No leader is self-made. Every leader has a mentor and this is what Scott Jeffrey Miller talks about in his book Master Mentor. In this book, Scott passes the spotlight to 30 of the greatest minds and mentors out there. They share insights and experiences so that you can become a better leader. Join Patrick Veroneau as he talks to Scott Jeffrey Miller about why everyone needs a master mentor in their lives. Learn more about Scott’s book series Master Mentor and some of the key people he talked to. Discover how you can be a leader that everybody can trust.
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Why Everyone Can Benefit From A Master Mentor With Scott Jeffrey Miller
Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights from Our Greatest Minds, I had the opportunity to read this book. We talked about a number of different themes in it from how to listen to how to build better self-awareness, and how to deal with anxiety. Before we get into that, here is a little background in terms of who Scott Jeffrey Miller is. He serves as Franklin Covey’s Senior Advisor on Thought Leadership as well as leading the strategy and development of the firm’s speaker bureau.
On top of that, he hosts On Leadership, which is a podcast. It’s the world’s largest and fastest-growing leadership podcast. It reaches more than 6 million people weekly. On top of that, he also authors a leadership column for Inc.com. He’s a best-selling author himself of the series, Mess to Success. This was one of my favorite interviews, so let’s get into it.
Scott, thanks so much for being on the show. I appreciate this. You run a wildly successful podcast on leadership, but you also have a series of books that have been extremely successful. For this, I wanted to talk about Master Mentors Volume 2. I wanted to start this off with an observation that I had as I was reading it. To me, it helps eliminate the term self-made from what I would call the personal success vocabulary.
Thank you for the platform and the spotlight. When you say the term self-made, that doesn’t even compute in my formula of success. I’ve heard of the term. I know people probably think that to be true, but I could name for you extemporaneously, with no preparation, the 15 to 20 people that were the key contributors to my success, starting with Jane, Deborah, Larry, and then moving on to Charles. There’s also Don, Chuck, Charles again, Colleen, Todd, David, and Stefan.
I can name the names of the people that were instrumental and transformative in my life. They’re people that live next door to me and gave me their farmer’s market stand to run while they went off to college. That may also be early bosses, or Frank, one of my PR professors at Rollins College that launched my career. It doesn’t even compute to me this concept of self-made.
I’m the same way. We do such a disservice when we title people as self-made. I look at it and say, “Unless you have birthed yourself, made your own clothes, built your own house, and everything, you need other people.” That’s what I loved about this book. It’s on two fronts. One, you talk about your own story and The Bruce Williams Show. I’d love to talk about that because to me, that’s part of your narrative of going against not being self-made. He was a mentor for you. The title of the book itself, Master Mentors, also is suggestive of we don’t do this alone. We need other people around us. We can’t be self-made, but we’re self-motivated to be successful.
That is beautifully said. The book is Master Mentors. There are 10 books in this 10-year volume series. There is one per year every year where I, like you, have the privilege of interviewing people of accomplishment on the podcast that I host, which is On Leadership with Scott Miller. Every year, I write a book about it. It’s like Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s not Jim Collins or Adam Grant kind of stuff. They’re light, easy-breezy books where I highlight 30 people. In many ways, I’m redefining, along with other people’s support like yours, what we think of as a mentor.
A lot of us think a mentor is someone we’re matched with within our organization. They’re on the 7th floor and we’re on the 1st floor, or whatever it is. We meet with them for one hour every month for six months and it’s over. That works and that is valuable. Take advantage of that in your organization if they have a mentoring program, but like you, most of the biggest mentors in my life, I never met. They don’t even know I exist, whether they’re books that I read, conferences that I go to, or podcasts that I listen to. This man named Bruce Williams was a radio host in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He hosted an evening radio talk show back when there wasn’t talk radio. His program was called Talknet and it turned into The Bruce Williams Show.Most of your biggest mentors are people you've never met in your life. Click To Tweet
He was a small-town Bayer, entrepreneur, and businessman. He made lots of mistakes in life. He held a three-hour open line program where you could call in and talk about, “I inherited some money. What do I do? I want to buy a house. Do I need an attorney? What is life insurance term versus whole life?” It was cantankerous and a little bit of a curmudgeon, but genius. For a decade, when most of the cool kids were listening to XS and U2, I was listening to Bruce Williams. It had a massive transformation on my business acumen, my literacy, and my desire to learn more. He was the biggest mentor of my life. Bruce Williams died never knowing I even existed.
I love that story in the book. I said before we started that I was listening to ACDC at that point. I was not watching or listening to The Bruce Williams Show, which I probably wish I should have been, but I wasn’t. It is such a great story and lead-in to what this book is about. I don’t know if you’re familiar with works by Napoleon Hill. Do you remember Napoleon Hill talking about his trusted circle and that we’re all imaginary people? It would be Abraham Lincoln or somebody else. It’s very much the same thing with these books. It provides an opportunity to think, “What were they doing? How would they approach this?” It’s that same approach.
To your point, I don’t know about your entire career journey, but mine has been very blessed. I’ve worked super hard and earned a lot of my success through the guidance and coaching of other people. In the first half of my career, I intentionally had the spotlight focused on me. I turned the spotlight onto me. As I mature, I’m trying to discover my strengths. I’m an aggregator and a pollinator. I’m not sure I’ve ever had an original idea in my entire life. Most of us haven’t.
The contribution I’m making through this book series and a show like yours is allowing people access. They’re like, “I didn’t know about this person or that person. What is this book you referenced?” I’m trying to not write a book that is a compendium of other books. I’m trying to write a book that is a spotlight on other people’s content so that you learn about people perhaps you didn’t know about. You go buy their book and make them part of your circle or board of directors, so to speak. That’s the purpose of the Master Mentor series.
With not having an original thought, very few of us do. I would argue probably none of us. Napoleon Hill, when he wrote The Law of Success, he says that right at the beginning of the book, “In terms of what you are going to read here, there’s nothing novel in terms of what I’ve come up with. What I have done is combined different messages in a different form that hopefully resonates with you as a reader.”
You have 30 in here. We’re not going to get to all of them. As I was reading this, and especially in the environment, there were a couple of themes that I picked out that I’d love to throw around. One was around listening. In the environment we’re in, our inability to listen to understand has been detrimental to a lot of relationships. One of the individuals was Julian Treasure in here. What was that conversation like?
Julian Treasure, like you, is a fairly famous TED speaker. His TED Talk has hundreds of millions of views. He’s a British listening communication expert. He wrote a book called How to Be Heard. The insight that Julian Treasure brings is recognizing that everyone listens differently. We spend a lot of time in our careers understanding our leadership style and our personality style, but I don’t think many of us really assess what our communication style is. We have one. I have one and you have one.
As we look post-pandemic to a world where people have choices and don’t want to work for bad cultures or bad bosses anymore, they’re willing to quit and go open up an NFT, Etsy store, or trade crypto. They’re not like your and my generation where they own three cars. They don’t even own a car. Most of them don’t have a license anymore because they’re of different values than we do. Good on them.
We’ve got to make sure that we have an individualized style of leadership. Not everyone should be an anesthesiologist, a commercial airline pilot, or a leader of people so be thoughtful about how you might be lured into leadership. If you are going to be a leader of people formally, then you need to be thoughtful about how those people want to be led. They all want to be led differently. They want to be listened to, treated, validated and praised differently. They also have different listening styles.Everyone leads differently. So if you want to be a leader of people, you have to be very thoughtful about how people want to be led. Click To Tweet
Jillian Treasure’s insight is a little bit of an awkward term. He calls it Listen to the Listening. That means you’ve got to be nimble, agile, and mature enough to change your communication style to the way different people listen differently. I have one style. It’s loud, fast, charismatic, and dominating. I’m a very loud, passionate person. Sometimes, that works for me. Oftentimes, it works against me. The big idea here is to understand if you want to be an influential leader, you’ve got to be self-aware of what your default communication style is and how you can modify and moderate it to the way other people listen. It means you have to get to know them and understand what are their fears, passions, joys, and what types of leadership work well for them.
Leadership is more difficult than even pre-pandemic because, in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, you had a style. Everybody cleaved to that. They had to align themselves with your style. It doesn’t work that way anymore. You’ve got to make sure that you are listening to the way each and every person in your life needs to be communicated to, including your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, your committee members, and all that.
That is without question. You mentioned in that chapter that you talk about your own learning lesson there. This was the old Scott where you were told by your boss, “You make too many declarative statements.”
That was a lovely day. I was the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer, of the Franklin Covey Company for a decade. It is a well-respected global leadership firm. The CEO was a lovely man. We were very different in personality and competence, but I love him and he loves me, which is why I stayed for 25 years. It was because my boss loved me.
People don’t quit leaders who loved them. People don’t go across the street for a 1% more commission, $2 more an hour, or $10,000 more a year if they believe their leader loves them. You stay. People don’t quit leaders who love them. This particular leader, we have very different personalities. He has what I call a telepathic leadership style. He does not like confrontation. Do not back him into a corner because you will lose. Do not underestimate his fierce tenacity to win. He is a gracious person and he likes harmony.
One day, in the C-Suite, after a long executive team meeting where I had spouted off way too many of my opinions, as the meeting came to a close, he walked past me and looked me in the eye. He said to me, “You make too many declarative statements,” and went to the restroom. This is the CEO of a global public company. He is wearing a suit and tie. He is your iconic public CEO of impeccable character. Talk about an ego anima. He was right. What I did was I started forming my statements into the sound of questions. I would say, “Are we concerned about the fact that this and this is happening?” I’m not sure I learned a whole lot on that other than how to frame declarative statements into interrogative statements.
Do they call that passive-aggressive at all?
Him or me?
Yes, but I’m not passive-aggressive. I’m flat-out aggressive. I love that man. It was a very insightful comment to me. Since he was such an EF Hutton type, I knew exactly what he meant. I didn’t need to go through the pain of having him describe it to me. I did some self-exploration on talking less, being the less genius in the room, and doing a better job of listening. In some cases, when I chemically could not keep my mouth shut, I form my statement in the phrase of a question so I sounded less arrogant.
I thought you were going to say you left the room.
That would’ve been a more mature version of Scott Miller.
To dovetail off of that, another theme there is self-awareness. The two go together. You talk about Tasha Eurich. I loved the definition that she used. She said, “The will is having the will in the skill to see yourself clearly.” That’s so important when it talks about the will. People have to want to do this first to be in awareness, and also then, how do you develop the skill to know yourself more clearly?
This is a phenomenal mentor, Tasha Eurich. She’s an organizational psychologist out of Denver. She wrote a very famous book called Insight. She looks at self-awareness from how we see ourselves and also how others see us internally and externally. I highly recommend the book Insight. I don’t know about you, but I spent my career of nearly 30 years in formal leadership positions at the Walt Disney Company and the Franklin Covey company. I had the honor of interviewing thousands of people over the course of my career and hiring hundreds and terminating dozens of them.
I can tell you that in 28 years, or more than that, I never once had to fire someone because they lacked the technical skills to do the job they were hired for. They always had technical skills. Every single termination that I was responsible for executing on, every one of them was because the person had no idea what it was like to work with them.
They had no idea what it was like to lead them, be led by them, stand in a trade show booth for three days with them, be in a Zoom call, or launch a product with them. They had no idea. Oftentimes, it was because I don’t think they ever had a leader who loved them enough to risk not being liked at the moment to tell them the truth or give them feedback on their blind spots.
I’m on a little bit of a tangent here, but with 30 years in the leadership business, I do not believe that a leader’s number one job is the mission, vision, and values or system, structures, and strategies. You’ve got to do those things. I believe a leader’s number one job is to recruit and retain talent. That is the talent that is noticeably and palpably more talented than you are.A leader's number one just is not mission, vision, and values. It's recruiting and retaining talent. Click To Tweet
The second most important role of a leader is to give people feedback on their blind spots, which requires them to move outside their comfort zone and discuss the undiscussable. Sit someone down and declare your intent, like, “My intent is not to minimize you or embarrass you. My intent is to help you build a more expansive brand here. I want to give you some feedback on some things I see you doing that are limiting your reputation here.” This is a leader who loves her people.
People aren’t naturally self-aware. I wasn’t naturally aware that my voice is always at this level until my wife says to me, “You are a jackass. Why are you talking so loud? I don’t like you. Stop screaming in my ear.” My sense is it probably comes from my feeling of a need to have power over people. The louder I speak and the more firm I am, the more they’ll do what I want. That’s a diminishing thing. I don’t know how people see me. I’m trying to learn that so I can have better friendships and a stronger marriage. This is a chapter I’m especially passionate about.
If you think about it like a Venn diagram, the best teams do three things. One is they support each other. We have each other’s backs. That comes in the form of listening and appreciation or empathy for those around us. The next is they celebrate each other. That’s about recognizing people for who they are and what they do. Those two things are important. I don’t think we do enough of the celebration part within organizations that we recognize people. It’s this old mentality that you and I probably grew up with in terms of work was, “Why are we going to recognize somebody for what we pay them to do? That’s what they get a salary for.”
The last part is critical, though, that the best teams challenge each other, which is what you’re talking about. To challenge somebody in a way that is effective, you have to earn the right to be able to do that so it doesn’t land in the wrong way. The only way you do that is when you demonstrate to somebody, “I have your back. I support you. I celebrate who you are. I recognize you.” When I do those two things, I’ve not only earned your trust, but I have an obligation to challenge you.
That is so well said. One of the mentors from volume one is Stephen M.R. Covey, Dr. Covey’s eldest son. He is a very dear friend of mine. He wrote a book called The Speed of Trust. He is a seminal thought leader in the world on building a high-trust culture. He says something so profound in his speeches. He says, “Raise your hand if you’re trustworthy.” Everyone’s hands go up and he says, “Put them down. Who decides if you’re trustworthy?” Everyone says, “It’s the other person.” The key premise of this is you have to behave yourself to a reputation of being trusted by others.
When someone trusts you based on the fact that you make and keep commitments, you honor confidential information, and you don’t gossip about people, then they’re going to be more open to you giving them feedback on their blind spots because they also know your intent. Sometimes, it requires you to declare your intent.
Use the words, “I’d like to have a bit of a high courage conversation with you. Could I first declare my intent? My intent is not to do anything other than to help you. My intent is not to do this.” People and their reptilian brains calm a little bit. If they trust you based on their experience with you and you have declared your intent, they’re more likely to receive your feedback on their blind spots. As a result, their self-awareness grows.
I had the good fortune of interviewing Stephen on his book.
Am I on the same show as Stephen M.R. Covey?
Yeah. It’s like the Franklin family right here.
There was one thing that stuck out to me. It was around trust in him, too. To gain trust, you have to give trust. You have to say, “I trust that you can handle this. You’re going to do this.” There’s a lot of power to that in terms of when people feel as though you believe in them. You trust that they’re going to be able to pull this off. It’s almost like you don’t want to disappoint them.
It’s an epiphany for a lot of people. We all view ourselves as being trustworthy. You’ve got to behave yourself into being trusted by others. That’s a process. It’s not an event or a mindset. It’s a reputation for making and keeping commitments.
That gets built over time. It’s not instantaneous. The last one I wanted to touch on in this environment is anxiety. You have a great story in there about Chester Elton.
Chester Elton is one of the finest, most abundant people I know. He wrote a series of books. His fame came from writing The Carrot Principle back in his days in O.C. Tanner. He left O.C. Tanner and went on with his writing partner Adrian Gostick to write 4 or 5 best-selling books. He calls himself the Apostle of Appreciation. I’d love to keynote your conference people, but don’t hire me. Hire Chester Elton. He’s better and riotously entertaining.
He wrote a book called Anxiety at Work. It was, in essence, a leader’s guide to understanding the pervasive aspect of anxiety and how it’s not going away. If you remember the chapter in my book, I’m fortunate I don’t suffer, that I’m aware of, from any serious mental illness. I’ve had a very remarkably trauma-free life. I’ve been blessed with great mentors and parents. I made good decisions. I also made some bad decisions along the way, but I’ve had a fairly trauma-free life. I don’t suffer from anxiety. I suffer from lots of other things, but not anxiety.
What I did was I turned the chapter over to a young man who works for me. His name is Drew Young. He is 25 years old and he suffers from crippling anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. They’re things that I can’t even comprehend. I highlight Chester as the mentor on how pervasive anxiety is in the workplace. I turn the chapter over to Drew, and Drew writes a very vulnerable first piece about two people suffering from anxiety at work. He follows it up and writes a chapter on their leaders, the Scott Millers of the world, and how to lead them better.
It wasn’t a risk because I trusted Drew a lot, but I wanted it to be a validation to leaders like me that can’t understand and get frustrated perhaps with people that have pressing emotional issues and how to value them, make them feel seen and heard, and give them some space. It is also for people that are suffering from anxiety that Drew speaks to them to say, “It is okay. Take it one day at a time. It will get better. Reach out for help. Talk to your leader. Tell them what you’re going through.” I hope that chapter is well-received.If you are suffering from anxiety, take it one day at a time. Talk to your leader and reach out for help. Click To Tweet
It was powerful, the way it was written. It was talking about it from the perspective of the person that’s going through it, but also as a leader, saying, “Here’s what you need to know about this.” To take a step back there, in regard to leadership, you talked about all these things that are important. In the programs that I went through and the experience that I had, we spent too much time as leaders talking about leading as opposed to focusing on followers. Without followers, we’re not leading anybody.
I look at it as if I was selling a product, we would do market research and say, “This is what the customers want to buy. This is what’s important to them.” If I’m selling that product and I say, “That might be what they want, but I like these things. I’m going to sell a product as this,” it wouldn’t sell. Leadership development oftentimes looks that way. We haven’t looked at the market research that’s been done on the customer who is the follower to say, “Give them what they need and they will buy your leadership.” They will buy it. The data is out there in Gallup studies, Press Ganey, or whatever it is. The data is there to be able to say, “That’s your market research. Follow that and people will follow.”
I have nothing to add to that. That was perfectly stated.
Of all of these in this second volume, is there one that was most important for you?
Thank you for asking. The first chapter is about a man named Zafar Masud who survived a commercial airline crash, but the one I want to talk about is chapter number two, Bobby Herrera. Bobby Herrera is Latino. His family was from Mexico. They met a new Mexican farmer, and the farmer invited them over to work on their farm. They showed up with thirteen children. The farmer had no idea. Bobby was the first in the family to be born in America. He is 1 of 13 kids from a hardworking and fairly resource-rich family. You can imagine a Latino family with thirteen children.
He then went on to become a very famous entrepreneur and author who had a book called The Gift of Struggle. Don’t Buy Master Mentors. Buy The Gift of Struggle. This is a beautiful book. You can read it in an hour. Bobby tells a story that is life-changing. When he was in high school, he and his brother played basketball on a local high school basketball team.
After every game, when the bus would stop at a restaurant, all of the members of the basketball team got off and went in to have dinner, win or lose, except for the Herrera brothers. They stayed on the bus and they ate the brown-bagged dinner their mom had packed for them. How embarrassing and emasculating. Every night, the Herrera brothers stayed on the bus while all their teammates went and had dinner. My sense is it wasn’t Ruth’s Chris. It was more like Sizzler or a burger shop.
It was not until one day, one of the fathers of one of the teammates re-boarded the bus, walked back to their seats, and said in private, “I want you to join the team. Be my guest.” He handed them each $10 and says, “No one needs to know. I want you to join the team. All I ask for in return is to go make something of your lives and do the same for somebody else.” Bobby Herrera said it was the first time in his life he’d ever felt seen by anyone. He couldn’t see tomorrow, next month, or a career. He couldn’t see his way out of this, but A Latino farm family went on to run a $500 million company and write a best-selling book.
The point is every one of us in our lives, someone re-boarded the bus for us. Someone made us feel heard or feel seen. That’s a gift we’re going to give all of your readers. Think about who’s the person that made you feel seen. Who boarded the bus for you? Have you told them? That father, his name was Mr. Teague. When Bobby launched his book 30 years later, he found the man, still alive, and flew him out to his book launch. He told the story and the man wept and said, “I remember that. I had no idea the impact that had on you. You’ve made my life feel as if it had meaning.”
I’m getting emotional telling the story because I was not raised in a family like that. I was raised in a family of more privilege, but I want to make sure that I use my time, wealth, positional power, and influence to make as many people feel seen as possible and to re-board the bus for people because people re-boarded the bus for me. That’s Master Mentor number 32, Bobby Herrera. Go buy the book, The Gift of Struggle.
I have nothing else to say.
Thanks for a great conversation.
This has been phenomenal. Your book has inspired me in so many different ways in terms of the little snippets here and there of reflecting on how I can continue to make a difference, too. I’m like, “What am I giving back?” For that, I thank you. Enjoy.
Thank you for your class act.
Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in to my show. If you found the guests and topics on my show and my perspectives on the show to be valuable to your own personal growth or to the growth of your team, I would love the opportunity to have a discussion with you on how the models, the approaches, and the book that I’ve published, The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence, can help you and your organization as well. If you’re interested, you can reach out to me at Patrick@EmeryLeadershipGroup.com. Let’s explore how my unique models and approaches can help you and your team or your organization to rise above your best.
- Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights from Our Greatest Minds
- Scott Jeffrey Miller
- Mess to Success
- On Leadership
- Master Mentors Volume 2
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- The Law of Success
- How to Be Heard
- Stephen R. Covey – Previous Episode
- The Speed of Trust
- The Carrot Principle
- Anxiety at Work
- The Gift of Struggle
- The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence
About Scott Jeffrey Miller
Capping a 25-year career where he served as a chief marketing officer and executive vice president of business development, Scott Jeffrey Miller currently serves as FranklinCovey’s senior advisor on thought leadership, leading the strategy and development of the firm’s speaker’s bureau, as well as the publication of podcasts, webcasts, and bestselling books. Scott also hosts On Leadership with Scott Miller, the world’s largest and fastest-growing leadership podcast, reaching more than six million people weekly. In addition, Scott authors a leadership column for Inc.com and is the bestselling author of the Mess to Success series.
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Culture is the bedrock that holds not only society but every organization. In today’s episode, Al Curnow from CultureWise discusses how the best organizations create, drive, and sustain culture. He clears out the misconceptions that often cloud what culture really means and the changes happening that affect how people behave in the organization. Al then shares the systems in place to create a company culture and the importance of having processes to reinforce it. In this changing environment, there are more threats to the way our people perform in the organization. Lean and learn from this conversation to overcome these challenges and better position your organization as one of the best!
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How The Best Organizations Create, Drive, And Sustain Culture With Al Curnow
Thank you for joining me on another episode of the show. This episode is all about company culture. We’re going to be talking with Al Curnow from the company CultureWise about what it takes to build a great culture and what great organizations share in how they create, sustain, and drive it. Let’s get into it.
Al, thanks so much for being on the show. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation about culture. Even though we talk about it a lot, I think there’s a lot of confusion about what culture really means. It means different things to different people. That’s your specialty. I’d love for us to start from that space and talk about what are the systems in place that we create a culture within organizations.
Thank you very much for having me on. It’s a pleasure being here. When it comes to the definition of culture, if you ask a room full of 50 people, you’re likely to get 50 different definitions. Each one of them probably is a bit fuzzy and maybe a bit ambiguous. Historically, culture has been one of those things that’s difficult to define, which is a bit problematic because, in our experience working with close to 700 organizations, we find that it’s incredibly important and influential in everything an organization and a person does.
From our standpoint, when we look at defining culture, we feel that the clearer and more specific we can be, the better. I love one of the definitions I’ve heard. It’s what happens amongst our team members when we’re not in the room. That’s the culture. I know you are too, Patrick. I’m a big sports fan. I use a lot of sports analogies. If I’m a basketball coach, my culture isn’t me with my team in a pre-game or pre-practice huddle. It’s my players in the locker room without me there or what happens after practice. From our standpoint, it’s all the more reason we as leaders need to be very clear and influential in defining our culture and culture being how we do the things we do.
If you look at it from a corporate standpoint, particularly in industries that are highly commoditized, it’s not the widget, the screw, or the wrench we manufacture. It’s how we deliver it. If you look at the hospitality industry, it’s not necessarily our thread count on our sheets, although that’s important to some. It’s what the experience I get when I stay at that particular hotel. For us, it comes back to, as leaders of organizations, being clear in the beginning to define what our culture is as opposed to letting it grow and morph as it will without our influence.
As I heard you talking about that, in regards to when you ask people what their culture is, they can also say what their culture is by definition. If their behaviors don’t align with that, it doesn’t matter what you say your culture is. Your behaviors will trump whatever you want to say your culture is.
I go a step further. Not only will it trump it. It can become dangerous and problematic if what we say as leaders our culture is, and if there’s a misalignment in terms of what it is and what happens. That’s why people leave. “I came to work for you, Patrick because you told me we have a culture of collaboration and teamwork. We have each other’s backs. The second I find out it’s anything other than that, that you don’t support me as a leader, or I’m surrounded by a bunch of teammates with big egos that don’t care, I’m out of there.” To your point, oftentimes, what we say our culture is and what’s actually happening can be two very different things.Oftentimes, what we say our culture is and what's actually happening can be two very different things. Click To Tweet
I’m going to volley back to you for that one. Have you seen a difference since COVID? I always hesitate now to go back with BC in terms of Before COVID now. That’s what BC stands for. Have you noticed a difference organizationally in terms of what people are willing to tolerate and how this is revealing itself?
Yes, in a few different ways, Patrick. It’s a great question. One, I generally think, not just amongst our clients, but based on my own personal anecdotal experience. People generally are operating at a much higher emotionally charged level. It seems like our collective patience is a bit thinner than it used to be, our tolerance. You probably do the same. I do a lot of travel for my work, so I’m always on crowded airplanes and airports. That’s where you begin to see it firsthand. We see some elements of that. What we’ve also seen is since COVID, we’ve never been busier.
In fact, we’ve had unbelievable growth since COVID because I believe it’s forcing leaders to think about their culture. They’re either dealing with remote employees, hybrid employees, or they’re struggling to recruit, hire, or retain. All of those things come back to that underlying culture. It’s interesting. We’ve seen the impact in a couple of different ways. In the end, it has presented a lot of opportunities for us to help, coach, and guide.
It’s interesting. When you mention that, I think of a book I read during my graduate work in leadership. I won’t get the title exactly right, but it was along the lines of the light versus shadows in leadership. When we expose the light on things, that’s when we start to see what’s there. To your point, the light has been shown in a lot of areas that were hidden before. It was in the shadows, and it couldn’t be anymore.
