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608: Finding Extreme Clarity for Better Career Fit with Tracy Timm

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Tracy Timm says: "He or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty."

Tracy Timm discusses how to define your professional value and find greater fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three types of fit that determine career satisfaction 
  2. Why an emphasis on job titles hurts our careers 
  3. How to get clear on your toughest decisions in one hour 

About Tracy

Tracy Timm is the founder of The Nth Degree® Career Academy, the proven career clarity system that helps high-potential professionals discover, define, and drive careers they love. She has a degree in behavioral psychology from Yale University and studied design thinking with the founder of the d.school at Stanford University. 

Tracy left a successful but unsatisfying career in finance, traveled once around the world on Semester at Sea, and discovered her ideal career. For more than five years, she has applied these lessons in her career advisory work with hundreds of individuals and over one hundred fast-growing companies. Tracy lives in Dallas, Texas. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Tracy Timm Transcript

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

Tracy Timm
I’m super pumped, man. It’s been a long time coming, some mutual friends between the two of us, and this is going to be a fun conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for your patience. It’s all my fault that it was a long time coming.

Tracy Timm
Oh, my gosh. Absolutely not. You’re a busy man.

Pete Mockaitis
We take our time when we investigate or stalk prospective guests, and, well, you came up tremendously. So, I want to hear, first of all, you have won three different national championships in two different sports. What’s the story here? What are the sports? And how did you do that?

Tracy Timm
I did not achieve that level of success again until I was a senior in college, and not in softball but, actually, I had finally got recruited at Yale to play softball, I played for two years, and then I quit the softball team to do other things and find something that I really enjoyed, and I started playing club volleyball for the team on campus but the club team not the varsity team, and we won a national championship my senior year. And, like, nobody saw it coming, it was the most random event of all time. Yeah, nobody saw the Yale volleyball team coming. But we had so much fun, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s lovely. So, we’re talking about you’re being unstoppable in the world of careers. So, I’m curious, do you think there’s a parallel in terms of your sports championship unstoppability when it comes to being unstoppable in your career?

Tracy Timm
Oh, man. Yeah, when I was getting recruited out of college, and I was finding that a lot of companies, and you might know this already, are really interested in hiring athletes because of the background of dedication and hard work that they’ve shown in one particular area of pursuit. So, yeah, I think that there’s an element of relentlessness and grit and persistence.

And the thing that I always tell people now is, like, especially if you’re in a job where you’re doing something like sales, or you’ve got quotes, or you have to perform to a certain level, when you’re an athlete, especially, let’s say baseball or softball, success is hitting the ball three times out of ten. A 300-batting average is excellent, and anything above that we’re like, “Oh, my gosh. Can you believe it?”

But that means bad athletes go back to the dugout seven out of ten times, so you have to develop this just like skin on you that is, “You know what, three out of ten is a huge win, and if I can do a little bit more than that, I feel amazing about myself.” You get beat down a lot so, yeah, I think that there’s an element if you really want to feel unstoppable of building that muscle over time. And, certainly, being an athlete would help with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that three out of ten, I have a spreadsheet when I evaluate all these different business initiatives, and that’s just my assumption is that, “Yeah, there’s about a 30% chance this thing will work, and a 70% chance I will torch all that time and money and it will yield nothing.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, God. I’ve never thought about it like that.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, hey, hope your book takes off, Tracy, but…

Tracy Timm
Geez Louise, we’re going to be one of those three out of ten times this book. It’s a good book.

Pete Mockaitis
And if it isn’t, just write three more books.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s all. That’s all, Tracy. Just do that. Well, let’s dig in a little bit in terms of so, Unstoppable: Discover Your True Value, Define Your Genius Zone, and Drive Your Dream Career. That sounds awesome. I want to hit, first of all, if anyone is feeling not so unstoppable because maybe they were laid off with COVID and they don’t know just how choosy or big dreamy they can be right now, what would you say to them?

Tracy Timm
My heart really, first and foremost, goes out to those people because we are in weird times and more than ever in, maybe, our lifetime, myself being only 32, about to turn 33, this is some of the most uncertain times that we’ve lived through at our age. But what I think we all could benefit from and take a step back and get some perspective on is that, yes, this is a kind of a weird crazy time, but, to me, the pandemic is just a reminder that life is crazy and uncertain.

And as much as we think we have control over anything going on, let alone our careers, it’s largely an illusion that we are dictating exactly where our future is going at any given time, which is not a reason to give up, but it’s a reason to maybe put where you’re going through right now into some perspective, and maybe take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself, and ask yourself, “Okay, if life is inherently uncertain, and, yes, we’ll get back to something that looks like a new normal, but I can never really depend on things the way that I used to, how am I going to respond? How am I going to react?”

And, in my business right now, what we’re seeing is that he or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty. So, when there are more people applying for the same amount of jobs and, of course, it’s going to mean more people with maybe better credentials than have ever applied for those jobs, I’m hearing crazy stories, like people with PhDs applying for jobs that don’t even require bachelor’s degrees type of thing, the question becomes, “How do I compete? Or, how do I find my way back to some semblance of clarity and confidence and certainty?”

And I think the answer has to be you have got to go back to the basics and figure out what is truly valuable about you as a professional and an individual and be able to articulate that value incredibly clearly to someone who is in the position to hire you or to employ you in some way. So, I get it, and it’s hard. It’s not easy to stare down the barrel especially if you’ve had a pretty stable existence so far, or maybe you’ve lived a very reactionary career so far, but I don’t think that those are your people. I think your people are the proactive ones who are looking for, “Okay, how do I make the most of this time? How do I bounce back better? How do I take advantage of this white space?” And it’s all about clarity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that so much because that’s been my own experience with, boy, when I get really clear, results are happening. That’s just like, boom. And I think my problem is, I’m thinking about the StrengthsFinder, Ideation and Activator are two of my top strengths, and so I just get a lot of ideas and I want to do a lot of ideas, like, “Waah!” And then, in so doing, well, not a lot of things get all the way to the done finish line. And then when I’m really clear, it’s like, “No, no, Pete, I am completely certain that this is the critical thing that needs my attention right now, and, thusly, I’m going to do it,” then some cool things start happening.

And so, that’s my experience kind of in the entrepreneurial realm. And I love what you’re saying is when you’re in job-seeking, job-hunting professional career mode, it’s powerful, well, not only because I think you can dig deep and be super impressive and dazzle people with the research you’ve done because you had a narrower field of stuff you’re going after, but, also, that you’re articulating your stuff so well, it’s just impressive, like, “Okay. Well, that’s amazing. That’s exactly what we need,” or, “You know what, that’s not what we need, but you were so clear, this other thing over here is exactly what you want. Go talk to them instead of us.” Boom!

Tracy Timm
You’re so right. You’re absolutely right.

Tracy Timm
The cool thing, too, is that leaders want that amount of clarity. Like, we’ve had multiple times where graduates of our program have gone to their bosses and said, “I did this work and I know exactly what I want to do. And here’s why I’m the best at it,” and they’re like, “I wish everyone of my people could tell me that,” because they’re playing a guessing game, “We’ve got this sort of team full of athletes, if you will, and we’re trying to figure out what positions to put them in to get the best results of the business.” And if you don’t know your value, they’re definitely not going to have absolute clarity into your value either, so it’s only mutually beneficial.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you break that into three components, they each start with D: discover, define, and drive. Can you give us a quick overview of what does that mean and how do we do some of that? And then we’ll go on in a little more depth.

Tracy Timm
Yeah, let’s do it. So, I find that what happens is a lot of people, if you were to say, like, ‘Discover comes first, define comes second, and drive comes third,” a lot of people in the midst of uncertainty, and, especially career uncertainty, jump to the third piece, which is drive. So, they start networking, and they’re all over LinkedIn, and they’re all over job boards, and they’re contacting recruiters, and they’re applying to jobs. And what they’ve done is put the cart before the horse.

So, I like to go all the way back to the beginning. When I deal with somebody who’s in any way uncertain, unclear, and unconfident in who they are as a professional, then we have to go all the way back to the beginning, we have to go all the way back to the foundation of what makes you you. So, in order to do that, we have to go through a really solid discovery process of what those individual, I’ll call them puzzle pieces, of your professional value are.

And then, once we’ve done that deep dive, that discovery part, that’s when we can transition into the define phase. So, once we’ve done all the discovery, we’ve got all your puzzle pieces, then we can set them all out on the table, create the framework for success for you, and put those puzzle pieces together properly, aka define your genius zone as a professional.

And it’s only when we’ve defined what your niche is in the world, your ideal best and highest value, what’s called your Olympic gold medal level ideal profession where you have the best chance of succeeding at the highest level, adding the most value, and getting the most in return, only then do you want to go in the drive component, which is, “Okay, now I’m going to actually take action on this. I’m going to network my tail off. I’m going to navigate with more certainty. So, I’m going to actually test drive my ideas and really explore with interest and adventure what it is that I can do, and really nourish myself along the way.”

So, yeah, I think you have to go back to the foundational components before you can really jump into the doing and the tasks, which is hard for people like me, frankly, who are like high sense of urgency, go, go, go. I have Activator and Maximizer in my top five, so I’m all about getting on the road and getting going, and 75% done is usually completely done for me, and I’m onto the next thing. So, yeah, I really encourage people to go back to the drawing board. And it may sound like starting over, but what it’s really doing is honoring all of the value that both comes naturally and easily, and from a values perspective to you, as well as that that you’ve learned and earned over time, and making sure you don’t waste any of that energy or experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. I think it makes sense in terms of, especially if it’s like, “Uh-oh, income has disappeared. I need that stat. So, that path through that is get a job. So, where are the jobs? I want to go after the jobs.” So, it’s natural as sort of an apparent knee-jerk reaction but I’m right with you that for it to be the most enjoyable, lucrative, complementary job, you’re going to have to do some of that discover and define stuff. So, how do we go about doing this discovering of our true value?

Tracy Timm
Yeah. So, I find that, you know, when I first started my business, my story goes all the way back to the fact that I graduated with a degree in psychology that I loved, but then I had no idea how to apply that professionally. I didn’t know how to translate that desire and interest and learning something into a role that I would do day in and day out, that I wouldn’t get bored with, and so I did it all wrong.

My first job out of college was on Wall Street, and I ended up being miserable and quitting that job, and traveling around the world, and spent every last time I had, and all that stuff. And so, one day, I just remember sitting down, the truth of it is I got fired from a job that was a horrible fit for me, and I was like, “Okay, self, like if this thing doesn’t work, like, what do you really want? Like, who do you have a heart to serve? And what problem do you want to solve for them? And who do you think about when you’re falling asleep? What is the thing that’s just on your heart?”

And, for me, it was that person that I was years before that who had all this potential that was just like bundled up inside and looking for a route out, looking for the thing in the world that you could go just slay at, right?

So, it took me three years to develop this methodology, and I was coaching people on the side, I was working as a human capital advisor.

And so, over that three years, I was discovering what elevates a person from an employee. So, let’s just say you’re an asset, you’re a line item on a spreadsheet, you’re having to justify your paycheck every two weeks, to, “What takes that person and elevates them from that to an asset?” Because once you’re an asset, you are irreplaceable. We’ve worked with all those people, where you’re like, “Oh, my God. How could we do business without Kim? Like, does someone else in the world have Kim’s job?” Probably. “Does someone else in the world have Kim’s sort of pedigree or whatever?” Definitely. But there’s something about Kim in that role, in that company, with that team that makes her unstoppable.

So, the magic combination I’ve found is three things. There are three specific ways you can fit into a company and three specific ways that a role can really be a deep fit for you, and if you have all three, then you become that asset in that area.

So, the first three steps are now, nature, and nurture, and this is exactly the formula that you need to discover what your niche is in the world, or your true value as a professional. The now component is made up of your core values and your commitments to yourself and your lifestyle, and that equates to what type of culture fit you’re going to be in a company. So, now is kind of your culture fit.

The second puzzle piece, or handful of puzzle pieces if you might say, is I call it nature. And so, nature is your personality, your gifts, your behaviors, your talents, and even your aptitudes, things that just come naturally and easily to you. And that’s how you become a strong behavioral fit in an environment, or a company, or a role.

And the last set of puzzle pieces I call nurture, and nurture is everything else. It’s what your cumulative life experiences have taught you. So, it’s education, it’s work experience, it’s even things in our 30-day program we call your ninja skills. So, that’s, “What did you learn from travel? And what did you learn from your hobbies? And what did you learn from your extracurriculars and volunteering?” All of that adds value as a professional person, and so you’ve got to write those things down and articulate what those values are. It’s skills, it’s knowledge, it’s expertise.

And if you stack those three items on top of one another, so the foundation is now, it’s your core values, and then you layer on how you’re naturally good in that area, and you layer on top of that what you’ve learned or studied or practiced or experienced, then, and only then, do you become this sort of Olympic-level athlete at your job. And then we can say, “Okay, if you’re Usain Bolt, then we know exactly the one event on the track that’s perfect for you. If you’re Michael Phelps, we know exactly the one event in the pool that’s perfect for you to win the most gold medals,” in this case, to achieve at the highest level, to have success, to have it sustainably, and to become an asset in a business, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, as opposed to a liability or just an employee.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if the now leads to a cultural fit in the organization, and the nature of the nature leads to behavioral fit in the organization, what does the nurture kind of fit lead to?

Tracy Timm
Job fit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, job fit.

Tracy Timm
That’s like, “Do you have the skills or the knowledge or the expertise to do the thing that you’re required to do?” And if you have all three, the cool thing is that you know how to do it, it comes to you also without having to work as hard as someone else, and you deeply value it so you’re likely to work harder at it than anyone else, and that’s the magic. It’s sort of amplifies or, what’s the word, exponentiates, makes exponential, your value because it’s layered so deeply into who you really are in all of those different areas.

Pete Mockaitis
What I think is intriguing here is that, I mean, you can be in roles that have zero out of three, or one out of three, two out of three, or three out of three. They kind of go all the way up and down. And so, I’d imagine that the flavor of discontentment you’re experiencing, if you will, would be kind of distinct in terms of, like, “I’m in over my head and have no idea how to do the things that they’re asking me to do,” would be we don’t have that nurture job fit in play.

Tracy Timm
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to, “You know, hey, man, I dig the way we work it but, I mean, who cares?” So, in terms of like, “I don’t think that the world really needs us to exist in it, and it wouldn’t be any worse off if it didn’t, but, you know, I like my coworkers and I could do the job, I can fly all over those spreadsheets like nobody’s business.”

Tracy Timm
And you know how insidious that is, right? It’s how people get stuck in these jobs that really aren’t serving them or allowing them to serve, it’s that there’s just enough. There’s just enough good about it, or, “I’m just good enough,” or, “I just got another promotion,” or, “I just got another raise, which is telling me that I’m good at this thing, and telling me that the world needs it,” but at the end of the day, you’re like, “Really? Is this what I do, the widgets? Is that what I’m going to be all about?” And that’s what keeps people up at night, but it’s really hard to break away from that without clear evidence that that’s what you’re supposed to do. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And could you maybe give us an example of, “Hey, here’s a person, maybe it’s a client, and how, hey, here are some things about their now, about their nature, about their nurture, that landed perfectly in a role, and it’s just as resonant and harmoniously beautiful”?

Tracy Timm
Yes. Okay. So, I’ll give you the first one that came to mind because I ended up hiring her. This is how perfect this was, and it just goes to show you that you may not think that your dream job exists, but I guarantee you, if you’re specific enough and you’re talking to the right people, it does. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not out there. It’s one of those cases if you don’t know until you know, or you can’t know what you don’t know, right?

So, about a year ago, I had a woman come through our program who told me, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell because we saved her so much money, she was like, “Okay, Tracy, I’m 99% sure I have this 10-year plan where I’m going to go back to school and I’m going to finish my bachelor’s degree,” because she had a degree in Fine Arts, she didn’t have a proper sort of bachelor’s, “And then I’m going to go work in a school environment for a few years so I can get some experience under my belt. And then I’m going to go get my guidance counselling degree, so that eventually, 10 years from now,” after what they had decided as a family and they’ve calculated was $70,000 of college tuition and 10 years of work and/or college experience, she could finally be, ta-dah, a high school guidance counselor.

She’s 99% sure and I was like, “What’s the 1%?” She’s like, “I don’t know if I’m going to like it perfectly. Like, I know that I have a heart to serve people in transition, in transformation, and the underserved, and I think it’s this cohort of people, but I’m not 100% sure.” So, the more I pushed her, the more it’s like, “I’m like 50% sure this is right, not 99% sure.” I think she just convinced herself. So, I said, “Listen, make one percentage point of an investment with me to see if this is 100% what you want to pursue. And then if you are going to eliminate your husband’s 401K and go back to school, and yadda, yadda, yadda, and spend the next 10 years, you know that it’s right for you, you know that you’re not sort of putting good money after bad.”

So, she goes through the program. Within three weeks, so we’d only gotten through now and nature basically, we realized that her nature, she has an extremely low amount of formality naturally, like she’s really great at dealing with ambiguity, which is great, but if there’s a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of red tape, a lot of unnecessary structure in the way of how things get done, she gets really frustrated, really overwhelmed, and it doesn’t really work well for her, which may sound, on the face of it, like, “Oh, this person is unemployable,” if you’re out there thinking, “You can’t do my job like that.”

That may be true but there are definitely environments where that type of personality is really useful when you’re having to work with somebody through an ambiguous situation where you’re going to have to show confidence when they don’t see the end goal or results, and you have to handhold them through that process. It’s a really valuable thing to have if you’re working in an environment of uncertainty. That’s not a valuable thing to have if you work in a high school.

So, within three weeks, we knew exactly that this was a horrible decision that she and her family had made, so we saved them $70,000. She unenrolled, from school, because she had already started like potentially taking classes. And by the end of what was then an eight-week program, which is now a 30-day program, we realized that actually what she wanted to be was a career coach, which is kind of funny. The answer is not necessarily in the title. It just so happened that when we combined her now and her nature and her nurture, her niche was all about serving people through ambiguity, who are going through some type of transition or transformation, with deep emotionality and empathy.

And what was great is that I hired her almost on the spot. It was really funny. We’re in the middle of a workshop, and I was like, “Oh, I think I have an idea. We should talk about it later because there are other people around.” And she was my very first coach that I ever hired and trained to facilitate our programs. And the reason that I felt so confident hiring her without her ever having coached, ever, she doesn’t have a certification, she doesn’t have any of it, she consistently gets tens our tens from our clients because she’s naturally empathetic, so that goes under the nature column, and communicative, and thoughtful, and emotional.

She deals really well in ambiguity, so when our clients are like, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” she’s like, “Borrow my confidence. You got this,” and handholds them through the process. She has a theater arts background so she can actually mirror emotionality, and she knows how to show up for people in a way where they feel like they’re the only person in the room, and it’s not fake. It’s her training. She’s learned how to do that. And then her value set is all around serving people and allowing them to reach their fullest potential.

And so, there were all these really cool puzzle pieces that I would say the average maybe leader or manager wouldn’t necessarily put together, but because we put her niche together, together, I was able to see how these seemingly disparate qualities, from now to nature to nurture, actually complemented one another in such a way that it set her up to be successful in that role without her actually ever having physically done that role before. So, all I needed to do was teach her the program, and that was the last puzzle piece we needed from a nurture perspective. But her facilitating the program came easily because of the theater arts background, because she had actually led and managed people previously, again, all in different scenarios, but it was 100% transferable to working for me.

She tells me at least once a week, “I’m doing like my soul’s work. This is my dream job.” And it’s just so cool that I get to see that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve zeroed in. So, that’s the discover phase there that we’ve done, those three Ns?

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how do we define the genius zone?

Tracy Timm
There are a couple ways to go about this. It’s kind of like personality and background and core values math in a sense.

When you go into define, the goal is to figure out how all those things come together and complement one another. So, one of the ways I like to do this is think about like a triple Venn diagram in your mind’s eye, so you’ve got now at the top, nature on the bottom left, and nurture on the bottom right. And what we’re looking for is the nexus in the middle. Where do those three things overlap? I find that the easiest way to do that is to just pick a value, so like pick one datapoint in your now piece, and ask yourself, “Where does this value show up for me in my nature? Is it a part of my personality? Is it a part of my natural behavior set? Is it a part of my gifting? Is it a part of my talents?”

And then ask yourself, “Now, what have I added from nurture to make myself even more dangerous in that area?” So, if I have a personal core value of caring for people, caring for others is like one of my top five core values, and then in my nature, I’m naturally an empathetic person who’s thoughtful, who’s socially-oriented, who’s outgoing, who’s really good at persuading, or whatever. And then, also, in my nurture, I have been in Toastmasters and practiced speaking and the power of persuasion. And in my nurture, I have gone through a transition and a transformation myself. And, let’s say, maybe that transition is I’m recovering from an addiction of some sort. And I can talk from my own experience, and I can be really incredibly powerful and articulate in helping people through that process themselves.

Well, hot damn, now we’re cooking with grease because we naturally care about it, it comes more easily than it does for most people, and you’ve put in some time to really gain skills and knowledge and expertise in that area. And then the goal is just to do that over and over and over again for each core value. And if you’ve got, let’s say, seven to 10 core values, which is what most of us have at any given time, then you’ve got seven to 10 core components of your ideal profession. And so, we just need to weave that into a narrative, it gets really powerful. That’s where you can start to really powerfully articulate your value and define your niche in the world.

