270: Reclaiming Workplace Inspiration with Scott Mautz

By March 7, 2018Podcasts

 

Scott Mautz introduces the nine anti-muses and provides strategies for regaining inspiration at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The difference between inspiration and motivation
  2. The nine anti-muses that drain inspiration from your work life
  3. Five ways to reframe the fear of failure

 

About Scott

Scott Mautz is a popular keynote speaker and author of “Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again”. He’s a Procter & Gamble veteran who successfully ran several of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses. He’s the CEO of Profound Performance LLC (a keynote, coaching, and training company), teaches at Indiana University, and has been named a “Top 50 Leadership Innovator” by Inc., where he also writes a weekly column for the national publication. He’s appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, and many other national publications and podcasts.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Scott Mautz Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Scott, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Scott Mautz
It is awesome to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’re going to have a whole lot of fun, and I’m intrigued. One thing I learned about you recently is that you have performed some standup comedy. What’s the backstory here?

Scott Mautz
Indeed, I have. It started on a dare, actually, Pete. So, in college people were like, “Oh, at least you’re not like the un-funniest guy in the world.” And I entered the search National Comedy Competition and I almost won the dang thing, and I thought, “Whoa, wait a minute. Okay, I may want to do something with this.”

So I didn’t decide to go after it full bore as a profession per se but I did do a lot of paid gigs, did a lot of discussion of standup on stage for many years in grad school, and then I just kept at it as I entered the professional world as a major outlet, I guess, for lack of a better word, of I just want to express myself on stage, and had been doing it, boy, for a long time. But it’s been a while since I’ve done it now because my speaking career takes the front seat to that. So I try to pepper a little bit of that into my talks though because that part of me will never really go away.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. You know, my wife and I, we just saw John Mulaney…

Scott Mautz
Oh, he’s fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
He did seven shows in Chicago, in this giant Chicago Theater. Sold them all out. And it was entertaining, you know. He’s got a whole flavor that’s enjoyable.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, he’s fantastic. He’s skilled.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I want to hear your skilled area. It sounds like standup comedy is not the primary thing you’re known for.

Scott Mautz
That’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
But it gets in the mix. And so, your recent book Find the Fire has been getting some real momentum lately. So, yeah, tell us, what’s the scoop with this book, and what’s the main, and why is it important?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I appreciate it. Thank you for asking that, Pete. Well, Find the Fire, the subtitle is Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. Here’s the premise, my man, it boils down to this. And I don’t know if this is going to surprise you or not. But it turns out that 70% of us, 7-0, have lost that loving feeling, as I like to say, at work that we actually no longer really feel fully inspired in our jobs, 70%.

And what’s crazy about it is that the research shows the majority of us, like over – in fact, the latest update is well over 70% say that, “Look, if I want one thing from my boss, one thing from boss, please, the number one thing is I want him or her to be inspirational.” And, yet, ugh, at most, about 11%, 12% would say, “Yeah, my boss is inspirational.”

So that’s a massive gap. And what happens, Pete, is people say, “Okay. Well, you know what, that’s life. That’s life in the big city. I’m never going to fully get back my inspiration at work. They call work work for a reason. That’s life. And inspiration, of course, is elusive and mysterious and it’s tricky, and I’m going to have to wait till it shows up in my life again.”

And the truth is, and this is what the book is about, Find the Fire, the truth is after having researched this for, gosh, almost 15 years now, Pete, I can tell you, that inspiration can, in fact, be codified and coaxed. You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur. That’s what the book is about.

And to give you a little bit more flavor of that, you know, I intersperse, probably not surprisingly, humor in that to lighten up what could be a heavy subject, trying to find inspiration in our lives. And it can be heavy for a reason to perceive that way because a lot of people go about trying to re-ignite their fire in the incorrect way.

What research tells us, Pete, is that social science shows most of us, when we’re feeling uninspired, what we’ll do is simply ask, “Well, what inspires me? And I’m going to go try do more of that.” The answers are as different as the person you’re talking to. If I were to ask you, Pete, it would be, who knows? It could be Lionel Richie, I don’t know. For other people it’s going to be Irene Cara, it’ll be a sunset, it’ll be a great leader, whatever.

But the truth is, the answer to that question, “What inspires me?” is far too passive. It’s elusive and when we find out what that is it can get repressed in a toxic work environment. And it turns out we’ve been asking ourselves the wrong question for years. The right question is not, “What inspires me?” but, “How did I lose my inspiration in the first place?” And believe me it was everywhere. When you started your job, you didn’t have to think about it. It was in every nook and cranny, everywhere, like a half-finished highway construction, you couldn’t avoid it. You didn’t have to try.