You’re right. Indications are changing a bit now in terms of the labor market, but it’s amazing what an incredibly tight shrinking market will do in terms of enhancing or awakening leaders’ thinking around the subject of culture. When it’s in the light of day, we tend to view things differently.It's amazing what an incredibly tight shrinking market will do to enhance or awaken leaders' thinking around the subject of culture. Click To Tweet
I had heard this from somebody not that long ago. This was an organization I was in, and they were talking about turnover and a lot of the things going around this quiet quitting. Once the economy changes and the labor market tightens up, their thought was a lot of that stuff would go away. What are your thoughts on that?
From my personal experience from a narrow perspective, I don’t know if I totally agree with that. There are a couple of factors. One thing COVID has done is awoken all of us. A lot of us have taken a look back inside and said, “What’s important?” We’re thinking in terms of meaning and impact. They’re here to stay. I don’t think that’s something that ebbs and flows with an economy or a market and so forth. There’s that. As the dad of a sophomore in college and a senior in high school, I’d say that our youth, our next team-up, view the world differently. I don’t think that’s going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, that’s going to heighten the importance of all of this. There might be some short-term blips in terms of rates of quitting, retention, and so forth, but long-term, I don’t know. Some of these things are here to stay.
I would agree with you. The conversation that went on after that was although the physical numbers of people leaving an organization might change, my belief is that this will go back underground again. We’ll just have disengaged individuals that have quit, but they didn’t go anywhere because they didn’t have an opportunity to. Those are going to be worse because then they will resent the fact that other people got out and are stuck at an organization that they should have left when they had the chance.
The collateral damage when that happens is huge, as you know. I conducted a webinar on the topic. I don’t have the statistics at hand, but they’re mind-boggling, the impact of that phenomenon and those around them. When you have that one who can’t leave or won’t leave yet is unhappy and disengaged, what can that do to our best people? That’s where it becomes problematic and dangerous. Our best people can leave. They are the most talented. It creates a very problematic dynamic when that’s going on. It’s a dangerous thing.
On your site, you talk about high-performing organizations doing three things. It’s about creating, driving, and sustaining culture. I was wondering if we could step on each of those to get a better understanding. For those people that are out there saying, “How do I go about this in terms of culture and developing it?”
At least with our approach, it begins with creating clarity in defining and taking ownership of your culture. We see the responsibility, particularly for the most senior leader of an organization, like a president or an executive director. The same could apply within a department or on a team with the leader of that team. We see it as their responsibility to draw a line in the sand or put the white stake on the ground. Use whatever analogy you want to use. It’s the responsibility of senior leadership to define clarity in terms of, “What is our culture? What do we want it to be? What are the elements of our culture that are non-negotiable? What are the elements that perhaps might be a bit more aspirational where we need to grow?”It's the responsibility of senior leadership to define clarity in terms of what our culture is. Click To Tweet
In our experience, it absolutely and positively has to start there. Until we’ve taken the time to do that, I’d argue we’re operating in the shadows, as you referenced before. We’re operating on hunches, best guesses, and so forth. What’s interesting about that is that even some great companies haven’t necessarily gone that far. Historically, what most organizations have done to try to establish and define their culture is create a mission value statement. They’ll establish some core values. While that can be good and important, particularly if they’re meaningful and live to what they espouse, in our experience, it’s not enough.
For example, you look at core values. In everyone’s core value statement, you’ll see something about respect and integrity, which is incredibly important yet tends to be vague and ambiguous. For example, let’s say we have 25 people in my company. Five come from an urban area, and five from a rural area. Maybe I have a few international employees in my group. If I were to ask every one of my team members, “What does respect mean to you?” I’d highly likely get 25 different definitions. Whereas if we can be clearer and more specific and focus on the behaviors we’re looking to drive, those things mean the same things to all people.
What are the behaviors we’re looking to drive that speak to respect? Is it listening generously? Is it being clear on expectations? Is it honoring our commitments and doing what we say we’re going to do? If we can operate on that level and create a language we can use with each other and our team members, it will help us be better leaders. It creates clarity for our team members. It gives us something that we can do something with and measure. In our experience, most organizations haven’t gone that far. That’s something we’re very involved with. The first step when working with an organization is getting at that. It has to start there.
I’d love to hear you say that. From my perspective, I fully agree with you. I look at mission, vision, and values as such a missed opportunity with most organizations. I’ve been in those organizations where cynically, I looked at them and said, “We don’t stand for any of these things.” We have this nice printout and plaque and whatever it is, and it’s on our badges and some places. It’s even worse when it’s on your badge, and you feel like people don’t model those behaviors because now you’re reminded of it on a daily basis, “What out of alignment this organization is.”
It’s so true. The opposite can be true as well if we truly live to them. In our experience, it’s challenging to live to them if we don’t have enough clarity in terms of what they mean, how we can practice them, and what they mean to us on a day-to-day basis. That’s where there tends to be a disconnect. In our experience, it’s also an enormous opportunity to begin to leverage, harness, and define your culture.
That’s such a great exercise too for you to do because it involves people. Now it’s not just words. It’s asking people, “What do you think? How does this impact you?” You now get buy-in because people don’t feel it’s being sent down on high that they’re part of this process of, “What do these really look like?”
Patrick, you’re so right. It’s interesting because something happens when we’re given a voice, regardless of whether or not we end up in the same place. In other words, if an organization is trying to define that set of behaviors that they’re looking to drive, even if we would’ve ended up with that same list regardless of that participation or involvement, it brings it to a whole other level when it’s coming from us and when we’ve had a voice. That ownership is the key particularly when you come to that next step in the process of once you define it, how you integrate it, drive it, and so forth. Having that ownership in the first place can help along those lines.
Along those lines, when I think of the mission, vision, and values of this missed opportunity, I look and think, “What an easy way for us to have a roadmap for this organization.” I can look back and say, “Are my behaviors now in line with what we say we stand for, what our values are, and the decisions we’re making as an organization right now? We need to make this difficult decision. Is this in alignment with what we say we stand for as an organization?”
It’s interesting. In addition to being consultants on the topic, we’re practitioners as well. I can tell you firsthand that when you have that language and awareness, it’s almost inescapable in a good way. I’ll be in a meeting with 3 or 4 of my teammates. We’re trying to solve a customer-related issue. I’ll find myself saying in that meeting without having to even think about it, “If we’re going to do what’s best for our customer, we should probably be thinking about X, Y, Z.” I don’t think it’s by accident or a fluke thing that I’m thinking through that lens.
One of our fundamentals, which we call our key core behaviors, is always to do what’s best for the customer. When you have that level of clarity and are continually focusing on it, you’re always aware. As incidents arise, I don’t have to check my guidebook. It’s there. It becomes how we do things. That’s the power. You have to first start with being very clear in terms of what those things are before you can do much meaningfully about it.
On that last point, I’m going to jump to the end of sustain. You being able to leverage those and being able to refer back to that, to me, is about sustain. This isn’t just a nice thing we’ve put on the wall. It’s like you go to the gym training to build these muscles.
In between those two with the definition and sustaining, probably one of the most important in terms of, “How do we drive it? How do we implement a process that reinforces it?” that, to me, at least for our recipe, the secret sauce. It’s to get you from defining and sustaining that necessary part. The thing that’s going to get us to the gym, even on those days that we don’t feel like it, is that second piece in terms of how we can drive it.
Anything the biggest mistakes that you see organizations making in the drive component of this?
It’s interesting because our approach with the drive component is we utilize a fairly simple, straightforward, yet incredibly powerful approach and concept. We help client organizations establish what we call rituals. Rituals have no religious connotation. It simply means we help our client organizations create practices, routines, and habits to help their leaders and team members stay focused on those important behaviors. It’s an interesting and effective approach, Patrick. What our client organizations will do is they’ll come up with a set of fundamental core behaviors. They might have anywhere from 15 to 30 of them, but each and every week, they focus on one of them per week organizationally-wide.
They do that through any combination or combination of rituals or practices. It might be something as simple as some weekly messaging, getting a message out to all team members, “Team, this week we’re focused on X, Y, Z.” Other clients will do some interesting things like start every meeting or certain meetings, like department meetings, staff meetings, or client meetings with a brief discussion about that week’s behavior and fundamental. Some will use different ways of using tech to reinforce it. They do that every week over and over. When they get to the end of their list, they start all over again, and they do it over and over.
This approach isn’t novel or new necessarily. You’re probably familiar with Ritz-Carlton in their daily basics approach, where every day, every property around the world, or every shift change, they discuss one guest-centric idea per day. Think about the power of that, whether you were in Singapore, London, or Boston, to know that those team members are focused on delivering whatever that one concept is organizationally wide. In fact, we were heavily influenced by that model when we developed ours. Once you’ve established that framework where you’re focusing, it allows you and your team members to stay focused, continually improve, and sharpen your skillset when it comes to those respective behaviors.
That’s an important point or framework. Going way back to your question, where we see client organizations falling short when it comes to driving it is there. They don’t have a framework or a process in place. They might talk about these important things, but they don’t have a systematic way of operationalizing them. They might do a training program now and then, it gets hot for 30 days and then goes cold. That, in our experience, tends to be the norm versus the exception. They haven’t developed or even thought about a systematic way of keeping those important things front and center.
I have found that it’s worse to do the 30-day rah-rahs than to do nothing at all. I always equate it back to antibiotic treatment. If you think about going for antibiotic treatment, even if you’re feeling better, take it all because if you don’t, it’s either coming back or worse, you’re going to become resistant. The same thing has happened in the world of training. For most people, they get a little bump, they feel good, and, “I don’t need to take the rest. We don’t need to continue to run this thing out. We got it from here.” What happens is they become resistant. The next thing that gets implemented, employees are like, “Here we go again. It’s not going to work.”
When you look at the best companies and the great sports teams with a long history of success, they’re all about that continued focus because they’ll have players come in and out. Not always necessarily the top-skill positions, but because their culture is so strong and those expectations are so clear, they benefit from that continued focus. You’re right. When we’re rolling out our process to our client organizations, I take that head-on initially. I’ll be in there with a room full of employees, and you can tell, “Here we go again.” Give this 30 days. We can wait this one out too, but I take it right out and say, “This is different. You’re already good. This is about creating a great team for a sustained period of time.”
That’s a higher level of commitment and responsibility. To do that, we can’t leave it to our own devices because it’s going to be like the New Year’s resolutions we broke. The way we’re going to prevent that is we’ve got this framework and this process, so we never lose sight of what’s important. We continually get better. We continually talk about those things that are important until they become what we do and how we do it. We never stop also because as we add new team members, they need that clarity too. They need to know what to expect coming onto our team because our team’s different than probably any other they’ve been involved with before. There’s real power in that.
Team members get that as well. Once they see it, they get it. The next important thing, going back to your original question of potential spots for problem areas, is as long as we’re sustaining those practices and rituals, as leaders, we need to make sure we’re leading by example and protecting that line in the sand that we drew. For example, what does a leader do if one of their team members says, “Those behaviors are good for you. Not important to me,” or worse, what if they continue to operate in a way that’s completely counter to all those things we said is important? That’s where and when leadership has to be willing sometimes to make difficult decisions in terms of, “Is this person a fit for my team in terms of what I’m looking to build and grow?”
Those decisions are a bit easier if those team members are underperformers. What do we do if it’s your top sales guy or one of your team members who manage your largest account, and the account loves them, but they’re wreaking havoc on the rest of your team and are becoming toxic? That’s the other area. Organizations are vulnerable if they haven’t been clear in establishing what they’re building, they don’t have a process to reinforce it, and if their leaders don’t lead with it and draw that line when necessary.Organizations are vulnerable if they haven't established what they're building clearly. They need a process to reinforce it. Click To Tweet
I’m glad you say that because it exposes unfairness within an organization. Even if employees don’t say anything, they see it and think, “Sue or Jim don’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us are, and nobody’s calling them out on it. It doesn’t fly.”
It happens all the time. It’s interesting, too, because we’ve worked with our client organizations and coached them through some of those things. It’s funny. When that happens and when the leadership ultimately makes the right decision, in those cases, as difficult as they sometimes are, the result is always the same. The team members around them breathe a sigh of relief, saying, “About time,” and the leaders, pretty much without exceptions, will always say, “I wish I did that six months ago or a year ago.”
We’re not one of those who approach things like, “You’ve got to get rid of 10% of your workforce now.” We’re all about coaching, skill improvement, and development. Every all boat rise. The reality of any organization is from time to time, you’re going to have a bad apple or two that we need to deal with if we’re serious about creating an extraordinary culture.
Going back to defining culture, one of the definitions I love, and I don’t know who this is credited to, is there’s a saying that the true definition of your culture is the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate as a leader of that organization. In other words, if I came to visit your company, organization, or team and I knew nothing about you, and I spent some time with you behind the scenes without the leaders in the room so on and so forth, what I witnessed as the worst behavior is how I’m going to define you and your organization. That is insightful and accurate.
I would argue that you owe it. There’s a responsibility you have to that. Whatever that person looks like, they’re not in the right place. You are not serving them well by having them remain. It works in the organization’s best interest to have that person leave. It opens up the spot for somebody that should be there. It sets a precedent for other people to say, “This company is serious about this stuff.” It releases them in a way to go somewhere else that’s going to be a better fit for you.
Could you imagine if you worked in an environment where everything you believed and performed was counter to what was being stressed? It’s not healthy. Sometimes we get stuck. That can be hard. Have a leader to be able to identify and help. We owe it to that team member and get them on a path that’s right for them. That’s the thing. It’s not good or bad or right or wrong. It’s more of a fit. Sometimes it’s a matter of some of our team members might not fit. It doesn’t make them bad people. In fact, it’s likely to flourish in the right fit in an organization that’s the right fit for them.
That was my last organization. I was so unhappy. I look back on it now. The values I held were not the same values that I was experiencing around me. I didn’t have the courage to make the jump I wanted to make at that point until it was forced upon me. It was comfortable.
How long were you there, Patrick? I’m curious.
It’s a total of five years. That part wasn’t until the end that there was a misalignment between what I wanted and what I was receiving. I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” It was a gift.
The other element and one thing that certainly has grown in terms of an area of concern, need, and awareness is the whole wellness. I’m a big believer and supporter that it tends to look at things holistically. When we’re in a spot like that, it’s not healthy for our mental or physical well-being. All of these affect performance, but to me, more importantly, they affect our health at the same time. It can happen. Going back to establishing clarity as a leader of an organization, what it does, too, is it helps from the standpoint of those situations where we’ve got a team member that’s not a fit. It does shine more light on them more quickly than it might hadn’t we taken the time to provide the clarity and expectations of our team members. It forces the issue a little bit in a positive way to make better decisions.
One other topic that was very interesting, especially as it relates to culture in an environment where we’re finding more remote work, is how we keep that together. What does that look like?
One thing we’ve all learned is the answer is not necessarily another Zoom happy hour. The First 1 or 2 weren’t bad. In our experience, what we’ve found is we just need to double down. As this one is, it’s putting those consistent channels of communication in play. It’s providing opportunities to listen, particularly our remote team members, to be heard, those connection points, not just at the weekly check-in but more frequently and systematically. In our experience, that’s the most critical. An event here and there isn’t going to do it. It’s got to be more substantive and consistent. It’s by having some framework or schedule that isn’t necessarily forced but provides those real opportunities to connect to be heard, share at the same time, and establish the flow. To us, that’s been one of the biggest factors.
One thing I have observed is that we don’t know what this is going to look like. The organizations that are best suited for navigating what culture will look like in a remote versus brick and mortar are those that stay curious and open to exploring how we are going to do this successfully and maintain a positive identity in this new environment.
It’s a tricky one, Patrick. I can see both sides. Early on in COVID, I had clients who were adamant that they were going to keep their employees at work as long as they could. They’re going to bring them back as quickly as they can. I had others that were much more open. I can see. There are certain advantages and benefits of being with others. If you probably can recall the author’s name in The Culture Code, Dan Coyle, it’s the whole idea of bumping into each other. Like water coolers, we share things. Things happen. There’s a certain magic to that. We lose that. Therefore, we need to be mindful of how we, on a remote basis, replace those connection points and establish those so they won’t be the same.
We can get close as long as we’re mindful of it and flexible in terms of it. The whole other element of it is we all perform differently. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always worked remotely. This isn’t for everybody. Some need that structure and that separation. There’s that element too. To your point, the best strategy is to try to be as open-minded as you can, recognizing the realities of your business. Some businesses require hands-on. Trying to be flexible, open-minded, evaluating your team members and where and how they operate best, creating those clear expectations, and creating those systematic, regular communication touchpoints are a good start.
I would agree. Al, this has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time. If people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to contact you and the company?
If they want to contact me personally, my email address is Al@CultureWise.com. If they want to check out our company, our website is CultureWise.com. I know everyone says this, but if you’ve been on our site, we produce a lot of good content that we freely share on the topic. If there are any other culture geeks out there, we have lots of materials. We do a very comprehensive biweekly blog. We have lots of videos on the topic, white papers, and things. It’s a great resource. Even if it’s just a conversation, I’m always happy to help. I’m passionate about the topic and looking to help as much as I can.
There’s certainly a huge need for it. Thanks again for taking the time to share what you guys are doing. Best of luck.
It’s my pleasure. Same, Patrick. Thank you.
About Al Curnow
Al has over 25 years of experience in the employee benefits industry. His diverse experience includes facilitating employee engagement, corporate training, product development, sales, and sales management. Al has spoken at numerous events on the topic of culture and has worked with more than 80 organizations helping them design and sustain incredible cultures. In both his professional and personal life, Al is a consummate coach. He enjoys nothing more than bringing out the best in his corporate clients as well as the youth basketball teams that he coaches. Al is a graduate of The University of Rhode Island. He’s also completed graduate work in Business Administration at The University of Missouri at Kansas City.
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During your meetings, are you struggling to pay attention to the speaker? Or as a speaker, do you feel like people not listening to you? This happens because no one is listening to each other. All people do is communicate what they want to communicate. They are more focused on the content rather than the communication process. If everyone starts listening to each other, your meetings are going to go by a lot faster.
Join Patrick Veroneau as he talks to author, Deep Listening podcast host, and sought-after keynote speaker, Oscar Trimboli. Oscar gives some neat tricks on how you can improve your listening. He also shares how you, as a leader, can engage with your audience before, during, and after a meeting. Take a pause and start listening today!
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Listening Expert Oscar Trimboli Shares How You Can Improve Your Listening
Thank you for joining me on another episode. On this episode, it’s all about listening. My guest is Oscar Trimboli, who is a world expert in regard to listening. Our conversation first started out in regards to a game that he sent to me called Deep Listening Impact Beyond Words but it went so much further than that in terms of going deep into how we listen and the impact of listening and how to improve our listening. Let’s get into it.
Oscar, I want to thank you for being on the show. I have so much appreciated going through the material you sent to me and I was joking before we started this. You sent me this box. When it arrived, I felt like I was opening something from Apple. It was so elegant the way that you put this together. We’ll talk about it.
One of the things that stood out to me when I first opened this was a line in there where you said, “We’re taught how to speak but not how to listen.” That resonated, especially in the environment that we’re in now. It’s not that listening hasn’t been important before but it’s even more important now. I’m looking forward to understanding how you came about, the model you have put together, the game that you created, and where you think it’s most needed in this environment.We're taught how to speak, but we are not taught how to listen. Click To Tweet
You’d need to zoom into a budget-setting meeting in April 2008. I’m sitting in a boardroom between Sydney, Seattle, and Singapore, where there are eighteen people on this video conference setting a budget. The meeting’s designed to go for 90 minutes. At the twenty-minute mark, after a lot of debate, my vice president looks me straight in the eye and said, “Oscar, I need to see you immediately after this meeting.” I don’t know about you, Patrick but when your boss says that to you, I’m counting how many weeks of salary I’ve got left in my bank account.
I’m figuring out what are my big expenses coming up. Tracy had never said it with that much directness to me before. Tragically, for me, the meeting finished early. It finished at the 70-minute mark. It was a productive, positive meeting. She asked me to close the door. I thought, “Great. She’s going to fire me in private.” As I walked back towards the chair sitting next to Tracy, she said, “You have no idea what you did at the twenty-minute mark.”
I thought, “Great. I’m getting fired and I didn’t know what I did.” I sat down and she said, “If you could code the way you listen, you could change the world.” It was a profound thing for her to say. It was an insightful moment of listening on her behalf. Patrick, the only thing going through my head was, “I hadn’t been fired. I can put all that money back in my bank account.” The next thing that went through my head was that the division of the business I was running had gotten a 32% uplift in our revenue line year on year. All I was trying to process was how to make sense of that.
I wasn’t listening to a single thing Tracy was saying to me about listening and changing the world. The only thing I could get out of my mouth was, “Tracy, Do you mean code or code-code?” She said, “We’re a Microsoft, Oscar, code.” Which meant putting it into computer software. Make an application out of it. Make it reusable and give it scale. As I look forward to the people who’ve interacted with our programs, our books, our applying cards, our jigsaw puzzle games, and the deep listening quiz where people can figure out what’s their primary listening barrier.
We’ve built a community and they’ve named themselves the Deeper Listening Ambassadors. The Deeper Listening Ambassadors go out and try and explain to people in foreign lands the importance of listening and they created this quest. The quest is to create 100 million deeper listeners in the workplace of the world. That’s the start of this story.
Back to your point that you said, we’re taught how to speak but we are not taught how to listen. In fact, we are taught how to listen, just not formally. We’re taught through role modeling an example from our parents, our teachers, our aunties, our uncles, our grandparents, and anybody we interact with. These are all role modeling listening back to us. The ironic thing is that the first skill you learn at 32 weeks inside your mother’s womb before you’re born is that you can distinguish the sound of your mother’s voice from any other voice in the outside world.
By 36 weeks, you can distinguish music. You can distinguish Beethoven, from the Beatles, from Bon Jovi, from Justin Bieber. Listening is something we’re taught much earlier than we think, yet we have a series of examples around us. We aren’t taught how to listen formally. In fact, we know from research that only 2% of people in workplaces are ever taught how to listen.
By the first decade of somebody’s workplace career, at least 1/3 of people are taught how to speak, how to communicate effectively, and how to communicate with influence. By the second decade of their career, 74% of people are taught some approach to speak. That’s the most wonderful set of ingredients I’ve come across. Back in 2008, my boss said to me, “Code how you listen because you could change the world.”
Even the title of this, Deep Listening Impact Beyond Words, to me, there’s so much there to unpack. As you were putting that together, what’s the significance of that for you?
If people know these three numbers about listening, they understand what impact beyond words means. First number 125, next number 400, next number 900. 125 is my speaking speed. 900 is my thinking speed. I can think at 900 words per minute, yet I can communicate 125 words per minute. Straight away, once people understand that the first thing somebody says is not only 14% of what they think and possibly what they mean. If you become conscious, good listeners listen to what’s said and great listeners notice what’s not said.
They notice the unsaid. They notice a bit beyond the words. That’s the subtitle in the book. When you listen and notice what the other person in a group meeting who’s not speaking up and what themes we haven’t explored, your impact becomes amplified. We know that when people start to listen for what’s unsaid, meetings become shorter. Back to that original budget meeting, we cut the meeting twenty minutes short for something I said at the twenty-minute mark, apparently.
That’s why the impact beyond words because when you realize your role as the listener is not only to make sense of what they’re saying but it’s to help the speaker make sense of what they’re thinking. A speaker rarely has the opportunity to say the next 125 words. There’s a lot of poor dialogue that happens because we’re all communicating around 14% of what we’re thinking. Now, I don’t know about you, I don’t gamble a lot but people tell me if I go to Las Vegas, that’s probably about the same odds I would get at a roulette wheel, a blackjack table, or at a slot machine. That’s a loaded game, so ask another question.
One of the things we get people to do after our workshops is simply going into the next team meeting and noticing how many people ask a clarifying question before they answer the question that’s posed. Oftentimes, people go, “There’s nobody except the exceptional communicators who will clarify the question before they answer it.” The problem is that when I’m asking a question, I’m usually saying the first 125 words. A little linguistic hack for you, Patrick, eight words or less is a powerful and neutral question. If your question is longer than eight words, it’s probably either a statement or has implied bias in it.
I love that. That is something I have never heard before. If I don’t write that down, I will forget it even though we’re recorded.
If you want to hear what’s unsaid because a lot of people say to me, “Oscar, I’m struggling to hear what’s said. What’s this unsaid stuff?” these three very simple phrases will liberate you but more importantly, liberate the speaker, and start to get them communicating what they mean as they think through what they’re about to say.
If you use some of these phrases or variants of them and they’ll be very short, so you can write them down shortly, it won’t be a problem. If you use these phrases, you will see a visible change in the posture of the person you are speaking with or the group you’re interacting with. You’ll notice they’ll sigh. They’ll take a deep breath in or their shoulder position will change. They’ll typically go from whatever their current shoulder position to a more erect shoulder position.
Their head will tilt slightly differently on their head. If it’s to one side prior, it might come to an alignment or it might go to the other side. They’ll use these magic code words. Listen out to these ones because if you hear these code words, you’re getting closer to what they mean rather than their level-one thinking. They’ll say things like, “What I meant to say was what’s important to me. I’d like to focus on.”
They’ll change their body position and they’ll use these phrases. What they’re about to tell you is what they mean, not what they said the first time. That’s only possible if you ask these three simple questions. The first one, “Tell me more.” You’ll notice it’s only three words long. You could use a variant of that, which is, “Say more about that.” You could simply say, “Say more.”
The next one is, “And what else?” or you could say, “And?” Now please make them your own because I’m giving you five other words to play with on the outside of all of these. You could say, “I’m curious. Tell me more.” The last one is the simplest, the easiest, the most powerful, and the most potent. Done well, it’s liberating, and done poorly, it’s intimidating.
When you use this phrase across all cultures, across all centuries, across all countries, across all workplaces, this is the most potent, and here it is. Don’t worry. Nothing went wrong. It’s no coincidence. That’s silence and listen. Share identical letters. Pausing will create a magnet for the speaker to connect with their meaning. I’m curious about what’s going through your mind now.Pausing will create a magnet for the speaker to connect with their meaning. Click To Tweet
The last one that you mentioned there, was the silence. What is that? Is it a level of we’re not comfortable with silence, so we feel like we have to say something?
We are not comfortable with silence. The pregnant pause, the awkward silence, the confronting silence. In the West, we have all these phrases for it. When you study ancient cultures, high context cultures, Korea, Japan, and China, when you study the inure culture of North America, the Eskimo, when you study the indigenous communities of Australia in the upper region, when you study the Maori culture of New Zealand, the Amazonian jungle cultures, the Polynesian cultures of the Pacific, silence is a sign of wisdom, respect, of authority and it’s also a signal to the group to gather.
