This Podcast Will Help You Flourish At Work

Each week, I grill thought-leaders and results-getters to discover specific, actionable insights that boost work performance.

791: Promoting and Sustaining Trust through Honest Leadership with Ron Carucci

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Ron Carucci reveals the four keys to cultivating a culture of trust and honesty in your teams and organizations.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why people don’t trust you even if you think you’re trustworthy 
  2. Two fundamental questions to up your leadership
  3. A powerful exercise to build your honesty muscle

About Ron

Ron has a thirty-year track record helping executives tackle challenges of strategy, organization, and leadership — from start-ups to Fortune 10s, nonprofits to heads-of-state, turn-arounds to new markets and strategies, overhauling leadership and culture to re-designing for growth. With experience in more than 25 countries on 4 continents, he helps organizations articulate strategies that lead to accelerated growth, and then designs programs to execute those strategies.  

The best-selling author of eight books, including the Amazon #1 Rising to Power and his recently released To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose, Ron is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, where Navalent’s work on leadership was named one of 2016’s management ideas that mattered most. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, and a two-time TEDx speaker.  

Resources Mentioned

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Ron Carucci Interview Transcript

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

Ron Carucci
Pete, so great to be back with you. I’ve missed you, my friend.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose is the latest book. Last time, we touched on your antique doorknob collection, so I think we need to revisit this.

Ron Carucci
Which, there it is.

Pete Mockaitis
I could behold it though the listeners can’t see it. It’s bigger than I thought it was. So, maybe, for those who didn’t hear you the first time, can you refresh the listeners on what that’s about and tell us if there’s any new developments?

Ron Carucci
So, I began making these jars years ago for other people, and, basically, they were people in my life who I felt were amazing at opening doors for people and helping people move over the threshold of the liminal space of a doorway.

And so, these are doorknobs that are dozens or hundreds of years old, there’s old hardware in there, there’s old hinges, there’s knockers, so all kinds of things to do with doors, that span hundreds of years. And if you think about the countless number of hands that have turned those doors open, that have passed through doorways, for me it’s a wonderful daily reminder that that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to make a way for other people. I’ve helped people in my talks over time. There are 7.2 billion doors in the world through which love, hope, and joy can pass. You’re one of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, thank you. Well, now let’s dig into To Be Honest. What’s perhaps one of the most striking, counterintuitive, surprising, fascinating discoveries you’ve made while putting this together?

Ron Carucci
So, it’s based on a 15-year longitudinal study of more than 3200 leaders, so we dug in deep, and we learned a lot. Some of it was very surprising. The most exciting part was that you can actually predict what conditions in which people will tell the truth and behave fairly and serve a greater good, and under what conditions they might be more prone to lie, cheat, and serve their own interests first.

One of the biggest findings is that honesty is not a character trait. It’s not some moral imperative. It’s not some sense of do good. Honesty is a muscle. It is a capability. It is something, if you want to be good at, you have to actually work at it, which is like going to the gym and building any other muscle. If you want your moral competence, your honesty competence to be effective, it isn’t something you can just assume that your good intentions will take care of.

In today’s world, we’re in a trust recession, and if you want to earn and keep the trust of others, you have to earn it every day.

Ron Carucci
So, it turns out earning and keeping the trust of others has far less to do with your good intentions of being trustworthy, and far more to do with working at your honesty muscle to ensure you’re giving people evidence and reasons to trust you.

Whenever I ask leaders the question, “Do your people trust you?” the reflexive response is almost always, “Well, why wouldn’t they trust me?” as though my good-hearted intentions to be trustworthy are enough. But the reality is, in today’s world where cynicism reigns supreme, we look around every institution there is and see trust in a freefall.

Today, leaders begin in a deficit of trust. You can go from being somebody’s peer and trusted, and just being elevated to being their boss, you are the same person and yet, in their eye, that you now have power, that you now have disproportionate levels of influence over their future, that you’re not one of them, starts you in the red. And you have to re-earn the trust you had as their peer, and most leaders just take that for granted.

Pete Mockaitis
intriguing. Well, Ron, I don’t want to get too much into the semantic wordplay game, but it’s funny, when you say honest, I think most of us would consider ourselves honest, and I assume that folks are being honest with me, and yet there is something of a gap in terms of whether I trust someone. I guess there’s levels and layers to it where I tend to think, “Well, I, generally, presume the vast majority of people aren’t straight up lying to me and telling me the opposite of what is true.” Is that fair in terms of like the state of honesty in the workplace today?

Ron Carucci
I would that it were that simple, my friend, but here’s a couple of problems. I think we’re in a world today where we have confused speaking the truth with speaking your truth. And so, I may tell you something that I firmly believe, and because I say it with conviction, it is my truth. I’m going to say it as if it’s the truth. I may be repeating heresy to you that I read on the internet somewhere, but if I believe it, I’m going to pass it on as if it’s so.

Pete Mockaitis
InternetHeresy.com

Ron Carucci
Secondly, so what we learned both in our neuroscience, we do a lot of brain science to understand how our brain processes our experience of honesty, and also in the initial research of our interviews, we used a lot of really cool AI technology to do some of the word text mean analysis. Honesty today is more than just not lying.

So, the definition of honesty, as the book title says, is truth, justice, and purpose. What that means is to be labeled as honest, you not only have to say the right thing, you have to do the right thing, and you have to say and do the right thing for the right reason. You may do less than that, and you might be labeled a good person or you might be labeled reliable. But if you want to earn and keep the trust of others, all three are necessary today.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And that’s intriguing how, I’m thinking about, yeah, your truth versus the truth, quite a distinction. I have seen people say things with conviction, we’re at a party and someone was saying, “It’s not possible for media companies to be profitable just by the sale of ads. They have to engage in some other activities.” He said this with great conviction, I thought. Well, I own a profitable media company.

And so, he said it, he meant it, he believed it, he wasn’t trying to deceive anyone, and yet, I know that the statement he made was false. And in so doing, I did, I had less trust in subsequent statements he made. And I guess I could be a stickler…

Ron Carucci
But here’s the problem, Pete, the fact that he believed it to be true doesn’t make it true.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. I mean, what you say is correct.

Ron Carucci
But he would proffer it as if it were truth. And were you to disagree with him, he would say, “You’re wrong.”

Pete Mockaitis
What’s funny, I did. I actually…it was interesting, like my reaction, I was a little angry at him for having said that even though he had no poor intentions. And I guess it’s just sort of like, I guess the way I operate is, “If I’m uncertain of something, I will put my cards on the table.” Like, I would’ve given him a lot of grace if he said, “Boy, you know what, when I was working for this media company, there was no way we could’ve been profitable. We’re paying the writers and all the stuff, and we’d look at the bandwidth fees, given the small revenue we have, so, thusly, boy, I don’t know how it’s possible for any…”

Okay. All right, so we’re conveying similar sentiments and yet I was like, “All right. Fair enough, dude. That’s your experience. I understand that’s where you’re coming from, and I’ve got a different perspective to share with you.”

Ron Carucci
And would you not have been more drawn to, “I trust him, I’d engage him because he was being thoughtful”?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yeah.

Ron Carucci
Right? So, there you are. That’s a wonderful example of today in our dogma-proliferated world. We lose trust with chronic certainty when we confuse our truth with the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
Chronic certainty. Well said. And I’m thinking another time, someone was doing a very clever book promotion in which I could get a free copy of a book if I just pay the shipping charge.

Ron Carucci
You see it coming.

Pete Mockaitis
And then there was like an upsell video, in which he said, “Hey, can I send you some more training?” And I was like, “Okay, maybe.” And it’s like, “Well, right in the same box, I can give you my…” it was a CD set at the time, it was like $200 or whatever, and so I thought that was a clever move because you already have my credit card. I was already intrigued in the topic because I got the email and I said, “Sure, I want your free book.”

And then I was like, “Okay, clever move. All right, sure.” And then I remember they were not in the same box because I thought it was going to be…and it was not a pre-release copy of the book, which I thought it was going to be. It was piped through BarnesandNoble.com, and then the training CDs actually came separately earlier.

And it’s interesting because it’s like…and in that instance, I was more angry because it was like, “Okay, you’re not just mistaken. It’s like you knew darn well,” even though I still got the book for the cost of shipping, and I still got the trainings. It’s like, “You knew they weren’t going to be in the same box. This is part of your marketing strategy from day one to goose you and have one week at the New York Times’ bestseller list as you piped all these orders through these places.” And so, well, now I trust nothing this person says.

Ron Carucci
So, your examples are crystal clear, Pete, but those kinds of transactions happen to us all day long. And so, my scrutiny of you, and your scrutiny of those people, and people who are like them, because our brains process those experiences like little traumas so the imprint is thrust in our brains. And so, any time now anybody reminds you of the media guy or the book author…

Pete Mockaitis
The author guy, yeah.

Ron Carucci
..you’re going to hold that screen up and go, first of all, “Is it like them or not? And how much like them is it?” So, now, you have a new bar of what somebody now has to get past to earn your trust. Well, multiplied that by hundreds of transactions every day, they can go in either direction, and you see what it takes today for leaders to actually authentically show up in a way that does attract and keep, because the marketing guy had your trust for 20 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
He did.

Ron Carucci
And then squandered it. He exploited it and squandered it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Ron Carucci
And leaders do that every day with good intentions. They don’t realize the things that which people will withdraw their trust from you from. I had to give a client of mine feedback that he had lost his team’s trust because he got very defensive, saying, “I just try with them. I tell them what way things are. I go to bat for them. I advocate for resources for them. I tell them when they’re not working well. I tell them when they’re great.”

I said, “So, you’ve just listed all for me all the reasons you believe you’ve earned their trust, but trust is a currency. We all trade in different currencies. You believe they’re trading your currency when actually they’re not. So, it turns out that when you’re in meetings with your team, you tend to be a little bit impatient and you tend to let that be known through some sarcastic remarks. And when someone is going on a little bit longer than you wish they would, you cut them off.”

He said, “Well, okay, everybody has a bad day.” I said, “Well, apparently you have a lot of them and what you are telling people in those behaviors is you are not safe for them to be imperfect, that if their thoughts are not fully formed, if their arguments don’t align with yours, they shouldn’t speak. That’s what you tell them with those behaviors. That loses their trust. It doesn’t matter that you never intended for them to interpret those things that way, that’s what your behavior conveyed.”

And he was floored. And this is not a jerk, this is a good guy, a smart guy, a good leader, but here was a set of behaviors that he would’ve never equated with trustworthiness. But there you are, his team deciding that he was not a safe place, was not trustworthy of their candor, of their ideas, of their imperfectly formed views.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s a good notion. So, to trust someone or for someone to be trustworthy, it’s not so much…it’s not just, “I don’t think that you’re lying to me, but rather, I can trust you with my incomplete idea. I can trust you with a proposal which may or may not work.” So, I get that. The use of the word trust in terms of “What do you trust people with?” or, “What do you entrust to them?” can be minimal or maximal and, thusly, the term currency really plays out nicely, “Would I trust you with a few pennies or would I trust you with my life savings?” But rather than talking about monetary matters, we’re talking about kind of emotional, intellectual contribution matters.

Ron Carucci
And some people hold up the arcs of character, “I’m going to judge by your character to decide whether or not I’m going to trust you.” Some people use competence, “If I think you’re not good at your job, if I don’t think you’re awesome at your job, I may trust you less.” It may be your personality. You may have a different kind of personality than me, and I find if I’m an introvert and you’re charismatic, whatever, I may trust you less. But if you’re like me, I may trust you more.”

There’s all kinds of currencies we trade in. The key is to know what currency the people whose trust you want are trading in, not to assume that they’re trading in yours because you may squander a great deal of effort trying to earn trust you’re not earning.

Pete Mockaitis
And I also think that it can be quite segmented in terms of like, “When you start talking about marketing ideas, I don’t trust you because I think they’re kind of nutty. But when you start talking about financial accounting health things, like, okay, you’re solid, you’re all over that.” So, all right. Well, please, Ron, unpack this for us. If we want to be maximally trustworthy, what’s our path?

Ron Carucci
There’s four doors to go through, using our door metaphor. So, we found four conditions under which you can guarantee whether or not people will earn your trust. These were the conditions we found, both in individuals and organizations, and there’s actual statistical factors that go with each. So, the first one is be who you say you are. Our organizations make promises in their statements – missions, values, visions, purpose statements.

It turns out, those matter to people in terms of whether they’re embodied or not. And if you work in an organization where those things are for cosmetic purposes only, but if you ask people, “Is this your experience of the place?” those are not the words they would use to describe it. You are now three times more likely to have people be dishonest.

Pete Mockaitis
To be dishonest.

Ron Carucci
Yup, but if there is an alignment between the actions and words, and if your organization does embody those words, now you’re three times more likely to have people to be honest. The reason you raise the risk of dishonesty is you’ve now institutionalized duplicity. You’ve now told people, “Around here, we say one thing and do another, and so that’s okay.” So, your people will now go, “Okay, so I’m allowed to say one thing and do another.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Ron, this is hard hitting.

Ron Carucci
The same with leaders. If you’re a leader, you have advertised what you value. You may not have done it intentionally, you should have, and so people will look at you. And if you’re embodying who you say you are, they’re three times more likely to give you their trust and see you as honest, but if your say-do gap is more than one-to-one, you are telling people you’re not trustworthy.

Second was accountability. So, if the way in which you account people’s work, how you talk about their contributions, how you measure their contributions, is seen as fair and just and dignified, meaning, “I feel, when I walk out of my conversations with my boss, that however my work was discussed, including my shortfalls, was dignifying and fair, meaning I have as much of a chance of being successful as anybody else,” you’re four times more likely to have people be honest.

But if I think the game is rigged, if I think I’m being demeaned or a cog in your wheel or a means to your end, or I don’t have as much of a chance at being successful as other of your favorites, now you’re four times more likely to have me be dishonest because, now, for me to get ahead, I have to embellish my accomplishments and hide my mistakes from you.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say be honest, or be dishonest, again, we’re not talking about stating things that are the opposite of the truth, but rather shades, nuances, withholding, embellishing.

Ron Carucci
Any form of truthin purpose, any form of saying the right thing, doing the right thing, or saying and doing the right thing for the right reason. It’s any misuse of those three things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ron Carucci
The third was decision-making. So, if I walk into a room in an organization, virtual or otherwise, commonly referred to as a meeting, and I believe what’s happening in that room to be an honest conversation, that the person who’s presenting something is giving me the full scoop on what data they’re presenting, they’ve given me both sides of an argument, I believe they don’t have some hidden agenda, and I believe that were I to offer a view that’s different than the countering, prevailing views in the room, I’d be welcome to do that. Now, you’re three and a half times more likely to have me be honest because I can trust what’s in the room.

But if I walk into that room and I think it’s nothing but orchestrated fear, and the person presenting the data has spun it, has an agenda of what they want, is clearly guiding the room toward that outcome, and the last thing you want to hear from me is a point of view different than the one that you’re trying to shape, now you’re three and a half times more likely to have me be dishonest because the truth is now underground. And if I want the truth, I have to go get it somewhere else.

Pete Mockaitis
And here being dishonest might mean just keeping your mouth shut.

Ron Carucci
Keep your mouth shut. Go outside the room and collude with somebody about…

Pete Mockaitis
“Can you believe that BS?”

Ron Carucci
“And so, here’s what we’re going to do now.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ron Carucci
And the last one was probably one of the most surprising, was cross-functional relationships. What happens at the seams of your organization? If you have prevailing border wars, the classic sales and marketing, supply chain and operation, R&D and innovation, HR and everybody, if those seams are not stitched well, and there’s no way for those complexity, which are usually healthy tensions to be resolved, you are six times more likely to have people be dishonest because when you fragment the organization, you fragment the truth. Now, all we have is dueling truths, “My truth versus your truth. My only interest now is being right, which means I have to go about proving you wrong.”

But if those seams are stitched, if there’s cohesion and coalescence across the organizational story, if people recognize that there’s value we create together that’s bigger than either one of us, and there’s a way for those tensions to be held in a healthy way to solve those conflicts, now you’re six times more likely to have people be honest with you because now we’re all part of a bigger story.

The sobering aspect of those four findings, Pete, is that the models, the statistical models, are cumulative. So, if you’re good at all four of those things, you’re 16 times more likely to have people in your organization, or in your presence, be honest with you. But if you suck at all four of those things, you are now 16 times likely to find yourself on the front page of The New York Times in a story you never imagined being in.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Woo, Ron, there’s a lot of goodies here. I think the one that really hit home powerfully was at the beginning when you talked about institutionalizing dishonesty. And I could think of my first workplace was Kmart, and I remember we had these principles, and I thought to myself, “Oh, what a relief,” I’m so naïve, “Oh, what a relief.” I’m like 17 years old, don’t really know what I’m doing, first sort of job, it’s not a paper route, and I’m sure there’s going to be all sorts of ambiguous tenuous things, but I can look to these principles as my guiding light in the midst of this ambiguity.

I think I still remember the customers rule, teams work, change strengthens, diversity enriches, performance drives. It’s over 20 years ago. And yet when I saw, in our store in particular, not to throw shade on Kmart worldwide, when I saw these being violated, it’s like, “Oh, I guess not really. Okay.” Because I loved the idea of, okay, customers rule and I had the power to please, I was told in my training video.

Like, if they don’t have the sale 24 pack of Pepsi in stock, I can give them two 12 packs for the sale 24-pack price. I thought that was pretty cool, it’s like, “Ooh, that’s something I can do. I’ve got some power here,” and that was one of my favorite things to do, is write up the magic ticket, which says, “Hey, this is your new price for this thing.”

