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.

415: Pursuing Your Passion the Smart Way with Brad Stulberg

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Brad Stulberg explores the inherent contradiction between pursuing passion and balance…and what to do about it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three common paradoxes of passion
  2. The dangers of rooting your identity to a passion
  3. Why self-aware imbalance is often appropriate

About Brad

Brad Stulberg researches, writes, speaks, and coaches on health and human performance. His coaching practice includes working with athletes, entrepreneurs, and executives on their mental skills and overall well-being. He is a bestselling author of the books The Passion Paradox and Peak Performance and a columnist at Outside Magazine. Brad has also written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Wired, Forbes, and The Los Angeles Times. Previously, Stulberg worked as a consultant for McKinsey and Company, where he counseled some of the world’s top executives on a broad range of issues. An avid athlete and outdoor enthusiast, Stulberg lives in Northern California with his wife, son, and two cats. Follow him on Twitter @Bstulberg.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Brad Stulberg Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis:                    Brad, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Brad Stulberg:                      Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, I’m excited to dig into your next book, but first I want to hear about your love of cats.

Brad Stulberg:                      My love of cats. How do you know I love cats?

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, there’s a form I have guests fill out about-

Brad Stulberg:                      Oh, I said I loved-

Pete Mockaitis:                    Oh, yeah, you totally … You just gave it up that you love cats. It’s also in your bio that you live in Northern California with wife, son and two cats. So you can’t escape it.

Brad Stulberg:                      I’ve got two, as you said, Sonny and Bryant and they’re endearing, adorable creatures. It’s like having two of the goofiest roommates that are just there and they don’t pay rent.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, tell me what are some of the goofy behaviors?

Brad Stulberg:                      The goofy behaviors. Well, let’s see. So Sonny, who is an orange tabby, she has, my wife and I joke, we call it office hours. So she is the cuddliest, most loving cat between 1:00 and 4:00 PM. Otherwise you can’t touch he. It’s so bizarre. She’ll come find you wherever you are in the afternoon and plop on your lap and just love on you. But then when 4:00 PM rolls around, she wants nothing to do with it. And then Bryant, everything about Bryant is interesting. We would have to record for hours and hours, I’d just have to follow him around with a video camera, but he’s just a total mess in the best way possible.

Pete Mockaitis:                    All right. Well, it sounds like that’s keeping things interesting and I also want to hear about some of the most interesting, surprising, fascinating discoveries you’ve made when researching The Passion Paradox.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, that sounds good. That’s a little bit more concrete than Bryant the cat.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, yeah, lay it on us.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, so the book is called The Passion Paradox and the title is pretty telling in the sense that the biggest discovery is so much of what conventional thinking around passion holds is all paradox. And there are three main paradoxes. The first is that people are told to find your passion, and there’s an expectation that you’re going to stumble upon something that will be like love at first sight and you’ll immediately feel energized and you’ll know this is the thing that I’m passionate about. That’s not how it works.

In the vast, vast, vast majority of the cases individuals cultivate passion over time and it doesn’t start out perfect and it’s that very belief and expectation that something should be perfect right away that actually gets in a lot of people’s way from ever growing into a passion.

Second big paradox is this notion that if you just follow your passion you’ll have a great life. And passion is a double-edged sword. Passion can absolutely be a wonderful gift and it can lead to great accomplishments, it could lead to a meaningful life, it can lead to great energy. At the same time passion can become a destructive curse. And that can happen in a few ways.

One is that the inertia of what you’re doing gets so strong that you can’t see beyond it and you get so swept up in what you’re doing that everything else falls away. And for a period of time that might be okay, but in the long term a lot of people end up with regrets. And then the second way that passion can take a negative turn is when you become more passionate about the external validation you get from doing something than the thing itself.

And this is a really, really, really subtle thing that happens to people. You start doing something because you’re interested in it. If you’re lucky you cultivate a passion, you love it. And then you start doing really well, and when you start doing well, you start getting recognized for doing well. And often what will happen is without someone even noticing it, the lotus of their passion shifts from the activity to all the recognition. So you love writing and then you make a best seller list and then suddenly you’re only happy if you’re on bestseller lists. You love your job and suddenly you’re only happy if you’re constantly noticed in meetings and you’re constantly getting promoted.

So it’s this fine line between being passionate about the activity itself versus being passionate about the recognition you got from it. The former, here’s the paradox. The former, if you’re passionate about the activity, that’s associated with overall life satisfaction and high performance. The latter, if you become passionate about the results, which is called obsessive passion, that is associated with burnout, angst, and depression.

Yeah, so there’s that and then the third thing I’ll lay it all on you because that’s what you asked for and then we can dive in more detail perhaps. The third thing is, that I can’t tell you how many times since I’ve graduated college, which is a little bit over a decade ago, I’ve been told two things. One is to find and follow my passion and the other is to live a balanced life, and this makes no sense because passion and balance are completely antithetical.

By definition when you’re passionate about something the world narrows and it’s the thing that you’re passionate about that is going to consume you. So that seems opposite to balance. And if you ask people when they feel most alive, very rarely does someone say, “It was when I had perfect balance.” Often what you’ll hear is, “It was when I was falling in love or when I was training for my first marathon or when I was launching a business or when I had a new kid.” Now, those are not very balanced times.

They’re describing time when they felt like they were like being consumed by something. Yet if you ask people over the course of a life, what does it mean to live a good life? Most people will say, “To have balance.” So again, both things are true at the same time. So it’s really about, how can you be passionate, go all in on things, get that good energy, but then be able to pivot to other things when the time is right. And that’s so much easier to say than to actually practice.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Brad, you are a master. Thank you. That is so much good stuff and we could spend hours unpacking that, maybe even more hours discussing this than the cat, I might say, in terms of all the nuances to be explored.

Brad Stulberg:                      The nuance of Bryant’s behavior. He contains multitude.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Oh boy. So let’s have some fun with this. All right. Well, I think each of those things you said makes great sense to me and sparks all kinds of curiosity. So why don’t we just dig into each in practice. So okay, for the find your passion advice you say we kind of have a little bit of expectation or hope that it’s going to be love at first sight. And in practice, it’s not. It’s more of a cultivation over time. So can you explain a little bit for what does the progression look like most often in terms of when folks got a passion alive at work for them, how did they get there?

Brad Stulberg:                      What’s interesting is the first thing that’s very important is this mindset shift. Again, if you have the expectation that you’re just going to stumble into an activity and you’re going to find your passion, that is the foremost barrier to actually having a passion because almost nothing is great right off the bat. And what’s very interesting is the research and passion parallels the research and love. So individuals that want to find the perfect partner, they end up constantly seeking versus someone that goes in and says, “You know what, I’m going to pursue good enough and I’m going to cultivate it and nourish it and maybe 30 years from now it will be perfect.” And there’s all kinds of research in relationships that shows that that mindset tends to lead to lasting love.

And it’s very much the same with passion. So going in and thinking of it less as this lightning striking and more as a curiosity for the things that interest you and then pursuing those interests, that’s the conduit into what becomes passion. And then when you’re pursuing the interests, the research is very clear here that there are three key things that help something perhaps become rooted in your life as a passion. And this is born out of a psychological theory called self-determination theory.

And what that states is that if an activity offers you autonomy, so you have some control over what you’re doing and when you’re doing it, if it offers you competence or mastery, so there’s a path of progression of improvement and if there’s a sense of belonging and whether that’s physical belonging, you’re actually working in a team or with other people or if it’s more psychological belonging, so you’re picking up a line where there have been craftspeople before you and there will be after you. Those three things tend to help interests transition from merely being an interest or a hobby into a passion.

Pete Mockaitis:                    I’m intrigued by the autonomy point because as I think about some passions very much are kind of team sports if you will. It could actually even be sports, hey, it’s basketball, you know, play in the basketball team. Or it could be music, I’m in the orchestra. Or it could be entrepreneurship, hey, my team is doing this thing. So how are you defining autonomy here?

Brad Stulberg:                      It’s a great question. Autonomy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going at it alone, but more so that there is room for you to chart your own path. So you might be playing on a team for sure, but I mean, if you have a coach that tells you exactly and I mean exactly how to style your game and what you should do minute-by-minute, day-by-day, that probably won’t be so happy whereas if you have some room to explore yourself and decide how you want to craft your game.

Same thing with the musician perhaps. There’s definitely autonomy in how you practice and most musicians, at least those that have passion, they’re in orchestras or they’re in arrangements where they also have some autonomy to explore their own style of music. And in a workplace setting, its this is just the difference between good management and micromanagement. Someone under good management should feel autonomy to drive their work, make decisions, take risks. Someone that’s being micromanaged often doesn’t feel that.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Okay, I got you.

Brad Stulberg:                      A great example to make this really concrete is actually what you’re doing right now, and I know that you’re passionate about your podcast and my guess is that when you first started going into podcast … You didn’t know podcasting was going to be the thing and my guess is also that you probably weren’t great right off the bat.

Pete Mockaitis:                    It’s true.

Brad Stulberg:                      There was a line of progression and yet with the podcast you have full autonomy. It’s your show. You decide who you’re going to interview. You decide the flow. There’s clear mastery and progression. I bet like this episode is going to sound a lot different than your first one. And there’s, of course, belonging because you’re sharing this with your audience and you’re getting to meet and have interesting conversations with people that have similar interests to you.

So I think that there’s no … It’s not ironic that podcasting has taken off because again, it’s something that people can start is an interest, very few people expect to be great right away and it fulfills those three criteria really clearly.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Indeed, it does. Well, I’d love to get your take on … Well, what are some things … Are there some activities or pursuits that by these criteria cannot become someone’s passion?

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, there are plenty. I think the first is that if you find yourself in a workplace situation where you are being terribly micromanaged or where everything that you do is pretty murky, and what I mean by that is there are no objective barometers of whether or not you’re improving or doing a good job, those are the kinds of jobs where people tend to get pretty frustrated and either burn out or they just kind of accept it and go through the motions.

Pete Mockaitis:                    I guess what I’m thinking is that the activity in a different environment or context could provide autonomy or mastery.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yes, totally. It’s often context-dependent, not activity-dependent. And I think this is really important for managers that are listening out there, You want your employees to be passionate and your job is then to create those conditions where people have the ability to pursue what interests them and they have autonomy, they have some sense of progression or mastery, and they feel like they belong. And the flip side is, if you’re being managed and you don’t feel that, it’s a great opportunity to have a conversation with who’s ever managing you about those things or perhaps it’s time to find a new job.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Okay. Well, there it is. So that’s how passion comes about. You’re curiously pursuing something that’s interesting and then if you got those ingredients of autonomy or pursuing confidence, mastery and sense of belonging, that can lead to hey, we got a passion here.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yes, and then the second paradox right is now awesome, I’m passionate, it’s all downhill from here, life is going to be great. And the common trap is that life is great and then suddenly you start crushing it at your passion and people start recognizing that and then you get attached to that recognition. And in the worst case your entire identity fuses with that recognition. So you’re only as good as your last podcast or you’re only as good as the last project that you took on.

And even worse, you’re only as good as how people received the last podcast or how people received the last project that you took on. And that’s a very precarious position to be in because that can set you up for all kinds of highs and lows in a really fragile sense of self-worth and identity.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Yeah. Yeah, that’s powerful. What’s coming to mind for me right now is this interview in which … I think was on Ellen, in which Ronda Rousey, The Ultimate Fighter, who she lost a big match, I don’t know the details, and she was on Ellen talking about it and she’s just crying and it’s powerful because for one, hey, this is a tough fighter person who’s crying and two, she really articulates that notion in terms of like, “Well, if I’m not a champion, then what am I?”