When groups come together in these high-context cultures, the groups always come to presence in silence. As silence is led by the leader. This is a very western construct, the awkward silence. I need to fill the pause and it’s only consciousness once people know that silence is liberating, both for the speaker and the listener. A lot of people say to me, “Oscar, this listening stuff is hard. It’s draining. It takes too much effort.” I say, “Could I invite you to have another perspective on that?” When I listen, it’s light, energizing, and simple.
I often say to them, “Are you listening only to make sense for you or you’re listening to make sense for the speaker?” In that moment, they realize that silence will help the meeting shorten. More importantly, speak about what matters. When you’re okay with the silence and when people start to talk about what’s important to them, what’s at risk for them, and what’s consequential, there are fewer misunderstandings. You don’t come back to the weekly work-in-progress meeting or weekly update meeting on a project where people say, “I’ve delivered that output.” The other person said, “That’s not what I wanted you to do. I wanted you to do this.” “If only I’d listened.”
The reason they don’t listen is because we haven’t become comfortable with the tools of asking a clarifying question and knowing silence is completely okay. Too many people in Western workplaces think they’re paid for the speed of their answer and yet, when I work with executives, they would rather have a high-quality slow answer than a rapid top of head answer. The consequences, as we mentioned earlier, it’s beyond words.
When you listen to what’s not present in the dialogue, resourcing doesn’t become something that’s constrained. Projects probably finish a lot earlier than anticipated. The way the team works together, I won’t say is more harmonious but conflict is shared earlier rather than when it’s too late to do anything about it in a team or group setting.
It’s interesting when I hear you speak about that. I remember having a manager years ago that I would be in meetings and I wouldn’t say much. I would be one that would sit back and I wanted to soak it all in. I wasn’t going to say anything without trying to understand more about what’s going on. This manager did not like that. It was almost as though I didn’t care about the meeting, which wasn’t it at all. I needed more time to soak in what was going on, that western culture of you need to speak, you need to say something. I would certainly think that’s true.
Now, in one of the things that I will often talk about in listening and I’d like your thoughts on this. I talk about it in terms of listening with the mind. That’s the point where I slow down but I’m asking maybe myself questions. If you say something to me before I react to you, I’m maybe questioning myself, “Is that what Oscar means?” Maybe I need to say, “Oscar, I heard you say this. Is this what you mean?” I give you an opportunity to say, “Yes, that’s what I mean, Patrick, or no, that’s not,” as a way to slow things down.
For a lot of people, they don’t do the very first thing in any dialogue, whether that’s a group or one on one conversation. The very first thing you should say in any conversation is a version of this. What we don’t do enough of is communicate about how we want to communicate and all we do is communicate about what we want to communicate on. We’re focused on the content and not the process.
This was taught to me by somebody from the neurodiverse community, not the neurotypical community, which probably most of your readers are. Jennifer is a mom whose son came home from school. His name is Christopher. He said, “Mommy, I’m so excited. I learned that 3 is half of 8.” Jennifer was a primary school teacher and she’s doing her chores and all kinds of things and said, “Christopher, honey, could you say that again?” He said, “Mommy, I learned that 3 is half of 8.”
She shook her head and she was frustrated like, “What are they teaching kids at school these days?” She went to the cupboard, grab eight M&Ms out of the cupboard and laid them out like soldiers on the kitchen table and pick Christopher up. She had the M&MS in rows of two. She said, “Christopher, honey, count how many M&Ms are on this line of M&M soldiers.” He said, “1234, mommy.” “How many on that side, Christopher?” “They’re all facing each other mom, four.” She said, “See, honey? 4 not 3 is half of 8.”
With that, Christopher left off the table like Superman and went and got a piece of paper from the corner cupboard and a sharpie. He drew the figure eight on this piece of paper. He showed it to his mom and he folded it vertically. Showed it to his mom as he tore it in half and said, “Mom, 3 is half of 6.” Most of us in workplaces are fixated on the content that 3 is half of 8 or 4 is half of 8 and we are not listening to what that person means.
By the way, if you fold the eight horizontally, 0 is half of 8 as well. All of us are obsessed with content in the workplace. “You are wrong. Four is the right answer. No, I’m thinking three. No, I’m thinking zero.” What Christopher taught his mom and he’s three years older and he is going to school. He is pretty advanced and he finished college much sooner. He finished college at the age of sixteen. He’s a world-champion bug catcher. I’m not talking about the insect variety. I’m talking computer software variety as well.
The most complex computer problems in the world, he’s solving. My point is that when I ask Christopher how he communicates with people, one of the first things he says at the beginning of every conversation is how effective communication for me is and he outlines it. This showed up to me once when I was working with an executive in a board situation and the board had brought me in because they said, “This board member is excellent but they’re not listening.”
They were simply putting their head down and looking at their shoes while the conversation was going on. That was a concentration method for them because they found that listening to how people were speaking, the actual dialogue was visually distracting and they couldn’t focus. I want to give everybody a question they can ask at the beginning of a conversation that will completely transform the situation. I want you to zoom back into your situation with your manager, which is where we started here. I want you to think if you had to ask this question. Would the dialogue have been different?
The question is a very simple question, “What would make this a great conversation for you?” You could ask, “What would make this a great conversation?” You could ask, “How would you like to discuss this?” Any one of those three questions will move everybody in the room if it’s a group or an individual to a different place. The place is creating a compass for our conversation. This is how you shorten the meetings, by the way, Patrick. I’ll come to shorten the meetings using this tip after you reflect on that moment with your manager who wanted the rapid-fire answer. If you would’ve said to them any variant of those three questions, what do you think they would’ve said back to you?
I would’ve liked to have thought he would be more open to giving me that space to be able to formulate my question.
We know that in 30% of cases when you ask that question, the other person will ask you the same question in reverse. What will make this a great conversation for you? Let’s pretend I’m your manager and I said to you, Patrick, “What will make it a great conversation for you?” We can’t talk about the content. What would make it a great conversation for you? You would’ve said?
For me, it would be the opportunity to not have to feel as though I’ve got to quickly respond to this but some opportunity to process what’s going on. That would make it good for me.
We’re talking about how we’re communicating, not what we’re communicating. We use this as a little compass setting. In a one-hour meeting, every fifteen minutes, you go, “We’re fifteen minutes in. Let’s do a quick checkpoint. Patrick, at the beginning of the conversation, you said you’d like some time to process your response. How are we going with that?” It gives both parties the opportunity to adjust and this is the hack that shortens meetings.
When people ask this every 15 minutes in a 1-hour meeting, your meetings will typically go between 40 and 45 minutes and some meetings finish at the 15-minute mark because people say, “I’ve got what I need. We don’t have to keep going.” In a half-hour meeting, you should be asking this question about every ten minutes.
If you can, try and avoid setting meetings up at the top of the hour or the bottom of the half hour. Offset them for 5 minutes or 10 minutes. Give people a chance to visit a restroom and collect their thoughts. Patrick’s smiling because he’s very confused about why did Oscar set this five-minutes past the hour. It’s a listening hack. Patrick, when you received a meeting request for five off the hour from me, for us to have this conversation, what went through your mind?
I thought, “I didn’t even know I could set five minutes after the hour for an appointment.” I don’t know how he did that then what’s even more interesting or comical about this is that when I sent you the link for the Zoom, I put it back to 4:00, not to 4:05.
What’s even more fascinating for me is when I have a meeting for the first time with somebody, I always arrive at the top of the hour because they are so programmed and coded to turn up at the top of the hour. All of a sudden, they go, “I didn’t know you could set the meeting at five off the hour. I didn’t know you could do that.” You can set your default up so you don’t have to think about that. Patrick, I’ll be happy to send you a screenshot. We’ve built this guide for people. It’s called the Ultimate Guide to Listening on a Video conference. These are the very specific listening hacks we give people.
By the way, if you set the meeting up at 5 minutes off the hour and 5 minutes off the top of the hour, you make a 1-hour meeting, 50 minutes and this is how people get 4 hours a week back in their schedule because people use that checkpoint. In a team meeting, you can do the identical thing and ask people what will make it a great meeting as we all come into the meeting. You can check in as the leader every fifteen minutes on that as well.
The group momentum builds up as they learn that you’re going to ask that more regularly because you then, as the leader, are removing yourself from the content and you’re leading the process of communication, which is ultimately what you do. As you code the team to learn this process, you virtually make yourself redundant and leading becomes lighter and easier for you as well. Now for those who can’t see, Patrick’s got a smile the size of a boomerang across his face now.
I thought I was a pretty good listener. In the cards, you have an exercise in there for yourself of doing this twice a day for five weeks on the different cards of the different levels. For those of you, I hope you will have an opportunity so you can find out how to get those. Oscar, I am starting this. I am going to start this. I sent you a quick questionnaire to ask, “What are some things that you want to talk about?” You said, “It’d be nice to focus on groups and not one on one.” As my head is spinning now, thinking of all of this stuff, I’m thinking of remote work and meetings done remotely and how valuable what you’re talking about now is to create a space where people feel productive.
When you think about the clients you work with now and the struggles they have with video specifically, do you sense it’s more about the context of connection, or is it something else that you feel those reading are struggling with now when it comes to video conference?
Honestly, I’m not in a lot of those group meetings that they have but I would say that what I hear and when I’m in them, some of it is connection but there’s probably a monotony to it for them. It’s like a redundancy. It’s like Groundhog Day going into a meeting again. A couple of things that have come out from some of the clients that I’ve had, especially in healthcare where they’ve talked about Zoom meetings as Zoomitist. “Please not another Zoom meeting.” They label participants on them as Zoombies. I do think part of this is I feel like we’re not present. We’re going through the motions.
This is why we wrote the guide. We got a lot of feedback from the deep-listening ambassadors that we mentioned earlier. It’s like, “Oscar, create something for this video conference context.” We’ve done a Zoom version of this guide specifically to give you some little tips. It’s not a technical guide in terms of software. Although, I was selling video conference software in 1996. That’s a story for another day. The technology itself hasn’t evolved. The availability of the technology has evolved. Here are a couple of quick tips if you are the host.
To move those meetings from Zoombies to something that’s powerful, exponential, and beyond words, the first thing to know is that listening happens before, during, and after the meeting. Most people think listening is only when you log into Zoom. That is only a small proportion of that. I’m going to give you a tip on how to listen before and how to listen after. Before I do that, back in 1996, I interviewed people from Stanford, Missouri University, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. These numbers haven’t changed.In a meeting, listening happens before, during, and after the meeting. Click To Tweet
A human can hold their attention in one context or modality for a maximum of eight minutes. You plug someone into staring at a screen for one hour nonstop, which is the currency of most workplaces. By the way, why one hour? Who made up that rule? Those people who run Google Mail and Microsoft Outlook have a lot to answer for because they have created a default, which everybody salutes. In fact, I didn’t even know I could change that. Now, dirty little secret. I used to be one of those little soldiers of Microsoft selling those systems, so I apologize.
You can only hold your attention for eight minutes continuously. By the way, if you want to know how that applies in TV, it’s commercial breaks. If you want to know how that applies to a Netflix series, it will be scene changes roundabout the eight minimum. This is applied in multiple domains. If you are the host, change the context of the meeting every 8 to 12 minutes. What does that mean? Ask people to turn off their video cameras. Put them in a listen-only mode. Ask them to write something in the chat, have a poll, play a video, or ask them to go to a breakout room. Stop the meeting, ask them to have a glass of water, stand up, and move around their desk.
Most people don’t realize the impact of physical movement. Now, Patrick can see this. I stand up for any video conference I do. I do that for a couple of reasons. One, my diaphragm is fully expanded so I can project effectively, communicate, and enunciate. When you’re sitting down, your diaphragm is basically crushed. It’s difficult and takes effort to breathe. We don’t all have the opportunity to have this set up but as a host, you can give the participants the opportunity to move around every 8 to 15 minutes.
When I do this on the videos as a host, you can see the change in state and engagement when people come back in. As a host, you should be drinking water every half an hour. You are doing that for you and for them. You should be drinking a glass of water before you come into the video conference as well. With those simple things, modality changes. You’re going to get a different level of engagement. The other reason why you got a bunch of Zoombies is that you’ve never asked anybody at the beginning of the call, “What would make this a great conversation?”
If you’ve got too many people where you can’t ask that, you can simply get them to put in the chat. In the chat, pop in there, “What color do you feel like? What drink do you feel like? Explain it in one sentence.” I’ve had people put in the chat that they feel like soda pop. I’ve had them put in there that they feel like champagne and some feel like vodka. It doesn’t matter what they put in the chat. You are connecting them to the group in a completely different way where people can see visibly the state of that person.
A lot of people say to me, “Patrick, I don’t get to read body language. I don’t like video conferencing.” I say, “You’re doing it all differently. Here’s a couple of other ways you can do it.” Rather than the standard, “What town are you checking in from, and what’s the weather there now?” that’s a low-yield question. It’s an okay question if the groups never met but the context you’re talking about is where there are these repetitive meetings.
Find a way to connect with the energy at the end of the call before it finishes, not at the five minutes to the top of the hour mark but at about the 40-minute mark, and ask the same question. “What color are you feeling like? What movie star are you feeling like? What drink do you feel like?” Notice the change because if the group is talking more about champagne and soda pop than it’s talking about vodka and coffee.
Maybe it’s been a good meeting, I don’t know but these are questions to understand people’s emotional state because as the host, your job is not to get people to listen to the active speaker. Your job is to get the group to listen to itself. When the group listens to itself, it solves its own problems faster. Again, you as the leader become redundant. Now the guide is 105 pages. I could talk all day about this topic but I want to talk about the before and after the meeting. Before I do, what’s on your mind?
I want to know how to get the guide.
That’s easy. Go to OscarTrimboli.com/VideoConference and you’ll get the guide there.
The other thing, Oscar, I will say that as you were saying that I was trying to think of my own questions to maybe ask to get people. Is it, “Tell me the type of car you feel like you are now coming into this meeting?” There are different fun things that you could do. I love that every eight minutes. Again, think about some of these things. I’m big into research.
What’s the why? The research says that this isn’t something that I thought up but there’s evidence that suggests that this is why this works. That’s what I love about this because I’m thinking of that as I do my webinars or things. Am I doing that? I do polls but am I making sure that I’m breaking them out that way? I certainly will be more conscious of making sure that I’m doing that.
I have a simple example. A lot of people get frustrated with breakout rooms. Again, people don’t understand how to set up a breakout room to be effective. When you do, people come back in an energized space and they do liberate their thinking. Ask questions before the video conference. This can be structured. Zoom as you can get people to register. Most people don’t know. You can ask people when they register for a Zoom meeting. Not just a Zoom webinar but a Zoom meeting. You can ask questions there.
I will ask these three questions in the Zoom meetings I run. “What’s the biggest thing you struggle with when it comes to listening? What frustrates you when other people don’t listen to you? What’s one thing you want to improve in your listening at the end of this conference?” I make a slide of that and show it to the team, the group right at the beginning. I say, “This is what everybody said.” Do you know what every participant’s doing? They’re looking for where theirs is on the slide. I’ve got them.
The meeting is starting off from a very engaged position because this dude has been listening to me even before we turn up to the conversation. Now in a big group setting, I get people to go and visit ListeningQuiz.com. Take the seven-minute quiz and find out what their primary listening barrier is. We show a pie chart and say, “This group is a problem-solving group or this group is an interrupting group. They value time more than they value the relationship. This group is all about the connection.”
I adjust my content accordingly because I’ve asked the three questions in advance or I’ve got the big quiz where I’m dealing with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. Straight away, the group’s going, “I’m on that pie chart. He gets me,” and because they think I get them, I have them for at least eight minutes. That’s the maximum amount of time I’ve got for now. After, this is the big bid everybody misses.
After the meeting, it’s crucial in a workplace context that either you as the host or the meeting host were delegating on behalf of not just communicating the actions that were taken in the meeting but continuing to communicate the progress on the actions regularly. If the meeting is weekly, you should communicate at least three times between the end of the meeting and the commencement and the next meeting, the progress on those actions because that creates momentum. It gives people an opportunity to support people who may be slow in getting their results whereas other people have got the outcome quicker.
The difference between hearing and listening is action. If you don’t take action after the meeting, as a leader, the group will never believe you’ve listened to them. Please put as much effort into your preparation as you do into post-meeting. In too many meetings, everybody puts effort in 80% to 90% of the actual meeting. A third of your effort should be pre-meeting. A third of your effort should be during and a third after.If you don't take action after the meeting as a leader, your group will never believe you've listened to them. Click To Tweet
When you do that, it’s sustainable because leadership is shared during the actual group meeting itself. A lot of reasons why people think they’ve got to put all this effort into listening during the meeting is because they’re the only ones doing the listening as the host. We need to delegate listening. Good Zoom hosts make sure people are listening to the active speaker. A great Zoom host makes sure everybody’s listening to each other and noticing who hasn’t spoken. We haven’t even touched on the five levels of listening, 20,000 people in the research group. We can come to that on another day. What’s going through your mind now, Patrick?
This is like multiple episodes but there’s so much here. Again, I thought I was pretty good at listening and understanding and it’s like peeling an onion back. There’s layer and layer here but all-important stuff. One thing that I was thinking about when you’re talking about the 30% at the end of the meeting, it’s almost like when surveys are done in a company and no feedback has ever been given as to what the result of the survey is.
People become cynical. “I’m not wasting my time doing another survey because nobody cares anyway or I invested a lot of time in the last one and nothing ever happened because of it.” As I’m hearing you, this is like those people that are in the meeting that are like, “We spent all this time yet there’s no feedback or bringing it back to where we are on that.” People become cynical about that too. It’s like, “Why bother? Let’s get through this.”
I get approached and engaged by a lot of software companies that do those surveys that you speak about. Before I take the engagement, my opening line will be, “Stop surveying your staff until you’ve implemented what they told you in the last survey.” I’m not talking about the headline. I’m talking about everything they say.
While you are busy doing balloons and cakes to try and get people to fill in the survey and share when you get 50%, or 60% uptake, the reason they’re not filling in the survey is that you didn’t listen the last time. You’ll have a bigger impact on survey uptake if you communicate what you implement. In the room, I ask people to all stand-up and then sit down if they haven’t communicated what they’ve implemented. Usually, in a room of say 500 people, there are 10 that are still standing when I ask them.
It’s a very small group but that group is highly correlated to the highest-performing workplace cultures as well. As leaders, listening happens before, during, and after the conversation, before, during, and after the team meeting, and before, during, and after, any systemic survey. It’s identical for your customers as well. A lot of people go, “How do I communicate back to my customer with a customer satisfaction survey?”
I was working with a client. They have a massive contact center. When you’re on hold, they play certain messages. We got them to think about communicating what they’ve implemented based on that, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you recommend us? Please leave a message with any other feedback.” What they said is, “Based on your feedback in the last surveys, we listen and ask you for your postcode or your ZIP code when you come in. We try and match you with somebody in that area who has local knowledge so they can help you with so we can help you with your claim faster.”
It was an insurance company. They tripled the number of people who left feedback because they did a simple test. They split the calls. People got the standard message. People got the new message. The other thing they say is, “We’re using your telephone number which you’ve allowed us to match to our database so we can pull up your records immediately. Our call center agent will look at your history before they pick up the phone and speak to you while you’re waiting on hold.”
Again, that’s simple. Communicating back to people increased the net promoter score response. A lot of people don’t realize they have all these ways to communicate back to suppliers and customers. Politicians can do that to the citizens and the voters. If you can do that and explain what you’re doing, the connection will be great.
Along those lines is that you need to follow through on it. If I take somebody’s number, when I do call there and if I have to go through everything again and they act like they didn’t look at any of my stuff. I’m like, “You promised me you were going to do this.” In organizations, it’s the same thing. There’s a misalignment. There’s no congruence. What you said and what you do is not the same thing but when they’re aligned, it’s so powerful which is what you’re talking about here. It’s like connecting the dots or closing the loop.
Oscar, I had two and a half pages of notes of things that I was like, “I’d like to touch on these,” but I haven’t had an opportunity to hit on one of them yet because this conversation has exceeded my expectations. I thought there was a lot here and you’ve even blown that out of the water. I want to thank you so much for this. I love to do at least a round two on this because we’ve gone way over eight minutes, no doubt.
I’ll be delighted to come back. You can ask your audience either through your newsletter or your socials, what questions they might like to ask me next time or what concept landed this time. Rather than getting in contact with me, I strongly recommend you visit ListeningQuiz.com. Take the seven-minute survey, find out what your primary listening villain is, and what’s that barrier that gets in your way.
We’ve got a simple one-page prescription about what to do about it based on your listening profile. That will be the start of your journey. We’ve got lots of other assets that we touched on as well, so that would be the strong thing I’d recommend. The difference between hearing and listening is action. If you want to take action, take the Listening Quiz.
We said this in the beginning or at least I mentioned this to you. Not that listening hasn’t been important prior to now but I do believe that something has happened since the pandemic in terms of accelerating. As I’ve seen it on my end, listening has devolved for a lot of people into not about listening to understand somebody else but more about listening to undermine or not being present with people.
All the things that you’re talking about help us to get back to that being able to be productive and especially in a group setting, how do we do that? I want to thank you so much for this. I’m going to make a promise to you on this as well. I’m putting a stake in the ground now. I’m going to do that challenge for the next five weeks. I’d love to have a follow-up from that where I’ve done what you’ve prescribed in that yourself portion of this.
I’m sure you will. Thanks for listening, Patrick.
Thank you so much. Take care.
About Oscar Trimboli
Who is Oscar?
Oscar Trimboli is an author, host of the Apple award-winning podcast Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. He is passionate about using the gift of listening to bring positive change in homes, workplaces and cultures around the world.
Through his work with chairs, boards of directors and executive teams in local, regional and global organisations, Oscar has experienced firsthand the transformational impact leaders and organisations can have when they listen beyond the words.
He believes that leadership teams need to focus their attention and their listening on building organisations that have impact and create powerful legacies for the people they serve – today and, more importantly, for future generations.
Oscar is a marketing and technology industry veteran with over 30 years’ experience across general management, sales, marketing and operations for Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Polycom, Professional Advantage and Vodafone.
He consults to organisations including Air Canada, AstraZeneca, BAE Systems, CBRE, Cisco, Commonwealth Bank, Energy Australia, Estia Health, Google, HSBC, IAG, Macquarie Bank, Microsoft, PayPal, Qantas, Reebok, SAP and TAL.
Oscar lives in Sydney with his wife Jennie, where he helps first-time runners and ocean swimmers conquer their fears and contributes to the cure for cancer as part of Can Too, a cancer research charity – www.cantoo.org.au.
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Stephen Covey spent his long and storied career inspiring millions of individuals to make their lives more effective, compassionate, and meaningful. Near the end of his life, Covey felt a final component to his work: How to live your best life no matter your age? How to best respond to life-challenging experiences? How to approach the challenges and opportunities of middle to later life—like raising children, caring for your parents, leading and inspiring others, staying on top of your career, contributing to your community, and what follows next?
Live Life in Crescendo is Covey’s answer to these questions, outlining his vision for those in the prime of life, whatever age you may be. Covey urges all to “live life in crescendo,” continually growing in contribution, learning, and influence. In the same way that music builds on the previous notes, life, too, builds on the past and unfolds in the future. This crescendo mentality urges you to use whatever you have—your time, talents, resources, gifts, passion, money, and influence—to enrich the lives of people around you, including your family, neighborhood, community, and the world.
Co-written with his daughter, Cynthia Covey Haller, and published posthumously, Live Life in Crescendo is a life-changing and life-affirming book that befits the generosity and wisdom of the late Stephen R. Covey.
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Live Life In Crescendo: Stephen R. Covey’s “Last Lecture” Written With Cynthia Covey Haller
In this episode, we’re going to learn what it’s like to live life in crescendo. We’re going to do that with the co-author of the book, Cynthia Covey Haller, who co-wrote this book with her late father, Stephen R Covey, who’s best known for his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book, in this environment, provides so much value. I believe that this book has been a treasure sitting on the ocean floor for a decade since her father’s death, and has been raised to the surface for us all to enjoy and appreciate all that it has to offer. I hope you enjoy this. Let’s get into it.
Cynthia, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Live Life in Crescendo. I was so excited to have an opportunity to read this in advance. To me, it was like finding treasure at the bottom of the sea. I’ll talk about that later, but you speak about being a steward for your dad and finishing this book. I was wondering if you could give a little background in terms of how this book came about initially.
Thank you so much for having me, Patrick. I’ve looked forward to being on your show. I appreciate it. I love the hidden treasure analogy. I hope that’s what it is. This happened many years ago. My father and I were discussing a lot of different projects he was doing. I foolishly said to him, “Dad, are you ever going to write anything as good as 7 Habits?” He was like, “What?” He acted insulted like, “Are you serious? Why do I get up every day to speak and write? Am I one and done everything that I have contained in the 7 Habits, and I’ve got nothing else to contribute?”
That wasn’t the case. He went on to write a lot of other books. It was insightful to me that he thought, “I still have important contributions ahead to make.” At that point, he asked me, “You asked this question so you can help me?” I had a lot of interest in his mission statement, the last ten years of his life, which was live life from crescendo. He said, “Why don’t you interview me and do all the leg work?” He wanted this book to be chock-full of stories, examples that were inspiring of famous and non-famous people that hopefully, people could see themselves in and say, “Maybe I could do that. I like what that person did.”
He wanted me to take that assignment to write the book, take his ideas, and go with it. We worked on it a few years together and then, unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly. I write about that journey of our family in the back of the book and some personal things that we shared. I felt like I have to take up the baton and finish it. Patrick, I’ve had to live in crescendo to finish the book. It was a rough road and some setbacks. My goal was to be his faithful translator of the vision that he had for this important message, “Live life in crescendo. Your most important work is always ahead of you.”
It’s been several years since he passed. What was that like when that first happened in terms of this book and finishing it?
He would always call me and say, “How is the book coming? Are you working on the book?” I was. I was collecting stories and quotes, doing what I could. I’m a mother of 6 children and have 21 grandkids, which keeps me busy. I was involved in the community and a lot of different positions and things I was doing. I couldn’t get to it how he wanted me to. I felt bad when he passed away, and we hadn’t finished it, but I had made a commitment that I would finish it and get this out. As a family, we recognize this as his last big idea and last lecture, so to speak, something that he wanted to share that was very personal to him and that he felt could impact people and bring out their best potential.