But then when they said, “Oh, don’t do that for these,” it’s like she’s got some sort of Pepsi dealer that’s got a special price, “Don’t do that for these things or these exceptions,” and they really added up. And you’re right, institutionalizing dishonesty, I was like, “Oh, okay, I guess we just kind of do whatever is expedient. I guess that’s how things really work here.” And that wasn’t a great feeling, and it made me kind of uneasy in terms of never quite knowing if things were right or appropriate.

And, thus, just sort of doing whatever got the job done without flagrantly, I guess, violating the law or causing risk to someone’s health and safety. But then elsewhere, I’m thinking about Bain where we had our operating principles, and they were real, and that was inspiring, and I was like, “Oh, this is what we do here. It’s like we’re open to the 1% possibility, which is that you’re wrong, and that’s okay. It’s okay for lowly associate consultant to challenge a stately partner and they won’t rip my head off. That’s pretty cool that that’s really how it works here.” So, yeah, the notion of institutionalizing dishonesty is a powerful phrase and really does ring true experientially.

Ron Carucci
when duplicity becomes a welcome norm, the offense of the hypocrisy causes what we now know to be moral injury. So, it’s not just exhaustion, it’s not just even burnout from the constant duplicity, we now know, we can measure it through neuroscience studies that it’s actually what we call moral injury.

Moral injury was first measured in people who were at war, people who were veterans and experienced or observed or were part of atrocities, and then throughout the pandemic, we realized, “Oh, healthcare.” Lots of moral injury there. It’s actually an imprinted trauma response similar to PTSD but not the same.

Well, when you’re in an environment of rampant hypocrisy, and the enraged part of you that feels trapped, that feels complicit, is actually imprinting like a trauma response. It’s called moral injury. People have often misdiagnosed burnout or exhaustion for what really is moral injury. And so, a rampant environment of saying one thing and doing another means that, “I will get my pound of flesh. So, if you’re going to be a hypocrite, watch what I can do. And so, I’ll start giving those price tags two for one, three for one, four for one. When my mother comes in, it’s going to be ten for one.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s good. Well, so this is really intriguing that these kinds of environmental cues have tremendous power in shaping the behavior of folks. So, let’s say that our listener is not at the top of the organization but somewhere in the middle, and they are inspired. They want to be as honest as possible and shape some good cultural vibes within their spheres of influence, what are some immediate actions folks can take?

Ron Carucci
That’s a great question. And I will shamelessly plug the book because I left no stone unturned. Every chapter ends with a long luxurious list of practical things we can all do right away. But, for example, let’s talk about this duplicity thing. Next time you’re together with your team, pull those things off the wall. Pick your favorite set of promises; the values, the principles, the mission, the purpose statement.

Pick one. Put it on the table and ask your team, “How are we doing with this? Is this what your experience is? Maybe the rest of the place isn’t, but I want to make sure that the experience I’m creating for us sounds like this. Where could we do better? If somebody followed our team around with a video camera all day long, could that video tape be used as a training program for these values? Or, would it be like, ‘Here’s how not do this’?” Just open the conversation. Any one of these is an invitation to a conversation.

So, when we finished the research and found the findings. I thought, “I don’t want to tell the failure stories. We’re all a little bit sick of Theranos. We’re all a little bit sick of Wells Fargo. We don’t need to rehash those painful moments anymore. I want to know who the heroes are. I want to tell the stories of people who are doing this and living this out in a way I’d be proud to emulate. I’d want them as my boss.”

And so, the book is nothing but a book of great heroic stories of people who are beautifully and inspiringly embodying these four findings in a way that we can easily emulate, we can easily take a book out of their playbook that they’ve lived a path for us. And so, the border war one, the cross-functional things. If I asked you, “Who is your they? Who is the person in some other department who your team has to coordinate with, or you think of them, you go, ‘Here they come, what do they want?’ and you’ve othered them, you’ve made them other, they’re the enemy, and they make your life miserable and all you do is talk about how incompetent they are?”

It turns out, not as surprisingly, you are probably their they too, and they’re having the same conversations about your team, which, of course, you think are unjustified and your team is just angelic and does everything right, and couldn’t imagine making their life miserable. What if you just reached out to that leader and said, “Here, let’s have coffee,” and said them, “Look, we know our teams are struggling to get along. How can I be a better colleague to you? What could we do differently? How can we create better? What’s one thing we can do to make this better?”

And any time I bring teams together to do what we call seam startups to sort of regenerate a seam, inevitably, as you begin to talk about what value they co-create together that they don’t create on their own, and begin to talk about how they do that, or how they struggle, you start hearing a crescendo of, “Oh, that’s why you do that? Oh, that’s why that drives you crazy. I didn’t know you needed that. Wait, that’s what you guys do? That’s your KPIs? Oh, my gosh, we measure them just to the opposite. No wonder I can’t stand you.”

People discover and re-humanize the other from being the them to now it’s a part of a bigger we. And, suddenly, things change. So, all of us can initiate any one of these things to be better. There are organizational injustices all around you, in your accountability systems, in your budgeting systems, in your resource systems, somebody is getting the short end of a stick, somebody is not valued the way they should.

Just ask yourself, “Who are the roles in your organization that are privileged? If you’re a tech company, are your engineers privileged? If you’re in a brand company, are your marketers privileged? If you’re in a growth company, are your salespeople privileged?” And it’s not that all work is created equal. All work is not equal. Some work is more important than others but not all people should be more important than others.

And if those privileges and those jobs are disadvantaging other people, that means those privileges are a problem and the playing field is not level, and you have the power to right those wrongs. Somehow, some way, who’s the bully in your organization that your team has to put up with, that you turn a blind eye?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, Ron, so fundamentally, how do leaders earn and sustain their teams’ trust?

Ron Carucci
If you’re a leader, let me simplify your job. People come to work every single day with two foundational questions that they want to answer, “Do I matter and do I belong? Is my contribution important? Is it valued by you? And can I show up as who I am or do I have to hide part of myself?” Your job is to make sure that, every day, they never wondered if the answer to those questions is yes, because any time they spent doubting whether or not the answer is yes, is capacity they’re investing in hiding, in performing, in manipulating, in resenting, and that’s not capacity they’re putting into producing the results you want them to produce. So, take it off the table for them.

Make sure there is not a shred of doubt in how you care for them, and how you lead them, and how you guide them, and how you coach them, that they never wondered if they matter or do they belong so that the rest of their capacity can be devoted to performing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, understood. Okay. Well, now I’m wondering about the shooting the messenger effect. It’s real and it really does make things difficult. And I guess we sort of talked about these four environmental organizational factors at work here with regard to contributing to or detracting from psychological safety. But if we’ve got bad news, and we’re in an environment that isn’t so welcoming of it, how do we even play that game?

Ron Carucci
So, let’s talk about both side of the equation here. Here’s a blanket statement that I can confidently say as my truth is the truth. If you are a leader and you don’t have somebody coming into your office, at least twice a week, telling you something that makes you uncomfortable, you can be 100% confident your leadership sucks.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ron Carucci
That’s it. And if you think it’s because there isn’t anything to tell you that makes you uncomfortable, not only does your leadership suck, you’re stupid. But those stories are being told somewhere, and if they’re not telling you, you have to be curious about who they’re telling. You can be very confident that every night at the dinner table of the people you lead, you are being talked about. You are the subject of a story. If you don’t know what stories they’re telling about you, you should want to get in on the conversation.

Let’s start with the other side of the equation. Today, telling the truth has reduced itself to, if I just stood up the posture of a big middle finger, or a whiner, or a rant on social media, that’s literally speaking my choice or being the messenger. You have to deliver the message competently. You can’t just come in ranting, or whining, or complaining, or accusing, or, passively-aggressively, throwing somebody under the bus. You just need to show up with the credibility to say, “Hey, I have a concern. Here’s what it is. Here’s my suggestion for how to resolve it.”

And if you haven’t earned the credibility to do that before that moment, that moment is probably not the moment to do it then. What we know about competent courage, Jim Detert’s research, if you haven’t had him on your podcast, you want to get him. He wrote the book Choosing Courage.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we had him.

Ron Carucci
And his research shows that the people who do this well are people whose credibility is already established, and there are things they do competently to bring in the bad news, to establish what to do about it, and to be heard. It doesn’t mean people won’t personally get defensive but there is a skill to it. I actually was told last week on social media, I’m still sort of wrestling with this, but someone said, “Ron is so good at what he does, he’s the only person I know that can tell someone to go to hell, and they’ll ask for directions.”

And I’m thinking, “It sounds like that was intended to be a good thing or a compliment.” I’m not so sure but I do work very hard to make sure that when I have to bring somebody uncomfortable news, a disconfirming news about how they see the world, that’s already going to make them uncomfortable, but at least I do it with care. I don’t pull punches, I don’t soft-pedal it, but I do it in a way that they know I’m not judging them, I’m not trying to shame them, and I will help them through this.

But withholding bad news from somebody is never kind. Leaders do it all the time when they withhold hard feedback from people, “I don’t want to hurt their feelings. It was just a one-off thing. They probably didn’t mean it.” Same with our bosses, we let them off the hook. Withholding feedback that could help somebody grow is cruel all the time.

Again, the competence includes timing. Barging into a room when your boss is in a meeting with their boss, and blurting out something they did that was terrible, probably a bad idea. So, timing, delivery, it all matters, but not doing it is never okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Ron, anything else you want to make sure to say before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Ron Carucci
If your own honest competence, your own muscle is important to you, I would invite you to just try one exercise that I give many leaders to do. The University of Massachusetts’ research says that, on average, we all lie about twice a day, give or take. Assume for a minute that includes embellishing something to your boss, leaving a piece of information out to your spouse, whatever. Think about the last ten days of your life, and think about, let’s say, 15 moments where you were not at your best, where you were not proud of who you were.

You could’ve been curt to a barista. You could’ve blown off your kids. You could’ve taken that slide out of a deck to ensure that you got your budget. You could’ve over-inflated accomplishments to somebody in a presentation about what you were doing when you spoke. Pick it. Little, big, whatever, no one has to see this. But what I guarantee you is if you look over those 15 moments over the last 10 days, you will see a pattern.

The moments that bring us to our dishonesty are not random. We adopt those behaviors because we believe that they serve some need or we wouldn’t do it. You have told yourself that these choices and these moments serve some purpose, “I will engineer a certain response,” “I will look a certain way,” “I will avoid a certain pain,” “I will appear to be a certain way.” And if you want to raise your game on honesty in order to make sure that, in fact, you are trustworthy, you have to, first, be honest about your dishonesty. You cannot be more true to yourself until you’re more true about yourself. And so, start with you.

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

Ron Carucci
As my mentor once told me many, many years ago, “Nothing in life is revocable except death.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Ron Carucci
At the Harvard University, they did this study on cafeteria workers, on looking to see how meaning in work happens, and they put cameras both on the person ordering their food and the people in the kitchen making the food. And when they could both see each other, the way the food got made changed. When, suddenly, people, in the kitchen, went from just frying eggs to, “I’m frying eggs for them,” the care and attention to detail and quality of what they were doing went dramatically up, meaning that no matter what task you’re performing, it can be meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I’m wondering if this has something to do with why the scrambled eggs at the Waffle House are extra delicious. I could see them; they can see me.

Ron Carucci
Versus a buffet of golden brown.

Pete Mockaitis
Right there. All right. And a favorite book?

Ron Carucci
David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea.

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

Ron Carucci
It’s Outlook. I live for Outlook, and I know how important it was to me because mine went down for two months, and people couldn’t figure out how to use the web version, and I was a neurotic mess.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m intrigued. Any Outlook power tips?

Ron Carucci
Color code your calendar. That’s a cool tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And a favorite habit?

Ron Carucci
In the morning, when I have my coffee, I have a collection of mugs that, in my cabinet…

Pete Mockaitis
Doorknobs and mugs. Two collections for Ron.

Ron Carucci
And so, each mug is sort of attached to a person or experience in my life, and so I begin my day thinking about that person or thinking about that experience and those people, and just to sort of begin with a sense of gratitude and reminding myself that it’s bigger than me. My own story is bigger than just me. And so, I begin my day thinking about somebody else.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share with folks, they tend to repeat it back to you, retweet it, Kindle book highlight it?

Ron Carucci
I think the “Honesty is a muscle” is the one people tend to sort of double-take on.

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

Ron Carucci
Please come visit. So one of the cool things we did was, I knew that when I was interviewing all those heroes, I wouldn’t be able to use everything they said but it was all worth it, so we videoed those interviews, and we did a TV series, and it’s called Moments of Truth. It’s a 15-episode news magazine show, in a news magazine format, and you can binge watch all 15 episodes at ToBeHonest.net or you can find them on Roku.

At ToBeHonest.net, you’ll also find information about the book, the research, there’s a webinar there. If you want to hang out with me, come to my firm’s website Navalent.com. We’ve got really cool free e-books, and videos, and whitepapers, and lots of cool blogs, and you can have us in your inbox every month and get our wisdom about teams and workplace and leadership, and all that kind of stuff. And please do follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter and stay in touch.

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

Ron Carucci
Don’t take trust for granted. Level up and say the right thing, do the right thing, and say and do the right thing for the right reason, and you will live a far more gratifying and purposeful life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Ron, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you all the best and much honesty and trustworthiness.

Ron Carucci
Pete, always a pleasure. I was just wearing your shirt, oh my gosh. That could be the accountability chapter, we did identify it. I love it. Always a pleasure, my friend. Thanks for having me.

790: How to Stop Being Overlooked, Underpaid, and Undervalued with Arika Pierce

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Arika Pierce reveals the simple steps to improving your visibility and value in the workplace.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The critical assumption that keeps professionals from advancing 
  2. How to properly negotiate for a raise or promotion
  3. Three rules for more visibility when working remotely  

About Arika

Arika Pierce, President and Founder of Piercing Strategies, is a leadership development coach and expert with a passion for creating forward-thinking leaders. After 15 years of corporate leadership experience, her 360 view of leadership has empowered her to help individuals hone their goals and reach their full potential.  

 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, sponsors!

Arika Pierce Interview Transcript

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

Arika Pierce
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to be chatting, and I dig your book title I CAN. I WILL. WATCH ME.: How to Not Be Overlooked, Underpaid or Undervalued.

Arika Pierce
Yes, i.e., “How to be awesome at your job.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Nice healthy overlap there. Well, tell us, can you kick us off right from the bat, is there a particularly surprising discovery you’ve made about folks being overlooked from your work with clients and putting together the book?

Arika Pierce
One of the things that I hear all the time, especially with clients that I work with, is, “I want to be promoted,” or, “I want to advance in my organization. I feel stuck.” And one of the first things I’ll ask them is, “Have you had that conversation about your next steps or your interests or your desire to advance? Are you sharing your impact, your results, all of those things?” And there’s an assumption that, “No, my manager knows all of that.” I’m like, “Maybe they don’t.”

And so, sometimes people need a really clear roadmap on just how to really articulate and do the things to showcase yourself and to get to that next level. And that’s really what the book is about, it’s that roadmap because I think we assume, “Oh, I’m working really hard. Everyone knows my results, or they know that I want to work the cool projects or initiatives or lead the team,” but unless you really lay that out, especially in todays’ world, it might not be known.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I’m curious, what’s your sense for, if you had to…maybe you’ve got some hot research or a rough sense, what proportion of professionals do you think are, in fact, overlooked, underpaid, undervalued?

Arika Pierce
I would say my informal research is probably somewhere around, I would say, 75%, and I do think that there are some groups that tend to get overlooked more than others. I work a lot with women and I think sometimes we, as women, are not as vocal or we are scared to be bragging or doing things like that. And so, as a result, we’re overlooked for opportunities or we’re not as visible.

So, I think it really comes down to sometimes some personal factors but I do think that there’s only a small segment in most organizations, in my experience, that is always making sure they’re staying at the forefront of the key stakeholders’, who are making decisions about their careers, minds.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, how do we know if we’re in that 75% or the fortunate 25%?

Arika Pierce
So, the first thing I say, I do a lot of work also around personal branding, is you should start to talk to the people who are making decisions about your career. The first thing to know is that it’s not just your boss, there are other stakeholders who have influence on whether or not you advance, whether or not you get, again, those visible assignments or projects or client work.

And so, you need to know who those people are and start to ask them questions, “Is my name coming up when there’s discussion about advancement opportunities? What are the words that you would use to describe me? How much do you think the work that I’m doing is connected to the overall direction of the organization?” Start to ask those questions. And if you’re getting a response where someone’s just kind of looking at you with, “I don’t ever think about you when I think about going far,” then you’ve got some work to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, ask the questions and we get that vibe. And I guess I’m curious, are there also, on the underpaid side of things, there’s a number of places we can go online to research, “Hey, what is competitive salary for my role, etc.?” Any favorite places you like to go there?

Arika Pierce
So, you know what, my favorite place to go is to ask other people that are in your industry, perhaps that may not work at your same organization, and to start having more transparent conversations about what they’re being paid, even if it’s just a range if you’re not comfortable necessarily always sharing exact numbers. But I think that that’s kind of the best research. There are other places online you can look but sometimes just having those conversations with those like-minded peers can be the most transparent in terms of research and data that you’ll ever get.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Now, if that feels awkward, uncomfortable, do you have any suggested verbiage or scripts instead of just saying, “Yo, how much money you make?”

Arika Pierce
Well, again, I think that’s why it’s important to have a strong network. And so, I think if you have, especially mentors or other peers or colleagues, it’s to say, “Do you know at your organization about the range that someone would be making?” that’s either the position you’re in or the position that you’re seeking.

Or, you could say, “I was looking online and I saw that this job, this position, typically pays around X amount. I’m just trying to bounce that around with some people who might have a sense. Does that sound right to you about what you think this position should be making or would you say it’s 20% higher, 20% less? I’m just getting that type of feedback.”