Sans job title. I was just on a panel earlier today, and this woman was like, “Listen, the answer is not a job title.” Just like the answer to ‘who your life partner is’ is not their name. They have a name, your dream job has a title, but the reason that they’re your dream person is all the qualities that make up that job. And I think we need to reframe looking for careers like that. If we can describe the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our dream job, that’s so much more powerful than account manager or sales representatives. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true, it’s like, “I want to be a business analyst.” Like, maybe you do. Because even the title, I think that’s a great distinction because that title can mean wildly different things to different organizations.

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And, like, one organization’s business analyst is your nirvana, and the other organization’s business analyst is your hell, even though you might still be fiddling with Excel in both of them.

Tracy Timm
You’re absolutely right, Pete. I think you’re spot on. That’s the difference, and that puts you back in the driver’s seat, because if you can articulate your value that way, then you’re never beholden to someone else defining you, or someone else saying, “Oh, this is what you’re talking about.” Well, no, because you know, “Actually, it’s not this. It’s that.” And you know why and you’ve done the hard work to back up that answer.

We just graduated a girl a month ago who, two weeks, after she graduated, had competing offers for a job that she had been reticent to apply for because she didn’t think she had the experience or the accreditation to actually be chosen. Not only did she, she just needed to build the confidence that she did via the experience she already had, and she had competing offers within two weeks of graduating. And now she said she’s making $14,000 more a year, she’s working at a dream company, she’s able to leverage those offers against one another for better benefits and more flexibility, and their family is on like a whole new trajectory all because of confidence.

It’s just crazy to me. It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But I think it’s simple. I think the math is simple when you break it down.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve called it math, and I was intrigued when you zeroed in precisely. It’s like, “Well, we have seven to 10 core values at any given time.” It’s like, “That’s okay. Let’s dig into that,” because there’s a number of ways we could define that. You tell me, what do you mean by a core value and how do we figure out those seven to 10?

Tracy Timm
Yeah, okay. So, I have sort of my favorite process for figuring out my core values every year, and this is how we teach it in our 30-day breakthrough program. So, what I like to do is I call it the 10, 20, 30 core values brain storm. So, for 10 minutes, what you want to do is just think of all the things in your life that really move the needle for you. And some good questions to stir the brainstorming process for that are, “Where do I find joy? What lights me up? What makes me feel good? What gets me excited? What do I need to live a good life? Who do I need to be to be a good person in my own eyes?” It’s all about your core values, not anybody else’s. And if you’re going to take the time to do this, please rid yourself of the expectations of other people, at least for these 10 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I was going to say, to that point, so feel good, hey, I love positivity, but I think we might also say feel bad, like, “Hey, where do you feel guilty because you know you have failed to live up to something that matters to you?” With that asterisk that matters to you, as opposed to, “Oh, I feel bad because I didn’t call my mom enough,” and I kind of do that, but it’s not because of her expectations, because I really respect and appreciate all she’s done for me, and I love her, and I want to be the person who is a great friend and son, and grateful and giving to her. Hi, mom. She listens.

Tracy Timm
Oh, hi, mom.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, I guess it’s not so much because of my mom is disappointed or upset with me, but it’s because it’s, no, that’s who I want to be, and I’m often not being that.

Tracy Timm
Yup, I think that’s really powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I feel some guilt associated with that.

Tracy Timm
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, we dig in a happy place, and then also, in the guilty place, so long as it’s purely your guilt and not inflicted from another party.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. Well, you can go to another level which is what pisses you off.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

Tracy Timm
Like, what’s the thing where you’re like, “Why don’t more people signal when they’re turning right? What does that mean to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
And that gives you so much insight too in terms of, boy, like if it’s a movie or a book or just something you heard someone do, or a news article, it’s like, “This is filling me with such joy and delight. Why?” or, “This is making me super angry. Why?” And that can point you to a value. But continue. So, we have 10, 20, 30. So, we’re starting with some questions for 10 minutes. We ponder.

Tracy Timm
Correct. And just get it all out and don’t judge it. So, it doesn’t need to be one-word values, and they don’t need to be like life-affirming. The last time I did it, one of the first two things that I wrote were warm kitten cuddles because I have two cats that I absolutely adore. And then the second one that I wrote was a bar where the bartenders know my name. Like, I like the idea of having a home bar, of having like people know you, of being part of a neighborhood. And so, those are what I wrote. I didn’t over-analyze them. I didn’t ask, like, “What’s the deeper value here?” I just wrote the thing, the thing that brings me joy, or the thing that makes me feel good, right? So, that’s the first 10 minutes. Don’t judge it. It’s brain dump. Get it all out.

The second part, for 20 minutes, is this is when you go and actually find a list of core values, and you either print them out on a piece of paper, or you look at them on a spreadsheet, and you’re circling every single one that resonates with you. All of them. And this is your opportunity to fill in the gaps. So often, the first 10 minutes, maybe you forgot something, or you had a mental block on some area of your life that actually really is important. This is where we’re actually going to find inspiration from the words themselves as opposed to try to pull the inspiration out of ourselves, if that makes sense. So, 10 minutes of brain dump, 20 minutes of reading words and circling them.

Pete Mockaitis
And these are the words that you dumped.

Tracy Timm
No, this is a whole additional set of words, so it’ll probably be complementary. So, the things that came naturally to you that you just dumped out of your brain might not be in these perfect value words.

Pete Mockaitis
And where do I find this value word list?

Tracy Timm
I use CoreValuesList.com. yeah, it’s not my own. It’s just 500 words.

Pete Mockaitis
CoreValuesList.com. Thank you.

Tracy Timm
You know what, it’s really funny. Enough people have asked me that that I should make my own page TracyTimm.com/CoreValues. But, heaven, I’m so lazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you might be able to put some flavor on it. Like, if they’ve got 500 pieces of raw material, you can do some categorizing and, you know, I don’t know.

Tracy Timm
I like that. I like it a lot. Well, so, now you jumped the gun on me because step number three is categorizing. At this point, you’re probably going to have 50, 100, 150 words or phrases, either written down, I like to do mine in a spreadsheet because then I can just move them easily. But the goal now is to look at your words and start grouping them in groups that are similar. So, if you looked through all your words, and you’re like, “Okay. Well, I have a lot that are on sort of health and wellness. It’s all different words, like, vitality and strength and everything else having to do with health and wellbeing, and it sort of falls into that category, and that’s what it is. That’s the value. That’s the underlying value of these words or phrases.”

The 30 minutes that you’re spending is getting your massive chunk of words down to 10 or less groups,
10 or less. Because if you have more than 10, it’s way too many cooks in the kitchen. If you have less than seven, I would argue that you’re not specific enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And that’s how you figure out your core values. And what I like to do is, at the end of the hour, 10, 20, 30, at the end of the hour, look at your groups and give them names that resonate with you. If that’s just words then it’s just words for you. If it’s phrases, then give them like a really strong powerful phrase. I’ve had clients do mythical characters or historical figures, so they picked like George Washington was their whole category is, let’s say, honesty or whatever, and that’s really what resonates for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Self-sacrifice. George Washington. What a guy.

Tracy Timm
Right. Hardworking and whatever, yeah. But how powerful is George Washington as a value for that person because of the image that it conjures, and how much more powerful is it then hardworking or honest or self-sacrifice?

Pete Mockaitis
Like, generous. You’re right, it stirs something in you because you’re like, “Man, when I was listening to 1776, like, this dude was wow, you know.”

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And core values are only as powerful as you make them, right? So, it’s these platitudes that you put on the wall and you don’t ever use, and the words don’t even resonate with you. Why are you laughing so hard?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now you got me thinking. It’s fun. You’re right. Like, you get to be you and expressive, and so now I’m thinking of myself. Like, as a child, one of my…well, I guess I still play it today a couple times a year. There’s this strategy game called Master of Orion, super dorky, on a computer.

Tracy Timm
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it launched me into strategy consulting and strategic thinking stuff.

Tracy Timm
I love this, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if I were to sort of play this game, but that’s also important to me, it’s like using resources well, like, being a good steward of them. I also just enjoy it, like strategically optimizing, like, “Hmm.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, totally. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if you could put that as one of my values is that I am the Master of Orion.

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Which is so dorky, which is why I’m laughing. It’s so dorky but, to me, it is very meaningful.

Tracy Timm
It’s so accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, I know what that means and I want to be that.

Tracy Timm
And I want to be that. Exactly. I got to tell you. The best ones are the people who are creative that’s because I’m a creative person. I find the ones that resonates really powerfully for people, they actually go that extra mile, and it’s this uber specific thing that only they understand but it fully encompasses the value, if that makes sense.

One of my absolute favorites was this girl, she was one of our workshop participants a while back, and she was like, “One of my core values is ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said it just like that, “Welcome to my party,” and I was like, “I’m sorry. What?” And she’s like, “It’s this one specific memory I have where I hosted this incredible party, and so many people came and I was so engaged as the host that I lost my voice. And so, by the end of the night, I was like, ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said people made fun of her forever, but what it encapsulated for her was this sense of like providing a space for people to have a great time, and how much energy she got from that, and how much joy she got from that, and she loved being in charge. So, it’s actually a more complex value but it was so perfect for her that it’s Master of Orion for you. It’s fabulous. I love that. So, I think that’s how you do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if I may, can I put you on the spot, drop it on us, your seven to 10 core values in all of their unique flavors?

Tracy Timm
You want to know them?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Tracy Timm
All right. You know what, you’re so lucky, Pete, I actually have these up on a spreadsheet all the time because I like to refer back to them whenever I’m making decisions. This is the cheat code for life. If you have your core values figured out ahead of time, and someone says, “Hey, do you want so-and-so to potentially be your business partner and make an investment and take 50% of your business?” or somebody is like, “Hey, would you consider even coming to this event that I have to go to later tonight or do you need to go take care of your mom?” or, “Hey, do you want to spend your money on this vacation or do you want to spend your money over here?”

If you already have your values figured out ahead of time, it is the equivalent of a life-easy button because you can look at your core values, and you can go, “Ugh, that doesn’t even fit number one. Out.” You don’t have to lose sleep. You don’t have to be overly-emotional about it. It’s amazing. So, literally, I pull these out all the time. Like, I was entertaining a potential business partner earlier this year, and my gut was telling me, like, “Uh-oh, I don’t know. Don’t you want to be Sara Blakely and own 100% of SPANX? And do you really want to give this away?” And it was all ego-driven, right? It was all sort of in-the-moment, emotional, reaction and response.

And then when I actually wrote, I literally did this, Pete, I wrote my core values in the middle of a piece of paper, and then on the left, I put a pro column, and then on the right, I put a con column, and then anything that this…if saying yes to this partnership produced a pro that had to do with core value number one, I had to write it on the left, but if it produced a con, I’d write it on the right. And by the time I was done, I had five to seven pros for every con on the other side, and I was like, “Oh, the better version of me who deeply thought about what mattered ahead of time is telling this current ego-driven emotional version of me, ‘Hey, dummy, you already did the hard work. Why are you thinking about this so hard? It makes sense. Let’s move forward.’” And it made me feel so much better about my decision.

Okay. So, my top 10 core values. Number one is “deeply in tune” which is feeling divine, grateful, faithful, and hopeful, so it’s kind of how I live my faith. I’m Catholic so I’m pretty into that. But even beyond that, it’s like, “Am I listening? Am I grateful? Am I thoughtful about my career decisions? Am I hopeful about the future? Do I feel aligned?” Number two is “it takes a village.” This is a new one this year because Tracy Timm was rowing the business canoe alone for about five years, and my arms got real tired, so “it takes a village” is feeling supported, loved, comforted, and connected. If I’m living those two values, then I also get to live my third value, they’re all in a row, which I highly advise people do, my third value is “in my element” which is feeling confident, capable, masterful, and impactful. So, if I’m deeply in tune, and I have the right people on my team, I get to be in my element more often than not.

Which then, if I’m in my element, I get to be number four, which is “fully alive,” so that’s feeling excited, eager, adventurous, and awake. Being awake is such an important word to me because I feel like I lived a good portion of my life as a zombie, and I don’t want that for myself or anybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
I can’t help but tie together Catholic and fully alive with Saint Irenaeus. Oh, my God, was this man fully alive. That’s one of my faves.

Tracy Timm
Thank you for that. Oh, my gosh. I feel so affirmed. Yes, love it. So, if I’m fully alive then I get to be number five which is “in the moment.” And, for me, in the moment means engrossed, and aware, and connected, and kind of full of wonder. Like, I tend to be the kind of anxious fearful person more than I am the full of awe and wonder person, but I really aspire to that value so that’s why that’s my fifth value.

Number six was a personal sort of plea for myself at the beginning of the year. Number six is “less is more,” and that was feeling uncluttered and organized, synergistic and prosperous. So, how could I eliminate to create more? And I told myself, by the end of the year, that meant that I was going to commit to like Marie Kondo-ing/home-editing my world, and I’ve made like baby steps in that direction but it’s only September, so we’re going to get there.

Seven is “serenity pool.” Have you ever floated in one of those float chambers?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve wanted to but I haven’t done it yet.

Tracy Timm
It’s worth it. I wouldn’t do it for longer than 45 minutes. I got a little antsy and bored by the end of it, but the first 30 is just like, “This is heaven.” So, serenity pool for me is feeling light, and peaceful, and balanced, and harmonious, and putting enough in my life to create that on purpose. Number eight is “vitality or bust,” which speaks a lot to me because I need to give myself good strong boundaries. So, vitality or bust is way better than feeling fit, or whatever. It’s like, “No, you’re going to do this.” And so, that’s feeling strong, fit, energy-rich, and energy-giving.

And then the last two are “keep going,” which is something I have to tell myself basically every day, which is feeling determined, dedicated, resilient, and resourceful. And then the last one is called “living inside out,” which, to me, means being authentic, being heard, being understood, and being genuine in that exchange with people. So, wow, I’ve just laid it all out there. It is bare.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. And it shows, I mean, the vulnerability and the realness, and like straight up, that’s what really matters to you. There it is.

Tracy Timm
It is, and I put in the work to figure that out. And it took about an hour or two hours to do. I do it once a year in January, my whole team does it in January. We get together and we sort of go over and what’s everyone’s values for the year. It’s part of our annual meeting so that I know what my people care about, and they know what I care about. And so, if we’re showing up to work, we’re there to do our jobs but it also serves our own values.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I love it. We’ve talked about values a few times on the show but I don’t know if we ever quite got this raw and precise.

Tracy Timm
Nice. I’m glad.

Pete Mockaitis
So, kudos and thank you. Glad we went there.

Tracy Timm
Thanks for asking the question. That’s all you.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for getting there. All right. Well, let’s see, wow so much good stuff. I asked, hey, drive, I mean, there’s plenty of tips on that but go ahead and lay it on us, one or two tips, tactics, that just rock when it comes when you’re actually the job hunting?

Tracy Timm
I have two for you. Once you know your niche, well, now you just got to put your vision into action. And there are two things that I think we don’t do enough of that everyone should be doing if you’re in the process of discovering your ideal career or making any type of professional transition or transformation whatsoever.

Number one is, our maxim in the business is 10 minutes in front of a human being is worth 10 hours of online research. So, if you aren’t actively speaking to other human beings about your niche, about what you’re pursuing, about what it looks like, the who, what, when, where, why, describing it to them, talking to them about your transition, anything, if you are going back to the fear of living behind the computer screen, which I know it’s easy for us to do, especially us millennials, shame on us, right, we forgot how to talk to humans, you are wasting time. Categorically wasting time. Ten minutes in front of a human being is so much more of a dynamic engagement and interaction that could not be replaced with 10 hours of Googling and job boards and LinkedIn updates and things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And when you spend that time, you suddenly have so much richer stuff to Google, it’s like, “I’ve never heard of that company. It sounds amazing.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And then that time you spend, it just has a whole different energy to it, like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to learn about this thing. It sounds amazing,” as opposed to, “So, what are some business analyst opportunities in the Chicago area?”

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe that is the appropriate thing to look for but it’d be great if you had that gusto and that certainty from having tapped into someone else’s brilliance.

Tracy Timm
Well, yeah, because, remember, this is How to be Awesome at Your Job, not How to be Mediocre at Life. So, if you want to be awesome, talk to other people who can show you, “Okay, yeah, you’re almost there. But if you want all the things you want in a job, you should be looking here. This is what you’re really describing. And it lives here and it exists here, and it’s called this,” which is not something that Google is ever going to autocorrect you for, you know.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Tracy Timm
So, that’s number one, we call that network. That’s step one in sort of this drive part of the process, and it’s everybody’s least favorite part, like nobody wants to “network” because they think it’s awkward and they’re going to talk to people they don’t know, and 99 times out of 100, you have a preexisting amazing network that you’re just not tapping. They want to help but they don’t know how to help you, they don’t know what you want, and all they need you to do is go to them and tell them what you want. It’s brilliant. But you have to ask.

And so then, the second piece of advice in drive I call “navigate,” which is really just a fancy way to say test drive your options, like have an informational interview, go shadow someone, do not be the person that accepts a job, or applies for a job without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Like, investigate what you’re pursuing. Inspect what you expect. And the easiest way to do that is to test drive your assumptions.

And the only thing that keeps us from doing that is we’re afraid to be wrong 100% of the time. It’s like, “Oh, well. But if I just accept this then my job search is done, and I can wash my hands of this and I’ll be happy. I’m sure of it.” And every time I’ve done that, I’ve been ignoring a blaring siren red flag going, “This thing is not in alignment with your core values,” or, “This thing is going to make you turn your nature inside out,” or, “This thing is going to make you feel like you’re in over your head all the time. And even though you’re a fast learner, it’s not going to be fun for you.”

So, test drive your options and assumptions. And I listened to another woman today talk about this, and she was like, “Be curious. Have fun with it. It’s not a right or wrong, live or die, type of thing. It’s be curious. Ask the follow-up question. Follow somebody around. Ask about their day-to-day.” And the things that you learn from that navigation component of the job search they will either affirm to you that this is going to be life-giving and wonderful, or they will allow you to dodge the unnecessary bullet more often than not.

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

Tracy Timm
My call to action is whenever I’m uncertain about things, especially life and career things, I like to go back to logic and reason and what I know to be true. Like, what ultimate truth is there? And my favorite anecdote about this that really spurs me to action anytime I’m afraid to try something, or anytime I’m afraid to really go for something, is that I met this guy on Semester at Sea, who’s a professor of psychology, and he taught me. I was just in the pits of despair.

And I was so deeply unhappy with my career at that point, and I asked him, like, “Listen, is this just how it has to be? Do I just have to suck it up? Is this what work is? It pays well, so I guess I get to have a lifestyle that’s nice, that’s fun. But 12 hours a day, five days a week, I’m pretty unhappy. Is that just how it has to be? Or, should I go for it? Should I actually try to find…?” because even then I didn’t know what it was, but I was like, “Should I go try to figure it out?” And he was like, “Tracy, it is always worth it to take your meaningful shot for the stars because the way that our brain processes regrets is that you will regret infinitely more something that you didn’t do than something that you did and failed at.”

Those are the only things you can regret, one is called regrets, or sins of omission, that’s the thing you didn’t do, and the other one is a sense of commission, that’s the things you did wrong. And the reason that you regret things you didn’t do infinitely more is because there’s no answer, and your brain is looking for the end of the story. It’s looking for what happened as a result of that action. But because you didn’t do anything, there is no result. There are, in fact, though, an infinite number of potential results, the what-ifs, and the would’ve-beens, and things like that, that literally haunt us, and have the opportunity to haunt us our whole lives not because we regret it inherently more but because our brain is looking for that solution.

So, if you’re out there on the fence, and you’re like, “How do I be awesome?” live a regret-free life, and go for the things you want. And if nothing else convinces you to do it, let the logic of the fact that you’re never going to regret failing at something more than you’re going to regret wondering what would’ve happened. That’s one my favorite pieces of advice.

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

Tracy Timm
The first is the one that I discovered most recently which is Einstein, which is, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life feeling stupid.” That was my very first job out of college. I was a really hardworking fish, climbing a really big tree, and feeling like, “Why isn’t this working?” And I think a lot of people feel that way. And if that’s you, get yourself out of that. The other is, “Don’t ask what the world needs? Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who’ve come back to life,” and that’s Howard Thurman. And that’s really what is one of the cornerstones of our business core values, it’s like, “Let’s bring people back to life.”

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Tracy Timm
I think my favorite psychological phenomenon that’s been studied a lot is cognitive dissonance. So, it’s the idea that your body and your mind cannot exist for very long at odds with one another, which means if you believe something but you behave in a different way, then something has to give. Either you have to change your behavior or you have to change your beliefs.

And I’m of the belief that a lot of people are suffering for longer than they have to, because instead of changing their behavior, whether it’s in their life or their career or anywhere else in their life really, they haven’t changed their behavior, they’ve convinced themselves of a different set of beliefs, and so they’re suffering longer because, really, deep down, they don’t believe that. They’ve only made it logical or reasonable to explain away their behavior. So, cognitive dissonance, I think, is huge, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m about to ask you for a favorite book. I’m currently reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) about cognitive dissonance, which is amazing. I recommend it. What’s a favorite book that you’d recommend?

Tracy Timm
Well, Unstoppable, the career book for you, and please go check that out UnstoppableCareerBook.com. I’d appreciate it. But if you’re not going to read my book, I would highly recommend that you read, maybe in addition, this book, it’s a total throwaway coffee table book but it was a game changer for me, it’s called If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules, and it’s by Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott.

And she wrote it originally as a list of like eight rules for living that was published in the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul, and then Jack Canfield tracked her down and said, “I know you wrote this. Can I attribute this to you?” because in the original printing, it was anonymous. And because of that conversation, she was inspired to write the book where she explains each of the rules in detail. So, each of the rules for living comes with like four or five different virtues that when you sort of master those virtues, you’ve mastered that rule for living. It’s powerful. It’s really powerful.