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, that’s hard. And as I said, obsessive passion is associated with anxiety, depression, burn out and then it’s also associated with cheating. What’s really interesting is you look at someone like Elizabeth Holmes, who is the former founder and CEO of Theranos, which is the kind of sham pharmaceutical company, all kinds of fraudulent behavior. When she was being celebrated it was all about her passion. I believe it was the Washington Post that ran a story that basically said like, “Elizabeth Holmes is the most passionate, obsessed person there is and that’s why she’s so successful.”

And yet, it might have been that very passion and that very obsession that led her to lie when things weren’t going great in her company. Alex Rodriguez, the baseball player who we now know was using performance-enhancing drugs and steroids throughout his career, when he retired, even after all that he was interviewed by Forbes for his career advice and his number one piece of advice was “follow your passion.” So again, it’s this double edged sword where yeah, passion is great, but if all you care about is hitting the most home runs or all you care about is being the company that everyone’s talking about, well, when things don’t go well, you’re going to do anything possible to remedy that even if it’s not so ethical.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Yeah, so that’s, you said double edged sword. That’s one way is you come attached to the sort of validations and externals instead of the thing itself and it can be-

Brad Stulberg:                      And I don’t want it to be negative. So let me also … So there are practices that can help you remedy this, and there are a whole bunch in the book, but the one that I find the most powerful it to mention here is just this notion of getting back to the work. So after a huge success like yes, pause, celebrate, feel good about it. Do that for 24, maybe 48 hours, but then get back to doing the work. There’s something about doing the work that is so humbling and that on a very visceral level, you feel it in your brain and in your bones. It reminds you that hey, I like the work. As much as the validation feels good, what really makes me tick is the process of doing the work.

The concrete example in my own life as a writer, when I write a story that has a very positive reception or for that matter, a very negative reception, a story I thought I would do great that doesn’t, I’ll let myself have those emotions for a day and then I really try to make a discipline of within 24 hours starting on the next thing, because otherwise I can get very caught up in this kind of cycle of like praise or negativity and then once that cycle grows roots, it becomes harder to step out of.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Yeah, that’s really good stuff. And as I’m thinking there about the double-edged sword, you talk about consumption, I guess that’s the third paradox. So it’s a sword both in terms of you feeling like you’re pursuing a great life and loving it and digging it and having tons of fun with it, but also getting tempted perhaps to follow the external. I’m curious, you’ve got that practice there with regard to hey, when you get the celebration or the victory, you celebrate, then you return to the work. I guess I’m curious, are there any little internal indicators or like kind of early warning signs you might be on the lookout for? Like wait a minute, alert, alert, passion is starting to get externalized, you’ll correct now.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, it’s a great question. There are. The first one that comes to mind for me is if you notice massive changes in your mood based on how well something does in the outside world. So if you’re in a great mood and you go into a meeting and an idea you have isn’t while received or you don’t get to share as much as you would have hoped and the rest of your day is completely ruined. If that happens once or twice, fine. If that’s an ongoing pattern, like yikes.

If you do anything that has a kind of more broad social measurement scheme and what I’m thinking here is social media. So if you’re kind of obsessively checking your retweets or likes or comments, that is a sign of uh-oh, am I really in this to connect with other people and to create good work or am I in this because it feels really good to see how many people liked my post? And if it’s the latter then again, like what happens when you have a post that no one likes? Well, you feel like shit.

I think it’s important to state here that no one is 100% like disciplined or harmoniously passionate. We’re humans. Everyone likes to feel good. The thing is that you just have to realize that hey, that’s a normal behavior and if I catch myself engaging in it too often, it’s time to get back to the work. So don’t judge yourself and be like, “Oh, I’m obsessively passionate. I’m doomed.” It’s more like, “Oh, wow. I noticed myself caring quite a bit about external validation. Let me think about why did I get into this thing in the first place and have I actually done the activity itself recently? And if not, I should dive back into it.” Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis:                    Absolutely. Got it. Well, so now let’s talk about this passion and balance being antithetical. Passion can consume you and so then yeah, how do you play that game optimally in terms of if you want to feel alive so you want to have the passion, but you also don’t want to I guess let everything else fall apart in your life? What are your thoughts there?

Brad Stulberg:                      What I found in the research and reporting on the book is that there’s an expectation, a cultural expectation to have balance day-to-day. And when people hear balance, at least those people that I’ve surveyed, they often think or they often describe everything in it’s right place, in right proportion day after day. I wake up at this hour. I get my kids off to school. I do my yoga. I go to work. I listen to a podcast. I leave work at 5:00. I come home. I watch a TV show. I spend time with my kids. I cook dinner. I have passionate sex with my romantic partner and I sleep eight hours and then I do the same thing the next day.

If you can do that, great. If you can do that and you’re happy, great. Don’t change anything, that’s a great life. But I say that kind of laughing because most people can’t do that and then they get frustrated or they think that they’re doing something wrong when in fact, nothing’s wrong. There are times when it is good to be imbalanced. And those are the times when you’re really passionate about one of those elements in your life. So to try to force balance day in and day out, again, if it’s there, great, roll with it, but if it feels like you’re having to force it, that’s a pretty like narrow contracting space.

And it’s much better to allow yourself to actually go all in on the things that make you tick. And here’s the big kicker is, so long as you have enough self-awareness to realize when the trade-off is no longer worth it. I’m going to train for this Olympic cycle at the expense of my family and my friends. Okay. What happens if you don’t make this Olympic cycle or what happens to the next Olympic cycle? Those are the questions that people have to ask because as you’re pursuing this passion, the inertia of the thing that you’re doing is really strong and when that takes whole, it’s hard to have the self-awareness, to evaluate well, am I prioritizing? Am I evaluating these trade-offs as I should be?

There’s some fascinating research in the book that shows that individuals that are in the throes of passion, even if it’s a productive passion. So someone training for the Olympics or an entrepreneur starting a company, they show very similar changes in brain activity as somebody with an eating disorder. And that is because when someone with an eating disorder looks in the mirror, they often don’t see someone that is skin and bones. They actually often see someone that is fat, that is obese or overweight. They have a distorted view of reality.

Well, what is training for the Olympics or trying to start a company other than a distorted view of reality? We know only 0.1% of athletes ever make the Olympics. We know that something like 99% of startups fail. So it’s kind of delusional and in a neurochemical level, it’s the same thing that you’d see in someone with a pathological delusion. The difference is in the case of passion, you’re pointing at something that society says is productive, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less gripping. So the ability to maintain some self-awareness, to look in the mirror and see things as they actually are is so, so important when pursuing a passion.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Wow, that went in a very different direction that I thought that we’re passionate … Yeah, well, you said passion and then eating disorder, brain activity is the same. I was like, oh, okay, so it’s sort of like that obsessiveness, but now you in terms of like what we’re actually perceiving in terms of what is right in front of our face is wild.

Brad Stulberg:                      I mean, I’m sure that there’s some relationship due to the obsessiveness, but it’s really, it’s a perception thing. And this is a common thing, you hear about marriage is falling apart when someone starting a business and the significant other, it’s like the person completely loses self-awareness. The only thing that matters to them is the business and they don’t understand that they’re being a terrible spouse, a terrible parent, a terrible friend. They’re just so wrapped up in what they’re doing.

And again, I’m a firm believer that as long as you communicate with the other important people in your life, that those trade-offs are okay to make so long as you’re consciously making them. And once you stop consciously making them, that’s when all kinds of problems start.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Yeah, I hear you. I also want to get your take on sort of how we go about lying to ourselves when we’re in the midst of this, like what are some kind of watch out words, sentences, phrases that if you hear yourself saying them that might make you think, wait a sec, let’s double-check that.

Brad Stulberg:                      It can be similar to another example, and this is a back to the paradox of passion is addiction. So the definition of addiction or at least the definition that I like to use, and this is one that’s pretty widely accepted in both the scientific and clinical communities, is the relentless pursuit of something despite negative consequences. And I would argue that the definition of passion is the relentless pursuit of something with productive consequences.

Often times those consequences are socially constructed and socially defined. An example, an Olympic swimmer spends between six and eight hours a day staring at a line in the water. They do this at the exclusion of their family, of other interests. With the remaining time they have, they eat a meticulous diet and they sleep. If that isn’t like abnormal behavior, then I don’t know what is. The difference is that it’s pointed at this thing, being an elite athlete, that society says is productive.

Whereas imagine like if swimming wasn’t a sport that people celebrated. Someone would diagnose that person with some sort of psychological psychiatric disorder. But again, it’s because it’s pointed at something that society says is productive. The reason that I use that example and I bring in addiction in this despite negative or despite positive consequences, I think the ways that we lie to ourselves even when we’re doing a productive passion is we ignore the negative consequences or we tell ourselves they don’t really matter.

And again, it’s so hard to maintain self-awareness because there’s so much inertia. I mean, another example to make this real for listeners is when you fall in love. Generally when people fall in love, all they can think about is the object of their affection. It’s like everything else disappears and passion can be pretty similar. Again, it has to be a practice of maintaining some self-awareness, and there are concrete things that you can do to keep self-awareness.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, lay it on us.

Brad Stulberg:                      What’s ironic here is that the way to maintain self-awareness in the pursuit of a passion is to get outside of yourself, because yourself becomes so wrapped up in what you’re doing. It’s like this web where only your passion is there. So some very simple things that you can do. One is to put yourself in situations where you’re experiencing awe. Go to an art gallery without your phone. Go on a day hike in a forest with no digital devices. There’s something about putting yourself in the way of beauty that kind of helps gain perspective and resets your brain to hey, like there’s more to life than this thing. I’m doing.

Another way to help with self-awareness is to have a close group of friends that you can really trust and make sure that they’re comfortable calling you out when you can’t see for yourself and then you have to listen to them. That’s the hard part because that’s when you’re going to lie to yourself. Your friend says, “Whoa, actually you’re a little bit overkill right now.” You’re gonna say, “No, I’m not. You don’t know what’s going on.” You have to make an agreement both with the friend to call you out and yourself took to listen to that friend.

If you’re not comfortable doing that, a really simple mental Jedi trick can be to pretend that one of your good friends was doing exactly what you’re doing and asked you for advice, what would you tell that friend? And then do that. It’s often very different than what you tell yourself. An example here that comes up often is you get an athlete that gets injured and they’re trying to train through the injury, which is so dumb and then you ask that athlete, well, like if your friend had the exact same issue and was trying to force themselves to the gym today, what would you say?

And you’d tell them, “Well, don’t go to the gym better to take a week off now than a year off later.” And then you say, “Well then why are you walking to the gym right now?” So it’s the ability to step outside of yourself that often helps you see what’s best for yourself in the midst of a passion. And then another simple practice is to reflect on mortality. There’s something about acknowledging the fact that you’re going to die one day that makes real clear what actually matters and it helps point you in that direction.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Yeah. Well, that’s good stuff. Yeah, it’s heavy and it’s excellent. Maybe because you share an example of someone that you’ve encountered that you think is doing the passion thing really well. Maybe if you can particularly in sort of their career.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah. There are lots of people, which is great. It’s very feasible and it’s very doable. Someone that comes to mind is an executive that I’ve coached and worked with quite a bit. She is at top five position at a Fortune 25 company.

