no distractions. I began to learn coping skills. I was with a bunch of other teenagers that felt the same way that I felt. We got to talk about it in round table discussions, then learn and develop coping skills and understand how to deal with it.
Is there one thing that, as you were in there, start to create a shift for you?
A lot of it was the pressure that I was putting on myself. The relationship with my parents because I’d never told my parents that I’m depressed. I want to kill myself. I did it. It was learning to be able to have those conversations with my parents. That came in time because we went to family therapy. This was voluntary, but we knew that it was essential because it was what was going to help our family and help us because there are some communication gaps. Being the youngest of three, my mom and dad raised my older brother and middle brother, and then here’s me. They’re trying the same techniques that worked for my two older brothers, and it’s not working. Thinking of a DISC profile, we’re not all the same personality types and you can’t interact with us all the same way.
Understanding that for my parents and for me, feeling comfortable to have conversations with my parents because they’ve visited me twice while I was there. I got to talk to them. That was the first time that I’d seen emotions from them. That was something new for me because my parents didn’t show emotions. My mom told me growing up, “My job isn’t to be your friend. My job is to be your parent, to raise you right, and put you into this world as a gentleman.” That is an example of my mom and my dad isn’t one to show emotions. He is a career firefighter and he just got through things. He got over it. It was how it was. To start to see my parents showing that emotion and showing that compassion towards me, I felt that I could reciprocate it in the same way.
Your mom’s saying, “I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to be your parent and to develop you.” As you look back at that moment, how did that come across to you? Being told, “I’m not your friend.”
It was hard because I wanted more from my mom to have a closer relationship but at the same time, I understood that when she did things, it was for my future. I can’t say that I understood that but looking back now, I understand the things that my mom did and what she said to me and the purpose behind it. One of the biggest lessons that they taught me was that you’re entitled to nothing and things in life aren’t just going to be given to you. That was something that I had a hard time with going to Cape Elizabeth, where my friends would be driving cars.
Their parents would buy them a bunch of things and I’d be like, “My friends have a car. Why can’t I have a car?” She would tell me to go out and work for it. I didn’t like that answer. At that time, I wish that maybe she would have been my friend, but I know that it would be hard too because that’s never been the side of my mom, even though I felt that growing up, I was more of a mama’s boy. She wanted to always lookout for the best interest of me, whether I knew it or not.
It is hard. As parents, we’re not given manuals on how to do this. She did the best she can. I can see that struggle of your mother wanting to say, “I’m not your friend. I’m here for a bigger purpose,” but not that she didn’t want to be close to you, but it’s the way it happened. As you look back on this, were there signs or signals that you were trying to give to your parents or those around you to say, “I’m struggling now.” If you look back on it now, where there are behaviors or things that you were doing that were ways for you to say, “I need help.”
Not really, and the reason why is because it’s hard to tell somebody that you’re struggling. Especially now, in this day and age, everybody wants to say, “I’m okay. I’m good. How are you?” “I’m good. You?” It’s that lack of depth. I don’t want to say that it was a problem back then, but people are only willing to go to the depth that you’re willing to go to. I didn’t want to be the one going to that depth first. As the youngest of two other brothers and having parents that were very stern, but I don’t want to say emotionless, but in that facet, I didn’t want to be the one to be like, “I’m struggling hard now.”
The only thing that I can think of is that I would become defiant with my parents and maybe short-tempered. I would storm off if I didn’t like something that they said and be like, “I can’t wait until I can get out of this house. I can’t wait until I can graduate.” Especially in writing my book, Keep Pushing, a lot of the book is talking about the reflection of how I wish I could have been closer to my parents and been more thankful for the lessons and the things that they did for me and the lessons that they gave to me.
The next piece of this, when we talk about not wanting to talk about some of these things, here you are in two weeks, you’re gone out of your normal mix. What was that like for you going back to school? I’m sure there were a lot of questions around like, “Dylan, where have you been? What’s going on?” How did you handle that?
It was hard. I remember the first day walking back into school and feeling like all eyes were on me. I’m feeling anxious. I’d never been one to feel anxiety. I felt so much anxiety and my heart pounding because I didn’t know what I was going to say when the first person asked me, “Where have you been? Where are you for the last two weeks?” Because I was on sports teams. I was a part of a lot of formal and informal activities and clubs at school, the excuse I came up with was I was on a hunting trip. I didn’t have phone service and I completely lied to my friends. Until November 2020, I didn’t tell any of my closest friends what had happened to me. I did not want to be a part of that stigma of mental health.