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

Tracy Timm
TracyTimm.com. In fact, I’m going to go ahead, for your audience, create a little landing page, TracyTimm.com/awesome is where you can go, and you can get all kinds of freebies there specifically if this is resonating with you. You can book time with somebody on our team to just talk about what’s not working in your career, and we can help you get on the right path, and that’s absolutely free. So, TracyTimm.com/awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tracy, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all of your unstoppable adventures.

Tracy Timm
Thank you so much, Pete. I just appreciate what you’re doing for the world, and I know everybody out there, I don’t know how they don’t adore you. You’re an absolute treat. So, thank you so much for having me.

607: How to Make Any Work Energizing and Motivating with Todd Henry

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Todd Henry says: "It's about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically."

Todd Henry explains how to tap into your personal motivation code to bring more energy and excitement to your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What it really takes to create lasting motivation
  2. How our motivations distract us—and how to curb that
  3. The 27 flavors of motivation

 

About Todd

Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He is the author of five books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and the longtime host of The Accidental Creative podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Magic Spoon. Enjoy free shipping on delicious, healthy, high-protein cereal that reminds you of childhood. Free shipping on the variety pack at magicspoon.com/HTBA.
  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome

Todd Henry Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into your wisdom but, first, I want to understand, you’ve got a secret music album project you’ve been working on. What’s the story here?

Todd Henry
I’m really curious how you even know about that because I’ve only mentioned it very briefly, like a couple of times but, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
We have a prompt on the form when you booked the interview that says, “Tell us something nobody knows about you.” I stole that from Lisa Cummings, her Strengths podcast. It’s like I’m so thrilled.

Todd Henry
I guess I told you then I guess that’s how it happened. I don’t even remember that. Okay, yeah. So, I think maybe we talked about this the last time I was on the show, but I have a background in the music business. I spent a handful of years after college playing music and traveling and all that, and then, frankly, kind of put that on the shelf for a number of years.

And then, for whatever reason, about seven months ago, right before COVID, I picked up my guitar and I just started writing songs again. So, it’s been a really fun, what I call unnecessary creating project, that’s what I call that discipline, is having something in your life you’re creating that’s not your work, something that’s not about you, it’s not about your clients.

So, for the last handful of months, I’ve been putting together a music project, which is just kind of fun, which, by the way, is for my ears only, and maybe like family and select friends so it won’t be coming to a Spotify app near you anytime soon. But it’s just been fun to really explore that side of my creativity again after 20 years. And, to be frank, I’m like really blown away at how different it is recording now versus 20 years ago. What I can do now in my home office is the equivalent of what I would’ve spent 20 grand on in a studio 20 years ago just because of what’s available, app-wise. So, it’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is wild. I love playing that stuff, like the iZotope RX7, 8 is out now, just a few days ago in terms of…well, we can dork out. But I think it sets the stage well, like, hey, your expertise is creativity but your latest book is called The Motivation Code. Kind of what’s the connection or how did you scooch on over into the realm of motivation?

Todd Henry
Yeah, this was a very unexpected book for me to write, not just in terms of people who read my work but for me, it was very unexpected. About four years, a friend of mine, Rod Penner, who was a veteran of a management consulting firm, he had left the firm several years before but I didn’t know what he was working on, and he just reached out to me, he said, “Hey, I want you to take this motivation assessment I’ve been working on.” That was in 2016.

And I don’t know about you, Pete, but I’m sort of one of those guys who kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear, “Oh, here’s an assessment you should take,” because I always think like those quizzes in magazines are something like, “Which Harry Potter house are you a part of?” Like, that’s what I always kind of think, I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, this is different. You need to take this.”

And so, I did. And, frankly, what I discovered completely blew my mind. I mean, it just really, really amazed me how accurately this assessment described things like why I make the same mistakes over and over again in my life, why some tasks are unbelievably energizing for me, and other tasks are complete drudgery. Like, I would stay up four nights in a row until 1:00 in the morning to do some things, but then you ask me to file some paperwork, and it’s like it’ll take me three minutes but I’ll put it off for a week and a half.

I mean, just all of these patterns why I succeed in some leadership roles and I fail in other leadership roles, all of these patterns were just laid out before me. And this assessment was called The Motivation Code Assessment. And so, I thought, “I’ve got to figure out a way to get this into the world, to get this into other people’s hands,” because it really transformed so much about the way I see my day-to-day work, and I wanted to do that for other people as well.

The only problem was I was in the middle of writing a book at the time called Herding Tigers that came out in 2018. So, I’ve been working on this book in the background for about four years. And over the course of that four years, as I dove into the research, realized that this motivation code assessment is based on over 50 years or research, started in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the outcropping of that work has been developed into this assessment by a team of PhDs and researchers over the course of the last several years, and then I became involved in 2016, and we started working on putting together a book to try to bring this to market, and now the book is available.

So, it’s been a long time coming and an expected twist but it’s kind of one of those things, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, where when you come across something that is so unbelievably transformative, you just want to tell everybody about it. And that’s exactly what happened to me with this research.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is exciting in terms of, aha, the scales have fallen from your eyes, and you see and recognize patterns and explanations for what’s going on there. And, indeed, I suppose why you can accomplish some things quickly and go late into the night and other things if they’re really in a short of amount of time, you’re dragging your feet. Boy, I’ve had that same experience. And I imagine, when it comes to creativity, that’s huge with regard to, “Are you motivated to put in that time to do that in excellence? Or are you just sort of like, ‘Yeah, well, you know what, I guess this is a job and I’m contractually obligated to crank it out, so I guess I’ll do that now.’” And it shows up in both how rewarding you feel and meaningful as well as just how much you put in, and, ultimately, the quality of the work product.

Todd Henry
Right. Exactly. And we tend to think of motivation as being a binary thing, “Either I’m motivated or I’m not,” right? But what we’ve discovered is it’s actually where you get your motivational energy, that there are different flavors of motivation, or as we call them, there are 27 different themes of motivation, 27 different ways you can get your motivational energy. And when you’re consistently operating within your top motivational themes, or what we call your motivation code, you are more engaged, you are more creative, you will put more discretionary energy into the work because the work itself is giving you energy. You’re engaging in work that’s not draining you of energy. Instead, it’s giving you energy, it’s feeding you energy, which is a very different way, by the way, of thinking about motivation.

This is not the traditional way that we think about being motivated. We just need to get motivated. You just need to psych yourself up. You just need to go out there and make it happen. Well, the reality is often we’re working against the way that we’re wired when we try to amp ourselves up, we try to motivate ourselves. But if we understand those themes, if we understand what it is that really drives us, we can structure our lives and our work in such a way that we’re approaching it according to where we get our motivational energy, and that completely changes the calculation.

And the other thing we’ve discovered is that when you are operating, to your point about creativity, Pete, when you’re operating within your motivation code, you’re more likely to experience this phenomenon that we call flow, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed and made popular. And flow is that state where you kind of get lost in your work, where the work is challenging enough to kind of keep you engaged but not so challenging that you lose your interest in it. And we’ve all had those moments where we just get lost in the work, where we forget time and we’re just complete.

Well, what we discovered is that there’s a pretty high degree of correlation between operating in your core motivations, those top three motivations, and experiencing flow in your day-to-day life, which is when you kind of have that sense of getting lost in your work. And, of course, that’s going to lead to better work when you experience that phenomenon.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, so that all adds up conceptually. Could you maybe share a specific story of someone who they came to a new discovery via the motivation code, and then, wow, suddenly things were different? They tapped into something big that made a real impact in their work and life.

Todd Henry
Yeah, I’ll give you the example that I’ve been sharing pretty liberally because the example is me, and I’ll tell you how discovering this affected me. So, my top three motivations, my motivation code, are make an impact, meet the challenge, and influence behavior. Meet the challenge is pretty significant. So, make an impact, my number one, is related to the fact that I need to see the direct impact of my work. I have to be able to see that what I’m doing is leaving a mark on the world around me in some capacity.

Number two is meet the challenge. That’s a pretty close second to make an impact. So, here’s an example of how this helped me understand something that was going on in my life. So, in my entire adult life, Pete, I have probably played a grand total of maybe five hours of video games, since I was like 22 years old. So, I’m now 47.

And then about a year and a half a year ago, maybe two years ago, my son introduced me to a game called Fortnite. Are you familiar with Fortnite?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, I’ve played Fortnite. I played some Fortnite today, Todd.

Todd Henry
Okay, there we go. All right. So, for those who are not initiated, like Pete and I, Fortnite is a game where basically you’re dropped onto an island. You have to basically discover resources and find weapons, and then you have to eliminate other players. And the goal is to be the last person standing or, as they call it, to achieve Victory Royale. So, you want to be the last person standing on the island.

So, what’s great about Fortnite is that it’s challenging, it’s really difficult because you’ve got a hundred other players all of different skill levels. It’s predictable in that there are some pretty clear parameters, but it’s also random because what you do depends on what other people do within the game. And it’s pretty easy to just jump right back in if you get eliminated, so it’s easy access. And then it’s also finite. Like, each game, maybe if you play the entire game, it lasts about maybe 20 minutes, 18 to 20 minutes. So, it’s a really short defined thing.

Well, for somebody who’s wired to meet the challenge, Fortnite is like a narcotic. And let me explain why. So, my son introduced me to this game, he’s like, “I think you might like it. You should try it.” So, I loaded it up on my iPad, and I dive onto the island, and I land, and I think I lasted, like, I took two steps and, boom, I was gone. I was eliminated immediately, right? I was like, “That’s stupid. Play again.” So, I immediately go back into the game. This time I think I lasted maybe like 10 or 15 seconds. By the end of the night, I’d made it like maybe into the top 75.

So, I keep playing this game, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better. And, finally, about a month and a half later, I’m sitting on the couch, my wife is beside me doing something completely ridiculous, like unproductive, like reading a book or something while I’m sitting here playing Fortnite, and so I let out a little whoop. I just achieved my first Victory Royale, Pete. I let out a little whoop, and my wife said, “What happened?” And I explained to her, and her exact response was, “Way to beat that 7-year old, honey. Way to go. Good job.” I’ve never felt so small in my life.

But for somebody wired to meet the challenge, here’s why Fortnite is really dangerous. When I am doing a long-arc project, like let’s say writing a book, that might seem like a challenge to somebody who’s never written a book before, but for me that just looks like a big long-arc project. Something that’s due in a year does not feel challenging to me. It doesn’t feel like an imminent challenge that I need to tackle. So, it’s really easy for me, when I’m working on something like a book project, or something else with a long timeline, it’s easy for me to say, “I’m going to go find something right now I can do that’s  going to feel like a challenge for me.” Fortnite feels like a challenge for me. That’s a distraction that I could easily jump into but there are any number of other things. There are little projects, little things I could be doing that feel like challenges to me right now but are a distraction from the longer-arch work I need to be doing.

So, do you know what I’ve had to do, Pete, is I’ve had to say, “All right. Writing a book is a long-arc project. That takes like a year and a half, two years, from the time you agreed to write the book to the time it hits the market. I need to find ways of establishing little challenges in my work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that my work feels challenging to me.” So, for me, it’s, “I’m going to write 500 words before 9:00 a.m.,” or, “I’m going to write 500 words between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. today. I’m going to write 500 words. That’s my challenge today.” I have to find ways of instilling challenge in my work because if I don’t, I will get distracted by things that are maybe completely frivolous, maybe a waste of my time, but that are satisfying, they’re scratching that meet the challenge itch.

Another one that’s really interesting and unique is, and I hope it’s okay that I say this because we actually share this motivation, as I’ve seen your motivation code report, is make an impact as a podcaster because our podcasts are downloaded a million times a year, and I know yours is as well because I know what your stats are, right? So, as a podcaster, you put lots of stuff into the world but you don’t often get a lot of feedback about the things you’re putting into the world. So, one of the challenges for me, being wired to make an impact, meaning I need to see the impact of the work I’m making in the world, one of the challenges I experienced is that I put things into the world that people don’t respond to. And when people aren’t responding to what I’m doing, I start wondering, “Am I doing the right kind of work? Is my work any good? Should I maybe just sell everything and go move into a Trappist monastery or something? Does any of this make any sense anymore?” Because my motivation of make an impact isn’t being scratched.

And so, sometimes I will do things to achieve an impact just to see that I’m making an impact. I’ll do things that may or may not be helpful to other people just so I can make an impact, or just so I can get some kind of a response from people, because that’s one of my core motivations, that’s one of the shadow sides because you can sometimes try to create an impact where it’s not welcome, because that’s what you’re wired to do.

So, once I began to understand these things and how they play out in my life, and one of my other motivations, my number four is actually overcome. That means I like to work against an enemy. But that means, sometimes, Pete, that I invent enemies where they don’t exist or I invent obstacles to overcome where they don’t exist, and sometimes that can be a waste of energy or a waste of focus. So, once I began to understand how these motivations play out in my life, I began to structure my days, my life, my schedule in a way that was more meaningful. And it actually allowed me to scratch that motivational itch or to get my energy in the right place every day so that my work wasn’t draining to me as much as it was energizing to me.

Now, every motivation is positive but every motivation also has a shadow side. So, once I began to understand some of those shadow side tendencies I just described, I could notice, “Oh, wait a minute, you know what? I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Does my work feel challenging to me? If not, how could I create a challenge right now? You know what, I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Am I making an impact and seeing the impact in my work? If not, then maybe I need to find a way to get some feedback about what I’m doing right now.”

Or, for example, I started a folder of feedback letters that people would send me, or emails people would send me, that I can go back and review where people have written to me about what my work means to them. Because in those moments where I’m not getting, I’m not scratching that motivational itch, it helps me to see, “Oh, my work is having impact. I’m still having an impact on people. I just need to remind myself of that.” So, it’s allowed me to structure my life and my days and my work in a way that is more consistent with how I’m wired to get my energy, and this really made all the difference in the world in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Yes, I was just going to ask, and I’m glad you shared it. So, if you’re not feeling that make an impact with your invisible podcast audience, how are you getting there? And so, you check out the folders. And it’s true, like I have times where, well, I just naturally think it’s fun to chat with people like you and learn stuff. But sometimes I don’t think it’s so much fun to like hunker down, like, “Okay, what are the teasers? What’s in the opener? What’s in the closer?” Like, to actually take a conversation and get it across the finish line to, and this is an episode that stands alone and is consumable, digestible and friendly to pop up and listen to. Like, that is not as much fun for me than chatting with folks like you and learning stuff I like.

So, then my motivation can fall a bit short. And it’s so true, when I just think about the impact that I make. One of my favorite comments from a listener was, “I wake up every morning early so I can listen to it twice.” Like, for me to think about…because there’s some content I love, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything that much. Breaking Bad was so awesome for me but I never woke up early to watch it twice.

So, that’s so cool. And then I had even a little printout in terms of, “Boy, hey, what does it mean to have like 20,000 folks, like demographically in terms of male versus female?” So, I just sort of had images, little icons, that would represent 20,000 people, and sort of look at it. And, sure enough, it helped, and then it got torn up by my toddler, so I should make another one.

Todd Henry
But, yeah, see that’s a classic behavior of somebody driven to by that motivation, make an impact, is you want to see a visible representation of the people that you’re impacting because you can’t see them, right? Even right now, people don’t know this because we’re not recording the video, but we’re actually looking at each other. So, typically, I don’t experience that when I’m recording an audio podcast, but I have no doubt that one of the reasons why you want that feedback is partly related to the way that you get your motivational energy, right, because of wanting to connect with the person on the other side in some capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And it seems like folks just…they can feel more that I’m on their side because I think I’m hopefully giving you some smiles here and there. Because sometimes I think it can sound like a grilling or an interrogation, like, “Give me your best wisdom now. Give me another example. Give me the data behind it. Have you really thought through that?” So, like if I’m coming across that way, I want to be able to reassure them, “Oh, no, hey, Todd, it’s just Pete here, and I’m really interested in your stuff so that’s why I’m asking these questions.” That’s what I’m going for.

Well, so then you mentioned a number of these themes in terms, and, boy, we could spend, I’m sure, multiple hours just laying those out. So, maybe why don’t we just do the list because they’ll tee up my next couple of questions? Could you take two or three seconds now to just name them all? And maybe they come into some clusters.

Todd Henry
They do, yeah. So, again, this research has been conducted over the course of 50 years. We’ve had over a million achievement stories shared. And the language that comprises The Motivation Code Assessment actually was parsed from those million achievement stories. That’s where we discovered the patterns of where people described what it is that was motivating to them about their achievements.

And so, they break down, generally, into six families, six families of motivations. What we say is while they are in a family because they share some DNA, they’re also very different in terms of how they play out in your life. So, even though they’re in a family, that doesn’t mean that they all behave the same. Just, for example, if you have siblings, you share DNA but you probably look different and you probably have different personalities and different things you’re interested in, and that’s kind of the same way that these motivational themes exist with one another but are very different.

So, the first family is what we call the visionary family. And, generally, the visionary family is focused on the future. They’re focused on what’s next. Sometimes they struggle to be present because they’re always thinking about what’s coming up. Actually, one of your top themes is a visionary family theme, which is experience the ideal. Another one is make an impact, which also is one of your motivational themes. And then achieve potential is the third motivational theme that falls in the visionary family.

And then we have the team player family. And, as you can imagine, team player family, themes are all about being with other people, being a part of something great. They really get their energy from the collective effort. That’s really where they get their motivational drive. By the way, these themes tend to be pretty low on my motivations. Generally speaking, I tend to be somebody who’s motivated to work by myself and to work alone, and I like that. It’s great. With the exception of our first theme, which is influence behavior which actually is pretty high on my list. So, influence behavior, serve, collaborate, and make the grade are the four themes that fall under team player.

The next family is called the optimizer family. People who are motivated in this way, tend to be people who are good at taking something and making it great. So, taking something that might be operating okay and making it great, perfecting it, tweaking it. They tend to love working with systems and trying to squeeze maximum efficiency out of systems. So, you have the themes improve, organize, develop, make it work, establish, and make it right.

And then we have the achiever family. The achiever family is driven about moving forward, about persevering, about accomplishing things. And the themes in the achiever family are bring to completion, meet the challenge, advance, and overcome. And then the final two themes, or two families, I should say, are the key contributor family. Key contributor family, these are the people who like to be at the center of the action. They like to be the people making stuff happen. So, you’ve got excel, bring control, be central, gain ownership, be unique, and evoke recognition.

And then the final family is the learner family, and these are people who love to explore, they’re people who love to ask questions. These are the people who often get into conflict with the achiever family when they’re working on a project together because they’re asking, “Why are we doing this? Let’s try seven other ways before we settle on one.” And the achiever family people are like, “Let’s just get it done.” But the themes that fall under the learner family are explore, master, demonstrate new learning, and comprehend and express. So, that is all 27 themes in a nutshell, and all of the six families along with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess where that leads me next is, so that’s a nice rundown, and we can see that, yes, those are different. And so, with mine, I’ve got them scored from the top ten: experience the ideal, and then make an impact 9.6, and then on mine on the bottom, evoke recognition 5.2, and make it right 5.1, which is true, I don’t really care about things the right away. In fact, I kind of like it if we’re breaking new innovative territory, and it’s like, “That’s not how it’s done.” It’s like, “Yeah, I know and I love it.” So, it doesn’t really motivate me when it comes to like accounting stuff, like I’m not going to commit fraud or anything, but that doesn’t fire me up, like, “Oh, man, we just really stated those financials perfectly in accordance with Gap.” Like, “Oh, I don’t care. As long as I’m obeying the law and not being a taker or a whatever, I’m all good.”

So, I guess my question is, well, I think it’s a mark of a good assessment is I read the top results, and I say, “Yes, but of course…” and, “Aren’t we all this way?”

Todd Henry
Right, of course. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to get your vibe in terms of is it fairly evenly distributed across the population? Or are there some folks who make it right is their number one, and there are just as many of them as there are of me?

Todd Henry
Oh, absolutely. No question. And not only that, but there are people…I mean, we’ve given this assessment now to tens of thousands of people. What we’ve discovered is there are people with every one of these motivational themes as their top theme in almost any role you can imagine, right? Because it’s not like, “Oh, if your number one is experience the ideal, then you should be a podcaster.” It’s about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically.

Now, let’s say that you are an accountant, as you just mentioned, and let’s say that your top theme is collaborate, which we have certainly had accountants who are high on collaborate. And let’s say during tax season, you’re stuck in a cubicle doing work, you’re cranking out tax returns in a cubicle by yourself for eight hours a day, you’re probably going to go into a funk and maybe not even know why. You might think you hate your job. You don’t hate your job. What you hate about your job right now is the fact that you have no human interaction for eight hours a day, and you’re fundamentally to get your energy from collaborating with other people.

So, where this is very helpful is in parsing the difference between, “I hate my job,” or, “I hate my tasks,” and, “I hate the way I’m approaching my job,” or, “I hate that I’m approaching my tasks.” Those are fundamentally different things. So, if that is your job, and, for example, you’re wired to collaborate, so you’re going to be in a cube cranking through tax returns all day for eight hours a day, you need to be disciplined about saying, “You know what, I’m either going to, A, find a way to maybe find another teammate that I can do these tax returns with, or in proximity with, or, B, I’m going to structure a social lunch every day. I’m going to take a break in the middle of my day, and I’m going to have social lunch where I get to interact with people, talk about things, we get to collaborate on what’s working, what’s not working, so that I, at least, have some motivational reprieve from these tasks that are going to drain me by the very nature of the tasks because of the way I’m wired.”