And so, that again, we get really uncomfortable talking about sometimes, money and salaries, but that’s sometimes the best way to really get a sense on what the market is paying for certain roles.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And could you bring it together with an inspiring story perhaps of someone who was, in fact, overlooked, underpaid, undervalued, and what specific steps they did to reverse that and what became of them?

Arika Pierce
Sure. So, I actually have a client that I’ve been coaching for about two years, and she came into her organization, she was new to her organization, I should say, when she came into the role that she’s in. And what happens a lot, the job she thought she was coming in, and the job that it actually was, there was definitely a delta. And so, she started doing some of that informal research where she both looked online at different places but also started having some conversations with other colleagues or peers and just, again, getting that range.

And so, when she brought the information to her boss, she really approached it as more a negotiation versus asking for a raise, and said, “Look, I really want to align the work that I’m doing because it’s not exactly the scope that I was hired for. It’s much larger. I don’t have a team. I’m doing everything myself. And based upon my market research, this range is more closely aligned with the level of work that I’m doing.”

And he appreciated, actually, the way she presented it, and she also could show her impact, her results, all the things that she had brought to the organization in just a very short timeframe, and he said, “You know what, you’ve made a great case. And I can’t do anything right now but let’s put together a package that we could present.”

And so, one of the things I always tell people is just get a commitment to the next step. It’s very rare where your boss is going to say, “Absolutely. Let me put the paperwork in right now.” But she did get a commitment that they would revisit it in 90 days, and she did eventually get a very substantial raise.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. And so, I think in terms of the starting point here, I think many of us might have some butterflies in the stomach, some jitters, not the confidence to boldly have such conversations. How do you recommend we start?

Arika Pierce
Practice. She and I practiced that conversation probably about three or four times before she actually had it with her boss. So, I recognize it’s not easy to go in and to even start the conversation but you need to practice. Have a friend, or if you have a coach, or a partner, another colleague, someone that you can actually have a good roleplaying conversation with, and practice it going a number of ways.

Practice them shutting you down immediately. Practice them pressing you for more information. Practice them saying, “You’re absolutely right.” And you knowing how to then, what are those next steps. So, you just need to definitely make sure that you’re prepared for the conversation. I also think it’s good to lay the groundwork.

So, I wouldn’t just go in and immediately ask my boss or manager on Friday at 3:00 o’clock if I could talk to him about making more money, but you want to start laying that groundwork early. Make sure that they know what you want to discuss before so they come into the conversation with the right mindset as well. And then, again, really look at it as a negotiation.

I think when we go into it, like we’re asking for something, it feels that we’re shut down immediately, that we failed, but go in and really negotiate. And some of it may be salary, some of it may be other parts of what you’re seeking. Maybe it’s more visibility to work on projects that are at a higher level. Maybe it’s a title change. Maybe it’s just better understanding, “If I’m making this, what do I need to do to get to making X?”

So, there’s a wide range of things that that initial conversation could be about but, more than anything, you want to make sure that you’re prepared. And the best old-fashioned way to prepare is just practice, practice, practice.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. All right, Arika, well, backing it up a little bit, can you share with us what is your general approach and first steps if we want to be in the groove of not being overlookable, underpay-able, under-valuable?

Arika Pierce
So, it really gets down to having a strategy. I talk a lot about, in the book and also just with a lot of my coaching clients, is that being ambitious is not enough. You must also be strategic. So, for example, when it comes to being more visible, you should sit down and spend some time thinking about what is important to your boss or your manager, what is important to your organization, and you need to make sure that the work that you’re doing can be connected to that.

Oftentimes, I see people who are so busy, they’re spinning their wheels, they’re completely worn out, and they can’t figure out why they’re working so hard, yet people around them who appear to not be working maybe as hard as they are, they seem to be always getting that promotion, or getting that visible project, or doing things that, in some ways, feel a little bit unfair compared to how “hard” you might be working.

And so, oftentimes, that’s because they are doing things that are important to their boss and manager.

So, that’s one of the first things you need to do, is connect the work that you’re doing to what’s important to your boss, what’s important to your organization. And if you can’t make a connection, then you have a problem.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talk about making the connection, it’s funny, I’m very good at rationalizing things in my brain, and so I’m imagining that it’s more about ensuring that the stuff you’re actually doing is that which is valued as opposed to telling a good story about it. Is that fair to say or is there some value in the storytelling, too?

Arika Pierce
So, I think there’s value in the storytelling, too, but you just have to make sure you’re telling the right story. So, for example, we know a lot of times higher-level management, they manage by soundbites so you want to make sure that you’re giving those soundbites when you do have their ear. So, if you know, for example, that there’s a client that’s the client that matters the most to your boss, then think about, when you have those conversations with your boss, how can you show that you’re overdelivering or you’re doing the things that are keeping that client happy or that are retaining the client.

Or, are you spending your time talking about things that relate to another project that you know is a much lower priority to your boss? So, think about those types of things. Again, that’s where it comes to being strategic. It’s being focused and knowing what those high-visibility areas are and making sure the work that you’re doing is connected to them, but it also is about the story that you’re telling, about how you are helping to deliver whatever it is the end goal is for that particular initiative or project or opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, can you share with us some particular tactics in terms of figuring it out, like what is strategically valuable, and then shifting ourselves over to doing it?

Arika Pierce
Sure. So, the number one thing is, if you don’t know what’s important to your boss or your manager in terms of that they’re working on, that they’re doing, then you need to have a conversation and ask. Oftentimes, when we have, for example, one-on-ones with bosses or managers, those people use that time to go down, “This is the task that I’m working on. This is how I’ve been keeping busy.” And sometimes that might be appropriate, but other times you really want to be having a deeper-level conversation.

You could always send a list of what you’re working on in advance of that one-on-one time, but actually spend that one-on-one time getting more information about, again, what are the strategic opportunities that are happening, or initiatives that are going on in your organization, what’s keeping your boss up at night, what are the things that they’re working on that they feel are critical. Spend time getting more information about that, and then, again, finding ways where you can insert yourself into those projects, into those initiatives.

But, again, sometimes it’s just as easy as having a conversation. When it comes to your organization’s overall growth and strategy, most of the time that information can be found in strategic plans or just, again, having those higher-level conversations, asking boss, your manager, your peers, your colleagues, “Where do you think we’re trying to go in the next three to five years? And how do you think our team fits into that plan?”

And those are the types of people who really advance and go to that next level. So, ask those types of questions. Especially right now, it could as easy as asking if you could sit in on maybe a meeting or something that’s happening at a higher level so you can get that greater level of visibility. And then really look at your calendar, look at your meetings, look at your to-do list and the things that you’re working on. Are they all tactical things or are they things that also can be connected to those initiatives that you know really matter?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, let’s say we’re doing all these things, and somehow, it seems like we’re still getting overlooked. Maybe we’re in meetings and we say stuff, and people seem to just not acknowledge it, or someone else says almost the same thing we said, and then it’s like, “Well, I just said that. Why are you getting all the head nods and I’m not getting the head nods?” or maybe folks are stealing credit. Can you walk us through some of the other tricky realities that pop up even when you’re doing the right work?

Arika Pierce
Well, everything that you just said, and I’ll be honest, I have personally experienced many of those when I was in my corporate career. And, again, that’s why it’s really important to make sure that you are clear on your own accomplishments, you are clear on your impact and your results, and you really are finding opportunities to insert them and re-insert them into conversations.

I think, oftentimes, especially when it comes to having conversations about our work, our results, our impact, those happen once a year. When? During performance reviews. We have to change that. We can’t expect everyone in the organization or the people who matter for our growth in the organization to know and remember everything we’ve done over the course of 12 months. And so, making sure that you’re finding opportunities to strategically share those accomplishments, those wins, is really important.

And it goes back to what I said previously about the soundbites. One of my favorite tips that I actually learned from a woman named Sahara Downing, who does a lot of work around personal branding, is every call that you have with perhaps your team, your stakeholder, your boss, instead of when you get on, especially in Zoom, and you’re talking about the weather, like, “Oh, is it raining there? What’s the temperature?” use that as an opportunity to share a win.

When someone says, “Hey, how’s it going?” Instead of saying, “Oh, it’s fine.” Say, “Oh, it’s going really well. I just got off the phone with a client that we’ve been having a lot of trouble with, but we had a great conversation and they really gave a compliment about how committed they felt that our team has been doing to help working through a difficult time.” So, find those opportunities to really make sure that you’re sharing what you’re doing, the results and the impact. Don’t wait to be asked or don’t wait for that performance review time.

And then, also, if you feel as though you’re still not getting accountability and visibility, then those are the hard conversations that you both need to have with yourself as well as with perhaps a boss, a manager, or a mentor because those could be indicative of, “Am I in the right organization? Am I in an organization that’s going to recognize me, and that’s going to allow me to thrive, not just survive?” And, to be honest, it might not be an organization for you that you’ll thrive if you’re working really hard and still not getting visibility.

So, that’s why it’s good to do these check-ins but make sure that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, not just waiting for someone to say, “How’s it going? How’s your work product?” You want to make sure that you’re leading those conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. And sometimes, when folks are asking you, “How are you doing? How’s it going?” that’s exactly what they mean. It’s like, “Show me progress now.” But it feels rude and almost dehumanizing, like, “Show me progress now, work robot.” So, I think that’s great to be thinking in advance about how you’ll respond to, “How’s it going? What’s new? How are you doing?” because it’s very easy to forget about something, like, “Oh, yeah, that felt good but it was three days ago.”

Arika Pierce
Right. Right.

Pete Mockaitis
But if you have that in mind, you’re thinking about that and you’re ready to go and offer that right in the moment, and that’s really handy.

Arika Pierce
Exactly. Exactly. Because we suffer from recency syndrome. We only remember what just happened. And we also suffer from we remember the bad days. So, if you have that brag list, that accomplishment list, and you’re updating it on a regular basis, I think you should update it weekly, then you have those go-to things that you can share on-the-fly because you can always just look at them, and to say, “Okay, have I shared with someone that this happened, or there was an accolade?” Everything doesn’t have to be the Super Bowl. There are wins every single day. I guarantee they are happening in everyone’s professional career.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks are stealing credit, how do you navigate that?

Arika Pierce
Well, I think that’s also when you want to have those conversations. If you feel as though someone is taking accountability for your work, or for your ideas, or for your thoughts, I think there’s two ways to approach it. I think one way is directly going to that person, and say, “I saw that you received credit for this but I actually was the one that was leading that project. So, I want to make sure, can you explain how this is something that everyone is acknowledging you for and not me?”

But, also, again, I think this is why it’s important to be having these regular conversations with your manager and with your team so that there can be very little gray areas for people not knowing exactly what you’re accomplishing and what you’re doing. Oftentimes, it’s just the people who are more vocal. It might not even be that they’re stealing your credit but they might be just more vocal about what they’re doing, even if it’s minimal. And so, I think, at times, again, it can feel very uncomfortable but it’s good to do things that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable, and perhaps that is talking about your part and your piece of it.

The other thing I will say is that when you see this happening to someone else, I think it’s a really important exercise to always connect it back to the person who should have ownership of an idea, of a thought. It could be in a meeting where someone says something, and then someone else says the exact same thing. You should be the one to stand up and say, “Oh, that was a great idea, Pete. It was great that you added on to what Arika just said.”

And so, when you start to get into the practice of doing this yourself for other people, I do believe that others will start also to get into the practice of doing it for you, but you can also say that to someone. I’ve done that before where I’ve said something and they have said the exact same thing, and everyone is like, “Oh, great idea.” I’m like, “Oh, I appreciate the fact that you confirmed the idea that I just shared.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. All right. And I’m also wondering, when it comes to the remote work dynamic, if you’re remote, it seems like there’s a higher risk associated with being overlooked. Do you play the game any differently or any particular strategies you want to employ in this context?

Arika Pierce
Absolutely. So, I believe that remote work is here to stay. It’s been here for a while. I worked remote for the last five years of my corporate career, and that was before COVID or anything hit. And there’s a couple of, I think, rules of engagement for remote work and visibility. Number one, you have to be over-communicative. This is not the time to not answer emails or to not respond to instant messaging, all of those things.

I’m not saying that you have to stop everything you’re doing every time a message comes in but you have to recognize that when you are working remotely and people don’t hear from you or you’re not really responsive in a timely way, the default assumption is going to be that you’re not working, that you’re not engaged, that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

And so, sometimes it can be a matter of acknowledging that you received the message and that you’re going to get back to someone in the next 24 hours or something of that nature, but it’s really important to be overly communicative. I also think this is the time, too, where you have to make sure that you are getting that time in with your boss or your manager to really talk about the impact that you’re doing.

So, again, going back to the one-on-one time, if you don’t have regular one-on-one time with your boss in a remote environment, then you should really be the one to drive scheduling it. Sometimes we feel like, “Oh, my boss doesn’t require it so we don’t do it.” I would flip that around, especially remote, I would ask my boss, “Can we set up time weekly or bi-weekly so that we can really catch up and focus on some of the work that I’m doing?”

So, don’t think just because you’re in meetings with your boss or manager on a regular basis that you don’t need that one-on-one time. It’s really important to get their focused attention. And then going back to also what I said earlier, make sure that you’re using that time effectively. It’s not the time to always go through what you’re working on.

It’s actually the time to really talk through about your impact, your results, other areas that you’d like to see yourself stretch and grow, to know what they’re working on, what they’re focused on, because, again, you may not be getting that time you would typically have in the office where you could sort of foster or nurture that relationships. So, at least having dedicated time with them on a one-one-one basis becomes much more incredibly important.

And then, lastly, I am a firm, firm, firm believer in turning the camera on. I know everyone has a love-hate relationship with Zoom and Teams and the video camera but I do believe that if we want to foster relationships and we want to make sure that we’re, again, having that visibility, being able to see someone’s face, their body language or facial expressions when they’re speaking, it makes a huge difference.

Also, when your camera is on, you are less apt to multitask, which is a huge problem right now. I struggle with it even when I’m teaching workshops and trainings, and people have their cameras off because I know that they’re doing work while we’re supposed to be focused on a particular workshop or building on a particular skill.

So, I think turning that camera on and being engaged and really participating in conversations and not checking out, I think that’s the biggest risk of remote work is that if you’re not seen, then it’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s very sort of basic premise of you have to really be seen in order to be visible. Being seen means actually being seen on that video camera.

Pete Mockaitis
And I would add to that that, ideally, not that you have to have some super fancy studio but having clear, appealing light and sound as opposed to a crispy distant sound just doesn’t have a great impression.

Arika Pierce
One hundred percent. I’m leading a communications workshop right now for a team, and I’ve shared with them, like, “If you work remotely, and this is where you’re going to be for the near future, invest in something like a microphone if your laptop doesn’t have great audio. It doesn’t matter that it’s your work laptop and that everybody else sounds horrible. Think about you.” Because that’s what I hear all the time, “Well, everybody’s audio sounds horrible. It’s the laptops they gave us.”

Same thing with your camera. You can buy an external HD camera on Amazon and plug it up and, instantly, your delivery will look different, your executive presence will look different. Thinking about things such as your background and all of those things, again, if you are someone that’s looking to go to the next level, then you have to do things that are going to set you apart.

There’s a great book I love called The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma. And in the book, he talks about the fact that 90% of people are happy being ordinary and 10% of people want to be extraordinary. And if you want to be extraordinary, it’s not as competitive because everybody is down there being ordinary but you are the one that is doing the things that everyone else isn’t doing. And so, stepping up your visual, your audio, for your Zoom or Teams meetings, if everyone else is not doing it, then you should be the one doing it if you want to be a part of that 10%.

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

Arika Pierce
No, the thing I would just add is that, again, remember how important it is to be strategic in your career. Ambition is not enough. You want to also marry that ambition with strategy. And that really means being aware of who you are. It means being aware of who people think you are because perception is the co-pilot to reality. That’s a quote by Carla Harris, and I really stand by that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now, Arika, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring? It sounds like one right there.

Arika Pierce
Well, that’s one my favorite quotes. Yeah, I would say that’s probably my favorite and the other one is by Ursula Burns, “Where you are is not who you are.”

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

Arika Pierce
I love reading the studies and the research that are done by Harvard Business Review. There actually was a recent one done just around hybrid work and visibility, and who will get promoted, can you still get promoted at the same level if you are working in a hybrid workforce.

And I don’t have the exact percentage but it was a lot of people thought, no, it’ll be more difficult to get promoted in a hybrid workforce if you’re on the side that’s working remotely. So, I thought that was interesting, and that’s why I’m always thinking about what are the strategies to align people in a hybrid space with people who are also going to be in person.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Arika Pierce
Probably my go-to, because it’s a quick read and I think so many lessons, is Who Moved My Cheese?

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

Arika Pierce
I’m going to go back to what I just said. I think a subscription to Harvard Business Review Ascend. I think it’s like $120 for a year, and you get something every single day that’s of value. So, that’s actually I think a great tool to be awesome at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Arika Pierce
Probably morning meditation, just setting the tone for the day.

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

Arika Pierce
Probably about just stepping outside your comfort zones and how you think about fear. I had a client text me this morning that wasn’t going to apply for a job, and then we got down that she wasn’t applying about not getting it out of fear. And I text her back, “Fear is your homeboy,” which is also a book by Judi Holler. And so, I think just really understanding how growth starts outside your comfort zones.

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

Arika Pierce
ArikaPierce.com or also I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Instagram but that’s the easiest place to find me.

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

Arika Pierce
I would say think of something professional that makes you feel a little scared and then do it scared.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Arika, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun in not being overlooked, underpaid, or undervalued.

Arika Pierce
Thanks so much. I really appreciate you having me.

