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763: Stephen M. R. Covey Reveals How Great Leaders Inspire Teams

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Stephen M. R. Covey shares why command-and-control leadership is ineffective (yet widespread) and how to get superior results as a trust-and-inspire leader.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The two traits needed to build trust
  2. Why so many leaders today fail to inspire their teams
  3. The one belief that separates great leaders from the rest

About Stephen

Stephen M. R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink and of the FranklinCovey Global Trust Practice, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. A sought-after and compelling keynote speaker, author, and advisor on trust, leadership, ethics, culture, and collaboration, Covey speaks to audiences around the world. A Harvard MBA, he is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. Covey resides with his wife and children in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.

Resources Mentioned

Stephen M. R. Covey Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Stephen, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Stephen Covey
Hi, Pete. Excited to be with you today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited as well. I’m really looking forward to digging into your wisdom on trust and your latest book Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. But just to warm it up, I’m thinking about my son right now, he’s four years old, and my dad, and how there were a few special moments in terms of memories that were really instructive and stuck with me. And since you and your father are both great when it comes to leadership development, is there a memory that comes to mind for you in terms of something that sticks with you and was really instructive and lasting?

Stephen Covey
Yeah, absolutely, several but I’ll share one of them, and I actually put this in the book. It’s in a story that my dad wrote about in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the green and clean story, where he was trying to teach his son how to take care of the lawn. Well, I’m that son, I was seven years old, and my dad was trying to teach me responsibility and teach me how to work and these types of things. And so, he basically, over a two-week period of time, he’s got to train me how to make sure that the lawn, our yard, we had a big yard, how to make sure that it was green and clean.

Now, this was back in the days before automatic sprinklers, which ages me, Pete, but this was I was just a young boy and he taught me, “Look, to get a green lawn, you got to water it. The key to watering it is you got to turn on the sprinklers but how you do it is up to you. If you want you could just use a hose or use buckets or spit all day long. It’s up to you. All I care about is green and clean.”

And then he kind of taught me what clean meant. He cleaned part of the yard, left the other part unclean. So, again, seven years old, so it was a two-week process. I actually distinctly remember it. And then he added one more piece. He built in an accountability piece. So, I had very clear expectations – green and clean – how I did it was up to me. I would judge myself. And here was the accountability, that twice a week that we would walk around together and I would tell him how I was doing against the standard of green and clean.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stephen Covey
And so, he goes, “I’m not your judge. You’re your own judge. You judge yourself. I’m your helper. If I have time, I’ll always help you but it’s your job.” So, two weeks of training, and then he turns it over to me in the middle of the summer. And it’s this scorching hot time during the summer and I did nothing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s not going to be green.

Stephen Covey
I did nothing. I was over playing ball across the street. Sunday nothing, Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday. It’s five days, it’s scorching hot, the lawn is turning yellow by the hour almost, and we had a neighborhood barbecue over the weekend, and there was garbage just strewn all throughout the lawn. It was anything but green and clean.

And my dad, he later said, “You know, I was just about to just yank that job right back from him,” thinking, “Maybe he’s just too young. He’s seven. He can’t handle this yet.” But he didn’t. He stayed with it, and he said, “Hey, son, we’d agreed that we’d walk around the yard and you would tell me how it’s doing, so why don’t we do that?”

So, we started to walk around, and I realized, “This is not looking green at all. It’s yellow and it’s not clean. There’s garbage everywhere.” And I began to break down and cry, and I said, “Dad, this is just so hard.” And he kind of said, “Well, what’s hard? You haven’t done one single thing.” But what was hard was learning to take responsibility, it was me taking ownership for that job and taking it on as my own.

And I said, “Well, can you help me, dad?” He said, “I’d agree I’d be your helper if I have time.” I asked, “Do you have time?” He said, “I’ve got time.” So, I ran into the house and I got two garbage sacks. I came out, I took one and I gave him one, and then I started to instruct him and tell him what to do. I said, “Dad, would you go over there and pick up that garbage that’s fallen out because it makes me want to vomit?” So, he said, “I’m your helper. Whatever you say, I’ll do it. I’ve got time, I’ll help you.”

So, he started doing what I asked him to do. And it was at that moment, as I was directing my dad as a seven-year-old on, “Pick up this. Pick up that. Do this,” and he was doing what I was asking, I realized, “This is my job. I’m responsible.” And it was at that moment that, suddenly, I took responsibility and took over this job of making sure the yard was green and clean. I did not have to be asked the whole rest of the summer to do it a single time. I owned it. I took responsibility for it, and the lawn was green and it was clean.

Now, my dad used to always tell this story when he taught The 7 Habits about how this was the creation of a win-win performance agreement but, Pete, I was a seven-year-old boy. I didn’t know what those terms meant but here is what I did know as a seven-year-old. I felt trusted. I felt my father trusted me and I didn’t want to let him down.

So, I was too young to be worried about allowance or status, but I didn’t want to let my dad down. He was important to me and he trusted me, and I felt it and I responded to it. I was inspired by it. I rose to the occasion. I developed capabilities I had no idea I had at age seven and I took responsibility for a huge yard, and it was green and clean.

Now, that was a defining experience in my life because, first of all, my father built such a relationship with me that his whole purpose was one of love and caring, trying to teach me, so I received it differently because of that. But it’s interesting. I experienced, as a seven-year-old boy, a trust and inspire leader, a trust and inspire parent who was believing in me, and he saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself at that time as a young boy but he didn’t…when he gave me trust and I didn’t follow through, he didn’t take it back and just say, “Oh, too young, can’t do it.”

Or, he didn’t hover and micromanage me, and say, “Now, look, here’s how you have to do this job, and do it precisely the way I say. You got to get out there and water.” No, he gave me the responsibility, he trusted me, and then he let me do it. And I learned, and I grew, and I came out of it better. My dad, later, was also asked, “How did you not just take it over and just either micromanaged him or just take the job back?” And he said, “Because I reaffirmed my purpose, which was to raise kids, not grass. So, getting the grass green and clean was a bonus. That was a nice thing but it was more important that I raise a child that learned responsibility and a work ethic.”

And so, I used that little story as a great example of how if this kind of extension of trust can work for a seven-year-old boy, I bet it could work for a 27-year-old or a 47-year-old or a 67-year-old. We all long to be trusted and inspired. It’s a better way to lead, and we respond to it, and I did as a seven-year-old. So, it’s a great story. It’s a fun story. My dad gives his side of it in The 7 Habits, and my side of it is that I was seven years old, what do you expect?

But really, it’s that I felt trusted. I didn’t know what a win-win performance agreement was but I did know that I felt the trust of my dad, and I didn’t want to let him down.

Pete Mockaitis
That is powerful. Thank you. I love it. And a great way to set up a conversation, talking about trust. You’ve done a lot of research and teaching and writing on this topic, is there a particular insight or discovery that you find particularly surprising and powerful when folks really grab onto it when it comes to trust?

Stephen Covey
Yes, there is one. I don’t know that this one is going to be surprising per se but it is extremely powerful. It’s not necessarily surprising but it happens all the time. So, it’s surprising that this is still an issue because it’s pretty self-evident. And it’s simply this, you could have two trustworthy people working together, both trustworthy, working together and yet no trust between them even though they’re both trustworthy if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other.

In an organization, you could have two trustworthy teams or departments working together, both trustworthy, and yet no trust between them if neither team or department is willing to extend trust to the other. So, to have trust, the noun, the outcome, yes, you need to be trustworthy, and that is earned, we earn that, but we also need to be trusting to give that. So, trust is both earned and given.

I get asked all the time, “Stephen, is trust earned or is it given?” And my response is, “Yes, absolutely it is earned. We’ve got to demonstrate our character, our competence, our credibility. We’ve got to be trustworthy but it’s not enough. It’s necessary but insufficient. We also have to be trusting.” And what I find, as I worked with organizations all around the world, that maybe the bigger factor in those two halves, and they’re halves, I think the bigger factor is that we’re not trusting enough as leaders. We don’t extend enough trust to our people and to others.

That’s a bigger issue than if we’re not trustworthy. Now, we can work on both halves of the equation. We need to work on becoming more trustworthy but, as leaders, we especially need to work on becoming more trusting. And, at some level, that’s not a surprise. But what’s a surprise is that how we’ve almost ignored that piece, and we focus so heavily on the trustworthy side and not near enough on the trusting side. And I want to bring that to the fore, that, as leaders, we got to become more trusting. We gotta be extending trust.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so, since we kind of say the word trust a lot, how about we do a little bit of defining of terms? What do you mean, precisely, by trust? And what are some ways that we extend trust or we show that we are trusting?

Stephen Covey
Yeah. So, by trust, I simply mean confidence. That’s the most simple definition I can give. In fact, Pete, in many languages, trust and confidence are the exact same word, like in Spanish, in French. I have personally presented now in some 55 countries on site, in person, and in about, I’m going to say, over at least half of those countries, where they have a different language other than English as their native tongue, in at least half of them, trust and confidence are the exact same word.

So, in English, we have two words for it. So, think it means confidence. Now, the opposite of trust – distrust – is suspicion. So, confidence versus suspicion. That’s the most simple definition. Now, where does that confidence come from? I suggest it comes from two sources. It comes from having both character and competence. Character and competence, both are vital. If you have one but lack the other, you will not sustain the trust.

This makes a person credible. It makes them trustworthy if they have both character and competence, and that is something that we earn. So, we earn trustworthiness through demonstrating character and competence but then we extend trust, we give trust by being trusting. And I think the opportunity here is to find the ways, as a leader, as a colleague, as a partner, that you can extend more trust to people.

And when you extend the trust, I’m not advocating that you just blindly trust anyone and everyone. That’s not smart in a low-trust world because not everyone can be trusted or there could be that the context matters. If there’s really high risks on the trust you’re extending, or the credibility of the person is either unknown, or is known to be low credibility, low trustworthiness, then you’re going to be very limited or careful or cautious on how much trust you extend.

But, generally speaking, we need to be more trusting, not less, and find the opportunities to extend that trust, always creating expectations, always creating the process for accountability, like my dad did with me on green and clean. He had expectations, “I want the yard to be green and clean,” and accountability, “Let’s, twice a week, you tell me how you’re doing against the standard of green and clean.”

So, here’s a great opportunity right now that companies have had over the last two years coming out of this pandemic. People have started working from home, working from anywhere, remote work, hybrid work, intentionally flexible work, and that’s continuing, and it’s going to continue in some format going forward.

Actually, a lot of organizations really do a great job at demonstrating to their people, as they’re working from home, “That we trust them,” that they trust their people. And it’s explicit, it’s clear that they come in, they say, “Look, we trust you. Here’s the expectation, here’s the accountability, but you need to know we trust you.” And people feel it and they receive it, and they’ve actually accelerated and grown the trust through this difficult circumstance by being deliberate and intentional about the trust that they’re extending to their people.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some other companies with the same setup, where the people working remotely did not feel trusted at all. They felt they’re now just being micromanaged from a distance because there was no choice or option in the matter, and some companies put in place surveillance software and the like, all in the name of productivity to make sure that people were actually doing their job, and it just conveyed and screamed distrust. And so, yeah, they were working remotely but they still did not feel trusted. And rather than increasing the trust, they actually decreased it.

So, what’s happened in the last couple of years has been a great opportunity to actually increase the trust and generate the reciprocity by demonstrating that you trust your people, or maybe have it go the other direction because you’re actually demonstrating through your behavior, your actions, that, “I don’t trust you and I’ve got to micromanage you.” It’s just done differently now because it’s remote.

And, going forward, as people come back, and we come up with a new way of working in this new world, what matters more than the precise mechanics of what it’s going to look like, some hybrid combination of remote and on site, intentionally flexible work, what matters more than the actual structure is our leaders are actually leading with a trust-and-inspire approach with their people where they actually trust them with whatever model they come up with.

Or, are they trying to still operate from a command-and-control model that leads out with distrust with whatever they come up with? That matters more than the actual structure. There are many right answers. What matters more is the paradigm, the mindset of trusting your people.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to dig into that contrast quite a lot shortly. Maybe, first, I want to dig in just a little bit, so in terms of trust is confidence, and someone is trustworthy if they have character and competence. And so, I’m interpreting that to mean character, they have virtue, they’re not going to lie to you or steal. They’re not only looking out for number one all the time.

And competence is like they’re good at the things that their job demands of them. And, thusly, when someone has that, I trust them and that I have the confidence that if I give them some bit of responsibility, they are going to have the smarts to do the job sufficiently, and the ethics to not, I don’t know, skim off the top or do something shady along the way in executing it.

Stephen Covey
Not cut corners.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Stephen Covey
Yeah, you got it exactly. It’s both halves. And too often, we’ve equated trust with just character, and I say, no, it’s equal. Equal parts, character and competence. And a big part of this show, How to be Awesome at Your Job, it’s all about trying to make sure that we can become really good at our job because we know what we need to do. And that’s building the capabilities around what’s needed to do, and the expectations so we know, as well as then delivering on that, performing and delivering.

And so, the confidence is both kind of capabilities and results that, “I’ve got the skills and the talents and the expertise and the knowledge and the insight to stay relevant in a changing world, and I have a track record of performance, of results, that gives people confidence that if you give me a job, I’m going to get it done. Look at my track record. But I’m always learning and getting better and improving, the things that you’re doing with this podcast of, How to be Awesome at Your Job, because I’m learning about the capabilities that are needed to succeed at a job.”