Now, somebody else, to your point, who’s wired, say, for establish or to make it right, they might love just being in a cubicle all day just getting it right. That’s all they care about, “If the number is balanced, I’m experiencing nirvana,” because that’s how they’re wired. It doesn’t matter if anybody is around them. They just want to experience getting it right or making things the way they’re supposed to be. So, this is where the difference is between motivational themes and how you score on the motivational assessment. This is how it makes a difference in terms of how you approach your work. It’s not so much about the task you do.

We spend so much time looking for the perfect job, Pete, and that is like chasing vapor. There is no perfect job. Any job you do is going to have tasks you don’t enjoy. But if you learn what drives you, what motivates you, you can begin to structure how you approach your job in a more meaningful way, in a way that will allow you to activate those core motivations more intentionally, more purposefully, and more consistently. And when you begin to approach your work that way, suddenly, you’re going to find, “I’m enjoying my job. I’ve always hated my job but, suddenly, I find that I’m enjoying my tasks more.” Well, it’s because you’re thinking about how to more strategically approach your work according to your motivational types instead of waiting for your job to scratch your motivational itch, which it’s probably not going to do with a few exceptions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it really is pretty eye-opening there in terms of what I’m drawn to and then what I’m not. And sometimes it’s sort of like, in running a business, it’s like for the goal of running a profitable business, I know that using the metric of expected profit generated per hour demanded of me is the optimizing metric to utilize to get the most of that result.

Todd Henry
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes that is quite motivating in terms of I say, “Oh, look, there’s a really big opportunity to make a big impact. Go after it.” And sometimes it’s just sort of like, “Yeah, I know there’s profit there, but I just don’t really care.” And so, it’s actually hard for me to find the discipline to do the thing that I “should” be doing when there’s not a lot of motivational code alignment embedded within them.

Todd Henry
As I’m just looking right now, because you gave me permission, I’m looking at your top motivations, that’s not what’s going to drive you. If you were driven to gain ownership, for example, or if you were driven by any number of the achiever family themes, you would be somebody who’s like, “I don’t care how many podcast downloads I have as long as I have more than that person over there.” Like, that would be what drives you, “I don’t care how many downloads I have as long as it’s 20% more than what I had last year.” That’s how you would be wired, but that’s not what your motivational themes tell me about what matters to you. Those aren’t the things that you’re measuring.

The challenge is the things that are motivating you are a little more difficult to measure. I have a feeling that you’re never 100% satisfied with any episode that you put out in some capacity. Is that true or is that false?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. Sometimes I don’t like to listen to them too closely because then I’ll start…

Todd Henry
Because you’re judging yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
…critiquing the bejesus out of them.

Todd Henry
Yeah. And part of that is the experience of the ideal motivation which is your top motivation, meaning that you are still chasing the perfect podcast episode, which is why your listeners love you, by the way, that’s why you have raving fans, it’s why you have amazing swag for your show, it’s why all of these things, is because you’re trying to create a best possible version of what a podcast could be, which is fantastic. The problem is that you can’t really ever get there because that’s sort of an idealized understanding of what podcast is. And so, as you’re chasing that, the goalpost just kind of keeps moving. But that also energize, I assume that really energizes you as well. The idea of chasing after the ideal version of a podcast is probably something that really energizes you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And so, experience the ideal, I guess this is maybe more for me, so that’s both about experiencing, making real my ideals, my values, and such, as well as experiencing the ideal – am I using this philosophy term right, the platonic form, huh, maybe – of podcast to make the ideal podcast that is part of the game, in addition to the fact that making this podcast speaks to the values that I hold dear.

Todd Henry
Yes, absolutely. So, what gives you joy is the process of creating the thing that was in your head and putting it into the world, and then obviously making an impact, that’s your number two, but seeing the impact of the thing that you’re putting into the world. But it’s the process of doing that that really gives you joy of chasing after those ideals, of chasing after the vision that you have in your head, right? That’s what really gives you joy.

And so, some of the traditional metrics that we use to determine success or failure, or on podcasting or any business, quite frankly, are not the things that give you joy. Whereas, somebody else, quite frankly, they don’t care what they’re putting out. Their numbers are going up. They’re great with it. Or if they have 20% more than they had last year, “Great, that’s all that matters. That’s what gives me all the energy I need.”

And so, when you ask the question, “Well, aren’t we all kind of like this?” Well, we’re all motivated by a blend of themes, and all the themes modify one another, but we each have sort of a unique code that really describes where we are when we’re operating in our sweet spot, right? And so, when we begin to understand that, and understand how these top three to five themes really play together in our life, it begins to explain some of these patterns, some of the things, the tendencies that we have, some of the ways that we maybe get ourselves into trouble sometimes, but also those moments when we feel really, really alive.

It explains, for me, why I cry every time I see The Pursuit of Happiness or Rudy or some of these movies, right? It’s because, well, overcome is one of my top themes. Of course, I’m going to be motivated and moved by some story of somebody overcoming the odds. Of course, I am. Whereas, somebody else thinks, “That’s really cheesy.” “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” But, like, yeah, that really…it doesn’t just move me. It moves me to my core, and I never had terminology to explain that before. But now, suddenly, I realize that’s because that’s how I’m motivated. That’s where I get my energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, when you talk about like movies and strong emotions, like, well, hey, I’m a big advocate for, “Hey, man, do some introspection or reflection on that stuff. It’s telling you something.” And it’s funny, so my favorite movie is Life Is Beautiful. And if you think about, oh, geez, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. If you think about the ideal of a father, wow, I mean, what that guy does for his kid, it’s hard to imagine a more challenging circumstance and an ideal response to it for a child. Wow, there you have it. I’m going to have some water, Todd.

Todd Henry
I have no reaction to that. See, that’s what’s interesting. You’re tearing up thinking about it, whereas I’m tearing up thinking about Rudy and all these overcomer movies because that’s such a core part of my motivation, right? And so, in many ways, these motivational themes help us define things that we’ve always sensed but never had language for, which is what makes it so powerful and also so practical, because then not only do we understand but we actually have some stuff we can do about it to make sure that we’re experiencing them more consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so Todd, let’s see, so if folks who want their motivation code, they get the book, or what’s the easiest cost or most cost-effective way to get as many of the goodies as they can get?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, there is a version of the assessment in the book, it’s a free version of the assessment that basically gives you your top three themes, tells you what your top three themes are when you take the assessment. So, if you go to MotivationCode.com or just anywhere you can get books, you can buy the book. In there, there’s a link to take you to the free version of the assessment to give you your top themes.

We also have, like you took, Pete, we have a full version of the assessment that you can take as well, but as a good starting point, I think the free version of the assessment will you your top three themes, and really begin the journey of understanding more of what it is that moves you to action.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, it sounds like, to summarize, the general parameter here is you get that understanding of what are your top motivational themes, and then you start looking for ways you can align more of your work and life with that, and it may involve trying to do different tasks, or may just be change the way you’re doing your existing tasks.

Todd Henry
Unquestionably. And there’s an entire chapter in the book that’s based on, “So, now what?” Again, we’ve all taken assessments, and then we sort of attach some letters to our name, like, “Hi, I’m an INTP. You?” That’s fine. Not always very practical. Not always very useful. So, really, what we wanted to do was make sure that the book explains to people, “Okay, what can you do about this?” And one of the things we know for certain is that we learn and we grow best in community.

And so, one of the things we recommend is talking to somebody else about what you’re discovering, “Hey, Pete, I just discovered that my top motivation is make an impact, and I’ve noticed that I’m in kind of a funk lately because I’m not seeing a lot of the impact in my work, and I just want to talk about that with you.” Or, “Hey, this thing came up and it didn’t really seem to make sense for me.” I mean, we do have that happen from time to time where people…I was a given a workshop a handful of months ago, and somebody was kind of arguing with me, like, the specific theme was be unique. And they said, “Yeah, but I don’t have a drive to be unique. Like, I don’t wear weird clothes and I don’t have like spiked pink hair. I don’t really have that drive to be unique.”

And this person happened to be a pastor, and I said, “Well, tell me about what you do.” He said, “I’m a pastor, and I give talks.” I say, “Okay, tell me this, if I told you I’m going to write a sermon for you, and I want you just to kind of go out and read that sermon, or deliver that sermon, you’re going to deliver it however you want, but you’re going to use the words that I give you, and you’re going to use the terminology I give you. Would that be satisfying to you?” He’s like, “No, because what I say has to be a unique expression of how I see the world and who I am.” And I said, “You just used the phrase in describing back to me.” It’s like, “You’re arguing to be unique isn’t your motivation but you’re using that exact phrase to describe back to me what it is that drives you.”

And so, sometimes people, when they first discover what their motivational themes are, they don’t necessarily understand what it means to them, and then in the course of talking with others about it, they suddenly realize, “Oh, this does make sense,” because people can reflect back to them what they see in their life in a way that helps them contextualize what these motivations actually mean in terms of how they’re playing out in their day-to-day life. So, that’s one of the things that is really important.

And, listen, we learn and grow in the context of community in any way. I need you, Pete, you need me in order to really fully see ourselves. Like, we do because we all have blind spots. And so, that’s one of the main things I want to make sure people take away from this, is don’t just go do this and then say, “Okay, that was interesting,” and then walk away from it. But, instead, talk about it with someone else and invite them to speak into your life as well, and say, “Hey, where do you see this playing out in my life? How do you see these things playing out? And what do you think I can do to better position myself to experience these motivational themes more consistently?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Todd, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Henry
I think the main thing is just recognize that, especially if you manage people or if you’re somebody in a role where you have organizational responsibility, I think traditionally we have relied on blunt force methods to motivate people, whether that be pay raises, words of encouragement, flexibility, things like that, and the reality is those things work for a season and then everybody reverts to the mean. They don’t last because they’re blunt force.

If you want to engage your team, and if you want to engage the people around you, the absolute way to do that is they understand the specific code that unlocks their motivation, and you owe it to them. If you’re a manager of people, you owe it to your team to understand what it is that uniquely drives them and brings their best work out on a day-to-day basis.

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Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, my favorite quote in the world is actually from Thomas Merton. I don’t have it in front of me so I might get it wrong, but it’s, “There can be an intense egoism in following everyone else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they justify their haste as a species of integrity.”

So, what’s interesting about that is they want quick success and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. I think we have so many people around us who are in a hurry to become successful to the point that they forget who it is they are and what they value, and, in the end, they may achieve what they were going for and realize it’s hollow because they abandoned everything that they value in order to accomplish it.

And so, I’m a firm believer that who you’re becoming is much more important than whatever it is you’re accomplishing in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, now, could you share a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Todd Henry
In the book, I talk about the work of Deci and Ryan and some of the work that they did in exploring motivation, and kind of how motivation plays out in our day-to-day life. And they were some of the first people to discover that any kind of extrinsic motivation imposed upon someone, extrinsic motivation meaning something that you sort of do to prompt motivation, so it could be a pay raise, or words of encouragement, things of that nature, is short-lived. Very short-lived and doesn’t last for very long. In fact, even words of encouragement, over time, eventually lose their impact on people because people grow used to them.

And so, if you’re going to use that, if you’re going to use either pay raises or words of encouragement, you better be prepared to continue doling out more and more raises, more and more words of encouragement over time because, eventually, they will lose their impact because that’s just the way that we’re wired as human beings.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Todd Henry
So, right now I’m reading a book called Why Information Grows, which is blowing my mind, but it’s about why information, specifically on earth, why information grows here but it doesn’t grow on other places in the universe. And it all has to do with, I won’t go into the specifics, but it all has to do with the fact that information is encoded much more readily in solids than it is in gases, and our planet is, the conditions are just right for the right kinds of solids to exist to allow us to encode information. So, it’s a really fascinating book. It’s a little technical but a really fascinating book.

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

Todd Henry
The Techo Planner by Hobonichi is my favorite little tool. I use it for journaling, I use it for tracking my dailies. It’s really like the perfect little notebook, a little paper planner to sort of carry around and use to help organize my life and my work.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit, something you do?

Todd Henry
So, I may have mentioned this in the last episode, but about 17 years ago, I began a habit of every day study in the morning. It’s the first I do in the morning. I get up and I read and I spend some time thinking and writing in the morning, and it has fundamentally transformed my life. If you want to learn how to think systemically, if you want to learn how to see bigger patterns, if you want to advance in your career, if you want to have better relationships, the absolute best thing you can do is make an investment in your intellectual self. And that begins by having a regimen of regular study in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, it’s funny, the one thing that was like an off-the-cuff article I wrote like five years ago, the title was “Don’t Let Your Rituals Become Ruts,” and that is the most quoted thing on the internet for some reason, I think, because the Get.Momentum app on Chrome uses it as one of their screensavers, but I see it tweeted more than anything else.

But I think the thing probably that I’m seeing resonate most often is our early book called Die Empty, which is really about making sure that you’re not taking your best work to the grave with you. And I’m seeing that growing in momentum around the world. Actually, it’s fun. I’m seeing it, it’s been translated into, I forget how many languages now, but it’s really cool to see people talking about, like, “I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me. I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me.” And that’s been kind of a fun thing to see growing as a movement around the world.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah, if you want to know more about motivation code, just go to MotivationCode.com is the best place to learn all about the assessment and the book itself and the company. And you can find me at ToddHenry.com, and also my podcast, The Accidental Creative, where we list the podcast.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. Listen, the work that you do, the things that you produce, that really, really important project you’re working on right now, I mean, no offense, but nobody is probably going to remember that in a hundred years. I’m sorry, but they’re not. I’m sorry, Pete, nobody is going to probably remember your podcast, or my podcast, or any of my books, or any of that stuff in a hundred years. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that.

But, listen, the impact that you have on the people around you will resonate for generations to come. You don’t have a responsibility to change the world but you do have a responsibility to change the world around you. So, be the kind of person who makes echoes in the lives of others. And if you make echoes in the lives of others, those echoes are going to resound for generations to come.

And generations has a great quote, it says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees and whose shade they will never sit.” As you create echoes in the lives of other people, generations down the line, people are going to be sitting under a tree that you planted, that you had no idea was even planted, right? So, just be the kind of person and be the kind of leader who makes echoes.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, this has been awesome. I wish you all the best in your adventures.

Todd Henry
Thanks so much, Pete. And thanks again for having me on the show.

606: How to Learn Faster so Robots Can’t Steal Your Job with Edward Hess

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Edward Hess says: "If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward... you've got to be able to do tasks that technology can't do."

Edward Hess discusses how to stay relevant in the digital age via hyperlearning.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you need to rethink the way you work 
  2. The secret to achieving inner peace 
  3. How to redefine your ego 

 

About Edward

Edward Hess is a Professor of Business Administration, Batten Fellow and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business. He has spent twenty years in the business world as a Senior Executive and has spent the last 18 years in academia. He is the author of 13 books and over 140 articles and 60 Darden Case studies. His work has appeared in over 400 global media outlets including Fortune magazine, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Washington Post. 

His recent books and research has focused on “Human Excellence in the Digital Age: A New Way of Being; A New Way of Working; Humanizing the Workplace; and Hyper-Learning.” 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Edward Hess Transcript

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

Edward Hess
Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s wonderful being with you. I really admire what you do with your podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, I admire what you do here and I’m excited to talk about hyper-learning which is something I think I’m into and so are the listeners. First, can you tell us, what is that and maybe open with a fun story about a professional doing hyper-learning to see some cool results?

Edward Hess
Well, hyper-learning is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn at a continuous high-level rate. It’s the skill that’s needed in the digital age where the digital age is going to, basically, technology is going to transform how we live and how we work, and the technology is going to produce so much new data and new knowledge so fast that basically whatever we think we know, and we probably don’t know what we think we know, but even if we did know what we think we know, the shelf life of that is going to be estimated to be two to three years.

So, we basically, have to become very, very adaptive. We basically have to be a continuous lifelong hyper-learner, and the big challenge to that is that we’re not wired to be a hyper-learner. And we’ll talk about that, but a good story, well, I’ve worked with a lot of people, a lot of companies that are embracing this. And I think one of the best stories was a company who got their leadership team together, and I spent a week with them, and we went into the details. I’m very granular on behaviors, as you know, and so we got into, “How do you be a hyper-learner and what’s the highest level of learning?” It means you’ve got to be a great listener. It means you’ve got to be a great collaborator. It means you’ve got to basically calm of what’s going on in your mind and body. So, we focused a day on how to listen.

And this guy was a senior executive and was sort of quiet. He was a technology guy. Quiet, but he was engaged. In the next morning, one of the practices of this company is have a check-in every morning, “Where are you? How are things fitting?” So, everyone went around the table and came to this guy’s time, and he said, “Well, can I share something personal?” “Of course. Of course.” He said, “I called home last night and I had the reflective listening checklist that Ed gave me with me and I put it by the phone, and I talked to my wife and talked to my kids, and the conversation kept going on and I kept looking at the checklist. And, really, it was sort of amazing. We talked like an hour and a half.” And he said, “That’s not usual.” And everyone said, “Oh, that’s good. That’s good.”

He says, “Well, my wife called me back after she put the kids together, and this is what she said. She says, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing at that meeting, but keep doing it because that was the best conversation you’ve had with me and our kids in a long time because you really listened.’” And the guy broke down crying in the meeting. That’s a wonderful story about how, if you will, changing one’s behavior so you can really be present and listen with a closed mind which is necessary to learn. Not only can it impact you in the workplace, but impact you in the home place.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s beautiful to kick us off, and I want to talk about, indeed, how was that done. I love your first chapter, which is “Achieving Inner Peace.” And we’re just getting started after that with a subsequent chapter. So, that is a key roadblock for great listening. So, yeah, how do we pull that off, first of all?

Edward Hess
Well, I think, if I can, let me lead into it this way. I think that people have to go and embrace hyper-learning come up with their own why, “Why should I be a hyper-leaner?” and that’s pretty easy. If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward, to have meaningful work, you’ve got to be able to basically do tasks that technology can’t do. So, everybody sort of knows what that is. The higher-level thinking, higher-level emotional engagement, etc., and so we can figure out the why.

But then the question comes down to, “Why do I need to change anything?” And this is the thing that’s the hardest for people to basically accept. And, basically, we’re all suboptimal learners. We are wired for efficiency, all right? We are wired for speed, right? We basically go out in the world and we process information which confirms what we already believe. We go into the world wired to confirm what we believe, to affirm our egos, and to basically validate our stories of how the world works. We basically see what we believe. That’s a scientific fact.

So, if you think about it, if everything is changing, new data, new knowledge is coming, new ways of doing things, and we’re going in the world looking for confirmation, we’re not going with an open mind, we’re not going to explore, wow! What are we going to do inside of ourselves to help us rewire? So, instead of seeking confirmation and affirmation and cohesiveness, instead of being a reflective thinker, if you will, as you know Daniel Kahneman called as lazy thinker, instead of being that, being an active, engaged thinker, what can we do to basically help us be that way? And it all begins with inner peace. And I finally got there. I’m sure you were wondering, “When is he going to get to inner peace?”

But inner peace is the answer or the pathway to beginning to take ownership of what’s going on inside of us, to take ownership of it. Ownership of our mind. Ownership of our emotions. Ownership of our behaviors. Not to be a reflexive reactive, so reflexive and reactive. And inner peace, I define it, if you will, as this state of inner stillness or calmness that enables you to go out into the world and embrace the world with your most non-judgmental fearless open mind with a lack of self-absorption.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds great. I’d love some more of that. How do I do it?

Edward Hess
Well, inner peace has four blocks: quiet ego, quiet mind, quiet body, and positive emotional state. And it all starts out with the quiet ego and the quiet mind. And how do we do that? And the science is pretty compelling that the best way to start on this journey is mindfulness meditation. All right? And then as you advance to add, if you will, loving kindness, meditation or gratitude meditation.

It also quiets your mind. It allows us to basically learn, “We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. And there’s not an automatic link between our emotions and our behaviors.” I can remember early on, and understand I wasn’t born with inner peace, and it took me a long time to get to inner peace, okay? So, I’ve been a work in progress for decades. But I could remember in younger age, my wife and I were having a, I’d just say, a heated discussion, and she interrupted me, and she says, “Excuse me, do you understand that there’s not…because you feel emotional, you don’t have to behave in that way? Do you understand that your emotions are not hardwired into behaviors?” And I looked at her, and I said, “No, I didn’t know that.” And she says, “Well, I think you need to work on it because you have a choice.” And she was so right.

And so, inner peace is taking ownership and managing what’s going on. We have a choice. We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. So, how do you do it? I’d say start with meditation. That’s the best way to get there, and you’ve got to engage in daily practices: gratitude; visualization of how you want to behave; being very granular on coming up with “How do I want to go into the world? How do I want to behave today? How do I want to think? How do I want to listen?”

And the model is inner peace is the foundation. Then you need a hyper-learning mindset, the way to go and approach the world, then you’ve got to look at how you behave. And the book is really, the book plus a workbook, it’s an embedded workbook with lots of reflection times, with questions, and lots of workshops with deliverables. In fact, if people buy the book and they come to my website, the publisher will give everybody a free 140-page hyper-learning journal where you can take all the stuff, so it’s very action-oriented.

And so, there’s a whole chapter on hyper-learning behaviors, and there’s a diagnostic, and you would take…Pete, you’d take the diagnostic, the hyper-learning behaviors diagnostic, and grade yourself, and you would see, “Where am I the weakest?” And then you see how the behaviors fit into a format and to a pyramid, and you’d say, “What’s the building block I need to work on?” And the two building blocks that most people have, most males have to work on are quiet ego, and the second building block that everybody sort of has to work on is listening. Okay. Well, how do I listen?