789: How to Beat Stress, Stagnation, and Burnout with Alan Stein Jr.

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Alan Stein Jr. lays out the fundamental shifts that help sustain your game and build resilience in the face of stress, stagnation, and burnout

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to stop stress from overwhelming and controlling you 
  2. How to stay calm and in control in the face of stress
  3. How to identify and remedy stagnation 

About Alan

Alan Stein, Jr. is an experienced keynote speaker and author. At his core, he’s a performance coach with a passion for helping others change behaviors. He spent 15+ years working with the highest performing basketball players on the planet (including NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kobe Bryant). Through his customized programs, he transfers his unique expertise to maximize both individual and organizational performance. 

Alan is a dynamic storyteller who delivers practical, actionable lessons that can be implemented immediately. He teaches proven principles on how to utilize the same approaches in business that elite athletes use to perform at a world-class level. 

His previous clients include American Express, Pepsi, Sabra, Starbucks, Charles Schwab, and Penn State Football, and many more. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, sponsors!

Alan Stein Jr. Interview Transcript

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
Oh, it’s so great to be with you again. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Well, I’m curious to hear, any particularly interesting new discoveries or lessons learned within the last couple of years or so since we spoke last?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah, I would say a pretty long list of them, to be honest. And most of which, I think, were things that were heightened exponentially over the pandemic. I know, for me, personally, from a book-writing standpoint, I’m always trying to write the book that mirrors what I’m going through in my own life, and I’m always trying to write the book that I need to be reading myself. I find it part liberating and part therapeutic to kind of research and write about the things that I’m struggling with.

So, my most recent book is about stress, stagnation, and burnout because those are three areas that I’ve struggled with for most of my life and career, and I know that a lot of people found those things heightened during the pandemic.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about the book Sustain Your Game. What’s the big idea here?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, the big idea, I think the cornerstone of it is that stress, stagnation, and burnout are things that we have massive control and influence over, fighting against, that they’re not things that happen to us. They are things that we can actually help navigate away from if we handle them correctly. And those were some of the kinds of pivotal moments that I’ve had over the last couple of years because I think I’ve gone through most of my life feeling like stress is something that happens to me and is imposed on me. And I now have a much different perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, what’s the fresh perspective?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, so I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle, who’s, I guess for lack of a better term, a modern-day philosopher. And his definition of stress is the one that most resonated with me and kind of shifted my whole perspective. And Eckhart’s definition of stress is the desire for things to be different than they are in the present moment. And there was something about that I found very liberating and empowering because, ultimately, what I took away from that was stress is not caused by outside forces, stress is not caused by events, or circumstances, or what people say, or what people do.

Our stress is caused by our resistance to those things, or our perspective of those things, or how we internalize them. So, once that kind of clicked, and his definition, it’s not what’s going on. It’s my desire for what’s going on to be different is what’s actually stressing me out. And once that clicked with me, literally, I just saw the whole world differently now.

And, by all means, I’m not coming from a place of mastery, and I’m not sitting here pretending like I never feel stressed. But, now, when I do, I have the awareness to recognize that on some level, that’s a choice. And that if I would just stop resisting what is, that most of that stress would dissipate.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is thought-provoking and eye-opening. So, nonetheless, some things we don’t want to be the way they are.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Oh, yeah, I’m glad that you highlighted that because, certainly, I don’t want you or your listeners to think I live in la-la land. And the way that I view it now, I still have my preferences, I still have opinions and ways that I’d like to see the world unfold. I just no longer expect that it’s the world’s job to conspire to make me happy, and it’s not the world or the universe’s job to make sure Alan Stein, Jr. gets all of his preferences.

So, now, when something occurs that’s not to my liking, or is not my preference, I just understand that’s part of the human condition. That’s kind of what we all signed up for to be here and I deal with it appropriately. And what I try to do is be more thoughtful in my response to what’s going on than to the event itself.

And, certainly, over the last couple of years, whether we’re talking about the pandemic or the political divide, there had been some incredibly emotionally charged things that have occurred over the last couple years in particular. And I still have my opinions and my preferences of those things but I no longer allow those things to dictate my perspective, and my mindset, and my attitude, and how I show up. And that, to me, is the big difference.

Before, when something happened that I didn’t like, I always felt like it was happening to me, and I was, in essence, an unconscious victim to the world around me. I now no longer allow myself to be the victim. I’ve taken those proverbial handcuffs off and just said, “Yeah, what just happened is not my preference, it’s not to my liking, but I’m going to be very thoughtful in choosing a response to this situation that actually moves me forward and helps me.” So, it shifted me from being a victim to feeling much more empowered.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really intriguing. And I’m thinking right now about airports when it comes to stress because, you mentioned you’re flying to Nashville shortly, and I’m thinking that you can have stressors big or small in terms of small, like, “Oh, my flight is delayed. That’s inconvenient. I guess I might have to cancel a lunch or dinner. I was planning on meeting someone on the other side, which is a bummer.”

And then I’m thinking of a buddy of mine recently told me a tale about how he was straight-up arrested for mistakenly taking a MacBook Air that looked just like his, and it’s like, “Oh, sorry. Oops,” “No, you’re coming with us,” and he spent a night in jail. So, wild story, and in that instance, he preferred that would be different alright on a whole nother level.

I guess that kind of gets my blood boiling in terms of, like in that instance, like he actually is a victim of an injustice before him. And so, I want your hot take here in terms of if the size of the stress is small versus medium versus big, does that change how you play the game in your mind?

Alan Stein, Jr.
I believe that it does, and one of the interesting parts of that, and just to go on record, it would be my preference that I’m not arrested at the airport, and it’d be my preference that my flights aren’t delayed either. Yeah, so I have nothing but empathy and compassion for him to go through such an ordeal. But the mindset portion of it, what you still need to say is, “Okay, this is…” and that’s an extreme case, “This is less than ideal that I’m being charged with this and I’m going to spend the night in jail.”

Pete Mockaitis
Less than ideal, that’s right.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah, less than ideal. And let me certainly go on record saying there’s nothing easy about any of this. I don’t want to pretend for one second that if either of those scenarios happened to me, that I would just automatically be chipper and smile and act like everything is great. There is a distinction to make and there’s two ways to answer your question.

One is, so once this has already transpired, as awful as that scenario is, once he realizes, “All right, I’m already being charged and I’m going to spend the night in jail,” that now has become reality. That has now become fact. And no matter how angry he gets, ornery he gets, pissed off he gets, it’s not going to change the fact. So, the more upset he gets, all that’s doing is punishing himself. It’s not like, “Hey, if I throw a massive fit, they’re going to let me go home tonight.” It doesn’t change your situation.

So, what you need to try to do is say, “Okay, as awful as this is, what’s a response that can at least make this somewhat palatable or at least make this a little bit better?” Again, spending the night in jail in some random city for an honest mistake is pretty tragic, but you’re only punishing yourself if you choose to let it bend you all out of whack. And that’s just something you keep in the back of your mind.

The other part that I certainly want to make a distinction is I believe in feeling all emotions. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a good or a bad emotion. I think they’re all part of the human experience. Now, there’s emotions that we would probably prefer to have. I’m sure you and I would prefer to be joyous and elated instead of frustrated or disappointed, but they’re part of our emotional palate for a reason. So there’s nothing wrong with feeling emotions.

And, in fact, if I was arrested and had to spend the night in jail for mistakenly taking someone’s iPad, I would feel a wide range of emotions, from anger to frustration, to disappointment, to… I mean, you fill in the blank. But what we have to learn to do is not let how we feel dictate how we behave. I had a really good friend of mine that’s the mental performance coach for the San Francisco Giants in major league baseball, and he said something that affected me just as profoundly as Eckhart Tolle’s quote, and he said, “Our emotions are designed to inform us. They’re not designed to direct us.”

So, our emotions are kind of a litmus test to how we’re perceiving the world and how we’re feeling, but we have to be very careful in not letting them dictate our behavior or our decisions. So, back to this crazy scenario that your friend experienced, there’s nothing wrong with me being upset, angry, frustrated, disappointed that I’ve been arrested but I don’t want that to be how I behave. I certainly don’t want to be belligerent to the police officer. That could get me in even more trouble, spend multiple nights in jail.

And it’s one of those things that I’ve always believed that if you can kind of control your emotions to the point it doesn’t dictate your behavior and the way you show up, that’s one definition of mental toughness. You’re completely resilient when you say that, “No matter what goes on in the outer world, I’m not going to let it rattle me and dictate my inner world.” And that is not an easy place to get to, and I won’t pretend for one second that if I get arrested on my flight to Nashville tomorrow that I’ll handle it with the stoicism that I’m sharing with you right now, but that would be the goal.

And that’s where I’m trying to work to the point where I would be able to handle just about anything thrown at me with that type of stoic approach. Because, again, acting on your emotions and being belligerent and being upset is only going to make the situation worse. You think temporarily it’s going to make you feel better, but, ultimately, it’s only going to make it worse.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right in terms of if you say, “You know what, I gave that cop a piece of my mind. That felt so good.” Probably not. Regardless of the response, the doing it is not going to produce a catharsis. Well, just not to leave people hanging, there was a, I don’t know if you’d call a happy ending, but he did follow some of these principles in terms of he’s like, “Okay. Well, you know what, what do I have control over? In my mugshot, I’m going to look as friendly and kind and not guilty as possible. That’s what I’m going to do.”

And if they didn’t like that, they’re like, “No, you can’t smile. You can’t smile in your mugshot. Do it again. Do it again.” It’s like, “Okay, when I have an opportunity to make a call, I want to be really friendly and polite and professional,” and he managed to make like seven calls, like multiple lawyers and his wife and such.

And that was helpful because they gave him some good tips, and he said, “You know, I am in a jail cell with these people. But you know what? They have some knowledge, like, hey, so there’s a big bunch of bail companies I could call. Like, who’s best?” Like, “Oh, you should call these guys. They’re way faster than the other ones.”

And so, it still sucked a lot and it was costly with lawyers and all of that, but it didn’t wreck his life. It’s just a few thousand bucks and some crazy inconvenience, and he’s back on his feet.

Alan Stein, Jr.
And, at the very least, he’s got an incredible story to tell now.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And if you did let the emotions not just inform but direct and sort of rage and you’re not thinking clearly in terms of, “Oh, what wisdom might my fellow jail mates might have for me right now?” You’re just like, “This is such bull crap. I can’t believe…” if your brain is there, it’s not doing that helpful thinking for you.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Absolutely. And one other thing I’ve noticed, and I’m glad that it was somewhat of a happy story or happy ending, rather. Let’s use the less severe example that you gave, that your flight is delayed or your flight is canceled. Because of how much travel I do, I get to see this happen pretty regularly, and usually what happens, somebody feels so massively inconvenienced as if the entire airline was conspiring to ruin this one person’s day and, “We decided to delay this flight just because we wanted to make you angry.”

What they end up doing, they let their emotions get the best of them, and then they unload those emotions on someone that has nothing to do with it. Usually, the person that you’re unloading your disapproval on has nothing to do with what it is that you’re angry about. The person that’s working kind of behind the desk, they’re not responsible for your delayed flight. They have nothing to do with that.

So, now you’re unloading on somebody else that can’t…I mean, they’re not responsible for it. And then, if you think of just general human nature, how likely is this person going to be to bend over backwards to try to help you find a resolution when you’ve just unloaded all of your anger and frustration and disappointment on them?

I’ve had plenty of delayed and canceled flights, and I have always found that as disappointing and frustrating as that may be internally, whoever I speak with at the airline, I try and kill them with kindness. And the very first thing I say is, “I know you’re going to have a rough couple of hours dealing with all of these headaches. Just know how much empathy and compassion I have for you.”

“I know this isn’t ideal for any of us and I just really appreciate anything you can do to still get me home or to get me to wherever I’m trying to go,” and offer a genuine and authentic and warm smile, and a little compassion, and usually people will go out of their way to try and find a way to help me out, versus the person that’s just going to be belligerent and screaming curse words and act like the whole world is conspiring against them.

So, it goes back to, “Yeah, I’m frustrated that my flight is delayed, but what’s the thoughtful response that I can make in real time that will increase the chance that I’ll get on the next flight, or that they can book me somewhere else, or maybe they’ll offer me a free hotel room, or whatever?” So, yeah, the ultimate part of this is we only punish ourselves when we allow our emotions to overtake our behavior and the way we treat others. It’s not punishing anybody else. You’re just making your own life more miserable.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, there’s a huge master key right there is just your mindset, your perspective, your philosophy there. Anything else we can do to build up the mental toughness and resilience in advance, if it’s like exercise, or hydration, or nutrition, or supplements, or meditation? Like, what are some things that could be helpful for building up a capacity to respond in an enlightened fashion to stress beyond just having the ideal mindset?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, two things come to mind. One, and this is kind of an offshoot of mindset, and that is learning how to be in the present moment. A lot of our frustrations and disappointments and anger stems from an attachment to something that happened in the past, and we simply make the assumption that, whatever happened in the past that did not turn out in our favor, is going to happen again right now. So, we just make that assumption, which is usually not very helpful or useful.

And then the other thing we do is we have a preconceived notion or a prediction of the future, which, of course, is always hypothetical, and that’s what increases anxiety. So, we can get kind of depressed and upset about something that happened previously, and then we can start being worrying and anxious about something that may happen in the future. And both of those things are just taking us away from being in the present moment.

Again, using the scenarios that you posed, because they’re pretty real-life scenarios, if you just take a deep breath, and go, “Okay, in this moment, my flight has been delayed two hours. I’m probably going to miss the connection and I’m going to miss my dinner with Pete tonight. That’s not ideal. That’s not my preference. It’s a little bit frustrating but it’s the reality, and I accept it.”

“I’m not going to resist it. I’m not going to draw on something from the past where I had this awful experience. And I’m not going to get anxious about the future and worry, ‘Well, maybe Pete and I won’t be friends ever again. He’s going to be so upset that…’” And I start just kind of creating this false narrative.

When if you just take a deep breath and you stay in the present moment, and you say, “You know what, it’s not that bad. Yes, I would’ve preferred to have caught my flight and had not been delayed, but this is what happened. I’ll make the best of it.” So, being in the present moment is certainly an offshoot of that and a way to help remedy it.

And then kind of more on a tactical and esoteric level, in addition to what you mentioned, making sure you’re feeding your body and moving your body, and getting good quality sleep, because I do believe mind and body are connected, but it’s also paying very close attention to the inputs of our life. We all want to have great outputs. We want to be efficient. We want to be effective. We want to produce. We want to earn. And that stuff is directly related to the inputs in our life.

What you read, watch, and listen to, who you insulate yourself with, and who you invest your time with, what you choose to consume on social media is just as important as what you choose to consume nutritionally. These things have a massive impact on the way we see the world. So, anyone looking to level up their output, they need to directly look on the other side of the curtain at their inputs, and say, “Okay, if I want a more quality output, I need to read, watch, and listen to a higher level of content.” And same thing on social, same thing with the people that you insulate yourself with. So, just have high discernment with where you choose to place your attention.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Okay, so that’s the stress side of things. How about we touch upon the stagnating and the burnout?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Sure. Well, the stagnation part, that’s really where I was kind of leaning towards with this changing of the inputs, because usually the stagnation, which I kind of look at, is just kind of being on that hedonic treadmill. You’re just kind of treading water. You’re expending energy but you’re not really going anywhere in life.

And it’s often just kind of this numb feeling where you’re just towing the line of mediocrity and you’re noticing that your outputs are starting to stagnate. And the best way to jumpstart that and break through that stagnation is changing your inputs. Reaching out to some people that maybe are more accomplished than you are, or have walked the path that you haven’t walked just yet so you can learn from them. And maybe be a mentee to a mentor that’s doing something that you’d like to emulate.

If you find yourself just watching the same old stuff on Netflix and just listening to the same old radio stations or talk radio, see if you can infuse some other things in there, some podcasts or documentaries or books, or just something to kind of jumpstart on the input side, and that’ll help you break through that stagnation.

One of the hardest parts of stagnation is just acknowledging that you’re stagnating. Awareness is always the first step to improvement because you’ll never fix something you’re unaware of, and you’ll never improve something you’re oblivious to. And the reason stagnation can be so tricky is it’s kind of undercover. It’s not proverbial rock bottom. When we hit rock bottom, we usually feel inspired to act and make a change, and that’s the part that’s so slippery and dangerous about stagnation is you’re just kind of towing that line.

So, stress, we really feel in the moment; burnout, we really feel in the long term; stagnation is that tricky mid-term where you can easily fall numb to it and spend months or years in a stagnant place, and not even know it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, just checking in, it’s like, “Hey, am I stagnant? What’s going on?” adjusting the inputs. Any other recommendations there?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, I think it’s important to make sure that you get feedback from the people that know you best, your inner circle, if you will, because often, they’ll be able to spot your stagnation before you spot it. Whether this is like an intimate partner or a spouse, or if you have adult children, or close friends, or colleagues, but, hopefully, you’ve created the type of relationship with them, that you let them know, “Look, I’m always open to your feedback and I always welcome you helping me see my own blind spots.”

I think one of the most important perspectives we can have as human beings is to acknowledge that all of us have blind spots. Now, we can’t see them, hence the reason they’re blind spots, but having the humility to acknowledge, “I know there are things that I don’t know. And when someone cares enough to bring some of those blind spots into a level of awareness and shine a light on them for me, that’s one of the best gifts they can give me.”

So, hopefully, you’ve created the type of relationships, both personally and professionally, where people can say that, “Hey, I just feel like you’ve just been kind of treading water.” And many times, this usually comes from a spouse or somebody that you’re intimate with because they see you, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and see you a lot more than everyone else, but hopefully you’ve got the type of relationship where they can say, “Hey, I just feel like you’re stagnant.” And I try to insulate myself with people in my life that will tell me, for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about when it comes to burnout?