I did not want people to think of me differently or think that I was weak because I did that. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t tell any of my teachers. The only person that knew was my Health teacher and the social worker at school so that I could go back into classes because I’d missed two weeks of classes and they waived that for me. I told my Health teacher and one of the things that she told me, especially knowing my struggle because I had her in class. We talked about suicide and mental health, and I felt comfortable going to her. She told me, “This too shall pass, TTSP. Whenever you’re feeling down or having a hard day, remember this too shall pass. The school day doesn’t last forever.” I looked to go through that. Pretty soon, things blew over, and there was the next new thing to worry about or new drama. I went back into the rhythm of it and I felt like I didn’t have to tell anyone so I never did.Whenever you’re feeling down or having a hard day, remember this too shall pass. Click To Tweet
Was that your mantra too, as one of your coping skills, is to be telling yourself, this too shall pass?
Yes. I still use it to this day because you’re not going to be stuck at that moment forever. There are going to be hard days since I was fourteen years old, but I knew that emotion or those feelings that I would feel aren’t going to last forever. Knowing that time keeps moving and time is the best healer for whatever you’re going through.
This isn’t this fairytale ending where all of a sudden you do two weeks, you are able to leave early from the hospital and you develop these coping skills. Life gets back in the way of this and my guess is you’ve developed additional coping skills or ways that have allowed you to continue to build on that. Is there anything in particular that you look at now and say, “This has been one of those building blocks for me?”
To go off the first point is that I was struggling again during baseball season. I got hit by a line drive right in the head, and I got knocked out with a concussion. I was out for my sophomore baseball season. One day I was struggling and one of the coping skills that I had was outreaching with my dad. I texted my dad and said, “I’m struggling.” He picked me up from school. We got ice cream and went to the beach. This was a big moment for me in terms of my dad being vulnerable to me, understanding and learning the value of vulnerability.
My dad told me he wasn’t sure what I was going through, but telling me this story that when he was nineteen years old, he was in a serious relationship with a girl and she ended up breaking his heart. He said, “I was upset for weeks. I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to do anything. I thought she was the one but had she not broken my heart, I would have never met your mother. I wouldn’t have these three amazing boys. Whether I knew it or not at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I have you. I’m proud of you.” That was the first time that my dad was vulnerable with me because I had no idea of that story. That was him telling me he’s proud of me. I hugged him. I was like, “This is the most incredible feeling.”
I know for a fact that my dad would’ve been proud of me and other moments growing up, but for him to openly say, “I’m proud of you,” was more than I ever imagined. It’s just not words that came out of his mouth. That vulnerability taught me to be more vulnerable and how I mentioned before, people are only willing to go to the depth that you’re willing to go to. I wasn’t the one that had to go to that depth first that day. That was an incredible moment. Always taking time for myself in the day. I started doing yoga. I like to work out a lot and I value nutrition, food and making sure that I’m eating well and drinking a lot of water. Also, getting myself out of an environment when I can feel myself going downhill and I could be going to hang out with a friend or going to the gym and working out or going for a walk, but if I feel myself getting down on myself, getting out and changing scenery.
One of the other things you mentioned is you’ve written a book and that’s going to be a whole separate show. We talked about when that book finally launches and we’re going to speak specifically to that. Part of that must be writing. How did writing fit in for you in this process?
It’s tremendous because for me not to want to tell my story or share it with other people, I felt that writing was a way that I could get it off my chest without feeling like I needed to tell somebody, but getting out there. Even now, if I have a bad interaction with someone or I’m feeling frustrated, I’ll get out of the line with a piece of paper and write. I’m like, “I feel a lot better now.” I’ll crumple it up and throw it away because it’s a way for me to express myself, even if it’s just to myself. By doing that, it’s awesome. That’s why I started writing my book. I never plan on sharing it, but the reason I started writing it informally was because it helped me when I was drained or burnt out to write away and think of nothing else.
There was a process there. At what point did you say or did somebody else read one of them and say, “This would be something that other people should hear about?”
I had the privilege of being on a Fast Response Cutter out of Miami Beach and that’s for the Coast Guard. One of the crew members, he’s a father. He had a son that at my age, when I was 12 or 13, started feeling depressed and going through suicidal ideation. He told them that he thought about suicide. As a parent, he had no idea how to handle that and what to do. This was my first vulnerability for me to go to that depth first. I told him about my experience and how I overcame it and what I felt like I needed from my parents at that time. Hearing him talk about how important that was and be like, “I get it because I felt lost but to have you talk to me and to share your story.” He broke down.
It was incredible because it was a big realization of you want to be a parent and you want to be a good parent, but at some point in time, you got to hug your kid, your son or your daughter and tell them you’re proud of them with no repercussion. It’s like the report card. The report card saying, “When you get a bunch of A’s and B’s back, and there’s one C, and as parents, you tend to focus on that one C getting that up instead of praising them for all the A’s and B’s that they get.” The purpose of praise is to tell people what to do more of. Sometimes we do it backward, but telling him and seeing the impact that I had on him, made me feel comfortable to share one more time with one more person that was struggling.