So, that confidence is half as vital because someone could be an honest person and very caring and selfless, but if they can’t deliver or they don’t come through, they don’t do what they say they’re going to do because they’re not capable of it, even though they’re honest, I’m not going to trust them. And the reverse is true. If someone could deliver, get the job done, but if they’re running people over in the process, or violating the values and the beliefs of the company, cutting corners, I’m not going to trust them either, so I’ve got to have both.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. And it’s interesting, at How to be Awesome at Your Job, we have quite the contrast, I think, in terms of getting a feel for, “What is awesome at your job and true excellence look like versus mediocre, ho-hum, like okay?” So, likewise, with character, I’m thinking that, could you paint a picture for what excellence in character looks like versus, yeah, mediocrity? Because I think most of us are not…we’re not sociopaths. We have some level of guilt and conscience. We’re going to obey applicable laws.

And, yet, even with that, like sometimes I still don’t trust folks because it’s sort of like, “Hmm, I don’t believe you care about me and/or I think, if given the opportunity, if there’s ever a tradeoff between a little bit more expediency and profit, and my needs, wants, wishes, you will choose your expediency and profit.” And so, I don’t know, how do you think about what is a picture of real excellence look like in character?

Stephen Covey
In the character?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Stephen Covey
Beautiful. Love it. And, by the way, you identified, beautifully, the two components of character – integrity and intent. And integrity is honesty, truthfulness. Like you say, that someone might say, “Well, I’m particular and I follow the rules and the laws,” but compliance alone is necessary but insufficient. Someone could be legal but not ethical.

But here’s the big opportunity to what you just identified, that the real test of integrity, of doing the right thing, is when there’s a cost or consequence in doing so. Until then, I haven’t fully been tested. What do I do then when there’s a cost or consequence in doing the right? Do I still do the right thing? Another test of integrity is when nobody is looking and may never look. Do I still do the right thing?

So, integrity is, yes, it’s honesty and truthfulness, but it’s also congruence, an authenticity, that we are who we say we are, do what we say that we value, we walk the talk, the say-do ratio is aligned. And then, also, it takes humility and courage to have integrity. Humility, that there are principles that govern, courage to do the right thing when there’s a cost or a consequence, or when no one is looking. And that’s a deeper drive towards excellence.

So, someone could comply, someone else could act on commitment to do the right thing and make judgment calls doing the right thing even when there’s a cost or a consequence, and maybe when there’s degrees of this, where someone could get away, and say, “I was legal,” but maybe the right thing goes above and beyond that. That’s a higher standard, higher expectation of excellence.

And just like how I put competence in the two halves, I put competence in the half of your capabilities, and your results, your track record of performance. I put the character in the two halves – your integrity and your intent. So, the second half of character is your intent, and that is your motive. Do you care? And you mentioned this. Do you care about the people that you’re serving? They know and feel that you care about them. Or, do you not care?

Caring matters in terms of how people feel, in terms of trusting the person. If someone doesn’t think that another person cares about them, they often will tend to withhold the trust, wondering, “Do they really have my best interest at heart?” That’s the motive, caring. The agenda is to seek mutual benefit, that’s win-win. Especially, partners working together, collaborating, in charge of different departments, they just feel like, “Do I feel like you’re truly seeking mutual benefit and trying to do the best for all of us? Or, is it just are you just being self-serving and only acting in your best interest alone, and not really looking at mine? You might not say that but that’s what I feel and experience.”

And if I feel that, that you’re self-serving, I tend to withhold the trust. Or, if you’re only acting in your best interest and not in a shared best interest, I tend to withhold the trust. So, that’s your intent, which is the motive of caring and the agenda of mutual benefit. So, there’s a standard of excellence there for both integrity and intent that you can go much higher than kind of the mere threshold level.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Excellent. Thank you. Well, now, let’s talk about sort of the big idea behind the book Trust and Inspire. So, you say there’s trust and inspire, and then there’s command and control. How would you sort of expand upon the differentiation between the two?

Stephen Covey
Yeah. Well, here’s what the data shows, that most organizations today, in spite of all our progress and our management thinking, are still operating in some form of command-and-control style, about nine out of ten.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting.

Stephen Covey
Yeah, the data is surprising. And, in some form, now here’s what’s happened though, Pete. They’ve become, it’s a far better version of it. It’s not necessarily the authoritarian command and control of the industrial age that was more accepted but it’s more of what I call an enlightened command and control. It’s more sophisticated. It’s more advanced. It’s a better version. A kinder, gentler version of it. We’ve brought mission into it. We brought emotional intelligence into it. We brought strengths into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Psychological safety.

Stephen Covey
Yeah, we brought a lot of good things into it but what we haven’t done fully yet is shift the paradigm, the mental map of how we view people, how we view leadership. We’re still trying to, basically, contain people as opposed to unleash them. We’re still trying to control people as opposed to release them. And we don’t see the greatness inside of people. We see it inside of some who we deem high potentials and not inside of others.

So, the idea that everyone has greatness inside, “I’m sure I’m not ready to buy that,” some people might say, or at least their style has not matched that belief. And so, we haven’t shifted the paradigm. We’ve incrementally improved within a limited applied paradigm, mindset. And that will take you so far, and it’s a better version of it.

So, we made a lot of progress but, in spite of all our progress, we still fall short of really shifting the paradigm to a trust-and-inspire approach, where I start with the fundamental belief that people have greatness inside of them. So, my job as a leader is to unleash their potential, not to contain or control them. I start with trust and inspire. I start with the belief that people are whole people. They have a body, heart, mind, spirit. They’re not just economic beings. They’re a whole person.

So, my job as a leader is to inspire, not merely motivate. You see, motivation is extrinsic, carrot-and-stick awards, external. Inspiration is intrinsic, internal. To inspire means to breathe life into someone, into something or someone, and so it’s inside of them. I light the fire within, and that’s a better thing. And when people are seen as whole people, yes, they have a body, they want to be paid; but they have a heart, they want to connect; and they have a mind, they want to contribute and develop, and use their talent.

And they have also a spirit, with the idea of meaning, of purpose, of mattering. That’s the whole person, and that can inspire people instead of just merely motivating them. So, these are some of the beliefs. Also, another belief is that there’s enough for everyone, an abundance mentality. So, my job as a leader is to elevate caring above competing because there’s many organizations in which they’re competing internally all the time with each other because they’re operating on the basis of scarce resources.

And while scarcity might be a sound economic principle, it’s a lousy leadership principle. Abundance mentality is a better way to lead, elevate, care than about competing. Leadership is stewardship. It’s a responsibility, not a right. So, my job as a leader is to put service above self-interest. And another belief is that enduring influence is created from the inside out. So, my job as a leader is to go first. Someone needs to go first. Leaders go first.

So, these are, collectively, a paradigm of a trust-and-inspire leader. They see people and leadership more completely than more of a fragmented narrow view of, partially accurate, but incomplete map of people in their ship. And until that paradigm shifts, we’re going to stay deep in command and control, a better version of it, an enlightened version of it, but we’ve got to shift the paradigm. And we’re so deep in command and control, we’re not even aware of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s actually exactly what I was curious about in terms of like the trust and inspire sounds awesome. It’s like, “Yeah, that’s where I’d like to work, and that’s what I’d imagine leaders would like to believe is the case in their organizations.” So, when you said the data reveal that about nine out of ten companies are still in command and control, not to get too deep into the weeds on the research process, but I got to believe, if you just asked, “Hey, are you more of a command-and-control or more of a trust-and-inspire organization?” they’re like, “Oh, I’m a trust-and-inspire organization.” People would, self-servingly, want to click that and be shifted there. So, how do you make that determination when you are doing the research on that matter?

Stephen Covey
Yeah. Well, again, we’ve come from different sources in different forms, and some of our own research in which we asked, “If you were to assess the predominant leadership style of the organization,” not what they profess but this is people assessing it, what they experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, gotcha.

Stephen Covey
So, it’s not the senior leadership. If you asked the senior leaders, I think it’ll almost be the other way around. Most of them would say exactly what you’re saying, Pete, “Of course, we’re trust and inspire.” But if you ask the people, “How do you describe the management style of leadership?” and you get far more into command and control.

Also, there’s a beautiful study by LRN, a consultancy that focuses heavily on ethics and things like that, a superb firm that looks at these archetypes of what they called blind obedience, informed acquiescence or self-governance, kind of three different archetypes. And, again, almost everyone is in some form of what would be, in my words now, command and control, either the blind obedience or the informed acquiescence, that they move a lot.

There’s a lot more now in informed acquiescence, so it’s a more transactional type of thing versus a blind obedience, but very few that are into self-governance, which is another capture away for this idea of trust and inspire.

And, again, you’ll see a lot of, again, there’s been progress, but we’re so immersed in a command-and-control world, even to this day, that it’s right in our language. You look at span of control, chain of command, rank and file, recruitment. These are all military terms, and command-and-control is a military term. It’s kind of coming from this mindset, and you see it in our systems and structures. Structures tend to be more hierarchical.

Now, there are some shifts again, of course, we’re seeing in traditional hierarchies and the like. You see it in systems of forced rankings, and your high potential is identifying different things, and performance appraisals and reviews. You see it in all kinds of paradigms of bosses and subordinates and all kinds of different things. So, it just shows up in a variety of ways.

I call it fish discover water last. We’re so immersed, we don’t even recognize it, and we see this command and control is so all around us, we’re often not even aware of it. But another thing is this, that we kind of know all this, that command and control doesn’t really work today as well as it maybe did in a different era, and I don’t think it worked that way that great before either. But to know and not to do is not to know.

And so, it’s one thing to say, “Yeah, we’ve got to lead with trust and inspire,” but it’s harder to say than to do it because people have a hard time letting go. They have a hard time truly empowering. They have a hard time truly extending trust, and abundantly extending trust because they’re worried that they’re going to be held accountable, “What if it doesn’t work? Or, what if I’ve been burned before? Or, what if I don’t know how to do this? What if I can’t let go? Or, what if this is who I am? I built my whole career being this kind of leader, and now you’re asking me to change because we’ve got a different mindset of the new generations coming up and the like?”

And so, it can be really a challenge for people. But one last thought is that old paradigms can live on almost indefinitely, like bloodletting, 3,000 years old. Egyptians were doing it, then Romans, and then it went through the Middle Ages, and then as late as in the 1600s, that’s when the people discovered the germ theory, another thing that said, “Bloodletting is bad map. The map is not the territory. Bloodletting is not it,” and yet it continued for another 250 years being the common practice, or at least a common practice, among many, even though it had been disproven 250 years earlier.

So, old paradigms can continue to lead on, and we’re seeing much of that. Command and control is like a native tongue, and trust and inspire is like an acquired tongue. And when the pressure is on, and if I’m hammering, I accidentally hit my thumb with the nail, I’m going to cuss out in my native tongue because that’s just second nature. So, all these factors are just really why we remain somewhat still a little bit trapped in a command-and-control style of leadership, and we need to shift the style.

That’s why I like to use the word style. This is a meta style. And trust and inspire, you said it, Pete, it sounds better. We all like that. We all want to be trust and inspire. It’s like me and my dad. He didn’t hover over and micromanaged me. He trusted me. He inspired me. And it’s aspirational, we all like that. And I’ll bet some of us have had a trust-and-inspire leader in our life, at least one, maybe many. But at least one whether it be a family member, or someone at work, or a mentor, a coach, who believed in us, had confidence in us, extended trust to us, maybe believed in us more than we believed in ourselves.

So, I ask our listeners, when you had someone like that, a trust-and-inspire leader in your life at some point somewhere, whether at work or at home, or in the community, what did that do to you? Did you need to be managed or did you self-govern? And how did you respond to that? Did you need to be motivated with a carrot stick or were you inspired? Did you rise to the occasion? Did you want to prove justified and give it back, and just feel gratitude, and you perform better? So, that’s the idea.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m curious, you’re right. It does sound awesome if you’re to have that kind of vibe, the trust and inspire, and it does seem, in some ways, almost too good to be true in terms of like a large organization can really work and operate that way without chaos somehow taking over. So, could you give us an inspiring example of a team or an organization that made the leap, they were running in a command-and-control kind of a way, but then they did some specific things such that they are now operating in a trust-and-inspire kind of a way, and it’s worked out okay?

Stephen Covey
Yeah, absolutely. There’s many. Here’s one of them. Microsoft under Satya Nadella. When Satya Nadella got in as CEO, Microsoft had been kind of fading. They’re still huge because they had so much market share but they no longer had the same great culture that people wanted to be a part of. They were starting to lose people quite a bit. They were not innovating and they kind of rested upon their laurels in the past. Not innovating.

A cartoonist in Seattle drew a cartoon of the Microsoft culture in which he depicted silos and pyramids with people from within pointing guns at each other. It was seen as this cutthroat culture that was internally competitive, and the way to get ahead was to take out your fellow Microsoft person there within the company.

I call this the two epic imperatives of our time that we have today. They were not, at the time, winning in the workplace. They did not have a culture that attracted, retained, engaged, and inspired the best people. They were losing too many. And they were also not winning in the marketplace through collaboration and innovation. They’re starting to fade.

In come Satya Nadella, did many things, but among those things, it really was a leadership style. His style was different in kind. He was a trust-and-inspire leader. He modeled, he trusted, and he inspired. Their words for this were model, coach, care, and those were the things they expected of their leaders, and, again, Nadella modeled it.

He modeled humility and courage. He modeled authenticity and vulnerability. He modeled empathy and performance. But, also, this, he adopted a growth mindset, the work of Carol Dweck, not just for him and for their management but for everyone, to see the greatness out of everyone, to have a growth mindset not just for yourself but for everyone.

