329: Asking Courageous Questions with Dusty Staub

By August 6, 2018Podcasts



Dusty Staub says: "When we don't give people honest, direct feedback... we really failed them. Being nice is definitely not nice."

Dusty Staub shares seven acts of courage and how to apply them wisely to your work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three biggest lacks of courage in the workplace
  2. The problem with being nice
  3. Finding and liberating others’ purpose, passion, and power


About Dusty

Robert “Dusty” Staub has worked for over 30 years with executives, families, and communities as well as with private and public companies. He has trained and coached executives and teams in creating high performance outcomes. Dusty has been a pioneer in the process of creating systemic accountability by aligning leadership and group behaviors with strategy to produce bottom-line results.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dusty Staub Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Dusty, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Dusty Staub
Pete, it’s my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us first and foremost orientation to this Dusty nickname? Where did it come from and how has it stuck?

Dusty Staub
Well, my father was Robert Earl Staub. He was a – had a full scholarship to Notre Dame playing football in 1942 out of Canton High School. He didn’t go. He went and fought in World War II. His nickname in high school was Blood and Guts Staub. Working as a paratrooper for 26 years in the military, he became even tougher.

When I was born, there was only one Bob Staub and that was him, but I was named Robert Earl Staub II. Staub is a German word that means dust, so when I was one day old, my dad didn’t want me to be called Little Bobby, so he nicknamed me Dusty.

I’ve been known by Dusty, except by the nuns in parochial school who refused because there’s no saint Dusty. When they called me Robert I wouldn’t respond, so I had more than one ruler cracked across my knuckles over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh gracious. I’m wondering, surely there’s a saint somewhere that – of the dusty roads or travels or hospitality for cleaning people’s feet. I don’t know. Somewhere I wonder, but who knows, they may or may not have been receptive to your counteroffer at the time.

Well that’s cool. I’m also curious, did your dad want you to have the family name, but also differentiation in the household is that he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too?

Dusty Staub
Yes, he did. He named me after himself. He didn’t like junior either, so he made it the second because he didn’t like junior. He wanted me to be different than he was and unfortunately, for both of us, I was very different. He and I had – like two rams crashing heads with each other for the first 28 years of my life until I had an awakening and transformed the relationship by changing the way I dealt with him.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Does this have to do with courage or is this a whole other area of expertise of yours?

Dusty Staub
Well, no, that’s actually where – I was working at the VA hospital. I did a TEDx talk on this called Developing the Cardiovascular System of Your Soul. I was working with a veteran and his family as this veteran was declining. I worked with him for about six weeks. I was at his bedside when he took his last breath. I was providing a psychological consult.

When he died, I realized that if that was my father in that bed, because he was the same age, that I could not have said to that man what the daughter said to her father. I realized that at some point my dad was going to die or I was going to die and we were in a hellish position for each other.

That’s where the acts of courage were born, the courage to look in the mirror and see the way I was acting, the courage to dream of a different way of being, the courage to be confronted by my father, and the courage to confront myself, and the courage to be more vulnerable and open, etcetera.

Seven different acts of courage were required for me to transform myself. In the nine months of work I was free. Then two years later my father changed. He became the dad I always wanted. Somehow in changing myself and my way of relating to him, it changed his way of responding and relating to me. It’s not funny when you think about system dynamics, but it was a revelation to me at the time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful and powerful and so we’re hearing courage being transformational in personal relationships. I’d also like to hear how this is powerful in the work environment.

Dusty Staub
Well, yeah, because most of my work in the past 35 years has been in corporations, for profit, not for profit, across all segments of US industry. I keep seeing in organizations where a lack of courage at senior leadership levels, as well as down through the ranks, but speaking of senior leaders where it leads to problems.

Two of the biggest lacks of courage occurs most often in corporate America is a lack of the courage to be confronted, number one, so people get antsy, they shut people down.

When somebody comes to give you bad feedback or give you criticism, Pete, in your organization, they’re inviting you to join a conversation that’s been going on for a while. If you shut them down, they just go back underground behind your back and it redoubles and then you get blindsided, which is never good.

Then the second lack of courage is the courage to confront to tell truth to power, to a colleague, to a powerful subordinate, to a superior. People don’t tell their truths. People don’t understand what’s going on because they lack the courage to be confronted and there’s a lot of issues there. Those are the two big ones.

I guess the third one I see is often a lack of the courage to be vulnerable, to be open, to admit I don’t know, to raise my hand and say I need help. Those three acts of courage are really critical if you want to be a good leader and if you want to have a sustainable performance in your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, yeah, that’s clear. That’s big. I love that perspective in terms of it’s the conversations going on underground and then you’re sort of being invited to participate in it is what’s really going on there, which is a beautiful reframe in terms of instead of being defensive, to embrace it.