And so the premise is simple. If you can identify the wells that have dried up of inspiration over your life, how you’ve lost your inspiration, it’s so much more efficient and powerful, Pete, to refill those wells than it is to try to dig a brand new well of inspiration which can take years, it’s far too passive, far too elusive. And the book talks about what drains our inspiration and how you can bring it back into your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So you’re saying that the source of inspiration, it varies wildly, and widely, from person to person, but the sort of disruptors, the evaporators, the drainers of inspiration are somewhat universal.

Scott Mautz
That is exactly right. And I find this very curious, Pete. I’ll set this up for you with – how’s your Greek mythology? You’re ready to brush up on it a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I totally, in preparation for this conversation, I picked up, you know, the Wikipedia article about the nine muses, so. And, in fact, I remember learning this once, and so we could talk Thalia and Urania, NBD… it’s all good.

Scott Mautz
Nice. I’ll give the briefest of refresher course. For all the listeners out there that are scratching their heads saying, “So how is this awesome on the awesome podcast?” Here’s what it all boils down to. Greek mythology teaches us that Zeus and Mnemosyne, god and goddesses, they had nine daughters. As Pete mentioned, they’re what’s called the nine muses. You probably heard the term before, “I’m waiting for my muse to whisper to me.” That’s a frequent terminology you hear from artists.

And, in fact, these muses that, according to mythology, they’re the ones that inspire us. It’s where the word music came from, or the word museum came from which is essentially the output, the physical warehouse, stores all the output from the muses in the museum. And as mythology teaches us there were nine of these muses that presided over different fractions of arts and science.

Well, I find it fascinating, and I’ll let your listeners determine whether or not it’s a coincidence, that statistically speaking, research shows us there also happen to be, precisely, nine, what I call, anti-muses, nine forces that break out from the pack of all the things that can drive us nuts about our work life. I find it curious that nine things statistically broke out, head and shoulders above everything else, for being the most common things that can drain our inspiration from our work life. Thus, I call them the nine anti-muses.

And, Pete, you steer, but let me know. If you want, I can go into now describing what these nine anti-muses are.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I do want to hear each of them and if we can certainly find it the sort of solution or approach to sort of preempting that. But, first, I want to hear, you mentioned – I love a bit of statistical research robustness. Can I hear a little bit about, what was that process by which you landed here? It seems like the number nine wasn’t, you said, “Okay, I’m going to land on nine because that’s cool schtick for my book.” But rather, nine just bubbled up naturally from a research process. What did that look like?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, great question and it truly was a coincidence. In fact, I didn’t even know there was nine muses when I started my research, when I stumbled upon the nine forces. I found out later that it was reverse. I found out there was nine muses and thought that very interesting when I stumbled upon the nine anti-muses, if you will.

But this process is pretty much this way. I’m very blessed to be able to have access to all kinds of research in what I do in my life now as an author, as a writer, I also am a adjunct professor at Indiana University where I teach others-oriented leadership, and I get all kinds of access early on, especially because I also write for Ink Magazine ten times a month, and I get access to fascinating research sometimes before it’s even published.

So, for a very, very long time, I simply began by reading everything I could about the field of inspiration. What is really? What are its roots? Why do we believe it’s so mysterious? Understanding the anatomy of inspiration, if you will. And then I began getting my hands on the most cutting edge, I guess, information and research available in the arena of inspiration. And piling it up year after year I came across a rich vein of research from a couple of experts in inspiration out of the University of Rochester, and continue to just build up my pot of research.

Then I came across several studies and started to cross reference them for determining, “Okay, now that I have this backdrop of understanding of inspiration, what it really is and how it affects our lives, how is it taken away from us? What does the research tell us?” And I began to cross reference studies that would indicate these are the most common sources of inspiration drain.

And after, probably, 20 to 30 cross references of over a hundred studies, I was just amazed to find out it kept pointing to these nine that were breaking out from the pack. After that I came across a story, believe it or not, of the muses, I discovered there were nine muses, and I thought, “Man, that’s really cool.” And I don’t know if that’s coincidence or not. You believe what you want to believe but that was the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I appreciate going into some detail there. And so maybe before we dig into the nine, if you can give us a quick contextual orientation here of how shall we define inspiration? And what are some of the, you know, most basic building blocks or anatomy of inspiration?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, a super place to start because people, they don’t necessarily – you ask them to define inspiration, it’s very difficult. I mean, we know what it is, Pete, we know the feeling. We know that sense inside us that builds up, that excitement that pushes everything to the peripheral, but it’s hard to describe it. We know that it’s behind many of our greatest accomplishments.