Because of that growth mindset, they now said, “Let’s trust people. Let’s not manage them. Let’s coach and let’s extend trust.” And you always extend the trust with expectations and accountability so you don’t have that chaos we talked about, or you don’t lose control because you build it in to an agreement and through context and through culture as opposed through more rules or through micromanagement. You can still have control without being controlling.

And they trusted and then they inspired both by caring, which is a big focus for them, and connecting with people through caring at an interpersonal level, and connecting to people at a team level through belonging and inclusion. And that inspires people when they feel like you care about them and they have a sense of belonging. But, also, by connecting to people, by connecting people to purpose and to meaning and to contribution, making a difference, mattering. They did all these things.

Long story short, under him, now they’re really winning in the workplace. They’ve got a high-trust culture that inspires, they’re not perfect, but it’s a cooler place to work than it has been, and they’re winning in the marketplace. They’re collaborating and innovating. They’re a cloud powerhouse. They recreated themselves and they’re innovating again, and their stock price went from, I think when the Dow came in, it was 38, today, it’s about 300, and so dramatic turnaround. They modeled, they trusted, they inspired, led by Satya Nadella and his leadership style.

Here’s another one. Cheryl Bachelder, what she did at Popeyes. A complete turnaround of Popeyes. They’ve had four CEOs in seven years before she came in, they’re just spitting them out. She had advisors say, “Don’t take this job.” There was distrust completely between the franchisees and the home office, and they didn’t trust each other at all. It was contentious.

She comes in. Long story made short, she modeled, she trusted, she inspired even when some people said, “You can’t trust.” She said, “No, we’re going to trust,” and dramatic turnaround. She took their stock price from 11 to 79, doubled their market share from 14% to 27%. They began to innovate, they began to win in the workplace, and they built a high-trust relationship between the franchisees and the home office when it was fractious and contentious before in the old model, and now they also are collaborating and innovating. It was a trust-and-inspire approach to leadership, not a command-and-control. Involvement. Listening.

And Eric Yuan at Zoom is a trust-and-inspire leader but he was that way from the beginning. That was not a turnaround. That was one from the beginning with trust and inspire. So, examples are everywhere. You can become a trust-and-inspire leader in a command-and-control company, so you don’t have to wait for the CEO. You can do this. You can lead out with this.

But I’ll give you one distinction on this, that this is the one piece I wanted to add to it. Command and control, the idea’s that you manage people and things. Trust and inspire, you manage things and you lead people. See, we need great management. I’m not against management. We need management. We need great management. Management of things. And things include systems and processes and structures and technologies and inventories and financials. You manage things but you lead people.

The moment we start to manage people as if they were things, we’ll end up losing a lot of those people. They’ll go elsewhere because we’re trying to be efficient with people. You can be efficient with things but not with people. Be efficient with things, effective with people. Manage things. Lead people. The danger is we get really good at management and we’re starting to manage people as if they were things. That’s kind of the mindset of command and control, they treat it that way. Even the name managing people, the very wording, the language is a command-and-control mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, like people don’t think, “I want to be managed. Like, that sounds great.” I guess we want, even I who, I’m self-employed, at times I would like a great manager, but I guess what I really mean is a leader in terms of someone who really sees what I’m doing well and not so well, and giving me kind, honest, enriching feedback that pushes me to greatness. But, yeah, that doesn’t feel like management per se.

Stephen Covey
Yeah. I like to put it this way, Pete. People don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. They want to be trusted. They want to be inspired. So, again, you can call them your manager if that’s what they’re called but they manage things, lead people, and people respond to that. They still want their help. So, maybe the one piece on this that maybe for our listeners that they might think, “Well, this trust and inspire sounds good but I feel like I’m going to lose control, or it may not be as strong enough for our world and such.”

I want to distinguish and say this. Trust and inspire is not the opposite of command and control. The opposite of command and control is advocate and abandon. Command and control is kind of like excessively hands on, really hands on. Advocate and abandon is like completely hands off to where I’m not even directing, I’m not leading anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, “Do what you want. I’m out of here.”

Stephen Covey
Yeah, “Do what you want.” Like, a holacracy or just no structure, no vision, no expectations, no accountability. That’s not what we want. That’s not going to work. Trust and inspire is a third alternative that includes trusting and inspiring people but also builds in the control into an agreement, into context, into the culture.

Like, at Netflix, they call it freedom and responsibility. They don’t have policies on most things – vacation policies, sick days, all these things. They trust their people. They call it freedom but it’s not a wild loose freedom. It’s freedom and responsibility. It’s a third alternative. They build the control in through context not through controls like most organizations have that say, “We’ve got to control people with systems and structures.” They do it through context, through agreements, through responsibility that goes along with the freedom, through a culture that does that. So, that’s the idea.

And so, trust and inspire is a third alternative. My dad, with me, on green and clean, he actually had built in accountability. He was still holding me accountable but I was holding myself accountable through the agreement we had created together. So, the point is you can be in charge and have control without being controlling. You can be strong without being forceful. You can be compelling without being compulsory.

A trust-and-inspire leader can be authoritative without being authoritarian. They can be decisive without being autocratic. So, the point is, this is strong. This is not weak, kind of like, “Yeah, maybe for a few things but you don’t know my industry. We’re a command-and-control industry with heavy regulation and compliance.” You can still be trust and inspire in these contexts because it’s not weak; it’s strong. It just does it through different means.

It involves people. It creates agreements. It creates contexts versus rules, regulations, policies, procedures, controls. And that’s kind of the big breakthrough. This is a third alternative that is very strong.

Pete Mockaitis
And, Stephen, if folks are like, “Yes, I want that,” and they’re either an individual contributor or they’ve got a small team, what do you recommend as some of the very first steps to getting some of that trust-and-inspire goodness flowing?

Stephen Covey
Yeah. I’d go back to start with your paradigm, how you see people, how you view leadership. Look at those fundamental beliefs. You see greatness inside of people? And if you do, then are you working to unleash that greatness not contain or control it? Most people feel like they have a lot more they can give to their organization than they’re allowed to give. They had a lot more creativity and talent and ability to influence things than they’re allowed to give, and, yet, people are under greater stress to do more with less, and there’s this gap there because we’ve not unleashed our people well enough.

So, start with that, the paradigm. See the potential, communicate the potential to people so they can come to see it in themselves. Develop the potential, grow people, develop capabilities, and this is a big part of what you’re doing with this podcast, is, “What do I need to work on? What do I need to do? What do I need to know? What skills do I need to develop?” Give those people those chances. Develop them and give them opportunities. And part of that includes trusting them so they have an opportunity to learn and even to make a mistake and to fall short like I did on green and clean.

So, you develop the potential and then you unleash it, you tie it to what you’re trying to accomplish and achieve so they can use what they have for the betterment of the mission, the purpose, the organization. And so, I call that see, communicate, develop, unleash the potential that’s inside of people, and you see the greatness. And so, your job, you’re like a gardener trying to cultivate the right conditions for the seed to flourish.

The power, the life is in the seed, it’s in the people. You’re trying to create the conditions for the seed to emerge, to be cultivated, versus a mechanic where it’s all mechanistic. No, it’s organic. You’re a gardener.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you.

Stephen Covey
That’d be the first thing. Start with the paradigm. Have a growth mindset not just for yourself but for everyone on your team.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now let’s hear about a couple of your favorite things. Can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Stephen Covey
This is kind of a mantra that’s in the form of a quote that I learned from my father, and it’s what I’ve adopted for myself, and that is simply this, “Seek to bless, not to impress.” It’s a whole approach of how to work with people and add value to others. So, I do this any time before I give a speech, Pete, as I go into an organization. I come back to, “What’s my motive here? Am I trying to impress people with who I am or am I trying to bless, to serve to make a difference, to add value?”

And if I find that I’m in my head and focused on, “I sure hope I can impress them and dazzle them with a great speech or be seen as really smart,” then I’m putting self-interest above service, and I’m putting my head above heart and not reaching people. But, instead, if my motive is one of caring, and my motive is one of serving, and my motive was one of blessing, not impressing, so I’m really focused on them and helping them succeed, not me looking good, then I find I actually do a better job.

It’s just a simple phrase that I constantly check with myself. And I had to course correct all the time because it’s natural to want to impress but a better way to impress is to focus on blessing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Well, hey, I think we feel blessed and impressed with this conversation, so one makes the other happen.

Stephen Covey
Oh, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Stephen Covey
Well, I’m biased, I love my father’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m in there as green and clean. And I liked how Jim Collins said it about that book, that what the browser did for…it became the user interface that made the internet accessible, because the internet had been around since 1969 or something like that but it was not accessible, it was not usable except for extreme scientist types, but the browser made it accessible.

He describes The 7 Habits, Jim Collins did, as the user interface for human effectiveness. It made it accessible. And it was that for me, and I think it’s that for many others. So, my dad brought together the ideas and languaged it and sequenced it to make it accessible, practical, tangible. And so, that’s, I think, a big contribution. That’s why it’s maybe my favorite book.

I like my own, too, but I’ll let you talk about Trust and Inspire not me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. And is there a particular nugget that you have coined or shared with audiences or your books that gets lots of Kindle book highlights or re-tweets; it’s the Stephen M. R. Covey quote that you’re extra famous for?

Stephen Covey
Yeah, there’s a few. One is that “The first job of a leader is to inspire trust. And the second job is to extend trust.” That’s what leadership is – inspiring trust, extending trust. Another one is, “Treat people according to their potential rather than their behavior.” So, you’re aware of their behavior and informed by it but if you treat them according to their potential, they tend to live up to it far better.

And, finally, one last one, that while we tend to judge others on their behavior, we tend to judge ourselves on our intent. What if we could know another’s intent? I think we’d see them and judge them differently. So, those are a few quotes or expressions that people repeat.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Stephen Covey
You can go to TrustandInspire.com. We’ve got a website for this book, Trust and Inspire. You can get the book. It’s available on bookstores everywhere and, obviously, online through Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com. And then you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn, I’m @StephenMRCovey. I’d love for you to follow me and dive deeper into what I’m calling the new way to lead in a new world.

A new world of work requires a new way to lead – trust and inspire. It’s aspirational, it’s what we want. You said it, I agree. It’s what we want when we’ve experienced it. It’s hard to not feel gratitude toward that and want that. So, my challenge for our listener, I’ll go full circle on this, is I ask the listener to think about maybe someone in your life who was a trust-and-inspire leader for you and what that did to you. So, I’m going to do a 180 on this and say for whom, listener, could you become a trust-and-inspire person? Who could you become that person that would look at you and say, “Pete trusted and inspired me, and here’s what it did to me”?

So, we’ve maybe had someone that’s done it for us. What if we could do it for another? And if you can do it for one, you can do it for many. This is a better way to lead in a new world of work. I think trust and inspire is part of the solution to the future of work. It’s not enough to just deal with the structure and the methodology. It’s the mindset. It’s the style of leadership. And don’t let your style get in the way of your intent.

I think most people’s intent is trust and inspire. I think most of our style, much of our style still falls in command and control. Our style is getting in the way of our intent. And we can change that, we can re-script ourselves, we can learn the skills to lead in a way where we’re very trusting, while also building in control into the trust, into the agreement that we’re building. It’s having control, not being controlling, and that’s possible. We can get good at this.

So, I hope our listeners will find that, the tools, the resources, the book Trust and Inspire to be helpful. I love the subtitle because the subtitle tells it all, which is, “How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others.” This is a book about people and about leadership. Whatever your role, you can apply it as a parent because you want to see the greatness in your children; or as an aunt, or uncle, or grandparent, or godparent. You could apply it as a friend in the community. It’s about unleashing the greatness inside of others. That’s what great leaders do. Trust and inspire.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Stephen, this has been such a treat. Thank you for all you do and for your trust and inspiration. And keep on rocking.

Stephen Covey
Well, thank you, Pete. I feel the same about you. You’re a trust-and-inspire podcaster that’s really trying to focus on helping your listeners succeed, become truly awesome at their job because they know what to do, and you’re helping them succeed. So, commend you and commend what you’re doing here. Wish you every success and also all of our listeners.

760: Taking the Fear out of Feedback with Joe Hirsch

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Joe Hirsch reveals why we all struggle with feedback and shares how we can get better at giving and receiving it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The small shift that improves our relationship with feedback
  2. Why to ditch the feedback sandwich and embrace the W.R.A.P.
  3. What to do when you’re not getting the feedback you need

About Joe

Dr. Joe Hirsch helps leaders apply behavioral science to improve the way they listen, lead and learn. He’s a TEDx and international keynote speaker and the author of The Feedback Fix, which has been praised by Fortune 500 executives, NFL coaches and educational reformers for its forward-looking view of human performance.  Joe’s work and research has been featured in Harvard Business ReviewCNBC, Forbes, Inc., The Wall Street Journal and other major outlets. He’s helped more than 10,000 people across three continents communicate with impact and hosts the popular podcast, I Wish They Knew.

Resources Mentioned

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Joe Hirsch Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Joe, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Joe Hirsch
Hey, Pete. Good to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to dig into your wisdom about feedback. But, first, I want to hear about you and pushups. What’s the story here?

Joe Hirsch
You remind me, I have to go do some. Yes, so I enjoy pushups. I’ve been doing them for like 20 years straight, never missed a day, and I have found that to be a low-impact, high-value exercise. I used to use weights and I found that the weights were cumbersome. I couldn’t travel with them, they took up space in my basement, my kids were competing with me for them, and it never seemed to work.

So, I shifted a while ago, even before like this new phase of my life, and I shifted to pushups and I never looked back. And I feel like it’s a great metaphor for feedback, in general, because the things that we do, the small steps and small shifts that we make, sustained over time, they have such a huge impact. So, all about the pushups, it’s good for you, folks. Go out there and do five while you’re listening to this podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, how has it evolved in terms of where did it start and where is it now and what’s the pushup vibe, groove, goal?