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, just before we get in there, when you talk about mindfulness practice here, are you just talking about you sitting quietly at a relaxed and alert posture and focusing on your breath and returning your thoughts to your breath as they go elsewhere? Or what specifically are you thinking when you say mindfulness practice?

Edward Hess
Mindfulness meditation, yes. Mindfulness meditation, basically, focusing on your breathing, and, as you’re saying, when the thought comes into your mind, just let it go, don’t engage with it, and then take yourself back to focusing on your meeting. You can focus on your breath, you can focus on a body part, okay? Something that you’re basically, you bring yourself back to. So, mindfulness meditation, you can focus, if you wanted, on doing a meditation, a gratitude meditation, in effect, visualizing people that have helped you, etc. in expressing gratitude to them, or gratitude for people that are in your life that you’re thankful for. And then when your mind sort of wanders, you come back to that. But the key one is mindfulness meditation, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, let’s say we’re doing that, it’s great, we’re on our way…

Edward Hess
And I would recommend highly, when you do your mindfulness meditation, to also, at the same time, do deep breathing practices. And you can either do the coherent breathing practice, which comes out of Columbia University, or you can use, if you will, some people may not want to, but the Navy has got some good deep-breathing practices that, basically, you calm yourself, and then you basically do your breathing. But you basically try to get your breathing where you can breathe in very deeply and breathe out very slowly, and the number of breaths you take per minute. And the goal is to get to where you can basically breathe comfortably and get down to two breaths per minute.

Pete Mockaitis
So, two full inhales and outhales.

Edward Hess
That’s right, in a minute, okay? And five is good, five is very good. But if you work on it, yeah, it takes a year basically.

Pete Mockaitis
I was going to ask about sort of like the dosage or time. So, that, I’m sure, it varies quite a lot but, hey, inner peace, mindfulness meditation, how much do we got to do and for how long till we get there?

Edward Hess
Well, it’s sort of like this, becoming a hyper-learner is like becoming a world-class athlete, or a world-class painter, or a world-class dancer. You got to work at it every day. There is no easy pathway to transforming us once we get to the age we’re at. And so, you start out with meditation, two minutes, you try and do it two minutes a day, and it’s hard, but you keep working at it. The book is based on daily practices, which you do rigorously every day, and then there are some practices that you sort of alternate.

But if you want to succeed on this journey, and many people have, and it is hard to express the power of what we’re talking about. It’s life-changing. It’s life-changing because you have this peace and you’re just not reactive. You’re able to sense things. Your thinking improves so much. You’re not so emotionally reactive. You can become a better collaborator, all of these things, but it’s going to be an everyday practice.

In companies that I worked with, I worked with some public companies. I can’t say their names, where every day before every meeting, they do a two-, three-minute, up to a five-minute meditation. In one company, worldwide, it’s a company that has blue-collar, white-collar, etc. workers, the first thing, every day, worldwide, there’s a 15-minute silence. And you can meditate, or you can think about the people in your life that you love, or you can give thanks to whoever you want to give thanks to, but it’s embedded. It has to be embedded in your life and embedded in the workplace to work.

And, yes, it takes time, but I do it with…some of my MBA students get into this, and they reach out years later. I just had one reached out. This was four years ago. He reached out and was just saying, “I just want you to know I’m still meditating like you said every morning.” And he said, “It is just unbelievable.” He says, “I’m so much more effective at work, a family life. This stuff is magic.” So, we’re talking about if you want to…we’re fixing to go into an era that is going to be as disruptive for us or even greater than the industrial revolution was for our ancestors.

In fact, I believe the era we’re going into where technology is going to take us, this is going to be every analogous to our ancestors long time ago who had to leave, if you will, the jungles of Africa because of, basically, mother nature, and earthquakes, etc. and actually go out into the fields, the savannahs. Our primate ancestors had to leave the jungles and go into the fields. The good news is the fields had big animals so there was lots you could eat. The bad news is the big animals were fast and strong and could eat our ancestors. They had to learn an entire new way of living in order to, if you will, not become extinct.

To some extent, that’s where we are. In order to basically have meaningful work and meaningful relationships and a meaningful life going forward, because automation is going to invade all of professions. Degrees are not going to protect people anymore. Nobody knows but very smart people say that people coming out of college today probably have six different careers, five or six different careers. We will have to continually be an adaptive human being. You don’t get that way being raised the way we were in our culture, survival of the fittest, and you don’t get that way by basically being wired the way we are.

So, the answer is, no, this is not easy. It takes self-discipline and practice but it’s not magical. It’s not hard. All you need to do, I mean, really and truly, if you spent, in the beginning, if you spent two or three minutes, I believe it’s very important to work up my daily intentions. My daily intention is my list of how I want to be today, how I want to behave today, and, “Do you want to be kind? Do you want to be caring? Do you want to be open-minded? Do I want to slow down once I feel my body going faster and faster? Do I want to, before I go into a meeting, take four or five deep breaths?” Whatever it is, you read those every morning, you visualize yourself doing it, and you go out. And then at night, you come back and you grade yourself, “How did I do? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot to do this in this meeting.” Okay, write this down.

Same thing with your meditation. If you start out at two minutes, then you go to three minutes, then you go to five minutes. It varies so much per person, but you can get to 20 minutes within, say, two months. And if you did 20 to 30 minutes a day the rest of your life, you’d be in good shape. You don’t have to do four hours a day like the Dalai Lama. Twenty to thirty minutes a day you’d be in good shape. If you really want to take it to a higher level, you do it in the morning, and you also do it in the evening, and you do a different type of meditation, either the gratitude meditation or the heart meditation.

And the other aspects of it are basically you get to be very behavioral. What behaviors, in order to be a hyper-learner, do you need to excel at? Well, you need to have a quiet ego because you need not to be defensive. We’re working on that with meditation. But what does that mean? Well, I got to be a good listener. Well, how does a good listener do that? A good listener is totally quiet when you’re speaking. He or she is not making up their answers. They’re not thinking about the next meeting. They’re not thinking about the last meeting. They are totally silent, listening to what you’re saying, fully, fully present. Well, that takes a while to get there. So, how do you do that?

Well, the first thing is keep your devices away from you. We have a way. I’m going to sit at the meeting, and both my hands are going to be on the table or I’m going to be sitting in this way. And you start figuring out, “How am I going to concentrate on what that person is saying?” And your mind is going to wander. Bring it back, that’s the meditation training. So, I’m fully, fully present. I call it the three R…the goal is 3RP: really, really, really be present.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, really, really, really be present.

Edward Hess
Are you having fun? Hey, you having fun, man? Huh? Are you having fun with this? I’m serious. How does it sound?

Pete Mockaitis
Very much, I am. I didn’t if you were demonstrating listening or if you’re asking me, Pete Mockaitis, real time. Yeah, I’m quite fascinated so I want to hear. So, being really, really, really present, you’ve said that listening conversation checklist was game-changing for that gentleman in the session. What are the things on this list that we should be doing?

Edward Hess
Well, this is from memory. One, don’t multitask. Two, make eye contact. Three, calm what’s going on, calm yourself. If you’re thinking about something else, take deep breaths, calm yourself. Smile at the person talking, and they’ll smile back at you. That basically generates positive emotions. When there’s positive emotions between people, you’re more likely to learn. When things come into your mind, if you start making up your answer, immediately try to turn back to listening. When your mind starts to wander, recognize it, go back, listen.

Very important. When the person stops talking, do not advocate or state what you believe. Ask a question. If you hold yourself to asking questions, that’s going to help you listen because you want to ask questions for two reasons. To make sure you understand what the person was saying so that when you respond, your response has a higher probability of being effective. But the other thing is, the most important thing, as we go into this digital age is understanding the concept of otherness. No one can excel at thinking in ways the technology can think. No one can excel in basically higher-order emotional engagement by themselves. We need others. We need others.

And we need others, a special kind of others. Others that trust us and that we trust. And trust comes from people feeling cared about. And the number one way that a person feels cared about is when you show that you have listened by asking good questions, when you say that “I want to make sure I understand you,” it says, “I care about you, I respect you. I respect you as a distinct human being.” And then you can have a conversation, if you will, if you disagree or you don’t disagree, why, but that conversation should be data-based and respectful.

The workplace is going to change in this area. If you work in a workplace that is a survival of the fittest, highly-competitive workplace, well, that organization is going to become extinct because you can’t optimize collective intelligence and people leaning together at their optimal level in teams in a very competitive workplace. I tell people, “Listen to learn not to confirm.”

And so, you go through this process. It’s a whole approach that, “Okay, wait a minute. I’ve got to learn how to think differently. Instead of seeking confirmation, I got to seek novelty and exploration and discovery. I got to actively go look for disconfirming information to test what I think.” How many people when they believe something go out and look for disconfirming information? Not a lot. I got to basically defer judgment instead of “yes, but” “yes, and.” I got to embrace differences and try to make meaning of those differences because, again, we process a very small amount of the stimuli that can come through our body from the world, and no one can process…it’s like less than 0.1%.

And so, in the digital age, we’ve got to be able to excel at not knowing and knowing how to learn. We’ve got to excel at going into the unknown and figuring things out. And that happens best with other people because they will see things that we don’t see. And so, a whole new way of working and a new way of being is what this book is about. How do you go out there with that new way of being? How do you bring your better self, work on your best self? How do I come to the table, to the meeting, to be off to Zoom, to whatever? How do I bring that best self here and be the most open I can be in order to learn but also to be a good teammate showing respect, and respecting the human dignity of the people that I’m working with, and understanding I’m not competing with them?”

The biggest competition in the digital age is Ed Hess, not Pete, not you, Pete, I got to compete. If I do my work on myself, I’ll be fine, and I know that I need you also, and I’ll help you work on yourself just like you help me work on it. No more is it Ed versus Pete. No more is it a zero-sum game. It all comes down to collective intelligence.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I love a lot of what you’re saying here in terms of, okay, so we start with the inner peace and the mindfulness, and we’re doing great listening and asking questions, and seeking dis-confirmatory evidence, and being curious and exploratory, and focusing on other people, and having sort of the multi-people intelligence enable the hyper-learning as opposed to digging deep on speed reading or memory tricks, the focus is on the human dimensions.

And so, I’m curious, so we’ve got “Chapter 8: Having High-Quality, Making Meaning Conversations.” So, we’ve already got a couple pro tips for the listening. Are there any sort of key questions or things that we should do in order to engage in these conversations that facilitate hyper-learning?

Edward Hess
Yes. So, let’s go back to the bases. First, we have the “come to the meeting with the right intentions about the meeting.” We have to come into the meeting as best we can with a quiet ego, a quiet mind, a calm body, not be stressful, and a positive emotional state. The highest levels of learning are enabled by a positive emotional environment.

The workplace people are going to need is, my good friend Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is a requirement. So, you got to ask yourself, “Okay, and if these not people that I work with all the time, how do I behave in such a way that Pete trusts me? Because psychological safety is built upon trust. I trust you’ll do me no harm. I trust that I can speak up, so it comes down.” And in the book, there’s workshops as to “If I want to basically engage in a caring manner with someone else, how do I behave that way?”

The book is very practical, “How do I have to behave so you care about me? How do I have to behave so you trust me? What would I do?” And when I do my work in this, I have teams of people that work together and they do exercises, such as “What does a person have to do for you to trust them?” And then you do the opposite, “If a person does X, how will that basically hurt trust?” And people have a conversation. So, they’re having a conversation, what caring means to them. How will they feel cared about? When would they trust somebody? And they’re learning from each other. And then they’re asking each other, “Okay, now how can I improve my behaviors? How can Jane improve her behaviors?”

Making meaning conversation is when people come together to learn from each other to basically make meaning of words which, in the workplace, we all take for granted. And so, for any conversation to make meaning together, you have to do what? You have to truly try to understand the other person’s point of view in a non-judgmental manner. You have to actually put yourself in their shoes. Then you have to evaluate their data, and they’ll evaluate your data. But the goal is to come to the best answer. And it sounds I know a little, I don’t know, soft. But you know what?

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s dead-on. I mean, Annie Duke, a professional poker player, talked about this.

Edward Hess
It is soft. And, basically, if you want to go out ten years from now and say, “What’s going to be the most important human skill or what’s going to be the thing that we add to the world that technology doesn’t add?” It’s going to be emotions, positive emotions. It’s going to be emotional engagement. Emotions are going to have to come into the workplace big time, and that’s going to challenge a lot of organizations, a lot of people, because people are going to have to be very cognizant of setting the right emotional environment. But also very important, cognitive or working on being emotionally the type of person that people want to help and want to collaborate, because I keep coming back to the words collective intelligence.

Collective intelligence is going to be the difference between winning and losing in the business world going forward for organizations. And that means it’s not any one person. It’s a group. So, am I the type of person that people are going to want to help? Do I want to be the type of person that people are going to help? Then I got to get down and I got to think about, “Okay, how do I come across? Am I consumed with myself?” And you learn real fast that in order to be your best self, you have to become selfless, and you have to define your ego in a different way.

Most of us, and that’s the concept of new smart in the book, most of us raised in the education system, and basically up to about age eight or ten, young kids are hyper-learners. They have no fears. If you remember how you learned how to ride a bicycle. Somebody may be holding, it may have wheels, but someone helps you on, or you get on, they say, “Move your feet,” and you fall off. What did you do as a kid? Most kids, somebody may cry, somebody may not, but it doesn’t matter. They get up, they dust themselves off, and they get on it again. And they keep getting on it till they move that bicycle a little bit. They basically have the courage to go into the unknown, they have the resilience to bounce back, and that courage is to figure out how to make this work. Well, that’s what we’re going to have to excel at doing.

But about eight to ten, it starts getting schooled out of us, and we all get focused on grades, all on grades. And I‘m sure you made the highest grades in your class, but in order to make the highest grades in your class, what did you have to do? You had to make the fewest mistakes. So, we were raised to avoid mistakes. We were raised on being smart, and our egos started being identified with smart. And once we identified, and the older we get, with being smart, and we go up in the hierarchy in companies, we think we know things. We’re smart, we got the big office, and we’re very protective of our ego, and the fact that we don’t want to be wrong. And we’ll argue to Timbuktu on anything.

Well, that’s a pathway to basically failure because, in the world we’re going into, the change in the philosophy, we need to redefine our ego from that definition of smart to new smart. And new smart has five principles, but I’ll just share one. The number one principle, I’m defined not by what I know or how much I know, but by the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating. I just changed the definition from a “how much” and a “what” to the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating.

And if people take that approach, it makes it far easier to be an effective collaborator. It makes it far easier to build caring, trusting relationships, which are caring, trusting relationships are the condition precedent to the highest levels of making meaning together. You can’t make meaning together unless you trust each other, and you believe that the other person is not going to harm you, or use your mistakes against you, or ridicule you to the boss, or whatever.

And so, what this really means is all the political gains in business is going to basically go out the door. Basically, you got to take all that stuff, you get a giant trash bag, and dump it all in, tie it up, very, very tight, don’t put it in the dumpster. Actually, take it to the trash place and watch it shredded.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s a powerful note there. And, yeah, I’d love to hear now if you could share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring.

Edward Hess
I think so much of it goes back to the golden rule. I think the other thing, I think what’s so important, and I’m paraphrasing here, we have to accept the fact that no one, and this is from professor Barbara Fredrickson, no one achieves excellence by themselves. That, to me, is very powerful.

I think the other powerful quote that I keep in mind now is from Daniel Kahneman who predicted, I think it was in the summer of July 2019, that by 2030, there will be no cognitive function that a computer will not be able to do better than a human being. And the reason that’s such a powerful quote, it basically alerts all of us that we’re going to have to develop skills that are different than most of the skills that we’ve been developing in the past. And all of those skills are going to be the soft skills because the human part is going to be the part that becomes so very important in society.

And so, I think that I’m old enough that back when everybody served in the military, the quote, “Leaders eat last.” “Always take care of your team before you take care of yourself,” I think all of those are still valid. Leaders eat last. You don’t go to the head of the line. And some of the best leaders that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with were the most humble people who basically were other-centric.

Herb Kelleher with Southwest Air, Horst Schulze of Ritz-Carlton, the senior leadership team back when I was working with them at UPS, and Mr. Casey at UPS, it’s recognizing the human dignity of the people you work with, and that people are not just a cog in the machine. I think the other thing is that the industrial revolution model of humans being machines doing the same thing over and over again, technology is going to do all that type of work, and we basically have to get out of this machine mindset, and we need to basically figure out how we’re going to create the environment where people can flourish and have meaningful work and meaningful relationships that raises the big challenges for big companies that are basically focused on a model that’s command and control.

You cannot command and control somebody that thinks at their highest levels. I cannot say, “Pete, I command and control and direct you to be innovative. I command and control and direct you to be creative. I command and control you to think clearly.” That stuff doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. And so, for your viewers, and you’ve got a wonderful viewing group, the thing that I leave with them is I invite them to basically consider to become not just a hyper-learner but to become an awesome hyper-learner. Because I think, based on what I know from reading about your listenership, I think many of your people will embrace, if you will, the challenge that’s here, but also, they’ll have the right mindset, the right growth mindset, to go out there and say, “Let me try some of these things. Let’s try and see if it works.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Ed, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you all the best in your hyper-learning adventures.

Edward Hess
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me in. I wish you all the best and keep doing the good work you’re doing, man.

605: How to Stop Firefighting and Start Executing with Chris McChesney

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Chris McChesney says: "Get very comfortable with the currency of results."Chris McChesney discusses how to achieve more with your team by following the four disciplines of execution.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three roadblocks to execution 
  2. The only two things that create engagement 
  3. How to instill accountability in 20 minutes 

About Chris

Chris McChesney is the Global Practice Leader of Execution for Franklin Covey and is one of the primary developers of the 4 Disciplines of Execution. For more than a decade, he has led FranklinCovey’s design and development of these principles, as well as the consulting organization that has become the fastest growing area of the company. 

Known for his high-energy and engaging message, Chris has become one of the most requested speakers within the Franklin Covey Organization, regularly delivering keynote speeches and executive presentations to leaders in audiences ranging from the hundreds to several thousand. 

Chris, and his wife Constance, are the proud parents of five daughters and two sons. His love of family is combined with his passion for boating, water sports, coaching, and trying to keep up with his children. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Chris McChesney Transcript

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

Chris McChesney
Thanks, Peter. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to hear your story about how you did not get a job at FranklinCovey but you faked an internship. How did this go down?

Chris McChesney
I think desperation is probably the best explanation for that. They were not interviewing. I mean, they would not interview anyone, and I just had an idea. Wow, this is almost 30 years ago. This was Stephen Covey’s company, the guy that wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I was kind of a groupie and I really wanted to work for this organization. And I decided if they wouldn’t interview me, I‘d interview them, so I pretended to work for the newspaper and told them that I was doing an article on up and coming companies in the area. And I submitted the paper to the newspaper, they published it, so they kept me from being a liar, right?

I didn’t get to the man, I didn’t get to Stephen Covey but I got to his VP, and while in there, I said, “I needed an internship,” which that was a stretch. I didn’t really need an internship, there was no internship, and then I just stowed away. So, four months later, The 7 Habits, hits number one in the New York Times bestseller list, they had fired their publicist, and they looked at me, and said, “Hey, that kid is from New York. Let’s have him call Good Morning America.” So, here I am, unpaid something intern. Actually, there’s an episode of Seinfeld where Kramer actually goes to work for a company he doesn’t actually work for, but that was done after I did it. I want first billing on that.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog.

Chris McChesney
And that’s how I got started.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s so good. So, well, I was going to ask, you know, Stephen Covey, boy, what a legacy, and really, integrity is one of the first words that comes to mind.

Chris McChesney
I know.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, to start with…well, what I like is that you’re working for the newspaper kind of on spec.

Chris McChesney
That’s one way to say it. That’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to just a complete fabrication. Boy, that’s beautiful. Also, then can you tell me of any stories about Stephen that really stick with you in his memory?

Chris McChesney
Well, it’s interesting that we’re having this experience because one of my jobs early on was to set him up for interviews like yours. And so, just like my guy gave me a list of some of the questions you like to ask people and things like that, he never wanted to see the list of questions, and he really liked to be authentic and sort of shoot from the hip, and much more of a character than people realize. He’s a bit of a clown when he wasn’t on stage, and he would either be super serious or a complete goofball. And sometimes you needed him to be series, and he wouldn’t be serious. It surprises people to hear that because he comes off so serious in his books and his tapes but, yeah, he’s a character.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man, can you give me a goofball anecdote?

Chris McChesney
Oh, I can and it’s almost unbelievable, but there’s a thing that he did with his sons. One of his sons felt really ignored by his father, David Covey felt very ignored by Stephen, and Stephen was on a phone call and so David got out, this is bizarre, but he got out peanut butter and jelly and started to spread peanut butter on his dad’s head, and then he put jelly on his dad’s head, then he slapped a piece of bread over it, and left.

And so then, they were two command performances of this, and, in your brain, you couldn’t get, you know, here’s one of the world’s leading thought leaders, having his son make a mess out of his head, and they just thought that was so funny. That was great. So, this family had its own brand of humor. But, yeah, that’s all real, believable or not.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fun. That’s good. Well, hey, sometimes some humor or peanut butter-jelly head sandwich can aid in execution, and that’s my forced segue, Chris, because that’s your claim to fame and your area of expertise is execution, and your book The 4 Disciplines of Execution. So, could you maybe start by maybe giving us a quick definition? What do we mean by execution?

Chris McChesney
That’s a really good question.

Pete Mockaitis
And then give us the lay of the land, like, how well are organizations and professionals executing today? Like, what are the measures? What’s the state of the union here when it comes to execution?