We had Kim Scott, who wrote the book Radical Candor, on the show earlier talk about how she sort of had an ah-ha moment when she had to fire somebody and he was like, “How come nobody ever told me this?” She’s like, “Oh yeah, we weren’t doing him any favors at all, were we, by trying to be too nice and polite and dancing around the issue at hand that needed to be addressed.”

Dusty Staub
Yeah, what I would say is people get addicted to being nice and being pleasant. They’re not protecting the other person; they’re protecting themselves from the emotional reaction, from feeling like a bad guy or a bad gal. When we don’t give people honest, direct feedback, corrective feedback, as well as encouragement, we really failed them. Being nice is definitely not nice.

I live in the South and down in the South – in New York if someone doesn’t like you, it’s a nice big FU. Down in the South it’s bless your little heart. Add the little into the heart and that’s an FU in the South.

It’s a – I do a lot of work internationally and my German clients tell me, they say, “Americans, you can’t trust them.” They said, “They’re not reliable.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, they say what they think you want to hear and they will say yes when they haven’t really committed and then they don’t follow through.”

I think that’s, again, we want to be pleasant, we want to be liked, we’re saying yes, but we’re not really thinking it through. We’re not saying, “You know? I can’t say yes to that. Here’s why. Let’s talk it through further.” Instead of going deeper or being more honest in our dialogue and conversations, we are polite and nice and we therefore fail the individual, the team, the organization, and it really damages careers. It really damages performance.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re talking about courage a lot. I’d love it if maybe you could share some of the disguises or packaging or lies or excuses or rationalizations we use when we’re really just frankly, not courageous and that’s really what’s going on. It like we’re really scared, but it gets dressed up or rationalized in some prettier terms that we use to ourselves.

Dusty Staub
One of the biggest rationalizations – but the way, rationalize is a rational lie.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Tweet it.

Dusty Staub
When we rationally lie to ourselves – and there are psychological mechanisms. I talk about this in my second book, The Seven Acts of Courage. I talk about the defensive mechanisms of denial, of projection, of blame, of rationalization.

We rationalize, “I don’t want to hurt Dusty’s feelings.” “I don’t want to rock the boat. Things are okay.” “I can work around this. We can just work around this person. This person has been with me a long time. Yeah, it’s in over their head, but we can carry them.” There’s all kinds of rational lies that people tell themselves. They’ll even say, “You know what? Well, that person’s just mad at me. That’s not really true.”

We do 360 feedback. We gather data from multiple sources, 8, 9, 10, 12 people around an individual. People are shocked sometimes at the themes around the critical things they need to change. It’s because they’ve been hearing it from one or two people, but when they see it as a theme from five or six people all at once, it’s inescapable and then it hurts their feelings.

One of the things, Pete, I believe is that – my father said this to me. I came home from graduate school and my dad had left the military and started his own business. He said, “Son, these damn civilians.” I said, “Dad, what did the damn civilians do now?”

He said, “Son, if they were in the military, we’d shoot them. They don’t tell you the truth. They talk behind your back. When you give them a chance to tell you what’s going on, they won’t tell you. When you try to tell them, they get defensive.” He said, “They let their emotions run them.”

I said, “Well, dad, that’s – you’re calling that amateur. What’s a professional?” He says, “Son, a professional is somebody who does what’s required and necessary, not what’s most comfortable, habitual or routine.”

Pete, what I see in so many of the clients we work with and so much when I read the news is people do what’s habitual, what’s routine. They do the personality. Integrity, doing the right thing when things are easy, is not integrity. Doing the right thing when it’s hard, when it’s painful, that’s integrity.

We talk about a lack of integrity in corporate America, lack of integrity in politics right now, well, until people start showing the courage to be confronted, until people start having the courage to tell the truth without laying down judgments. I mean I can tell the truth to somebody in a way where they thank me or I can tell the truth in a way where the person feels judged, belittled and put down.

When I say the courage to confront, it’s the courage to confront with respect and compassion. When you get angry and you think you’re telling your truth, you’re vomiting on somebody, you’re dumping on somebody. That’s not respectful. That’s not respectful confrontation. That’s not the courage to confront.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. Well, so you lay out seven acts of courage progressively, could you walk us through a little bit of sort of each one and how it looks in practice.

Dusty Staub
Sure and interrupt me if I get going too long here. The first act of courage, which I discovered, was the courage to dream and to put forth a dream.