But what we may not realize is that, in truth, inspiration is really, it’s the Holy Grail of enthusiasm. Its power extends well beyond that of motivation. And let me just briefly explain the difference between inspiration and motivation, and I think that’ll really make it clear what inspiration really is.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Scott Mautz
Motivation, that’s the pragmatic consequence of inspiration, right? It’s that engineer in you that proceeds in a step-by-step fashion, one step at a time, with marching orders in hand until you achieve your goal. And that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t want that?

Inspiration precedes motivation though. It yields a moment of galvanizing energy. It shoves motivation into action. And here’s the big distinction. With motivation we take hold of an idea and we run with it. But with inspiration, an idea takes hold of us, and that can make all the difference in the world, free levels of energy, discretionary energy that you have to put behind something.

When an idea or a feeling takes hold of you, you feel like you almost have no choice but to throw your discretionary energy behind that thing. That’s why inspiration is so darn powerful and why it’s so important that you bring it back into your work life.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s intriguing. As you described this, and I’m thinking about times I felt what you’re describing, at times for me, it feels sort of close to obsession. It does have a hold of me. It’s like I’m so curious like I want to know the answer to this thing. I want to see if this is possible or true or the case for a particular argument, if a given idea is likely to work and has sort of valid underpinnings.

And so it’s almost like I can’t help but think about it sometimes more than maybe is ideal or healthy for work-life balance. And so I don’t know if you have anything to say: inspiration versus obsession.

Scott Mautz
It’s a darn good question. I think it borders into obsession when you lose the plot of why are you seeking to be inspired in the first place. What’s the point of harnessing that inspiration in your life? If it’s to achieve a balanced objective, if it’s to serve something greater than yourself, if it’s to achieve a personal accomplishment, and it’s directed and focused, it’s fantastic.

It’s when it borders on obsession it can become dangerous. Frankly, Pete, in addition to keynoting and workshops, I do some one-on-one coaching as well, and sometimes I have to coach entrepreneurs that have started their own business and their inspiration has gone beyond into the realm of obsession. But you have to bring it back to the, “Why are we inspired and why do you want to be inspired?” to keep it all in perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, all right. So now that we are fully contextualized, bring it on. Let’s do the rundown. The nine anti-muses, you know, what do they look like and what do we do about them?

Scott Mautz
Fantastic. So here they are, nine anti-muses. These, again, this is not my opinion. This is what a heck of a lot of data tells us, these are the nine things that are most common that drain our inspiration from our work life.

So the first one on virtually anybody’s list, regardless of the data source, regardless of the psychologists that I interview, regardless of the source, is fear. And fear is probably, almost literally, the antithesis of inspiration, more specifically the fear of failure, fear of criticism, and fear of change. And I’ll come back, we absolutely must talk about that one because its prevalence is ridiculous, 50% of all adults say that fear of failure is the number one thing in their life that’s kept them from revisiting or accomplishing their goals.

The second anti-muse is settling in boredom, a feeling that if we were truly honest with ourselves, truly honest, we’ve had a plateau in our career, and it’s much easier to just put it into a parking spot, right? Life is dotted with many tempting parking spaces and we may choose to pull into one of them, if we’re honest, and over time we become bored, and our learning and growth stutters. And before you know it, the inspiration has evaporated right out of the side of the door here.

The third one is inundation, becoming overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is like the new black, you know, it’s in fashion. It’s so interesting to say, compare stories of how overwhelmed we are these days. Well, it’s having an impact, as you can imagine, in many ways, besides the fact that it just pushes away inspiration from our life.

The fourth anti-muse, the fourth way we lose our inspiration, whether or not we realize it, by the way, subconsciously or not, is a lost of control. Having far too little influence on outcomes in our business, outcomes in our life, far too little control over the events of our life. Closely related to that one, the fifth anti-muse, and, man, this one devastating in its totality. I can’t tell you how many people in the thousands of interviews I did for this book have told me about dwindling self-belief, the fifth anti-muse.

The sense that when a push comes to shove, deep down inside, you have this fundamental belief that, “I’m not good enough,” and you’re caught in this world of comparing to others rather than comparing to who you were yesterday and how to become a better version of yourself versus yourself yesterday rather than comparing.