Pete Mockaitis:                    So it’s only 2,500 people in the world it could be.

Brad Stulberg:                      Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Mathematically, wrong to be speculating.

Brad Stulberg:                      That’s as much as I’ll give, but you guys can do the research. This individual has been so good about setting goals and progression markers that are fully within this person’s control and then judging herself and whether or not she executes on those progression markers. Very, very good at ignoring to a large extent all the noise around her and what other people think, especially because when you’re in a big company like that so much of that is just political wind. And if you get caught in the political wind, you’re going to get blown around.

So the first thing that comes to mind is a relentless pursuit of the things that you could control and judging yourself only on those things. The other thing is completely sacrificing from this idea of balance and instead thinking about boundaries and presence. And what that means is setting real, clear boundaries about these are the times I’m going all in and these are the times I’m going to be going all in with something else, and that can be the difference between work and family, and then bringing full presence to those things.

Versus what so many people do and it’s a common trap is when you’re at work, you’re like 80% at work, but 20% dealing with family and friends. And when you’re with family and friends you’re 70% with family and friends, but 30% checking your phone and at work. Versus being really, really stringent about 100% there and then 100% there. And then evaluating trade-offs and making trade-offs. You have to give up a lot to be a leader in an organization like that, and this individual quarterly reflects on her core values and makes sure that the way that she’s spending her time is aligned with those core values and has made some real changes as a result of what’s come up.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Very nice. Brad, tell me-

Brad Stulberg:                      It’s doable though, which is great. It’s actually very doable. It’s just that, and this is part of the reason if not the whole reason that I wrote this book. This is not stuff that I was told going into the workforce, not stuff that I was told once I was in the workforce. These vague terms are thrown around, find your passion, follow your passion, have balance. And I wasn’t really sure what it meant and I saw myself falling into some of the traps of the obsessive bad passion and I also saw myself being so immersed in what I was doing that I was starting to question like, is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Maybe it’s just a thing but it’s both good and bad.

And when I started looking at the research, it’s kind of what I found was that wow, the way that people talk about this topic, which is so often talked about is completely out of sync with the truth and the nuance involved.

 

Pete Mockaitis:                    That’s beautiful. Thank you. Well, now you can share with us a favorite quote so that you find inspiring.

Brad Stulberg:                      It’s actually very simple. The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “This is it.” And I actually have a little bracelet that just has a charm that says, “This is it,” on it. And I think that that’s a wonderful reminder to be present. It’s basically like whatever is in front of you, that’s what’s happening right now. It’s an especially helpful practice for me with a one-year-old at home, sleepless nights, middle of the night he’s crying. It’s really easy to get lost in a pretty negative thought space. But nope, this is it, this is what’s happening right now. How can I be present for it and deal with it?

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

Brad Stulberg:                      The research that I’ve been sharing is top of mind for me. And I think just this notion of obsessive versus harmonious passion or being passionate about results versus the thing itself and just a strong relationship in the former to anxiety, depression and burnout and in the latter, to performance, meaning, and life satisfaction and how they’re both passions, it’s just like in which direction are they pointed and how at different times of people’s lives they’re in different ends of that spectrum. That’s to me it’s so fascinating and so important to be aware of because that can be the difference between a long fruitful career and a not so long rocky career.

Pete Mockaitis:                    And how about a favorite book?

Brad Stulberg:                      Oh my gosh, really? I have so many. How many am I allowed to go over?

Pete Mockaitis:                    We’ll say three-ish.

Brad Stulberg:                      Three-ish. All right. It’s funny. I get asked this question sometimes and I try not to have just like a can three books because I really think that the books are kind of … It’s like the right book for the right person at the right time. So what are my three favorite books right now? So Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig is a perennial favorite. I think that that book is always going to be in my top three, and then I’m going to pair it, I’m going to cheat. I’m going to pair it with the sequel Lila, which is less read, but an equally phenomenal book. So there’s that.

This is so tough. I’m reading Devotions right now by Mary Oliver, the poet that just passed away, which is a collection of her best poems and that feels like a favorite book right now. That woman can just get to the truth of how things are in so few words in a very lyrical way. So that’s a beautiful book. And then my third favorite book right now is probably a book called The Art of Living, which is by Thich Nhat Hanh, who’s the Zen Master whose quote this is it I just shared.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well, thank you. And how about a favorite tool so that helps you be awesome at your job?

Brad Stulberg:                      Meditation. That is a daily practice for me and it is so helpful in separating myself from my thoughts and my feelings and allowing me to have a more stable base upon which I work out of and then also allowing me to not get so attached to any one thing at any one point in time.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Is there particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks as you’re conveying this wisdom to them?

Brad Stulberg:                      I think it’s really important to ask yourself do you control your passion or does your passion control you? That’s kind of the heart of it. And if you control your passion, you’re in good shape. If your passion controls you, maybe consider some changes. And then equally important is this notion that passion is an ongoing practice. So it’s not a one time thing. So just because you control your passion right now doesn’t mean that that can’t change and just because your passion might control you right now doesn’t mean that can’t change. So it’s shift in mindset and to see passion is a practice and there are skills that support that practice and you have to develop them.

Pete Mockaitis:                    And Brad, if folks want to learn more or get in touch with, where to point them?

Brad Stulberg:                      So you can get in touch on Twitter where I am @BStulberg. So first initial of Brad and then my last name. And then through my website, which is www.BradStulberg.com.

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

Brad Stulberg:                      I obviously am going to encourage folks to read the book. I’m proud of it. It’s my best work yet. There’s a lot of things in there that have certainly had a huge impact on my career and my life outside of my career. So I’d love it if people consider reading the book. And then the second thing is to do something active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you are already, great, keep doing what you’re doing. And if not, there are few things that are more transformative.

We spent a lot of time talking about this neat psychological stuff, but just try to move your body regularly and it doesn’t have to be formal exercise. It can be walking. It can be taking the stairs always that adds up to about 30 minutes, but move your body. That’s something that’s kind of getting more and more lost in our modern world, and it’s unfortunate.

Pete Mockaitis:                    Well Brad, thank you so much for sharing the goods and I wish you tons of luck with the book, The Passion Paradox, and all your adventures.

Brad Stulberg:    Thanks so much Pete. I really enjoyed being on your show.

414: How Culture Change Really Happens with Gretchen Anderson

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Gretchen Anderson provides research insights on cultural shift from her work at the Katzenbach Center.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four elements critical to a work culture
  2. The role of the critical few in an organization
  3. How to leverage the behavior you already have for the bette

About Gretchen

Gretchen Anderson is a director at the Katzenbach Center who has been working  with client teams across the globe for over 15 years. Gretchen has a doctorate in literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her two children, Jane and Calvin. Her new book is The Critical Few: Energize Your Company’s Culture by Choosing What Really Matters.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Gretchen Anderson Interview Transcript

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

Gretchen Anderson
Hey, how are you, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I think we’re going to have a good time here.

Gretchen Anderson
Great. I’m really looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to get your take, first of all, it seems like we’ve got something in common
You and I both listen to podcasts while falling to sleep. I want to hear all about this habit of yours in terms of what are you listening to and how do you do it. What is actually stuck in your ears?

Gretchen Anderson
Yes. For a while I was really into these headphones called SleepPhones. They had a great pajamas for the ears.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh that is nice.

Gretchen Anderson
Which, I loved that name. But then I actually just discovered I could put my iPhone under my pillow and I just let it play.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay. That’s great.

Gretchen Anderson
What about you? What do you do?

Pete Mockaitis
I think I’ve got something called CozyPhones, which sounds similar.

Gretchen Anderson
CozyPhones. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve got SleepPhones.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I used to listen to strange recordings in the days before podcasts. Then I would get sick of them. But there’s some sort of perfect middle of the Venn diagram of it has to be interesting enough that it distracts me from my own thoughts, but boring enough that it doesn’t keep me awake. Obviously, Pete, Awesome at My Job is never going to be in that category.

Pete Mockaitis
You know just want to say.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. But also I like that the voice is familiar. Sometimes I’ll listen to things on linguistics. Topics that are sort of adjacent to mine and that I find interesting, but are not directly relevant or else my mind will still want to pay attention.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I’m intrigued by the SleepPhones. I’ve been using CozyPhones, which are nice, but they have a cord. I see the SleepPhones are wireless.

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks for the tip. I can get wireless there. I like to also listen to podcasts or Blinkist, which has all you book summaries. They’re a sponsor, thanks Blinkist, of the show. Or sometimes a TED talk, just the audio, because that …. You go, “Oh, okay.” Then once one goes, it’s like okay, that’s about the right amount of time. I’ll be asleep now.

Gretchen Anderson
for me if it has a dot of music, it wakes up like a bolt of lightning. Yeah. Honestly, the production values can’t be too high because I can’t have music.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for digging into that element. You’ve already educated me with something that could be transformational.

Gretchen Anderson
I’m glad. I’m glad. I’m glad. Everyone will be awesome-r at their job if they get a good night’s sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you on there. Can you orient us a little bit? You’re a director at the Katzenbach Center. You do a lot of work associated with company culture and simplifying that. Can you orient us to what do you do and why does that get you jazzed?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, so I run a knowledge center within a large consulting firm. I work within PWC. I run a center with a team that is the firm’s kind of incubation engine on topics around culture and leadership and motivation and performance.

Pete Mockaitis
I like all those things.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, it’s really fun. I get to have – we do research, we write, we have articles, we publish this book that we’ll be talking about today, and we get to take this very cross industry, cross-the-globe view. PWC is a very, very large global firm. We get to be part of conversations about how ideas and theories, about how culture works in a business context are happening literally everywhere. It’s really fun.

We get to see what’s kind of universal. What’s the common X-factor that’s going to help both a local green construction firm in Baltimore and a giant global technology firm? What’s going to ring true for leaders at both of those organizations? That’s the really fun part about my job.

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting, yes. You share some of your learnings in your book, The Critical Few. What’s the main message of the book?

Gretchen Anderson
The main message of the book is that culture, just like your strategy and your operating model, can and should be considered as absolutely a problem and an issue and an opportunity that gets leaders out of bed every day and that that motivational piece of the business if tapped and cultivated can be a source of positive energy for whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis
Positive energy, I like that. Well, could you maybe give us a picture of that in terms of maybe it’s a case study or a story or example of an organization that went from not so energized to wow, this is great.

Gretchen Anderson
we ground the book within a fictional case study about a CEO, who we call Alex. We did this in part because culture is such an intimate topic for so many organizations.

The book is the story of very much a composite of all the companies we have ever worked with. It’s the story of a fictional company, who has a CEO who’s come in that’s kind of a company in retail.

They’ve got a lot of things going for them, but a lot of things are tough. By working with this leader, we’re able to help him understand that working within and through the culture and the motivations that people have, he’s able to get the best out of that business.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you maybe orient us to what’s it look like when it’s not at its best in terms of the energy and the vibe amongst the people in terms of the daily grind versus the happy place toward the end?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I would say the real switch is that people within an organization before they begin kind of an evolution on culture that’s kind of purposeful and kind of critical few-ish in the way that we describe in the book, at the beginning they’re thinking about culture as something that’s standing in the way of getting work done in the way that they want to get work done.

It’s the thing that people throw their hands in the air and say, “It’s the culture. What are we going to do?” or “I would love to get this done,” or “This keeps happening and it seems like it’s the culture.”