Was there a period before you picked this up again in terms of finishing this project, or has it been one that you’ve slowly been putting together over the last years?
We talked in 2008. That’s when it first started and since then, I’ve been picking away at it. I’m a slow writer. It took a long time. I wrote it in his voice, which is unusual. I went back and forth deciding, “Do I put Cynthia and then Stephen?” I never liked books like that. He asked me to write it, and I wrote it in his voice because it was his idea and the last big message he wanted to share. I provided the stories in a commentary.
The stories are so rich all the way through it. You do such a great job of bringing out the ideas here. One of the things that I love here is that it was both famous and well-known people, as well as people that were not well-known. That speaks to the belief that everybody is capable of this.
Everybody has greatness in them, and that was my father’s whole goal of his life. He spoke about life as a mission, not a career. The mission he felt was to unleash human potential. He did that through his speaking, books, and writings. This was the last one that he felt strongly about. I felt sacred stewardship to finish this. It has drawn us closer too. I felt close to him when I’m doing it. I can hear him say, “Hurry and finish it already. Get it out there.”
I had posted on this. As I was finishing this again and knowing that this had been such a period since it was going to be revealed to everybody, that’s how I thought of this. This thing had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but you knew it was there. It was a matter of time before this treasure was going to get raised. It’s coming to that point where it’s available for everybody to view. I feel so fortunate almost to have a preview of it and what’s in here.
Thank you. I love that analogy. I can see what you’re saying. It is something that’s been saved. Hopefully, people that have been inspired by my father’s books through the years will be excited like, “There’s one last big idea here that hopefully will help me in my life.”
One of the things that I noticed at the very beginning of the book is it talks about a four-square person. You mentioned writing for him: mental, physical, social, and spiritual. How important was that?
That was huge to him. When we would have birthdays, his compliment would be, “You’re a four-square person. You are successful in all those four areas: physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.” Those were the four areas that he would emphasize that they have to be balanced so that you could have a full life. If one was out of whack, it would disturb them all. My father wasn’t perfect at all, but he tried more than anyone I know to live what he taught. He sincerely tried to become a four-square person and be balanced in those four areas, which are fundamental to everyone.
The book is broken up into these four stages: midlife, the pinnacle of success, life-changing setbacks, and then the second half of life.
When you get older, what are you going to do and choose?
What I found interesting as I was reading that was at first I was thinking, “This is a book for people that get to their 40s.” It’s not. It’s a book for anybody at any age because even if you’re not at that midlife stage, it provides such a roadmap.
It’s not something to save until you’re old. It became about that in the first place because my father would keep getting asked, “Stephen, you’re getting up there. You’re going to keep writing, speaking and doing all this.” He couldn’t believe it. He said, “Of course. I still have passion for what I’m doing. I feel I have a purpose. I want to contribute.” In our world, retirement was the R word. You didn’t say it. It was a bad word. If you might retire from a job or a career, you never retire from making meaningful contributions.
To give your readers a little background, it mostly talks about the crescendo mentality. My father chose to use a musical analogy, which I like. In music crescendo, when you’re going to a concert, you feel a crescendo coming. It grows in power, strength, and energy. It’s incredible how it comes to a crescendo. It keeps expanding where the opposite side, diminuendo, slows and lessens in energy and power and eventually comes to a complete stop. The challenge that he gives throughout this book is at any age or stage of life, you’ve got to consciously choose to live in crescendo to increase in contribution and influence, growing and learning rather than the opposite.You need to consciously choose to live in crescendo, increase in contribution and influence and grow and learn rather than the opposite. Click To Tweet
Something along those lines, in the book, there was a part that reads, “Choose the right yardstick.”
It was Clayton Christensen, one of my father’s friends, that talked about how society measures success so differently. He believes true success is measured by notoriety, wealth, influence, power, and prominence, which he would call that secondary greatness. Primary greatness is your character and to be successful in your most important roles in life. A father, a mother, a parent, a son or daughter, a sibling, a community volunteer, a humanitarian, or a leader are all important roles. He’s defining success as being successful in those roles rather than in the ones that society celebrates.
As you look over these four stages, is there one that resonated more with you as you were going through of maybe examples that you saw growing up?
I could give you a personal example that I was magnified in my life. I tell at the beginning of the book about a magical time that I had with my father going on a trip to San Francisco. I was 12 years old and the oldest of 9. I was chosen to go on this trip with him when he was speaking. We made a plan, and half of the fun was planning it a couple of months ahead and would go over it quite often every other day where we’d talk about our plans.
To a young twelve-year-old, this was going to be amazing. We would go and stay in this fancy hotel. My dad would speak all day while I would swim, relax and play around there. I would meet him at the back of the room. We would take off before people grabbed him and go ride the trolley cars. To think of going on the trolley cars in San Francisco was incredible. We’d ride those and go over to some of the fancy stores that they had in San Francisco. I could buy a few school clothes.
We were going to go to Chinatown and have some authentic Chinese food. It’s our favorite. Both of us love Chinese food. We’d take a taxi back to the hotel. Before it closed and even if it did close, my dad had ways of getting into swim before they shut it up. He would go under the little barrier and we’d swim real quick before we got kicked out. We’d go up to the hotel room and have a hot fudge sundae and watch a show.
That was the plan. We were so excited about it. It was going according to that plan. I was in the back of the room and my father was making his way toward me. When all of a sudden, one of his best friends greeted him that had moved away. They embraced and were so excited to see each other. I heard the friend say, “I’m so happy. I knew you were speaking now. I came to invite you to come with my wife and me. We’ll go eat down on the wharf and catch up.”
My father said, “Bob, that sounds great.” I saw my trolley card go down the hill without me. I thought, “I’m going to be stuck with two old people the rest of the night. What happened to our magical date?” He said, “I’d love to do that, Bob, but not tonight. My daughter, Cynthia, and I have a special date planned. Don’t we, honey?” He gave me a wink and grabbed my hand. We were out the door before Bob knew what happened.
It took me back. I said, “Dad, this is your good friend. Don’t you want to spend time with him tonight?” He said, “No. I wouldn’t miss this for anything. Let’s go catch that trolley car.” We then went off. In a young girl’s life, he modeled to me so many things that he taught like deep trust in our relationship, putting priorities and me ahead of somebody else who was also important to him and believing that this promise that we’d had together to do this would come about first things first. I learned so many. It was a foundation for our relationship looking back on my childhood. He tried to model what he taught. This was an example that meant a lot to me.
I loved reading about that story. As I’m reading along, I’m thinking, “I hope you don’t miss out on that opportunity.” From a leadership standpoint, one of the first behaviors you need is congruence alignment. It demonstrated that alignment of what your dad was saying and what he was going to do was the same thing. That’s so important.
He tried to live that. That’s our challenge to all of us. We all know more than we do, don’t we? We have deep values but sometimes, we don’t act on them. That was a reminder to me. You have to be congruent. You can’t have disparity in one part of your life and then the other speak about something else.
Another thing that I teased out as I was reading was the concept in there of faith plus work equals fruit. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that in your experiences.
My parents were united in teaching us good values but letting us also make choices too. We were taught to take responsibility for ourselves but to also carry that belief that they had in us of our potential that we were affirmed a lot. I talk a little bit about that in the book. If you look around you, who around you needs affirmation? Who we all can point to as someone who believed in us when maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves? If you ask people to identify that person, most people can think of someone. What about us? Who needs a mentor or someone to believe in us?
My father defined leadership as communicating another’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. That’s what a true leader does. We have that opportunity every day with those whom we mentor and who is around us. Maybe one of our children is going through a hard divorce and needs our support and belief that she or he still has great worth and potential. Maybe some grandkids are suffering. Maybe someone in business whom you work with in the workplace has been shot down with a lot of ideas that were presented to a boss. It wasn’t well-received and is discouraged. We have a chance to build that person and believe in them. Maybe they don’t believe in themselves.
John Wooden is mentioned in the book as being a pretty big influence on your dad. There’s a great story in there that you tell about that.
John Wooden was named as one of the greatest coaches ever but in the last third of his life, he had a work that he believed was his most important work, which was mentoring. He spent the first 2/3 as a coach but said, “Basketball is not everything and the most important thing. To teach and mentor is the highest priority.”
What an influence he had up until in his 90s when he wrote over a dozen books. He spoke so many times during the year in his 80s and 90s after his beloved wife died. He was a great example of being a mentor and blessing people’s lives by believing in them. I love this quote by Tom Peters that says, “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” The whole goal is to create other leaders.
Along those lines, you talk about resourcefulness and initiative.
My dad used to call it R and I. It was funny. Growing up, we were never allowed to make excuses for ourselves. We would come home and say, “I hate my teacher. My math teacher is the worst.” Use your R and I.” We’re like, “He is a bad teacher, dad. He doesn’t help us. He doesn’t know how to explain.” We would give our excuses. He was like, “What does that have to do with anything? Use your R and I and make it happen,” which meant, “It’s up to you. You got to do extra work, switch your class, get in another class if you have to and get some extra help.”
We had a good balance because my mom would let us blame other people. We could say to my mom, “I’ve got the worst teacher.” She was like, “That’s terrible. We got to do something about that. This guy has got to help you more.” When we wanted our hearts massages, we’d go to her but if we wanted the truth and take responsibility, then we would go to my dad and he would say, “Work it out.” That principle applies to the crescendo mentality.
I’m thinking of a great example. If you don’t mind me sharing one, you asked earlier, “Which area did you like?” I liked all of them. It’s powerful but in the life-changing setbacks and the life experiences, that’s when you show the choice of choosing to live in crescendo or diminuendo. One of my favorite stories in the book that inspired me is about a man named Ray Hinton that lived in Alabama and was framed for two murders in his small town.
They couldn’t find who murdered these people. Ray was in a lockdown facility and at work 15 miles away when they were committed. He was racially profiled, charged with these crimes and sent to jail. He knew he was innocent and was a very good person. He trusted in the legal system but the next thing he knew, he found himself convicted of both those murders and on death row. He is devastated. His life is plummeting and he is despondent. He goes into his cell, throws his Bible under his bed and decides to shut down. He’s so insulted to be charged with this and full of despair that this happened to him.
For three long miserable years, he doesn’t speak to anybody around him in his nearby cells or the guards. He speaks only to his family and friends who visit him once a week. He’s living in diminuendo. He has no influence, power or options as far as he can see. One night at 2:00 in the morning, he hears his fellow cellmate next to him crying in pain and calling out for someone to please help him. Something awakens in Ray that was always there. This compassion came forward and he realized, “This rocked me that I’m a prisoner on death row. I can’t do anything about that.” He then said, “I had other choices I didn’t realize.” Despair and hate were choices, but so were love and compassion.
He breaks his three years of silence and finds out what’s wrong with this prisoner. He found out that his mother had passed away, was devastated, and couldn’t go on. Ray spends the night comforting and talking to this stranger about his mother, even laughing and talking about great experiences that they had together and giving this prisoner hope to go on. From then on, he switched from living in diminuendo to consciously exercising his circle of influence around him and choosing to live in crescendo by being a light and a beacon to his fellow prisoners, even to the guards who sometimes came to him for advice.
For the next 28 years, and he’s in there so long, he finally draws the attention of Bryan Stevenson who worked for the Equal Justice Initiative. You might have heard of the Mercy film and that book. He takes his case and realizes he has been convicted wrongly. He took it before the Supreme Court after a long battle and finally, he was released. Ray comes out of prison after almost 30 years and says to his family and friends, “The sun does shine.”
Four years later, that’s the title of his book that tells of this journey, from despair to hope and the belief that life can get good again. It becomes a New York Times bestselling book. Ray Hinton who was once on death row and had no circle of influence, power and ability, through all these years, has expanded and was a light and a beacon to them. He is an advocate, a speaker and an author. His life is like the subtitle of this book, “Your most important work is always ahead of you.” His life has expanded and is doing incredible work for other people that are imprisoned. I thought that was so inspiring that he realized, “I can’t control being on death row but I can choose how to respond to what’s happened to me. I still have choices.”
As I was hearing you talk about that, there was another point in the book where one of the bullets says, “Believe in and give second chances.” It’s not just believing in second chances but also that we have to give. We always want a second chance but it’s much harder for us to give it.
We all need second chances. Bryan Stevenson said, “We’re all better than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Second chances talk a lot in this book. We do need to give them, as well as receive them. Many of your readers may have bought Dave’s Killer Bread, which is an awesome, healthy bread. This came about from a man that went to prison three times in a row. He spent more than fifteen years in prison and was given a second chance by his family when he got out to join the family bakery.
Eventually, he invented this great bread that’s all across the United States and everywhere. He hires people that have been convicted of felonies that can’t get a job because of their records. He gives them a second chance because his brother gave one to him. I buy his bread for that reason, besides it being delicious. We all are better than the worst thing we’ve ever done. We all need another chance to reinvent ourselves and start over.We are all better than our worst thing we've ever done. We all need another chance to reinvent ourselves and start over. Click To Tweet
Of all of the parts, the life-changing setback is the area that resonated with me the most. I go back to I lost both my parents about a year and a half apart when I was a teenager to cancer. I remember that. Those are the things that in hindsight, maybe the strongest is going through those. Not that I would ever want to go through them again like that but looking back, I know that’s where our power oftentimes comes from.
CS Lewis said, “Hardships prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinies.” It’s true. The resilience and what you had to draw from losing I can’t imagine that as a teenager, losing both your parents that closely together. What you learned from that and what you’ve gained or gone through, how powerful is that in your life, even though you would never choose that but maybe you’re able to have more compassion for orphans and people that don’t have a great lifestyle and a good family. You’re able to do a lot of good for them because of what you suffered and went through.
Without a question. We both come from large families. I’m one of ten. There was a lot of benefit to that in terms of support when our family is going through that.
I can’t imagine with ten children losing your parents. I’m sure the older ones had to step up, be the guardians and become parents to some of the younger ones.
We had a good bond. Our parents left a good legacy for us.
Look what you’ve done with that. That’s incredible what work you’re doing.
Thank you. I love the stories and the way the book is structured overall. After the stories are woven into them, there’s generally a quote that adds a different perspective and helps to build on it. One that stuck out to me is along this line around life challenges. It was by Goethe that said, “Only by joy and sorrows does a person know anything about themselves and their destiny.”
We are learning as we go through every age and stage of life. The crescendo mentality applies every time that we are at because whatever stage we’re at, we have to decide, “Am I going to choose to live in crescendo or am I going to give in and live in diminuendo? What influence will I have” We talked about quietly quitting. In this workplace and environment, some people are quietly quitting, which means they may not leave their job but in a sense, emotionally and physically, they have left it because they don’t feel appreciated. Maybe they feel stagnant and they don’t believe in themself.Live Life In Crescendo: Stephen R. Covey’s “Last Lecture” Written With Cynthia Covey Haller – Episode 148 Click To Tweet
They need somebody to believe in them. With that, they’ve quietly quit contributing to their company, the business and the people around them. What a message to those people in midlife who may be going through the quietly quitting stage to realize, “I have choices that I can make. I can’t control if I like my boss, I’m micromanaged, or don’t feel like I’m appreciated and paid what I’m worth, but I can control my circle of influence. I can increase in contributing to those around me and those that I have influenced.” Pretty soon, little by little, that grows, expands, and could change your entire office and business.
Isn’t that R and I again?
It is. You don’t want to hear it but take R and I, and make it happen. No excuses. That’s not always a popular message. The other option is we know what it’s like to live in diminuendo in the workplace. We’ve seen it in the workplace, at home and in different venues. There’s no growth, learning and potential. You need someone who believes in you. We need to be a light and beacon to those around us to believe in them. That can spread.We need someone who believes in us, and we need to be a light and beacon to those around us to believe in them. And that can spread. Click To Tweet
I will say what I appreciated toward the end of this book, Cynthia. There might be some people that are like, “That’s easy for you to say, Cynthia. You’re part of the Coveys. Things are always great. It’s easy to be in crescendo.” There’s a vulnerability here at the end where you talk about things that haven’t always been great and weren’t always great for your dad. That’s such an important point here. It brings so much trust to the reader as they’re going through it. You went through challenges as well.
I chose to share some personal things about our family for that very reason. You look at other people and we compare ourselves to others all the time. We shouldn’t because the definition of success is you’re successful in your most important roles without comparison to others but it’s a natural tendency to do that and think, “They have it all, got it all together and everything is perfect with that family. I’m the one that’s got problems with ours.”
Every family struggles and has things that they deal with. Some are evident and seen. Others are behind the scenes. With our family, I chose to show that we have a journey of living in crescendo and had to practice it in three examples in the book. The first one was my mom who had nine children and maybe that’s what it did to her body. She had back surgery and it didn’t go well. She was in the hospital for four months. When she was released, she was in a wheelchair.
My mom was the energizer but she never stopped. It’s for her to have to deal with being in a wheelchair, having people helping her get up and down, having that disruption, our family always having someone there and what our family had to deal with when we wanted our mom to be a normal person. She was consumed with her health problems for a time. We had to choose to rally together and support her. She had to choose to say, “I can’t help that I’m in a wheelchair but I have other choices. I can still be a mother and a matriarch, be an example in my community and raise money for this Covey Center for the Arts,” which she did and bring that about.
“I can still have influence, even though I can’t choose that I’m in a wheelchair the rest of my life.” That was one instance where like you, Patrick, we, as nine kids, had to come together, support each other and help our mom. The next thing that happened was we noticed our father was not normal and the same. This is something that isn’t generally known, but he started acting differently. His personality changed. He seemed apathetic. He didn’t seem to have the passion that he had anymore.
We thought he was reacting to our mother being ill. We found out that he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Four percent of those with dementia have this awful disease. It changed his personality and affects his frontotemporal lobe. We didn’t have either parent. You lost yours as a teenager. We lost ours both at about the same time later on in life. We were fortunate to have it that long but we had a mom in a wheelchair and a father that was struggling with dementia.
His whole life, he had exercised his body and his mind and then this disease happened. It can affect anybody. We realized that he was living in crescendo until he couldn’t do it anymore. He did it and faked it probably as long as he could. Finally, he succumbed to it. That was a hard thing for us. We rallied together and relied on each other, our faith and what we had been taught by our parents to get through this hard time.
If that wasn’t enough, my brother’s daughter, Rachel, passed away from the effects of depression two months after my father passed. That was devastating for us. She was the oldest girl of eight children. My brother, my sister-in-law, and all of us were so devastated by this great loss. My brother thought about it and someone told him, “You’ll always have a hole in your heart.” He thought, “That’s not right. I’m going to make a muscle where that hole is.” He realized that this can either destroy us, define us or strengthen us. He chose to let this strengthen our entire family. Sean, Rebecca, and he started a foundation called Bridle Up Hope.
Their daughter loved horses. It gave her great happiness and pleasure to ride horses. It helped some of her friends when they were depressed to go horseback riding with her. They started this nonprofit foundation that takes in young girls from 12 to 18, teaches them to ride horses, question training and also couples with some life skills. My brother, Sean, took my dad’s 7 Habits and wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and applied all of this to the teenage stage.
The third component is service. Over 1,000 girls have gone through Bridle Up Hope since Rachel passed away years ago. Rachel isn’t with them. They believe that they’ll be with her later. They can choose to make a difference in the lives of girls that struggle with anxiety, depression, abuse, suicide and trauma and change their lives. It has been life-changing for many of these thousand girls that have gone through the program.
That was our journey that I shared in crescendo. We have empathy for others. Some have gone through much worse things than those. Some don’t have family support like we did, having nine siblings that could depend on each other. We know others who suffered even greater but that was our journey and our attempt to live in crescendo, despite what life throws at us.
It’s such a powerful way to go about the ending of this book. Even though it’s not a diminuendo, it is still a crescendo of taking the experiences that we’ve dealt with, whether positive or tragic. The theme here is about service to others. The more we’re able to do for others, the stronger we become ourselves.
My father taught us that contribution is more important than accumulation and contributing to others’ lives through all these stages, the midlife stage where you don’t realize if you’re successful or not and you’re struggling, the pinnacle of success where you have had great success in your life. You’ve been like Jimmy Carter who was the President of the United States. He’s the best post-president we’ve ever had. People wouldn’t rate him very high in his presidency but his greatest work was still ahead of him, which is his humanitarian work. The life-changing setbacks that we’ve discussed. The last part is the second half of life. Some people think, “I’m 75. I don’t have a lot of money. What can I do to make a difference?”
An example in the book is a homeless advocate who said to this woman, “Could you donate one can of soup a week?” She said, “Yes, I could do that.” She said, “Imagine a single mother opening up that can of soup and feeding her family. They go to bed without being hungry that night. If you can contribute that, that’s an awesome contribution.” She did that for several years, and hundreds of meals were supplied by this one woman. Contribution is the most important thing that we can do that will help other people wherever they’re at, but at the same time, it saves us and blesses our lives because we bring light to other people.
Going back to that quote by Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.” It says in the subtitle, “Your most important work is always ahead of you.” You don’t know if you’re finished contributing. You may be older, going through a divorce, bankrupt or struggling in a bad relationship. Use your R and I. Do what you can to expand your circle of influence. You still have a lot to contribute to your life if you believe it and act on it.
We don’t know the second half of our life in terms of what age we’ll be at. Even if the second half of your life is in your 70s, and you’re in your 30s now, there’s still so much value in being able to look and say, “There’s so much throughout my life to be prepared for.”
A quote that we were raised on is, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Create it ahead of living it, “This is the future that I want. These are my goals. I’ve got these setbacks and difficulties, but so what? I can overcome them, expand my circle of influence and work hard to attain these goals.” I had to do that by writing the book. Most of your readers are struggling with far harder things. We wanted to inspire people to have hope that they still do have important things ahead of them. Their greatest contribution may still be to come. You don’t know when that is.
Thank you for that. As we wrap things up, is there one thing that you would hope people take away from this book?
Our main goal was to help them. Life is a mission, not a career. My father always believed that you don’t invent your mission. You detect them. This is something Viktor Frankl taught. Deeply think to yourself, “What is it that I could contribute to those around me, in my family, and neighborhood?” See a need. With your unique skills and talents, reach it. Do what you can to make a difference in someone’s life. Start thinking, “Who needs me? Who needs what I have to offer?”
Every person does have a unique mission. Usually, the greatest enjoyment that you have is from helping other people. Look around, see a need, and respond. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can where you are with what you have.” You have enough to make a difference in someone’s life if you will respond.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about this book before it’s launched. I’m so excited to see where this goes and the impact that this can have on so many people.
Thanks so much, Patrick. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you. You live in crescendo yourself. I love hearing your example of growing up. The things that you’re doing are a great mission of service I believe.
Thank you so much. Wishing you the best. Peace.
- Cynthia Covey Haller
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Live Life in Crescendo
- The Sun Does Shine
- Bridle Up Hope
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
About Cynthia Covey Haller
Cynthia Covey Haller is an author, teacher, speaker, and an active participant in her community. She has contributed to the writing of several books and articles, notably The 3rd Alternative by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make, both by Sean Covey. Cynthia has held multiple leadership positions in women’s organizations, served as a PTSA president, an organizer for refugee aid and food pantry volunteer, and she is currently working with her husband, Kameron, as a service volunteer helping with employment needs. She graduated from Brigham Young University and lives with her family in Salt
About Stephen R. Covey
Recognized as one of Time magazine’s twenty-five most influential Americans, Stephen R. Covey (1932–2012) was an internationally respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, organizational consultant, business leader, and author. His books have sold more than 40 million copies (print, digital, and audio) in more than fifty languages throughout the world and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the 20th Century. After receiving an MBA from Harvard University and a doctorate from Brigham Young University, he became the cofounder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, the most trusted leadership company in the world.
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We’re now living in a new world of work, and leaders need to catch up. Today’s guest shares wisdom that helps leaders lead trust and inspire others that goes way beyond engagement. Stephen M.R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink and Global Speed of Trust Practice Leader at FranklinCovey. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. In his newest and most transformative book, Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others, he enlightens readers on what leadership should look like today with increasing numbers of employee disengagement. He proposes a new way of leading that starts with believing that people are creative, collaborative, and full of potential. With this leadership, they are inspired to become the best version of themselves and produce their best work. Learn all about Stephen’s proposed solution for the future of work that all leaders need to know about.
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How Leaders Can Trust And Inspire Others: A Conversation With Stephen M.R. Covey
How do you create better engagement with your employees at your organization? This episode is for you because we’re going to take it up a notch and talk about how you not only engage them but create an environment where they’re inspired. I’m going to do that with my guest, Stephen M.R. Covey. We’re going to talk about his book, Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. Stephen is certainly an authority in this area. His book, The Speed of Trust, is a New York Times Bestseller.
He’s also the CEO of CoveyLink as well as the CEO of Franklin Covey Global Trust Practice. On top of that, he’s a Harvard MBA and the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. You’re in the right place to learn about leadership. Let’s get into it.
Stephen, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I had an opportunity to read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn’t wait to have you on this to talk about Trust and Inspire. In this time that we’re in, it’s so relevant.
First of all, thank you. I’m delighted to be on your show. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a new world of working. A new world of working requires a new way of leading. We can’t keep doing the old things, so we got to catch up with our leadership on how work has changed.
Over the last few years, what have you seen as it relates to employees and leadership relationships as it relates to the book?
What’s interesting is I was working on this book for a couple of years, so I started prior to the pandemic. This is where things were going, but the pandemic turbo-charged everything. It accelerated everything. Things were moving in these directions and the nature of the world is clearly changing through technology. The nature of work is changing. It’s more team-based and contextualized around service. It’s interdependent and collaborative.
What really changed was the nature of the workplace. It’s the idea of working from home, working from anywhere, hybrid work, remote work, and intentional flexible work. We’ve been trending in that direction, and the pandemic accelerated it dramatically. The workforce is changing so many generations, as many as by. Also, coming out of the pandemic, the choices and options that people have led to this Great Resignation. As people have reflected and thought about things, they have choices and options. Suddenly, they’re saying, “I want something different or something new.” The world has changed. It accelerated coming out of the pandemic and made the relevancy of this book even greater. It still would have been relevant, but it’s so timely.
It’s interesting you mentioned the Great Resignation. We’ve heard so much about it, especially back in the fourth quarter of 2021 about the number of people that are leaving their jobs. What is interesting is you said you started this a couple of years ago when you were seeing these. I have often said that the only thing new about the Great Resignation as I see it is that people have physically been able to leave their organizations. The Great Resignation, mentally and emotionally, has been going on for decade, where people have left their organizations. They just physically didn’t have the options that they have.