Alan Stein, Jr.
So, burnout is an interesting one because I look at stress as a too much issue, stagnation as a too little issue, and those things kind of combine are usually what set you on the path to burnout. While researching the book, I found that burnout is a very specific condition. When the hours that you’re working and the sacrifices that you’re making are no longer in alignment with where you find meaning or purpose or what you find fascinating, or the work you’re putting in is no longer in alignment with your core values or the person that you’re trying to become.

So, it’s that splintering effect of misalignment that causes the issue. It’s not just from working long hours. That can potentially be a problem over time but we probably all know someone that maybe it’s an entrepreneur with a new startup, and they’re working 60-, 70-, 80-hour weeks but they find so much meaning in their work, and they love it so much. They’re most likely not at risk for burnout. So, it’s when you don’t find meaning in your work, or you’re not fascinated by it, or it’s not in alignment.

Another big one, especially for folks at work in organizations, folks get burnout when they don’t feel like their contribution is making a difference. They don’t feel like they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves. They just kind of feel like, “I’m just a number showing up to work. I don’t know that I really matter.” So, when we don’t feel like we matter, or we don’t feel like there’s meaning in our work, that’s when we’re at risk of burnout.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if there we are in the midst of it, what do we do?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah. Well, again, be thankful if you have the awareness to recognize that, and there’s a few things you can do. One, you have to clarify your north star and get crystal clear. Assuming that you found meaning in that work or in that job at some point, and usually that’s the case, is to kind of reverse-engineer and track backwards and deconstruct, and say, “Okay, I’ve been in this job for 10 years. For the first eight years, I really enjoyed working here. I loved my role. I loved the people I was working with but I don’t feel that anymore.” And try to be reflective and introspective to figure out why.

Maybe you’ve been given some different assignments and your role has changed. Maybe a few colleagues have left and you’re now working with new people that you don’t feel as connected with but try to pinpoint what caused the change. And pinpointing at change, again, bringing it to a level of awareness, can allow you to explore some minor pivots, say, within the organization.

Maybe you ask to take on a new role, or report to someone differently, or work in a different department, or maybe you just come to the end of the road with that organization, and you want to look elsewhere. But then you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to do the same type of work for another company? Or, do I want to change industries completely?”

I’m an example of that. I spent 15 years as a basketball performance coach, and I really loved the time that I did that. But, as I was kind of nearing that 15-year mark, I started to feel burnout. I wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing near as much as I had in years prior, so I decided to make the leap completely out of that industry, and jumped into corporate keynote speaking and writing.

So, for me, I made a fairly drastic change but it was absolutely the right choice because it re-lit my fire and got me excited again. So, I think folks just need to be able to look at, “Is this something that requires a couple of minor tweaks that might get me back on course? Or, do I need to try something more drastic?” But at least pulling open the hood and taking a look at everything underneath to figure that out is, I think, a great step.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, you said the word pivot, which got me thinking. You have three steps you lay out in your book – perform, pivot, prevail. How do these work in sequence?

Alan Stein, Jr.
The way that I kind of looked at it was we’re trying to perform in the moment, and the biggest thing that can undermine that is stress, and that’s something that we feel kind of on the daily. In that mid-term, where we feel like we’re stagnating and things are just kind of towing that line, we need to figure out a way to pivot, to try something different, to shake things up.

And then if we are slowly approaching burnout, where there is this misalignment, then the ultimate goal is to prevail, is to be able to overcome that burnout either within your current job and vocation and company that you’re working with, or you might have to prevail by going somewhere else and doing something completely different.

And they’re not 100% sequential. We can toggle in and out of those at different times, into different amounts, but the way I look at it is more from a timeframe standpoint. You have stress kind of in the short term, you have stagnation more in that mid-term, and then burnout is an accumulation of the previous two, and that’s what happens in the long term.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And when professionals are trying to put your wisdom into action, into practice, are there some hiccups, road bumps, mistakes that come up again and again? And how should we navigate that?

Alan Stein, Jr.
I’m trying to think of some of the most common. I mean, the answer to the question is yes. Actually, that would be my answer to just about anything as far as no matter what it is we’re trying to do when we’re trying to implement and initiate change, there are always going to be roadblocks and hiccups and lessons to learn. But I think the key to that is embracing that and acknowledging everything that I’ve shared with you in this lovely conversation, and everything I’ve put in my books, and everything that I say on stage, all of these things are very basic principles, but none of this stuff is easy. None of it is.

And that’s why, with all of this stuff, I’m not speaking from a place of mastery. This is all stuff that I’m continuing to work on and to refine as I’m trying to evolve. And, to me, the goal has never been perfection. The goal has always been progress, consistent incremental progress. And with any of these things that we’ve talked about, can I be a little bit better today than I was yesterday? Can I be a little bit better in 2022 than I was in 2021, whether it’s my ability to manage stress, or avoid stagnation, or beat burnout, or be in the present moment, or have more thoughtful responses when the world doesn’t align to my preferences?

And I’m very proud of the fact that I can say, yes, I do all of those things consistently better today than I have in the past. If you and I reconnect again on your show in a couple more years, I’m hoping I can say with a huge smile that I’m doing an even better job then than I’m doing right now in the moment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Alan, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear some more of your favorite things?

Alan Stein, Jr.
No, this has been great. I always love your line of questions and the direction in which you navigate things. This has been fun. This is great.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
So, one of my favorite quotes is about as basic and as simple as it gets, and that is, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” And the reason I love that is there’s two types of change that we all experience. There’s the imposed change. A perfect example of that is a two-year global pandemic or potentially an economic recession. Like, there’s things that can happen in the outer world that are imposed on us, and we have to respond to them. And those are obviously uncontrollable.

But the change I’m always referring to is initiated change. It’s the changes that we choose to make. So, it’s being able to have the awareness to say, “I’m not as physically fit as I’d like to be, so I need to make some changes to the way I eat, to my sleep, to my working out, and so forth because I have to acknowledge that, if I don’t change those things, then nothing on my body is going to change.”

And it could be the same thing for mental or emotional fitness, “I need to change the way that I perceive stress when the outside world imposes itself on me, and be much more thoughtful in my response.” So, I‘m a huge fan of leaning into and initiating change to take us closer to becoming the person that we strive to become.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Alan Stein, Jr.
What I found really interesting, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to botch the numbers on this, but you’ll get the general sentiment. And this speaks directly to what I believe is one of the most dangerous games that any of us can play, and that is the comparison game. I do think, and I’m a huge advocate of social media.

I believe social media can be a great connection tool. It can be a great source of information and learning. It’s a great way to share if you have something of value. But social media, I think, is built to encourage us to play the comparison game, and to see how your life stacks up, usually materialistically, to someone else’s life.

And the problem with playing the comparison game is it usually makes us feel less than. You go on Instagram and you see that somebody has got a nicer house, or a nicer car, or a shinier watch, or a prettier girlfriend, or they go on better vacations, and it starts to make you feel less than. And that’s a dangerous, dangerous slope to tackle.

And there was some research that asked people, and again, this is where I don’t think my numbers are going to be completely exact, but you’ll get the point.
Would I rather make $70,000 a year and everybody else around me makes 50? So, I’m making a little bit more than them, and that makes me feel good but I’m making $70,000 a year. Or, would I rather make $100,000 a year but everyone around me makes $120,000 a year? So, net, I’m making $30,000 more dollars a year in the second scenario but it’s less than what everybody around me makes. And most people always want to feel that they’re winning the comparison game. They would actually rather make less money but make more money than the people in their direct area than the exact opposite of that.

And I just found that study fascinating. That’s kind of a peek behind the curtain into the human condition and the way people view things. And it’s very understandable, and I don’t say that with an ounce of judgment. I just found that study really interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Alan Stein, Jr.
One of my all-time favorites, and I’m sure most of your listeners have already read it because I think he sold over five million copies, is Atomic Habits by my good friend James Clear. Most of what I share when it comes to building habits, I’ve learned from James and his blog and his book and a lot of his work. That’s definitely a go-to.

A secondary one is another book by my friend Phil Jones, who wrote a very short book called Exactly What to Say. It’s more of a guide than a book, and it’s a great reference on kind of how magic words can be, and we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about the words we choose because they change the world around us. And if you’re looking to be more influential and impactful, that you have to be very careful about the words you choose. And I found that book really, really insightful and very, very helpful.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
I’m a big fan of the Headspace app for a guided meditation. I know a lot of what we’ve talked about is about being present and being grounded and being mindful. And because I come from a sports background, I’m a huge believer in practice, that you’ve got to practice, especially during the unseen hours.

So, that’s an app and a tool that I use very regularly. It’s a very calm and almost a serene feel of 10-minute guided meditation. And I try and do that at least once a day but I’ll throw that in anytime that I’m feeling a little bit stressed. So, you best believe if my flight to Nashville tomorrow gets delayed, I’ll pop in my earbuds and do a 10-minute meditation to, hopefully, bring me back down.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
I’m very fortunate that I have a quote that’s painted in a big 12-foot mural in the Penn State Football Training Center, and it says, “Are the habits you have today on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow?” And that’s a mantra I try and live by. I’m a big believer in habits and the things that we do consistently. And I always want to make sure that the things that I’m doing on a daily basis are in alignment and are in harmony with the person that I’m trying to become.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
They can go to AlanSteinJr.com. I also have a supplemental site StrongerTeam.com, and I’m very easily found on social media @AlanSteinJr. I love interacting with folks, so if you’re on Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook, just shoot me a DM. And if you have a question or want to discuss anything that Pete and I talked about, I’m always open for that. And, certainly, if anyone is interested in either book Raise Your Game or Sustain Your Game, they’re easily found on Amazon, Audible, or wherever you like to get your books.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
I do. I think at the ground level, the foundation, is showing up at your job emotionally charged and as the best version of yourself. And in order to do that, you have to take a look at your morning and your evening routines, how you’re spending the bookends of your day. So, one of the exercises I always encourage folks to do is a very basic self-audit. You take a piece of paper. You draw a vertical line down the middle.

On the left side, come up with an exhaustive list of all of the things that light you up, that give you energy, that make you smile, that make you feel alive, that add to your confidence. This could be taking a Peloton class or pulling out your yoga mat to do some stretches. It could be a quiet morning reading the paper and drinking some coffee. It could be watching a riveting documentary or taking your dog for a walk. But any of the activities that give you energy and fill you up, then come up with a list of those.

And then on the other side of the paper, on the other side of that right line, write down how you’ve been spending the bookends of your day, your morning and your evening routine. Then you’re going to compare the two sides of the paper. You’re going to compare the two sets of notes. And you’re going to ask yourself one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself, and that is, “Am I doing the things that I know I need to do to be my best self and to show up as my best self, ready to make a maximum contribution to my job?”

And if you do that with some honesty and some vulnerability, you’ll most likely start to uncover what’s called a performance gap, and that is the gap between what we know we should do to be our best self, and what we actually do on a daily basis. And one of the key tenets of my work is helping folks close that gap and start doing the things they know they need to do.

If you can make the time to heighten your self-care and to sprinkle some of the things from the left side of the paper onto the right side, and even if it’s just 10 to 15 minutes in the morning and evening, doing the things that light you up and fill your bucket, it’ll have a massive impact on how you show up, your energy level, how you feel about yourself, and, absolutely, your ability to make a contribution to your work, to your job, to your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Alan, thank you. It’s been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun and sustaining of your game.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Likewise, my friend. This was great. Thank you so much.

788: Roger Martin Shares How to Make Better Strategic Choices By Rethinking Your Models

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Roger Martin reveals how to identify the unconscious mental models holding you back from more superior management effectiveness.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why people will resist correcting outdated models 
  2. Powerful questions to dismantle outdated models
  3. The simple word shift that makes you more strategic

About Roger

Professor Roger Martin is a writer, strategy advisor and in 2017 was named the #1 management thinker in the world. He is also former Dean and Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada.  

Resources Mentioned

Roger Martin Interview Transcript

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

Roger Martin
It’s great to be here. I’m looking forward to this.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Well, so I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom. Tell us, what’s the big idea behind your book A New Way to Think: Your Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness?

Roger Martin
The big idea is you got to be careful to not get owned by thinking models. You get told, “Oh, this is the way you should think about this problem.” If it doesn’t work, don’t go back and say, “Well, because people say that’s the model that should be used. Keep on using it.” That’s being owned by your model. Instead, you need to own your models. They need to work for you. And if they don’t, you need to change it. That’s the big idea.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Makes sense. Now, the word model, I figured we’ll be saying it a lot. So, could you give us maybe four or five examples of models that professionals use just so we have a real clear sense for what we’re talking about there?

Roger Martin
Sure. A model would be, in order to align the interests of management with shareholders, you should give them stock-based compensation, and that will create alignment. Or, you should always make decisions based on data. That’s the only good decision, that’s a decision made on data. That’s a model. The job of a corporation is to make sure it controls and coordinates the various businesses underneath it. That’s its primary job. That would be a model.

Another model would be customer loyalty is the most important thing about customers.

Roger Martin
Those would all be models that we use that then guide our behavior. So, if you say, “Oh, I must align the interests of management and shareholders with stock-based compensation,” you will have a stock compensation plan that’s based on the performance of the share price as a key feature of executive compensation. So, these models drive behavior.

Pete Mockaitis
So, is there any distinction, not to play too much of the semantic wordplay game, between a model and a rule or a principle?

Roger Martin
Not really. I guess what I would say is a principle tends to be a portion of a model. So, our principle is alignment, and the way we’ll make that happen is through stock-based compensation. So, you’ve got a principle that informs other aspects of a model. That’s how I would distinguish them. You could call a model and a rule kind of relatively similar.

I just think of a model not in a better way but it’s a slightly more comprehensive than either rule or principle. It’s a set of things that we will do because we say if we do those things, it’ll get the result we want.

Pete Mockaitis
And is it possible that we operate from some models that we’re not even aware of?

Roger Martin
In fact, we do that all the time. Let’s say you’re a CEO and you kind of walk into a retailer that sells your product, you don’t like how it’s merchandised, let’s say you’re a fashion line.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m fashionable. Okay, I’m with you.

Roger Martin
Yeah, exactly. Like you, Pete. And you go to the people who are running the store and say, “You, people aren’t following the corporate guidelines on this. I’m outraged, dah, dah, dah.” That’s a model. It’s a model that says it’s their fault, not yours. Your instructions weren’t confusing. Or, your way of merchandising actually doesn’t sell stuff. It’s, “You’re morons,” or you’re not so much morons, “You’re insubordinate,” in some way, “in not following it.” Your model is you have to observe when people are being insubordinate and not following instructions, and chastise them for doing so, and that will improve things.

Pete Mockaitis
And that we know best in terms of the optimal approach for merchandising versus that you may be in a surprise, like, “We tried your way but this way is 30% better, so we’re going that way.”

Roger Martin
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that executive probably wouldn’t have articulated that in the corporate jet on the way to visit the retail outlet, “My model is to make sure they’re obeying and to chastise them if they’re not.” But, in fact, that’s what naturally flows because, in fact, that is his or her, probably his, managerial model.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so you say that folks have a tendency to double down under existing models even if they’re not working. What’s behind that?

Roger Martin
It just seems to be, Pete, a human tendency from what I can tell, which is we like to have models because, otherwise, you have to think about everything from first principles. So, you have a way of doing things, so there’s affinity with the idea of a model. And then there’s sort of social adoption. So, if everybody else is doing it, if everybody else is doing stock-based compensation, and there are stock-based compensation consultants who come and tell you how to do it, and the board gets evaluated on the basis of whether it’s got stock-based compensation, all that stuff.

If that becomes the standard, it’s easiest, that’s because we’re sort of social human beings to say, “Having a model is better than thinking from first principles and I might as well adopt the model that’s the one that’s being used most because that’s probably a good idea.” And so, you’re a plumber in ancient Rome, and all the other plumbers are saying, “This great material, lead, is really malleable and makes for good water pipes and so let’s do that, too.” And because, boy, it seems to work, ten years later all the people die from lead poisoning, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.

So, I think those two things cause people to feel a certain level of concern, anxiousness, outright fear when they have to do something other than the existing model.

Pete Mockaitis
What you’re saying there is in contrast to first principles really resonates. I’m thinking about when I was just getting my start, I’m thinking, “Okay, you don’t want to do the speaker-author, guru biz in terms of, ‘Oh, yeah, you got to have Twitter, you got to have a blog.’ Okay, so this is what I do.” And I didn’t really find those to be especially effective tools, versus reasoning it from first principles would suggest, “Okay. Well, fundamentally, what is my offer?”

“How is it distinctive from alternatives and competitives available? Who is my customer? What do they want? What are their preferences? How can I make my prospective customers aware?” And so, that is a whole lot more work than, “Oh, you got to have a Twitter, you got to have a blog.”

Roger Martin
No, no, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But it would’ve served me better.

Roger Martin
And that, if I can go on that, that makes for a very interesting case. What I’d say is you took something that maybe would’ve been a model that a consumer package goods company would utilize and ported it over to another domain rather than accepting the domain’s kind of model. And that I find is kind of interesting.

A similar story, as you may know, I was dean of a business school for 15 years, and that was my first academic. I was never dean before. And all the development people, the fundraising people came to me, and said, “Well, this is how you do it. Get a list made of all the rich people in the country, and rich graduates, and then you go ask them for money.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, “This is your job now.”

Roger Martin
And I was thinking, “Okay, like I know a lot of rich people, and let’s just put me in their shoes and say, ‘How appealing would that be to me?’ So, you’re going to come and see me because I’m rich, no other reason other than that, and because, apparently, I should want to give you money. All you have to do is ask and I’ll give it to you.”