I had a dream that I could have a better relationship with my father, that when I stood at his graveside, there would be no guilt, there would be no shame, there would be no resentment and anger, that I would be at peace with my dad. That was a dream and that was not where we were.

It takes courage to put that dream out there because the world is full of cynics. We have internet trolls. You put a dream out there on the internet, you’re going to have all kinds of people telling you can’t do it, and why you can’t do it, and what’s wrong with you. But there’s never been a statue or a tribute created for a critic. It’s for the creators of the world.

The courage to dream and put the dream out there is the courage to say, “I’d like this.” You might fall flat on your face. I had the dream – I’ve had many dreams and until I put it out there, until I begin to express it and tell other people what I want to create, it doesn’t really become real. I can’t keep it a secret. That’s a big one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so when it comes to the courage to dream, in a way, dreaming seems easy. It’s like, “Hey, you’re just sort of thinking about something.” But what kind of stops that from happening in the first place?

Dusty Staub
Well, there are many people who tell themselves they can’t have it. There’s a wonderful book by Robert Fritz called The Path of Least Resistance. He talks about the creative mindset. In there he lays out stuff that I found to be very true, which is we want something, but we tell ourselves we can’t have it. We listen to that voice and we give up on the dream. The dream is just a pipedream.

But when I say – so I’ll give you an example. When I decided I wanted to change my relationship with my father, I’d always dreamed of a better relationship. I realized that I needed to tell my mom. I needed to tell my friends. I needed to tell my dad I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with him.

I knew my dad was going to laugh at me and be critical. I knew that my mom would be sympathetic. I knew some of my friends were mad at their dads, would think I was just caving in and some of them would be supportive.

But when I put it together and said, “I believe I can create a better relationship. I don’t expect him to change. He won’t change one bit. What I will do is change how I respond and what I do. I’m going to stop being critical. I’m going to stop finding fault. I’m going to stop complaining about him. I’m going to stop yelling at him when he yells at me. I’m going to start working on showing some appreciation for what he’s been through.”

He went through two wars, World War II, Korea. He grew up in the Depression, etcetera, etcetera. By beginning to express that dream and put it out there and make it concrete, until you make it more concrete and you give some scope to it, and you begin to express it, it’s just a pipedream. But that’s – and it takes courage to do that because there’s a big part of us that says, we can never do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Then the second act is to – the courage to see current reality. How does that play out?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, and the reason I have that as the second act is you first need to know where you want to go and start to claim it. Then the second is you have to have the courage to see what’s working for you and working against you.

Again, using my dad and I as an example, just sticking with that image, I had to look in the mirror and see the nasty way I had of reacting to him. I totally justified my behavior based on his behavior.

There’s no justification for bad behavior. I don’t care. The other person can engage in egregious behavior, my behavior is not tied to that. Otherwise I say that I’m just a reactive machine. They push this button, I react. They push that button, I react.  … my father was going to do what he was going to do and I could choose how I was going to respond.

Seeing the current reality is claiming my strengths, claiming my weaknesses, what’s working for me, what’s working against me. Not having a pipedream, somehow my dad is going to be different, but seeing the way it is and seeing how I’m interacting and what’s problematic in the way I interact and seeing that current reality and claiming it.

Some people, Pete, will not claim their strengths because then they’d have to do something with them. Some people lack the courage to claim their weaknesses. They gloss over them because then they would have to own up that there’s something they’re responsible for and they have to do different.

The courage to see current reality is sometimes the courage to see our strengths, but for some people it’s the courage to admit and see weaknesses or gaps.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. Next up, the courage to confront. How does that go?

Dusty Staub
I’ll put it this way. Imagine you have the courage to dream. That’s your guiding star. That’s what you’re going after. The courage to create reality is the ground you stand on. If you don’t know the ground you stand on, you’re not going to be able to move. But to go from current reality to the dream, requires five different acts of courage.

The first act is the courage to confront, the courage to speak your truth, to tell other people what you see, to tell other people what you like and don’t like. It’s finding your voice and finding the power to express your voice without being judgmental or critical or negative. Just saying, “Hey, this is what I see. This is the reality I have. What do you see?” We engage in a dialogue rather than a one-way conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then likewise, there’s the courage to be confronted by the other.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. That’s the fourth act of courage is the courage to be confronted. Some people will dish it out. There are people who have the courage to confront.

Right now I think of our president of the United States. He will put it out there. He doesn’t do it nicely, but he puts it out there. But he lacks the courage to be confronted. If you’re not willing to hear confrontation or differences of opinion, it means you’re going to create extra resistance, you’re going to create more negativity, and you’re going to guarantee you’re going to get blindsided because people will just go underground with it if you have a lot of power or they lack the courage to continue to tell their truth.