It goes from being something that they feel is out of their control and kind of obtrusive and causing kind of drag to at the end of the book, they feel like there are specific things that they recognize what their culture is, they see it’s sort of core traits of who they are, they see how they came to be that way over time and how they’re not going to change them quickly.

They also understand that by being really precise about the behaviors that more people could do more of every day, by being really precise and really descriptive, by motivating and rewarding when people do those few behaviors, they’re able to start seeing them self-reinforce. They’re able to start see them virally spreading.

The book ends with a scene in a retail store, where the CEO and one of his board members literally watch a guy not knowing he’s being observed helping a customer in a way that he wouldn’t before and sort of attaching that to understanding that he’s part of this new shift in the culture and the direction.

Pete Mockaitis
When we say, “Hey, it’s the culture. It’s out of control. It’s a drag,” can you give us some examples of particular issues or complaints that folks would affix to that? “It’s the culture. It’s out of control. It’s a drag. It is what it is.”

Gretchen Anderson
we hear companies talk about this all the time. These are going to be really familiar to you and your listeners. They’re going to be, “We spend too much time in meetings and nothing ever gets done.” They’re going to be things like, “We’re drowning in a situation where decisions can’t be made without consensus.” It could be, “The way that things are drawn on paper, nobody follows those processes. Everybody bends the rules.” It could be all sorts of things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’d love to hear then sort of what are the four critical elements that you zero in on?

Gretchen Anderson
if I had to sketch the whole thing out for you, it sort of is the overall message of the book and of our approach is you have to be very comprehensive in how you think about what a culture is, but you also have to be willing to just start by looking at a piece of it and focusing in there.

Culture is a kind of ecosystem that includes how people behave, and how they feel, their emotional energy, their mindsets. It also includes specifically how they behave and show up to work together.
You, however, you can’t influence people’s mental states because they’re private, because I can’t tell when they’re changing. But what you can do is you can be very specific about behavior. We talk about behaviors as a point of entry.

We also say the culture of an organization as it exists today is where you need to start from. If you were to say to me, “I want to build a culture that looks like the culture of this wonderful restaurant down the street,” or “I want to build the culture of that technology company that everybody always talks about,”

I would say, “You know what, Pete? The culture of your organization grew up to be that culture for a reason and it supported the way that business has gotten done to date. Let’s figure out where you start from and then we’ll figure out where you’re trying to get to next.”

To bring it back to those four elements – that’s how we talk about that first element of the theory is this idea that every organization has a critical few traits. if we’ve all got the name of the same business on our business card and we all show up and work here and we’re part of this ecosystem, we’re going to share some family resemblance things in common.

Those might be things like a relationship orientation or they might be things like a focus on metrics or faith in our leader or – they’re a set of characteristics that if you met somebody you’d never met before but they both worked in the same company, you’re going to presume that they share.

And importantly, each one of those traits is going to have ways that they’re supporting you getting work done and ways that they’re hurting the work that you need to get done. There’s this notion that there are critical traits and all of those traits have ways that they’re helping and hurting. You can’t change them quickly, so what you might as well do is figure out how to work within them to get more of what you need.

Pete Mockaitis
Now when you talk about these traits, do you have sort of a master menu, if you will? I guess when you think of culture sometimes we can think about particular continua or dichotomies, like, “Oh, it’s very relationship oriented versus process oriented.”

Gretchen Anderson
Yup.
It’s always a tension because have you ever talked to any organization that is purely one or the other, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Gretchen Anderson
It’s interesting. We started thinking this way about traits seven or eight years ago. At that time we kind of purpose built them every time. We did a lot of interviews and kind of by hypothesis sort of built up what do we think these traits are after every – we’d have a lot of conversations. Then we started to realize some of these traits seem original to a company, but there’s a lot of ones that we kept seeing over time.

We’ve built a survey-based tool to kind of pull those out. That survey-based tool is definitely on kind of a poll of like “Are decisions made in this organization by consensus or are decisions made by single point of accountability?” “Do I feel I’m rewarded only for the financial metrics I deliver or do I feel that there are a broader set of points on which I’m evaluated?”

Very few organizations are going to fall far to the left or fall to the right. There’s definitely like a kind of spectrum quality to where organizations show up.

Pete Mockaitis
I love when you get really specific that way in terms of, hey, decisions can go one way or the other and sort of somewhere along the lines and then they how you get rewarded also. Can you unpack a few more of those dimensions?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, sure. We also think about is it very hierarchical or is it very flat. We think about do things follow the org chart or is everything very loose and informal? It’s those kinds of like, where are the pulls?

Another thing that’s really cool that doing this survey over time, I mentioned we do research the Katzenbach Center. We do longitudinally. Every couple of years we run a survey across organizations that mainly have been our clients basically because we have their emails. But 2,000 people in 50 countries responded to our last survey, so we get a pretty global and kind of cross-industry perspective on how people view these kinds of things as well.

We asked some of those questions and then mapped them to the industries that they answered. We’re even being able to start to say these are the kinds of traits that show up in particular industries.

We are saying yes, every organization kind of has its individual thumbprint, by taking such a close look at each organization, not against some external framework, but sort of in a very intrinsic take it in its own terms way, but by mapping that over time and looking across a lot of organizations, we’re able to see some trends that don’t mean, “Oh, we’re measuring you against our scorecard.” They’re very much built on the organizations own responses.

Does that make sense? You’re kind of wonky like me, I can tell. You’re asking me very detailed questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Because I think the world culture can be a little fuzzy for some.

Gretchen Anderson
For sure.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of “It’s the way we do things around here. It’s like the vibe. It’s the feel, Gretchen.” I think the more that we make it all the more precise is like, “What I mean by culture is when you make decisions is it more like or more like that? When people are rewarded is it more for this or more for that?” If you have any more kind of extremes or ends of continua, I’d love to hear them.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. Well, so some of the things that we’ve had a chance to see – one thing – and it’s actually come up in a couple of difference sources recently. Let’s talk about that spectrum of how we’re rewarded.

Am I, Gretchen Anderson, rewarded as an individual within my company? Do I feel like it’s just going to be metrics? I’m sorry. Do I feel like it’s just going to be financial metrics or do I feel like there are also going to be sort of how I made the people on my team feel and a sort of broader set of metrics?

We did a regression analysis against the 2,000 respondents. A guy in our network said, “It would be really interesting to take that data, do a regression analysis against how proud I feel to work where I work.” The highest correlation in any of those scores and questions we asked, the highest correlation was “Are my metrics broad?”

I thought that was really nice because I sort of know that intuitively. It feels better to me as an individual to feel as if my whole self – how I mentor people – it feels good to me as an individual to feel as if a broad set of metrics are applied to my performance than just one specific one.

But I really liked that our data – because we didn’t ask, “Do you your metrics make you feel good?” or whatever. We actually just did that correlation. That was really nice.

Then similarly, PWC has done a survey outside of the Katzenbach Center, a survey called Digital IQ. They did an external analysis based on market data of companies that are most innovative in a digital space, like highest digital innovation that they looked at externally rather than by asking them, “Are you digitally innovative?” It was a set of external market criteria. And then found broader performance metrics tended to correlate as well to higher digital innovation.

I thought that was cool. I try to take a point of view on culture. We try, within the Katzenbach Center, to say we’re not saying any kind of culture is all good or all bad and we’re not saying, “Look, here’s our scorecard of good culture. Take the survey. Uh-oh, you only got an eight.” That is not what we’re doing at all. We’re really trying to take every organization on its own terms and encourage them.

This is very much what the book is about. We’re encouraging every organization to look within, figure out what you’re best at, and try to do more of it rather than apply some external measure. But then the nice part is that over time and being very deliberative in this space, we’re able to start to actually say there are some things that we do see and believe really drive the kind of motivation that feels like  everybody wants more of.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear some of those. What are some of the things everyone wants more of?

Gretchen Anderson
What everybody wants is a culture that’s aligned with what the business is trying to do.

We argue the goals should be for if you are trying to do the hard caloric work of evolving your culture, that is about trying to find ways to make sure that individuals working within your company feel there is an alignment between the kind of messages I’m getting and kind of what I’m rewarded for and all of those things feel coherent for me with what I need to do to help this company perform.

In our mind when we’re saying, “You want to work on your culture,” we’re saying that should be your goal.

Pete Mockaitis
Very nice. Then that’s rather thoughtful then in terms of making sure you have that alignment as opposed to for instance, I think let’s say innovation. “Hey, we want to be more innovative. We want to have more ideas. We want to make them happen. But there are sort of behaviors and rewards and bonuses that are tied to never being wrong, for example.”

It’s like, “Oh, well, there you go. I feel kind of disjointed being here and it’s not so fun. Am I supposed to come up with wild ideas, which may or may not work or am I supposed to just sort of do the thing that we all know works, which would not be innovative?”

That’s nifty. Then I’d love to hear then, how do you zero in on particular behaviors and can you give us some examples of behaviors you might zero in on to support something and how you would get those reinforced?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, the idea is that those behaviors need to be not chosen at random, but what they need to be is they need to be a bridge between what we understand the culture to be today and where we’re trying to get to.

Let me explain it in the context of I’ve currently been having conversations – a wonderful guy reached out to me, who’s running a green construction firm in Baltimore.

He’s very much talking about “In this world that I’m in, how do I get everybody in my office from the back office staff to the frontline people, to be all more customer-focused, even if they’re not dealing with customers every day?”

We did this really fun workshop with them around given these kind of core traits of who we are, the sort of pride in our business, this sort of attachment to our leader and his vision and these traits of who we are, team oriented, safe and careful—what would customer service behaviors look like that would be grounded in the way we are today, that we all agree would help us kind of outperform our peers in the market on the dimension of customer service, but what might behaviors be?

They talked about like, might a behavior be a dress code, might we have a consistency of style and dress that would mark us as part of this company, that would be appealing? We actually had a wonderful conversation about one of the core traits that had come out in this company was a real organization-wide, autonomy was valued.

We had this amazing conversation about what might a behavior be of we understand how to dress for work that would respect that autonomy trait. We can’t roll something out organization-wide and make it really sound like a heavy new policy without it being tissue rejected by an organization in which people feel like they should be able to make autonomous decisions every day.

Again, none of this is magic, but what I’m trying to sketch and show was that by having these conversations and the ways that we’re grounded and the concepts that we talk about in the book, it kind of framed the right conversations such that they were able to talk about behaviors in a way that felt very realistic and practical and approachable and real.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. So what are they going to do?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. What they also decided to do and this is another really core part of the theory is they are going to work with the people in the organization to figure out the right answer. They’re going to work with the people in the organization, we call them the critical few people.

These are the authentic and formal leaders, who have a finger on the pulse of how everybody thinks and behaves there, who sort of intuitively know what the kind of emotional triggers are going to be for people. The leader there has decided to name a couple of those authentic, informal leaders, sort of put the case to them.

Again, I get to go all the way back to this overarching theory that the best that you have in your organization is already inside of it. A lot of times you need to guide an organization to understand that the answer isn’t going to come from something external, but from paying attention to the voices of the people inside.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. As you’re going about doing all of this, are there any particular tips, tricks, do’s, don’ts, key things you find yourself saying frequently as you’re making it happen?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, absolutely. A big one is it’s much easier to act your way into new ways of thinking than it is to think your way into new ways of acting. That’s from an author named Jerry Sternin, who wrote a book called The Power of Positive Deviance. We love that quote. This is about a sort of behaviors-first approach to making things happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Now could you give us a couple of examples of behaviors that have just been transformational in terms of you’ve identified this is the thing we’re really going to do and reinforce that just had powerful ripples for organizations?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, I could, but I want to pick on that question a little bit because I think innate to this idea is that the things I describe, there isn’t a behavior that is so magical that every organization could pick it up and apply it. It’s an adjustment from “Here’s what we’re doing today and here’s how it could happen better.”