And so, I said, “I guess you could do that but it doesn’t seem like a good idea. How about this as an idea? I find people who have means and have something that they’re really interested in that the school is also interested in, and let’s get them involved in that because they care about it and they want to be involved in that. And, in due course, they will say to us, ‘Can we support this cause in a greater way?’”

And all the fundraising people said, “Well, what does this guy know about fundraising? This guy is crazy.” Well, on the basis of that, we got the University of Toronto, which is a big gigantic university, have been running forever. University of Toronto is only a six-figure unsolicited gift ever, where it was not asked for. Its first seven-figure unsolicited gift and its first eight-figure unsolicited gift. Literally, one guy, he was into real estate and got involved…who didn’t think there was nearly enough good real estate courses producing the people, and Toronto is a big real estate town, producing the real estate folks. I said, “I agree. We need to serve the community. Would you be willing to teach a course if we got you the appropriate help?”

He did. He loved it. Students loved him. He started hiring all sorts of students from it. We hired other real estate professors. We got to a point where we were one of the best two or three business schools for real estate in North America. We then built a new building. And he came to me and said, “You probably need somebody to give you the cornerstone gift for this, the building, right?” I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Here’s eight figures.”

So, that was a different model, a completely different model than the dominant model because, in that case, I wasn’t even prepared to sort of spend my time on the dominant model because it just seemed silly to me. But you’re right, that requires thinking from first principles, which is not as straightforward. And if my approach had failed miserably, rather than succeeded, they would’ve said, “Yeah, he is a nut.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think there’s one reason right there, is it’s riskier to do something novel and different. And I’m thinking the old saw, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” Like, “Yeah, that’s the thing. Yup, IBM, they make the business machines, that’s their name so buy them from there.” And so, I guess that’s one reason why folks might double down.

Roger Martin
It’s a perfect metaphor, “Nobody got fired, nobody ever got fired for using the dominant prevalent model of the day.” Full stop. So, absolutely. And that’s why I’m not saying to people in the book, “Whatever the dominant model is,” I don’t say reject it.

I say, “I could understand you trying it but just make sure you kind of write down, ‘What I expect to happen when I try this model,’ and then check what actually happened. And if there’s a big negative delta there, then here’s what I’d encourage you to do. Don’t just keep doing it because everybody else is doing it. That might be the time for you to think about, ‘Is there another way to think about it?’”

So, if the dominant model is working, keep doing it, is my view. It’s just when it doesn’t work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I was about to ask, how do we know if something isn’t working anymore? Are there any indicators or telltale signs it’s time to shift away? It sounds like one master key is simply write down in advance what you’re hoping the thing will do, and then check later, “Did it do the thing?”

Roger Martin
Yes. And that may sound kind of trivial but it doesn’t happy very often, Pete. And that leads to sort of…there are a bunch of human dynamics problems that you have to take into account. One human dynamic problem is human beings have an infinite capacity for expose rationalizing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Roger Martin
Right? You can expose rationalize anything. And we know this in a sad, sad, sad sort of way from war crimes trials, where often somebody is on the stand and who’s committed just a horrible, terrible crime that they know is horrible and terrible, but they rationalize it in saying, “Well, I had no choice.” So, you can rationalize anything.

And so, you have to help the mind not rationalize. And the only way I believe you can do that is by writing things out because, otherwise, if you say, “Oh, well, we’re going to build a new factory. And with that new factory, it’s going to cost $100 million but we’re going to increase sales by 50% within five years, and that will pay for the factory and a good return on our $100 million investment.”

If you don’t write that down, five years from now when sales are up 35%, you’re going to say, “Yeah, exactly. This is exactly what we said, sales increased 35%,” and you would never ask the question, “Hey, what didn’t go the way we thought that made it 35 rather than 50, which actually made it a return that’s below our cost of capital, not above our cost of capital?” You wouldn’t do that because it’s sort of lost in the mind’s mist of time what you actually thought your model was going to deliver for you.

So, I want you to write it down so that when it happens, you can compare what’s happened to that. And that will give you the information you need, “Did it perform the way I wanted it to perform, that I assumed it would perform when I used it?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very good. Is that sort of like the master key or any other key questions or things to do there?

Roger Martin
That’s the master key.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got you. Well, so could you maybe tie this together for us with a story of someone who they had an outdated model, and then they made a shift to a new way of thinking and got some cool results?

Roger Martin
Sure. So, I could talk about customer loyalty. So, the dominant model is that the most important factor for you in kind of being profitable is having high customer loyalty. And what that is, customer loyalty, is a conscious act. So, that would be, I don’t know, what toothpaste do you use, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Colgate Total, paste not gel. Thanks for asking.

Roger Martin
Perfect. Colgate Total paste. And so, it’s worked for you in the past, and so you are consciously driven to show loyalty to that brand when you go to the toothpaste aisle. You sort of consciously say, “Hey, I’m loyal to that. It’s worked well. I will do that.” It turns out that all the behavioral science, all that research is telling us that, actually, the much stronger driver of that habit is unconscious.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. You’re right.

Roger Martin
It’s actually your unconscious. So, literally, the way the mind works for you, since you’re a Total Colgate paste, if your hand reaches for Total Colgate, or Colgate Total gel, your subconscious starts yelling at you, saying, “What the hell are you doing? The paste. Paste works. Paste is most comfortable. Paste is most familiar. You’re asking me to do something new. I’m worried. I’m nervous.” So, it’s actually an unconscious driver. And Lord forbid that you reach for Pepsodent or something else, then you’ve gone completely off the rocker, “Oh, my God, cats and dogs sleeping together.” It’s going to be horrible.

So, it turns out, the subconscious loves comfort and familiarity more than anything. So, what you want to make sure that you’re kind of not messing with is habit. And so, one thing that companies can’t help doing is refreshing and redesigning. And it turns out that colors and shapes are really important visual cues before you actually can read the lettering on most things. And that would be the case in Amazon when you see the little chicklet there. We first see colors and shapes. And so, when you change the color of something, or change the name of something to, it’s a huge negative for habit.

And so, Procter & Gamble, Tide, unbelievably profitable and venerable brand, have been around for 70 plus years. And what it turns out is that people have a Tide habit more than they are loyal to Tide. And so, when Tide, 40, 50 years ago, when the transition was starting to be made from powdered detergents to liquids, the first liquids came into being, Procter & Gamble said, “Okay, Tide is the dominant detergent, the largest market share, but people see that as a powdered detergent. And so, to make sure we do best in the now nascent liquid detergent business, what we need to do is have a brand-new brand new, it’s called Era, and that will be our liquid and Tide will be our powder.”

The Era launch was an unmitigated disaster. It never got any traction, anything. And then some bright person at Procter & Gamble said, “Hmm, what if we launched Tide liquid? And why don’t we put it in an orange bottle with the same logo, the bullseye logo kind of on it, and call it Tide, and put a little Tide Liquid beneath it?” Blammo, it quickly became the dominant liquid detergent brand and has been ever since. Why? Because people had a Tide habit, and they had a habit of buying the laundry detergent that was in orange with a bullseye on it, with four letters on it, Tide.

Then, as time went on, Tide did smart things like when they figured out how to put bleach in the Tide itself, in the detergent itself, so you didn’t have to have a separate bottle. They had learned their lesson. And guess what they called it?

Pete Mockaitis
Tide with bleach.

Roger Martin
Yes, that’s very good.

Pete Mockaitis
And then a Tide Pod.

Roger Martin
And a Tide Pod. But, every once in a while, they forget. And so, when they came out with the innovation of how to have a Tide, a detergent wash as well in cold water as in warm water, forgetting the lessons that they learned, they said, “You know, orange is a warm color, perfect for Tide. But cold, we need a cool color for that.” And so, they came up with a cold-water Tide, in what? Blue bottles. Guess how that went?

Pete Mockaitis
Not well.

Roger Martin
Not well. Disastrously bad. What was their incredibly insightful fix for that?

Pete Mockaitis
Go back to the old color.

Roger Martin
Put it in orange bottles, then it became the dominant cold-water detergent. So, that would be an example of a company that began to really understand at a deep level the power of habit over loyalty. Does loyalty matter? Yes, it for sure does. Having a warm feeling, a conscious feeling about it is good. But if you interrupt habit, and interrupt the subconscious, it overwhelms loyalty. Like, think about it, it’s amazing, at least to me. When you think about it, everybody who loved Tide, when you come up with Tide in cold water, which is an added feature that should make your Tide better, it flops because it’s in blue bottles? Holy smokes.

So, the dominant model tends to be, with marketers, “Oh, we have to refresh. Our logo is looking dated. We have to have a new logo. We have to have a new modern color scheme. Maybe we’ll even change the name of it.” All of that stuff is bad, bad, bad, bad, bad but it’s done all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess, in terms of if habit is driving your beautiful market share position, then, certainly. I guess if you’re an upstart and there’s not very many people who’ve got the habits, and your colors and shapes aren’t nailing it amongst the consumers, well, then sure, have at it. But, yeah, I could see how it’s costly to shift there.

Roger Martin
And can I give an example on that, Pete, because it’s good? Myspace versus Facebook. Myspace, of course, was the dominant first kind of social media site, and, actually, in its peak year had more traffic than any other site of any sort, Google, anything. But if you look at the history of Myspace, Myspace kept, from day one, completely changing its look and feel so that there was no consistency, no consistency in the way things were presented, new features that were put on it. It was referred to in the press as a dizzying array.

Think then about Facebook. Like, it has utterly consistent look and feel from the word go, even when they made their painful transition where there was the only real dip in Facebook’s history was when they made the transition to mobile. Mobile looked just like look, feel, everything. Facebook understands habit. Myspace didn’t. Myspace is gone. Facebook is worth a trillion. It is so important. If you’re a startup, you must establish a look and feel.

Netflix did a good job of that. They changed their underlying product entirely but they kept as many other things consistent as possible that helped people kind of feel comfortable. And, again, it’s an issue of you feeling comfortable and familiar, not being upset. And for what it’s worth, this relates directly to RTO, return to office, because, in essence, you could argue that COVID was the greatest force habit break since at least World War II and maybe the Great Depression, where lots of habits just had to be broken.

And one habit that was broken was, people like you and me, and tens of millions of others, waking up every morning, getting in the car, or getting on public transit, and commuting to an office, and working all day in an office, and then commuting back at night. That was the habit. And this was a habit that had a bunch of negatives to it, especially if you lived in the greater New York area, greater Chicago area, greater L.A. area, it would be a painful long commute, but it became the ingrained habit. It was just you did it unthinkingly.

And then what happened was a force majeure break of that habit. You couldn’t blame your company on the habit being broken. It was the government saying, “You must do this.” And so, you had to adopt a new habit, which was painful. For many people, they said, “Oh, my God. Kind of working from home, I had a setup, I had to seize the guest bedroom, or seize the sun porch, or the kid’s basement play area, and turn it into my kind of Zoom office, instead of I couldn’t talk face to face with my managers and my employees, and, dah, dah, dah.”

But what happened after probably six months? It was your habit. It was like, “Oh, roll out of bed, make your coffee, go to the guest room, sit in front of my computer and do Zoom calls.” So, that became the new habit. So, that was first called working remotely and then became the new habit. Then, two years on, companies say, “You must return to office.”

They thought of it, these companies thought and still think of it as getting back to where we were, going back to what is standard, you being at the office. That is not, at all, what the subconscious thinks. The subconscious says, “Oh, my God, they’re making me do a brand-new thing. They want me to work remotely.” The office is the new remotely, and can you see, what happens with the habit?

The way to think about habit is that whatever you’re doing, your habit, so for you it’s Colgate Total paste, that’s your habit, and the alternatives are Crest and Pepsodent and Colgate Total gel, which apparently is abhorrent to you. And so, every time you have a purchase occasion, there’s a race and it’s a hundred-yard dash, and Crest and Pepsodent and Colgate Total gel are at the starting line, and Colgate Total paste is on the 90-yard line. And the gun goes off, and guess who wins?

If, for some reason, Colgate were to say, “You know, we’re totally tired of that Total name. We’re going to call it Colgate Fantastimo, and we’re going to change the paste. That paste is dull and old. And we’re going to make it sort of something that’s a combination of paste and gel, like in a twirl.” What they’ve done for Pete is moved the thing he automatically bought from the 90-yard line to the zero-yard line along with all the other alternatives. And you’ll win some of them because it’s a fair race at that point, but it goes from being a profoundly unfair race in your favor, if you’re Colgate, to a fair race. That’s what’s happening with the return to work.

Your job, which you had comfort and familiarity going for, that was Zooming from home and not doing the commute, that was on the 90-yard line, just got back put back to the zero-yard line, to be compared with, “I’m going to quit for a year. I’m going to find a new job out here in the burbs, or I’m going to change to a company that continues to allow people to work from home.” And so, it’s just massively destructive for the companies asking you to return to work.

And they think it’s disloyalty, “Pete is not loyal enough to come back to the office.” No, it’s habit. It’s Pete just has this visceral thing that he can’t necessarily even understand fully that says, “You know, Pete, it’s time to think about doing something else.” So, this misunderstanding, loyalty versus habit, is going to cause big American employers who are asking you to come back to the office massive turnover. The stats are 67% of people who are being asked to go back to work are considering alternatives.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s a great metaphor with the race and having a huge head start because it’s like, “Huh. Okay, so I have to do something different. Do I want to do that? Well, let’s look at all the options.”

Roger Martin
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to, “Just keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t ask any of those difficult questions, employee, and don’t just rock the boat.” Okay.

Roger Martin
And I can give a personal example. So, I’m a big of a sportsaholic, and I had a go-to sports app. It was CBSSports.com. I don’t even know why I started using it but it was the one I went to. And I put up with CBSSports.com IT people deciding that they would do refreshes and updates to make the site better and work better and everything. But then they came up with a total redo that they were exceedingly proud of. They sent me messages about, “Hey, get ready for the brand-new site. This is going to be awesome. The navigation, everything, was completely different. The look and feel, completely different.”

And after it being, I don’t know, seven-year a constant user of it, I just said, “Oh, okay. Now is the time to test out all the sports sites and see which I like best.” And now, on the first page of my iPhone is ESPN.com, and CBSSports.com has lost me, not forever. They’ve lost me until such time as ESPN screws up in the same way as CBS Sports did.

For the subconscious, possession is way more than nine-tenths of the law. I am an ESPN.com sports app guy now. And that game is over, it’s on the 99th yard line.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, rest in peace. You’ve got a chapter I find intriguing when it comes to strategy. You say, “In strategy, what counts is what would have to be true, not what is true.” And that is one of my favorite things to teach, so I want to hear you take the floor. What do you mean by this question, “What would have to be true?” How do we apply that when we are doing decision-making effectively?

Roger Martin
Yeah, most of strategy is about analyzing, doing analyses to come up with your strategy, a very analytical exercise, and most people who are going to strategy are kind of analytically inclined. Kind of the problem is, by analyzing what is, you’re never going to find out what might be. You’re never going to create the future, lead the future.

And so, rather than focusing on that, “What is true?” which will direct you towards what is and focus your mind on what is, if you ask the question instead, “What would have to be true?” you can imagine possibilities. You can say, “Here, I’m going to imagine we do this rather than what we’re doing now.” Now, if you just do imagination, you’ll come up with all sorts of crazy things that are just dumb ideas. But if you say, “What I’m going to do is ask, ‘What would have to be true about the industry? What would have to be true about the customers? What would have to be true if there’s a distribution channel, about our capabilities, about our costs, about competitors, for that to be a great idea?’”

Then you can create a logic structure that says, “If those things were true, that would be a great idea.” Then you can imagine another possibility, and say, “What would have to be true for that one? Well, if these other set of things were true, that would be a great idea.” You can do another one, A, B, C, you’ve got a third one, “What would have to be true for that?” Then you can ask the question, “Of those things that would have to be true, which are we least confident are true?”

And then we can focus our efforts on saying, “Well, if those things would be necessary for this to be a good idea, but aren’t true today,” sort of like we’re Steve Jobs, and it’s like, “Here’s an idea. Why don’t we sell people an MP3 player that is three times the cost of price of the best MP3 player out there? We’re going to make it white and have a wheel on it. How about that for an idea?” What would have to be true is people want to kind of throw money away, like they get three times X for an MP3 player with no greater capability than anybody else’s new technology anymore.

What would have to be true though would be, “This would be of greater use because they would be able to more seamlessly download songs in a more user-friendly way onto that machine. They can’t now. But how about we do this? How about we go to all the record companies and arm-twist them into selling single songs for 99 cents rather than an album, and we’ll put it on a site called iTunes and make it super easy for them to pay and super easy for them to download?”

So, he asked, “What would have to be true?” You’d have to have something special, then you go and figure out, “Can you make it true?” You figure out that you can, then you go do it. And, sure enough, you start selling the dominant market share of MP3 players, expanding the MP3 player market dramatically, and doing it at 3X the price.

That’s the power of saying not what is true but, “What would have to be true? And can we make it true?” And by asking, “What would have to be true for it?” you can focus your efforts on the few things that aren’t true now that you’d have to make true to create a great strategy. So, that’s why, “What would have to be true?” is way more powerful than “What is true?”

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that. That’s fun in a creative invention, being ahead of the game, sort of a way. I’ve often asked myself this question just in terms of, “What would have to be true for this option to be worth picking?” and then sort of list those out, and say, “Okay. And then how can I test that?” And it’s amazing how you can figure out things to do and not to do.

One time I was trying to promote a book and I saw this publication that was distributed to a bunch of producers for radio and TV shows, and it was kind of expensive to be included in this, but I thought, “Okay. Well, this would be really cool if I got on a few shows, get the word out. This is probably a worthwhile investment.”