The courage to be confronted means I don’t want to be blindsided. It’s like going – crossing the street, a big highway, busy highway, a thoroughfare in New York City, by putting blinders on that are about three feet out. You’re going to get hurt, maybe killed. You want to take the blinders off.

You want to have the courage to be confronted. You want to have the courage to let people tell you things, maybe not always in the nicest way, but from that at least you have more perspective and more information with which to work.

Pete Mockaitis
In this kind of conversational dynamic, you talked about not unloading with anger and what are some other sort of pro tips for engaging in a way that is positive and constructive when you’re going to the difficult territory?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, one of the major tools – we teach two major tools of the ten we teach. One is what we call power questions. Power questions are questions that are Pareto based, the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of the information gives you eighty percent of the value.

They’re also designed to go for root cause. To be most effective in your work, to add value, to grow in your position, to grow in your power as a leader, you want to be able to do root cause analysis and you want to ask value-added questions that are powerful.

For example, you’d say this is an example of “Do you like working here?” Terrible question. Yes or no? “What do you like about working here?” Better question, but still not very valuable. A power question, “What’s the one thing you like most about working here?”

If I’m an employee I go to my boss and I say, “Hey boss, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate, want to make sure I keep on doing? Now what’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest positive difference in my performance in this team?” Then a bonus power question, “Boss, what’s the one thing I can do to either take something off your plate or to help you and this team be more successful?”

By asking those three powerful questions, you gather information from your supervisor, from your peers, from your … – if you’re really brave, go home and ask your spouse, “Hey sweetheart, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate in our marriage that you want me to make sure I keep on doing? What’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest difference? What could I do to help you feel more loved and supported in this relationship?”

Then ask follow up questions to uncover and go for a root cause. You hit a root cause, you take care of a dozen symptoms. Poor employee morale, dropping profits, angry customers, poor quality, lack of performance, slow decision making, those are symptoms, they’re not root cause. Poor teamwork, those are symptoms. What’s the root cause? Being able to ask powerful questions.

Then the second tool that goes with that is highly interactive listening, where you follow up on what you’ve heard. You ask follow-up questions. You reflect to show that the person – that you’ve heard them. You check to make sure you really heard them well.

There’s a wonderful quote. I can’t remember who it’s from but I love it. It’s like, “The biggest problem with communication is the perception that it has occurred,” because we all hear what we want to hear.

That courage to be confronted is the courage to listen very carefully, interactively and ask powerful questions. Those two skills alone can transform your perception of you in the workplace because many people are not open to feedback, especially corrective feedback. Many people don’t ask for it.

When you show that you’re willing to ask for the good as well as the not so good, you’re willing to ask for how you can step up and be better and you show that you’re listening and you get into an interactive conversation, your value added, the perception of you as a value added employee, as a value added leader, just really goes up tremendously.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you talked about the power questions that sort of really hit the 80/20 goodness and surface it, then what do some of those follow ups sound like to get to root cause?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. Let’s say I say to you, “Pete, what’s the one thing I could do to make the biggest positive difference in our working relationship?”

You say, “Well, Dusty, if you would start being more proactive. Instead of waiting for me to give you an assignment, look and see what you think needs to happen with our key customers and come to me with some ideas. Don’t wait for me to tell you.”

I’d say, “Okay. Can you give me an example of a time you saw me waiting to be told when you think I could have been proactive?”

You go, “Yeah, two weeks ago with Mr. Jones. When he called in and there was an issue. You’d gotten an email three weeks before that, but I got on the call and I talked to him and as I talked to him I realized there were some things we could do to solve it. When I came to you to ask about it, you had several good ideas. Why didn’t you get on the phone and call him three weeks before after that email to have the conversation with him and come up with the ideas.”

I go, “Oh yeah, okay. That’s great. What would be a question that I could ask of him if I get another email or I see emails like that, what would be some of the questions that you’d want to see me ask? If I could ask only two questions, what would be the best questions from your perspective, from a strategic perspective, Pete?”

“The one question I want you to ask is ‘What’s the one thing we’re doing that makes us most value added to you and what’s the one thing we could add or do different that would make us even more value added, dear customer?’” “Those are great questions. Yeah.”

“I’d like you to start asking those of all of our key customers. I’d like you to start asking that of your teammates. I’d like you to start recording that and about once every four or five weeks, Dusty, I’d really like it if you come in and you give me a down-low on what you’re hearing and what the themes are. That’s where you start being more strategic and proactive.” I go, “Oh, that’s great, Pete. Thank you.”