It might be walk the front line and talk to folks every day and listen to what they say or it might be send every meeting invitation being very specific about what the outcomes of the meeting will be. It’s that there’s been energy behind that particular behavior and we’ve kind of agreed that if we commit to it collectively, it’s going to help us get somewhere rather than that there’s a – I wish there was.

If I could change every organization by saying, “There is a behavior and that behavior is hugging.” I would love to say that there is some universal solution or some behavior, but it’s amazing it’s usually the behaviors that organizations come to, it’s very important that they come to that consensus and that they describe those behaviors in language that makes sense to them, but it’s actually kind of hard to pull them out and show why they matter because it’s such an intimate answer.

Pete Mockaitis
I can understand that how for different organizations that, for example, the email meeting requests that are very specific on the outcome.

When you adopt that behavior, some groups would say, “Yes, what a breath of fresh air. That’s what we need so badly because we just meander all over the same place and we waste all this time.” Others would say, “Well duh, that’s how we’ve always done every meeting everywhere, every time, so there’s not a really a change or a gain to be made.”

Others would say, “Why do we need that at all? It’s self-evident. We all know what we’re trying to do here. Just two or three folks get together and we chat about how to bang out the widget better. It’s not that complicated. We don’t really need to do that.” I hear you that different behaviors will be the potent leverage prescription for different organizations.

In terms of how you zero in on what’s the thing for a given organization, it sounds like you identify the traits that you really want and then you talk to the people who are influential and have their finger on the pulse and are emotionally intuitive and with it with folks to see what they’re hearing and what they think would resonate. Are there any other sort of key practices to surface what might the kind of highly leveraged behavior be?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, absolutely, but let me make a small correction on what you’re saying. What you do is you leverage not necessarily the traits you really want, but the traits you really have. I know that sounds like such a small distinction, but it really is about you have your aspiration of where you’re trying to get to, but the important part is, you’re trying to ground it in a just where we are today that’s realistic.

Then you understand what we have, you understand what you’re trying to get to, whether that’s customer centricity in my example or in a highly-siloed healthcare organization we were working with recently, we understood that to be collaboration. That was the strategic aspiration that we needed.

But then the really critical thing to do as well is this notion of you choose what you’re going to measure and why. You resist the temptation and the impulse to try to find a comprehensive set of metrics that will measure everything and instead you say,

“When things start to change and feel different around here, where will we actually see that difference and how do we make sure we really pay attention to that and kind of drop a thermometer there such that we’re able to really get beyond people’s natural cynicism that culture can’t change, demonstrate, look, we said upfront there would be this proof point and we have it!” and use that measurement and the reporting of that measurement to be the energy that helps people move forward and move on.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of measures, so for example, collaboration, what kind of numbers might you put on that?

Gretchen Anderson
There actually was a really cool example from our own firm. We did in the Canadian firm within PWC, they did an organizational network analysis.

Everyone sort of took it as a – this sounds correct that we’re constantly asking partners in a professional services firm to collaborate with other partners outside of their business area. That sounds like a good idea.

But they did an organizational network analysis to figure out who sort of had the densest networks and whose networks stretched across – if I’m a partner in financial services, how well connected I am to partners in other parts of the business. They were actually able to correlate revenue per account to partners that had the strongest network relationships outside of their immediate area.

What a beautiful way to kind of specifically encourage a behavior to say “Let’s look at this behavior. Let’s measure how the networks map to this and let’s actually track it to revenue.” When actual business results can be tracked to something that we’re trying to encourage, that’s always really beautiful.

It’s rare and wonderful when you can come up with one kind of very clear metric like that. Usually we say, “Find every point at which – how many people show up for the program? Do we see an increase in engagement scores around particular issues we’re looking for? What are the things that you measure already and where can we see some kind of lift there?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so it’s nice certainly when you see hey, we want collaboration and we’ve got a nice proof point. Hey, look at this correlation partners who are well-connected with all sorts of different areas are having higher revenue per account, which makes sense because they’re able to recommend cool stuff to their relationships at the accounts. Then what is the behavior that you want folks to do more of when it comes to bringing more collaboration?

Gretchen Anderson
Within that example with the partners, I would probably say, if we want to figure that out I would want to kind of trail the partners who are doing it well.

I would want to trail them and say, “Are you flying to different client’s cities and setting up dinners with partners who you don’t often see even if you’re not on a pursuit together? Are you sitting down every morning and writing ten emails to people in the network?” I think it would look different. We would try to figure out what were people doing that seemed to be most influential and how can we get more people to do more of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you. Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Gretchen Anderson
Sure, yeah. I talked a little bit earlier about interesting trends that we saw in our kind of global survey in those results. We had a really from this very, very diverse 2,000 respondents, we had a very interesting thing pop up. Again, it was the sort of thing that we’d known intuitively through many years of working with organizations of different sizes and different maturity levels and industries.

We walk into an organization and we ask the leaders how the culture is and they very often have lots of positive things to say about it. Then when we go further down into the weeds, into middle management, into the frontline, it is definitely a different story and a lot of times kind of that’s where the truth lies. That sounds kind of obvious, but our survey data popped that out so baldly.

When we asked the question, “Do senior leaders have culture as an important topic on their agenda?” if you responded to that in our survey and you identified yourself as a senior leader, you were 71% likely to agree versus only 48% of people who did not identify themselves as being part of the leadership team.

We were like, “Wow, that’s remarkable.” That tendency to use culture more cynically further down in the organization is almost a universal based on our data. We thought that was really cool.

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

Gretchen Anderson
You’ll like this as a podcast host, from the podcast StoryCorps, I really like the quote, “Listening is an act of love.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Gretchen Anderson
I wish I could remember the author right now – but read an article recently in HBR that was about how we like to believe that open office spaces make people behave in ways that are more collaborative. A huge amount of real estate dollars have been spent on that concept kind of in the past 30 years.

But a guy did a study, a HBR professor did a study using people’s Fitbits to track – there was a major change in an office layout and they tracked by Fitbits before and after how much people got up and walked around and talked to their colleagues. The open office space, paradoxically, made people stay at their desks more.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, is that because you can just talk to someone without moving?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, or you’re slightly getting so sick of people that you’ve got your headphones I loved that point just in the sense of what we think in a top-down way is going to cause a certain behavior, is not necessarily what’s going to happen. If those leaders had interviewed everybody about what really would drive collaboration, they might not have started with real estate.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Gretchen Anderson
I love a book called Everybody Lies. It is about Google search data. It came out this year. It’s basically about how indirect – the ways that people query in Google forms a sort of more accurate record of predictor of how they’ll behave than kind of direct surveys. I’m getting at really, really interested and feel like the next frontier of culture work has to do around how do you measure behavior not by asking people, “Are you going to behave this way?” but really by indirect forms.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah. Can you give us an example of one way we lie?

Gretchen Anderson
The great example from the book was around – it’s a really obvious one – but if you asked people, “Are you going to vote in an election?” versus if you found out how many people queried the location of their polling site. That second query almost entirely correlated to how many people voted in a certain district versus the question the day before, “Are you going to vote?” obviously a lot more aspirational.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Gretchen Anderson
It’s a good one, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I see that a lot just in talking to leaders about in order to get at culture, you always have to go at it slant. You have to kind of think about what motivates people and what they’re truly going to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Gretchen Anderson
That’s such a good question. I’m going to say something surprisingly old fashioned. I can’t survive without a notebook next to me at all times.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Gretchen Anderson
I travel with a yoga mat.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh good.

Gretchen Anderson
I won’t get on an airplane without my folding yoga mat in my bag. I think it’s a good sort of self-reinforcing one.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks? You hear them sort of repeating it back to you frequently?

Gretchen Anderson
I think it would probably be about how most leaders wildly overestimate how rational people are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s resonating with me.

Gretchen Anderson
….

Pete Mockaitis
Rational in the sense of doing what it is in their best interest or doing what is logical or what do you mean by rational?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I’ve taken this very much many years of working with John Katzenbach, the emotional drivers of how an organization behaves are – I’m not going to say more powerful than the rational ones, but so easy to ignore.

And that really understanding the people’s pride in their work, people’s sense of disenchantment when things feel incoherent, people’s motivation to work with someone who makes them feel good about the work that they do. Those are really powerful reservoirs of energy, but that it is much, much easier and tempting for most leaders to really focus on the rational reasons than be utterly baffled why things don’t line up like that.

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

Gretchen Anderson
I would point them to the website for the book. It’s TheCriticalFewBook.com. That will also point them to the Katzenbach Center at PWC. There’s a link through to that. You can also follow me on Twitter. I’m at GBrooksAnderson. You can find our book on Amazon.

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

Gretchen Anderson
I feel like in the many years I’ve been doing this kind of work, I both realized through my own personal experience as well as watching organizations work, I think you need to really pay attention to what gives you the most energy. You need to think about what are the situations in which I feel motivated. Just to find yourself in them more often.

I feel like so many people spend their careers and lives kind of beating themselves up for not feeling that motivation. It’s the quieting down and saying, “What do I feel energy around?” that usually leads you to the question that you and you alone were meant to solve.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Well, Gretchen, this has been fun. Thanks and good luck with all you’re doing there.

Gretchen Anderson
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. I really appreciate the time.

413: How to Exude Credibility with Rob Jolles

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Rob Jolles provides practical wisdom on how to come across as more believable.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one reason why people don’t believe you
  2. How method acting can lead you into peak presenting performance
  3. Why you should embrace your own dysfunctions

About Rob

Rob Jolles is a sought-after speaker who teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. His live programs around the world have enabled him to amass a client list of Fortune 500 companies including Toyota, Disney, GE, a dozen universities, and over 50 financial institutions. He is the best-selling author of six books, including his latest release, Why People Don’t Believe You…Building Credibility from the Inside Out.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Rob Jolles Lederman Interview Transcript

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

Rob Jolles
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to dig in. I think you’ve got so much good stuff to share. Maybe you’ll be able to share it, if necessary, in a rapid format because you are a licensed auctioneer! How does one get licensed to be an auctioneer and tell us a tale or two of your auctioneering adventures?

Rob Jolles
Okay. Well, when you have a big mouth and you run it around for 30 years giving seminars, everybody assumes, “Hey, this guy can do anything on a stage.” But I want to tell you, in the State of Virginia, where I initially got licensed, it’s harder than it looks. It was 80 hours of certified instruction.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Rob Jolles
To be allowed to take the three-and-a-half-hour exam. I had to study cattle and cars and horses and antiques. But really all I wanted, unfortunately there isn’t a license like this, all I wanted to do was be able to work charities. I felt like it was a good way of giving back, maybe using my skills for something really valuable.

That’s about nine and a half years ago. I took my courses. I got certified. I’ve been probably averaging an auction a month, maybe an auction every other month, but 95% for charities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s awesome. Then I guess if you’re doing it for charities, then you’re doing it for free. I’m wondering with all that education, what would an auctioneer be paid if he or she were doing a gig for a bankruptcy? Hey, we’ve got an auction. I’m the auctioneer. I’m well-trained and licensed and educated. What would that return in a gig?