Joe Hirsch
So, after about 20 years, I’m up to three pushups.

Pete Mockaitis
Progress.

Joe Hirsch
I’m getting better every day and, yeah, I think it’s a great way to challenge yourself. So, you set a goal for today, you say, “I’m going to 50 pushups today.” Maybe you can do them straight, maybe not, you break them up into short bursts but you start to realize that those small wins begin to happen and you start to incrementally build upon that progress. And I find that very rewarding.

Sometimes you finish a workout, you’re like, “Oh, what did I just do for the last 45 minutes?” or, “Man, I’m sore but I don’t feel like I did anything.” With pushups you really feel like you’re making gains and you can really track that progress. So, I like the workout.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, cool. Well, we’re going to talk about feedback and your book The Feedback Fix. I’d love it if you could just kick us off with kind of a Joe greatest hit. Is there a particularly surprising or fascinating or counterintuitive discovery you’ve made about us humans and feedback over the course of your career?

Joe Hirsch
I think that if people start to think about feedback not in terms of fear but joy, they’ll be surprised by the resonance of their message and the impact of their words. I don’t care if you’re a manager, or you’re an individual contributor, or a parent, or a teacher, or a spouse, feedback is hard and it makes the conversations high stakes, and that’s exactly when we need to be high touch.

And by shifting our message and our mindset, and in the process of looking out towards the future that people can still change, rather than looking back at a past they can’t, we can absolutely make a difference in the tone and the trajectory of these super important conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. You said joy. Intriguing. I guess we’re going to go into a lot of detail about some feedback things. But any quick perspective on how do we get more joy on the receiving end of feedback? Is there a mindset that is optimal for us?

Joe Hirsch
It’s to look at feedback not so much as a gift, which you hear a lot from people and it’s not wrong. It’s not bad advice but I tend to think of it more in terms of a deposit. Because a gift, you can return. The gift doesn’t have to be something you like. It’s more about what the other person thinks you might need. But when it’s a deposit, that’s when we can start to separate that truth signal from the noise and we can start to build interests on that deposit and take it somewhere if we make the right moves and have the right mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, it’s a deposit, sort of like, “Okay, I can do something with this. I can invest it. I can get rid of the illicit drug money component of the deposit.” Really stretching this metaphor, Joe.

Joe Hirsch
Yeah, it’s not a drug drop. It’s a deposit. And, ultimately, that’s the thing about feedback. We don’t choose the feedback we get but we absolutely choose where it goes. And I think that’s why deposits make so much sense to people because when they think about feedback as a fear-inducing experience, and I’ve literally asked this question, Pete, to thousands of people across the world, leaders at every level, across industries, “How do you feel when you get feedback?” These are the leaders, “How does it feel?”

And then I asked them a simple follow-up, “How did it feel the moment just before you got that feedback, when you knew it was coming?” And the answers are almost universally, “Well, I felt cautious. I felt uncertain. I felt uncomfortable. I felt in pain,” and that’s because, for a lot of people, we approach these conversations with a focus on deficits and not strengths, with a focus on the unchangeable past and not the unfolding future. And we, ultimately, look at feedback as a sledgehammer to hit people over the head with rather than a shoehorn to sort of open up possibilities and potential.

And when we start to make that small shift, whether that’s on the receiving end or as feedback-givers on the delivery side, that’s the moment when we can start to make a world of difference in the tone, in the trajectory, and, ultimately, in the impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Joe, you’re of master distinction. I love this already. A sledgehammer, no, no. A shoehorn, and the past versus the future. Like, these are the sorts of things that make people go, “Oh, okay.” Tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak. And when you add them up, it’s very actionable and doable and potent, so I dig it. So, tell us then, in your dreamworld, what’s really possible with feedback? Like, what should feedback accomplish and do for us as professionals in the world?

Joe Hirsch
So, in The Feedback Fix I explore feedback through the lens of something called feed forward, a term that was first introduced by Marshall Goldsmith. He gave it sort of common currency. It goes even further back before Marshall to some researchers back in the 1960s. But feed forward, a concept that was originally intended to help people elicit quick feedback in almost like a speed-dating format, that’s how Marshall uses it.

And I began to wonder, like, “Could this possibly have a strong research undercurrent to it? Is there something more to this than just a neat way to grab some quick insights on my current performance with total strangers?” And as I begin to unpack the research in preparation for writing The Feedback Fix, it became clear that, in fact, there was.

And when you start to peel this back a little bit, you begin to notice some trends, that when we start to make these small shifts in the way we look at ourselves as leaders and how we operate, that the moment we start to approach with more inquiry and more curiosity and act more like learn-it-alls than know-it-alls, that’s the moment when we give permission for others to do the same.

And we start to shift these dynamics from power to partnership. And, ultimately, that’s what feed forward is. It’s a strength-centered forward-looking view at who people are becoming, not just who they are. And it’s the moment when leaders start to operationalize this mindset of, “I’m going to be more of a listener and a learner, not a teller and a seller.”

That’s when they start to unlock these great insights that they don’t always have, and give permission to the person on the other side of that conversation to continue to be a partner in that process. In a perfect world, we would do a lot more listening and learning and a lot less telling and selling.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that really unlocks what we can become, and that’s beautiful. So, let’s get into it then. You say right now, in contrast, traditional feedback is, you say, broken. Could you give us the rundown on what’s not working when it comes to feedback in this day and age, 2022? I’m thinking United States-centric, although we have listeners around the world. Hello, guys and gals. What’s not working right now in professional settings feedback?

Joe Hirsch
So, you really have three problems with traditional feedback, which happens infrequently which focuses on a past that people can’t change, and, ultimately, it’s preoccupied with weaknesses rather than strengths. So, the first is bias. There’s some really interesting research out there that shows that when I give you feedback, let’s say you’re my employee, Pete, and I’m talking to you about something that just happened at work. The feedback that I give you is filtered through the important priorities and principles that I have and not focused on the things that matter to you.

So, when I give you feedback about your performance, I’m actually speaking more towards my priorities and principles. It says more about me than it does about you. It’s called the idiosyncratic rater effect. And there’s other cognitive mind traps that slip into this process, focusing on people’s past and holding them to it. Recency effect, the most recent thing that happens takes centerstage.

Or, sort of the opposite of that, spillover, where we chain people to their past performance. We don’t ever let them get out of their past mistakes or missteps. Or pillow or horns, looking at people as either all good or all bad, and filtering that way. So, you have big problems with bias, and that’s even before you get into other biases about people’s backgrounds and who they are and their life experiences they bring, and it’s a messy, messy picture.

The other problem is blindness. And, especially today, we’re talking now in March of 2022, today, work is more complex and less visible than ever before. And that’s one of the great upheavals of the pandemic is people started to leave their offices and go work from home. Work became less visible but it also became more interconnected.

And as work became harder to track, because more people, more hands touching projects, and at the same time became less visible because it’s happening away from the view of managers a lot of the time, so it’s very difficult for managers to have all the insights and all the answers that they might have once had.

It’s like if you go to your favorite pizza joint and you order a pineapple pepper pizza, don’t knock that until you take a try, by the way. It’s quite awesome. So, like, who’s responsible for that awesome pizza? Is it the chef who came up with the recipe? Is it the guy in the back cutting all the vegetables to perfection? Is it the farmer who sourced the vegetables or the pineapples? Is it the delivery man who brought it all together? So, who’s responsible for success?

And that’s the question that managers are really focusing on today, “Who’s responsible for success? I can’t see it, therefore, I can’t track it. And, as a result, I don’t know it.” So, blindness is a big problem for people. And then you have memory. Even if we had all the pieces in front of us, we can’t necessarily remember it. And memory researchers talk about this thing called the forgetting curve, and it sounds exactly as it described. There’s a sudden and steep loss of information just as soon as you begin to learn it. And researchers point that loss somewhere between 30% and 50%.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, minutes after you tell me something.

Joe Hirsch
It’s wild. It’s crazy. So, like, if you learn something on a Monday and then you try to implement it on a Tuesday, you’re already wondering, “Well, what was the password?” or, “What was the website I was supposed to go to?” or, “What was the new policy that my managers just told me about?” and we don’t remember it.

And that memory loss steadies and slows but becomes steeper over the course of a week so that by the time a week goes by, we have forgotten almost 90% of information, which is astounding. So, if you think about the fact that most companies are on a performance management cycle that is either annual, which is – oh, God – like why, or quarterly, which is still not great, the problem is one of memory.

The manager and the employee acting like forensic psychologists or archeologists trying to recreate a past that neither one can truly remember, so you’ve got bias, you’ve got blindness, you’ve got memory, and all these factors combine to produce a picture that isn’t pretty, so it’s no wonder that when you ask the question, “Can I give you some feedback?” We have a physiological response to that question. Our hands become clammy, our knees buckle, we feel like less of ourselves, and that’s why traditional feedback is failing and that’s why feed forward is succeeding.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that makes sense right then and there. Like, even before we talk about how you say it, like just the content in and of itself is going to be inaccurate and incomplete. So, it’s almost like roll the dice. It’s like, “Let’s just see what’s going to happen,” and that naturally makes us pretty uncomfortable, like a huge dose of uncertainty and it’s personal, “Joe, I’m going to tell you something about you. It’s going to have some implications about your future and your prospects. I don’t know what it is and it may or may not, but likely will not be accurate.”

Joe Hirsch
Right. And that’s why we have such an instinctual resistance to this. We look at feedback, as you said, as a judgment and it’s not just about our work, it’s about ourselves. We also don’t take it very seriously because we don’t think it’s accurate. And that’s why if managers were to approach the conversation with greater humility and greater curiosity to act, as I call them, as mirror holders instead of window gazers, as people whose job it is to simply enlarge and expand the view of another person rather than to tell and sell the other person on what they think has happened, then we’re going to have a different conversation.

So, it really starts with this mindset, as you said, even before you get to the message. The way we think about this has to really change.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then how does one be more of a mirror holder?

Joe Hirsch
So, it does start with that shift in thinking about, “What is my role here? If the manager says my job is to solve a problem, my job is to force a change,” then you’re going to be frustrated because, as we said, you don’t have all the answers, and even the data you have may not be good. So, instead of trying to tell and sell, ask the other person for their perspective, and this is where approaching with that learn-it-all mindset, a sense of curiosity and wonder can be super helpful. So, that’s the first step is to start to approach more as a partner and less as a power broker.

Once you do that, though, the message really has to shift from, “I’m trying to fix you” to “I’m trying to frame the problem or frame the issue.” And when we start to act as framers and not fixers, that’s a resonant message for people because rather than tell them what to do, we’re trying to unlock an insight that they already have and hold. And in The Feedback Fix and the work I do with organizations, it becomes very clear that you don’t need to overhaul your whole system. With small shifts and how we shape these conversations, we can actually have a dramatic impact.

And it really starts with operating with a simple belief that, “My job is not to force a change but rather to provoke an insight, and use the person on the other side of this conversation. You have answers that I may not have. You have insights that I may not possess. And if I can do a little more to engage you as a partner, to have more of a dialogue rather than a judgment, and to focus on the things that are really important to you and the moments when you were successful and to build on that, then we can start to have a conversation which is focused more on truth, it’s focused on clear goals, we talk to people as humans, we don’t focus on them as numbers, and, ultimately, we make them feel like more of themselves and not less.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Joe, this is beautiful. I think I’ve got a nice picture for the mindset, the vibe, the feel, the attitude to how we’re kind of centered and pointing at this thing. So, now, I’m curious, in practice, let’s say I love it, I want to feed forward, what are my action steps? What do I go do?

Joe Hirsch
So, one tool that I love sharing with clients is something called a feed forward wrap.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, like a hip. Are we literally talking about rhyming lyrics?

Joe Hirsch
No, this is not Tupac. This is all different. Did I just go to Tupac? Well, I really just dated myself.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s classic.

Joe Hirsch
It’s okay. If you watched the halftime show this year, everyone kind of traveled back in time a little bit at the Super Bowl. So, this is a wrap, as in like the sandwich, or more appropriately the opposite of that praise sandwich, which, oh, God, we have given so many times and probably we’d just like to do without a little bit more.

So, the big problem with the praise sandwich is that it tends to be very meandering, it doesn’t really address the issue, it kind of dodges and disguises information, and we hope that people can kind of decipher our intentions somehow by sandwiching what we want to say in between two pieces of praise to kind of trick them and distract them from what we’re actually trying to get across.

And, look, I have no problem with praise. The issue is the sandwich. Research shows that when you sandwich feedback like this, it ends up going nowhere because people can’t follow your message. They tend to think of the person giving it to them as less reliable or trustworthy because we begin to wonder, like, “Well, if there’s an issue, just tell me, man. What’s going on?” And, ultimately, we don’t know where to go with that feedback.

So, the wrap, as in, “Let’s go get a fajita wrap,” yeah. Anyone hungry? Actually, this reminds me, I need to go eat something. So, when we think about feedback wraps, we’re talking to people more candidly, more caringly, and more collaboratively. And wrap stands for what and where, reason, affect, and prompt. What and where, reason, affect, and prompt.

And when you start to break feedback down this way, then you start to give people more clarity and control over the process, you engage them more collaboratively, you yield higher levels of commitment, and, ultimately, you get impact because you’ve got clarity. So, it’s a super effective tool that anyone can do and it helps you shift the dynamics from the past to the future, and from power to partnership.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s very clever, moving away from the sandwich and toward a wrap. It might be a lower carb as well.

Joe Hirsch
Lower carb and high protein. Yeah, definitely.