Right there, you did some coaching and guidance, but I initiated it by asking the follow up questions and being willing to listen and ask for more guidance.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well next up you’ve got the courage to learn and grow. How does this go?

Dusty Staub
Well, that’s a big one. Chris Argyris, a Yale University psychologist, wrote a little book, which talked why is that really smart, successful people start to fail. It’s because they become blinded by their past success. They become – they begin to suffer from something my old boss, Dr. James Noble Farr, called hardening of the categories. The categories get harder as they experience success and they get blinded by that success and they stop learning and growing.

The courage to learn and grow is the willingness to step into ambiguity and the unknown. Most people don’t like ambiguity. They don’t like uncertainty. Yet, when you start something new, when you’re really going down into new territory, it’s going to be uncertain, it’s going to be ambiguous. There’s going to be a lot of fog. You have to be willing to navigate through the fog. That’s one part.

The second piece is – and this is true for a lot of very successful people who start to limit themselves – is you have to give up the addiction to being right. There are two pieces to the courage to learn and grow. The one is to step into ambiguity, the unknown, move through the fear. The second is to give up any addiction or need to be right.

I would rather win. I’d rather find a better way than insist on being right because being right means I’m locked into a cognitive trap. I’m trapped in my old ways and patterns of thinking. It’s what my dad would call being an amateur leader as opposed to a real pro.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Then next up we’ve got the courage to be vulnerable.

Dusty Staub
Yup. And I actually add the words to love. I got the courage to put that in there my – the publisher of the book, the hardback cover of Seven Acts of Courage, was Executive Excellence. My publisher wanted me to take out the courage to be vulnerable. He said, “Executives won’t want that. That’s not good.” But I insisted.

In 1998 the hardcover of Seven Acts came out and … I had the courage to be vulnerable to love. It’s turned out to be one of the most powerful concepts.

In fact Brene Brown did a TED talk that’s gone viral and has millions of views now. She’s talking about vulnerability and the power of vulnerability. Well, I’ve been talking about it since 1998.

For me, the courage to be vulnerable is the willingness to be open. I actually got that term from Max Depree. He wrote a little book called Leadership is An Art. He was the chairman and CEO of the Herman Miller Corporation for 20 years. There were 456th in total sales in the Fortune 500, but number 12 in total return to investors.

In his book he said, “First and foremost the leader must be willing to be vulnerable to the strengths, talents and wild ideas of the people around him.” I was so inspired by that and I realized that that’s exactly what I had to do with my dad to transform myself.

It’s one of the few things that we Americans are really taught. We’re taught to be tough and strong and independent and being vulnerable is weak. Well, being vulnerable takes real strength. It means being open, to raise my hand and say, “I don’t know,” to ask for help, to be willing to be open to new ideas and inputs.

In fact, there can be no real innovation and true passion and creativity until there is the courage to be vulnerable in the corporate ranks and the C-suites, and in the teams and organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, all right. When you say to love, what does that really mean in that context?

Dusty Staub
In a business context it means the courage to really care, the courage to really care.

I worked for a boss who was very opinionated, very stubborn. He was the first founder of the Center for Creative Leadership, Dr. James Noble Farr. He was the head of graduate studies at Columbia University. Brilliant man. A pioneer in leadership thinking.

He was always right, meant all of us were always wrong. Had – being vulnerable and open to him was to admit that I really cared about him. I didn’t like him sometimes, but I really did care about him. I cared very much about our customers. I would call that love, but in business I think it’s showing that you care, that you respect, that you really value other people.

The funny thing is, Pete, I find that – I was … in family therapist many, many years ago. In private practice I found that many, many, men and more than a few women have a fear of being vulnerable, of being hurt and so they block the love. They create the very thing they fear most, which is feeling lonely, isolated and ultimately leaving or being left.

The courage to be vulnerable, to love is vitally important in a relationship. It’s vitally important in business. It’s around that respect, that caring, that sense of letting people know “I need you. I can’t get it done without you.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear, how did that story evolve with you – what was his name, the founder of the Center for Creative Leadership?

Dusty Staub
That was James Noble Farr, Dr. Farr. Well, after being there for two years, he made me Director of Leadership Development. I worked as Director of Leadership Development for three years, created all kinds of programs, and finally I realized I wanted to go off and create my own business.

I want to Jim and I said, “Jim, you and I struggle all the time. Every time a client wants something new and I’m creating something new, you and I fight and argue. I’m actually tired. I think I can go out and do my own thing. I want to give you plenty of notice to leave.”