Rob Jolles
Actually, it’s usually a percentage of profit there. For charity auctioneers, we’re not quite as fortunate. It’s a fraction of what I normally get paid. Actually, what I typically do with a charity is, I sort of get paid a little and then I never walk out the door with it. I just simply hand it back so that I can deduct from my taxes.
I want to stay true to the intent, which is there are certain things that we do in life that really have to pay the bills and keep the electric running and there are other times in life where we do things that are really just to help others.

When I speak at universities and things like that and they have a little honorarium, what’s the sense of me really taking that? I’m going to do something nice, let’s go all the way. That’s for charity. Now sometimes I’ll do a shopping center or I’ve done some universities. I’ll take a little something, but it’s a fraction of what I normally get.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Have you ever auctioned off anything crazy or strange or just noteworthy?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I’ll tell you the best thing I ever auctioned off. Believe it or not – and this is for anybody that’s ever thinking of putting an auction together, this is what you’re looking for. It’s not a yard sale.

When Letterman was still doing his show, we got two tickets to Letterman. Well, they’re free, but we got backstage passes and you can’t always do that. Then Marriot threw in a couple nights and we got two train tickets. When we packaged that altogether and particularly with that unique ability to get back stage, something you can’t really get on your own, sort of like Saturday Night Live tickets, that item went for a little over 30,000 dollars. It was fairly simple.

That and we also got one time I auctioned off tickets to the Academy Awards. Again, something you can’t normally get on your own. You’re not going to find it on Craigslist. Other than the limo, I think that was in the 30 – 35,000 dollar range. Those are the kind of things that really actually will excite an audience.

Pete Mockaitis
That is very clever. If there are any fundraisers in the house, there’s the trick. You get something you can’t get under normal circumstances. Then you package it together into a cool experience and there it is, the secret to a successful fundraising auction. Didn’t even know we were going to learn that today. Thank you.

But what I was planning on learning a bit about was some of the wisdom in your book, Why People Don’t Believe You. Great title. Tell us, what’s the big idea? Why don’t people believe you?

Rob Jolles
When you say big idea and I’m ready for you now because I actually thought, “What is the big idea? I better know that. It is my book.” I think the big idea is, there’s two of them. First of all, I’m pleased you like the title. It wasn’t my title, but most of us who write books, we’ll get everything but our title in there. The publisher typically knows more about titles than we do.

But the big idea in my original title was it’s not the words; it’s the tune. A lot of times, and I’m guilty of this spending 30 years of my career, of my life, running around the country teaching people what to say, what to say, what to say. We don’t really stop and say wait a minute. Let’s forget the words. How are we saying it? I’d say in a sense that’s part of the bigger picture of the book.
But to really drill down on your question, I think the biggest reason why people don’t believe us, as strange as this may sound, is we don’t believe us. Things in the book, I know they sound simple, but so are asking questions and listening, but who does that? It’s such a fundamental communication piece. The easiest way to be believed is to actually tell the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Rob Jolles
When you stop and think about that, do you have the best podcast out there? Well, from what I hear, it sure is, but you have to believe that. If it isn’t, you have to do everything you can to make it a great podcast, to put your heart and soul into it. If you go to bed at night and you truly believe that, you don’t have to worry about sounding authentic. Now you believe it and the tune will follow.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Now, you’re getting me thinking here because we were talking just beforehand when I was stalking you and deciding whether or not to invite you. You passed. Nice job. You made reference to the greatest life insurance salesperson ever; Ben Feldman is his name, if anybody wants to take a look. I’m always intrigued by the greatest in the world.

I sort of listened to an interview with Ben Feldman. He doesn’t sound super engaging in the interview, but boy, does he believe in life insurance being just a powerful force for goodness for humanity. It’s clear that he believes that with a deep abiding passion, which is striking because I hadn’t thought of life insurance in that way before, but there you have that. The best in the world had that at a really high level.

Rob Jolles
Let’s put a cherry on that sundae because yup, he completely dominated the insurance industry for decades and I mean dominated from the sprawling metropolis of East Liverpool, Ohio. But how about this that we add to that story, the fact is he was the greatest that ever lived by the numbers. He spoke with a lisp. He was actually a fairly quiet guy.

He didn’t have any of the attributes that we naturally associate with the greatest salesperson, that Glengarry Glen Ross kind of Alex Baldwin character. He was the complete opposite. I guess when you hear that, whoever’s listening just remember that he was true to his own unique style. You can’t imitate this guy. The best imitation you do is of yourself. Not only did he believe in his product, he was true to his style. He didn’t emulate anyone but himself. That’s what made him really successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you’re telling the truth, you’re believing it deep down. If you’re not yet believing it, you’re doing all you can to get there with believing it in terms of improving the actual kind of facts of the situation. Then when it comes to the tune, how do we sing a tune that’s more appealing?

Rob Jolles
That’s interesting you say sing because as I was working through the manuscript I was actually at one point trying to create a musical score in a sense of the tune, but my musical score had places where we would pause, had places where we would change our pitch, had places where we would change our pace. Actually all found in music if you think about it.

Unfortunately, although I’ll work on pitch and pace and pause with people, the problem is every question you just asked me right now, I can’t go, “Okay, hang on one second. Let me figure out where my pitch goes up and let me figure out where I’m going to slow this down and where I’m going to speed it up.”

We do focus on pitch, pace, and pause, which to me are critical pieces. But the key is to get that authentic voice to do it without having to sort of stop and micromanage where those pieces are. I don’t know if when you’re talking to me, for instance, you’re gesturing with your hands, but imagine if we stopped and I said, “Point here. Put your hand up over there.” We want that to kind of become as natural as we can.

I think one of the secret sauces, if you will, of the book is actually thinking more like a method actor. What if we took ourselves and actually placed ourselves in the moment. I don’t mean just in the moment. I mean even the point we were just talking about, truly believing.

Well, maybe we’re getting beat up a little bit out there right now. Maybe our product is – it’s just been tough for us but weren’t there times in our life where everything we touched sort of worked out well, where we knew the next time we picked up the phone or knocked on a door, it was going to go well. The other six did.

Why can’t we as a method actor take ourselves to that moment? Are you telling me that when we knock on the door this time, we’re going to be less effective with that in our mind? That’s where that pitch, pace, and pause sometimes can come more naturally.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. You’re saying let’s not put our focus on “Okay, at this point in my second sentence, I’m going to drop my pitch low,” and sort of plan that out in great detail, but rather to get in the zone associated with when you were rocking, rolling, and believing and nailing it and high performing, so just sort of method acting into that spot and these things will sort of naturally follow well.

Could you maybe bring this all together in an example or a case study of someone whose credibility wasn’t so hot and then they did some things and they saw it really get hot again?

Rob Jolles
Sure. Actually, this whole book really began with me in a bad mood in a bad evening being asked to speak to a group called the Career Network Ministry, a group that just helps people in career transition. I don’t necessarily like to speak free a whole lot, but I bumbled my way in and figured I’ll talk to a dozen people and get this over with. There 250 to 300 people in the room. I’ve been volunteering for six years ever since. It was such a moving experience.

But one of the things I noticed in that room – and that was my petri dish, that’s where this started – was I noticed words. We were working on resumes – words. We were working on elevator pitches – words. We were working on LinkedIn sites – words. We were working on the words and nobody was focusing on the tune.

To answer your question, I actually stated about five and a half years ago I put together my first group of a dozen people. To get in this program, two days, you had to be unemployed a minimum of two years. Half my room was unemployed for over five years. That’s chronic unemployment.

We put on a two-day program. I bumbled and fumbled my way through it, but we were hitting on something because 10 of the 12 people were hired within three months. That’s when I realized, okay, we’ve got something.

But I’m telling you, going back on some of the questions you asked, I wasn’t working on the words in there. I took that elevator pitch – there’s some value in those – but I put it in the corner and we worked on their character. We worked on who they were, what they were, taking them through those moments of success and man, the hands and the words, and the pitch, and the pace, it followed.

But there’s an answer to your question. It was 10 for 12 coming out of the gate. That’s when I knew, I think we maybe even have a book here, but I’ve got to keep digging into this.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating. Do tell, what are some of the most impactful transformational exercises or practices that make that come alive?

Rob Jolles
Wow, that’s a good question. One of them we were talking about is whenever I ask them anything, I really try and trim people down to what I call a communication shot clock. Look, there’s a shot clock in basketball. It keeps the game moving. There’s a shot clock in football, actually. It keeps the game moving. There may very well be a shot clock in baseball, they’re going to try it in preseason, to keep the game moving.

We are in a society now where books are getting smaller and people just don’t have that bandwidth to stay with us. Even our videos are four to six minutes in length. One of the things as an example was, stop talking to them, getting them up to speak, getting them into character, and working on their shot clock, meaning, trimming those questions down and saying, “Rather than giving me your three best points. Give me your best point. If I want more, I’ll ask for it.”

It was an example of really trying to get them a little bit quicker, a little bit lighter on their feet. As an example, that was one technique that we used.

Pete Mockaitis
Then you said with the shot clock, is there an optimal do you recommend time that you would put on the shot clock in terms of number of seconds that you would speak before being quiet?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I actually have a number and I’m going to give it to you, but please understand I’m answering your question, so it’s sort of like when I teach people to sell and I’m saying you’ve got to ask second and third level questions. The hand will go up and say, “Exactly how many?” It’s like, “Well, that’s going to really depend on the personality of the client, etcetera.”

But I really actually like 45 seconds. I think it’s a great number. If I go a minute and ten, that’s okay. If we go shorter, that’s okay too. A lot of the times if I’m dealing with a more social environment, more social client, I’ve kind of got the green light to go a little bit longer. If I’m dealing with a more dominant client, I’m probably going to trim back. There’s other variables.

But I love the conversation we’re having because I get frustrated when people are bobbing and weaving, saying, “But …” I think 45 seconds is a good target, but read your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yes. That is a helpful benchmark because I think it’s possible that you can under speak as well. I’m just thinking about this. I said, “Hey, tell us about you becoming a licensed auctioneer.” It’s like, “I had 80 hours of instruction and then passed a three-hour exam.” It’s like, “Okay, well, Rob, this is really interesting.”

Rob Jolles
… on the show. You’re really talented.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that makes good sense in terms of it’s a very rough ballpark zone, but if you’re five seconds, it’s like, “Okay, do you hate me? What’s going on here?” It’s hard to form a connection. If you’re too long, it’s like, “Okay, I already sort of got the message I was after way earlier and ready to move on to something else.” I appreciate that. That’s one principle is the communication shot clock. What are some of the other practices or exercises that are really transformational here?

Rob Jolles
Well, I’m going to give you a couple more, but I want to give you a big picture here because if you study my career, I’m actually going at a different angle right now. I got my hardcore training with Xerox. You didn’t tie your shoe without a process of some sort at Xerox. But when you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you’re doing. When you can measure it, you can fix it. Boy, am I a repeatable, predictable process person.

Yet, the topic that we’re in, I’ve sort of had to look at the mirror and go it’s not all process-oriented. I sort of reframed it in my mind and I said it’s more about percentages, meaning. It’s sort of like when we eat, okay? “I’m a healthy person.” “Good. Well, what do you do?” “Well, I no longer put sugar in my coffee, just Stevia.” “That’s it?” “Yeah, that’s it.”