The sixth anti-muse is disconnectedness. This one is a tricky one. It sneaks up on us more than any of the other anti-muses. And what I mean by that is you look up from your work one day and you realize, “Man, I don’t have as much time to spend with my friends.” Maybe you’re in a new business unit, for example, and you haven’t made friends yet. Maybe you have a few toxic team members that are kind of ruining the fun of what it used to mean to come to work and to connect and bring joy to each other. You feel disconnected from the place that you’re working at.

The seventh one is dearth of creating. And out of all the interviews, Pete, that I conducted, and all the stories that I gathered, believe it or not, the most emotional stories, tied closely with the stories behind fear and fear of failure, where people had told me they’d simply stopped creating in their work life, and in their life.

That’s what I mean by dearth of creating. You’ve stopped. You realize, “When was the last time I contributed something unique and powerful with my personal stamp on it that only I could’ve done. I’ve fallen into a process of following process, and meeting after meeting, and blind output without a unique stamp and a unique creation,” which is closely related to the eighth anti-muse – insignificance.

And feelings of insignificance at work in that what we’re working on, if we were truly honest with ourselves, it doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t matter to the company, it doesn’t matter to other people, and most importantly, it doesn’t really matter to you.

And then the last, the ninth anti-muse, the last, is what I call lack of evocation which is where you work in a toxic work environment or for a toxic boss where all other things that might be positive about the workplace environment, they’re all just crushed under the weight of toxicity. Again, most commonly by just a brutal boss that sucks all the joy out of your job for you, or an overall unhealthy workplace culture and environment.

So those are the nine anti-muses, Pete, and we could steer wherever you want to. I would suggest, perhaps, a discussion on fear for a bit, but we’ll go where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Well, boy, Scott, tell you what. This is heavy stuff.

Scott Mautz
That’s why there’s humor in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m tearing up a little bit. It’s just so sad, you know, to imagine a workplace that is just dead, devoid of inspiration and that this is many people’s lives. And I think all of us experience, you know, one or more of these on a given week, sure. But as you just sort of stacked them onto each other, I imagine, “Oh, man, you see a workplace where you have all of these every day. It’s yucky.”

And so, thank you, Scott. I mean, this really kind of gets me, you know, call me an optimist but I’m like all the more energized about the entire mission of How to be Awesome at Your Job. It’s like, “That is not okay and, by golly, we’re making a difference to reduce the prevalence of this which is not appropriate in a workplace for just the experience of being alive as a human being.”

Scott Mautz
Very well-said. I mean, I couldn’t say that better myself, Pete. And here’s the good news, the book is called Find the Fire, not “Put a Wet Blanket over the Fire and suffer from a lack of oxygen.” So I’m going to provide oxygen now for your listeners…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes.

Scott Mautz
…if you’re ready to go there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I would. And, you know, what’s interesting is I was thinking of a situation, I’ve known a few people that they’re in, in which their inspiration just goes whoosh, gets zapped out quickly. And that was when there was sort of a change in leadership at the workplace. And so whereas before they were doing their thing and having fun with it, just rocking and rolling.

But then with the change in leadership there also came quite a lack of clarity in terms of, “Okay, who’s really in charge here? What’s really my job here? Who actually gets the decision, authority and rights under this area? What exactly am I supposed to be doing today at work?”

And so, in a way, I guess, rather than neatly falling into one of these nine, it kind of sort of embeds a couple inside it like a loss of control or an insignificance and disconnectedness, boredom if you’re not doing much because you don’t know what you should be doing. So it’s sort of a cocktail that all at once brings in a number of those.

Scott Mautz
That’s so true. And it’s a great point, Pete. You know, I often get asked about lack of clarity, and here’s a quick way to think about it. The opposite of clarity is to have something be muddy. And what’s create mud? Well, it’s a combination of the raw dirt, and when we pour water on top of that, and if you think about it it’s a simple analogy.

The dirt is the core work that we do. The root spring up from that. It’s what gives us nourishment and provides our income, it gives us our sense of wellbeing and a job and a sense of purpose. That’s the dirt. Now what happens when you get new bosses or you get a changeover? They come and they bring water to that dirt. To them the water is very clear, right? They have a clarity of intent. And they want to pour their knowledge, and their clear knowledge, and their clear experiences over you.

And what happens when water and dirt mix? It creates mud. And those two things create this universe where, despite the intent of the giver of that water, things can get very muddled up. So to get back to clarity in your life, despite the best intentions of those new bosses that are bringing the lack of clarity to the table, you just got to get back to the objective of what is it you’re trying to accomplish. Push back on the creation of new work.