Pete Mockaitis
So, could you give us some examples walking us through the what and where, the reason, the affect, and the prompt?

Joe Hirsch
Yeah. So, let’s say I have a tendency to talk over people in meetings and you, as my manager, Pete, have noticed this and you got to bring it to my attention right away because other people on the team, they’re commenting on you offline, and they’re saying, “Joe won’t shut up. I mean, literally, in every meeting, the guy is cutting me off and can’t get my ideas out there.”

So, you pull me aside, and you say, “Joe, could we talk? I want to talk to you about something that happened in the meeting yesterday. A couple people felt like you had cut in when they were sharing their idea for how to engage this client.” So, that’s the what and the where. Now, why is that important? Because if you just say to me, “Joe, can I give you some feedback?” in this vague amorphous way, then my mind starts racing and bracing.

And when you look at brain scans of people who are asked that question, “Can I give you some feedback?” It’s amazing what the brain shows. There’s a spike in cortisol, the stress-inducing hormone, that literally depletes us. We become less creative. We experience a reduction in our executive functioning. We feel like less of ourselves. So, that’s why feedback feels so crappy because we are operating in a suboptimal way.

And so, by giving it a destination, a zip code, I suppose, of what’s happening and where it’s happening, you don’t eliminate the fear factor but you mitigate the fear factor. And so now, I know, “Okay, you want to talk about the meeting. It was yesterday. Here’s what happened and it’s not about my numbers. It’s not about my breath. It’s not about the shirt that I’m wearing. And it’s not about my lack of Zoom etiquette. You just want to talk about something that happened in the meeting yesterday when I cut in. Great.”

You then say, “Okay. Joe, look, the reason I want to tell you about this is because Paige and Sam, they felt really bad when you kind of cut in. And I know that something that you would never intentionally try to do, and I know how important our team dynamics are. You’ve been there a while, you’ve obviously demonstrated commitment to our goals and our values as a company, and I just wanted to bring this to your attention because it hurt them.”

And so, there’s two reasons, Pete, why we want to give the reason. Even if we’re talking to adults who are fully formed and we assume are aware of everything. The first is that people aren’t as aware as we think they are. There’s some great research out there on self-awareness that 90% of us have only 10% self-awareness, which is an astounding gap in perception and reality, and that’s why we have to tell people about this because they might not even be aware of how they’re showing up in the moment.

The other reason you want to give the reason is because of our innate need for certainty. So, I was on a plane recently going to a client event. We’re back on planes now, post-COVID, that’s kind of cool, but everyone was still a little bit anxious. And so, we got on the plane and we did the pre-flight stuff and everyone’s buckled up ready to go, and then nothing.

Like, we were just on the tarmac. We weren’t moving and people were getting fidgety and nervous and they started to look at their watches, and they’re like, “What’s happening?” and there’s no announcement, and everyone was beginning to worry, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” until the pilot finally got on and said, “So, we’re actually just, you know, we experienced a small mechanical issue. One of the members of the crew are coming to check it out. It’s a small warning signal that went on. We’re just looking into that before we take off.”

And so, now I’m thinking, “Oh, a warning signal, a warning light. Great. That’s why we’re here. It’s not because there’s bad weather forecasted, or not because a member of the crew got sick, or someone’s experiencing a medical emergency. It’s just a warning light.” And then you’re like, “Oh, a warning light. Well, maybe that’s a bad thing, but at least I know. At least I know what it is.” And so, certainty and self-awareness, we got to give the reason.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I guess it’s sort of like in that situation, your fears about what could be were brought into a narrow scope in terms of, “The reason I share this, Joe, is because this is one of many signs that I need to fire you.” So, it’s just like, “Oh, okay.” It helps contextualize in terms of, “The reason I share this is because you care about our team and our values and people are feeling good and having a good vibe, and I want to help you accomplish that,” as opposed to, “And the reason I’m sharing this is because, as you know, layoffs are coming and this quadruples the odds that you’re going to be out of here.”

Joe Hirsch
I might not add that part but I love everything you said at first.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess what I’m saying is some people freak out, I think, because we talked about certainty and how spooky it is because it can be anything, “Can I give you some feedback?” It can be anything from “You’re fired” to “You’re the new CEO.” And so, when you give that reason, it situates us quite nicely in terms of, “Okay, this is really what’s at stake here.” It might be big, it might be small but at least I know.

Joe Hirsch
And I care enough about you to tell you what that is and I want you to understand where I’m coming from and I want to make my intentions clear. So, that’s good to start but a lot of feedback operates with those two assumptions in mind. Let’s give a location and let’s talk about the context. Where feed forward really starts to show its magic with this wrap approach is in the final two stages – the affect and the prompt.

So, here’s a universal human truth. People can argue with what we say but they’re less likely to challenge how we feel. And so, when I shift the dynamic of the conversation from blame to emotion, or from judgment to description, that is the moment when you feel a little less assaulted by my feedback.

And so, if I were to say, “Look, the reason why I want to have this conversation with you and the reason why it’s important is because I felt badly for Paige and Sam who, in that moment, kind of just…they looked a little defeated and a little frustrated because when you cut in like that, Joe, it was really hard for them to retrack and recoup, and they had a hard time resuming where they were. So, I felt bad in that moment because that’s where they kind of lost their train of thought and the meeting kind of took a dip.”

Now, that’s a different statement than, “You’re rude. You’re a jerk. And you’re insensitive to the needs and feelings of your colleagues.” So, by moving this away from judgment, you-statements, “You didn’t do this,” or, “You did this and you really shouldn’t have,” we move it into I-statements, “I felt bad. I noticed this and I felt bad for these people who were affected by this.” And, again, here’s where we’re really moving it out of the high-stakes context and we’re shifting ground to a place where people can approach more humanly, and they can say, “Oh, I wasn’t even necessarily aware of that. I’m really sorry. Like, that wasn’t my intention.”

And then, finally, you get to the prompt. After all this has happened, you’ve talked about what’s happening, where it’s happening, the reason, the affect and the impact that was brought about, the emotional toll, here’s where feed forward is so powerful, Pete, because this is where we operationalize that mirror-holding that we talked about before, that listening and learning, and we give the control of the conversation to the other person, and we say, “Okay. So, what are your thoughts on where we go from here? What do you think? What do you think we should do?”

And it’s in that moment when people feel like they have the agency and the opportunity to be a partner, that’s when they’re going to do one of two things. They’re either going to say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what you want me to do. I don’t know.” And that’s okay. Some people will say that, and that’s when you can say, “All right. Well, I want you to think about it. I realize right now, it’s maybe a lot, you’re processing, you’re taking it in. Let’s pick this up in a day, or in a few hours, or whatever your cadence is for this.”

But still with the assumption that, “I want to hear from you. I want to know what your thoughts are.” Or, the more likely scenario that I’ve observed and I’ve workshopped this in real time with teams, and I’ve seen this almost all the time, people will have an answer at the ready because we are closest to the problem which means we’re also closest to the solution. And that’s when we can come up with an idea.

And, by the way, the ideas that others will come up with are very close to, if not the same, as the ones we would’ve proposed ourselves, except now they belong to the person who suggested them, which means they own them, which means they’re going to act on them, which means they’re going to feel a greater sense of responsibility towards them. So, we’ve built commitment where there could’ve been concern. We’ve created partnership where there once was power. We’ve created agency where there might’ve just been accountability. And we’ve shifted the whole dynamic from “I know better than you” to “You can do better for yourself. Let me just try to help you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, that’s some good powerful stuff. And so, I’m curious, with the prompt, you said, “What are your thoughts on where we should go from here?” Is the idea that the prompt should nudge in a future-oriented direction as opposed to, “So, what do you think?” or, “Do you think I’m full of malarkey?” Is it that the prompt is a prompt that is forward-pointing, future-pointing?

Joe Hirsch
I think it’s both. You’re making a great point. It’s very nuanced. When you ask that question, you’re really asking for two things, “Do you accept my premise?” and “Do you have ideas?” So, one really neat thing that has happened a lot is when managers ask this question, a lot of times they’ll skip step one, which is, “Does the person accept my premise?” Usually, the person will because it’s presented in a way that is non-judgmental and very descriptive and it’s focused.

But sometimes people do get stuck on that first point, they’re like, “Well, actually, I want to just push back a little on what you just said.” Or, worse, they get their hands crossed, the ears turn red, and the smokes starts to come out of the ears, and they’re like, “Hell, no, I don’t agree with what you just said,” but that’s useful data because, now, you know that there’s something else going on here. It’s not just, “Joe is talking over other people in the meeting,” there’s a fundamental problem that lies beneath the surface that you’ve now uncovered because you’ve given me the opportunity to weigh in.

So, that’s good data, but, yes, it is about looking towards a future action that, ultimately, that person can control and one that they’re going to set on their own terms and timetable, again, with some nudging from you. It doesn’t mean that you, as a manager, now abandon your responsibilities to help move this person or this project forward.

A lot of managers will ask me, “This is nice but aren’t you actually like taking away my power? Aren’t you actually making me weaker?” And I say, “No. No, no, no. If you do this right, you become more powerful because, ultimately, you’re activating the real job of management, of leadership, and that’s to empower other people.” We have the power, as leaders, every day to empower others to find and to feel their best selves.

And when we start to do that, Pete, with these small shifts and how we shape the conversation, how we allow it to be received more impactfully, we’re increasing our power because we’re sharing it. And that’s the fundamental assumption here that we become more powerful and more impactful, we have more influence as managers when we help others become better practitioners, better contributors, better members of our organization, and that’s the real secret. By giving that control to others, it’s not what we give up. It’s what we give that really matters.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking here, when it comes to the prompt, and they might say, “Oh, I think that’s ridiculous,” and then, you do, you learn some things, you’re like, “Well, Paige has been running her mouth about this ridiculous idea that derails us every meeting and it’s wasting our time,” blah, blah, blah. Okay. Well, now, you’re right. You’ve learned something that, “I didn’t know you felt that way about Paige.”

Well, then there’s something to respond to, it’s like, “Hey, you know what, and now that you mentioned it, Paige really does do that all the time.” It’s like maybe there’s another conversation that needs to be had, or it can be like, “Whoa, this person is so kind of, I don’t know, self-absorbed or focused on the wrong stuff to really…this how this person sees the world. Wow, we’re going to have to do some more work to,” I guess I don’t want to fix people, right? We talked about that earlier. But we have to do some more work to get an understanding of where we need to move forward optimally here given that’s where they’re coming from.

Joe Hirsch
And, really, the job of leaders is to unlock those insights for people. And feed forward is one tool in a leader’s toolkit that allows him or her to set those conditions for positive and lasting change. And one of the things that’s been gratifying to see is that this works regardless of one’s experience levels as a leader, background or training. It works in every industry, and I’ve spoken to, I think, just about every single one, that people can do this with just a few tweaks in how they approach these conversations.

It’s not an overhaul of the system. It’s about making small incrementally positive changes in the way we look at people and performance so that we’re, ultimately, doing the real work of leading others, and that’s to lead them closer to who they actually are and can still become.

Pete Mockaitis
And I suppose we can do this wrap thing not just when we’re “correcting” something but also when we notice something that was awesome, it’s like, “Hey, I noticed in this document, in the questions you prepared for Joe, my Joe interview, that it was very thorough in terms of sub-bullets there, and I bring this up because I love it so much I want to see that every time if possible because it’s filled me with delight knowing that I am not going to look like a fool in having this conversation. I was very well prepared.”

“And so, I’m just curious, what did you think about? Did you do anything different when you were preparing this? Or, is there any way we might be able to go forward so this happens every time?” In all that, we’re saying, “I like the thing you did. Let’s have more of that.” And you could use the same wrap format just fine.

Joe Hirsch
A hundred percent. In fact, there’s a variation of that that I’ve helped leaders use in these formal conversations they’re having around existing cadence of performance management on a quarterly or annual basis. And one of the things that they’ll do is they’ll open the conversation by saying, “Tell me about a time when you felt like you were just at your best, whether it’s over the last quarter or the last project, or even the last year, and you start with strengths.”

And, again, that’s what feed forward is about. It’s about activating people’s best selves, not dwelling on their worst selves, and people will say, “Well, actually, my numbers were great but you know what really was wonderful for me the last quarter? I felt like, as we shifted to a work-from-home environment, I was able to really be connected in a different and more substantial way to my colleagues. It was weird. We weren’t together but I felt more connected to them. I guess we just felt like we were in each other’s lives. And that sense of being right up close and personal to people just made me feel more close to them, and that was a big high for me over the last three months.”

Now, that’s not something you might have expected to hear as the leader but now it’s intel that you have. So, you start with that strength and say, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize that was so amazing for you. Like, what did you learn in that process?” You start to uncover the conditions or the factors that played a role in that. And as people start to lay the groundwork and talk about that trek towards the summit of their success, that’s the moment when it becomes clear to you but also to them who and what made this possible.

And that activates a sense of collective success, which researchers have shown is a much more powerful driver of scalable success than simply just focusing on individual achievement. So, that when I realize that I did something well or I achieved something great, and it’s with the support of Paige over there, and Sam over there, or Pete over here, and you as my leader, that’s the moment I become encouraged, empowered, and excited about doing this again because I’ve got the support of others, and that’s what leads to the scalable success.

I’ve done it before, I have people by my side who are ready to help me do it again, and now you’ve prompted me by talking about those conditions and then talking about the coordinates of where I can go from here, and you’ve said, “All right, where do you go from this? This is amazing. This is awesome. How can we build upon that? And tell me what your ideas for continuing this and scaling that.” And, again, you’re leaving it with me. You’re leaving the conversation with me for me to suggest the next move.