Chris McChesney
All right, so let’s do this. Because execution is one of those words that could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, right? It could just mean getting everything I got to get done, done, but that’s not what we mean by it. What we mean by it is getting that thing done that’s not going to happen anyways. Most of us have a routine, organizations have an SOP, they have their day job, their existing processes, and it gets stuff done. We get stuff done. And then every once in a while, you’ve got a goal and it’s not going to happen unless it gets special treatment.

And, typically, the nature of these things, Pete, is that they don’t have an inherent in-the-moment urgency associated with them. They’re really important. And if you made me fill out a quiz on the most important thing to me, like it’d be right at the top of the page, but it’s not getting any attention, and weeks are going by and we’re not getting any traction.

Usually, when you say that, people identify with something, and that’s really the execution conundrum right there. What is that thing that is not inherently urgent? Because people are good at working on the urgent, and, “I have to get it done and it’s not happening.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, give us just a few examples of things that tend to fall into this bucket again and again.

Chris McChesney
Yeah. I had one the other day, there was an organization, they needed to get these jobs to find, and they needed to get work aides for their physical therapy group. They had about 50 physical therapy practices. And every year, they would put money in the line item, budget item, for this, and every year it didn’t matter that there was money there, it didn’t happen. And they could see so many things but never at one time, that might be an example, they actually pushed through and got a hundred of these things made.

An organization that wants to focus on customer satisfaction, and they know that’s so critical but there’s 20 things that happen over the course of a day, and everybody’s busy and we’re not getting to that thing, maybe it’s an improvement in quality. The Georgia Department of Human Services, 10 years ago, reduced repeat cases of child abuse by 60% by attacking some things that weren’t unknown, they were known things but they were the type of things that weren’t getting attention. And if you can put energy against certain activities, sometimes it can have shockingly powerful effects.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that really resonates, certainly rings true. And I think you’re right in terms of there are, boy, I tell you, there are systems and there are processes and things that just happen, and then there’s those that it’s like they fall through the cracks, or it’s not a recurring thing, and, thusly, it’s like you don’t get the scale for it maybe.

Chris McChesney
Yeah. And I tell you where it shows up, Pete, is leaders sometimes will have an agenda. And it’s a big deal when you get a leadership position, you get your first management role. It’s a big deal to you, it’s not a big deal to anybody else, right? And you really know where you want to make your mark. And what gets so many leaders so frustrated is there are so many people giving them the thumbs up and they’ll agree with you, and they’ll say, “I love this, boss. It’s key to our future.” And I just get people laughing when I’m saying this, and then nothing happens.

And it’s not that people are being deceitful or duplicitous, they bought everything that you said. They heard it. And then 45 seconds later, six crises hit their desk and they’ve been responsive. And so, for leaders to start to understand, “Geez, what does it take to get deliberate energy against activities that don’t act on people?” And, basically, let me sum it up this way. Executing strategies that require change in human behavior is kind of the whole topic or problem we’ve been in love with for 20 years.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. Well, so let’s dig into how that’s done. So, you’ve got a chapter called “The Real Problem with Execution.” Lay it on us. What’s the real problem?

Chris McChesney
We’ve kind of been talking about it. It is that there’s like one side of our brain that deals with importance, and there’s another side of our brain that determines how we actually spend time and energy, and they’re not talking to each other. In the moment, urgency is king. And if I’m busy all day long, and I’m active, and I just can’t work any harder than I already have, I’ll tell you, here’s how you could feel this.

Think about working on a critical job. Maybe it’s the most important project of the year, and you know it, and you’re like tying yourself to your desk. And the whole time you’re working, you want to get up and do seven different things during that period of time, and you think, “I must be out of my mind. And it can’t be 4:00 o’clock already. Where did that go?” That is the first. There’s a couple of real problems of execution. The first one is that urgency and importance don’t line up.

Number two is complexity. A lot of times execution does not like complexity too. Best friends of execution are simplicity and transparency. And our ability to sort of put so many things down that we want to accomplish. So, not only is it all the stuff that we’re responding to on a day-to-day basis, but then when we do go proactive, we try and bite off more than we can chew, and that is a whole conundrum in and of itself.

And then I’d say the third one is futility. And it’s the frustration that might be a byproduct of the first two. But when people start giving up, that’s when you see burnout kick in. It’s rarely a byproduct of actually the amount of work. It’s the feeling that I’m working and it doesn’t matter. So, urgency, complexity, and futility really do a lot of damage. And there’s ways to get around this but I think it starts with the question that you asked, like, “What’s the problem?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s really good, a really good synopsis of just kind of what makes stuff hard, in general, in terms of if it’s not urgent, it’s not sort of screaming to be at the top of your list, and, thusly, it can just keep getting pushed off and just doesn’t happen. If it’s complex, you’re just sort of like, “Well, I don’t even know how to start,” and it just sort of seems intimidating to approach it. And then, if there’s a sense of futility, likewise, that adds all the more psychological resistance to it.

It’s so funny, I’m thinking about we had a heck of a long hard time executing a shift in this podcast, which was we were mostly replying to incoming pitches. And we’ve been selective such that I thought we’re making great choices. But the consequence of that was the stuff we got wasn’t exactly what our listeners needed, and in the time they needed it. And so, we thought, “We really got a beautiful survey of all the stuff people say they need. Like, we just should be letting this dictate our agenda and our calendar.”

And we get emails just about every day from folks joining the email list, and they share their concerns. But it was hard to make that shift because it was not so urgent, it was sort of like, “Ah, okay. Hey, we say we have episodes two times a week, and so we got to get this calendar going.” And it’s a lot harder to…

Chris McChesney
The calendar was urgent. The needs and the specific requests, you had to go after that stuff. The calendar went after you.

Pete Mockaitis
And it was complex in that it’s like, “Well, geez, how do we reverse-engineer it such that we start with the request and then pursue the guest.” And then it wasn’t quite futile but it was, hey, I mean, someone’s got a book coming out says yes immediately. Someone who’s been like an expert on something for decades and he has all the press they ever needed is not as gung-ho to immediately reply to an invitation of the podcast, although most of the time they still say yes in their own time.

And also, some futility associated with, “Boy, how do we even do this? This is really tricky.” And I guess that’s ultimately how we just sort of got through it was we said, “All right. Well, we’re going to reduce urgency by getting ahead of the game a little bit. We’re going to reduce the complexity by trying to come up with a process, an acronym, or a framework.” And I guess we tried to reduce the futility by just acknowledging, “Hey, we don’t know what we’re doing yet, okay? We’re going to have to iterate a few times, and that’s fine.”

Chris McChesney
I really like what you just said. I want to press pause on what you just said. Sometimes, particularly in the area of new goals that you haven’t achieved before, you have to give yourself a little bit of slack because the real engine for innovation is trial and error. And there are certain aspects of your job where error is not acceptable. And because error is not acceptable in certain parts of your job, it’s sort of programs you think that error is always bad, and you have to give yourself a little bit of leeway around an area that requires innovation, otherwise you will not innovate. I’m convinced of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And so, I think, in a way, that was kind of a turning point because we got comfortable with this, like, “Okay, we’re going to make a process that’s going to be bad. We’re going to try it out and see why it took 12 hours to find some names, and then identify the learnings so that we can accelerate a bit and loop it through again and again and again.” And now I’m feeling pretty darn good about it.

Chris McChesney
Can I give you a podcast on this topic?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m listening.

Chris McChesney
You just, a matter of fact, the last three sentences would be a brochure for this podcast. The guy’s name is Tim Harford, he’s a British economist. And the name of the podcast, if you just Google, “Trial and Error.” Not podcast. Ted Talk.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Chris McChesney
TED Talk. Trial and error. Tim Harford. And, really, take 15 minutes and watch this. If you’re in a role that requires innovation and some breakthroughs, I think he struck a beautiful chord, very consistent with what we found in our work, and you just described it quite nicely.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Chris McChesney
Unintentionally.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, you just described some things nicely in terms of you’ve identified four specific disciplines for execution. Can you give us the overview, and then let’s dig deeper into some of these?

Chris McChesney
Yeah, all right. So, the first one is, let’s do this. I’ll give each one a word. So, the first word is focus, and I’ll come back to this so you’ll get them. I’ll just give a list right now. So, the first one is focus, the second one is leverage, the third one is engagement, and the fourth one is accountability. And you think of these four words as sort of a mechanism for breaking through the urgency trap. Like, you want to fly an airplane, there’s four words, it’s lift, thrust, weight, and drag. Like, you get those concepts down, you can put something in the air and keep it there. In execution, we’re about focus, leverage, engagement, and accountability.

So, the first one, focus, is getting, really, first of all, narrowing your focus between the one thing that this team that I run is going to deliver, and everything that’s day job, everything that operationally has to get done. And I’m going to tell you that your operational reality, arguably, is more important, like that cannot slip. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not going anywhere in your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you’re sort of on a treadmill. It’s like we’re continuing to do the things that we’ve done, and we’ll probably continue to get the results that we’ve got, and if you’re a big company, the results you’ve gotten are great. But, of course, over time, if you don’t innovate, you’ll kind of wither.

Chris McChesney
So, I’ve got a good one for you. So, the number two guy at Marriott, he’s retiring this year, his name is Dave Grissen. Marriott used this methodology for 12 years and they’ve improved their guest sat. every year for 12 years. The champion of this is now the number two guy at Marriott. When he was launching this 12 years ago, he told a group of leaders that were launching this process, he said, it was a two-part statement, he said, “First of all, if you want to keep your jobs at Marriott, just take care of the operation, just take care of the day job. We’ll never fire you because if we let you go, the next person might not take care of the day job. Like, you’ll always have a job here if you just take care of the day job.”

And then he gets this smirk, and he said, “But if you want to get promoted, give me one, give me your result, give me an improvement in arrival experience, give me an improvement in food and beverage quality, give me an improvement in everything in working order or event satisfaction. Call your shot and bring me something.” And it was his way of sort of communicating, I thought it was a great way to set, “Yeah, all right. If I just want to take care of the day job, okay, I’ll always have a job here. But if I’m serious about my career…” and then they backed it up. So, when a hotel manager applied for a general manager position, or vice versa, the first thing they would say is, “All right, tell me about your results. What did you target? How did you do it? Like, I want to know…” I think this is a universal principle for career movement, like, “I got to do those two things. I have to maintain the operation. That is job one. But if that’s all I’m doing, I’m treadmilling it. And then what is the one thing, what is the one result that I can deliver?”

And, by the way, that day job will take up 100% of my energy if I let it. I have to steal energy from that, and we say about 20%, to apply towards a breakthrough. So, figuring out what that is, defining it, giving it a starting line, a finish line, and a deadline, all of those things are part of discipline one and focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, Chris, I love that so much in terms of it’s just a clear framework and it’s just true. It rings true in terms of, yeah, doing your day job, keeping the operations going, will consume you, and it is important, and it needs to be done, and yet, just as you said, you’ve got to have that result. I’m thinking here about I’ve coached a lot of people on their resumes and career strategy development, and that’s kind of how that’s always my interpretation as I’m reviewing resumes for like hiring someone or for helping them to make their resume better.

Chris McChesney
There you go. You’re looking for it.

Pete Mockaitis
If you just show me, it’s like, “Okay. Well, yeah, you know what, I think it’s accountants. Poor guys. They’ve got such great skills and some of them I don’t have. I love my accountant so much. He’s so valuable.” And then when I read some bullets from accountants’ resumes, it’s like, “Hey, did invoicing, or controls, or books, or reporting,” and it’s like, “Yeah, absolutely, that’s got to happen. It’s hard. I wouldn’t be good at it. I’m glad that you’re on top of that.” But to make me go, “Hmm, impressive resume,” I got to see results and improvement on something, like you revised a process, you reduced costs, you improved revenue, you made something that took a long time, now take a little bit of time. I got to see a result and, ideally, there’s a number on it from like a resume judging perspective.

Chris McChesney
Yup, there is a number on it. That’s right. And think about this, so the great management guru, like the guy that kicked all this off was Peter Drucker. Drucker has got this one statement that is money. Drucker says, “The hardest thing to get people to do is think about their jobs in terms of results instead of activities.” And you just described that really well, “I do this, and then I do this, and then I do this, and then I do that.” If that sits on a resume, yeah, that’s fine if I need one of those, but that’s a certain type of job. But if you start thinking in the currency of results, what did I bring?

So, I’ve got right now, I have seven children, my wife and I do. My oldest is married and my third oldest is married, and so I’ve got, right now, I’ve got half a dozen little people in my life that are in their 20s that are looking at careers, and I’ve been just really hitting this note that get very comfortable with the currency of results. Somewhere, your boss, let’s say you’re in front-line management or event middle management, start thinking, and I’m going to steal from Stephen Covey who we were talking about earlier.

Think about what’s outside your job description but within your circle of influence. The opportunity rarely lives inside your job description, but it is something that you could influence. It’s like, what is the one thing that your boss wishes we had fixed? What is the one thing that the organization needs? And can you bring that? Maybe it is within your job description. But thinking in terms of the currency of results when it’s not being asked of you is a mindset shift for most people but it’s incredibly enabling.

And here’s the other thing. No one is going to have a parade for you when you deliver results. It’s funny, you’ll actually be…I think you’ll be discouraged. Like, you’ll get this done, and you’ll get that done, the whole time you’re doing this. If you’re not careful, what you’re thinking is, “Geez, Mary doesn’t do this. Mark doesn’t do this. I’m doing all this extra work. I’m not getting paid.” That’s the other thing. You’ll always feel like you’re adding more value than you’re getting paid, and that’s exactly where you want to be. And you just keep doing these things, and nobody cared about them, like you get a pat on the head, and a week later, they forgot. You keep doing it, and then one day they’re thinking, “Hey, we need somebody. Do you know who’d be great for that?” And, all of a sudden, you’ve changed your brand as you’re a real hunter. You seek and you get results.

And it doesn’t take very long because not everybody is doing it. Like, I promise you. Everybody applies for the position. Everybody. I’ve gotten 14 jobs. I’ve never gotten one of them from an interview. It’s always been, “Hey, Chris, we’re thinking of something.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. That’s focus. All right. So, you’re focusing and then maybe say a little bit more. It’s often outside your job description but within your area of control. It’s about results. And any other little telltale signs, like, “This may be the thing to focus in on”?

Chris McChesney
So, let’s say be careful of going too big. We don’t emphasize this enough in The 4 Disciplines of Execution, and the second version is getting launched this spring, and we really hit this point. Like, I’m in sales so we’ve got to grow revenue. Now I know what the thing is, the thing is the revenue. Well, be careful. Revenue is the title of the book, whatever the macro objective is, think of that like the title of the book, and that’s not where I want you to go. I want you to look at the chapters that make up the book, and I want you to pick the one chapter where you go, “Oh, if we could only do this. This is one product we sell. If we could grow that one product, boy, the margins are better, those people stay with us, they buy our other products.” Like, where are you going to put disproportionate energy? Against which chapter are you going to double down?

And if you could come down to sort of one level of abstraction from the big goal down to the chapter, come down off the title of the book, look at chapters and say, “Oh, yeah. You know what, if we get our first-year salespeople to pay for themselves, we could grow this thing forever.” Like, there’s always that one sort of small target that if we could just get that, wow, we could do X, Y, and Z. like, those are the really good, what we call WIGs, or wildly important goals. They’re not always these macro huge things.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s beautiful. So, it’s like a domino that sets it off, or the key that unlocks a whole lot more.

Chris McChesney
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right. So, we got the focus. What’s next?

Chris McChesney
So, the next one is the leverage one, what we call act on the lead measures. Think weight loss. If the scale is the lag measure or the goal, those two things are synonymous, the wildly important goal, or the lagging measure, the outcome metric is the weight, then if you want to lose weight, there’s two lead measures. Everybody listening knows what they are. It’s diet and exercise.

And you say, “Well, what’s unique about a lead measure from a lag measure?” Well, lead measures have two characteristics. I can influence the lead directly. You can’t directly affect weight loss but I can cut my calorie and I can burn calories daily. That distinction right there, folks, that’s the whole thing. A metric that can be directly affected. And then its other characteristic is predictive. Like, if I do that, I get the other. So, think of how a lever works. Rocks are too heavy to move but, you know what, I can move the lever, and the lever moves the rock. That is the idea.

And you want to prove this point, just ask people to think about someone in their life, and most people have someone, who’s lost 50 pounds. Like, there’s somebody they know, it wasn’t an accident, they deliberately set out to lose 50 pounds. So, everybody thinks of somebody, and then you ask the question, “All right. Was that person who lost 50 pounds, were they aware of a diet program and an exercise program, or were they counting daily?” And you do this in a room of 500 people, there might be one or two people that will say there weren’t counting. Everybody else it’s like it’s got to be like a 98%-99% statistic.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog.

Chris McChesney
Why is that? Because, otherwise, we lie to ourselves. So, finding the diet and exercise, in the goal. Like, it isn’t just diet and exercise, it’s any lead measures. And the most sophisticated processes on the planet, like people that are building fighter planes, and structural engineers, and people like this, can always get into this thinking of, “All right, what’s the lag measure and what are the lead measures? Where in the process of these things that we could attack?” And that’s what lead measures are, figuring out and measuring those things that I can directly influence that will move the outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s funny, Chris, as you were saying this because I’ve had the pleasure, misfortune, I don’t know, of gaining and losing 10 pounds about three times now in life. And so, that has been my experience in that when I really am serious, I will use the Lose It! app or whatever. So, for real tracking, “How much am I exercising and how much am I taking in?” and not just falling into frozen pizzas multiple times a week, then it’s happening. And when I’m not, it isn’t. So, that’s my own experience on the loss.

Chris McChesney
Let’s put it in a business example. We got a hardware store. They want a likelihood to recommend number, and they’ve tracked it, and they said, “Look, if people will recommend our hardware store, if they’re likely to recommend, whether they do or not, if they answer that they are, you move that number, you see profits move.” Like, they know this is a really good chapter heading for wildly important goal. So, they’re like, “What are the lead measures?” What they find is, you know, there’s three things. When I go to a hardware store, I got to find what I’m looking for. Will someone talk to me? Number one. Number two, when I get to the aisle where the part is, do they actually have the thing I was looking for? Out of stocks. Number three. Once I got it, how quickly can I get out of the store?

Now, the group that we’re working with, the stores didn’t have to pick all three. They could pick one of the three, they could pick two of three, they have different teams working on any, but they had to have, and this is discipline three, is scoreboard, they had to create a compelling scoreboard out of the game. What’s the lag and what’s the lead? It’s a two-part equation. So, like, we’re going to try and move our likelihood to recommend, and we’ve never been able to move that score but we’re going after what we think are the three things that will have the biggest impact, and we figured out how to measure out of stocks, and we figured out how to measure how quickly we engage, and we know how to measure speed at checkout, and so we’re making the bet. In our store, we’re great at speed at checkout but we are terrible at out of stocks. And we’re going to attack that metric every single week, like somebody would attack running or whatever.

And this is where the trial and error comes in. Let’s see if that does it, and let’s learn from this. But if you can get, there’s an engagement dynamic here too, that when you can get people into the game of, “What will affect what?” It’s like a little riddle they’re trying to solve. And if they’re able to move a metric they’ve never been able to move before, you can get your team very engaged in, “All right, what was our score last week? We’ve been killing on out of stocks three weeks in a row. Do we do it four weeks? What the numbers are coming at?” And you could start to engage people in the work in a way, “Well, it was surprising to us. We weren’t expecting this. It’s not why we set out to do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so good. And I think now we’ll talk about the third discipline with the engagement and the scoreboard is a tool for engagement. One of my favorite consulting projects, we saw exactly this. It was a customer service organization, they had six call centers, and we discovered that, “Well, hey, what we want is, like title of the book, lower costs associated with addressing customer needs.” And so, back it up a little bit, we see average handle time in terms of just how long they need to be on the phone with someone.

And then we’ve backed that up, we could see what influenced handle time is the experience of the customer service rep who those who know more, they’ve been around more, are able to quickly and knowledgably address the questions that come up. And then so we backed that up and we see, well, the attrition rate is horrible so that people are leaving fast and the average person is not very experienced. And so then, we backed that up and then we really kind of see, “Well, how are the supervisors treating, encouraging, motivating, supporting, the folks who work for them?” And then we see wild differences in that. So, those are some actions to take to reduce attrition.

Pete Mockaitis
And then the scoreboard is like, “The data was always suspect in terms of the attrition rates.” It’s like, “Well, you know, those were temporary. Those were college summer things,” and so no one every trusted the numbers, or could be held accountable to the numbers because they didn’t believe the numbers. And so, junior consultant here, it’s like, “That’s my job, is I’m making the real attrition numbers,” and then I get all these emails from people being asked to be added to the daily email about the attrition numbers that are the true numbers. And then it’s a game, it’s like they’re saying, “Hey, wow, this call center had their attrition go way down as compared to the previous month. Well, what the heck are you doing?” “You know, we tried this game where we offer this prize when they do such and such, and people are really getting into it.” It’s like, “Oh, okay, we should try that game too.” And it’s a beautiful thing.

Chris McChesney
All right. I got to dissect what you just said.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Chris McChesney
Because you hit a couple of really important themes right there. First of all, you had to get good data before this thing worked. So, think of any, I tell, athletics, I know people think that sports analogies are tired, and usually they are, but it’s really applicable here. Nobody is going to follow a game if the scoreboard is suspect for any reason. And so, “It’s not a first down. It’s somewhere between nine and 11 yards.” “No, it’s 10 fricking yards. Your nine and 11 inches, you’re going the other way.” And so, good data comes from good definitions.