And I talk in the book Find the Fire about many ways to do that. You mentioned that you have to like get clear on role definitions and even a decision criteria definition. I used to work at a company, in fact I worked for Procter & Gamble for 23 years and I was blessed to run some of their largest multibillion dollar businesses.

And one of the things that we learned was the importance of being very clear on the decision-making process when things get really unclear. Who decides? Who has a vote? Who’s just an executor? And you would be amazed. I’d go into a meeting and talk about lack of clarity, there’s 10 people in the meeting, “Who here thinks they have the accountability for this decision?” Eight of them would raise it. “Who thinks they’re responsible for the outcome of this decision?” You know, seven would raise it. I’d be, “Oh, my gosh, we’re in trouble.”

So just trying to provide the clarity in that mud is powerful. And you’re exactly right to point that out because it’s a big cause of drain of inspiration in our lives.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so good. Well, then let’s dig into some antidotes here. So when it comes to this fear stuff, fear of failure, of criticism, of change, what’s the prescription?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, let’s talk fear of failure because it comes up number one on the list, almost regardless of the source of data. And so I just want to talk about fear of failure for a second because, Pete, here’s what I really want your listeners to understand to help them be awesome at their job. It’s very difficult to be awesome at your job when your brain is busy reframing and engaging, I should say, yourself in the wrong conversation, and that’s what fear of failure does to us.

If this was a visual show, if it was a TV show, I’d have a slide up showing you what neuroscience teaches us about the fear of failure, that there’s a part of the brain that literally shuts down in response to fear of failure. It’s the frontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that’s responsible for growth and risk taking and exploration. That part literally shuts down in the face of fear of failure, so there’s a physical aspect to this and it engages that fear of failure, engages our brain in the wrong conversation.

And if you want to be awesome at your job and help others be awesome at their job you have to reframe the discussion your brain is having with yourself about fear of failure. I’ll give just a few examples. Here’s a few ways you can reframe your fear of failure. I find these to be very powerful. First, what if I were to tell you and your listeners, Pete, there’s only three ways that you can actually fail: when you quit, when you don’t improve, and when you never try?

What if I were to remind you what the great Zig Ziglar once said, a motivational speaker, one of the greats of all time. He once said, “Guess what, folks? Failure is an event not a person.” I wish I had a dime for every person I coached, Pete, that take some recent failure as a harbinger of things to come in the future and believes like, “Well, this is a prognostication of what…this is what I’m going to become. I must be this failure.” And you’re not.

What if I were to tell you, just a few more ways to reframe it, what if I were to tell you that failure, the truth, it doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. It doesn’t happen to you to destroy you and your confidence. It happens for you so you can learn and grow from it.

What if I were to tell you that you don’t suffer when you fail. Your ego does. I tell myself this all the time. Guess what? Your ego and you are not the same thing. They’re two different entities. When you fail, your ego takes a blow and it needs to sit at the kids’ table where the rest of the unhealthful emotions that have played far too big of a role on your life.

And, finally, one last way to reframe, I always remind myself that when I’m feeling that pit in my stomach before I’m about to try something new that scares the heck out of me, I remind myself that when I’m feeling that, that fear, that’s not there to scare me, that’s there to tell me that what I’m about to do must be worth it otherwise I won’t be feeling anything.

Just like that – in what? – in two minutes I offered five ways to reframe the fear of failure. And your listeners can do the same and must do the same because this is a toxic source of inspiration drain and even, Pete, for the people that are saying, “Dude, I hear you but I’m blessed, the fear of failure doesn’t apply to me.”

Good for you, you beat the odds, but statistically speaking it is mathematically impossible that you don’t have somebody in your life that suffers from fear of failure, whether it’s a co-worker or particularly, and sadly, whether it’s a child. The data is becoming very clear that, especially as kids enter college age, they were recording the lowest levels of self-esteem we’ve ever recorded on college campuses and a lot of that comes from the pressures kids put on themselves and the fear of failure that is just running rampant in college campuses and amongst kids in general.

Pete Mockaitis
Whew! This is potent stuff. Yeah, I’d love to dig in on the notion of when you fail you don’t suffer, rather your ego does. So I think some listeners would say, “Well, yeah, that still sucks, though, Scott. Is it beneficial to have a suffering ego?”