He appreciated that. I was also the top biller and the top creator of product at the time. He said, “All right, give me two months.” I said, “All right.” Then a week later he came and said, “No, no, go ahead and go, go ahead and go,” because he was afraid other people might want to leave with me I guess.

But I had a three year non-compete, so I couldn’t work with any of the clients, but fortunately AT&T picked us up and a few other clients came in very quickly. It was a real risk. It was really scary, but I tripled my income within the first 15 months and was able to create things the way our clients were asking us rather than trying to always filter it through the thinking of a 70-year-old guy who had things his way.

But Jim and I – I brought him out here to the farm. We did a Christmas party and we gave him a plaque and thanked him because he helped launch this business. I couldn’t be where I am or couldn’t have had all the success without him and his teaching.

He said something really nice to me. He said, “You know Dusty?” He said, “Of all the consultants I’ve worked with over the years, you’ve done more and taken my work further than anybody else and I really appreciate that.” He and I were planning to do some things and then he died from heat stroke at the age of – he was in his early 80s.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man.

Dusty Staub
But it was always that sense of respect and caring even when I needed to leave to start my own business. You can do things like that if you treat others with respect and dignity and you have that willingness to be vulnerable and open.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
The final piece there is the courage to act. What’s behind this?

Dusty Staub
The courage to act is where it all comes together. It’s the seventh act for a reason.

One of the things that I think that you do in this podcast is you help people to really be awesome in their jobs, to really step up and play their game at a higher level.

For me, wisdom and acting, there are people who have the courage to act, but they do it without really thinking. They don’t do good critical thinking. They’re not strategic, so they’re very tactical. There’s lots of activities and they’re acting on lots of activities, but not their highest and best use.

The courage to act without the dream, seeing current reality, confronting and being confronted, learning and growing, and being vulnerable is not going to have as much wisdom or guidance to it. If I act informed by those prior six acts of courage, then I can act with greater wisdom and greater strategic guidance. I might be doing less, but I’m having a far greater impact.

There is a book out now called Essentialism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we had Greg on the show.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I love Essentialism. Greg’s brilliant. I love it because he – I like him and Daniel Pink, Drive because – and Brene Brown and Simon Sinek because these guys are all talking about stuff I’ve been doing since 1998 in business. They just keep validating me, which is wonderful.

What I love about that is I was asking ‘what’s my highest and best use.’ Looking at all of the things on your plate, all of the things you can say yes to, all of the things you’re being asked to do, the vast majority of them offer minimal value. There’s some that offer tremendous value.

Being able to act informed by those prior six acts of courage, allows you to act in more of an essentialist way saying, “What’s my highest and best use? What’s tied to my dream, tied to my strengths, tied to what I’m willing to address, tied to the information I’m getting from listening to other people carefully and to criticism, to be being vulnerable and open, to learning and growing and stepping into the unknown? What are the things I can do?”

Then reorder your priorities. Reorder your goals and let some of the goals go.” What is it I should stop doing?” is a great question. “What is it I need to start saying no to?” because every no is a strategic yes to something else and every yes is a strategic no to something important like time with my spouse, time with my kids, time to recharge my batteries, time to write my book that I’ve been talking about for 15 years, etcetera, etcetera.

Greg’s concept and his way of looking at things I think is a great gift. It’s a key question. How can I be more strategic and offer greater value. Instead of being hypnotized by activity and being a good guy and always saying yes, I need to be able to say no politely, respectfully because I’m saying yes to something more important.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have any thoughts when it comes to – this courage stuff, it’s inspiring. It gets you going, like, “Yeah, bring it on.” At least that’s how I feel, so thank you. It’s fun. Do you have any tips for bringing in wisdom and prudence to ensure that you are applying this well and not in a way that could be overzealous or problematic.

Dusty Staub
Oh yeah. That’s a great question, by the way. It’s possible somebody could take one or more of the acts of courage and go rushing off thinking, “Oh, this is great,” but they haven’t really thought through the implications. Again, it’s like pick your battle.

The courage to confront means being able to tell your truth, but it doesn’t mean you tell your truth all the time to all people in every situation. You need to say, “All right, is this the right situation?”

An employee who confronts the senior leader in a town hall in front of other people is never going to get a good response. Even if the guy or gal is a great leader, they’re going to feel some defensiveness. The better confrontation or conversation is a one-on-one and done politely and respectfully. Yet some people don’t get the courage up until they can attack somebody in a public setting.