The best definition of disengagement is when people quit but stay. They mentally and emotionally left, but physically, they were there. They did the minimum. The pandemic suddenly added a physical piece to it. You’re exactly right. That’s the new thing about it, but this has been going on. We’re not tapping into people’s greatest passions, creativity, and talents. They suddenly have more choices and options on that, so the physical has caught up with the mental and emotional.It's a new world of work and a new world of working. A new world of working requires a new way of leading. Click To Tweet
Without question. There’s a quote that I will often use by Eric Hoffer. It says, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” We’re in that space. If you’re not a leader that is a learner and you think that it’s the way it was before, you’re going to be left holding the bag. Your book speaks to that in terms of how things need to change.
There’s too much information, change, and disruption. You can’t know it all. It’s a mindset. Carol Dweck is brilliant. Know-it-alls are irrelevant. It’s a learn-it-all. You got to be learning. That’s why your show is so significant because leaders are learners. We got to learn, be changing, and shifting including how we’re leading.
You talk about trust and inspire. I’d like to focus on the inspire part. The reason being is I found it interesting a few months ago. I was curious about this in terms of what people think is more important. Is it to be engaged or is it to be inspired? What was interesting is there were about 70 people that took the poll. We’re not talking about anything scientific here. What was interesting is that close to 70% of those that responded were CEOs or presidents. The majority of them, 64%, thought that engaging was more valuable than inspiring. It is part of that old mindset maybe of what it means to be inspired versus engaged.
That is probably reflective of the old mindset, but also, I think this. We’ve been working on engagement for the last couple of decades. It’s been the Holy Grail, and it’s a good thing. We still want engagement. To become inspired, you go through engagement, so it’s still on the path. If someone says, “I’m focusing on engagement,” I say, “That’s wonderful. Let’s try to engage our team and our people.” Engagement is a good thing.
There’s another frontier beyond engagement that is an inspiration. That includes engagement. We won’t become inspired without also achieving engagement, but there’s something beyond it. Our paradigms are deeply scripted in engagement being the end-all. Also, maybe we’re limited in how we view what inspired means. That might be reflected in that outcome.
Along those lines, I was going to ask you if you were to define engaged versus inspired, what is the difference for a leader? My guess is when people hear inspired, there is a fluffiness to it. To be inspired somehow doesn’t seem to have that strength behind it. It’s the opposite. If you’re inspired, you’re even more beyond that. I do think there’s some of that mindset out there, but it doesn’t seem as strong as engaged.
That mindset probably persists in many. You’re right. This is not good or bad. They’re both good. To be inspired is also tapping into something bigger, but to be engaged is extrinsic. It’s the carrot and stick mindset. Motivation is a good and positive thing. You are tapping into that discretionary effort. People are bringing out good things from them, but being inspired adds to it. It adds a sense of connection through caring and belonging, but also a sense of connection around purpose, meaning, and contribution.
You’re like, “My work matters. It makes a difference. I feel connected with what I’m doing. It includes what I achieve by engaging. I’m giving that discretionary effort, but I also feel inspired by it because of how I feel on fire with what we’re doing. It’s the overlap of purpose. I also feel inspired because I feel a sense of belonging on this team. I feel a sense of caring from my leaders. They’re not tapping into me as a human resource, but as a person. I want both. I want to be tapped into my mind, but I also want to connect at a human level and have a sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution. That’s intrinsic. It’s internal. It’s inside of people.
We’re trying to light the fire that’s within. That fire can burn on for years when someone feels inspired versus constantly providing more fodder or more carrots and sticks to try to help move it along the way. I view inspiration as the next frontier of engagement. It’s going to another level. They’re both good things, but one is going beyond. I do think we need to shift the paradigm that this is soft and fluffy.
I would agree. When I hear you talk about belonging, it is so strong. When you feel like you belong to something, you don’t want to leave that. I look at that in terms of how you deal with people not wanting to leave your organization. Pay and other benefits might go a certain amount of it, but when people feel that they belong, they’re less likely to want to go to another place even if the money is better. They’re like, “I love it here. I feel a connection here.” That’s so important.
It does. Do you remember the wonderful book Peter Sandy wrote called The Fifth Discipline? It has that great quote that when people have been part of an extraordinary team, they have that sense of connection, belonging, and identity that flows from it. They often spend the rest of their lives chasing and trying to recreate it and reestablish it because of what it does to them and for them. It is because it’s part of your identity that can be remarkable. That sense of belonging is powerful and strong, and as part of it, what inspires.
Let me also say this about engagement and inspiration. During the pandemic and beyond, there were so many professions that had to work hard. I’m thinking of healthcare professionals, teachers, and many people that were on the front lines that didn’t have certain options because they had to be there physically, risk things, and work hard. In some ways, it would be almost disingenuous to say that they’re not fully engaged even if they are not as mentally creative in everything because they’re giving everything they have, in a sense, to do this.The best definition of disengagement is when people quit, but stay. They mentally and emotionally left but physically they were there and they did the minimum. Click To Tweet
Someone could be fully engaged and yet completely uninspired. It’s almost like you can’t ask more from them. They’re not inspired. That fire within is not lit. It would be unfair. It’s this idea that people need boundaries in their lives. In their work life, they’re a whole person. You can’t almost ask for more. Someone could be fully engaged, but utterly uninspired. There’s another frontier where you get that caring, belonging, sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution, which can be a game-changer.
You mentioned in the book one of the polls that looked at sixteen different competencies. You talk about that research. Could you go through that? That’s so important when we think about what the employee wants.
This comes from the Zenger Folkman consultancy firm. They do extraordinary work. They’ve probably done more 360 feedback instruments than maybe any firm out there, and they gather this data. They’ve got sixteen competencies or attributes of leadership. They asked the people being led, “If you look at these sixteen attributes of leadership, which one do you want the most from your leader?” The number one attribute that the people wanted from their leaders was a leader who inspires them. It was not number one by a little amount, but it was clearly, in a way, the front runner with not a close second. They wanted a leader that inspires.
Then, they asked, “What are you getting from the leadership of these sixteen competencies?” It was at or near the bottom that they were being inspired by their leaders. It’s what they want the most, and yet, they’re not getting it almost at all. The gap there is enormous. What people want is to be trusted and inspired. The word for inspire comes from the Latin word inspirare, which means to breathe life into. The whole idea of trust and inspire breathes life into people. The old model of command and control or even the enlightened version of command and control sucks life out, so you want to breathe life into it.
Here’s maybe another way of engagement versus inspire. Un-engagement, oftentimes, is I’m getting results through people. I’m engaging them, but people are often seeing it as a means to an end. Inspiration is I’m getting results in a way that grows people. People are an end in and of themselves. I’m not taking down the importance of results. I’m elevating the importance of growing people so that they are an end by themselves apart from the results that they help create and produce. It’s elevating this. We’ve given lip service a lot, but we’ve got to catch up our leadership style to what we want our intent to be.
You mentioned this in the book about the confusion of people thinking that to be inspiring means you have to be charismatic. That’s an important distinction to make.
Yes. Sometimes, we conflate the words charisma and inspiration and think, “If I’m going to be inspiring, I got to be charismatic.” That’s not me. I know some people who are charismatic, but who I would not define as inspiring. I know a few other people who nobody would describe as charismatic, but who are extraordinarily inspiring because of who they are and how they connect, and their compassion and empathy. It’s almost a superpower that they have. It’s how they also connect to purpose, meaning, and contribution. They’re very inspiring.
Charisma and inspiration are not the same. Let’s separate those. The point is inspiring others is a learnable skill for us as leaders. Everyone can inspire. It’s the kind of leadership we need. We want leaders who inspire, are learnable, have skills, and have competency. That’s a paradigm shift. It’s not just for the charismatic. It’s a learnable skill everyone can inspire.
If you were to think of that from a standpoint of anybody can inspire, are there things that you would say as a leader, “These are probably the most important things to work on to create that inspiration.”
Yes. I would say three things or three tips, but there’s more than this. First, become inspired yourself. It’s like the airline metaphor. Put your own mask on first before helping others. Do you want to inspire others? Become inspired yourself. Get your own light burning or your own candle going. When your candle is lit, that can light a lot of other candles. If you’re not lit, it’s hard to light other candles to inspire others. First, find your why. Become inspired yourself so that you could help ignite that in others and light those candles. That’s maybe the first tip I would give. That’s all about finding your why, your sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution to yourself.
The second would be to connect with people. You do that at the relationship level through caring, and at the team level, through belonging. It’s caring and belonging. I’ll give a quick illustration of this with Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo. Long story made short, she used to write letters to the parents of her leadership team. She was thanking them for the gift of their child to her company because of how remarkable their child was.
Those parents loved receiving these letters. She would be like, “Thank you for raising such a fabulous daughter who is so vital to our team and to our organization. How she does these things, I attribute that to you for raising such a remarkable child.” It created this sense of belonging that Indra cares. The parents were thrilled. The leader of the executive was thrilled. It was not done as a technique. It was done by genuinely caring.If you want to inspire others, become inspired yourself. If your candle is lit, that can light a lot of other candles. Click To Tweet
Indra experienced it herself. When she had gone to India with her mother when her father passed away and she became the CEO of PepsiCo, all these people came to see not Indra, but Indra’s mother. They would praise her mother and Indra is right there. They were saying, “You raised such a remarkable child.” Indra said, “They didn’t say a word to me. They just went up to my mom saying, ‘You are amazing for raising such a remarkable daughter.’” Indra didn’t care that they didn’t compliment her. She was thrilled that they complimented her mother. She thought, “I should do the same thing for the parents of my leaders for the gift of their child to our company.” She did that. It inspired everybody. The second tip is to connect with people through caring and belonging.
The third key tip would be this. Connect people to purpose, meaning, and contribution to why it matters, and significance. The premise is that you can create and embed purpose, meaning, and contribution into almost any role and almost any organization. Finding ways to co-purpose or overlap purpose matters.
If I think of one illustration, it’s Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. I was out there. It’s a great organization. They have great leadership. As for the purpose of their business school, they say it this way, “Our purpose is not to produce leaders who are the best in the world. Our purpose is to produce leaders who are best for the world.” If you’re a professor, staff member, or janitor there and somebody asked, “What are you about?” You’re like, “We are about producing the best for the world leaders.” Talk about connecting to purpose. That inspires.
That’s such a great point in terms of organizations and regardless of where you are in the organization, too. I remember years ago working with a group. One of the people in the group was an accounts receivable individual. She felt she didn’t see the value in what they did in terms of how they contributed yet.
When we talked this through that if they didn’t do what they were doing in terms of accounts receivable or in terms of collecting money to bring back in, this organization could not reach its mission of being a world-class organization. They wouldn’t have the money to do research and development and be able to buy more materials to develop more products. You could see it did change her attitude toward this. She played a role in this company’s success. This happens in healthcare, especially. If you look at housekeeping, they have been such an important component of the success of a healthcare organization from the standpoint of reducing germs and infections.
People get infected by going to the hospital through germs and infections. Think of that critical role of housekeeping. It’s often overlooked. You might think, “I’m just housekeeping.” You should think, “I’m creating wellness. I’m getting rid of diseases. I’m doing all these things.” They have that overlap of the role with the contribution that it makes.
It does require a leader that’s able to bring that out in an individual to see that they do play an important role.
They need to be intentional about it. You can’t assume it. What’s interesting is that, still, some of the professions that have the biggest disengagement are in professions that have such a noble purpose. I’ll use teaching as an example. Think of teachers. Talk about where there’s been a great resignation and an exodus of teachers. What they do is they’re developing the minds and the character of students or of our children. The work they do matters, and yet, they’re so beat up and underappreciated. They feel so disrespected and undervalued.
They are in the crosshairs of our society, politics, and everything. It beats out the sense of inspiration. They’re completely engaged but utterly uninspired. Yet, they’re in a profession that is inspiring. Isn’t that ironic? We have to work hard to make the connections, but they need to fill it for their own leaders. Too often, there’s command and control leadership in teaching. If the teachers feel that way, then it’s hard for them to feel trusted and inspired. It’s hard for them to feel that inspiration as they go to do their work.
You go on to talk about the stewardship model and the five components of that. Could you talk about that?
Yes. The stewardship model starts with the mindset. We always start with paradigms and how you see it because it’s see, do, and get. If your paradigm is inaccurate, then you’ll do a different thing and you’ll get a good result. If you have a more complete, more accurate paradigm or mental map of people in leadership, you’ll do different things and you’ll get better outcomes. How do we see people? The first fundamental of belief is that I believe that people have greatness inside of them. My job as a leader is to unleash their potential, not to control them.
Here is another belief about people. I believe that people are whole people, meaning body, heart, mind, and spirit. They bring their whole self to work. They’re not just economic beings. My job as a leader is to inspire, not merely motivate. If they were merely economic beings, motivation is insufficient. They’re human, meaning whole people inspire better. That’s how I view people. People who have great potential are whole people.Enduring influence is created from the inside out. Click To Tweet
How do I view leadership? I believe that there’s enough for everyone. That’s the abundance mentality. My job as a leader is I elevate caring above competing. Let’s compete in the marketplace, but let’s care and collaborate in the workplace. Scarcity might be a good economic theory, but scarcity is a lousy leadership theory. Abundance is far better.
Here’s another one. I believe that leadership is stewardship. It’s not about your rights. It’s about responsibilities. Stewardship is a job with trust. As a leader, we have a job with trust for those that were in our stewardship that we’re leading. Therefore, I put service above self-interest. Finally, I believe that enduring influence is created from the inside out. My job as a leader is to go first. Somebody needs to go first. Leaders go first. It’s inside out. I go first. I model. That’s collective.
That’s a more complete, accurate, and relevant paradigm or map of people and leadership. The map is not the territory. Too often, we have limited maps. A command and control map is limited. It’s reflected as maybe some people have greatness inside of them. I’ve already labeled everyone else. This is a growth mindset. That’s by Carol Dweck.
It’s how Satya Nadella revitalized Microsoft. They were seen as having had their best days, and he comes in and breathes life into them. He’s a trusted and inspired leader. He models, trusts, and inspires. It all started with the belief in a growth mindset, not just for you as a leader, but for your people and everyone. He would challenge the leaders that said to him, “I got some people on my team that don’t have a growth mindset.” He’d say, “That’s on you. Help them come to see it in themselves.” That’s an act of leadership.
Having that growth mindset to believe in the greatness and potential in everyone helped unleash the capabilities and talents of Microsoft. They’ve been revitalized. They’re winning in the workplace. Their own workforce is a cool place to work. They’re winning in the marketplace. They’re relevant. They collaborate and innovate. Its stock price has gone from $34 million to $275 million approximately under his leadership. That’s by a revitalization through his leadership style starting with that growth mindset that people have greatness inside of them.
I appreciate the last one that you mentioned of you going first. I think of a couple of different things. You mentioned in the book something about Brené Brown around vulnerability. As a leader, there’s an intentional vulnerability that you need to have in terms of being able to say, “I don’t know I was wrong. I’m sorry.” I think of those things as going first. It comes back around and plays into a sense of belonging or psychological safety. If I’m part of this group and I see the leader is able to say, “I don’t have the answer here. I’m sorry. Many of those things that I’m afraid to do as an employee, it makes me feel as though I can do it, too.”
It’s you by going first, especially in those hard things. If I say hard things, it’s the soft things that are hard to do by displaying vulnerability. You’re like, “I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s find the answer. That’s why I need you to help me find the answer. That’s why I’ve got even more talented people on my team to have that sense of vulnerability.”
Think of the word intimacy, but spell it as intomesee. I let people see into me. I’m not trying to put on airs or fronts. It’s to be rather than to see. As Brené Brown says, “You might have boundaries. Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability.” If you go first as a leader who is vulnerable, you do model it for others, but you make it safe for them to be real as well. Also, people respond to it. They want authentic leaders. They want vulnerable leaders, the leaders who model and make it safe for them to do the same.
With what you mentioned there about the boundaries is when I bring this up. I would jokingly say that you don’t want that leader that comes in every day saying, “I don’t know where we’re going again. I made another mistake.” That doesn’t inspire us anymore.
You want a leader that also is a model of character and competence. They’re good at their job, but they don’t have to be perfect for all these things. Have boundaries.
We’ve spent so much time on the inspiring part. I do think that the last piece of it wraps us into trust. If I’ve got that leader that does these things, it’s created an environment of trust. You speak about trust in a different way. What I mean by that is that a lot of the leadership is around, “How do I create an environment where people trust me?” That’s not what you’re talking about on trust. I’m hoping you can talk about that. What does it mean?
Here’s one way to think about it. You could have two trustworthy people working together, and yet, there is no trust between them if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other. I’m highlighting that they have trust as the outcome, which is what we want. We want a high-trust team, high-trust culture, and a high-trust relationship. We want to be trusted as a leader.The only way you can make a man trustworthy is by trusting him. - Henry Stimson Click To Tweet
You have to be trustworthy. Trust is earned, but you also have to be trusting. Trust is given. In that equation of trustworthy times trusting equals trust, the bigger gap in most leadership scenarios is that we’re not trusting enough as leaders. It’s not so much that we have untrustworthy people and we’re untrustworthy. We need to unleash and create trust by extending more trust, giving more trust, and becoming more trusting. That’s why trusting is stewardship.
Trust and inspire are verbs, not nouns. Otherwise, it would be trust and inspiration. It’s trust and inspire. Trust others. Inspire others. Those are verbs. Become more trusting, so you model, trust, and inspire. We need to become more trusting as leaders. We’ve got to give it to get it. When we trust others, they tend to trust us back. When we withhold the trust, they tend to not trust us either.
That hit me because I was thinking, “You talk about command and control. I can be trustworthy in command and control and what I say and do is going to be the same thing. You can trust me.” If I’m in command and control, giving trust to somebody else can be very difficult for me to do.
There is a great illustration that I can be trustworthy without necessarily being trusting because I might be afraid of losing control. I might be afraid, like, “What if it doesn’t work? What if they do it differently?” I’m assuming positive intent that leaders want good outcomes. They care that it matters. They want to make sure we deliver. They’re learning how to do it in a way where you also still have control without being controlling. You do it through the agreement you set up. You do it through the expectations and accountability you set up in an agreement.
When people are working from home, it’s not, “Do your thing.” It’s, “Here are the expectations and accountability about what we’re trusting you to do.” It’s a smart trust, not a blind trust. Low expectations don’t inspire anyone, but high expectations do with accountability built in. We need to become more trusting. In the presence of our model of trust and inspire might be our biggest gap in becoming more trusting as leaders.
Especially as we enter this world of remote work, it is difficult because you don’t see people on a day-to-day basis. You’re like, “Are they doing what they said they’re going to do?” There is a trust level here that needs to be overcome. As I thought of the trust component, I think of things like Pygmalion. What you expect of somebody, you generally get. If you’re going to not do this the right way, I’m probably not going to be disappointed with what my thoughts are because I presented this to you in a way that I don’t believe that you can work from home.
There is a Pygmalion effect. People tend to rise to the level of trust given or withheld or go down to the level that they’re not given. Henry Stimson said the quickest way to make someone trustworthy is to trust them. The quickest way to make them untrustworthy is to not trust them. Tell them that you don’t and they tend to live down to that. That’s especially true with kids in our homes as parents.
I saw one time a father and a son. They were struggling in their relationship. It’s hard for all of us. The son didn’t deliver. The father said, “Why are you behaving this way?” The son said, “That’s the way untrustworthy kids behave.” The father had labeled the kid, “You’re not trustworthy,” and the kid was living down to that label.
It’s the idea of seeing the potential and treating people according to their potential, not just their behavior. They tend to rise up to it. To be trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation. It brings out the best in people. They want to live up to the trust being given. They want to rise to the occasion. There might be a few that abuse it, but they’re the minority. Don’t let the 5% you can’t trust define the 95% that can.
It’s far better to build our team and culture around the people that can be trusted and let the culture weed out or crowd out the offenders and violators versus penalizing the many because of the few. We need to become more trusting as leaders. That is one of the great opportunities. When you model, trust, and inspire, that’s a different kind of leadership. That’s what’s needed.
There is a quote by Einstein. I’m guessing you’ve heard this as well. It’s that everybody’s a genius, but if you judge a bird based on its ability to climb a tree, it will always think it’s stupid. When that’s not our thing and we’re evaluated on something that’s not normally what we do, a bird can fly into a tree, but not climb it. It doesn’t work. It’s something along those lines.
A similar expression is every child is a genius, but they’re de-geniusized by adults. Buckminster Fuller is the one that said that. We distrust and we show our distrust. It’s amazing. I’ll give you a little quick anecdote I heard. This was from a superintendent of schools. We did a session on trust and inspire with her team. She had an assistant principal of one of her schools that was traditional. He came out of the military as traditional command and control to the nth degree, but his intent was good. He wanted everything to go perfectly and go well.
They were going to have this outside group come in. Someone from the custodial staff came to him and said, “We got this group coming in. Do you want to look at the way I’m arranging the chairs to make sure we get it the way you exactly want?” He always was very combative and controlling. He micromanaged everything, but he’d gone to this training.
It was moving. He said, “I trust you. We’d done these events. You know what to do. You know what’s best. I trust however you set it up is going to be the best way to do this.” At that moment, Jose was moved to tears. He never felt this. He said, “I will come through for you.” He went and gave his all, his care, and his concern. He set it up beautifully. This leader began to reflect back. He was like, “This little simple act of extending trust to someone and what it does to them brings out the very best in people.” We all like to be trusted. We all perform better.
I enjoyed this conversation so much. Your book is something every leader should add to their library. It has so much relevance as we navigate the new environment we’re going into. As we part ways here, do you have any recommendations or suggestions you would have for that leader that might be reading and isn’t sure what’s the next step they can take to do this?
I would come back to the point you highlighted. Don’t wait on others. Leaders go first. Someone needs to go first. Be the first to be transparent in a culture of hidden agendas. Be the first to talk straight in a culture where everyone is spinning. Be the first to be respectful in a culture where people don’t feel respected. Be the first to be able to show that vulnerability where people are afraid to be authentic and vulnerable. Be the first to extend trust in a culture where maybe there’s not enough trust extended and given.
Model it. Somebody has to go first. Leaders go first. When you’re a model, you can become a mentor. Now, we need models and mentors. We need to look at the leaders to say, “We’ve got plenty of command and control models. We need trust and inspire models.” You can go first, no matter your role. If you’re a team member and you’re not in a formal leadership position, you still can go first and, in a sense, provide leadership to the entire team through your modeling. We don’t need to wait on anyone. We are empowered. We can go first. Model, trust, and inspire. That’s what we need. Watch what happens. Watch the ripple effect. It can be profound.
Thank you so much for that. I wish you all the best. This book has so much to offer. I’m glad that I had an opportunity to share it with others.
Thank you so much, Patrick. It’s wonderful to be on your show. I love the whole idea of learning from leaders. I hope that our leaders can learn from this idea of trust and inspire leaders. You, our readers, are the kind of leadership that is needed. Thanks so much.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Stephen M.R. Covey and that it has inspired you to pick up his book, Trust and Inspire. There are so many pearls in here. There are so many things to unpack in terms of how we look at inspiration, how we inspire, and what it means around trust. Not only to earn trust but to give trust to others is so important. There are so many valuable lessons here that we, as readers, have an opportunity to build better bridges with those that follow us. Thank you so much for taking the opportunity to read this episode. I challenge you all to continue to rise above your best.
- Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others
- The Speed of Trust
- Franklin Covey Global Trust Practice
- The Fifth Discipline
About Stephen M.R. Covey
Stephen M.R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink and of the FranklinCovey Global Trust Practice, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. A sought-after and compelling keynote speaker, author, and advisor on trust, leadership, ethics, culture, and collaboration, Covey speaks to audiences around the world. A Harvard MBA, he is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. Covey resides with his wife and children in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.
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Dealing with your reports can be tricky, especially when you don’t know who you are. How do you become a better leader? In this episode, Patrick Veroneau, author of The Leadership Bridge: How to engage your employees and drive organizational excellence, shares the four models that could guide you to become a better leader. The discussion encompasses self-development to build a better relationship with your employees and strive for excellence. He also talks about resistance and why it exists within your team. To avoid that resistance and gain more insights from Patrick, tune in to this episode with pen and paper, and remember, fill your bucket with his wisdom because leaders are learners!
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How To Become A Better Leader Using These Four Models
Thank you for joining me on another episode. In this episode, I’m going to talk about four models that I have outlined in my new book called The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence. These four models, among other things in the book, work on how we develop ourselves individually. If we don’t know ourselves, it’s hard for us to lead others. What are behaviors that we can model to build better relationship bridges with those around us?
How do we understand what resistance is in others and why people resist? Lastly, how do we leverage some of the research around setting better goals? What is missing? These are the models that I use with my clients. These are models that I use in my life. I know they work. I know they work for you too, when they’re consistently implemented. Let’s get into it.
I’ve had a number of conversations with individuals about leadership, specifically challenges around how we manage multigenerational departments. How do we manage remotely? How do we keep culture? How do we drive performance? How do we help with burnout? There are a lot of these challenges out there. While I don’t have the answer for all of them, what I did want to talk about is four different models that I’ve developed and that I use in my work.
They’re all in the book, The Leadership Bridge. That was published. You can get that on Amazon. I wanted to touch on each one of these quickly as an overview. They go more into depth in the book but this is to give an idea of how we as leaders start to address a lot of these things that are going on. I believe that there are behaviors and approaches that we can take that will create a better environment.
This is about engaging employees and driving organizational excellence. That’s what we’re trying to do but it only happens through developing better behaviors. In the first place, we need to start with ourselves. The whole first part of this book is a lot about emotional intelligence, especially self-awareness. How do we develop that but also how do we develop a sense of well-being or happiness in ourselves?If we don't know ourselves, it's hard for us to lead others. Click To Tweet
I use a model called POWER that I created. It’s an acronym for five different research behaviors that help us to develop more happiness and better well-being in us. The acronym deals with five activities. P is about finding ways. In the morning, I find it best to think of at least three things you’re grateful for and write them down. The O in that model is about doing something for somebody else during the day.
The W in that model is about writing down what went well for you at the end of the day. I find it’s the best because then we bookend our days. We start in a place of gratitude and end our day in a place of writing down, or maybe it’s at least thinking about, what did go well during the day? That’s important. The next is around exercise. It’s finding some space, if you can, on a daily or every other day basis consistently where you’re doing something active for yourself.