And rather than just dump and run, I sit and I strategize with you. We talk about it. It’s a dialogue. We’re having a person-to-person conversation. Feed forward is now a more human enterprise and it allows everyone to feel like they’re actually able to be actively involved in their own story of success. And that agency is what makes people feel so empowered, so committed, and so excited to make these positive changes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s beautiful. Well, tell us then, if we’re not the manager but the individual contributor, or even if you are leading people but you want your boss to share some of this good stuff that you’re not getting, how do you recommend we encourage and ask for useful feedback or feed forward so we continue learning, growing, and becoming all we could be?

Joe Hirsch
I think it starts with becoming a feedback magnet, making sure that you are asking for feedback, but more importantly…

Pete Mockaitis
And just like asking feedback, is there some magical way to do that or words or…?

Joe Hirsch
Yeah, I definitely think it starts with knowing what kind of feedback. So, it’s not just, “Can I have feedback?” but knowing the type of feedback that you want. Is it corrective? Do I need guidance from you on how to fix something? Am I doing this right? Is it coaching or developmental in its nature? “I’m having a problem with Paige. Can you give me some advice on how I can navigate that relationship?” Or, sometimes you’re just looking for an atta-boy, like, “Hey, look what I did and I want some praise. And even it is a sandwich, I don’t care.”

So, knowing what kind of feedback you’re after will help the person who’s giving you the feedback know what kind of feedback you want. So, be clear on your expectations and they’ll be clear on what they give you.

I think the other thing is to really be careful about separating the signal from the noise. So, you asked for feedback, and maybe you get the feedback you weren’t expecting. Maybe it’s a little more negative or corrective in nature, and you’re like, “Ooh, that’s a downer. I was coming to Pete for praise and, instead, I got a lecture.” So, what do you do then?

So, that’s the point where you want to put aside the emotion. It’s hard. So, if it can’t happen in the moment, you maybe schedule another time to talk it out, but you say, “Look, I’d like to learn more about this.” Start to ask what I call lightbulb questions, things that give you more insight into what the person was telling you or meaning to tell you when they said it.

So, a good example of a lightbulb question would be like, “How often are you seeing that?” “Have you noticed this before?” “Am I doing this a lot?” Just gather information about that so that the lightbulb starts to go off for you so that you know what’s going on. But then you want to funnel a little bit with these funnel questions. And I love funnel questions because it allows the person who’s giving you the feedback to be more specific about it.

The problem with traditional feedback, we talked about a bunch of issues, but a big issue for a lot of managers is that they either feel it’s an all-or-nothing proposition, “I either have to throw everything at you at once and unleash a torrent of feedback and information or I’m going to be very selective and even a little bit stingy with the feedback that I give you. I don’t want to give too much because I’m worried about rocking the boat or saying something that’s going to upset you.”

So, we have to try to help them size and shape the feedback just right, and that’s where the funnel questions come in. Asking, and this is my favorite one, “Okay, so you’ve kind of told me what’s going on. What’s one thing that I can do to change the situation or to improve, or to get better at this?” Now, by asking that question, “What’s the one thing…?” you’ve made it easier for them to tell you what to do. That takes the chances of them of dumping and running and really reduces that by a major order of magnitude. But, more importantly, it’s given you now just one thing to do.

And we can do one thing. We can act on one suggestion. We can make one shift in how we interact with our colleagues or how we think about our work. And so, asking that funnel question is critical because it allows us to become more aware of what’s happening and what to do with it next. And then, finally, widening that feedback loop, because even when we have clarity, it can still cause a lot of pain. We know what has to be done but we’re still nagged by the problem of, “I don’t like the person who gave me the feedback or trust that person,” and so immediately I’m discounting what that person said.

So, going outside that conversation to a trusted friend, a colleague, a spouse, your mom, whoever it is, is going to help you process this information with more objectivity and less emotion. That’s going to help you separate facts from feelings, tone from truth, and baggage from opportunities, and that’s really where we want to go with that. So, become a feedback magnet and do those things, and it will become a little bit easier to get the feedback you need at a time when you need it.

Pete Mockaitis
And I like some of the wordings you’ve provided. I suppose what I think what I often wanted to know in terms of feedback, but I didn’t quite know how to say it without sounding off. I wanted to know, basically, what do I need to do differently to blow your mind and think I am an exceptionally awesome employee who absolutely deserves to be promoted soon? That’s what I wanted to know. But I didn’t know if I could ask it like that.

Okay, Joe, feedback master, how would you recommend I ask a question like that? Basically, I want to know, hey, this show is called How to be Awesome at Your Job. I want to know, from the manager’s perspective and for progression and promotion, how do I become more awesome?

Joe Hirsch
So, the first thing to do is to bring some good data with you to that conversation and to help your manager see from an objective point of view why you feel this conversation should happen in the first place. So, I’m a big fan of collecting small wins, and it’s not an act of self-congratulation. It’s an act of self-preservation. It’s what we need to do to continue to grow and evolve in our work.

So, keep a little list of wins, maybe some email folder, maybe it’s an app you use, but just track your wins whether that’s a work win, or whether that’s relationship win, something you’ve done to contribute to the values of the organization. Keep those because you’ll want to bring that data.

And you’ll say to your manager, “Look, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been able to work in this organization with the support of wonderful people who’ve allowed me to be successful but I’m really hungry to grow. I have goals for myself and I want to find ways that I can deepen my connections, and increase my contributions, and build on my competencies. And how can I do that? What are your ideas for me?”

And your manager will be like, “Wow. First of all, I agree with you, those are great wins,” because you’ve now reminded your manager about those things that he or she may have forgotten. Remember, forgetting curves, so it’s good to bring that back to the surface. So, now that you’ve kind of sort of warmed the conversation with that data, that’s when I think you’ll impress your manager by saying, “Look, I’m all about…I’m all in on the contribution. I’m all in on the development. I want more than anything for you to help me reach that next level of success so I can continue to feel like I’m deepening my contributions to our organization and to our team. So, what are your ideas for that?”

Again, you prompt. Don’t tell your manager, “I want a 5% raise.” Now that may be what you want but don’t tell that to your manager because, you want to know something crazy? What if you just bring this out into the open, leave it with your manager, and your manager is like, “You know, Joe actually did a great job this last quarter. Three other people of our team have recently left. I don’t want to lose him. I’m going to offer him 10%.” Why would you already limit yourself by telling your manager what you want when your manager may come back with an offer that exceeds your expectations?

So, start with the data, frame it in the context of collective success, let the manager know that you’re aligned, you’re all in, you’re committed, you want to grow. This is music to every manager’s ears. Like, what does a manager not want to do? Put out fires, worry about retaining high-performing employees, dealing with office drama. And here’s a person who has demonstrated a record of success, is all about the team, has demonstrated some very clear and measurable indicators of his value. So, now, what can we do as an organization?

Maybe it’s offering Joe opportunities for continuous education. Maybe it’s new project assignments. Maybe it’s leading up another project that we’re going to do soon. And, again, that may not be your 5% but over the long term, that could have a return of 20%, 30%, open up opportunities that advance things you wouldn’t even have foreseen.

So, if you’re the employee, don’t limit yourself with your first thought. Have that in the back of your mind and you can always come back to that as a point of negotiation. But as an anchoring principle, don’t limit your potential or your profitability by telling the manager what you want. Let the manager tell you what he or she is ready to give.

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

Joe Hirsch
I think that every leader listening to this, or every employee, or every parent, every teacher, should realize that they have the power to empower other people. And feedback doesn’t have to be a cause for fear. It really can be a cause for joy when we change the mindset, when we shift the message, when we stop looking back on a past that people can’t change and out towards a future they can.

We deliver the promise of feedback which is to help people become the best versions of themselves, the people they could always become but maybe aren’t yet at. And with the small changes, we give them more power, more possibility, more potential. And we shouldn’t play small with people’s potential.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, Joe, could you give us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Joe Hirsch
So, I should probably have this tattooed somewhere on my body. I quote it all the time. C.S. Lewis said, and it captures everything we talked about today, “You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Joe Hirsch
So, there’s a management professor at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern by the name of Loran Nordgren, who did some great work on what he calls the Perspective Gap. And what he uncovered with his colleagues is that we tend to underestimate the effect of something on others when we are not going through it ourselves.

So, he brought a bunch of people into a room and have them stick their arms in warm water, and said, “Imagine what it would be like to be in a freezing cold room for five hours. How would it feel?” And they would describe what they thought that intensity of pain might be like, and it was rather low. He brought another group of people in, this time arms soaking in cold water, and said, “What do you think it would be like to be in a freezing cold room?” as they soaked their arms in cold water, and the intensity was greater as you might expect.

But here is what was the surprising part. He then, third group, brought them into the room, had them soak their arms in warm water, take it out, and then describe what it was like. And the intensity of that pain was less than what it was before even for the cold group. Because once we experience something, and then we forget about what that experience is like, we then underestimate the impact of that experience on other people.

And that’s why, when I asked the question, “What’s it like to get feedback?” and they come back with words like caution and anxiety and worry and pain, I then say to them, “Okay. So, how do you think it feels to the other person who’s getting your feedback? Do you think they’re experiencing some of that?” And this Perspective Gap plays an important role in the conversation as we shift our mindset around feedback because it’s not just about approaching with inquiry and humility. It’s also about exercising greater empathy.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Joe Hirsch
I love Team Genius by two authors, Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone. And the book is great because it talks about the power of teams, and how we can’t really do as much on our own as we can with the support of other people. And I love the message they bring.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Joe Hirsch
Yeah, so this actually, somebody tweeted this out the other day, and they attended a talk that I gave. And I never quite know what’s going to land with people so I love Twitter for this. You can see what really resonates. And they said, and I guess I had said this, it makes sense, I say it a lot, “We can’t choose the feedback we get but we always get to choose where it goes.”

And it’s so true. When we give people the opportunity to become agents of change, when we give them the possibility and the power to shape that future that’s still unfolding rather than locking them to a past that they can’t change, that’s the moment when people feel energized, activated, and empowered by our feedback, and it’s more likely it’ll go somewhere, and, ultimately, lead to positive and lasting change.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Joe Hirsch
So, I would love to connect with folks on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, that’s kind of like where I live online. You can read more about my work and research at JoeHirsch.me. I’d love to catch you as part of our growing international audience of listeners on I Wish They Knew, Big Ideas, Small Conversations. Get that wherever your podcasts are played. And I look forward to helping you find a little more joy in your feedback because we can.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Joe, this has been a treat. I wish you all the joy in your feedback and elsewhere.

Joe Hirsch
Thanks, Pete. It’s been real.

755: How to Market Yourself to Maximize Career Opportunities with Diana Chan

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Diana Chan outlines best practices for improving your career prospects by marketing yourself well.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The biggest networking mistakes professionals make  
  2. The real first step to any successful job hunt
  3. The right way to answer, “Tell me more about yourself”

About Diana

Diana YK Chan is a former Recruiter turned Executive Career Coach, Speaker and Trainer at My Marketability. Her mission is to empower you to own your greatness with confidence to shine and thrive in your career. She’s recognized as LinkedIn Top Voice in 2022 for Job Search & Careers, where she’s known for differentiating your personal brand, building strong relationships, and communicating with confidence. Diana is the Creator of Top Talent Academy, where she’s coached thousands of clients globally on how to stand out, get hired and earn more. She’s the host of the “Dare to Differentiate” live show on LinkedIn and YouTube.

Resources Mentioned

Diana Chan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Diana, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Diana Chan
Hey, Pete, I’m so delighted to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Well, I’m delighted to have you and I thought it was really fun that you mentioned that you were a listener in 2018 and my producers found you now, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Diana Chan
Yeah, I’m super excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, so we’re talking about job search stuff. Could you maybe kick us off with maybe a particularly surprising or counterintuitive or extra fascinating discovery you’ve made over the years about just what does it take to win in this job search world?

Diana Chan
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ve been helping thousands of job seekers, and since the pandemic, I’ve been seeing a lot of people pivoting. And one of the things that I really noticed is that it’s not about being the most qualified candidate, it’s about how you connect and communicate with the interviewer to convince them why you’re the ideal candidate with confidence. So, it’s not just about your qualifications but how do you show up to showcase that you are the one and how you can help them?

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that makes sense in terms of many people have probably had the experience of, “Oh, I’ve got all the right stuff. I’m checking the boxes, the skills, the experience, the knowledge,” and they may even be angry at the injustice, like, “I should have been selected but I wasn’t.” So, connection, we’re going to dig into that. But, while we’re here, anything, any top do’s or don’ts when it comes to connecting well?

Diana Chan
Yeah, I love that question. So, one of my networking tips I love to share is always my ABC’s. Always be connecting, always be curious, always be cultivating. And the way I look at the connection piece is that a lot of times, people neglect the networking piece until they need to look for a job, but you really want to look at connecting with people anytime because you just never know what opportunities may unfold along the way.

So, some of my best tips is really asking questions, getting curious, showcasing the curiosity that you’re really interested in them, showcase warmth as well, like this sincerity and authenticity to really connect, finding common interests. It really helps as well to build that trust and rapport instantly there.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And I guess I’d also love your take in terms of maybe zooming out a bit. Right now, allegedly, The Great Resignation is upon us, and we’re recording this in March of 2022, and it seems as though it is the employee’s market or more so than it has been before. First of all, is that a fair assessment or am I just repeating talking points that are false?

Diana Chan
You’re absolutely correct because millions of people have quit their jobs which means that employers are having a hard time to fill the vacant roles and the new roles there, so it is a candidate’s market right now. However, it’s also a very competitive market, meaning that not only, yes, there are these vacancies but this is where the whole personal branding comes in, that you need to really elevate your personal brand to differentiate and stand out and showcase not just your qualifications but what it is that you can really do for the employer.