We talk about vulnerability. This is the first opportunity you have to tell that story. I have to believe that you had to go outside of yourself to want to do that, but you saw somebody else going through that and you knew that needed to happen. You mentioned you didn’t tell your friends until November of 2020. That’s got to be a vulnerability as well. How did they take that?Every act of kindness has a ripple effect with no logical end. Click To Tweet
When I told my story for the first time, I was telling it, not for me. I was telling it for that shipmate, to help him as a father. Coming up seven years from when it happened and getting that medical waiver permanent so that I can commission, I decided that I was going to share a piece with my closest friends. I was talking to them and said, “When we were going through high school together, something happened to me and I never shared it.” I sent them the piece. Their first reaction was, “It is your obligation to share this with other people because you have no idea the impact that it’s going to have because I had no idea that you ever went through this, that you were ever suffering from depression or suicidal ideation.”
That one confidence boost to know that they’re not judging me. They don’t think any of me, but in terms of me being vulnerable and courageous, they’re standing up for me. I decided to share my story and published it. When I did, my heart was pounding when I press send. Shortly after I submitted it and published it, I got a response back from somebody that I didn’t know. She said, “Thank you for posting the words that I never had the courage to do so myself.” All of a sudden, my inbox is full of vulnerable stories that people had gone through. I didn’t know them, but going back to people are only willing to go to the depth that you’re willing to go to, when I went to that depth and made my story public, it had a ripple effect.
Every act of kindness has a ripple effect with no logical end. It’s the same thing with vulnerability. These people that have their stories kept inside for so long now have that first person that they feel comfortable to share it with. They didn’t even know me, but it was because I decided to share my story too. That’s when I decided that I needed to make all the writing that I’ve done over the last couple of years into a book. It was my obligation to share it just to help one person because it’s not about me anymore. It’s not my story. It’s in helping people understand that it’s okay not to be okay. A lot of people suffer. Fifty-four percent of people know someone that’s been impacted by suicide and 10% or more of people in the United States have thought about committing suicide.
The numbers are only increasing and growing. The amount of stories that I heard back in terms of a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister, son or daughter that committed suicide after reading my story, I’m at a loss for words because it’s heartbreaking. Fortunately, I’m on the other side of that and my mom saved me but to either bring assurance or where peace of somebody reading that story, but also for somebody that is struggling to know that it’s okay not to be okay and not to feel that you need to keep it to yourself, even though it took me seven years to tell my story.
You are telling your friends and everybody has their journey on this, but I would think it opens you up to all of those people that your friends are saying, “I wish I had known that I could’ve done something to help you out at that point.” There were many people around that care, but maybe don’t know what to do, but want to do something. The other piece I think about when you talked about vulnerability, going to that level, it sounds like that’s almost what your dad did too. He became vulnerable in a place that wasn’t his nature but to tell a story about it, he went to that level first to be able to make you more comfortable.
That’s why when a parent, mom, or dad can go to that level first with their son, then there’s going to be more communication. Let’s go there. One of the things growing up that there was a big shift in my high school years was the paradigm of trust. It started off as sticks and carrots with my mom and my dad. I didn’t necessarily care about pleasing them or making them happy. It was more so, I’m going to do what’s best for me or I’m going to go here because I want to go here or I’m going to go with my friends. There was that lack of trust. I want to say that at some point, I lost it because I knew that I couldn’t go hang out with my friends on a school night until 10:00 PM because I had a curfew. To lie really quick and tell my parents that I was coming home or that I was working on schoolwork when I wasn’t, instead of feeling that I could be honest and tell them, “I want to hang out with my friends another hour longer,” because I knew that wasn’t going to be okay.
After that whole incident, trust shifted to where I didn’t want to disappoint them. When I told them stuff, their reaction where they otherwise would have usually got upset or got mad at me and be like, “No. You can’t do that.” They were like, “Why did you feel like you wanted to do that?” I felt a lot closer to my parents. It was almost like I want to be back by 9:00 PM because I don’t want to disappoint my parents because I know that they trust me. I don’t want to lose that trust. It’s such a fine line balancing as a parent.
This is the story that my parents told me. You want your child to be able to call you when they’re in trouble because they know that you’re going to be there for them and you’re not going to scream at them or yell at them or tell them that they’re grounded. At 15 or 16 years old, if you’re at a high school party or you get drunk with your friends, are you going to take the chance to drive home or are you going to say, “No. I know that my mom might be disappointed, but I know that she’s going to be there for me and I can call her. I feel comfortable calling her to say, ‘I want you to pick me up,’” or if I’m uncomfortable in the situation that she’s not going to rip my head off.
We’ve had that conversation with our kids of saying, “We don’t care where you are. We’ll come to get you. We’ll have a conversation about it later on, but it won’t be at that moment. We want to bring you home safely.”