Well, okay. If you really do that all the time and you’re a big coffee drinker, I guess that’s about a one percent – two percent play. I don’t know if you’re healthier yet, but I guess it beats the alternative. But you look at healthy people’s example and they’re doing 15 – 20 things, exercise, this, that. Together, they create a formidable percentage.

What we’re talking about right now is really percentage plays. A communication shot clock gives us a couple of percentage plays. Truly believing in yourselves gives us percentage points. Taking ourselves mentally to a place where we’re successful gives up percentage points. I’m going to give you percentage points as opposed to process. Like I said, I’m almost arguing with me right now because I’m so bred into process, but we’re into a topic that is more percentage than process.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say percentage, you’re sort of using this as a label of a different means of thinking about approaches such that a process seems to apply if you do A, B, C, D, E, F, you’ll arrive at this end result, whereas percentage says, “Of the result you’re after, one thing can account for 5% of getting to the result and another thing can account for 10% of the thing.” Thusly, you’re kind of suggesting that an A, B, C, D, E process ain’t going to get you 100% of the way to where you want to be.

Rob Jolles
Exactly. Let me give you a percentage move as an example. Thank you because that’s exactly what I’m saying, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Rob Jolles
A percentage move for me, a lot of people, for instance, when they’re struggling to be believed and they’re, “Okay, I’m going to believe in myself, this and that, but this company, they’re looking at four other people. One of them, I don’t know, they may have a better relationship.” Well, they might. They might not.

I love really actually focusing the brain on playing the course and not the opponent. I’m going to get percentage pieces out of this because by that I mean if you watch actually a good golfer it’s shocking. They never look at the scoreboard. For three days, they don’t look at the scoreboard. They don’t care.

They’ll look in the final two holes, three holes because they may have to change their strategy, but how in the world do you play a competitive event without looking around at your opponent? The answer is well, what value does looking at the opponent really have? If you sink a 40-foot putt, good for you. Me focusing on that not only doesn’t change a thing, it removes the focus from my putt. It removes the focus from what I’m doing.

I think, as an example, we spend too much time worrying about things we can’t control. Honestly, if I thought worrying about it would move the dial one percentage point, I would be the most competitive worrier you ever met, but it actually takes away. It doesn’t add. Things like playing, the course, not the opponent, things like accepting your limp.

You started the conversation about Ben Feldman. Again, look him up folks. Like I said, appearance-wise, he wasn’t necessarily that natural salesperson look or sound, but in a sense he had his own limp. We all walk with a limp. Do you know how many people are held back from their own ability to convince others because of their limp?

I lost my hair, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I had to accept it. It’s one of my limps. But what I found is, the moment it stopped being important to me, it was never really important to anybody else. It was me that was focused and obsessed. If we take that example and look at people that just have certain issues, maybe they don’t have that natural punch in their voice, it’s okay. Don’t be somebody you’re not. Just move it from a two to a four, that’s all I’m asking.

But if we accept our limp, if we play that course.
We don’t have to misuse our imagination. That lovely quote I actually have by my coffee bar, “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” It’s a wonderful quote. If we start removing those pieces, each thing I’m talking about is getting us a percent here and three percent here and two percent there. I can give you five more, but I think you’re getting the drift of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I am, I think, getting the drift of it. I imagine you’ve given me the biggest percentages already upfront. Is that fair to say?

Rob Jolles
It depends on the mood that I’m in. It actually depends on the person because when you’re communicating, for instance, if you just pay attention to your transitions – so many people will micromanage the body of whatever they’re communicating about, particularly presenters. If they actually micromanage the transitions and stuck their landing in the end and spent 90% of their time on the opening, they would increase their credibility.

Again, because it’s percentage plays, each percentage move will fit a different customer a different way, but yeah, I’m not wasting your time. I’m giving you ones that I think really resonate and I see get a big bang for the buck for most of the people that I’m working with.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh great. Now, I just want to make sure I got the transitions point clear. You’re just saying if you’re doing a presentation or a speech, you want to give some extra attention to how you’re transitioning from one section to another instead of fumbling or being awkward during those moments?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I did chuck that one in from left field, didn’t I? Absolutely. I train a lot of speakers. The irony is usually that the core of most presentations have oftentimes, particularly for corporate America, but oftentimes they’ve gone through a legal read. We can’t really change them all that much.

What makes a great communicator and an average communicator? It’s not the body of the message. It’s them coming out of the gate with an interesting story and idea, really addressing what’s in it for the client. Thinking out the beginning.

But to get right at what you just asked, the transitions, yeah, we probably have three or four major points. If I really think those out – I’m not a guy who believes in scripts – but if I actually write them out, maybe back them down to a Word outline, if I spend my time working on how I’m going from Point A to Point B and sewing that body together, as I said, coming out of the gate strong and sticking my landing, closing strongly, yeah, I’ll probably give one of the best presentations I’ve ever given. But it has very little to do with memorizing the body. That’s not where success lies.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting because the big chunks one, they may be unmovable because of legal review, two, you probably remember them just because one thing leads to another. “This is the story about how I formed an accountability group in college.” Hey, that’s one chunk and I know it. We’ll go and make it happen. But what I don’t know so much is how I’m going to move from maybe that piece to how friendship is important.

Rob Jolles
By the way, that’s the way most people do it. They’ll go … “Friendship is important,” but when they transition with, “We all have these different pieces I just mentioned, but there’s one piece that we don’t pay attention to and that’s friendship. You see, friendship is important,” something along that line so that it’s effortless. When people walk away they go, “Boy, that was really good.”

Now look, we could spend our time talking about presentations. I’m going to involve that audience. The more they talk, the more they typically like and trust that presenter. I’m going to do other things, but it’s the transitions even when we communicate and are not giving presentations.

What if we’re just in front of somebody giving a proposal, what if we’re having a conversation and we want to get the three major points, it’s that smooth transition as opposed to that bumpity, bump, bump, bump. It sounds like Pete wanted to talk about this one. That’s the one I want to avoid. That doesn’t sound authentic. We circle back to our topic, which is why people don’t believe you because it’s not sounding authentic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. I get a real kick out of when the transition is too, “So, can I have your money?” and it’s done poorly. It’s like, “Oh, you poor guy. Well, I’m already on board with your vision, so it’s fine, but-“ Okay, awesome. Let’s dig into a little bit of this now. Believing in yourself, that sounds classic and helpful and essential, but in practice, if your belief in self is moderate, like “Yeah, I can do a decent job most of the time I guess,” how does one elevate that?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Did you ever see there was a commercial done years ago by FedEx? It’s actually on YouTube. You can find it online. It was called The Stolen Idea.

It deals with a boss who’s asking for ideas. One guys says, “Well, we could probably save money by putting all our shipping in one area and using FedEx.” You could hear a pin drop. Five seconds later the boss says, “I’ve got it. We can put everything in one area. We can use FedEx to do it all. That’ll save us on shipping.” Everybody goes, “That’s brilliant.”

The guy says, “You just said the same thing I said only you did this,” and he’s moving his hands horizontally. The boss says, “Nope, I did this,” and he moves his hand vertically because that was his gesture. I actually look at that commercial and I think that’s our jumping off point. Yes, I know what FedEx was after and shame on that boss for stealing that idea. But we need to teach people how to do this. This matters. That moving of the hands, that really matters.

To me, it’s a matter of kind of oftentimes finding your real voice. Not finding some voice you saw on television or who you heard on a podcast, but finding your real voice.

I don’t know last time you’ve been on a plane, but when you’re on a plane and the flight attendant starts speaking, you think “It’s funny, he or she was just here. We had a nice conversation. But now I’m hearing this really weird singsong ….” That’s not a real voice.

Why is it that a lot of times when we’re presenting or when we’re under pressure, we start going after this I guess the voice we thought we were supposed to have? Nobody wants that. People just want to believe. They want that to be authentic.

I always look at people and I think, if we were two people having a beer or having a cup of coffee, would you still talk and walk and behave this way or would you just drop all that and have a conversation? It’s really about finding that real voice. Honestly, you don’t have to look that far.

I’ll whisper this to presenters right before they go on stage when they’re a little bit tight. The last words I’ll typically tell somebody is, “If you were walking into your living room, what would you feel and how would you take that stage? That’s your living room. Now go enjoy yourself.” Forget all that other nonsense. In the living room, it’s pretty easy. Well, that’s all the audience wants. Whether it’s 50 people, 500 people or 1 person, they’re in your living room. Go have a conversation. We don’t need anything but authenticity.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny when you say the living room, my first thought is, “Well, I’m taking off these dress shoes and putting on my slippers.”

Rob Jolles
Well, I knew a presenter who was actually very successful. Now this was in the ‘90s. But he was a finance person and a finance specialist, which already you think, “Well, okay. Here’s comes that big old suit.” But he would take his shoes off when he went on that stage.

It was kind of his shtick. It was like George Burns smoking a cigar or something. This was his shtick. He was the guy who would take his shoes off. But it worked for him. It wasn’t shtick. I got a chance to speak to him a couple times and he just wanted to get to a place where he was as comfortable as he could be because then he could take that communication and make them as comfortable as they can be.

Last thing about that, but it’s really important to understand that an audience really they want to enjoy themselves. They want you to be successful. The best way to make an audience uncomfortable is for you to be uncomfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s very true.

Rob Jolles
Then they feel badly for you and then they have a problem. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah. It hurts to watch somebody who’s bombing. They know they’re bombing. They’re nervous about bombing. It’s like, “Oh man.” It’s just fun to watch someone having fun. It’s like, “I’m not super into the content of what you’re saying, but it’s kind of enjoyable to watch you be into it. Yeah, take it away.”

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s the funny thing. If you think about some of the great – Johnny Carson or Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon, what are some of the most enjoyable parts of the monologue or the conversation? When something bombs. They don’t put their head in their hand and they go, “Oh no. What happened here?” What they do is they just work with it.

The audience loves it because you didn’t make the audience feel sorry for you. You said to them in a sense, “I’m glad this happened. Let’s just work with it.” When you can take that with you and realize that what’s the worst happen, really just making them feel badly, so don’t. Away we go. It’s a lot easier up there than you think.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. I think I made some references to maybe college audiences and they’re just like, “We have no idea what this.” I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m getting old.” They all just sort of – you can just sort of laugh about that. It’s like, “Yup, okay.” Then away we go. As opposed to “Oh, that’s so stupid. I shouldn’t have made that allusion. Look up the dates next time, Pete. Oh! Bad, bad, bad.”

Rob Jolles
You know something, Pete? You hit on something else that I think is actually really important.  When we’re not in front of people, and remember we’re talking about building credibility, believing in yourself, and then taking that to others.

Do you know – and my wife helped me with this one – do you know how innocently that inner voice starts chirping at you of “If you had half a brain, you would have remembered to bring this with you on the road.” “Hey stupid, don’t forget that.” Do you know that that’s a lot more dangerous than we give it credit? It doesn’t have to be in front of anyone. It can just be with ourselves. But you keep beating yourself up like that, you’re going to start believing it.

I really some years ago decided it’s not okay to make fun of me and to start moaning and whining and complaining about certain things. People forget things. I’m two and a half million miles in the air, believe me I’ve forgot things in my bag. But I’ve decided – and it really works and I think it works for others – to be a lot kinder yourself.