How can you help them solve their problems? How can you really help them achieve their goals? One of the biggest or I guess newer things that I’ve been seeing right now, because I tend to work with a lot more seasonal professionals who have at least 10 to 20 years of experience and they’ve been in the same company for a long time. And what I’m seeing right now is that there are more new jobs being created that never existed before.

So, it is so important to be able to diversify your skillset to showcase the potential that you have to offer. So, for example, I’ve seen people, like I had a client who was a director in operations at a hospital in the ICU, and she made a pivot to work in long-term care. And she had a newly created role for her from the CEO where it was a combination of operations, strategic partnerships, and quality. So, it’s leveraging her background but also the need of the business of working for heading of how she can add value there.

Pete Mockaitis
What do we call that title?

Diana Chan
It’s like a combination of multiple traits.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Cool.

Diana Chan
It’s a newly created role. And I think when we look at it, there’s this need of your ability to be able to think strategically and work cross-functionally, understand multiple different areas of the businesses there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. We’re already getting into some juicy how’s and tips and tricks. Maybe to kick us off though, could you share a why in terms of why do we want to always be connecting if we feel like, “Hey, this job is working out okay”? Could you give us a story or some research, some inspiration that can get us in the mode of, indeed, always be connecting and branding and doing this stuff?

Diana Chan
Yeah, absolutely. So, the way I like to think about it, and I’ll tie this connecting and branding together, I talk about the importance of personal branding. It’s really going to help. It’s all about who you are, how you’re perceived, and what’s your promise in terms of your value proposition. When you have a strong brand and you also add that with connecting with people, it’s going to add more credibility. And when you have more credibility, it’s also going to increase your marketability which is a result that’s going to help you get more opportunities as well.

And so, when you connect with more people, and when I think of connecting with people, it’s not just about you getting something from them, but I talk a lot about give, give, give before you get. So, the more you add value and help others, people are going to remember you. So, I’ll just give an example is I used to work as a former recruiter. And one of the things I love that not a lot of people do that stand out is when the candidates I reached out to that are not the right fit but they refer other people in their network to me, and I always remember these people because not a lot of people do that.

And it’s this whole pay it forward where the more you do it, the more people are going to remember you. So, for me, in my instances, I love also referring all sorts of people in my network. If I know a client that’s a good fit for a role, or someone I know, an employer that’s filling this role, I’ll make an introduction. And the least I can do is maybe open some doors. I can’t guarantee the job but at least it opens doors to opportunities. And by doing that, you’re going to build this trust, essentially, so when it comes to asking for a favor down the road, people are more likely to say yes because you have built this credibility there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. And so, you’re saying you were the recruiter, you interviewed candidates, you told the candidates no, and they still brought you…

Diana Chan
No, no, they said no to me. Yeah, both ways. I’ve done that, too. I have rejected candidates. Actually, when I was at Google, I’ve rejected more people than accepted. And some people are just really good at relationship building that they referred me other people. And there’s the other way around where they didn’t…it was not a right fit for them that they rejected me but then they recommended others in their network to me. And I always remember these people because we’re talking like probably just 1% or 2% of the people who actually do that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. It’s rare and it’s special and you remember. And so, you’ve got a broad network of people who are looking to help you out, you increase your opportunities. And then I guess I’m thinking specifically because I’ve learned that most of my listeners, go figure, like their jobs, and I’m not trying to say, “Quit your job.” But I think that it can be quite possible to get comfortable, which is not always a bad thing, sometimes you just really want to be in that groove, and yet I think that it’s in our interests to be connecting and to have an eye open.

And I’m curious, like I heard some stat, and maybe you’ll know it better than I, that most of us…maybe I heard it from Ramit Sethi, it’s like most of us are being underpaid by, I don’t know, 10% or some amount. And, I don’t know, first of all, do you think that’s true or just how much opportunity do you think we leave on the table by not keeping our eyes open?

Diana Chan
I think you leave a lot, and this is because we don’t manage our brand or manage our network, you’re not being known, you’re not being seen, so the marketability and feasibility and credibility is lacking there, so people may forget about you if you don’t have that. So, you mentioned like your listeners here, like they love their job.

And one of the common things I see, because I work with a lot of people who either have been at the same company, say, a decade or 20 years, and they face a restructuring, or they got a package, and they need to start fresh. A lot of times they don’t know where to start. And the common thing I hear is that they have not worked on building their external network, which is understandable because they put all their time and effort in their internal company here.

But one thing I talk about is you don’t want to wait till the time when you need to look for a job to start networking. You can start even networking with people internally or people you know who made a jump externally to stay in touch with them because if you have this relationship and they’re hiring down the road, they are going to keep you in mind.

And as you move up in the company, let’s just imagine you get to this VP level or SVP level, there’s going to be less and less of those openings. And oftentimes, and I see this a lot with my clients, is a lot of times they find an opportunity to uncover new opportunities a lot faster because of networking or they are referred by other people.

Study shows that you’re five times more likely to get hired through a referral. And when you have these relationships, doors just open. I have seen where clients, the difference between an executive-level client where they have a strong external network that normally takes at least six months maybe to a year to find a VP level and above, to someone landing in couple of months, two to three months, because they were able to tap into their network there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I thought that’s a really compelling argument right there in terms of it seems obvious but I guess I haven’t really thought about it until you’ve really said it just now that if just imagine an organizational chart, I got an org chart and the boxes and they’re cascading down, like there are far more individual contributor roles than there are manager roles; and there are far more manager roles than there are director roles; and there are far more director roles than there are VP roles; and far more VP roles than there are C-suite roles; and far more C-suite roles than there are CEO roles.

So, that’s just sort of the basics of spans and layers and mathematics and how that works out. And, thusly, if you are on a cool trajectory, you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re being promoted, indeed, there will come a day in which it’s like, “Oh, shoot, there’s not very many spots left.

So, there are not many opportunities left, and it’s like, I don’t know, someone needs to die or retire, and that might be years before that happens kind of a situation. And so, if you are ahead of the game with your networks and your people, your connections, then you’ll have a much easier time making the leap into the upper echelons when there aren’t as many spots available for you. That makes good sense. Thank you.

Diana Chan
Yeah, and I think that there’s going to be a time where people will hit either a plateau in their career where they either feel like they hit their ceiling or there aren’t really that many opportunities, or things are not just as challenging anymore and they want to consider something new. One thing I can say to your listeners, from my experience, is that if you are either looking to make that bigger leap of either greater responsibilities or greater income, I should talk about the tangible results of the greater income, I know from experience you’re more likely to get a five to six-figure jump of salary by making an external jump than internally.

Pete Mockaitis
A five to six what?

Diana Chan
Five to six figures more than before by making an external jump than an internal promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
More? So, you were thinking, “Okay. Hey, I’m a manager at,” we’ll just say a cola company, “and maybe I could be promoted to a director of a cola company.” You’re saying that if I were to go become a director at a competitive cola company, I would expect to get not just an increase in compensation, which I should get, I’m being promoted anyway, but rather $10,000 to $100,000 extra on top of bigger bump just because I went external.

Diana Chan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Okay.

Diana Chan
It is huge. Like, internally, when you think about it, the typical pay raise is between 3%, 5% maybe 7%.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, an annual, like I’m sticking around doing the same thing.

Diana Chan
An annual increase, right. That’s like the typical type there. Like, I’ll give an example. I had a client, even not at a senior manager level, senior manager client in product management at a telecommunications company. He made a jump to fintech, a financial technology company, and it’s like a growing startup. His salary increased by 40% and received a five-figure signing bonus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Chan
At the similar level, the senior manager level.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. There you go.

Diana Chan
And so, if you can imagine for those who are making the next-level jump, even a title jump, what the possibility. Now, I can’t say this is a guarantee, but right now, because it’s a candidate’s market, and if you are really good at what you do, you have a great reputation, you have a great track record of success, you have really great skillsets that’s in demand right now, you have higher negotiation power.

I’ll give you another great example, like literally just happened to my other client, a more junior-level client, a senior business system analyst. So, a more technical role and a Salesforce type of a role there. The employer offered a number but he also had another offer elsewhere that was paying more. And so, he went back to negotiate, and say like, “Hey, they’re offering like a 100K and you’re offering me 75K. What can you do?” That’s a 25K difference, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Diana Chan
Within a couple of hours, this employer got back with him with a $25,000 more plus another 10K signing bonus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’ll do it. Cool. Well, that’s exciting, the opportunities. Thank you. So, I think we’ve built a nice strong why there with regard to whether you want to, and whether it’s in the future by years, you get ahead of it, or you might be surprised to learn that there’s a big opportunity that you’re just not even aware of available to you right now. By doing the stuff, you increase the odds of you being able to seize that and benefit.

So, let’s talk about some of the goods here when it comes to connecting. Can you share with us a few of your best and worst practices when it comes to growing a large and meaningful professional network?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, one of the things with networking is, first, we ought to really focus on give, give, give before we get. So, I think that’s the first thing in terms of building your network, is think about, “How can I add value to other people?” And this is where you can really think about, like, “What expertise do I have? What am I passionate about? Who do I like to support there when I think from that perspective?”

And then from there, if we’re thinking of, “Well, what type of network do I want to build?” This is where you want to map out the qualities or people that you want to learn. One of the tools I love using to build my network is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to build your network, stay in touch with people, and it’s also a great way for you to share your expertise, to build your credibility, and authority as well.

So, over time, the more you start, essentially, giving back or helping each other out, your network is just going to increase. So, for example, like I’m connected to hundreds of recruiters on my LinkedIn and because I started off also working as a recruiter, and over time, you just meet other recruiters as well to learn about best practices. A great way to meet other people is find other people who are doing similar work as you but in a different industry to share best practices. That is a great strategy.

I have some of my very senior-level clients where they spend a lot of time in the same company, and the way they approach networking is think of how they can share best practices to help each other out there. So, that’s another great way to build a network.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s super. Okay. And so, when it comes to sharing, you can share with people that you already know in terms of give, give, give and so that they, “Boy, Diana is so swell. She always has all kinds of insightful great things that I’m so glad to know about.” So, you can do give, give give. And then when it comes to meeting them new people, how do you recommend we do that?

Diana Chan
Yeah, I love this. So, this all starts with really building the trust and rapport. And the way I like to think about it, even if we dropped careers and job search aside. Let’s just imagine we’re meeting someone new, how do you go about doing that? The key here is really finding the mutual common interests that you have.

I’ll give you a very simple example. This was a couple of years ago when I went on a cruise, so this was pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, you meet a lot of strangers on a cruise, and I met this family where my kid was playing with their child, and we were just standing there beside each other, and I tried to spark a conversation. And I noticed the father was wearing the Raptors T-shirt, the basketball shirt, and I could tell that he was from Canada, being from Toronto.

And that’s how I started a conversation, I was like, “Oh, I see that you’re wearing a Raptors shirt,” and we were able to start talking about a little bit of basketball, a little bit of where we’re from, what we do and all that. And just from that, we were able to actually exchange contacts at the end of the very short, like a 15, 20-minute conversation that we would like to connect further there. So, that’s one example of connecting, is building that trust and rapport by finding a common interest.

Another, let’s just imagine, like going to, let’s say, a wedding, going to a wedding there. One of the common things is that we all know the couple, so that’s a great way to bond with each other. I also believe that the way to connect a big part is really showcasing warmth and curiosity. And you just never know by just doing this, just by being genuine yourself, what opportunities may open up.

One of the examples that I love sharing is actually this was many years ago at a wedding. The emcee which was a sibling of the groom, she had fantastic energy and warmth and enthusiasm that it was just very captivating. Like, she got the entire crowd going there. And I knew that she was a new grad, I knew from my friend that she was a new grad, that she was graduating and she’s looking for a job.

And I remember, like she made this instant impression on me that I actually said to my husband that, “She would be fantastic for your new-grad leadership program at your company.” And long story short, I referred her to the company, and she got hired. And to this day, she’s still at the company.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Just working on the microphone at a wedding.

Diana Chan
Like, this is what I call opportunities that you don’t even think about that you can actually land a job by really showcasing your best self.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Okay, cool. So, that’s some of the connecting piece. Can you dig a bit more into some of our personal brand, professional story, unique value proposition, kinds of self-knowledge and representation pieces? How do we, I guess, get that clarity first of all? And then how do you recommend we write it up or what do we do with that?

Diana Chan
Yeah, that’s a big question and I’m going to break it down. I’m going to break it down from the clarity piece and then I’ll move into the branding piece. So, that’s part of a lot of work I do is really helping people get clear of who they are, what they want, what’s important to you. When you have clarity, you have more courage and confidence to pursue whatever you want and you come across as a much more compelling communicator.

So, the first step is really knowing, like, “What are my core strengths? What are my interests? What are my core values?” When you can even get clear on strengths, interests, and values, it becomes your guiding compass of what kind of opportunities that you want to pursue, and it becomes your selection criteria as well in evaluating opportunities.

So, the first step is always soul searching before job searching. I find the common mistake people make is that they jump right into job searching, updating their resume and LinkedIn profile before even getting clear on what their target is. And I have found that when you’re not clear on what you’re targeting, your messages, your brand, the way you communicate, it’s not compelling or convincing enough. So, that’s really the first step. It really pays off by doing that soul-searching work.