Scott Mautz
I like that. And it can suck if you assume the ego is imminently intertwined. And what I often do, I literally do this, Pete, I literally do this. When I’m thinking about something like, “Oh, man, I’m going to do that. But if I blow it, Oh, my gosh, I’m going to look like a fool.” I literally picture separating my ego from myself, from my true self, and making it go sit at the kids’ table where I’ll look at it and I’ll understand that, “Yeah, I know we’ve got to feed it and rub its belly every once in a while, but it’s not who I am, it doesn’t sit at the adult dinner table.”

And what I find is the more you can separate, and at least be aware of that, it’s really powerful because most people aren’t aware. Their ego and their sense of self are so intertwined they have a hard time separating the two. And it’s okay to take dents in your ego and, by the way, it’s okay to have an ego. There’s no one that has 0% ego. A lot of people have less than others and that’s cool. It’s just when we let it define and define who we are that it becomes problematic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so interesting. And so then, when you visualize your ego what’s it look like? It’s a kid version of you?

Scott Mautz
Yes, that’s usually the way I look at it. Frankly, that’s exactly the way I picture it, a kid version of me sitting over there, you know, often whiny, often self-preservationist, often wondering about, “How is this thing going to reflect on me?” and, frankly, most often not service oriented. And I find that I’m very much able to keep my ego and my fear in check when I remind myself, “Okay, what’s the servitude in what I’m about to go try? Who am I going to serve to help them become a better version of themselves? Or what end benefit will I have for somebody else with what I’m about to try besides just the selfish benefit for me?”

And people give you a lot of slack when they know you’re trying to give them service, right? And I always find that that’s helpful, and I view that little kid ego sitting at the kids’ table as the most selfish version of myself that’s not focused on serving others. And that helps me put it in its place as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is nice. And then if you think about sort of humility as a virtue, and people like people who are humble, and similar roots to the word humiliation, when you have an ego that gets some dents then that can, in fact, be an asset to have your ego cut down from time to time.

Scott Mautz
Right. That is exactly right. And it’s not easy to do it but it starts with self-awareness that it does need to be cut down from time to time, right? Now I’m sure you’ve met people, Pete, I’m sure you’ve met people that are completely unaware that their ego is running rampant and taking over. I’m sure you’ve met that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, from time to time.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s awesome. So that’s a nice dose of good solutions when fear is in the mix. So, maybe you tell me, Scott, as you think about professionals who are in their daily work organization environments, is there another particular anti-muse you think would be valuable to deconstruct?

Scott Mautz
Well, you know, you almost have to talk about, for a minute, inundation and overwhelmed because we’re all feeling it. And you had indicated this before, Pete. I meant to say that no human being experiences all nine anti-muses at once, or if they do they’re a complete and utter mess. That’s not like the statistics don’t support. Research doesn’t support that that’s what happens to us, generally speaking.

What happens is, like you said, most of us can associate with three or four of these in periods of our life over time or in any given week or sometimes within a given day. And so the single most common next to fear is probably, virtually everybody feels inundated. So one of the things I wanted to share with your listeners is us feeling overwhelmed and inundated is at least in part our own fault. And I know people don’t like to hear that. They want to know that, “No, it’s the demands of the business. It’s the demands of the world we work in. We must do more, more, more. Produce more, more, more with less, less, less.” And part of that is true.

But we’ve also lost the art of pushing back especially when new work requests come into the fold, and I talk a lot about this in Find the Fire in the inundation chapter. And if I may, I’ll share just a little bit of advice about how to master the art of pushing back because I think it’s a powerful way to keep things on your plate manageable enough that inspiration has a chance to show up in your work life again, and just a few tips on that.

One of the most that I found when it’s time to push back on a new workload request is to come from a place of accountability, and give a different yes to the request. The reason we don’t push back is nobody likes saying no. It’s painful, right? It’s painful to tell somebody no especially your boss. Especially your boss. But you don’t have to say yes but you can give a different yes to the request.

You know, “Yes, I understand you want that done,” to your boss, “but first let me come from a place of accountability. I’m accountable to deliver my entire workplan. Let me lay out on paper for you the workplan. This is what I’m working on,” which, by the way, research shows that 74% of most bosses have no idea of the true impact of what their employees are working on, how much time they spend doing it, and the amount of things they actually do during the day.

Visualizing it on a piece of paper, respectfully, and playing it back and saying, “This is my total portfolio of work. If you want me to do this, these are the two things that are going to suffer, and I want to deliver the total portfolio work to you.” So rather than just saying, “I don’t want to do that. I have too much to do,” you demonstrate on paper how much you have to do, what has to give in order for you to take that on, and then you can also accompany that with a different yes.