I think being prudently aware of timing, of what am I trying to accomplish. Because you can win a battle, but lose the war. I want to think long-term, what do I want to create, how I want to be seen as value added, what are the ways I need to begin to offer my truth.

And let me stage it because I might not be able to tell all my truth all at once, but what’s the first phase, what’s the next phase, how do I see if people are willing to really hear me, how can I position this. Then also in listening.

People might have three or four things they’re critical of. I might – I’d say, “Pete, of these three or four things that you’re talking about, what’s the one thing – if I could only do one of these – what would make the biggest positive difference?” You’d say, “Well, this one,” because you know. Then I know what I need to work on.

Then I can ask follow-up questions about that one and why it matters and what difference it would make, how we would know, how you would know, how I would know that was actually making a difference. That then unpacks it. That’s that interactive listening with power questions built in.

That means I’m being prudent, I’m doing it with wisdom and information. Because to act without information, to act without guidance, to act without a plan, to act without asking for input and insight and corrective feedback is usually a recipe for disaster.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Dusty, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Dusty Staub
Gosh, I would just say this that I love the idea of helping people be really terrific in their work place, being awesome at their jobs, which really drew me to you, Pete.

What I would say is that I think the essence of it is how do we help liberate the purpose, the passion, and the power of those around us. If I can help people focus on their fundamental why, going to Simon Sinek’s talk, we can focus on the purpose here, the why. If we then then look at how the why informs what we do and how we do it, we’re going to be much more effective.

Now, we focus on purpose. What is it that really turns you on? What is it that really is going to excite you? What’s really going to make a difference? Where are you most passionate? Now, together, focus in a purposeful way on our why or what in doing that which gives us a greatest lift, we’re going to really liberate our power collectively.

There’s a term that I coined a number of years ago. I call it the effective intelligence of an organization. One of the things we focus on is multiplying the effective intelligence of an organization by getting people to focus on these fundamentals and then giving them tools to help them move forward in a more powerful way.

I would say wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, if you can focus on the purpose, if you can then find where the passion lies and how to begin to liberate that – my dad had a great quote, he said, “Son, any damn fool can tell you you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The trick is to get the horse thirsty, then you can’t stop it from drinking.”

What makes someone thirsty? Do you know? What kind of questions do you need to ask to figure that out? Then how can we work together in the most powerful way? Liberating purpose, passion, and power I think is a key.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dusty Staub
Oh, my favorite quote right now is one by Einstein, Albert Einstein. It goes like this, he says, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe everything is a miracle and those who believe nothing is.”

I’m the kind of person, Pete, who believes everything is a miracle: the fact that we exist, that we’re alive, the fact that we can see and we can hear, the fact that I can have this conversation with you in this mysterious technology, my children, the love of my life, my family, beautiful trees here in the forest around me. Everything is a miracle.

I think that when we believe everything is a miracle, we’re open to possibility, we’re open to finding our best self. We’re able to find more and more and continue to grow and discover. If I believe nothing is a miracle, it’s all transactional. It’s all just a series of transactions. You live, you work, you die. I think it’s – the real issue is how deeply have you loved, how fully have you lived, how completely have you been your best self?

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.

Dusty Staub
Oh, you’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Dusty Staub
Oh gosh, well, Google just released its research on teams. Google hired really smart, bright people. They put these teams together. They had some teams that were outperforming other teams consistently and they were trying to figure out what the difference was. They looked at over 200 factors.

Finally, – this is on the Google site. It’s been listed in several other sites too. Apple News had it. But basically they discovered that when they started looking at the research there were five factors that make for great teams, but the number one factor that outweighed everything else was a sense of psychological safety.

If you think about it in Good to Great they’re talking about the organizations that went from good to great engaged in vigorous intellectual debate that was not personalized, where you have the type five leader, who’s not egotistical, but really looks out at the world in terms of what he or she can contribute to the world and how he or she can engage others as opposed to how everything can make him or her look better.

Vigorous intellectual debate requires a sense of psychological safety. If I feel that I’m going to be ridiculed, made fun of, punished for offering a crazy idea or offering a criticism or putting an idea out there or putting something half-baked or exploring something I’m not so sure of, I’m not going to do it.

You have people holding back, not sharing ideas, people not engaging in vigorous intellectual debate, so you don’t come up what the best answers. You don’t come up – that sense of psychological safety and then structure, and then a sense of effectiveness and feeling valued, those all come in, but the number one factor is psychological safety. I really love that study.