So, I’m guessing, as you got into the data, you had to decide, “When did it really count as attrition? When didn’t it count as attrition?” You had to get very clear on the definitions that drove the data. And so, once you had a credible scoreboard, the next thing that you were able to show before people, I’m guessing, cared about it, is you had to show correlation. You had to show that when one number moved, another number moved. And so, this isn’t just something for analysts. Every business manager has to start understanding some basic correlations because, otherwise, you’re at the mercy of your business. “What do I put energy against that’s going to give me a return?” You stayed on that until you found.

Once you found it, once you saw a correlation, everybody wanted to see it. Everybody knew, right? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error, but you hit the two things. You had clean data, and you had cause and effect, then correlation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. While we’re reliving these moments, and we talk about correlation, that’s one error I think I met is I thought of correlation as, “Oh, you run the statistics in Excel and you get your R squared and adjusted R values,” but really, no, it’s just sort of like with stock outs, there was other project, it was sort of like for service of technological things. And it’s sort of like “Did the job get done right the first time in satisfaction?” So, you can run a big regression with all your variables and it wouldn’t look that compelling. But then if you look at satisfaction score in which the job was done right the first time on one half of the slide, and versus the job was not done right the first time, it’s like then it looks like it’s night and day, and that’s a way to make a correlation pop in my view.

Chris McChesney
Wow, that’s very well-said. We’ll do these meetings where we’ll get…and we like to get the action very close the frontline so we’ll work with leadership teams that are trying to do lead and lag measures three levels, four levels, above the frontline, and we’re like, “Sorry, let’s just break the goals down, let’s get those targets as close to the frontline as possible, and then we want to see half a dozen different scoreboards on a variety of things that are key bets for making the big number move.”

And then what we’ll do about three months in, four months in, we’ll do a report out. So, we’ll have the big bosses come down and talk to the managers and the teams, these are great sessions, and the teams will teach him what they’ve learned, like, “We tried this lead measure. I know we’ve been saying it for years. Didn’t have any effect. But, look, we just measured it differently and we did this, and now look at the results. Look, we got four weeks in a row, we’re moving the lag measure.”

And these VPs are seeing insights into the business and they get very excited about talking to what these frontline teams, and it’s a huge deal for the frontline teams because they’re getting some spotlight right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool.

Chris McChesney
Oh, I got a book recommendation for you if you want.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m listening.

Chris McChesney
A lot of people like Patrick Lencioni.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, we had him on the show. He’s great.

Chris McChesney
Okay, great. Yeah, he is great. Maybe his least-read book is my favorite, and it’s The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. He likes it too. He’s re-releasing it. He thinks the reason it doesn’t do so well because nobody wants to be carrying that title of a book around the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Get it on Kindle and hide it.

Chris McChesney
So, now he’s going to call it The Secret of Engagement, or something like that. But our 20 years on execution and his work really walked parallel paths. And the three signs of a miserable job are anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, sounds miserable to me.

Chris McChesney
It sounds miserable. Anonymity, “Nobody cares what I’m doing.” Irrelevance, “It doesn’t matter.” And immeasurement, “I don’t know if I’m winning or losing.” And so, people don’t want oppressive data that doesn’t really tell the whole picture, and they’ll resist that stuff. But really helping, when they can actually influence creating a, and we use this words, high-stakes winnable game, you can get a great deal of engagement right there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, let’s talk, finally, the fourth discipline here, creating a cadence of accountability. How do we do it?

Chris McChesney
So, this is one where it’s almost like if you think about disciplines one, two, and three as setting up the game. One is the target, two is kind of the how, three is sort of encapsulating it in a scoreboard, four is how we play the game. And now we’re going to go full circle back to the urgency thing. You can’t beat the urgency thing. You have to sort of trick your own brain. The way this works is everybody on the team makes a commitment during this little meeting, so every week at the same time, 20-minute meeting, Tuesdays at 9:00, it’s Tuesdays at 9:00, no matter what, you have to be kind of a freak about it, okay?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Chris McChesney
We’ve got this meeting around this scoreboard, call them WIG sessions. And everybody in that meeting reports on the thing they committed to do last week that would have an impact on the scoreboard. So, I take one commitment. Like, we have a lead measure of interviewing 80% of our first-time accounts. But I could tell now that the script doesn’t look really good, so my commitment for the week is we’re going to rewrite that script, or, “The rent of Solaire office is really struggling. I’m going to meet with Marty, and we’re going to go over such.” Something I’m going to do every single week. In that meeting, everybody has to say, “Here’s what I said I was going to do last week. Here’s the impact it had on the scoreboard. And here’s my commitment for next week,” and that’s all they say.

Next person, “Here’s what I did. Here’s what my scoreboard looks like. Here’s what I’m going to do next week.” Like, brainstorming, problem-solving, something’s come up, out of this meeting. This thing, you are in and out. If you can do it in 20 minutes, great. And there’s this sort of two things about this. One, the commitments can’t come from the boss. You pull this, you don’t push it. So, the boss sometimes sits there chewing their tongues out because they know what they want to have done but, no, no, you got to ask everybody, “Give me that. What is the one thing, Pete, you’re going to do this week that’s kind of the biggest impact on one of those lead measures?” It’s like just-in-time strategic planning.

And then you know next week, we have people say all the time, “You know what, it was Thursday night and I had that week session Friday morning, and I was up till 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Like, I was not…” People don’t want to disappoint their bosses.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Chris McChesney
They won’t disappoint their peers. They don’t like to disappoint their bosses. They could get over that. But we found that when it comes to peer accountability, they take it really seriously and you get really good commitments and you get energy. And then four, five, six weeks of non-urgent activity because these commitments would never make anybody’s to-do list but they’re the most important thing you could do to drive the lead measures. And so, that’s really the secret of the whole thing, is we just start to mind-harvest, pick your metaphor, energy against that scoreboard every single week until the team realizes, “We’re doing something nobody’s been able to do before, and it’s moving,” then we get the pop in engagement. That’s our story.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s exciting and, certainly, I see what you mean about tricking your brain with the urgency, is it’s now urgent in that you don’t want to look like a fool, you don’t want to let people down, and the clock is ticking that you’re going to have to say something on Friday, so, hopefully, it’s going to be a good something.

Chris McChesney
And the day job has all that stuff built in, that’s why the day job has its own accountability system called your neck. Like, you get a phone call, like people get mad at you, you don’t want that phone call, so we do that, right? But the goals, the goals need a mechanism to create the same kind of urgency that the day job has. And if you could do it in a way where people feel like they’re part of something, and this is what we found.

So, I gave you the quote on Lencioni’s book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” I’ll give you another one. It’s an HBR, Harvard Business Review, article, May 2011, there’s also a book by the same name called The Power of Small Wins, and it goes back to a research that was done in the ‘60s by a guy named Frederick Herzberg. And Herzberg said, those of you that have had MBA classes recently, his name comes up. He came up with this theory, and he said, “Look, the stuff that people quit over – pay, best friend at work, job conditions, benefits – does not engage them.”

I’m going to say that again, “The stuff people quit over does not engage them.” Don’t quit over pay, whether they have a best friend at work, whether they like…they’ll over quit all that stuff. There’s only two things that engage people, really create engagement, and it’s “Am I winning? Am I progressing? Is it working? Is there some progress?” and “Does it matter? Is it a winnable high-stakes game?” And so, what we tell people is, “Look, don’t get overwhelmed by this. If you’re a leader, your team doesn’t have to feel that way about everything. The day job, 80% won’t feel that way most of the time. It’s okay. But if you can create a high-stakes winnable game around that 20%, that one thing, it affects the way they feel about everything else.” And I would even say in raising teenagers, it’s the same thing. Find one thing in that kid’s life that they’re wining at and they feel good at, it has an impact on everything else.

So, I’ll tell you, after 20 years, that’s what we’ve learned. If you can create a high-stakes winnable game for people, it has a profound effect on morale and engagement.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I love it. And I think it’s true all of life in terms of, in my own experience, it’s like, “I got to feel like I’m winning something.”

Chris McChesney
Yeah, right. Give me something, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like I might feel like a lame dad or a lame husband, but if I’m winning at work, it’s like, “Okay, life has some color,” or vice versa, I might feel like, “Oh, man, COVID hits, my downloads are down. You know what, man, but I’m having a blast with my kids.” Like, you got to be winning at something.

Chris McChesney
Right. Right. Right. And so, that’s the question to leaders, right? Do the people who work for you feel like there’s some part of what you’re doing that feels like a high-stakes winnable game? And if they do, they won’t forget it. It’s a much bigger deal to people than you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, Chris, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear a couple of your favorite things?

Chris McChesney
That’s it. That’s our story.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, can you give us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Chris McChesney
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose, considered by yourself to be a worthy one, instead of being a feverish little clot of grievances and ailments, complaining the world will not dedicate itself to making you happy.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve heard that. I forgot who said it.

Chris McChesney
It’s on the tip of my tongue. That was the one that I was looking for.

Pete Mockaitis
It was nice. It was well-done. The clot grievances is always like, “Oh, man.”

Chris McChesney
Yeah, be a force of nature, right? Attack something. Bring something down.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Chris McChesney
You know what I’m reading right now? I’m reading the, the biography of Hamilton that Lin-Manuel Miranda based the Broadway play on. And my wife and I are just crazy for the play. And the biography is stunning, and it’s just a really inspiring story of someone who had no business having an impact on the world that he had. Chernow is the guy’s last name, the Hamilton biography. It’s fantastic.

Hey, on this topic, more to this topic, although I tell you, the book I read before that was Robert Greene on Mastery. And I actually had all my kids, we did at dinner, and you could only come to dinner if you had read at least the first chapter of Mastery. And it’s really an interesting perspective on the whole career conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Chris McChesney
Waterskiing. I’ve got to do a lot of it because I haven’t been on the road, so this is my summer of slalom waterskiing. That’s my addiction.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really connects and resonates with folks, they quote it back to you and they highlight it in your book, etc.?

Chris McChesney
There will always be more good ideas than there’s capacity to execute them.

Pete Mockaitis
I find that very comforting because…

Chris McChesney
Good, because you don’t have to bring them all down. Right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And, in a way, it really is a blessing. It’s like it’s such abundance. We can sort of enjoy that as opposed to be stressed out by it.

Chris McChesney
Thank you. Right. Because it kind of shames us in one moment. But, you’re right, it’s just great to realize. Because there is this onus sometimes when we think, “Oh, that. Oh, I didn’t do, and we didn’t follow up on that.” Like, yeah, trust me, you and everybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. It’s so funny, sometimes when I have lots of opportunities, and I think even in business, it’s like I find that sometimes I get more stressed, and it’s like I’m enjoying my work less, it’s like, “What’s this about? Like, this is good. This is good.” So, yeah, thank you. It puts it right in the frame, right back where it needs to be. And how about if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Chris McChesney
All right. So, you go on Amazon and look up The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is our book that has done way better than we ever thought it would with a title like that, with the words discipline and execution. If you don’t have high hopes, would you launch that book? It continues to be a bestseller to our delight and amazement.

And then if you go to, all one word, ChrisMcChesney4dx.com that will take you to my website and kind of the work that we do. Or you can go to the FranklinCovey website, that works as well, and you can find me there.

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

Chris McChesney
I’ll just go back to the one I said a minute ago. Find something outside your job description, within your circle of influence, and get your team treating it like a high-stakes winnable game. If you can do that, you’re not a manager. You’re a leader.

Pete Mockaitis
Chris, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck.

Chris McChesney
Right back at you.

604: Closing the Seven Power Gaps that Limit Your Career with Kathy Caprino

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Kathy Caprino says: "Be strong, be confident, but that doesn't mean abrasive, aggressive."

Kathy Caprino discusses how to bridge the power gaps that hold you back from career success.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The seven most common barriers to career success 
  2. An easy way to start advocating for yourself more 
  3. The one habit that drastically minimizes your presence 

About Kathy

Kathy Caprino is a career and executive coach, author, speaker, and leadership trainer dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is a former VP and trained coach and marriage and family therapist, a Senior Forbes contributor, and offers career consulting, executive, and leadership and communications coaching and training, as well as keynotes and workshops. 

She’s also the Founder and President of her own coaching and consulting firm, Kathy Caprino, LLC as well as the host of the podcast, Finding Brave. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Pitney Bowes. Simplify your shipping while saving money. Get a free 30-day trial and 10-lb shipping scale at pb.com/AWESOME
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Kathy Caprino Transcript

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

Kathy Caprino
I’m so happy to be here, Pete. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m happy to have you. And I’m excited to talk about Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, the subtitle of “The Most Powerful You.”

Kathy Caprino
It’s a bit of a mouthful but it’s important.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a fun one to say. Well, how about you kick us off with an inspiring story of a professional who felt like they needed some bravery-boosting, and then they did some stuff, and they saw some cool results flow from it?

Kathy Caprino
Can I make it my story for two minutes?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Kathy Caprino
Okay. The hard thing is to keep it short, but I’ll try. Eighteen-year corporate career, successful on the outside, not successful on the inside, and I faced bumps, bumps and bumps. And when I hit 40, they were full-blown crises. Sexual harassment, gender discrimination, toxic bosses, actually narcissistic bosses, toxic colleagues, zero work-life balance, chronic illness, I had infections of the trachea every three months for four years. It was a mess, Pete, really. And I know a lot about this now because this is my work, but it wasn’t back then, and I didn’t know what hit me, and I thought I was to blame. It was a mess.

So, I didn’t really move forward. I didn’t move forward at all to change career. The last VP job, literally, I swear, I felt like it almost killed me. And instead of doing the right thing, which was to pivot or leave, I didn’t. And one month after buying a bigger house and more financial responsibilities, it was 9/11, and one month after I was laid off. So, talking about bravery and power, for 18 years I didn’t have it, and there’s reasons for that, which we’ll talk about, why a lot of people don’t have the bravery and power they need to change things.

But, often, human beings need a breakdown. They just have to collapse into a heap. It’s got to be a breakdown moment, and that’s what I had. And there’s a story in the book about I’m sitting in my therapist’s office crying because I knew I could never return to that life but I didn’t know what to do. And he said, “I know from where you sit, it’s the worst crisis you’ve ever faced. But from where I sit, it’s the first moment you can choose who you want to be in the world. Now, who do you want to be?”

And now I know why I didn’t have any answer, and so I went, “I want to be you.” That’s all. That’s all I knew. And he said, “What does that mean?” And I said, “I want to help people, not hurt people and be hurt.” So, flash forward, I became a marriage and family therapist, and that wasn’t the end destination. And, as we know, a lot of times we think, “Yay, we’ve made it. We’re done.” I wasn’t done at all. That wasn’t the final thing. And then I became a career coach for professional women. So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.

And there are stories in the book, seven different ones, of clients and course members that have closed these seven power gaps that we’re going to talk about, from “I don’t know how to speak up,” to “I can’t say stop to the mistreatment I’m facing,” to “I can’t even figure out what I want to ask for, let alone think I deserve it.” So, there’s really riveting stories of real-life people that have faced these seven gaps and overcame them and, in every case, it’s incredibly inspiring, because if we have these gaps, Pete, and 98% of the women I interviewed, I surveyed, 98% have one of these, and over 75% have three or more. When you have these, you cannot thrive at the highest level in your work or your life, so that’s that story.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. And our audience is mostly women. But as I perused these gaps, they’re certainly not exclusive to women.

Kathy Caprino
They’re not but I got to say, Pete, I think men do experience it, and they say, “Write a book for me, for goodness’ sake,” but they don’t internalize them and process them in the same way.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

Kathy Caprino
They don’t, and I think I know why that is, but we’ll talk about that later.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, you got me so intrigued, Kathy. Bring it. What’s going on?

Kathy Caprino
Bring it on. So, what we have to know, and I mention this a lot, a few people have said, “Are you blaming the victim here?” And the whole point is to rise people out of victimhood, to let them take control of what they can control. But the reason, one of the reasons women have these gaps, and I’m not trying to paint every woman with the same brush, or every man, but it’s this – we live in a patriarchal world. It’s not to bash men, this is just to look to the system we live in. And in a patriarchal world, we split ourselves in half. We talk about the “masculine” and the feminine. The masculine is strong, dominant, not vulnerable, not emotional, gets it done, assertive, makes it happen. The feminine is soft, malleable, pleasing, accommodating, emotional.

Well, the reality is, when you grow up in a world that that is what is expected of your gender, most people live up to that, and it really starts early on. It starts, the research shows, that before age 13, girls and boys are really on par in how they feel about themselves as leaders, interest in STEM, raising their hand to share their thoughts. And at age about 13, girls start to go underground, and stay there. So, all of these gaps, I feel, are hitting women harder than men because we’re conditioned and trained that they should be, that we should not be speaking up powerfully, not asking for what we deserve, all of that.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, how about we maybe take one or two minutes to just hear the list of the seven gaps, and then we’ll dig deeper into a couple of them, shall we?

Kathy Caprino
I love it. And I’m going to give you the number, the percent, of the over 1,000 women who said yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love data. Thank you, Kathy.

Kathy Caprino
Data, yeah. Can I tell you? I’m not making this up, right? This is from 15 years of work, thousands of people I’ve worked with. All right, gap number one, not recognizing your special talents, abilities, and accomplishments, 63% said yes or maybe. There’s this underpinning of this, which is, “I don’t even know what I’m great at. And even if I did, I don’t want to say I’m great.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Kathy Caprino
Okay. Number two, communicating from fear, not strength, 70%. It means you weaken your message, you soften it, you apologize, you start your important messages with, “I don’t know if this is smart or…” You are communicating not on strength. Number three, reluctance to ask for what you deserve, 77%. “I’m not sure I deserve more. And even if I do, I don’t know how to ask for it,” is what they say in some way or another.

Number four is isolating from influential support, 71%. What this means is, “I hate networking, and I’m very uncomfortable networking higher, networking up to influential people.” Number five is acquiescing instead of saying stop to mistreatment. And by mistreatment, I mean everything we know: harassment, gender bias, racial discrimination. It’s, “I’m afraid to challenge the mistreatment I’m facing and that I see around me.” And, interestingly, 48%, that’s not as high as other numbers, say it. Frankly, after I get talking to women, every one of them. Do you know the research shows that eight out of ten women are going to be sexually harassed in their careers? And four out of ten feel they’ve experienced gender bias, so I think that number is too low because we don’t really recognize what we’re in.

Number six is losing sight of your thrilling dream for your life, and that is 76%. And what that means is, “I have no idea what I want to do for a career. I’m not meant for an amazing career, and I bailed on the dream I once have for myself.” Number seven is allowing the past, or past trauma, which is a word that therapists throw around a little more easily than non-therapists, allowing the past to define you still, and that is 62%. And, interestingly, so I worked with thousands of people around the world, almost all of them are being impacted by something that happened in the past but they don’t know they’re being impacted by it.

So, it’s only when I’m looking at their career path assessment, which is 11 pages of questions I wish someone had asked me 30 years ago, and if I’d answered them, honestly, I wouldn’t have made some of the mistakes I made. When I see their answers, I can sense there’s something more here. Something happened. Something happened in childhood. Something happened. And then they’ll sometimes mention it and sometimes it’s in the first call, I’ll say, “I’m really sensing something. Could it be this?” And if you were raised, I love to say this, you are what your childhood taught you to be unless you unlearned it. And for so many, Pete, including me, the messages I got, while they might’ve been coming from love and wellbeing, I mean, wanting us to have wellbeing, they got in in the wrong way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thanks for giving us the rundown there. I guess the percentages are somewhat similar when you bring up the low one to what we think the true number may be. So, maybe could you share, what do you think is perhaps the most debilitating in terms of finding career bliss and excelling, “Boy, this one really seems to pack an outsized punch for killing the bliss”?

Kathy Caprino
I have to say it’s number one where if you…I really love to talk about this because women are so tied up around this. If you cannot see how you are special, and there’s tips and strategies all over the place, like TEDx Talk talks about it. If you can’t see how you are different and how you are better than the competition, whether that’s, “I’m an HR director,” or, “I’m an entrepreneur,” if you can’t see how you’re special, number one, and you can’t leverage it because you don’t even know you have it, and part of that is talking about it. So, if someone says to me, and I use this example a lot, “Kathy, why should I hire you? There’s a lot of coaches.” I rattle off four facts.

Pete Mockaitis
Facts.

Kathy Caprino
They’re facts. So, I call this the process of 20 facts of you. Listen to this podcast, and this weekend, pull out a pad of paper, and for an hour sit with yourself, no distractions, and write down everything you’ve accomplished that you are darn proud of. Everything. And then I want you to kind of embrace how that was made possible through who you are, your ancestry, your cultural training, your interests, your passions, your failures, your miserable flops, your relationships, everything that’s made you you. What are the 20 facts of you?

And when you can say that, can I give one example? Would you mind? If someone says, “Why should I hire you?” And this is not a sales pitch. This is for people to understand what I’m saying. Number one I say, “I had an 18-year corporate career. I know the challenges mid- to high-level professional women face. Number two, I’m a trained therapist so I go deeper. I’m not just going to talk about your interviewing and your LinkedIn profile, I’m going to go deep, deep, deep.”

“Number three, I focused on professional women’s challenges and written the book, two books on it. And I, honest to goodness, think I probably know women’s challenges, professional women’s challenges better than most people on the planet.” That’s not a fact, but it’s close to it. “Number four, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m in that arena of what it is to be brave and powerful. It’s not just me in my jammies not needing to be out there and run a business. It’s me speaking from…and I have my own podcast, and I’m speaking to amazing folks making a difference in a brave way.”

So, the question I have for people is, “Do you think that sounds like I’m bragging?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, especially not if you’re asked. It’s sort of like, “You’ve asked me a question, and here is your answer,” and it’s a darn good one.