It wasn’t, I regret spending that money. But then, months later, someone called me and said, “Hey, Pete, I noticed that you were advertised in this publication. How did that go for you? Was it worth it?” I was like, “Wow, if I had followed my own sort of teachings, I would’ve done exactly what you did. What would have to be true? It’d get you a lot of bookings and sell a lot of books. How can you test that? Call some people who bought it and see if it worked out that way for them.”

Roger Martin
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Of course.

Roger Martin
Yeah. And then this is what we did with the re-launch of Olay, creating this sort of masstige positioning of it, where you had a prestige, like a Nordstrom’s first floor or Macy’s, whatever, experience in your Walgreens or your Target. And it wasn’t true that there was such an experience, nor was it true that retailers would say, “Yes, that’s a great idea.” But we went to Target, did an arrangement with Target where we helped fund a transformation of some stores to test out the idea. The product flew, I mean, flew off the shelves in the test, and then the rest is history.

Target said, “How fast can we do all the rest of the stores?” and then everybody else said, “Why are you, bad people, just doing something with Target and not with us?” And we said, “Well, because they said they would do it. Are you saying you’ll do it?” “Yes.” And, blammo, it turns the seventh-, eighth-place skincare product into the number one skincare brand on the face of the planet massively profitable. But it was asking, “What would have to be true?” and then figuring out a way to test that.

You’re not going to test it by launching a product nationally everywhere where you don’t have the experience. You work and spend some money. You spend some money and time with Target to figure out if you could make it true. Would it succeed?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Well, Roger, tell me, anything else you want to put out there before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Roger Martin
No, I think you’ve done a really nice job of talking us through the core essence of the book, so, no thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. All right. Well, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Roger Martin
I guess I would go all the way back to JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” because it is consistent with the advice that I give all my students and proteges, “I follow the doctrine of relentless utility. If you’re just relentlessly useful, good things will happen.”

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

Roger Martin
The favorite piece of research that I ever did in my entire career was in ’89 when I convinced somebody at Procter & Gamble to do a study that they didn’t want but that I knew there was something we would find.

The question was, “How should Procter & Gamble think about its customers?” Now, they consider you, Pete, although you don’t buy Crest, they consider you a consumer, and they consider Walmart, Walgreens, etc. customers. And at that point, they said, “Well, we’ve got mass merchers like Walmart and Target, drugstores like CBS and Walgreens, and supermarkets like Ralph’s, Kroger’s, Whiteman’s, etc. and we’ve got C stores.” And it just struck me that that wasn’t the right way to think about it.

And so, I just started looking at their top hundred customers, and trying to figure out whether there’d be a better way to think about it. And one day, it struck me that maybe a better way to think about it is, “What is the merchandising philosophy of the customer base?” because what was emerging then, because Walmart was still very small then but growing quickly, was this notion of EDLP, every day low pricing. And Walmart, and a bunch of other chains were doing EDLP, and everybody else was what was called high-low. They have things that are high price most of the time, and then have it on deals for part of the year.

And the entire CPG industry was set up, including Procter, was set up to support high-low.

The idea at P&G at the time was, “These high-low people are more like us, like Whiteman’s and Ralph’s, they’re differentiated. And these EDLP guys, like Walmart and Foodline and a few others at the time, they’re sort of these big brick warehouses and cinder block kind of warehouse look and places, and they’re down and dirty. And so, they’re not really like us.”

So, anyway, did the study and looked at those two segments, and came to the relatively stunning conclusion for Procter & Gamble, that the same store sales growth in high-low, all of their high-low customers together, the same store sales growth of their customers was zero. The same store sales growth in EDLP was 7% a year, compound. The growth in stores in high-low was net zero, and it was 7% compound annual for EDLP.

And then what I discovered was our market share, cutting category, I just added them all up, our market share in EDLP was higher than our market share in high-low.

And on the basis of that, and probably other stuff, Procter & Gamble was the first CPG company to flip and orient all of their systems to serve EDLP, and that got them a jump in their north American sales growth in the ‘90s, which was, especially the first half. It was phenomenal because, while everybody else was sticking with their sort of high-low focus, they were EDLP, and that’s when they created the Walmart team that put a whole bunch of people that enabled to kind of work closely with them.

So, that’s my favorite piece of analysis I ever did because it helped transform the way Procter thought about its customers in a way that it almost benefitted them for a while. Now, everybody else figured it out in due course. They had to move on to what the next thing that’s going to move the needle but I always liked that and I liked it because it was so hard to convince anybody there to let me do the study.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Roger Martin
They’re sort of nerdly but probably John Dewey’s Art as Experience. That was life changing for me. If you’re less nerdly, Lord of the Flies, my favorite fiction book, William Golding. And the best I’ve read recently, though it’s an old book that just came to my attention recently was the Social Limits to Growth by a guy named Fred Hirsch. Fantastic book.

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

Roger Martin
I guess it’s my relatively new MacBook Pro 13 inch.

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

Roger Martin
To my website. All my writing is organized on that, and that’s www.RogerLMartin.com. And you got put the L in or it’ll take you to a real estate broker in Houston, who’s very nice. Roger Martin is a very nice guy. He sends me all sorts of emails that come his way. I send him my books. He likes my books and reads them, and so we have a good friendship but it is strained by the number of people who forget the L. So, RogerLMartin.com or @RogerLMartin is my Twitter handle.

And I write a, web is increasingly popular, weekly piece on Medium, if you’re a Medium person, called Playing to Win Practitioner Insights series, 89-long, 90th the coming Monday. So, those would be the places to find me.

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

Roger Martin
Yeah, relentless utility. Think first about, “Am I being useful? Can I say from other people’s perspective I am providing utility?” And if you do that, good things will happen to you. Don’t sweat anything else. Just be relentlessly useful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Roger, thank you. it’s been a treat. I wish you much fun and interesting new ways to think.

Roger Martin
Terrific. Thanks for having me.

787: How to Consistently Perform at Your Peak with Dr. Haley Perlus

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Dr. Haley Perlus shares everyday tactics to help you achieve consistent peak performance.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How just three words can transform your day
  2. How to increase your attention span
  3. The simple secret to feeling more energized

About Haley

Dr. Haley Perlus knows what it takes to overcome barriers and achieve peak performance. As an elite alpine ski racer, she competed and trained with the best in the world, pushing herself to the limits time and time again. Now, with a PhD in sport psychology, Haley continues to push boundaries and drive peak performance, helping athletes and Fortune 100 executives reach their goals.

Dr. Perlus is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, professor, author and consultant to Division I athletes. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado lecturing on applied sport and exercise psychology at the graduate level. She has authored several books including The Ultimate Achievement Journal and The Inside Drive and her articles have been featured in publications such as Thrive Magazine, Fitness Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, EpicTimes, Telluride Inside, MyVega and BeachBody®.

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Haley Perlus Interview Transcript

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

Haley Perlus
Thank you, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom. And I’m intrigued, you’ve got a number of impressive credentials: Ph.D. in Sports Psychology, Elite Alpine Ski racer, and also licensed bartender. What is the story? Do these all three fit together some way? Or, where does the bartending fit in?

Haley Perlus
Well, if the first two don’t succeed, then certainly it’s a shot, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Good mental health advice right off the bat.

Haley Perlus
If we’re doomed, there’s always tequila then we’ll get back at it tomorrow. I’m just joking. I’m just joking. But people find that interesting because it’s one thing that people don’t know about me. However, my mother, my proud mother, has my bartending certificate framed above the bar in her house. It’s an interesting conversation piece.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is sweet. Well, I’m curious, do you have any quick mixological tips for non-licensed bartenders? If we would just like our cocktails to be a little bit more impressive, what should we do?

Haley Perlus
The funny thing is I don’t even really drink, so I let everybody else go ahead and loosen up and I just observe. Clean. Everything can be clean. Remove all the sugar and just go for the good stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. We’ve got it. All right. Well, now let’s talk about peak performance stuff. Maybe, to kick it off, you could orient us. How do you think about peak performance, particularly in a professional context? Like, what does this phrase mean to you? Or, do you have like have a framework that you use to understand this stuff?

Haley Perlus
I do. And peak performance, sometimes, I think, actually veers us off track because when we’re looking for peak performance or peak experiences, we want to do it often. We don’t want to just peak and then come go back down. So, I really think about it as consistent, “How can I get the most consistent high performance?” which then is a peak performer. Often, we’re searching for that peak, our best performance but I want us to have our best performance as often as we possibly can, not just one time, consistent. Consistently being our best.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear because peak sort of implies it goes up and then it goes down, and then I have a little point at the top. It’s the peak. And so, consistent, I guess this chart might look like we have ever-rising peaks, if you will, and we’re getting better and better.

Haley Perlus
I love that. Let’s go with that, yes. We can’t always be perfect.  There will be ups and downs but we’re searching for more consistency.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so tell us, you’ve been studying this stuff for a long time, any particularly surprising or fascinating insights that you’ve discovered along the way?

Haley Perlus
Yeah, that’s interesting, Pete, when you did talk about to my bartending, when you asked me for one recipe, and I just said keep it clean, eliminate the sugar and just go for the good stuff. That’s really what I try to do in my practice. Remove all the fluff, all the extra thinking. We want to think less but more strategically.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that.

Haley Perlus
We want to really go for the meat. When we have direction, when we have focus, we are more inclined to take action and follow through.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And so then, let’s talk about getting that focus, that clarity, that strategy going. Do you have any key questions or prompts you use to really zero in on that good stuff?

Haley Perlus
I do. And just this morning, I was training about five people, all managers and leaders in their various professions, and we started with narrowing it down to three words that would best describe them as their best self, so when they’re the most energized, most focused, feeling all the good things, they know who and what matters most to them. What three words would they use to best describe them because that then becomes their daily purpose, or at least a daily representation of their purpose, but three gives them direction, gives them focus, and then they’re more inclined to take action.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, it’s three and not thirty, that’s certainly focusing. Well, can you give us some examples of three words, best self.

Haley Perlus
So, for me, I’ll tell you and then I can share with you why it’s the number three, and it’s not mine. It’s actually in The Psychology of Persuasion, where I learned it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Cialdini?

Haley Perlus
Yeah, absolutely. There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we had him as a guest. He’s awesome. He’s awesome.

Haley Perlus
And I love how he shares the number three. More is confusing, except with the tasting of gelato because then you want to have more experiences, the more flavors the better, and the color of our tennis shoes. But then he says everything else, we really want to narrow it down to three so that we can focus and have direction. Anything else, we get overwhelmed and confused.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got it.

Haley Perlus
But my three, for myself, I use the word bright, like I have this big sunshine of my mind, body, and spirit. What the sun gives the earth is what my brightness gives me. I’m curious as opposed to judgmental. So, I’m curious, I want to learn, I want to understand, I ask questions even though I may not like the answers, and I actively listen to you and to also what my body and my mind are telling me.

And so, each and every day that is my purpose, that’s my goal, that’s my intention. I also want to be kind. I also want to be generous. I also want to be empathetic. But if I try to be everything, I’ll be nothing. So, if I focus on those three, that will allow me to take action and I also will be so much more than just those three, but those three gives me purpose, gives me focus.

Pete Mockaitis
And is the idea that these three are pretty persistent as opposed to a shifting daily intention, like, “This is the best self and it’s what I’m going for day after day”?

Haley Perlus
I believe so. I’ve been playing around with it for myself for years, and it is rather consistent for me. For people who are just starting to figure out their best three words, sometimes you can play around, trial and error, you let it marinate for a little bit before you find it. But I do believe that when we do enough trial and error and self-awareness, we do land on three.

And then there’s a cool factor in this. It’s not just having your direction every day you wake up and you want to be these three things so that you can be your best self, it’s also catching yourself when you start to lose one of those words. So, when I’m not energized, when I’m not resilient to the first stressor of my day, for example, I immediately lose my curiosity. Hands down, it is the first word that goes.

So, as soon as I can catch myself no longer being curious, which usually means I’m judging someone or something, I can stop and reset instead of letting my entire best self get lost or sinking further and further into what I call my own quicksand of misery. I can stop and do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s a turn of a phrase. Quicksand of misery. Yeah, I hear what you’re saying in terms of like that spiral or that inertia. I guess folks might say, colloquially, “Whoa, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” or, “I just noticed something that maybe I’m being judgmental. I see something that’s not right as it should be,” and then my brain starts thinking, “What’s wrong with people? Why are we doing it this way? Like, this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s so inconsiderate.”

And so then, it’s like I’m primed to notice other stuff that’s jacked up and messed up, and rail about that inside my head, so that’s no fun. So, when you do catch yourself, you notice, “Oh, I’m doing that thing,” but then what? What do you do about it?

Haley Perlus
There’s a couple of things but this is where we’re really talking now about a lot of recovery pauses. So, in life right now, and I say we, as in people in my field, we’re really trying to enforce the story of life is a sprint, no longer a marathon. What does that mean? Instead of just going, going, going, and if you start to not feel great, or start to be judgmental, “I don’t have time to reset. I just got to keep going.” No, it’s now a sprint. You stress and then you recover.

So, when I find myself losing my best self, I stop and I take a recovery pause. That might be one minute, it might be five minutes, ten minutes. And what do I do there? I reset, usually, my emotions because we are creatures of emotion. We’re emotional creatures. So, what does that mean? Maybe I listen to music, maybe I stick my head outside and get some fresh air, maybe I do some quick deep breathing, maybe I move my body, connect with a loved one, do gratitude. Anything that allows me just to reset my emotions, which then allows to come more into more of a neutral mindset, and then I can refocus and get back my curiosity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that lineup there. And so, we’ve got a variety of options on the menu to choose from, and they’re on the quick side – one, five, ten minutes. It’s funny, I’ve been finding cold water effective for resetting emotions because it’s hard to think about much else when your head is in a bucket of ice water or a cold shower.

Haley Perlus
I was just about to say, “What does that mean?” Are you literally pouring a bucket of cold water over your head?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I literally have a lovely piece of, I guess it’s Tupperware that I have in my office refrigerator that I will pull out and put my head into at times. So, that’s weird but I find it effective because it’s like, “Ooh.” If you’re in a funky mood, it’s hard to fixate on that, and it really does feel like a reset, it’s like, “Okay. Well, now we’re back to a neutral, chilly, energized place. Let’s reset.” I guess I got on a Wim Hof kick, which is how this all started.

Haley Perlus
Oh, there you go. Yeah, so you can do Wim Hof breathing if you don’t want to pour cold water over your head, you can follow it. But, funny enough, that’s actually…I was a ski racer and a ski coach, and even obviously sports psychologist for winter sport athletes, just one of the many sports. But we put ice cubes down our backs, our necks, and, again, just a wakeup call, just to get refreshed and renew some energy which it will allow us to then stop for a moment, rethink, reset to be our best self.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. And I want to go into some depth on some of these options. So, gratitude has come up a few times on the show. There’s a variety of ways to do it. How do you find is an effective means of gratitude that provides a reset?

Haley Perlus
Well, in moments where we need reset, in moments where we’ve lost our best self, usually we’re overwhelmed or frustrated, we’re feeling anxiety, and we don’t think we’re doing a good-enough job, or at least somebody else isn’t but we can only control ourselves. So, I like these two questions, “What have I already achieved today?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like it.

Haley Perlus
And, “What do I get to do next?” So, for example, “What have I already achieved today?” is very different than what I haven’t yet achieved, which is where I think most of us go, “I still have to do this. I haven’t done this. I wasn’t good enough at this. I didn’t have enough time for this.” But when you think about what you have achieved, it automatically puts you more in a pleasant emotional space, and patting yourself on your back increases some concentration, some focus and motivation.

“What do I get to do next?” is very different than the normal “What do I have to do next?” We’re always thinking about, “What email I have to respond to” “What call I have to get on” “What do I have to do?” “Who do I have to answer to?” That creates maybe some negativity, “Who do I get to support? How do I get to be challenged? What do I get to learn? What email do I get to be included on even though there’s 500 today?” Just the word “get,” a simple word choice changes our emotional experience, allows us to be a little bit more engaged in that next activity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that so much and I’m reminded of I was listening to Bryan Cranston’s autobiography, and he said something really stuck with him. He’s on a set of a TV show and people are kind of grumbling about the early days, early mornings, late hours. And this guy on the set, who was like a much bigger star than him at the time, said simply, “Well, beats digging ditches,” in terms of like, “Yeah, this is a job and it’s hard sometimes but, relative to the alternatives, that’s something we get to do, which is pretty cool.”

Haley Perlus
Always could be worse. I guess you could go there, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s a really great question that focuses your brain into a positive direction. And I’m thinking something I’ve been wrestling with here with regard to, “Oh, emotions provide information and they’re useful, and we should, ideally,” so I’m told and I think I’ve reaped some value here, “be curious and explore them and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’” And, yet, at the same time, I find that when I do that, like if I’m in a funk, like, “Oh, what’s going on?” it’s like I’m very adept at coming up with a long list of things that are busted and I could be cranky about, and then I kind of feel worse.

And then one approach I’ve tried with some good results is I say, I ask myself, “Why might I feel amazing in five minutes?” because it’s not like I’m lying to myself, it’s like, “Why am I going to feel amazing in five minutes? You’re not. You’re still going to be tired and grumpy.” But it’s like, “Why might I?” Like, “Well, it’s quite possible that I could achieve this little thing and feel great that that’s no longer hanging over my head. It’s quite possible that, boy, I just needed a glass of water. It’s been a few hours. And that would hit the spot.”

So, I find that handy. Do you have any pro tips on engaging our emotions and/or positive refocusing questions that are super handy?