Having those types of conversations as a teenager, there’s a shift where you don’t want to defy your parents anymore. You don’t want to disappoint them because again, going to when my dad told me he was proud of me. When he tells me he’s proud of me on the baseball field, it makes me want to work that much harder because there’s nothing more than a child wants than the praise of his parents. When I got my parent’s praise, that was the best thing I could’ve ever asked for.
Somebody being angry with you does not have the same sting as somebody that says they’re disappointed in you. It hits on such a deeper level, disappointment versus just somebody angry and yelling at you. As we wrap things up here, two thoughts come to mind. One, if there are younger kids that may be reading this that are struggling, what would you recommend to them?
Don’t worry about fitting in. It’s better sometimes to stand out than fit in. There’s so much pressure nowadays to fit in and to stay up with the latest fashion. Second, you don’t need to have it all figured out. That was one of the things too. I compare myself to others, feeling that maybe somebody else had it more together than I did and that would get to me. I said, “What am I going to make in my life?” That was frustrating. One of the things that my dad told me was, “Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on what you have right in front of you.” That’s the biggest thing for me is to know that you don’t have to have it figured out.There’s nothing more than a child wants than the praise of his parents. Click To Tweet
People figure it out at 30, 40, 50. At sixteen years old, you need to learn. It sounds crazy enough, but we think that every decision has such a big impact at sixteen, but it doesn’t. Know that this too shall pass, TTSP and times of great healer if you’re going through something. My last point is to make sure that you love your parents because they’re trying to figure it out just as much as you are. They didn’t have a prior life before this where they could tweak their parenting skills and then come into this world and say, “I got it all figured out.” Whether or not we realize that, they’re trying to figure it out. There was this statistic that I saw that roughly 90% of your in-person time with your parents by the end of high school is over with. Value that time with your parents and know that they’re trying as hard as you are.
I’m going to ask you to imagine putting on your parenting hat for those that might be reading that have kids, that maybe are aware or not aware of this, what would you say to them?
Discipline only goes so far. By the time I was sixteen years old, I could block it out and my dad would get upset or yell at me. There are a bunch of different techniques and tactics. I’m not a parent, but there’s a podcast called The Knowledge Project. There’s an episode The Kids Are Worth It. I listened to that and I thought it was important, but the balance of trust is that the ability to have conversations and be vulnerable as a parent with your kids so that they’re vulnerable too. They’re not going to come to you and tell you all their problems openly. That’s not going to happen. Whether or not you think it is, it’s not. Be vulnerable and try to spend time with them. Tell them that you’re proud of them. That’s the biggest one.
The purpose of praise is to tell people what to do more of. Focus on those A’s and B’s and congratulate them for their efforts. Don’t be so hard on them because whether or not you know it, your praise and the words that you say as a parent sticks with a teenager. We’re growing up in different times, even as you mentioned too, for your oldest son and youngest son going through high school, even though it’s only eight years apart, they’re completely drastically different. To know as a parent, reflecting and using maybe the same techniques that your parents used to parent you not going to work.Don’t worry about fitting in. It’s better sometimes to stand out than fit in. Click To Tweet
Sometimes you got to keep trying different solutions, but you can’t try the same thing over and over and expect different results. Know that there are different ways to talk to your kids. If you have 2 or 3 kids, they’re not coming off a factory line identical. They have different personalities and you can have an interaction with your oldest and it’s going to be different than your interaction with your youngest son or daughter, and knowing that they want and need different things because they’re not the same person.
Dylan, it’s been an honor and such a privilege to have you on this show to talk about such an important subject. I am looking forward to our follow-up from this, where we’ll talk specifically about your book too. Thank you so much.It’s been a pleasure being on the show. I appreciate it.
About Dylan Roberts
Dylan is a 1/c cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy studying Business & Management. His area of study is focused on leadership and financial management due to his desire to lead others and interest in the stock market, investment banking, and venture capital.
Dylan chose to attend the Coast Guard Academy because of his desire for a unique and structured college experience while also having the opportunity to serve his country upon graduation. The Coast Guard Academy’s management program is accredited by the internationally recognized Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Dylan would like to pursue an MBA and someday get his CFA certification.
Dylan is currently serving as the President of both the Investment Committee and Financial Club. They actively manage a portfolio through Goldman Sachs on behalf of the CGA Alumni Association. In addition, they collaborate with Navy Federal Credit Union and First Command to create financial opportunities for the Corps of Cadets.
Dylan trades short-term positions in stocks and options using both technical and fundamental analysis. His goal is to read at least one book per week. The topics he read consist of investing, leadership, Stoicism and Buddhist philosophy, psychology, behavior studies, and business.
Dylan currently holds a Secret Security Clearance.