There’s a lot of research around each one of these. I go into it deeper in the book. You can get this POWER model off of my website and sign up for what’s called the POWER Journal. That’s a journal that was created that goes over in more detail each of these activities. The last one is Relaxation in the POWER model that I talk about. That’s about finding a brief period practicing things around mindfulness or breathing but it can be as little as two minutes when we do it.
We’re trying to focus on being present where we are. That’s the first model that I talk about. From a leadership standpoint, how does that impact a lot of those other things that we talk about in dealing with other people multi-generationally and helping people with burnout? If you think about it if I’m in a better place myself and I’m more confident probably in who I am, that allows me to deal with other people and the challenges that I might be faced with them.
It’s something important for us to think about. The next thing that I want to talk about is CABLES. That is the umbrella for a lot of what I do. These behaviors that I talk about are all well-researched. If we think about it, imagine that every relationship you have with somebody else is an individual bridge. CABLES is about six individual behaviors that help to increase the strength of this bridge by adding individual cables to this bridge.
The first is around congruence. As leaders, we need to walk the talk. It’s simple as that. What we say and what we do needs to be in alignment, whether it’s our organizational values or other personal values that we espouse to the group or say that we stand for. If we’re not doing them ourselves, we lose credibility. The next is around appreciation. That’s not only recognizing people for what they do but also recognizing people for who they are.
When we talk multi-generationally, appreciation becomes very important because it’s about looking at the other generations that are out there. I’m a Gen X. If I’m dealing with somebody that’s Gen Z or Gen Y, a Boomer, any other generation, or maybe my generation at times, it’s about trying to be in a place where I’m trying to appreciate their experiences, where they have come from, and what things they have been going through. That’s so important.
The next is around belonging. That is about creating a sense of relatedness, as is talked about in David Rock’s model, SCARF. We need to create this environment where we feel connected with each other. We don’t have that. If we go back to the multigenerational or how we build culture, if people don’t feel like they belong, it’s easy for them to detach and not feel any sense of loyalty or need to stay when they don’t feel as though they belong.
I would challenge that the greater the sense of belonging we can create, the more we’re going to be able to keep our top talent within our organizations because people don’t want to leave. They’re not leaving for a little more money. The research is clear on that. It’s not to say that if you’re paying less than everybody else in the same field, you’re not going to lose people.
It’s saying that if money is not an issue and if money is well dispersed throughout your industry evenly in terms of how people are paid, they’re not leaving for a few more dollars. They’re not doing it. The next is we talk about listening. It’s a critical skill. I talk about it in terms of four different ways that we need to listen. We listen with our ears to what people say and the tone of voice. We listen with our eyes watching body language, what people do with their bodies, and facial expressions.As leaders, we need to walk the talk. If we’re not doing the values that we espouse to the group ourselves, we’re going to lose credibility. Click To Tweet
We listen with our minds. We listen from the standpoint of curiosity. Is what somebody else is saying what they mean? Is there more to it? Is there less to it? I’m reading too much into this but we need to be able to listen with our minds. Lastly, we need to listen with our hearts or a sense of empathy. That’s about listening to somebody else as though the roles were reversed. How would I want them to be listening to me? We need to be able to do that. That’s the listening CABLE that we built.
The next is empathy by itself. It’s something that is vitally important. Think about it from a number of these things that we have talked about in helping people manage remotely, understanding what it’s like to work remotely, why the need might be there, and what the challenges might be when that happens. Empathy is vital to being able to lead and build better teams.
The last one is around Specifics. That’s the S in CABLES that we talk about. That’s about setting clear expectations and also holding each other accountable. I hear so much about, “This generation doesn’t work as hard as the next.” Most of it is BS, to be honest with you. I have a number of nieces and nephews that are all in that Millennial age. I can’t think of one of them that I know that isn’t want to work hard and do a good job. They’re driven.
It’s understanding what their real needs are. From the standpoint of how we do this within organizations, we need to do a better job when we hire people. When we’re out there recruiting people, it’s doing a better job of setting clear expectations of what’s going to be expected when somebody comes to work for this company and then making sure that we have people that can take ownership of what those expectations are and that we hold people accountable to those.
When people aren’t living by those, we’re bringing that to their attention, or they can bring it to our attention when we’re not doing it. If you can see here as it relates to CABLES, it’s almost like we have circled back to the beginning. It’s about congruence and walking the talk in alignment. When we set clear expectations and we’re congruent with them, we have closed the loop on this thing.
CABLES is without a doubt one of the strongest models that you can use in terms of building better bridges with those people on your team. Those behaviors that I talk about there are what create engagement and drive organizational excellence. It’s a byproduct of the engagement that we provide when we do that. The next model that I talk about here is more on the side of how we get people to say yes to our requests.
There’s a lot of research around influence. I want to talk about it from the standpoint of why people resist first and say no because we need to understand that first. In the book, I talk about this model called GREAT. I look at five different reasons or resistors that people have. The first one is Goodwill. People don’t say yes to us because they think we don’t have their interests in mind. What we’re asking them to do benefits us but it doesn’t benefit them. That doesn’t work.
The next is around Reactants. That’s about when we push too much, or our personality or the way that we ask something of somebody is abrasive or rubs them the wrong way. We will naturally get resistance. People will not want to go where we’re asking them to go. I go deeper into this in the book and talk about personalities and understanding different personality styles.
I use DISC as a model. It can impact why people might react to us negatively when we’re asking them to do something. It’s critical for us to know. The next in this model of GREAT is I talk about Expertise or Experience. Do I know what I’m talking about? Have I relayed that or conveyed that to other people around me? The next is around Apathy. When people feel like the way that we’re doing things is fine and won’t need to make a change, it’s going to be hard for us to get people to buy into going in a new direction. We need to understand that.
The last in the GREAT model is around Trust. Do people trust you as a leader? CABLE certainly goes a long way to developing trust. We need that. If we don’t have that, people naturally will resist where we’re asking them to go. That’s GREAT. I go into deeper detail and give stories and references behind each one of those of these things that I’m talking about. At the end of each of the chapters, I give these bridge builders. They’re challenges or things that you can do to reflect on how to get better.The better we are at understanding why people say no, the better we’re going to be in getting them to say yes. Click To Tweet
The last one I want to talk about is goal setting. Performance management comes into play. Managing remotely can come into play. Many within organizations are probably familiar with SMART goals. I had to use them for a number of years. There were some valuable parts to SMART goal in terms of how they’re used but overall, they’re too cumbersome. I don’t find them smart or intuitive. Oftentimes I feel like they’re done as a check-the-box exercise that they never used.
What I did was I created a model called SET. SET is a refined version of SMART with one very important difference. That’s the E in this model. SET stands for Specific, Emotional, and Time-bound. For goals, we need to be specific. What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? The time-bound is when we are going to achieve this. If it’s an activity that we’re going to continue to do, maybe it’s how many times we’re going to make sure that we do it in a week.
Maybe it’s running. I’m going to make sure that there’s not an end date. I’m not going to stop running on December 31st but maybe I’m going to make sure that I run three days a week for three miles. That’s my goal. The key is the E in this model. It’s emotional. That’s about the why. To me, that’s the piece that the SMART format misses in many regards because what I’ve done with the E in this is along the lines of Root Cause Analysis, where I ask the question five times, why do you want this goal?
If I were to talk about losing weight, which isn’t very specific, I would have to say, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds. Why am I going to lose 10 pounds? It’s because my son is entering junior high. He’s going to play football. I would love to be able to coach him in football but I’m not active enough to do that. I need to lose those 10 pounds. That’s because I want to coach him in football.” Why do you want to coach him in football? “It’s because he’s getting older. We’re having less time together. This gives me an opportunity for us to have one-on-one time together.”
“Why is one-on-one time important for me? It’s because he’s going to be in high school soon. I’m going to see him even less. I know that by the time they’re eighteen, if you look at some of the statistics, about 95% of the time that I will spend with any of my children is by the time they’re eighteen years old. Why is that important for me to spend that much time with them? It’s because he’s going to be in college and out of the house. I’ll see him even less. I want to build a relationship with him for when he’s an adult or outside of school.” Why is that important to you?
“It’s because if I don’t do this now, that legacy or this ability for us to take our relationship on a new level, I won’t be able to go back to. The time needs to be invested now.” That’s the fifth lie. I’ve gone from losing 10 pounds to a legacy with my son of why I want to lose that weight. The importance of that is that when I then go into the kitchen and there are oranges and Oreos sitting there, I’m more likely to go for the oranges than I am for the Oreos if I think about what the real why is.
That’s often the thing that prevents us from reaching our goals. Our why is not strong enough. In the book, I go into it and I talk about it as an example. I started The Leadership Bridge years ago. The why for me was always strong enough that I kept coming back to it. It got pushed out. The timeline did but I never walked away from this fully. The why was strong enough for me to want to write this book.
Those are the four models that I go deeper into in terms of how you can leverage these but all of them play an important role in how we develop better teams and better cultures. We can reduce burnout in organizations and across generations in terms of how we communicate in many regards, even though I talk about this as a bridge. On some level, it’s a Swiss Army Knife. There is a tool within this that can deal with many of the issues that you’re faced with.
I would argue most of them are within an organization. They don’t have to be used all at the same time but there’s something there that can create better teams. I hope you found this helpful. I hope you have an opportunity to read the book. Certainly, I’ve given you enough here that even if you didn’t, try and implement one of these models that I talked about. I guarantee you that they work. If you apply them consistently, they will work.
There you have it. The POWER Journal is about helping us lead internally. CABLES is about behaviors that help us to build better teams and better bridges individually with those around us. The GREAT model is about understanding why people say no. The better we are at understanding that, the more effective we’re going to be in getting people to say yes.
How do we set better goals? It’s not with SMART but with SET. How are our goals set? I hope you found this beneficial and helpful. It would mean the world to me if you would pick up the book on Amazon. There’s a lot of benefit in there. I know it works. Until the next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
- The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence
- POWER Journal
- SCARF Model
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When is the best time to start leadership development for new hires? That is the question we answer in today’s episode. Patrick Veroneau discusses how organizations can attract, retain, and develop employees in this competitive market. He emphasizes that instead of focusing on concepts such as DEI, we should focus more on behaviors that breed that culture and environment. He boils down these behaviors into six “cables” that will build a strong bridge between leader and employee: congruence, appreciation, belongingness, listening, empathy, and specifics. Learn more about their model for leadership development by tuning in.
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When Is The Best Time To Start Leadership Development For New Hires?
This episode is based on LinkedIn live that I did. What I want to talk about here is when is the best time to introduce leadership development in regards to onboarding. Most maybe think, “I never thought of leadership development as part of onboarding.” That’s the push for this episode. As organizations, we will benefit far greater if we find ways to implement leadership development right out of the gate. As people become onboarded within an organization, there are multiple benefits. That’s what I want to talk about in this episode. Let’s get into it.
What I wanted to talk about is onboarding and leadership as part of onboarding. It’s important. This is a talk that I did several years ago for a group called DisruptHR. I floated this idea out there in terms of including leadership development as part of onboarding. What got me to think about it again was an article that I saw, and it was a survey by a global consulting firm, Grant Thornton. They surveyed 5,000 individuals that had recently changed jobs. They found that 40% of those people that had recently changed jobs were actually looking again for a new job.
It made me think back to one of the examples that I used in that talk several years ago. One of the surveys that I had seen by another consulting firm suggested 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 with that company. The next time or the next highest on that was around their anniversary dates. Both of those make sense to me.
The first is around onboarding. If I feel as though the organization I’m with hasn’t delivered on what they said they were going to deliver in terms of employment, if I don’t feel as though I belong with this organization, I’m more likely to leave. I’m questioning, “What did I do? Why did I decide to come here? This is not what I thought it was going to be.”
The second one is around anniversaries where people are probably saying, “Here I am four years into this. Do I want to be here for the fifth year?” When I talk about onboarding and leadership development, it also applies now to the push that we’re seeing around diversity, equity and inclusion in organizations or individuals that don’t maybe see that there’s a need for it. They think that this isn’t a problem in their organization.
I believe that we should talk about this in terms of behaviors that address DEI without necessarily having to call it diversity, equity and inclusion. They’re natural behaviors that, by default, address those three things. We don’t have to label it as this is what we’re doing so much as we have to say, “These are the behaviors that we’re going to promote in this organization.” I do believe there is a seismic shift that’s going on right now. There is a reordering between the relationship of labor and capital within the organizations.There is a seismic shift that's going on right now. There is a reordering between the relationship of labor and capital within organizations. Click To Tweet
Those leaders and organizations that want to resist that and don’t think this is the case. They’re going to be the ones holding the bag. This is a different environment. I’m not going to say that this is forever and it won’t shift back, but in the environment, I would say for the foreseeable future, there is a reordering. Employees have a great deal more say in terms of what they’re willing to do and who they’re willing to do it for in a work environment.
Those organizations and leaders that understand this are going to come out on top. They’ll be the ones that will attract the best employees. They’ll develop the best employees. I believe also they’ll retain the best employees because they’ve created a culture and environment based on a set of behaviors. That’s what leads me to the next part of this. I want to talk about what those behaviors are that within an organization, we could start doing it right out of the gate. It revolves around a model that I called CABLES. It’s based on six behaviors. I talk about this in terms of building bridges.
That’s all we do in our relationships, whether it’s as a leader or working with those people that report to me. I’m building individual bridges with each of them. It’s the result of my behaviors that determines what type of bridge I’m going to build here. How strong is this thing going to be? The stronger it is, the more stress it’s going to be able to withstand without falling down or without needing as much repair work on it. It’s as simple as that.
When we talk about CABLES, the first cable that builds this bridge is we talk about Congruence. If you think about it from the standpoint of onboarding in an organization, wouldn’t it be great when people come on board, and they start to understand that one of the behaviors that’s important here is talking about alignment? What we say and what we do are the same things. This provides an environment where people start to see, “Here are the values that we stand for as an organization. Are my behavior and the decisions I’m making as an employee here in alignment with what we say we stand for as an organization?”
I’ll take a step back here and say, “You can see where to me, even recruiting people to come work for my company.” This can become valuable. Let’s let people know before they get here what things we stand for and what this organization is all about. When we do that, maybe we reduce some of this 40% that we’ve seen of people that are looking for other jobs.
I would guess that those people are like, “What I was told this organization was about and what I’m experiencing is not the same thing. They’re different. They’re out of alignment. There’s no congruence here. Maybe it’s my manager. My manager is not congruent or is not consistent. Some people get treated better than other people do here. Because of that, I’m now going to leave.” Is it related to diversity, equity and inclusion? We can put equity into that. When we are congruent with what we say our values are, we automatically promote equity within this organization.
Next, we move on to Appreciation. That’s about recognizing people for who they are, their personalities, their backgrounds, and where they come from. That is about diversity. When we appreciate people for who they are and also what they do, right out of the gate as part of onboarding, we start to set the tone of this is what we do in this organization. We’re going to recognize diversity here. That’s part of the appreciation. We’re already hitting 2 of those 3 things that we talk about, diversity, equity and inclusion within an organization, which is part of onboarding too.
Next, we talk about Belongingness within an organization. How do we create this inclusion that we need? When we have belonging and inclusion, we have what’s called psychological safety. From an organizational standpoint, we get stronger. We know the research that’s out there that demonstrates this too. The people that work for those organizations who experience psychological safety thrive.
It makes perfect sense that if I’m in an organization where I feel I can make people aware of things that might not be going well here, things that we could improve on without fear of being ridiculed or retaliated against, or maybe even ignored, the organization gets stronger because of that. In work that I’ve done with organizations for years, especially when there are challenges or problems, I will often say to the executives that hire me that the solutions and answers to the problems that this organization is experiencing are right within the walls of this organization.
The people that are here are the ones that know how to solve these things, but oftentimes they don’t feel they’re included in the solution. Maybe they’re too far down the line in terms of what their titles are that people think that they don’t have any value to be able to provide the solution. That’s clearly not the case. They probably have more insight as to what’s going on than an executive that’s probably more removed from the day-to-day operations.The clear organizations are in terms of what the expectations will be when somebody comes on board, the less chance you're going to have this conflict or people that are unhappy. Click To Tweet
Next, we talk about Listening. It is such an important component of what we’re talking about here in terms of onboarding. Teaching people the value of listening and what it means to develop that skill of listening, not just listening with our eyes, which is watching for body language, facial expressions, and different things like that. Listening with our ears when we listen for individual tones of voices, the words that they use, and the pace that they speak at.
We also listen from the standpoint of curiosity. We listen with our minds, trying to take a step back and not be reactive when people are saying things to us, but try to pause and understand why are they saying what they’re saying. What does it mean? Lastly, listening with empathy. That requires us to listen to other people. If it was reversed, how would I want somebody to listen to me if this was a problem that I was having?
When we activate all four of those components of listening, we are fully engaged with somebody else. We can’t be doing other things. We can’t even multitask when we are truly listening with all four of those different components. The earlier people can learn about effective listening, it benefits the entire organization.
We then talk about Empathy. This is our next cable. Within an organization, it hits on when we talk about diversity, equity even or inclusion. All of those things are hit in regards to dealing with behavior or empathy. Putting ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. How would I want to be treated? What’s it like to be where they are? Have I tried to think of things from their perspective? How important that is.
The last one we talk about is Specifics, and this is about clear expectations. Within an organization, this one is vitally important from a couple of different perspectives. I go back to this idea of recruitment. Having clear expectations for people. What does the job function require here? What will be expected of you before you’re hired?
I was speaking with somebody, and the conversation came up about Millennials. They want to be the CEOs of the organization right out of the gate. I would argue that. I’m a Gen Xer. I would say that there are many people at that age. When you’re starting out, you have a lot of excitement and belief that you can make a difference. I think less about trying to tamp that down. I think more about setting what are clear expectations here. What are the growth paths here, and how do you get promoted or developed here within this organization?
The clearer organizations are in terms of what the expectations will be when somebody comes on board, the less chance you are going to have this conflict where people are unhappy. They clearly knew what was the expectation when they started employment here and the paths that were going to be available to them.
I’m going to circle back around to the front of this around congruence. It is that if there’s an area that I see in terms of problems, it’s that clear expectations are not followed through on. They’re clear maybe, but we don’t take ownership and we don’t adhere to them. We’re back to the beginning of this as a lack of congruence. We don’t walk the talk with what we say our clear expectations are.
If we combine that as part of onboarding, what we do is create an environment where we give people the license and the ownership to say, “We’re an organization that is very much about setting clear expectations to make sure that we know what we need from each other to be successful here. We take ownership in those meaning that we’re going to call each other out. We’re going to hold each other to what we say that we stand for. We all have the ability to do that.”
That’s it. We talk about CABLES as being the framework of how you can establish a greater organization right from the get-go and right from where the employees are. On top of that, why wait two years to start developing leaders? We need more leaders now, not in two years. When you create leadership development as part of your onboarding, what you will find is that there are certain people that are going to self-select.
They’re going to take those behaviors, and they’re going to magnify those. If you think about this from the standpoint of building better bridges, those people that say, “I’m all about those behaviors and I see the value of them,” those behaviors inspire followers to say yes to your request more often because you’ve built a stronger bridge.
I hope, in this, you’re able to maybe take one of those and work on them over the week where you say, “I’m going to work on specifics, clear expectations.” Maybe within your organization, you’re going to look and say, “How can we start to look at creating onboarding within our organization and add leadership to that? Until the next time we’re able to connect. I hope you’re able to go out there and utilize some of the things that we’ve talked about and also rise above your best.
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Knowing what causes you to act the way you do is essential, whether you’re a leader or an employee. When you understand the nature of human behavior, you can make informed decisions better because you get to know why you do things that are not so good for you. Join your host Patrick Veroneau as he sits down for a conversation with Luca Dellanna about the nature of human behavior. Luca shares comprehensive, in-depth insights on the link between brain science and the practical things we do every day. He emphasizes how much your actions depend on what you want to achieve in life. Tune in to learn how you can motivate yourself to take action for positive outcomes and fight the resistance to change.
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Understanding The Nature Of Human Behavior And Developing Self Worth With Luca Dellanna
Thank you for joining me on another episode of the show. This episode is with the author, Luca Dellanna. He wrote a book called The Control Heuristic. I love this book. There’s so much value to it, whether you’re a leader or an employee. It’s talking about what motivates us to do what we do or what holds us back. We’ll talk about a concept. He talks about the expected emotional outcome as well as many other topics around how we become better in whatever stage that we’re at. You’re going to enjoy this. There are so many pearls in this. Let’s jump into it.
Luca, I want to thank you for taking the time to be on the show. I loved reading your book, The Control Heuristic. I couldn’t wait to get you on this show. Thank you for being on the show. This will be valuable for those that are reading this.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
I mentioned the title a couple of times to people that I’ve been working with. Some of them don’t understand what a heuristic is, so I thought maybe we could start there.
For me, a heuristic is almost like a rule of thumb. It’s a simple rule to make decisions. The point of view of the heuristic is that it’s not always right, but if we assume that it’s right, we get better outcomes than otherwise. The reason is that heuristics sometimes do not try to get every single decision right, so they look like they might have some risk conservation bias. Some people might think it’s irrational, but what we see is that if we follow the heuristic, we usually survive more. We get better long-term decisions that even if in the short-term it looks a little bit irrational.
In one point of this, you say that from a control heuristic, people behave to feel like they are controlling the risk their ancestors were vulnerable to. To me, the thing that I picked out on that was we feel that we’re doing that, but do we really do that?
One of the chapters in my book is about the fact that, contrary to common belief, we do not seek survival. Our behavior and instincts do not seek survival. What they seek is the feeling of survival. If you think about it, all rational or irrational behaviors that we do, do not bring more survival. What they bring is usually the feeling of survival. There is a very good reason why. Who we now depend on the genes that have been selected by natural selection over the millennia. We do not have any genes for decision-making. We have genes that describe how our brain is made. Our brain makes the decision on what we select. We did not select the decision-making process from natural selection, but we selected the genes that took the brain the decision that led to more survival.A lot of bad decisions that we take come because we feel good even if they’re not really good for us. Click To Tweet
The thing is, how does our brain interact with reality and make decisions? It’s true emotions and feelings. In particular, the rule in our brain is we tend to do more of the actions that, when we complete, create a release of some neurotransmitters in our brain of chemicals. What happens is that the brain that releases neurochemicals after doing an action that increases survival is the brain that will tend to more of the action and get selected.
What we select is the release of neurotransmitters of neurochemicals. What we get selected for and what we evolve for is to feel like we are increasing our survival with the right decisions. If you think about it, a lot of bad decisions that we take nowadays, for example, eating too much sugar, are decisions that come because we feel good when we eat sugar. Sugar was used to increase our survival in the past because nutrition was costly. Nowadays that nutrition is abundant, it’s the other way around.
Think about the last few years in regards to dealing with COVID. Decisions that have been made for individuals, whether it’s getting vaccinated, not getting vaccinated, wearing masks, or not wearing masks, how do you tie these in with that DNA build?
COVID is a great example. I believe that every one of us took the decision that we felt increased our survival the most. People who feel like walking indoors without a mask would decrease their chances of survival and would probably be more likely to wear a mask. People who feel that wearing a mask would make them feel the same emotions that they associate with being constrained or not having freedom are the ones that are less likely to wear the mask. We realize that we all look for what feels like survival and then we all optimize that, but then because we feel different things, we make different decisions.
You talk about these hypotheses that didn’t make it into your book but were thoughts that you have. One stuck out to me as it relates to that. The thing that I have found most valuable as I read your book in the work that I do was around expected emotional outcomes. I’d never heard that concept before, but it made so much sense to me. I’ve heard it in other ways, but for whatever reason, that resonated with me in regards to why we do or don’t do certain things. I was wondering if we could have a discussion on that if you could expand around how that evolved for you.
The overarching principle of human behavior is that we only take actions for which we have a positive expected emotional outcome. I’m going to simplify this a lot. There are two parts of our brain that relate to taking action. There is one part that makes decisions. It decides, for example, “I should go run outside so that I would get fit and lose weight.” There is another part that acts as a gate and can prevent us from taking action on decisions that we make. The gate follows a very simple rule. It opens if the decision has a positive expected emotional outcome and it closes otherwise.
If the idea of running has a positive expected emotional outcome for me, I will wear my sneakers and go out and run. If running has a negative expected emotional outcome, I will not wear my sneakers, go out, and run. Maybe I will confabulate some justification. The expected emotional outcome always relates to the action, not to the result. Most of us have a positive expected emotional outcome linked to losing weight and getting fit, but only some of us take action. Those of us who take action are those who have a positive expected emotional outcome not with the outcome, which is getting fitter, but with the action, which could be running outside, going to the gym, and so on.
The same applies to everything in life. For example, if you think about organizations, too often, managers try to incentivize with bonuses, promotions, and so on, but these are incentives on the outcome. As a manager, you see that a lot of times, even if you offer people a bonus, people will not take action. The reason is that they do have a positive expected emotional outcome associated with getting the bonus, but they do not have a positive expected emotional outcome associated with the task that you’re asking them to complete. Therefore, they will not work on it or they will do it just enough not to be fired, but nothing more than that.
To me, that’s a part that has been most fascinating about this, especially with the work that I do. When I’m working with organizations and leaders in trying to maybe get them to develop new habits, this has stuck out to me in terms of what I have to do with them. I have to create an environment where EEO is higher to make change than to continue to do what they’re doing. That’s what I found so fascinating about what you’re doing. There’s a term called WIIFM. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but it was an acronym that we used to hear quite often. It’s this idea of, “What’s In It For Me?” It’s so true. If we can’t activate that, it becomes very difficult for us to get people to want to change.
Let me clarify one thing. The What’s In It For Me has to be related to the action, not to the future reward. If you promise people a promotion at the end of the year, that incentive will only motivate a few people which are already motivated maybe because they already experienced feeling good with the promotion. Offering a promotion will not motivate a huge part of the workforce. They are the ones who are not already motivated and do not trust that if they do their work, a promotion would follow. If we want to go to motivate those people, then the solution is to not think long-term about, “How can I incentivize them at the end of the year?” It’s about thinking about the task at hand.
If we want, for example, an employee to make some sales calls, the question is, “How do I make sure that he has a positive expected emotional outcome associated with making the sales call?” It’s not with the reward if he reaches his quota, but with making the sales call. The solution is to ask yourself why he might feel bad while making the sales call and how could you teach him to associate a positive emotional outcome with making the sales call.