Years ago Becky Langford, who worked at AT&T in PR, told me, she said, “Dusty, you should let everybody know that you create a sense of safe space for people.” I said, “Eh, it’s too touchy feely. It’s going to scare people.” This was back in 1990 but actually I think if I’d done that, the business would probably be ten times bigger because that’s really the key.

When we walk in to do a training, when we walk in to do consulting or coaching, if we can’t create psychological safety, we’re wasting our time. If you don’t have psychological safety on your team, in your organization, you’re never going to be great. You might be good, but you’ll never be great.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Dusty Staub
Oh, well, I love – I would say Daniel Pink’s Drive. Daniel Pink really when I was reading his book, I had tears in my eyes because he was talking about all the research. He did – looking at the last 30 years of research.

He said, “Look, most managers and leaders in corporations are still using understanding of the 1940s and 1950s. They haven’t caught up to modern research. They’re still using extrinsic motivators, the carrot and the stick. Do this, you get this reward. Don’t do this, you get punished.” That only works if you’re making widgets. But when you need complex intellectual task and innovation, you need to have intrinsic motivators.

He identified the three big intrinsic motivators in the first half of the book. The second half is how to actually use them, which is a sense of purpose, being part of something greater which I get to contribute to, that’s intrinsically motivating; a sense of autonomy, some say so in my work week, in my work month, my work years, so I have some say so and some … in there; and a sense of personal mastery that working here I get to grow and develop.

I love that. It just gave more intellectual fire power to the work we do. It also just made sense in terms of what I felt and known since 1990 in writing my own books and my own material.

Then the other book I really like is The Heart’s Code by Dr. Paul Pearsall. Pearsall is a psychologist who works with heart transplant surgeons and cardiologists.

He said that in all of his research, in all of his work, what he’s come to realize that the heart actually carries memories. In heart transplant cases, people’s personalities change. Some of the characteristics of the heart giver, the donor, shows up in the recipient. He tells about five or six amazing stories in the book.

I was in tears throughout that book because I’ve always said look, the essence of being a great leader is that it comes from the tone and quality of your heart. He just really brought that to bear when he talked about that from his own experience and from his own work as a – working with physicians in heart transplants, heart transplant recipients.

Those are two books I really recommend: The Heart’s Code, Dr. Paul Pearsall and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Dusty Staub
Oh, put first things first. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits. I love put first things first. Know what matters most and make sure you do that first, make sure you put that first. What I see so many people do is we will put first things last. We let the trivial few overwhelm us – the trivial many overwhelm us and the important few get lost.

That goes back to Greg’s book on essentialism. Let’s focus on what really matters most, put first things first. Let’s focus on the essentials.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. When I was a young psychotherapist I came to a realization after about three years of private practice that have really carried over into the consulting work in our organization. It’s simply this, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it alone.

No one can do it for you. You’ve got to have the courage to step up and have the dream. See the current reality and confront or be confronted. Learn and grown and be vulnerable and open and to then take action.

No one can do that for you and you can’t do it by yourself. You can’t go off in a cave and make everything right. It’s through interaction. It’s through learning. It’s through listening. It’s through help. It’s through conflict and confrontation, through criticism, through appreciation, through recognition. It’s the interactive nature of us human beings with each other at our best and knowing that the intent is to help us be our best. That really helps.

I would say this, Pete, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it by yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have – if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them to?

Dusty Staub
We actually have two websites. The business-to-business website for corporations and senior leaders and so forth is StaubLeadership.com, www.Staub – S-T-A-U-BLeadership.com. That links to a YouTube channel. There are like 30 YouTube videos of me. There is a – there’s a list of the books and materials, and also the team that works with me is listed all there.

The new website we started last year is for the general public. It’s for teachers, students. It’s for everybody. It’s called www.TheActsOfCourage.com. TheActsOfCourage.com. There are short videos explaining each act of courage with a story about each act. There are interviews with executives and psychologists and business leaders, and entrepreneurs. There are many articles on there. I’ve written articles, interviews I’ve had with people.

I’d recommend people take a look at both of those websites. Then of course I have a TED talk, a TEDx talk, Developing Cardiovascular System of the Soul, which there’s – also people can pick up.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I would say the final challenge I would say is do you have the courage to be your best self, to claim your deepest dream and to face the thing you least want to face because it’s the act of courage that you’ve least developed that will be your Achilles heel, that will keep you limping through life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Dusty, thank you so much for going deep into this good stuff. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I just wish you all the best in all you’re up to.

Dusty Staub
Thank you Pete and thank you for the great work you’re doing. If I can ever be of any help as you work on helping people be awesome at work, just let me know.

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks a lot.

Dusty Staub
It was a great interview. Thank you.

Leave a Reply