“So as you can see here, boss, from my workplan that I laid on paper for you, I can’t take this on without something else suffering, which by the way earns more appreciation for what you’re working on,” by the boss as a side note. “But because I can’t take that on, I’ll tell you what, let me give you a different yes. I’m going to steer you to somebody that can help. I’m going to help you whittle down the amount of work it actually has to get done there. I’m going to lay out for you a resource that we could hire to take at least part of that research project on,” etc.

You find ways to get to an agreeable sign that you’re trying to help with the objective of the request even if you can’t actually do the work itself. Very powerful ways to push back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that. And, Scott, I’ve got to ask. So, now, I think, hey, talking about fear again. If a listener is saying, “Okay, Scott, I have a sinking feeling that were I to do that my boss would say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to hear your whining or your excuses. We all have a lot on our plates, and I need you to make it happen. All of it.’” What do we do?

Scott Mautz
Boy, is that really familiar? Is that ever familiar? And, first of all, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us were to, obviously, to experience that, and from time to time that, for sure, is going to happen. But this is where people fall down, is in the face of that first push of the boss, looking like whining or they’re accusing you of whining.

They have to understand, you have to get them to understand that, look, at the end of the day, you indeed are trying to be responsible and accountable. And then you go item by item, and you engage in discussions on, “Okay, I hear what you’re saying. All these needs to get done. Let’s talk about the realities of each of these pieces of work. Are there things you can do to help me achieve this objective in a different way?” You don’t wear down and just give in yet.

Now, I’m not saying, Pete, that there’s not going to come times where, if you have the kind of boss that’s toxic and is just going to say, “I don’t care. Do it.” Okay. Well, that speaks different volumes for how to address lack of evocation and how to work with a boss how just won’t work with you. but in that scenario, you have to be realistic and say, “Okay, I’m not going to give in just yet. I understand he thinks I’m whining. If I continue to come from a place of accountability and can demonstrably show the impact it’s going to have on the other deliverables, and get that boss to engage on, I hear you. I know it all has to get done. I want to roll up my sleeves with you to figure out how all of this can get done together.”

You have to keep at that. And if it gets to a point where he’s like, “I hear you. You’re not getting it.” Go away and just make it happen. Well, that’s a different discussion to have. That’s where you get into a different chapter of the book, how to deal with just toxic bosses. But the big point is hold your ground, be firm, you could even use what I call the Bermuda Triangle of bargaining in those cases where they’re playing hardball with you saying, “It all needs to get done.”

You’re like, “Well, hold on a second. Let’s talk about the Bermuda Triangle area of bargaining.” You wouldn’t use that term with him or her. But what that means is there’s three things: time, resources and scope as a triangle. And in the middle of that gets suck, time and wasted opportunity and energy and everything. So you talk to that boss and you say, “Look, there’s time, resources and scope. I can accomplish what you want, the full scope of it if you give me two times more, two more weeks, or we can reduce the scope, give me a few more resources and I’ll do it in half the time.”

You get the point. You use time, resources and scope, those are three variables, and you negotiate with your boss. So if scope is absolute, “You must do it all of it. I’m putting my pin on scope.” Great. Negotiate on time and resources then. Makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. I’ve seen a slide like this long ago. Thank you for resurrecting it for all of us. That’s good stuff. Okay. So, well now, I’d love to hear a touch then in terms of, hey, we got some toxic boss, toxic colleagues, there’s a lack of evocation. What do we do?

Scott Mautz
Yeah. Have you ever experienced that, by the way, Pete, that kind of environment? I was wondering if you’ve ever had that.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, only for small…fortunately, only in small stretches of my career but there was a time when I worked in the pantry at Kmart in high school in which I was not impressed by some of the leadership examples in my midst. It felt like it was toxic at times in terms of, you know, if I stack the Pepsi wrong. Oh, man, it was so brutal.

Scott Mautz
The reason I asked is if you can remember, then I will address your question. It kind of douses everything else out, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter what else is good about your job, when your boss is toxic nothing else matters. Is that a true statement? Do you think?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if you encounter your boss frequently it really can very much be the case.

Scott Mautz
Yeah, and research tells us that’s what most people would say. So I talk in the book, and I will just touch on a few pointers. I give a little bit more of a complete plan on what do when you have a manager that’s like that and how frankly you can not only kind of work with them but turn them into a source of actual inspiration for you.

Here’s what some of the data and experience tells us that we do. First of all, and people don’t want to hear this but this is truth. First and foremost you have to bring the attitude that you want reciprocated. The more that you paint the boss into the corner, the more that you talk about that toxic boss as a toxic boss, the more it feeds on itself, the more you come to believe it, and maybe this is the most important point, the more you feel like you’ll never be able to reverse that situation.