The solution usually is some form of coaching and training so that we ensure that he’s good at making the sales call. He makes the sales call. Something good happens after the sales call immediately. For example, when the client said yes, he gets the adrenaline rush from the client saying yes, not from himself getting the bonus at the end of the year. If he gets the client to say yes and the satisfaction of doing that, then he would be more likely to offer to do more sales calls, for example.Too often, managers try to incentivize by bonuses, promotions and so on. But these are incentives on the outcome. A lot of times, even if you offer people a bonus, they will not take action. Click To Tweet
There are two things I want to bring up because this is so important in the environment that we’re in around employees feeling engaged or not engaged. One of the tools that the Gallup organization uses is called the Q12. In that tool, 1 of the 12 questions they ask individuals is how often have they been recognized for the good work that they’ve been doing and has it happened in the last seven days. That’s where we miss an opportunity. We’re not consistently reinforcing positive behaviors or what’s good to keep people going. If it’s several months away, that’s a long time for most people if they’re not being reinforced along the way.
Let me explain what happens in the mind of the employee. When the employee does something good on Monday and if by Tuesday, he is not acknowledged, he will learn the lesson that efforts are not rewarded in this company. It does not happen consciously, but unconsciously. Therefore, the number one thing that I teach managers is to give early feedback. The moment that you catch your employee, doing something good, that’s the moment you should acknowledge them.
Not to sound crude, but it’s like training animals. You can’t reprimand a dog three hours after it did something that was disruptive. If it got into the trash, you find out three hours later, and then you go over and scold the dog, it doesn’t equate the two things. It’s the same thing with the reward. If it doesn’t happen close to it, it doesn’t know how to reinforce that.
I love this example. You mentioned the absurdity of training your dog by having an end-of-the-day performance review with your dog. That would not work. People have a much longer attention span, but still, it must happen by the end of the day or at most, the following day. It should not happen at the end of the week, end of the month, or end of the year.
There is some fascinating research in regards to motivating kids. The kids that were recognized for effort tended to perform better. It falls in line with what you’re saying. We’re not worried about the lagging indicator. We’re looking at what the leading indicators are, and that’s the effort. It is what we can control, whether it’s kids in school or adults in a work setting where we’re recognizing the input.
In workplaces, I would be careful not to excessively reward effort in the absence of results because then you get people who are great at showing effort even if it doesn’t bring results. Instead, what I suggest people do is break down the tasks into sub-tasks or the metrics into smaller metrics. For example, sales calls. You want to break it down into pieces. You want to say, “I love that you made your research before you called the decision-maker. I love that when you’re doing the call, you ask a lot of questions to understand the need of the customer.” We are not rewarding efforts. We’re rewarding small outcomes, actions, or behaviors. We reward good behavior, not effort. That’s the thing.
What can happen to organizations where there’s the cynicism that everybody gets a trophy when nothing has happened. There’s got to be a balance there, so I fully agree with that aspect of it. I’m curious. In this environment, organizations struggle quite often with the performance management review and what that process is. I would love your thoughts on it. It’s one of these tools that is a huge missed opportunity within organizations because it’s not managed properly or not put together properly. I would love your thoughts especially as it relates to this conversation. How would you do it?
I would have many performance reviews, not once a year. The minimum is once a quarter. It is probably better once every two months. If I have six performance reviews instead of one during the year, I have six chances to give people small objectives or attainable objectives to correct if they’re going in the wrong direction. I have six chances for them to improve. The learnings will compound much faster. That’s the first thing.
If one of my people is underperforming but they do not know it, I want to tell them early. If I tell them early, they can step up their productivity. If I tell them at the end of the year, they would be frustrated if they were expecting a bonus and then they don’t get it. Have frequent performance reviews. When I tell people to have a performance review every two months, they tell me that I’m crazy. The reason they tell me that I’m crazy is that they think that people will ask for raises or promotions six times a year.
The key is I usually give them raises and promotions during the December performance review. With that said, we still have five more performance reviews every two months, which are purely done to discuss your progress and whether you’re on the path to getting the bonus promotion at the end of the year. That’s how it should work in my opinion.
Along those lines, what I would hear most often is people saying, “I don’t have time to do that many touches in regards to this topic.” From my experience, it takes less time if you do it more often. This is how I would often describe it. In the US, imagine if I was on the East Coast and driving to the West Coast. I got in my car. I said, “It’s going to take me twelve days to get there.” I point my car in the direction of the West Coast and I start driving. I don’t have to get out of my car to see where I am until the eleventh month.
The likelihood that I’m going to get to the West Coast, where I wanted to go, is not that great because I haven’t checked anywhere along the way to see whether I am still on track or still going in the right direction. That’s oftentimes what happens in performance management. We set goals and objectives. In my experience with the companies that I see, in the eleventh month, in November, we decide to then look at where people are in regards to what they said they were going to do for the year.People are great at showing effort even if it doesn't bring results. Click To Tweet
If you’re off course or you haven’t come close, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to course correct to be able to meet your objectives in a month. It’s like cramming for an exam. It’s not going to happen. That’s the frustration with it. It’s a vital tool with the way you described it. There’s so much value that we can get from it when there are more touch points.
I will tell you one more thing. My background is in manufacturing. For almost a decade, I’ve been working with managers in manufacturing. One of the things that I tell them is that once per week, they should go on the production line and check what’s going on, look for people that are doing good things, and tell them that they’re doing good things, and look for people that are not working up to standard and call them out.
Usually, they tell me, “I don’t have the time to do that.” I explain to them that because they don’t have the time to do that, whatever they do in that time will be extremely significant. For example, a lot of manufacturing companies have problems that the workers are not wearing personal protective equipment. If the CEO goes on the production line and takes the time to wear the protective equipment, he will send everyone a clear message that he believes that taking the time to wear the protective equipment is an investment worth making. The CEO might say, “I don’t have the time to do that. My reply is, “It’s because you don’t have the time to do that, that it’s a costly signal, and because it’s a costly signal, it’s something that they would listen to.”
It’s a paradigm shift for people to do that. From a leadership behavior standpoint, the first behavior that we need to demonstrate is congruence. When you talked about that, if I go down onto the floor and put all of the personal protective equipment, I walk the talk. What I say and do is the same thing, and I set an example to everybody else that this is important and I’m willing to do it myself. I fully agree with that.
Shortly after I read your book, I sent a post out on it. It was around increasing self-worth. From a leadership standpoint, a lot of times, my first focus is on helping people lead from the inside out. One of the things that I found value in what you had written was the exercise of creating self-worth and things that you can do. To me, it tied in with the happiness that you talked about later on. I was wondering if you could talk about that. It’s a different twist on how you develop self-worth. Why is that important?
Let’s say that you have an objective. You would maybe make a plan and say, “I have to take the action so that it will bring me to this objective.” Maybe you discovered that you don’t take that action because maybe one week passed and you didn’t take action. That means that the action is too big for you. Maybe you do not believe that you are able to do it, or that if you do it, something good will happen. Usually, the solution is to get a smaller step. You do this small step and you will experience that doing the action brings progress. That’s what will build your capacity to take action in the long term. That’s what self-worth means. It’s this belief that taking action brings progress.
One of the things that I would advise a manager is to build the self-worth of their employees. This doesn’t mean building self-worth by motivating or telling them, “You’re worth it.” It means giving them small tasks that are likely to bring in a good outcome even if it’s small so that they experience that taking action brings good results. That will build the capacity to take action in other contexts.
When you talk about that, do you see that as the same thing as building self-efficacy in individuals where I’m trying to build that belief that I can do this?
I would say that’s the same thing as the belief. Efficacy is more like a know-how thing. I’m effective when I know how to do things properly. Instead, self-worth is more of the belief that taking action in the right way will bring good results.
You talk about happiness as a lagging indicator, which I love. I do think that oftentimes, we chase happiness or the outcome. It’s more important to look at what are the things that if we were to do certain things, happiness organically happens by itself. We don’t have to chase it. It becomes part of what we do.
One cannot chase happiness by taking short-term actions that they think will bring happiness. Happiness is something that naturally ensues when you take care of your problems, know yourself, and then get the things that you need. They’re not necessarily the things that you want, but at least those that you need. A lot of times, when I see people that are unhappy, for me, it means that there is some structural problem in their life that they need to take care of. They will not get happier for me by going on holiday if there is a structural problem in their life. They will get happy if they solve the structural problem.
We live in a society where that’s what we do in terms of the next promotion. “Once I get that, I’ll be happy.” It could be a new relationship. “Once I leave this relationship and start dating this person, then I’ll be happy. Once I move into this house, buy this car, or have this piece of jewelry, that’s the happiness point.” We talk about hedonic adaptation. The research would suggest that after about three months, that shiny car is just a car again. It doesn’t fulfill the need that you talk about.Self-worth means having the belief that taking action is being progressed. Click To Tweet
We are terrible at knowing what we want. Let’s imagine that someone is happily married. Think of the average happily married person, and then there is a genie that appears. The genie says, “You can choose from everyone in the world the one person that will become your next spouse.” I am almost sure that everyone would choose someone that would bring them less happiness than their current spouse. The reason is that there is so much that we do not see about people.
To make a relevant example, there is the story about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Johnny Depp could probably choose almost any partner. He was one of the most attractive male people on the planet, and yet, he chose terribly. That applies to a lot of people. Happiness is not much about choosing precisely, but it’s more about building yourself and your life in such a way that then happiness and the things that might make you happy will naturally come with it.
That’s a whole separate topic too in regards to how we choose people. When somebody says, “I can’t live without that person,” that’s not a healthy relationship as opposed to somebody that says, “I choose to be with this person. When I’m with this person, I’m happy.” If you feel like you can’t be without somebody, I see it as dependence on that person.
It is the same thing for jobs. An employee who doesn’t need the job would probably be a better employee because he would be more likely to push some things, take a little bit of a risk where it can bring good outcomes, and come up with ideas.
The bigger challenge for leaders is that people are much more willing to walk away from their roles and try something else. From a leadership perspective, it requires leaders to tap more into that expected emotional outcome. “What’s important to the employee? How do I satisfy that individual?” They’re more likely to say, “I’m not doing this. I’ll go somewhere else. There are plenty of opportunities that I don’t have to be here.”
I will tell you one thing. Most people do not quit a job because they are looking for something else. They quit a job because the job got frustrating. As a leader, you can do much more for employee retention rather than looking for ways to keep people in your team or your company by removing sources of frustration. Look for the excessively bureaucratic process. Look for the middle manager who is pissing his people off and solve those problems. You will necessarily improve retention by a lot. It will be much cheaper than offering them huge perks or organizing big events.
The research validates that that in the long run is not what matters to people. It has some relevance, but there are much simpler ways to get people to be engaged and want to be around. We’ve overcomplicated a lot of it. You have a whole separate section of your book where you talk about things that didn’t make it into the actual book, but there are thoughts that you have a hypothesis on. I’m curious. From your perspective, is there one in there that you continue to want to develop?
One thing which should be important to society is the chapter on mimetic societies. All humans have the tendency to imitate others. Usually, there is this common belief that it’s something dumb, but imitation is a powerful strategy when there is skin in the game. I’ll make an example. In the past, imitation was a great strategy because if someone was eating poisonous berries and died, he would not be allowed to be imitated anymore. Necessarily, the pool of people that are around for you to copy is the people who survived and eventually tried. In the past, usually, with skin in the game, imitation means copying successful strategies.
Nowadays, there is much less skin in the game than in the past. There are so many people to imitate around. A few of them are doing good things. A lot of them are doing wrong things. Imitation in this case becomes a liability. The problem is not imitation. It’s the lack of skin in the game. We can talk about a lot of ways on how we can bring more skin into the game in society, but for me, that’s the main reason. One of the big importance to have skin in the game is because people will imitate it. We need to make sure that only people who are doing the behaviors which are not harming society are left to imitate.
I think of two things on that. One is the book, Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a fascinating book. Secondly, I think of a quote that was by Jim Rohn. He said that we’re the average of the five people that we associate with the most. If we’re looking for positive role models or imitations, success leads to clues. Follow those people that are successful at it now, and that’s probably a good indicator of how you might be able to get there as well.
One that stuck out to me in that section was around narratives. We all have our own narratives. It’s almost like we justify the decisions we make. We can tell ourselves our own stories. I’ve seen over the last few years, we all have our own narratives of what’s right and what’s wrong depending on what our beliefs are.
I made the example of myself wearing my gym shoes and going to take a run. What happens a lot of times is that I decide to go for a run and then I do not go running. The reason why I didn’t go running is maybe that it’s raining or because my knees are a bit painful. These are all justifications. The only reason why we don’t take action is that the expected emotional outcome associated with that action was negative. Everything else is justification. It’s a narrative that our brain automatically constructs to bridge dissonant concepts. One is that we wanted to go running and the other one is that we didn’t go running. The dissonance needs to be bridged by that.We are terrible at knowing what we want. Click To Tweet
There was a book that was written called The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I would be curious about your thoughts on this. Her whole concept on this is that if we wait longer than five seconds, generally, another part of our brain picks up and justifies why we should or shouldn’t do something. Whereas if we don’t give ourselves that amount of time, we’re more likely to take the action. We don’t think of why we don’t do it. I’ve thought about that a lot.
As a runner, I am certainly one of those that I can get dressed fully to go out for a run, and then I see some stuff on the counter that needs to be tidied up. I go do that and then do something else. The next thing I know, I say, “I don’t have enough time to go for a run right now. I’ve got to now get ready for work. I’ll run at the end of the day.” That doesn’t happen either because the end of the day comes and I’ll be like, “I’ve got too much on my plate. It’s too close to dinner. I’ll run tomorrow.”
There is some truth to these types of consoles. There is also a similar thought by Tony Robbins that stuck to me. I’ll paraphrase along the lines of what he said. He said, “You should change your beliefs or your objectives, but you will know that you changed the objectives or the beliefs the moment that you take action. If you think that you should change your beliefs or objectives but you’re not taking immediate action, then it means that you didn’t change your beliefs and objectives.” That’s true.
I’m trying to figure out how I fit in this. There aren’t many runs that I go on that when I leave, I’m like, “I can’t wait to go do this.” There is not one run that I’ve ever come back within an hour of finishing that I’ve said, “I’m so glad I did that. I wouldn’t trade that. I wouldn’t have not run knowing what I know now an hour after I finished.” There are plenty of times when I’m like, “I don’t want to do this,” but I do it. I’m trying to reconcile that in regards to the expected emotional outcome. The initial part of the run for me is, “I don’t want to do it,” but I’m one of those that push to think, “I’ve played this movie enough times that I know the end result is going to be good,” so I force myself through that.
The thing is that you know it unconsciously. Knowing it consciously, everyone probably knows it doesn’t matter towards taking action. It’s whether you know it’s subconsciously.
In terms of an employment or a leadership perspective, there are so many things that we’ve talked about that are so important and valuable. If people want to contact you, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
My email is Luca@Luca-Dellanna.com. Otherwise, you can look for my website. There is a contact form. I personally read all emails. That’s the best way to contact me. You can Google my name, Luca Dellanna, and then the contact form would pop up.
I highly recommend your book. It is one of my favorite books that I’ve read. Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss this. There are so many great pearls in here, much more than what we’ve talked about on this. There are so many different ways we can go. Thank you for taking the time to be on the show.
Thank you so much for inviting me and for the discussion and other suggestions.
I wish you all the best. Take care.
- Luca Dellanna
- The Control Heuristic
- Skin in the Game
- The 5 Second Rule
- Contact Form – Luca Dellanna
About Luca Dellanna
Antifragile Organizations consultant, author of 7 books. Check my course on Antifragile Organizations!
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There’s no one formula for success in entrepreneurship and family life, but there are some qualities that successful people in both areas share. In this episode, Justin Breen, the Founder and CEO of BrEpic Communications, reflects on what has changed since the pandemic two years ago and what top entrepreneurs in the world have in common. He also introduces his new book on how to succeed at home and professionally. With over 20 years of experience in the media business, Justin has won dozens of editing and writing awards and authored countless viral stories.
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What Global Thinking Entrepreneurs Think With Justin Breen
I’m speaking to Justin Breen. We spoke a couple of years ago as the pandemic was taking hold. This conversation gave us an opportunity to reflect back on what’s changed and what hasn’t changed since then. Also, we talk about his book that will be coming out in regards to the impact that he hopes to make on individuals and entrepreneurs being successful but also being successful at home. It is such a powerful and necessary combination as it relates to what would be the full package of a high-functioning entrepreneur. There are so many pearls in this. I truly think you’ll enjoy it. Let’s get into it.
Justin, I want to thank you again for being on the show. As you said right before we got in here, it’s been years since we had our first interview. How much would have changed if we had known at that first interview what was coming? It’s amazing. To have you back on as you get ready to launch your second book, I thought this would be a great time to come on and explore what the drive for the second book was and how it was shaped by the experiences of the last years.
This will be super interesting. Our first conversation was on May 9th, 2020, a couple of months after the lockdown. That was right before my first book came out. Now, we are summer of 2022, right before the second book is coming out. There’s so much that has become different in many ways because of COVID, but foundationally, a lot of things have stayed the same, which has created immense opportunities for those that have embraced those foundational things. I’m excited to talk about what has changed and what has stayed the same.
From your perspective, what do you think is the opportunity right now?
When COVID started, I posted on social media, “This will be the greatest opportunity of all time for folks with the right mindset.” Most of my day is spent talking to the world’s top entrepreneurs. I’m not talking about business owners, consultants, or employees. I’m talking about truly global thinking entrepreneurs. The last few years, almost without exception, have been the greatest years of those folks’ businesses, but more importantly, more time with family, building real relationships, not having to travel anywhere, and focusing on what matters in life.
It is an interesting thing listening to our last conversation. We were talking about what my first company was. It’s a global PR firm from what it actually was, and it was a giant network. My first company is called BrEpic. The second company is called BrEpic Network. All it is technology, a SaaS platform. We talked about LinkedIn as well as about people trying to sell things on LinkedIn. Our new company is LinkedIn without the BS. It’s an invite-only high price point connect.
I live in the Chicago area, my partner is in San Francisco, and the person who built this company and the platform is in Toronto, and we have met one time in person. We had a big launch party for it in Chicago. That’s one example of what has happened with the folks that I talked to. They create a new company and their companies have grown exponentially in a virtual world. It’s real relationships and partnerships in a virtual world. With that mindset, the right mindset creates those types of endless great opportunities.
From the standpoint of my business, going through a lot of my stuff was brick-and-mortar in terms of the workshops that I was doing and the companies I was working for, although my coaching was primarily virtual. It provided an opportunity for me at that time to take the workshops that I had done and create an online series out of them that I hadn’t done before.
That downtime provided me with the opportunity to do that. It’s provided me far more reach to be able to do that than I would have ever been able to do if I continued to do the brick-and-mortar, hiring people to come in and help me facilitate. It’s so much easier, but there was a point there of how am I going to navigate this? To your point, the opportunity is there for those people that look at this as an opportunity and not as the downfall.
I remember you talking during our first interview that your business had taken a hit. That was in-person things were. May of 2020 was difficult, if not impossible, to do in-person things. You did and realized what all these global entrepreneurs with the right mindset have done. Thinking and executing is that a tremendous opportunity for greater potential, reach, and purpose.
I’m very grateful to be part of the top entrepreneurial groups in the world. One is on a Strategic Coach 10X and the other one is Abundance360. Abundance360 is led by Peter Diamandis of XPRIZE. He is a great friend of Elon Musk. Dr. Diamandis wrote the foreword for my next book and I’m very grateful for that. In the Abundance360 group, what will happen is we had a meeting in the metaverse.
We were in a room with Star Trek ships flying around and Ray Kurzweil was speaking. He’s one of the top futurists in the world. I’m moving my little joystick around, so I met someone in the metaverse. It was in Abundance360, and we were talking about that. I sent him a LinkedIn request. It’s because I like LinkedIn, even though there are a lot of BSs there. We connected on LinkedIn, then I sent him a Calendly link to book a time, and then we met on Zoom. We met in the metaverse, connected on LinkedIn, sent him Calendly, and then had a real relationship in Zoom. That four-part thing.
People take those types of things for granted now, but if you think about it, it’s incredible what technology has allowed for. The new partnership company I have with people I have met one time in person and we have had this for years. It’s the global connectivity platform for people with the right mindset. It’s a giant who finder for the top people on the planet, and it’s amazing to be able to create something like that. That wouldn’t have been possible several years ago. It’s very easy to do something like that.
Along those lines, there was a book that I read called The Control Heuristic, and the book struck me. I found it very fascinating. It was about human nature. I looked at the author Luca Dellanna. I reached out to him on LinkedIn and we connected there. We have a Zoom call to meet in person. Again, along with similar things. He lives in Italy. The opportunities that are available to people who embrace what has happened are incredible. I appreciate your perspective on this because, as I have seen things, what has held people back the most is this environment of fear.
The top entrepreneurs in the world are usually aliens within their own family, vertical, and community. Nobody understands us except top entrepreneurs on the planet. In our last interview, I was like, “Maybe 1% or 2% of folks understand this type of thinking,” but it’s much less than that. It’s what has changed and but what has stayed the same.
I’ve quantified the folks in the firms that I have now. We partner with maybe 0.1% of the population. It’s not 1% or 2%, it’s 0.1% out of 1,000. It’s interesting because most people think that’s a small number, but I’m like, “You are not living in abundance because if there are 8 billion people, 0.1% of 8 billion is 8 million, so 8 million is a lot of people.” The 8 million are the ones that create things that employers benefit everyone else.
The 0.1% are the ones that don’t limit themselves to their own fear. They take action and do it. It’s fun partnering with those people. They do have fear, but they don’t use that as a preventer. They use it as an accelerant. It’s a big difference. That’s what I was excited to talk to you about during the two-year gap. This sums up what I’m talking about the 0.1%. In the first book, all it is are 30 things I learned from top people on the planet and then wrote about it.
The first chapter is The Cream Rises To The Top. That’s something my dad said every day, pretty much that I can remember from when he was alive. We didn’t talk about my family the last time. My father was 61 when I was born. He’d be 106 if he were alive. He was a World War II hero. He was shot down 8 or 9 times in combat. Many times that parachute got back in the plane. That was my foundation as a child, maybe age 5 when I had a brain to 13 when he died. He said the cream rises to the top. Partner with the cream that rises to the top or the folks that will get back in the plane without a parachute will do whatever it takes.We all have that same GPS inside of us called resourcefulness. When things don't go how they're supposed to, we can recalculate and find a different way to get where we're going. Click To Tweet
The one thing that comes to mind when I think about that, and I had to give a talk to a group of youth on this, was that we all have a GPS inside of us. It’s like in our vehicles. We have a GPS. If we miss the exit that we are supposed to get off, the GPS does is say recalculate. If we continue to miss that exit, it does the same thing. It never says to us, “Pull over. You can’t make it to your destination. You are not going to get there.”
It will continue to recalculate. We all have that same GPS inside of us. It’s called resourcefulness. When things don’t go the way they are supposed to for us, we have that ability to recalculate, and that’s resourcefulness. We find different ways to get where we are going. Many people that I have seen, especially over the last years, it’s been surprising to me how many people have shut their GPS off. It’s not capable.
I’m glad you said that, and we talked about this a little the last time. Most folks are not meant to be. They are not global entrepreneurs. This is what entrepreneur life is. In a few years, I have seen the same patterns. I still have not met one at the highest level that has not overcome at least 1 of the following 4 things. Most are 2 or 3, and then I talked to a lot of all fours.
The four things are 1) Potential bankruptcy, 2) Depression, 3) The highest level of anxiety you can imagine, and 4) Traumatic experiences as a child or young adult. Humans, employees, and consultants use those things and they shut off the GPS. Those are excuses. Entrepreneurs at the highest level get back in the plane without a parachute. That’s entrepreneurial life.
You either can do that or you shut off the GPS, and I partner with people that will do whatever it takes because those are the ones that will not make an excuse and allow me to spend time with my family. Putting my loved ones first is the cream that rises to the top. I’m a dad who happens to be an entrepreneur. People who waste time with excuses or turn off the GPS is not an entrepreneur. It’s someone who’s making excuses.
Your next book is Epic Life: How to Build Collaborative Global Companies While Putting Your Loved Ones First. We don’t think of those two together. As I thought about our conversation in 2020, how much of the last two years have shaped the writing of this book?
I will start with what hasn’t changed, but then what has. I was a journalist for twenty years before starting the first company. You don’t get into journalism for revenue, employee account, office space, and paying taxes four times a year. That’s material stuff. Journalism is almost always about creating purpose, helping society, and sharing cool stories of the world. Nothing has changed in that regard in terms of being an entrepreneur. Before COVID, I saw my wife and children more than any dead I have ever met, and now I spend more time with them.
Foundationally, I know what it’s like not to have a dad around, and I’m not going to do that. What has changed since 2020 and even a little bit before that is most of my day is spent talking to top entrepreneurs on the planet. I don’t know why my brain does this, but it does. It turns it into patterns. I talked to at least 1 to 2 people a week that have let entrepreneur life destroy their family life or prevented them from ever having a family.
When you see the same thing over and over, it reinforces, “I’m the dad who happens to be an entrepreneur, not an entrepreneur who happens to be a dad.” It reinforced what I already knew, but it’s good reinforcement. It’s those four things. The entrepreneur, the four things that most folks make excuses are turn off the GPS and entrepreneur doesn’t, but those four things also many times let entrepreneur life destroy their family life or prevent from having a family. I have those bumpers because of being a journalist for so long and then losing my father at a young age, but also from other folks talking to them reinforce why I have those bumpers because I don’t want to end up like that at all.
It is a challenge. There are times that they are in conflict. I can tell you from my own experience of pieces of business that I chose not to take on because of family obligations. I feel very much the same way you do. That’s my real legacy. I had the experience of I lost both of my parents when I was 17 at 18, about a year and a half apart, to cancer. I remember that and it left a very strong impression on me of what was important in the big scheme of things, and that was family. It’s always been that way, but it’s a choice.
There are two things because it’s a daily choice. I was at this house. His name is Chris Buckner and his foundation is for his son, who committed suicide. His son’s name is Dylan Buckner. He was a star quarterback, 4.7 GPA, had numerous offers to play football in college, and wanted to go to MIT. He was in high school when he committed suicide. My companies are partnering with him. We created an award for a graduating senior at Glenbrook North High School. That’s the high school where I went to and we are Dylan was going to raise awareness for mental health.