Haley Perlus
I do. I do agree that all emotions are okay. They all serve us. Being angry could drive us initially. Being angry or frustrated or fearful or worried or anxious or sad or depressed, all those unpleasant emotions, they do provide some self-awareness, they do provide polarity. I’m not a big believer in staying with them too long. I do like the non judgment. I do like the, “Hmm, okay, I’m angry.” But then I do need to get myself over to the pleasant side in order for me to do anything effectively with that anger.

If I need to communicate something to someone because that person created anger, I’m not going to be able to do that successfully staying angry, so I need to bring myself back over to one of more challenged, or something more positive, which will then allow me to be right, curious and listen. And then I can more effectively communicate why I was angry or the lesson learned. I feel like the lesson learned comes from the pleasant side.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that distinction in terms of the unpleasant emotion can highlight something that needs attention, and yet the attending to that something is often done more effectively in a more pleasant state of mind. That’s cool.

Haley Perlus
I agree. Yeah, that’s what I think. Now, when I think about, “Is okay that I bring back some sports?” I think people get really motivated by that anxiety. Sometimes, one popular athlete, that I’m sure we’ve all heard of, that used anger in the sense of rivalry even if there wasn’t a rival, he created one, was Michael Jordan.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Haley Perlus
However, when he stepped onto that court, it was strategy, it was tactics, it was the challenge of it. The anger definitely motivated him and got those chemicals and neurotransmitters and hormones running, and his enthusiasm. I don’t know personally but I’ve done enough research and I would like to say, and I hope he would agree with me, that when he got on the court, that anger turned much more into a challenge. And that is a pleasant emotion that allows us to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, any other favorite refocusing questions that you pose to yourself?

Haley Perlus
Like, I said, I do like to think less but more strategically. But I actually find myself, when I’m trying to reset my emotions, is not necessarily always use my mind but to use tactics that immediately change my emotion, like music.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Haley Perlus
I have a theme song. It’s a cheesy one. I don’t care, I use it. But, for example, my favorite movie of all time as a kid and as an adult is Flashdance,” and there is a song in Flashdance called “What A Feeling.” I’m sure many of your listeners have heard of it or know it and they’re smiling right now or making fun, but that’s okay. But I will tell you that if I’m finding myself anxious or overwhelmed or exhausted or sad, if I turn “What A Feeling” on, if I need a little bit of an emotional reset to peace, I just remind myself of dancing around my parents’ house as innocent and free as I possibly can.

If I’m about to go climb a mountain, metaphorically, but I also do climb mountains, but whatever that mountain might be, the lyrics are, “Take your passion, make it happen, dance through life,” so my resetting is not necessarily asking myself a question. It’s directing myself to the words of another song, of a song, that allows me to direct my mind elsewhere.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And so, you’ve got your theme song. Do you have sort of a playlist or a lineup of different songs for different purposes or is it always this go-to?

Haley Perlus
This is usually my go-to, the theme song, but I do have a playlist, a Perlus playlist, and it’s quite long because in that moment, sometimes I want the genre, sometimes I want the harmony, sometimes I want the lyrics, the tempo, so it’s rather long but, yes, I do have a Perlus playlist that in that playlist, there’s always going to be some song that I can press play to navigate me to an emotion that I want to experience. It is my reset.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, this is bringing me back to a teenage Pete Mockaitis enchanted by Tony Robbins, sharing how to shift your emotional state immediately, talking about shifting physiology and imagery, what’s you’re imagining, and dialogue, what you’re saying to yourself. And then I guess the imagery or the music would fall into that. Do you dig that framework or do you have another way you think about it in terms of levers to pull for an emotional reset?

Haley Perlus
Do you mean the imagery piece? I love the imagery piece.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Or like holding your body in a certain way, or breathing, or your power moves or whatever.

Haley Perlus
Oh, absolutely. It’s so funny, I started teaching this and my brothers, I have two brothers and they make fun of me all the time because I always tell people to take their shoulders up, back and down, and smile. So, if you take your shoulders up, back and down, you’re opening up your chest, you’re letting room for air to come through, not just stop at your chest but go through your diaphragm, smiling even through all that anger and disappointment, releases certain chemicals, gets your body language set up.

In person, when I get people to stand up and take their shoulders up, back, down and smile, then they give me a standing ovation, so it’s always nice to set the room up. So, I do believe in definitely body to mind techniques, and that would be an example of one. Setting up your body to create a mental space, to create mental fitness, to create positive or pleasant emotions.

Movement, forget about standing still, moving your body is scientifically the best way to change your emotional state from an unpleasant to a pleasant, whether it’s small movements, like rolling your shoulders; whether it’s stretching, opening your front body after we’re all typing and hunched over at our computers all day; going for a walk, large movements, getting fresh air if you can, even adding to it. Blood circulates through your body, blood carries oxygen, glucose, energy. It energizes us and it makes us go from an unpleasant to pleasant.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. I dig it. And I’m also thinking about Dr. Andrew Huberman of the Huberman Lab’s podcast, which is fantastic, mentioned…and this is crazy. There’s good science to suggest, simply looking up can rally attention in terms of like what our eyeballs are doing and the signals that’s sending inside our brains. It is fascinating what is going on with the human body.

Haley Perlus
Straight up or to the right or to the left? Because I know we can read people depending on where they’re looking.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, as my understanding, and I might be mistaken, is you’re even tilting upward your chin and head, so it’s up. Like, you’re looking at a tall tree or a bird in the sky, and that can spark some attentiveness. And I think it’s true in my own experience. He’s got the scientific studies and papers and such underlying it. But I’ve even elevated my desk a bit more so that I’m not hunched over downward looking all day but rather there’s a little bit of a tilt up, and I think it’s made a difference, so at the very least, it’s given me a placebo benefit, which I appreciate.

Haley Perlus
Which we’ll take, too.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’ll take that.

Haley Perlus
Yeah, that hunched over, orthopedic surgeons are now talking about the pandemic posture.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy. Yeah.

Haley Perlus
Yeah, that hunched over. So, yes, so stand up tall, get your chest lifted, smile, raise that emotional space. But you just reminded me of one more tip, if I can share, about resetting.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, please.

Haley Perlus
Getting outside, especially now as we’re recording this, it’s summer. Getting outside and earthing. What does that mean? It means barefoot in the grass, hug a tree, lie down. And also, if you don’t want to hug a tree, although I do, while you’re just outside, just focus for a minute only on what you see. Then focus for a minute, or maybe 30 seconds, only on what you hear, then only on what you can smell, then only on what you feel underneath you.

And if you do feel something else in your hands or in your ears, the wind passing by, just focus on one sense at a time. And that allows you to also tune out your own stressors and tune in to the energy of the world. Nature.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. Well, so nice rundown there in terms of breaks. I wanted to also get your take on our attention spans, how do we improve them and beat distraction? I guess one thing is just, hey, make sure you’re taking good breaks, and so we’ve checked that box. What else do you recommend here?

Haley Perlus
Well, I know that it’s a hard one but I am with everyone else who believes that multitasking is one of the biggest energy drainers. So, though I live in this world too, so it’s not about I believe eliminating multitasking completely, but I do think that we can probably reduce multitasking in our lives to further increase our engagement and our attention span.

So, we need to ask ourselves and really be truthful, where can we reduce multitasking to increase our ability to focus on one thing at a time. And often, people will say, “Well, wait a second. I’ve got to do this email and that message and this call.” Well, then I propose us working on being a better juggler as opposed to a multitasker.

So, what does that mean? I don’t juggle balls physically but professional jugglers, no matter how many balls they have that they’re juggling with, there’s only one ball in their hand at one time. As soon as they have more than two balls, they make mistakes and they drop all of them. So, we need to just go back and forth, from one to the next, one to the next, one to the next. That allows us to maintain sharp attention span.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that’s just sort of a mindset shift there in terms of, ideally, maybe we just to do one thing for a while, and then do the next thing for a while, but if not, juggling works but with the goal of, “I’m focused on you and I’m now focused on this thing. And now, I’m focused on you,” as opposed to, “I’m focused on you and this thing at the same time.”

Haley Perlus
Yeah. And one of those things, I know we brought it up before, but just to enforce it. One of those things is recovery, “I’m focused for these five minutes on recovery, and then I come back to this email, or this phone call, or this task.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then any tips when it comes to exercising our brains so that we are effectively able to engage and recover, and to engage and recover, and to keep on getting better and better?

Haley Perlus
Yeah, use it but be deliberate. So, right now, crossword puzzles or Wordle or Sudoku, those games, even video games, with my athletes, my sport athletes in my consulting practice, we actually train our brains using video games and games on the computer. In fact, some of us are so good that we tune out the rest of the world and we can go for hours. We don’t necessarily want that though. We need to have discipline and we don’t want to have the addiction but we need to use our brain and deliberately focus in, in order to increase our attention span.

Pete Mockaitis
So, then an exercise might mean like, “This is what I’m focused on for the next hour. Period.” Like, that kind of a thing, like, “This is what we’re doing here.”

Haley Perlus
Yeah, there’s something that you can just search it on the internet but I do it in my presentations. It’s called the concentration grid. And all it is, is 99 numbers scrambled up in a grid, it starts 00 and they’re all scrambled up to 99. And then you time yourself, not even an hour, I do a minute. And in a minute, you see, you start at 00, then 01, then 02, and you have to go and find these numbers in order as fast as you can and see how high you can get.

So, I’ll do this with the people that I’m consulting with, and then I will try to distract them. So, I will go and distract them with noise and with words, I tell them 30 seconds left, I tell them, and they have to literally focus on tuning me out. It’s the only time they can deem me irrelevant but if they hear me, I’m supposed to come into their presence and then leave, and they have to stay focused on their number.

So, that’s just an example of an exercise in concentration grit. You purposely engage in, again, Sudoku or Wordle or a crossword puzzle, or even a video game, or an app game, momentarily you tune in with the intention of deeming everything else irrelevant, and that’s going to increase your attention span. We just don’t want to become addicted because then we lose focus on everything else.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, when one is doing these exercises, you want to have some sort of distractor in the mix to practice the ignoring?

Haley Perlus
You can play around with it but I think that’s real life. Even though I’m trying to focus on this, on speaking with you, I have intentionally turned off everything so I will not get pinged, I will not get dinged. But in the real world, if we’re sending an email, we might get a text, we might get a message, someone might come into the room, so we have to practice real life. It’s simulation for real life, being able to focus in on this one exercise, knowing that you’re going to be distracted, but letting those distractions come and let them go. They’re irrelevant. What’s relevant is the exercise you’re focusing on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And you’ve got some perspective on the connection between hydration and performance. Let’s hear it.

Haley Perlus
I sure do. Well, we are two-thirds…our brains are two-thirds water, so we need water to, yeah, there you go, have a sip, and I have my water here too. But water is so many things. But when I think about attention span and our brain, I look at water as a cleansing tool. It flushes out all the toxins, flushes out all the negative stuff, flushes out all the things that we no longer need. It’s a cleansing tool. It also is an energizing tool. It lubricates, it hydrates, it gives us energy.

So, as we’re consistently drinking water throughout the day, we’re actually giving our brains energy as well as cleansing. Plus, when we’re dehydrated, that in and of itself is a distraction. Our bodies react to that. Our brains react to that. We become exhausted. So, that’s an unnecessary distraction. We can fix that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, I guess how much is enough? I mean, I think some people will say, “You know, I drink water when I’m thirsty, and that’s fine, right?” What do you think?

Haley Perlus
Well, often the nutritionists and the experts will say if you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long. And then, yes, the question is, “How much?” So, we’ve all heard eight glasses a day, or half your body weight in ounces. Just drink more. I don’t often come across anyone who is overhydrated. Most of us are dehydrated, so just drink more.

And here’s a thing. Get into the ritual of drinking first thing in the morning. There’s something that I used to do for myself before I became a regular water drinker. Every night before I go to bed, I pour myself a glass of water and lemon. To me, it was easier to drink water with lemon. And lemon is also very alkalizing so it does to provide energy. But I pour myself a glass of water and lemon, and I put it on my night table before I go to bed.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do before anything, especially before I brush my teeth, is drink that water and lemon. And it started off as just two ounces, then four ounces. And now I drink 32 ounces of water in the morning. Sometimes I have coffee, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I have green juice, like celery juice, but I’m always getting my water, and it’s now a habit because I’ve gotten used to that morning ritual.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious about bathroom trips. Sometimes I find myself reluctant to drink more water just because I don’t want to be hassled with more trips to the bathroom. How do you think about this?

Haley Perlus
Well, remember, I said pour the water and lemon the night before but don’t drink it.

Pete Mockaitis
Not the night before but the morning of.

Haley Perlus
Yeah, you drink it the morning of.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean, daytime trips to the bathroom.

Haley Perlus
Yeah. Well, I would rather have that problem than the problems that will come if I’m dehydrated.

Pete Mockaitis
So, are we talking like ten plus visits a day then?

Haley Perlus
Yeah, that’d be a lot. I’m not going to lie. I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s the quote of the show. We’ll put that on the graphic. That’s good. Thank you.

Haley Perlus
You’re welcome. I feel like you needed to get that out of me.

Pete Mockaitis
But it’s true, like there’s a genuine tradeoff. And it’s so funny, I think the same lazy brain, for me at least, that’s like, “Oh, I don’t want to get up and pour a glass of water,” is the same lazy brain who can rationalize or justify, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve already been to the bathroom like five times. I don’t want to go again.” And so, you’re going on record as saying that, yes, there is more time spent visiting the bathroom but you’re more than making up for that time with the improved benefits of hydration. Is that fair to say?

Haley Perlus
I believe that I am more efficient, I believe that I’m more focused, I believe that I’m a peak performer because I’m a peak peer. And I will tell you though, it also forces you to get up and move. It forces you to get out of your seat so there’s other benefits that come with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Haley, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things?

Haley Perlus
I think with this life, this Groundhog Day, the wash, rinse, repeat, the wash, rinse, repeat, it’s not necessarily that we need to increase our attention span. Many of us actually have good focusing skills, but because we’re stagnant all day and we’re inactive all day and we’re just doing the same thing over and over again, the boredom kicks in, the complacency kicks in. So, I think it’s important that we look for variety wherever we can. If you’ve been staring at this wall for half a day, maybe turn around and stare at a different wall. Add variety to your life wherever you can because that variety will also create energy which will allow us to focus and be able to be more engaged.

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

Haley Perlus
I don’t know that it’s a favorite quote but I will tell you what I use for myself when I get distracted or overwhelmed, and it’s more of a mantra, “Right, left, right, left, right left,” and also something that my significant other is now forcing upon me because I’m learning something new, and I get a little bit fearful, “Get your eyes wide open.”

When we are consumed with all of our fears, when we’re consumed with all of our anxieties, or our shyness, or our overwhelm, or our confusion, or anything that’s creating that negative energy, open your eyes, look around you, take something in. So, I really like to put myself…make myself small, if I will, and really look at the bigger picture, eyes wide open.

And then the “Right, left, right left,” is something that I do for myself as well, because when it looks impossible, when a mountain looks impossible to climb, whatever that mountain is for you, I know that I can get my right foot forward, and then I know that I can get my left foot, so really break it down. So, I don’t know if it’s a quote but it certainly words that I live by to allow me to refocus or stay focused and just plan and determined and have my most consistent performances.

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

Haley Perlus
Well, interestingly enough, I was just sharing this with my 13-year-old nephew a couple week ago who had to do a simulated TED Talk for his school, and he wanted to do it on sports psychology. And so, I shared with him the first study, the first documented study, for sure, in sports psychology which was by Norman Triplett. And he researched cyclists and he wanted to compare cyclists’ performance alone compared to where cyclists are in the presence of other athletes.

And when you’re in the presence of other people, at least in this study, you perform better. And it’s an interesting topic of discussion right now because of the hybrid environments and working from home versus in an office environment and the social facilitation. And so, this is a study that I’m really highlighting back and bringing back to my world and others because I do believe that we perform better when we are amongst others, not necessarily competition. I do believe that competition allows for that, too, but I do believe in being connected and being in the presence of others to help us perform better and be happier.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And a favorite book?

Haley Perlus
Well, yes, Robert Cialdini, that’s actually, to this day, my favorite book. I think it’s great The Psychology of Persuasion, but specifically, yes, and really looking to see how we can persuade ourselves to take action, what messages we need to tell ourselves to take action. So, it’s an oldie but, still, it’s one of my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And a favorite habit?

Haley Perlus
I’ll be honest, I’m really proud of myself for sticking with this water thing. It was not easy for me because I didn’t like the taste of water, and I just wasn’t a good water drinker, and, really, every morning I wake up, I drink water and lemon. I often now drink some green juice, and that starts my day. In addition, I make my bed every single morning, and I believe that that is super important to start my day off organized and structured, even though I’m pretty flexible and I wouldn’t consider myself a structured human being. But making my bed in the morning allows me to feel fresh and clean when I do start the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really connects and resonates with audiences; they quote it back to you often?

Haley Perlus
People say it’s hard, people say change is hard. When we talk about changing these, replacing negative habits with good ritual, people say it’s hard. And I say, “I know. So what?” And I think that just kind of puts…and I do to it myself as well. I think that kind stops us in our tracks, and we’re like, “Okay. So what? That’s going to be hard.” And I say it with all the love in my heart, “So what?”

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

Haley Perlus
My website is the best place to find me. You can opt in for communications. You can actually connect with me directly through there. So, it’s DrHaleyPerlus.com.

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

Haley Perlus
Well, I don’t know what time everyone is listening to this, so depending on the time, the very next morning you have, what do you get to do? You get to drink water first thing in the morning and hydrate your brain, focus in.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Haley, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much fun and peak performance.

Haley Perlus
Thank you, Pete. Thanks for having me.