Kathy Caprino
Well, thank you for that. But does it smack to you of, “Oh, she thinks highly of herself. Eeh.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no, it doesn’t. And I suppose, I guess, it’s all about the context. If I said, “Oh,” if I met you at a cocktail party, it’s like, “Oh, hey, Kathy. Tell me about yourself.” It’s like, “Well,” and then you went there.

Kathy Caprino
“Do you have an hour?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say, “Okay…”

Kathy Caprino
“She’s a narcissist.”

Pete Mockaitis
“I don’t know. That’s not quite what I was going for.” So, that’ll be a little off-putting in that context, but in a normal context, in terms of, hey, what are you all about, or an interview, or a performance review, or, “Hey, let’s have a conversation about which teammates should fill which roles,” it’s like, “Yeah, these are facts I want and need to know right now. Thank you.”

Kathy Caprino
But the way you said it, Pete, is so interesting. I want, if you don’t mind, go and ask five women in your life to do it. They can’t. It’s heartbreaking, “I don’t know, I think I’m kind of good at maybe analyzing systems.” It’s like that. Or, “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’d say I’m great, but I really listen well.” I’m like, “No, I don’t mean that.” And when I look at people on LinkedIn and I’ve got a big following there. I’m on it constantly. I love it. I can tell in five minutes what is holding someone back from a great career by looking at their LinkedIn profile.

Their headline is their job title. That’s not your headline. That’s not it. Or their summary is one sentence, or they have the jobs listed but no bullets, or they don’t share any thought leadership, they don’t share content that’s interesting to them, they’re hiding, or they’re confused. So, while it seems kind of straightforward to you, I think you’re going to be shot if you ask five women in your life, “Tell me what makes you great at work.” You’ll let me know if I’m wrong, but they pretty much can’t answer it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Wow, that hits hard. Thank you for sharing. And I think that’s a brilliant technique into get those 20 facts, and then once you’ve got them, they’re there, they’re top of mind ready to go. Serve it up.

Kathy Caprino
That’s it. Weave it. I don’t mean you’re talking about your HR thing and you’re weaving into the story, “By the way, I’m this.” But use that. And when we talk about networking, which is another thing, women, especially introverts, it’s so hard for them, and here’s a little tip. When you hate what you do, you don’t want to network because what are you going to say?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Kathy Caprino
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s not fun, “So what do you do?” It’s like, “How do I talk about this? It’s not fun.”

Kathy Caprino
“Ah, I don’t like my vice president job. I hate the people I work with, and it’s putting out not so good stuff.” “Oh, very good.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beating it, Kathy.

Kathy Caprino
Right. “I’ll see at the bar.” But what’s cool is when you have those soundbites, even if it’s half a percent of what you do in this job. Like, I remember when I was laid off, I really thought I was a loser. Although a hundred people were laid off after 9/11, why did I internalize it? But it took me a few years, but then I went, “Wait a minute. I did some great things there.” And then you really pull them out and you do weave them into the story about what you love to do, what makes you proud. So, that’s that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so I’d love to dig a little deeper even. So, when it comes to your special talents, abilities, and accomplishments, one of the tricky funny things about strengths is that to you they may just seem normal, but to outsiders, they’re like, “Wow, you did this?” and you’re like, “Well, it wasn’t that hard. I just did…and then, hey, it’s all done.” So, that’s a great exercise with that reflection in that hour and the facts. How else do you recommend we surface that, “Hey, this is a pretty special thing about me”?

Kathy Caprino
Love it. Love the question. Ask people. So, I’m a big fan of giving recommendations on LinkedIn but also asking. The first time you ask, you cough up a hairball, it’s like, “Ewk, I don’t want to.” But then you get good at asking. And what people write back will blow you away. It won’t be what you think they loved about you. Like, this job that I keep talking about that was the death of me almost, I thought I was a lousy leader because I was getting my tush kicked constantly. I was not inspiring, and that’s hard when you hate who you’ve become.

On LinkedIn, somebody wrote me, a young woman, she wrote, “I was not in Kathy’s department, but she was always something…” and you can read it. That’s the first one I got.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m there.

Kathy Caprino
Something like, “She was always inspiring, and someone who always seemed calm and,” whatever, “someone I emulate or wanted to emulate.” I swear to you I cried when I saw that. It was a healing statement because I thought I was just the worst. So, people are going to tell you things you don’t know with language that you would never use, so ask for recommendations. Not randomly. Pick the 10 people you know who love you in the past five years or 10 years of working, and ask.

The other thing is, ask your family and friends. The really good friends who don’t just whitewash it will tell you, “You know what, Pete, like I have to say, even your prep work for this shows me a lot about you.” You want to know what it shows?

Pete Mockaitis
I hope that not that I’m anal.

Kathy Caprino
All right. Well, I wasn’t going to say that. No, it shows…I’m making this up. I didn’t think of this before. It shows how much you care about how good this is and how good your guest looks. You don’t want them to look bad. You don’t want them to sound bad. It’s not just about you. I see it. Also, you ask some really interesting things here that other people don’t ask. So, I do a lot of podcasts myself and I’m on a lot. You wouldn’t believe how many people just show up and haven’t looked at the material, and don’t know where to go. It says so much about you, about the level of work you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. You’re right. That feels great.

Kathy Caprino
Does that seem right?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s true. I care a boatload, sometimes too much, it’s like, I’m thinking about the podcast with my kids, it’s like, “Yeah, I got to try to turn that off and…”

Kathy Caprino
I dream about my Forbes blog, like writing it. I wake up and go, “Really? You didn’t need to do that at 3:00 in the morning. It’s terrible what you’re dreaming to write.” Anyway. So, ask people.

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, Kathy, I just couldn’t resist, so I went on your LinkedIn, and I’m looking at your first recommendation, and I’ll go ahead and read it, and it is awesome.

Kathy Caprino
Read it. Who is it?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s Rica.

Kathy Caprino
That’s who it is.

Pete Mockaitis
“While I was not in Kathy’s group, she served as an example of how a professional woman should be in a corporate environment. Kathy was one of several female executives that I looked up to, and, on occasion, would offer mentorship during my career,” I’ll just skip the name. I don’t know. “To me, that kind of impression left on an up-and-coming professional in the marketing world speaks volumes about the caliber of work and motivation that a woman like Kathy leaves behind.”

Kathy Caprino
What year was that, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s 2008.

Kathy Caprino
I mean, I still get choked up because it healed me to read it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s beautiful. And I love…and it’s so powerful what you’re sharing here, is that you say you ask, and it was uncomfortable at first but then you got good. And then, sure enough, you got 61 recommendations, which is in the ballpark of the most I’ve ever seen, which leaves a huge impression and is something you can look back to if you’re feeling bombed on a given day.

Kathy Caprino
It’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
And it makes anyone checking you out, be like, “Oh, wow. Okay.”

Kathy Caprino
Thank you, Pete. Nobody’s ever read that to me. See? That’s so interesting. But a lot of people go, “Do we really need those? Why do we need those?” People, if someone can write something about you, that’s lasting as long as LinkedIn is going to be around. Why wouldn’t you want that?

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ll tell you this, candidly, people are making decisions about you and opportunities all the time. Sometimes we, most of the time actually, these days, we proactively seek out guests who match a listener request, like, their expertise matches what someone needs. But yours came from a publicist, and that’s the minority of guests these days, and so my team checks them out, including LinkedIn. And so, there it is, the fact that you’re here means you’re leaving great impressions.

Kathy Caprino
I passed. Oh, that’s nice to know.

Pete Mockaitis
Because you’re doing what you need to do to make sure that those special talents, abilities, and accomplishments are shining through and not hidden and invisible.

Kathy Caprino
Right. Thank you for that. And one final thing about that, now that I’m doing a lot more speaking, even virtually, if someone says, “Holy cow, that was fantastic,” I do ask them to write a speaker recommendation because they’re going to say it’s fantastic for a completely different reason from this bank or PayPal. So, yes, ask for them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that’s beautiful. We’re just still in the first gap so there’s a lot of richness here.

Kathy Caprino
Do we have seven hours?

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’re doing the 20 facts, some reflection time solo, and then you are asking people, and sometimes those asks can be in a public place, like a LinkedIn recommendation. Any other pro tips on identifying your strengths that may be hidden to you?

Kathy Caprino
Well, I love your point that what comes easily to us we don’t recognize. So, go back and connect the dots of who you always were that you let go of. So, for me, when I was 16 to 20, I was a competitive tennis player, went to the state of New York. I was a singer, I loved to be on stage, I loved to use the voice. I was intensely interested in psychology, “Why do people do what they do?” to the point where my dad was like, “Oh, here she goes with trying to figure out why mom did that, or whatever.”

Number four, I didn’t understand this but I had a therapeutic ear, so people would call me, young people, my friends, my peers, guys would say, “Can I come talk to you?” “Yeah. What about?” “Well, I really like Sally and she doesn’t like me.” I can’t tell you how many times people would want to talk to me about that. And I’d say to my mom, “Why are they calling me? I’m 16,” or 18. And I loved ideas. I loved books. My mom used to read literally a book a week, and when I was bored, she’d say, “Read a book,” and I would.

When I look back, it’s every one of those things that makes me love what I do today. But in 18 years of corporate life, none of that was being used. So, look at who you are now. A lot of people say, “Well, at 16, I was miserable, I was depressed. My parents were getting divorced. I didn’t know who I was.” Okay, I don’t mean literally 16. For me, 16 to 20 did it. It’s who I was and then I lost it. But look at when you were really rocking it. As far as you can remember, what were those things that people say, “Ooh, wow”? Like, the standing on stage, I think that’s number two in the most stress-inducing thing after losing a spouse to most people.

So, if you love it, people are going to say, “I can’t believe you love to do that,” or, “You love to write,” or, “You love to flip or horseback ride,” or whatever it is. Look back on those things because it’s usually the things that came so easily to you, you don’t see that it’s a strength, and then connect the dots and leverage that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. That’s great. Well, let’s talk about the second one here, communicating from fear and not strength, and saying, “Oh, I don’t know if this is any good.” I guess there’s a limited context where that is helpful in the sense that you don’t want to overpower or shut down free discussion in a group and you want to explore variance of diverse opinions. But it sounds like, in your experience, hey, the vast majority of the time it’s just the opposite. We’ve got folks who are sort of undervaluing, underemphasizing, underselling, what they have to communicate. So, how do you address that one?

Kathy Caprino
Well, I want to say this because it’s really important. I interviewed The Behavioral Science Guys, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, in my Forbes blog, and the article, look it up, it was “Gender Bias is Real.” And what they did was take a video enactment of an actress, now we call them female actor, and a male actor, saying the same exact thing, and it was forceful. And they were in a meeting, at a table, and they said, “I don’t agree with the direction the team is going here.” Audiences, both male and female, when they looked at the woman saying that, her perceived competency and literal dollar value dropped exponentially. His dropped a little, so, apparently, we don’t like forceful people. Period. But hers plummeted.

So, what we have to understand here is we, women have been trained not to speak powerfully. If you ask the women in your life, I’m an assertive person, I have been a powerful person in the corporate world, I’ve been called, I can’t say it here, biatch. I talk about in the book, I had a senior vice president call me a, “Buzzsaw.” He goes, “You’re a buzzsaw.” And I said, “I’m speechless. Is that good or is that bad?” “It’s that good.”

Pete Mockaitis
You mean, you’re able to cut through large pieces of wood easily.

Kathy Caprino
“You get it done. You get it done. And where no one else does.” The thing is, would he ever have called a man a buzzsaw? No, I’ve never heard him use that word, and I don’t want to be a buzzsaw. But what I found is, because I was suppressed as a child, meaning I felt, and this is a fun story, but I felt like I had to be obedient for my mom and brilliant for my dad. I grew up with a Greek mom. You don’t challenge your Greek mom. And she came from an upbringing where you speak only when spoken to, and you don’t challenge authority. So, I could not speak up. Thus, the chronic infection of my throat.

When you come from that, when you’re trained that you’re going to be punished, and forceful women are punished. It’s just the way it is, we’re penalized. I mean, still today, I’m 60 years old and I still deal with, when I say very clearly, when I push back, whether it’s on my publisher or anybody, “This is what I need. This is what I’m asking for,” you can sense that they think, “What a…” not my publisher per se, but it’s just not accepted yet.

So, the first thing I ask women to do is just watch yourself in the way you speak for the next week. Now, I do want to say this. Being strong doesn’t mean harsh, mean, abusive, critical. It means strong. It means, “Hey, this is my view, this is what I’m thinking,” and, in fact, The Behavioral Science Guys, they did a research on “What statement can you put before a forceful statement that’s going to mitigate the backlash?” Brilliant. And the one that worked the best is if you put a value statement before.

So, in this case that I’m going to say, listen, people, and I’m on a board of a small singing group, I have to say this all the time that we don’t agree with each other at all, ideologically or otherwise, half the time. They say put the value statement. So, it might be something like, “Hey, folks, I really value honesty and transparency, and that is why I have to share that I don’t agree with the direction we’re going.” And what happens is…

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.

Kathy Caprino
Is it that good? And part of it is human beings are fragile. If you bring up something, Pete, and I go, “Can I tell you I don’t agree with that at all?” you know, you’re going to be like, “Oh, okay.” But if I say, “Wow, I think that’s a really good point and I’d love to build on that. I see it slightly differently.” I mean, am I backpedaling? Am I making myself weaker? I don’t think so. I think I’m helping you hear it. What do you think?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I think it’s brilliant in that it’s…you accomplish the goal of not getting people rankled…

Kathy Caprino
Right. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
…without saying less of what you want to say, so I think it’s landing excellently. And so, I’m sort of thinking, give us some more examples. I’m chewing on this real time. We’ve got a value and then a statement.

Kathy Caprino
All right. So, let me say this, so in this board meeting we were having we’re talking about…we’re singers so super spreaders, so we’re talking about what we’re going to do, and I won’t reveal, but this is what I said. We made decisions and we have to present these decisions. And what I’ve always found, and whether this is to your spouse, or your mother, or your friend, or your singing group, if you half-bake an idea and present it, “This is what we are putting forth as what we feel is the best decision, and we’d love to share it with you.” You’re going to get a heck of a lot more positive response and engagement than, “The board met. Here’s what we’re doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, half-baked, not so much as you haven’t thought it through but, “We’re inviting additional collaboration and input.”

Kathy Caprino
Yes. And now somebody said, “I love you to pieces but, no. We’re the board and we’re going to say what needs to be said.” And, in fact, if they don’t agree, what are we going to do about it? We made the decision. I don’t agree with that at all. When you’re asking people to do things, like in this case it’s not what anyone wants. We want to sing together. Nobody wants to sing in a mask. And I believe in masks. So, if you’re going to slap them with some mandates, it’s going to make them angry.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Kathy Caprino
So, my view is, “Here’s what…” and we did this before. We made a big change, and I stood up there, and said, “Here’s why we’re thinking of this. Here’s what the research shows. Here’s what…” not about COVID and masks, but something else. And we expected, out of the 50 people, maybe five to 10 to be furious. Not one person was angry.

Now, some people didn’t like this change we made but there wasn’t that hysteria you get when you’re slapping someone with something. So, I feel like where you can make it so that it can be a dialogue and that you can…I think part of why people don’t like this is they don’t want to hear the feedback, they don’t want to have to deal. But if you’re a leader and you want to move something forward…Now, I’m not saying that every president who’s closing their offices for another three months is going to say they don’t invite a lot of feedback. But wherever you can, wherever there can be an open engagement of ideas, it’s better than the mandate, if you ask me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. And even if you’re making, “This is the decision and this is what holds,” I mean, getting that input in advance is great both so you make a better decision and that people feel included. So, even if you get a survey in terms of like, “Hey, to what extent are you interested in returning to the office versus are you thinking, ‘Hey, working from home is awesome’?” Kind of collecting that is good to know, and makes people feel heard, and can influence some great stuff in terms of, “All right. Well, hey, you know what, there’s…” I don’t know, if it’s a walk-up office, you can have a limited number of spots available for those who really want it, and like you sign up on the system, and it’s like, “Okay, that’s cool. Thanks. Thanks for thinking about me there. It would be nice to get away from the kids here and there,” and that’s a possibility. So, I dig it.

Kathy Caprino
So, the point is be strong, be confident, but that doesn’t mean abrasive, aggressive, “This is what it’s going to be.” One more tip, I want women, and men, to watch how much they apologize. So, the study shows women apologize, I don’t even have the number in front of me, exponentially more. They say the words, “I’m sorry.” And my son, who’s now working right in the bedroom over there, says, “Oh, mom, that’s just like an idiom. It doesn’t matter.” It does matter.

And I say it so much. Here’s an example. You’re in line and someone cuts that line. How many people say, women, “I’m sorry, there’s a line here.” You’re not sorry. You’re angry. Don’t say the word sorry say, “Excuse me,” or, “Oh, I need to tell you there’s a line here.” Watch the words that come out.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I’ve thought about this in terms of, I think, it was years ago. Yeah, I remember I was headed somewhere and I was with my girlfriend in the car, and I was driving, and I don’t remember the specific context, but she was going to send a message to somebody that we’re meeting, and she started by saying, “Hey, sorry,” something, something, something. And I said, “Can we remove the sorry?” And she said, “What? Why?” And it’s like, “Well, I don’t think we’ve actually done anything wrong. We haven’t made a commitment that we’re falling short of.”

Kathy Caprino
Interesting. Interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
“It would be an unjustified expectation for them to have that we do…” and she was so surprised.

Kathy Caprino
And she was probably thinking, “For goodness’ sake. Just say you’re sorry already.”

Pete Mockaitis
Because I guess I just really like my words to have integrity, to be true, to be complete. And when I say I’m sorry to mean it in terms of like, “Hey, I’m saying sorry all the time.” But in terms of it’s like, “You know what, I did something that I shouldn’t have done,” or, “I didn’t do something that I should’ve done,” or, “I didn’t even consider that perspective of yours, and I really should have. That was inconsiderate.” So, that’s sort of how I view sorry. And I guess, in a way, there’s a balancing act. You don’t want to be stubborn or rigid or…

Kathy Caprino
Or narcissistic where you can’t say you’re sorry. But you said a key thing, Pete. You think of every word. You want it to be what you mean. And those of us in the media or when you write, I don’t even ever fire off an email ever. I don’t care how short it is. I look at it and I read it again, and I’m always editing. I didn’t mean I’m sorry, I didn’t mean thank you when I don’t mean thank you, because your words are powerful. And if you weaken them because you’re saying what you don’t mean, it’s going to weaken your whole impact.

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

Kathy Caprino
Can I suggest and ask that anybody listening take my power gap survey?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Kathy Caprino
And if you’re like 98%, you’re going to have one of these gaps at least, and do something about it. I have a free 7-Day Power Boost Challenge. Ooh, wordy. A workbook if you want to give it away, I’m happy to, and it’s a condensed version of the book where you can look at “What can I say to myself differently? What can I literally do differently in the external world in a positive reframe? How do I look at this challenge differently so I embrace it more fully?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that sounds great. And how do folks get that?

Kathy Caprino
Certainly, if you buy my book you can get it. But I am putting up a page where people can just add their name and get it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, now, can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kathy Caprino
It’s Madeleine Albright. Let me get it right, she says, “It took me a long time to develop a voice. And now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Kathy Caprino
Okay. I don’t mean to sound it’s all about me but it’s the power gap survey because it showed me the incredible epidemic proportions of powerlessness that so many women have.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Kathy Caprino
It’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Kathy Caprino
Oh, my gosh. It’s so powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. It is.

Kathy Caprino
I try to read it every year and remember.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I found it helpful actually with COVID.

Kathy Caprino
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
In that, oh, in some ways, I feel, not be melodramatic, but a bit imprisoned, constrained, many of the things I would like to do I cannot do. But then to look at what the man went through and survived and found meaning and value and enrichment for others from it, it’s like it just puts things in perspective.

Kathy Caprino
Yes. And the idea that you can choose. The one thing you can choose is how you’re going to respond. That’s all you can choose. So great.

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

Kathy Caprino
You know, this may sound boring but I’ve just recently used Slack, found Slack, with my team. I adore it. I have a small team, a team of four, but I feel like we’re in the fabric of each other’s lives that way. And it’s, to me, so much better than email or text. I adore it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Kathy Caprino
Okay, this is a little bit of a spiritual thing. But I do believe we have a higher self that knows more, that’s more connected to everything, to wisdom. And my favorite habit is, every morning, literally, I have a little candle here, fake candle but I love it. And I will look at it and think, I will say this to myself, “What is it that I need to learn today? And what is it that I need to let go of?” And I listen. And, usually, there’s a big nugget of truth there.

Pete Mockaitis
Love it. Oh, I was just about to ask you for a big nugget of truth. Is there something you share that people frequently quote back to you or retweet or highlight in your books?

Kathy Caprino
It’s something around this, “We are all like our thumbprint – absolutely unique. And there is so much specialness in that uniqueness.” And so, what I’m really begging people to do is love themselves enough to see that specialness and bring it forward, talk about it more, use it more, leverage it more, because the truth is, the world needs it. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the world because, look at what we’re in here, we’re in a tough time, so we need your special talents, abilities, and gifts. And do not, for a minute, think you’re not great. And just look at your thumb and your thumbprint, and remember. That’s how special you are. Now is the time to use that in service.

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

Kathy Caprino
KathyCaprino.com. FindingBrave.org is my podcast, and you can find The Most Powerful You anywhere you love to buy books, audio, hardcover, wherever you’d like.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kathy, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best.

Kathy Caprino
Thank you, Pete. Thanks so much for having me, and your really thoughtful questions. I so appreciate it.