In this environment, the challenge is there are oftentimes too many filters that people put up not to be real about what’s going on. It’s easier to put up a quick video or a filtered image of how great things are. We do people a disservice when we don’t talk about the challenges that we face. Things aren’t always great for anybody.
Regardless if you are an entrepreneur or not.
Regarding the book, as you were writing this last one, Epic Life, is there anything that was an a-ha moment to you or something that reshaped some of your thoughts?
In the first book, the a-ha moment was that the PR firm was a giant incubator of geniuses, and we were constantly introducing each other for mutual gain. The new company is a giant network. The new company was in the first book. I didn’t know that, but it was there. I had a similar a-ha moment to that with the second book.
In the second chapter, About Recognizing Patterns, I don’t know why my brain works like that, but it sees the patterns in things. More importantly, when the pattern is recognized, we’ll do something about it and take action. I will make one example of that if it’s helpful. In my name there, I put my Kolbe score which is 8, 6, 1.
I have a 7 quick start with a 6 follow-through. It’s very rare to have a high quick start and high follow-through. Most of the folks that my firm is a partner with are a very high quick start, and then they are very low follow-through. They are all over the place and they need simplification and then activation. That’s one.
Two, there’s a thing called Gallup StrengthsFinder and Clifton StrengthsFinder. Most of the folks I talk to are high in ideation and futuristic, so they are often idea land. They then have a mix of activator or maximizer achievers. They are off in the future, but they will do something about it now. They will do something so they won’t get trapped in the idea land, so they will take action.In entrepreneurial life, nothing is perfect, and nothing is entirely right. Click To Tweet
That’s those folks. I’m very low and futuristic and almost dead last than ideation. I’m 32 out of 34 in ideation. If I hear a good idea, the top three are activator and maximizer achieves. Immediately simplify in an immediate result and intro. Three, I put my print score up as well. Print is your unconscious motivator. People see the tip of the iceberg, but they don’t see under the water, your unconscious motivator.
I’m 8, 3. 8 is to be strong and self-reliant, and 3 is to succeed and achieve. There’s no overthinking. Everything needs to be perfect and right. There’s no need to be appreciated, no massive, happy, and significant life. It’s just activate. Most of the folks that I talk to or partner with, if they have taken print 8, 3 or 3, 8, are full activators. That’s why they are top entrepreneurs on the planet because they don’t overthink. They don’t feel it. They go for it and do.
I even heard of print before, so that’s interesting.
Most people haven’t. That’s the rare one. I can email it to you if you want to take it. The things that you said earlier about the GPS or shutting it down. I’m guessing a lot of those folks are one in prints and the one is everything needs to be perfect and right. COVID is not bad in an entrepreneur’s life. Nothing is ever perfect and completely right. I don’t think there is. That’s a tough one for being an entrepreneur. I see it every now and then, the one print, but it’s pretty rare.
I worked for a company for a number of years and was comfortable in that world. I have many friends that are still in that environment, and they are very comfortable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very much about what drives you, what you feel your purpose is, and following through on that. That’s the scarier thing. A lot of people want to maybe do other things, but are too afraid that things aren’t going to work out. That’s the reality of it.
Those are overthinkers and over-feelers. That’s what I mean. That’s not an 8, 3 print. That’s fine. That’s going to be a tough go as an entrepreneur because that’s just not an entrepreneur. What is interesting sometimes is that it is the 2nd or 3rd generation of a family business where the grandparent or the parent was a full renegade outlier and started something. The children have the security and then they can do something.
That’s fine, but those children or grandchildren would never have started something like that. They didn’t have the gumption to do it, but they have the foundational knowledge to create something cool with it because they have the safety, security, and time. There are positives from that as well, but getting it off the ground, they would have never been able to do it.
When I looked at your title about putting level ones first, I went out on my own. I wanted to do what I’m doing now since 2008. What was that?
Entrepreneur life. Figure it out.
I jokingly tell that story of going across the street to a Burger King and only being able to get one thing off of the dollar menu because that is literally all I have because that’s the way it was. I knew that I wasn’t pulling away from that. That’s where I was meant to end up. I think it happened again through this last one of COVID and you build up this business, and all of a sudden, it slows down or stops in some regards.
Not for a moment did I think, “I have got to go back out and find a company to go work for. I knew that that wasn’t it.” In my initial point, I would say that the bigger driver for me was I wanted more flexibility with my family. I didn’t want to ask somebody for 2 or 3 weeks off to go to a game, miss a rehearsal, or any of that stuff. If I wanted to go somewhere with my kids, I wanted to be able to do that and not have to ask anybody’s permission to do that. That’s what it provided me.
It’s freedom. Not always, but usually, people like us marry stabilizing humans. I always ask people, “Is your spouse a nurse, social worker, school teacher, police officer, or an engineer?” They are like, “How did you know that?” I go, “Imagine if you married yourself, it does happen.” That’s either the greatest company ever or, more often than not, a complete dumpster fire because there’s no stability. My wife is a pediatrician and thinks the opposite of me. Warmth, love, empathy, rules, order, permission, and then here I am, and then our kids are a mix of that.
Their full goal for it with my wife’s caring and rules is fascinating. To have this freedom for my children, I help coach their baseball teams and I’m always at their practices. They play soccer and baseball and we do 5K races together. The little guy’s piano recital and picks them up at school 60% of the time. It’s hard for me to understand why you would destroy your family for revenue or employee account.
There was a good exercise I did, and maybe your audience and you’d want to do it too. It’s from a book called Hero on a Mission by Donald Miller. In there, he’s like, “It would be a good idea to write your own eulogy.” At first, I was like, “That’s a little weird,” but then I thought about it. I’m like, “You want to live all this time, but if it doesn’t mean anything, then what’s the point?” I wrote it and it’s good. I try to read it every day and it’s a good litmus test like, “Are you living the life that you want to live based on your life in the future?” It’s a good exercise.
I would say it allows you to clarify what your values are. Am I in alignment? I look at the work that I do in regards to where we build bridges with each other. That’s all we do and it’s based on our behaviors. Each bridge that I have in my family is unique. It’s a different bridge that’s been built. The first cable of that bridge is congruence. If I’m not in alignment with what I say and what I do, then that relationship suffers because of it. If I’m not true to myself, the same thing. If I don’t follow through on what I’m telling other people to do or what I say I believe in but do something else, then it doesn’t work.
The first bridge is with yourself. We talked about freedoms. In Strategic Coach, I’m very confident saying that it’s a top entrepreneurial group in the world. It’s more about having all these freedoms, as we talked about. There’s freedom of time, relationship, purpose, and money, so those are the four freedoms.
What I don’t think is talked about enough is the main freedom of relationship, and that’s freedom with yourself. If you don’t have that, then it’s hard to have freedom with other relationships. It’s about having that bridge with yourself. I’m glad you mentioned the bridge part. Some folks would be like, “That’s a selfish way of looking at things,” but I think it’s more selfless. If you can’t put yourself first, you damage yourself, and you can’t help other people, it starts with yourself.
There’s that cliche about being on the plane and you got to put your own mask on first before you can help anybody else. In my world of working with leadership is that, as a leader, if I am not comfortable with who I am and I’m not in a good place myself, I cannot be fully effective in being there for anybody else if I can’t be there for myself first.Keep making bigger investments to be in smaller rooms to create bigger impacts. Click To Tweet
We speak the same language. One of the chapters in the next book it’s called Winning the Wrong Game. I’m very low in ideation, but if I talk to someone who’s an ideator or futurist, I’m like, “That’s a good idea to activate, maximize, and achieve.” One of those folks is Jesse Elder. He’s a genius. He talked about two things. One is winning the wrong game. Folks that care about revenue, office space, and all that stuff. He’s like, “They are winning the wrong game.” I’m like, “That’s a good idea. I won’t do that.”
Two, he was like, “I know who I am, but more importantly, I know who I’m not.” He starts with who he’s not first, and that leads to knowing who he is. I’m like, “That’s pretty smart. I will do that too. I’m not an entrepreneur who would let entrepreneur life destroy my family life, not a business owner or consultant. I’m a full dad who happens to be an entrepreneur.” That’s it.
As we are wrapping this thing up, another thing that I think about as you say that is what Jim Rohn said, “The average of the five people we hang around the most.” We are so true that we elevate each other. You drew off of some things that you said, “That makes sense.” Success leaves clues. Why wouldn’t I try and find a way that I don’t have to implement everything into my own life? If I can grab bits and pieces from what other people are doing, I’m shortening that mistake curve that it’s going to be made?
One of the chapters in the new book is the Processes and Shortcuts. Mindset is a process. I was talking to an ideator or futurist, and he’s like, “It’s great that you are so low in ideation because you know if it’s a good idea, and then you can activate and maximize achieve, and then you know if it’s a bad idea,” which most things are bad ideas. I’m like, “I don’t do that.”
It’s short-cutting everything by learning from people that are smarter than you or in the entrepreneur world or life longer than you have been. If I’m not the dumbest or one of the dumbest people in the room, I’m in the wrong room. Otherwise, I get bored. If you are the smartest person in the room, you can’t learn anything.
You got to find another room.
Make a big investment. It’s the same pattern and formula that made this a good way to wrap it up because it summarizes everything. I keep making bigger investments to be in smaller rooms, but the people in those rooms are making a bigger impact. That allows me to have the biggest investment and the smallest room is my family, which is where I can make the biggest impact, so bigger investments, smaller room, bigger impact. I keep writing bigger checks to be in smaller rooms where the people in those rooms are making bigger impacts. That summarizes everything, whereas the book summarizes the shortcut and not using fear.
Speaking of that, when do you expect the book will be up?
Likely September 2022. I called that Epic Life and Dr. Peter Diamandis wrote the foreword. That’s a great honor.
I’m looking forward to reading that one as well once it’s out. As always, it’s great to see you again and share these insights. Thanks for being on the show.
- Justin Breen
- Justin Breen’s New Book Reveals The Secrets That Provided Him With An Epic Business – Previous episode
- BrEpic Network
- Strategic Coach 10X
- The Control Heuristic
- Hero on a Mission
About Justin Breen
The connecting superhero for every visionary-, investment-, abundance-mindset entrepreneur who shares their stories with the world.
Do you have Visionary, Abundance, Investment Mindset? –> https://www.kys.coach/96382a667b443f0e
I partner with the 0.1 percent because they create the technologies, companies and systems that benefit the other 99.9 percent.
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Focusing on one’s health and wellness is important, especially in this day and age. But wellness is more than just your diet and your fitness. Here to introduce a 360-degree approach to self-care are Tina Mundy and Erin Montgomery, creators of The Mundy Method. This mother-daughter duo emphasizes a focus on mindset on top of nutrition and exercise in their approach to holistic health. In this episode, they chat with host Patrick Veroneau about the benefits of this model and how they’re helping not only individuals but organizations to improve the quality of life and well-being of their people. It’s not just about taking care of yourself but also having that support from a community that really brings it home. Stay tuned to learn more about The Mundy Method and how it can help you.
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Getting Healthy With The Mundy Method With Tina Mundy And Erin Montgomery
Thank you for joining me on another episode. In this episode, I’m talking with a mother-daughter duo Tina Mundy and her daughter, Erin Montgomery. They’ve developed what they call The Mundy Method. What I enjoyed about our conversation in this space around health and wellness is how holistic of an approach they have created here and all of the different resources that they have brought into the community that they’ve created to try to help people in all aspects of health, mental, physical, emotional, and intellectual. It runs the entire gamut. There’s so much here, so I hope you enjoy it. All their contact information is at the end if you want to reach out to them. Let’s get into it.
I want to thank you both for being on the show. You guys are in such a unique space in time with all of the different things going on. You have a method that you’ve created in the health and wellness area, but it goes much more than that in terms of this 360 approach you were talking about. I was hoping on the show you could talk about that and how people can benefit from not looking at wellness as diet and exercise, but there’s more to it than that.
Thank you, Patrick, for having us. We are pumped and pleased to be here to be collaborating with you on this show. This is a life’s journey for both me and Erin. Although, being mother and daughter duo, we’ve both had different paths that have got us to the same spot. When we decided that things needed to be a little bit different and there wasn’t the need or anything out there that was able to meet a holistic 360-degree need or a void that was in the industry, we decided to sit down, put our heads together and find out what was missing. We made sure that we brought the people to the table to make sure that we had a 360-degree holistic health and wellness program that we could offer to people.
As you did this, what did you find? What was most surprising in terms of putting this method together?
It was the response. Everyone is saying the same thing. It seemed everyone’s journey was the same as ours in some form or fashion, but they didn’t know what was missing. The fitness and wellness “Market” is saturated, and there’s so much information out there, but it all leads you down one path, which is fitness, or down another path, which is nutrition.
Those are two big pillars, but nobody’s dealing with the mindset. Nobody is dealing with other issues, the spiritual, the relationships that everything that comes under the umbrella of being a whole person. We’re more than our body, meal plan, and fitness. The more people we talk to about that, the more they would say, “Yes, that’s what’s missing. I need that motivation, community, and support. I need to do more than have someone write me out a meal plan and an unsustainable fitness program that I know six weeks down the road, I’m going to end up giving up on.”
I don’t know if you guys watch any Netflix or binge at all on that, but there was a show that I started watching. It’s called Manifest. I won’t go into it, but one of the lines that keep coming up on this show is, “It’s all connected.” As I was thinking and reading what you put together, that fits. It’s all connected. We have all these pieces to it. We can be great in certain pieces, but it’s not strong enough when we don’t look at the whole thing.
It’s one thing to run out and have someone have a meal plan for you in a fitness program. If you don’t have the energy or the will to get out of bed in the morning to get it done, you don’t schedule it into your day, and you don’t have a support network to cheer you on the people walking the same journey with you, it’s hard to do. At the end of the day, it’s going to be unsustainable, and people quit year after year.
You mentioned something there in regards to support is important. What do you do for that? What does that look like?
We operate through a Facebook group. All of our members join. Through that, all of our workouts, mindset coaching, and partner content are posted there. Everyone has access to it, and everyone can be there to cheer each other on. If it’s a sweaty selfie that they post, someone can comment on it and say, “Great job. I did this too. Can you believe how this made you feel?”
It’s an encouraging place where you can be with other like-minded people and get that support that you don’t necessarily need to be in the same room as them, but you still feel their presence and have that as you’re going through your journey, which is important, especially in these days of COVID, where you can’t be with your friends all the time. You still have that online support base. We have members from Germany and the United States. It’s everywhere in the world. You still feel connected and have that support to keep going and work on the things that need working on.
We’re learning from the community, which is amazing. We have an osteopath who’s one of our members. She had commented to me. 6:00 AM every day, she’s there and always the first to comment. She commented that it was interesting that I don’t wear sneakers and it’s because I have a balance issue. I went on, and I explained it to her. She came back with a whole bunch of tips for me on how to improve my balance. It’s been amazing. It filled my heart to see so much interaction within the community and see us all there for one another, especially in times of COVID, where there are a lot of people that are still almost in lockdown and haven’t had any human interaction in a long time.
Tina, the last time we had met, to me, this is it’s all about tribe almost. You’re creating a tribe. It’s interesting because there was a study that I had come across that was looking at patients that had a cardiac disease and had gone through procedures. They found that those that were involved in support groups fared better than those on their own. They survived longer, and it makes perfect sense. When you have people around you that are encouraging you to stick with it, help support you and not judge you, but look at how can we learn from each other and support each other, it’s a huge difference.
There’s healing there when you have that community. It also enables you to heal. A lot of our members and me included have had dysfunctional relationships with food and fitness. I’ve hated the body I’m in for longer than I can remember. I’ve been on every fad diet. I feared food for most of my life. I remember my first diet I was ten years old because of diet culture. We’re always trying to shrink our bodies. What I’m finding within our community is a healing place. Although we started this for women, we have men and women in our community. All of them say the same thing. They’re healing with food.The fitness and wellness “market” is really saturated and there's so much information out there, but it all leads you down one path, which is fitness, or another path, which is nutrition. Those are two very big pillars, but nobody's… Click To Tweet
This is one of the reasons we decided to bring a chef, who comes in, and we have a cooking class once a month. As a group, we prepare food together, celebrate food together, and eat the food together. Some parents said, “Our members in Germany and the states are eating and preparing this food with us, and we’re celebrating food.” It goes a long way to the healing process. It’s much more than fitness and nutrition. We’re healing as well.
What are some of the other components you’d say become important that you bring into it?
We know we’re not the smartest people in the room, but one thing we like to pride ourselves on is that we can bring those people to the table. Although I have my certification in yoga and fitness, and mom has her confidence coaching and personal development, we aren’t registered dieticians or pelvic floor physiotherapists. What we decided to do was bring those experts into our group, and they present once a month. We have a pelvic floor physiotherapist. We have a chef, as mom mentioned, and a registered dietician.
We have energy healing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of emotional freedom techniques. We have an advanced practitioner come in, and she does a tapping session with us.
We had someone come in talking about clothing and how to dress for success and feel good in the body that you’re in. We’re always adding more people to the list. The osteopath is going to talk about injury prevention. Each week is something different. We’ll have someone giving a topic on something they are an expert in that encompasses that 360 degrees. Our members are getting access to that and can benefit from that.
We have a counseling therapist who comes in and handles all the mental health, but we ventured outside that zone when she did a presentation on the power of prayer. That wasn’t something that I had ever thought of. She brought in her expertise on that. It’s relationships and career. We will be bringing somebody in to talk taxes and budget. We’re the one-stop-shop.
I was going to ask you that in terms of finances, too, because from the standpoint of stress for people that inflation for us, certainly now the price of gas and things like that, they add additional levels for us in terms of our mental and physical health both. To me, it seemed like a buffet. You offer different things. A healthy buffet, we’ll call it that. At different things at different times, where somebody might say, “That’s not my thing, but I’m exposed to it,” I’m exposed to it. I have an opportunity to find out how to implement it in my own life. I love that.
Good for you for picking up on it because we have some of our members who aren’t interested in fitness and nutrition. They’re here for community and support. We have other members who are coming in for the mindset. It’s never been about money for us. We do this, and we make the membership affordable. We’re cognizant that we have some of our members that aren’t able to get out. We have lots of moms there who have their toddlers there exercising with them. We wanted to make sure that we removed any barrier that was there.
We have a philanthropic arm to us. If we have someone who is in need and they can benefit from our community, come on in. It’s not about the money for us. Yes, it’s a membership base. If you can afford it, it’s great. We have members that are here because they’ve been recommended by somebody else that they think could use it.
We partner with Anderson House, which is a shelter for abused women and children. For any of their members that want to come in there, our doors are open. There’s no charge. We partner with East Prince Women’s Information Center, which is a self-empowerment, more of an employment journey for women who need a little hand up. I go there, speak to them, and invite them into our community. The same with career bridges. There are many partnerships that we have within our community to make sure that the people who need it the most are getting it. They’re getting it free of charge.
As you’ve been doing this, would you say that your offerings have shifted based on things that are going on in communities? How has that impacted you in terms of looking at something like COVID and the needs of people?
We take feedback from our members each and every day. When we close every session, we say, “Tell us what you thought of it. What would you do to improve it? Is there anything that we’re missing?” We do. We don’t take anything that they say as criticism. It’s all about growth because we’re all growing here. We say that we’re on this journey with you. A lot of the pivots and the additions that we make are things that our members have expressed interest in. We said, “We’ll bring that expert in. We’ll go out and do that.”
Even the fitness classes, for example, we have a lot of new moms on there, and 30 minutes is a little bit too long to work out when you have to factor in a nap and being tired. Because of that response, we’ve switched up to having fifteen-minute workouts twice a week, in addition to our 30-minute workouts and yoga classes. Those moms are loving those classes. They’re still able to get some movement in and feel good, but look after their babies and try and squeeze it in while they’re napping.
As you have been at this, what stories have been most impactful for you? Is there anything that you can think of that you’re like, “I know we were doing something that was going to benefit people, but I never thought to this level?”We’re more than just our body. We’re more than just a meal plan. We’re more than just fitness. Click To Tweet
There’s one of our members that moved me. She’s very isolated. She’s been struggling with her mental health for quite some time now. She has always had trouble making friends. She never felt part of a community or a tribe. She started with us with one of our free two-week kickstart programs to see, come in and try it. It’s 15 minutes, 4 times a week, and we do a little bit of mindset. Anybody can sign up for that.
She started with that and liked it. She started communicating with Erin and me. She ended up joining. She said it had made such an impact on her life. She feels like she belongs, and she has found her people in her words. For someone who’s a middle-aged woman who has never had a connection to feeling that she’s found her people, that’s what it’s all about.
For me, it’s all the other new moms. I have a seven-month-old, and it’s difficult motherhood. It’s isolating, and it’s tough. There’s no sleep, and there are not a lot of pregnancy-friendly workouts out there. They expect you to jump right back in. I tailor all of our workouts to have support for your pelvic floor and core health. We do the exercises together. One of us will show a modification for people starting out or coming back from pregnancy.
Hearing those moms being able to be like, “That fifteen minutes made my day because I didn’t get any sleep. My baby has been crying all night and all day, but I got that fifteen minutes of me-time. I got those endorphins going, and it made my day,” that makes it all worth it to hear and know that. I’m making a tiny little bit of difference in someone’s day.
Our kids are older. The difference now, especially with COVID, is that at least with our kids, when they were young, you went to a playgroup, or there were other people in the neighborhood that you jumped over there with your kids. My guess is there’s less if any of that now because everybody is still isolated, which makes it even more difficult.
There are people who had babies at the beginning of the pandemic who’ve never had a birthday or anything with people around. It takes a village to not have that village there physically, but it’s difficult, but at least online or digitally, they have that support system. It can help at least a little bit each day to make it easier.
There are benefits or positive things that have come out of the last several years in terms of people questioning what is important to them and what they want. You are looking at new ways to try and create community, which is what you guys are doing with your approach. Hats off to you for that.
One thing we have been exploring is the whole corporate sector. With more people working from home, they’re losing that team connection at work. We have a lot of well-meaning leaders within corporations and leaders themselves. They know the benefits of having wellness in their workplace. Automatically, the mind goes, “Let’s buy a gym membership, and let’s fulfill it that way.” There’s more to it.
It frustrates me when I see corporations spending this money and hoping for the best for their employees. For some, that might be all that they need. For the majority of them, a program such as this would be more beneficial because we are taking holistically the person, everything they need all in one package. One avenue that we will be focusing on a little bit more in 2022 is reaching out to the corporate sector, which is reaching out to those leaders themselves, who, when you know full well, probably put themselves last in many instances.
Nobody knows where this is going to go, but in terms of remote work versus bringing people back to work, it was going to look different. People are more driven right now to well-being. I don’t want to show up and trade 1/3 of my life every day for an organization where I don’t feel fulfilled, connected, or are any of these things.
You’re onto something there in terms of another one of these things that have come out of the pandemic that has forced people to say, “I’m not doing this anymore.” The Great Resignation that we keep hearing about here in the US has been going on for a long time. The only difference is that physically people are leaving their organization now mentally and emotionally. They have been leaving the organization for a long time. They didn’t have options.
What spurred us on with this was the pandemic. Even before Erin left for maternity before the pandemic hit, Erin was trying to create a sense of camaraderie within the department she was in. Being a yoga instructor and a fitness instructor, she used to give free lessons to anybody who was on her floor or in her building.
I’d watch her because, for her, the half-hour during lunchtime was a reset for her for the afternoon. She was moving her body. She was getting out of that cubicle. She started offering these free classes to whoever wanted to show up. We wouldn’t believe the amount of people that would show up. She was creating a community there during their lunch hour at work.
When we were thinking about it, “We’ve got this down. We’re always improving. We know we’ve got The Mundy Method, but where else and who do we need to root?” That’s when Erin said, “Workplace.” She remembers before she had the baby, got pregnant, before COVID, and even tried to create that tribe within the office atmosphere. Everybody would be raving. She was sick. They were like, “What are we going to do for lunch?” It’s like, “Eat your lunch.” They’re like, “We got to move our body.” It’s needed.There’s healing when you have that community that enables you to heal. Click To Tweet
When I was working, I was in the biotech industry before. I knew I wanted to go into leadership and team development. I would offer two offices to go in at lunch and do small workshops on team building or leadership development. It is because I wanted to talk about it much, probably similar to you in terms of you wanted to do it and share it with other people. From that, you’ve grown up a business. If individuals or organizations want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to do that?
You can do it a couple of ways. They can go to our website, www.TheMundyMethod.ca. We have a link there where they can email us, or they can even sign up for our 14-4-14 Kickstart Challenge. They can give it a whirl and see what they think of it. It’s free, 14 days, 14-minute hit and yoga sessions, 4 times a week.
We throw in a mindset coaching session there, and we have outdoor activities. It’s two weeks getting your feet wet. If they like, they can sign up for full membership. They can email us Hello@TheMundyMethod.ca.
They can contact us on Facebook. If you search The Mundy Method, they can message us on there. We have Instagram. Mine is ErinMundy03.
I want to thank both of you for taking the time to be on the show. As I mentioned in our conversations that while the show is about learning from leaders, this is such an important component of being a better leader. If I’m not in a good place myself well-being in all aspects, I can’t be there for other people. This has such a primary role in what I do. Thank you for sharing that.
Thank you so much, Patrick. I look forward to collaborating more in the future.
I am looking forward to it. Take care.
Take care. Bye.
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About Tina Mundy
Hi, it’s Tina! I’m a Certified Holistic Health & Wellness Coach, a former Cabinet Minister, tireless community advocate, and mother to three amazing children. My path to get to where I am today has been filled with failures, hard knocks and I have had to reinvent myself and redefine my life’s purpose again and again.
About Erin Montgomery
Hi, I’m Erin, Tina’s daughter and first-time new mom to a beautiful baby boy.
For most of my life I had a love-hate relationship with exercise. I thought of it as a necessary evil I had to put up with, but I was never satisfied with the results. Regardless of how much (or little) I worked out, I wasn’t skinny enough, fast enough, or strong enough. So I never really stuck with a workout program longer than a few weeks.
It wasn’t until grad school that my perspective on exercise shifted. I was dealing with a major case of imposter syndrome and the pressure of grad school. Exercise became a way to calm my nerves, clear my head, and give me the energy to tackle whatever life threw at me. That mind-shift has made such a difference in my life. Exercise was no longer something I had to do. Rather, it became something I wanted to do, enjoyed, and actually became a form of therapy for me. Now, I start each day by moving my body, sometimes a lot ,and sometimes only a little, but either way I feel refreshed and ready to seize the day.
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