And, by the way, people hear about that when you’re talking about your boss and, God forbids, if the boss ever finds out, that makes it really difficult to ever build new bridges. So, first and foremost, you got to bring the attitude that you wish was reciprocated back, number one. Number two, and I think people like hearing this one even less, you’ve got to learn how to give that boss feedback. You want to talk about fear of fear, that’s a scary thought.

But you make sure that your boss is open to it, and some of them aren’t, and I understand that, but you would be surprised. And what the research tells us is, in truth, even amongst toxic bosses, the vast majority of them really don’t understand the full impact of their behavior and what it’s having on their employees. And it takes brave people to call them out on it and say, “Okay, I want to make sure you’re open to some feedback assuming you agreed.”

Pete Mockaitis
And you just ask that question, “Hey, boss, you open to some feedback?”

Scott Mautz
Yeah, it sounds so obvious. And if they say no, okay, well, then the next step is quit. But you proceed with bravery and then you just kind of follow kind of a pretty straightforward pattern with humility, with transparency, with empathy. You help them understand the impact that their behavior is having on you and on the organization, never making it about them as a human being because bosses and human beings become defensive when it becomes personal. It’s about their behavior and the impact their behavior is having on your ability to do your job and your ability to want to show up to your job.

That is very straightforward, you be respectful, always direct with specific examples as you give the feedback and don’t waiver, as difficult as it is, believe me you’re doing that person a favor because the odds are they might also be a fairly intimidating individual and, believe me, they’re not getting enough feedback, and feedback that might actually make the difference for them.

And, finally, you just got to make sure you’re focusing on your perspective of how to help them not like what you would do if you were the boss, which is a big trap that people fall into when they start giving feedback to a boss. So those are just a few tips.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great stuff. Thank you. Well, Scott, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I think I just wanted to mention that if the listeners are interested in what they’re hearing, the book is called Find the Fire, and I’ve put something together for your listeners, Pete. If they go to ScottMautz.com, S-C-O-T-T M-A-U-T-Z, right on the website, I have it ready to go, a prompt will pop-up where they can download a free workbook that goes along with the Find the Fire book that helps them, it’s a fill-in the blank workbook that helps them write down and retain the key concepts in the book.

And we all know, and research is very clear on what happens when we’re able to write down concepts for the retention of those very ideas. So they’ll be able to get there a free workbook at ScottMautz.com along with a lot of other free tools that I have prepped and ready to go for your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you. All right, great. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Scott Mautz
Oh, yeah, sure. I have two. Maybe my favorite of all time is probably not surprising given the way our discussion opened about my love of humor, but I really do believe that, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.” And I found that to be imminently true in my life. And another quote, which is also some of the best advice I could give another human being, is to, “Chase authenticity not approval.”

And I can’t even tell you how many people give away their power, and I talk about this in Find the Fire a lot, when they choose to chase the constant approval of others – their boss, their mother-in law, their sister, whoever it might be – and they chase approval, constantly seeking to compare to others, wanting that approval rather than chasing the authentic version of themselves and being who they were meant to be, not what’s expected of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Scott Mautz
My favorite book I have on my table, I have it in front of me here, it’s called Die Empty by Todd Henry. It’s a fantastic book that sums up a lot of what’s important to me and my life. It’s a book about unleashing your best work every single day so that when you’re on your death bed you don’t have regrets about, you know, “I wish I would’ve created this. I wish I would’ve done that.” A fantastic read. I think your listeners would enjoy it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And tell me, is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect with folks, like they’re nodding their heads, they’re re-tweeting, they’re quoting it back to you?

Scott Mautz
I’ll probably start with the authenticity one that I get so many comments back on, the importance of chasing authenticity instead of approval. I’ll probably stick with that one because so many people bounce back to me on that one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. And, Scott, tell us, is there a particular challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Scott Mautz
Yeah, I think it’s just you don’t have to accept that inspiration is something that is mysterious. It can be codified and coaxed. You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur. You really can. If you understand what drains it then you’ll understand how to counter those and refill those wells. And when you have inspiration at your side, man, could you ever be awesome in your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Scott, this has been so enriching. Thank you so much for taking this time and sharing these goodies. I wish you tons of luck with the coaching, and professor-ing, and writing and speaking, and all you’re doing there.

Scott Mautz
Thanks so much, Pete. An absolute pleasure.

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