And I have found by doing that, for those who want to, say, make a pivot, pivot into a different industry, a different profession, it’s really going to help them with updating and finetuning the next stage which is the personal branding. I’m really passionate about personal branding because my belief is that when you elevate your personal brand, you, essentially, increase your marketability, which is ability to attract more opportunities, and your ability to increase your earning potential. So, the greater your brand, the greater your market value, which is aka your earning potential there.

And so, this whole personal branding piece is really what I love to do as a coach, is essentially identifying what differentiates you. What differentiates you? What your unique selling points? So, I have my five P’s that I guide my clients through when it comes to defining their personal brand. And so, the first, and I’ll walk your audience through here, the five P’s here.

The first is the product, which is seeing yourself as a product. So, you want to think about your features. What are your strengths? What are your skills? What’s your personality, your expertise, your interests? All those things that you want to identify, like really just getting clarity on that. If you’re not clear on what your strengths are, you can take a test called the Gallup Assessment, which is a StrengthsFinder in identifying your top five strengths.

The second P is the potential, which is really your performance and results. So, this is what I call the track record of success. This is like the proof point. Employers love to see your track record of success there. So, really mapping out all these accomplishments of yours and all these performance reviews and results is really going to help you tell a compelling story.

And then the third P is the perception, which is how others see you. This is your reputation. And what you can do if you’re not sure is to send out a survey to your friends, your colleagues, your boss, and at least 25 to 30 people. Ask them questions, like, what words will they use to describe you, what are your core strengths, what value do you bring, how do they describe your leadership style or communication style.

And I find that when my clients do this exercise, it’s always very eye opening because it helps them see, like, “Oh, this is how I’m perceived, and these are the things that I want to amplify,” if that’s really true to you. So, an example, one of the core words people always tell me is that I’m always very high energy, very passionate with what I do, so the way I show up, I want to reflect that as well.

And the fourth one is positioning. So, this is around the messaging, which is really how you craft out your unique value proposition. This is where you want to think of, essentially, like your personal branding statement, your top three unique selling points. I believe in selling yourself in three points because that’s how you become more memorable. This is where you can come up with the benefits of hiring you, like, what are the benefits are there. So, really thinking of it from the employer question point.

And then lastly, the last P, which is packaging. So, this is the whole how you present yourself, how you want to show up online, on camera, the whole in terms of your brand, style, your tone of voice, all those things tied to the five P’s. So, when you walk through these five steps of the five P’s of personal branding, it’s really going to help you then elevate all your other marketing materials. Like, you think of the resume, the LinkedIn profile, your elevator pitch, everything is going to tie back to your personal brand.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fun. It’s funny, when you said the P’s, I was like, “Oh, product, place, price, promotion.” Then we started with product, I was like, “Really?” So, then, okay, I got you now. So, packaging, that’s interesting. So, that could very much be the things like what you’re wearing, your resume design. And I like that in that what I like about your framework is, one, it’s alliterative so I can remember it. So, thank you. Five P’s.

And, two, it’s like resume formatting and clothing stuff is not the end-all-be-all but it matters. It is one of the five. And so, I like that because, as you said, it’s tempting to go right for the, “Ahh, let’s jump right to the job hunting.” And you said, we want to do soul searching before job searching. Nice turn of a phrase. Thank you. So, that’s excellent.

So, now, I’m curious, with regard to packaging, I think there are some easy things with regard, “Don’t have crazy fonts in your resume. Look professional. Don’t have your LinkedIn photo be shirtless or bikini, unless you’re a model.” That’s what you’re trying to represent specifically, like, “Look how I’m beautiful. You should hire me to promote your products.”

But I guess where I’m thinking most about is positioning, with the personal branding statement, the three steps, the benefits. Please, let’s dig deep into this.

Diana Chan
Sure. This takes time. This is an exercise where it takes a lot of time for people to do. Maybe we can go into the branding statement because that’s usually the arc of the rest of the things, the benefit statements there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Let’s do it.

Diana Chan
So, I can share, when we think of personal branding statement, essentially, it’s a short and sweet sound bite that is the anchor of defining who you are, what you bring to the table. That’s what it really is. And I see that as like an arc that helps set the tone and stage of the rest of your content. It can also be used as like a very simple one-liner intro when you’re introducing yourself. You can have it at the top of your LinkedIn bio statement or the tagline. It can also be part of like your top statement in your resume as well. So, you can come up with that and then just tweak it accordingly.

So, I’ll share with you, I guess, some of the guiding principles, say, like if you ask, like what are some things you want to avoid is you want to avoid being fluffy in terms of just having descriptive words that is being fluffy. You really want to focus on, essentially, impact. Like, what is the value that you really bring to the table?

So, I’ll give you an example for myself, what I’ve created is I’ll say something like, “I’m a personal branding marketer for corporate leaders and executives in career transition. I’m known for identifying your unique value, mastering your messages, and communicating with confidence to stand out, get hired, and earn more.”

So, you see what I created here is you have the title, the title of what you do in terms of your profession, and then who I serve, I’m serving those corporate leaders in transition which is like the specific scenario that they’re in, and then you can use, “I’m known for,” “I have a track record of success in,” and you either identify like one to three of these value prop statements that is, essentially, more employer-focused or what someone wants to achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Now, so this can land in the summary of our resume. It can land as the top…well, let’s see. I guess we have a character limit in the LinkedIn…

Diana Chan
Tagline? Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
…tagline. So, that could be the personal branding marketing bit.

Diana Chan
What you can do shorten it is I can help you here. If you think of LinkedIn, yes, the tagline is short. So, what I can say is, “I help you stand out, get hired, and earn more.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s there. But then in your description, you can go into the whole bit.

Diana Chan
Exactly. Exactly. So, you can shorten it in the tagline that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that was great. I’m thinking more, more, more. Could you give us some more great examples and then maybe some disappointing examples, and tell us, “Hmm, what’s a little bit off here?”

Diana Chan
I’ll give another one. How about if I have a poor example one right now? I have another one, it’s a marketing person as well, “I’m an analytical marketing leader with a proven track record of managing successful marketing campaigns, and deriving insights from data to drive business growth.” So, in this example, we described this person as an analytical marketing leader.

In some instances, they like to have people who are analytical type of roles. In this case, we talked about managing successful marketing campaigns and deriving insights from data to drive business growth. So, we know that this someone is a good data-driven marketer, essentially, in simple terms. A data-driven marketer.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that was fun when it comes to recruiting or marketing or coaching. How about something in like project management?

Diana Chan
That’s a great question. So, one of the tips I want to offer the audience, because I know many of you have different professions, different area of expertise, the way I want to coach you to really think about it is, one, think about the words that will describe you, and, second is really thinking back about what’s the main mandate of what you do and what’s the significance or the importance of the work that you do.

So, if you can just ask yourself those questions, it’s like, “I help drive…” Is it revenue, if you work in sales? Or, if I’m in accounting, “I help ensure things are accurate.” Or, if I’m marketing, that, “I help drive market share.” You want to just get clear on what are those metrics there. So, let me give you an example around project management.

An example could be, “I’m a strategic project manager with proven success, driving multifaceted software implementation projects that spark incredible results and ROI for my clients.” So, this is like something short and sweet. You can go deeper if you like to have more numbers, but at least, at a very high level, you’re going getting clear on, okay, you worked on software projects that help with driving an ROI for your clients. So, that already gives a hint to someone that you could be maybe in a role that you worked with clients in a consulting role but in a project management capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s handy. And then that gets you thinking in terms of…I guess there’s always this delicate dance between we want more detail versus being succinct because it’s sort of like, “Oh, incredible results and ROI. I’m thinking was it more on the cost-reduction side or more on the revenue-generation side?” And then you can sort of…I guess that’s why people hire you is to really get into the, “Oh, the tradeoffs associated with…is it going to take me 20 words to describe the cool what incredible result means in my world or is it so varied that we’re going to have to leave it at that?”

Diana Chan
Yeah, yeah. Well, so one of the things I want to point out for the listeners who are listening to this is this is a sound bite, so meaning it’s like short and sweet and punchy. It’s a little different when you’re supposed to talk, come up with your elevator pitch, that common question of, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s a build-on to that. So, if you get a question in an interview, “Tell me about yourself,” don’t just use this one-liner sound bite. Make sure that you go more in depth, and this is where I guide people through another form of helping them crack out their two-minute elevator pitch there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us about that.

Diana Chan
I knew that was coming. Yeah, the elevator pitch is something I love working with people. I have a course called Master Your Glowing Introduction, and it’s my popular six P’s. I have another six P’s that I guide clients through there. And so, it’s broken down into three paragraphs. The first is, essentially, the who you are piece. So, think of your passion, that’s where the first P is your passion. What do you care about?

And the second P is, essentially, the potential. What are you known for? Think of your strengths. So, that gives a really good sense of who you are. Most people tend to just start off with a chronological order of when they finished school and throughout their entire career history. But if you start with this of what you care about and what you’re good at, it’s going to pique interests.

And then second paragraph, essentially, is your credibility, which is the third P of your past experience and your proud accomplishments. So, this is going to give credibility because you’re going to share with them a summary of your experience. So, instead of just listing out every single job that you had, you really want to think of a summary of years of experience in this industry, in these functional areas that you’ve worked in, and then highlight some of the problems or projects that you’ve worked, that you’ve done.

And then come up with a good story because no one else is going to have this proud accomplishment story the same as you so you want to think of something that you’re really proud of that’s going to become more memorable.

And then to close, which is the third paragraph, is the fifth P is present. You want to bring it back to the present of, “What are you looking for now? What’s next? Why are you looking for a change?” Or, bring it back if you’re going for an interview, like, “Why are we talking here?” And the other P is purpose. If you’re trying to sell yourself, you want to talk about why you, “Why do you believe you’re the best candidate for this opportunity? Or, why do you believe you’re going to be successful for this job?”

So, just by following this formula, it’s going to give you, essentially, when you think about it, a bit of who you are, what’s your track record of success, your motivation of what you want, and why you want it. And I can tell you from experience, every time I do this exercise with people, without them having any knowledge of the six P’s, all they talk about is what they’ve done since they’ve finished school.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so that sounds nice. So, that’s about two minutes altogether?

Diana Chan
Yes, two minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Diana, tell us, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Diana Chan
Now, one thing I do want though, since we’re on this topic, is we can maybe talk about is for those who are looking to pivot or looking to make a change, how they can go about doing that, what are some of the things they can do to help them with that. So, for those who are really feeling either stuck or at a crossroads, how to go about figuring out what’s next, there are a few pieces of advice I would offer.

One is I talked about the soul searching before job searching. That’s the first piece, it’s really gaining that career clarity. Second is go conduct informational interviews, go talk to people to find out, “What does that day-to-day look like? What does it take to be successful? What are the challenges in that job?” When you get more intel and insight, it’s going to help you have better conversations there.

Third is, once you know what you want, create a reverse-engineer roadmap to figure out, “What are the steps it takes for me to get there?” So, may you want to even identify what are those options. Like, if you’re not clear on what you want yet, identifying, brainstorm these options out, and assess the pros and cons. You can talk to people, you can do research, whatever that is, it’s really going to help you gain more clarity there.

Once you have all this information and you’re really clear on what you’re going after next, this really all the steps that I do is like about repositioning. Repositioning your brand, figuring out what really differentiates you, what’s going to resonate with the audience, and then think about, “How am I going to update my LinkedIn profile, my elevator pitch, my resume?” to really tie it back to your brand that’s really going to make you stand out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, now, Diana, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Diana Chan
Well, one of my favorite quotes I love to say, a lot of my listeners like they do know, is, “Own your greatness with confidence to shine and thrive.” And what I mean by that is when you own your greatness and believe you have something valuable to offer, and you own it with your confidence, you’re more likely to shine, stand out, and reach your full potential and make a difference.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, Vanessa Van Edwards, her book on Cues. Their research that was really fascinating was around how they studied 495 pitches on Shark Tank. And what they discovered, those who actually win or pitch or get the money from the Sharks are those who’ve demonstrated that high confidence and the high charisma, the warmth. I find that very, very fascinating.

And so, this is where it ties into the work I do, of what I said earlier of this podcast, is it’s not just about being the most qualified candidate. It’s about how you say what you say that’s going to win you as the ideal candidate to hire.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Diana Chan
My favorite book is Designing Your Life which is a great book for those who are not sure what they want to do next. That’s a great book to check out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Diana Chan
LinkedIn, hands down. I love using LinkedIn on a daily basis to share content, share my expertise, connect with people, make new friends. I love doing that. And I also love just having my own show to connect with my audience.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Diana Chan
Well, one thing I’ve been doing is actually having this morning ritual right now, is really making sure I’m taking care of myself, whether it’s taking my vitamins, taking all these healthy drinks, or having this quiet moment of meditation before I take my kids to school. Those are some things that I really want to feel grounded and start my day strong and fresh there.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Diana Chan
It’s the own your greatness. Own your greatness with confidence because you know why, Pete, is oftentimes when people come to me, they lack that confidence in selling themselves effectively. In order for you to reach that next-level role or get promoted, you really have to own your greatness with confidence to really reach those next-level opportunities.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, what I would say is start tracking your accomplishments and results. If this is something you haven’t been doing, create a success file, start tracking your accomplishments that you’re proud of. And then I would encourage, for those who are not active yet on LinkedIn or have a bare bones profile on LinkedIn, I encourage you to create an awesome LinkedIn profile and to connect with me as well because that’s how you’re going to start building your network and attract more great opportunities there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, on LinkedIn, they just type Diana Chan, C-H-A-N, and there you are?

Diana Chan
They type in Diana YK Chan because there’s a ton of Diana Chan. Diana YK Chan, you’ll certainly find me there.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Diana, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best and keep up the great work.

Diana Chan
Thank you so much, Pete.