Stop chirping and beating yourself up about things. Just like we would talk about in front of an audience, be nice to yourself when there isn’t an audience in front of you too.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to hit that point real quick. If you are in that mental habit, how does one kick it?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Well, the first thing we have to do is we have to go from unconsciously incompetent, which is “Hey, that’s okay,” or “I don’t even notice it,” to really starting to become aware of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the four levels of conscious behavior, but we start with unconscious incompetency, which is sometimes we don’t know that we don’t know. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Well, that’s why you and I are having this conversation because now maybe we’ll be on the lookout for it. As a matter of fact, just talking about it, I can assure you, there are many people who are listening right now will go, “I do that, but I don’t mean anything by it.” I’m telling you it’s a cancer. It grows. You don’t realize it. Let’s move you to conscious incompetency, which means I want you to be aware when you do it.

Then let’s move to conscious competency. I want you to be a little robotic and every time it accidently happens, I want you to stop and correct it. I know that’s a little bit stiff and weird. Until we become unconsciously competent, when we do it and we don’t have to think about it anymore. But it’s natural to be on that scale. The first thing is we have to remind ourselves it’s not okay. It is not okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, so now-

Rob Jolles
I said it’s not okay. Sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
That is not okay. I am now acknowledging what you said and moving to something new.

Rob Jolles
Okay. I’ve got to climb in through the window there. I was out there yelling at people. Okay, I’m back in. Let’s keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s talk about that process by which you take yourself back to a place in which you were successful and thusly you method act your way into having a high performance moment. In practice, what are the steps to make that happen?

Rob Jolles
Well, the first thing – I’m going to leave the corporation out. There’s a Fortune 500 company I’ve been working with on this. One of the things we did was, again, think method acting. What we did was we began to on a piece of paper create a character.

One of my favorite actors is Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m not sure he’s ever going to be in another movie again, but when he was – I don’t know if you saw Lincoln, but if you did, it was probably a little slower than you imagined. I knew it was going to be slow because I actually read a bunch of books on Lincoln and Lincoln wasn’t the most exciting person in the world. But on set, you had to call Daniel Day-Lewis either Mr. President or Mr. Lincoln. He doesn’t mess around.

When we’re talking, to answer your question, we’re talking about getting into character, sometimes we have to sit and actually think about that character. I did some acting earlier in my life. I remember the first play I was in I was Bennie Van Buren in Damn Yankees. I was supposed to play a 70-year-old. But I had a great director, who, by the way, I spoke to when I wrote this book and we talked about this.

I remember him saying, “What kind of car does Bennie drive? What kind of cereal does he eat? Tell me about his house. What’s his office look like?” What he was doing – at first I thought he was a lunatic. I don’t know. It’s just a character I’m playing. But he didn’t want me to learn the script. At some point I knew that character so well, I walked around, I was 70 years old in my mind.

What I do sometimes is actually get people on a piece of paper to begin to actually write out their character a little bit, not necessarily what kind of cereal do they eat, but tell me about your character. Perform some tasks in front of me like your character. Forget everything else. We clear the mind. We work on establishing a character.

Actually, for some people it will be three characters. It’s a more dominant character, it’s a more social character, and it’s a more analytical character. If you’re wondering why in the world I do that, it’s because I work with a lot of salespeople. We have to kind of mirror the character we see in front of us.

Maybe I’m very social, what if I’m talking to somebody who’s really dominant? Well, I’ll just play the role of a dominant person. Not so fast. You better understand – before you put that white glove on, you better understand that character, so we actually write it out and think about it. I actually give them simple questions, like a questionnaire. They begin to role play and really get in touch with that character. Then they can tap into it when they need it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, interesting. You’re mapping out upfront. You’re doing some role play there. We also had Todd Herman talk about his book, The Alter-Ego Effect. He recommended sometime putting on a blazer or glasses or something that sort of en-clothed cognition, sort of stepping into that all the more. That’s handy.

Then I’m also wondering is there some visualization or some key memories that you’re bringing up and how do you go about doing that part?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s where we go into that piece about, for me at least, and remember, I frequently work with people who are selling. Look, what I’m trying to have them visualize are moments of dominance, moments of success.

It’s weird. I’m 26 years in business as a professional speaker and yet, just like everyone else, sometimes you’re as good as your last presentation, you’re as good as your last quarter and all of the sudden a speaker’s bureau threw three clients at me. I spoke to them on the phone. None of them wanted to hire me. What do you think I sound like on the fourth call?

What I’m trying to do is get to moments where when we do get three in a row, when we do knock it out of the park and somebody says, “Okay, now I have another client I want you to talk to.” That’s what I mean in terms of that visualization of “Okay, maybe I’m not there right now, but I can think back on when I was. What was I feeling like?” I sort of take myself to that moment.

Pete, it kind of comes back to that percentage play. I’m not guaranteeing you that we’re going to be successful right now, but I guarantee you this, having that mindset and being able to pull that memory down is going to pick up some percentage plays and that’s what I’m looking for. Again, it’s mental, but it’s there.

No one’s had a life of complete loss. It’s everybody. We win some; we lose some. We win some; we lose some. It’s when we lose some, a bunch in a row that all of the sudden the shoulders start to droop and we kind of start picking up the phone going in my mind, “I know this guy isn’t going to buy from me, but here we go.” That’s not going to work for anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thinking right back to the hot streak, the winning moments. That’s good. That’s good.

Rob Jolles
Well, it’s the winning moments. I keep pushing everything into sales, but in presentations a lot of times, particularly when somebody is new or somebody – I’ll also whisper in their ear, track record because maybe people who are listening right now have got 10 or 20 years under their belt, but maybe this quarter hasn’t been so good. Or maybe they haven’t given a presentation in a while or they’re being put in an awkward position.

What’s your track record like? Most people go, “Usually I’m pretty good at that.” Okay, again I’m looking for a couple percentage moves. To get the experience, how about we focus on what usually happens. Pete, when you have a podcast, what usually happens? When I’m a guest on a podcast, it usually goes real well. Not all the time, but usually goes real well.

I’m better off kind of focusing on my track record. That’s to me another kind of really great visualization. It’s simple and it’s easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well, tell me, is there anything that you recommend that we really don’t do? We’ve talked about the negative self-talk, not doing that. We talked about not stepping into who you think that you are supposed to be, but rather just using your own natural authentic voice. Any other top don’ts you want to make sure we highlight?

Rob Jolles
That’s a great question. I’m actually thinking of how I would address that. Yeah, I would say that I think we should stop being so fearful of dysfunction. We brought it up a little bit when maybe things don’t go well in front of an audience, but I think, again, whether it’s while we’re alone or whether we’re in groups, I like to tell people that I’m coaching or working with, let’s embrace that dysfunction a little bit.

Kind of going back to that limp a little bit, let’s remember that there’s only two types of people that don’t walk with a limp, that don’t have some level of dysfunction. They’re either not telling you the truth or they would have no ability to have compassion for another individual. Most of them really aren’t necessarily people I’d want to have as a client. I can tell you that much.

It’s funny, I wrote a piece one time where I said “knowledge is overrated.” Believe me, all the analytical practically followed me to the parking lot going, “Now what did you mean by that?” They were not happy.

I didn’t say it’s not important. I just said it’s overrated meaning as simple as it sounds, but I’m a guy that takes and has people record themselves, if we just work harder at asking questions and listening, if we just go a little easier on ourselves, if we embrace that dysfunction rather than run from it and understand, “That’s okay. That’s my limp. I’m not going to have trouble with it.” All those little pieces get us plays.

Just last real quick point, but I’m in a neighborhood where we’ve got a lot of dog walkers, including our Lilly, who we take for a walk. There’s not one but two dogs that are missing legs, a leg each. I got to tell you, it touches my heart because I look at them and I think I wish we were more like that because I promise, Pete, that dog doesn’t give a hootenanny that he’s missing a leg.

And neither does any other dog that’s walking by it. They’re sniffing. They’re curious where they might have been on that tree over there, but they don’t care. It’s not an issue. I wish we could learn lessons like that and remember that whatever it is and everybody’s got one, if it’s not a worry for you, it’s not a worry for the other dogs in the park. I promise you.

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

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I would say as strange as this conversation may have sound because we’re talking about some kind of wacky – once I said role and character, what is all that. I want to remind people they probably do this more often than they think.

An example I’ll give you is if you have children that you parent, don’t tell me that you don’t actually drop into role, meaning particularly for the younger ones, when they brought back a homework assignment that wasn’t quite right or something, we kind of look at our spouse and go, “Okay, I’ll go in there.” We play the role of disappointed. I’m actually not as disappointed. I love you so much. But for tonight Rob Jolles will be playing the role of disappointed.

I think we do that more naturally than we think. Where we explore this finding a character and getting into role, please remember there are times where we all play roles; you’re just not thinking about it as much. I want you to think about it. Then I want you to stop thinking about it again. But that would be the last thought I give you on that one.

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

Rob Jolles
I gave you one, which is “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” Okay, now I’ll give you another one “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living. We were put on this earth to make a difference.”

It’s always meant something to me, particularly for a guy who – when I tell you I’ve got two and a half million miles in the air, Pete, part of you should smile and part of you should look concerned, meaning “Well, does this guy have a family? Does this guy have children? Does he get to a birthday party?”

I’m really blessed. I have a wonderful wife, Ronnie, who helped me realize that I was a little out of balance earlier in my career, and I’d never heard of that quote, nor did I take it to heart. But I really believe in balance. I’m no longer a 1K and that’s just fine by me. I think that we focus on that, things will go a lot better for us.

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

Rob Jolles
I’ll tell you a bit or research or a study. It kind of falls into an author I happen to like. He’s with my publisher, Berrett-Koehler. Name is Noah Blumenthal. But he studied – he wrote a book called Be the Hero, but he studied how easy it is for us to have negative opinions of others, particularly of others that have done us wrong, maybe a previous boss or a neighbor or somebody just that – the person at CVS, I don’t know, where it really rubbed us the wrong way.

He really got me thinking, and it’s really helped, that we really don’t know many of the people that we form opinions about. We really don’t know them that well. We create a scenario that’s usually very negative. Now that scenario might be right, but we actually don’t know whether it’s right or not.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Rob Jolles
I keep a journal. I’ve kept it for 22 years.
But what I found was by methodically being observant, which is a journal will do, because I will only write twice in my journal, on the way out and on the way back of a trip. I am almost OCDish. When we get to 10,000 feet, I’m putting a date and a location on that journal entry.

But it’s a tool that actually, particularly for the way back, that allows me to kind of figure out to stop, pause and in process say, “Okay, what do you think was working there and what do you think wasn’t working there?”

Like I said, I’ve been doing this 31 years, putting a mic around my neck and talking to audiences and yet, I want you to know Pete that I still want to get better and that means I still want to figure out “Okay, what did we do well? What can we improve?”

Very importantly, I always balance that feedback because I’ve said it too many times already, but this isn’t a beat-up session. A lot of times we undervalue taking time to figure out what we’re doing well, so we don’t do it by accident. But that’s been a tool. I probably have well over 3,000 pages of journal entries.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they quote it back to you at times?

Rob Jolles
If you want to get at the most fundamental way to communicate, we have to ask questions and listen. That doesn’t just mean what you and I are doing right now or if we’re going one-on-one with a client or a prospect, even in front of an audience.

If you want to know what the amateurs and even the pros do wrong, if I put down the 20 biggest mistakes they make, 19 of them don’t equal number one, which is too much information and that means constricting the ability for that audience to communicate with you, even if it’s rhetorical questions.

But those little touches, those little “Turn to your left, look at that partner, and say three things here. Try two things there,” that ability to build a conversation as opposed to a lecture are very valuable. I would like to think that I’ve said it enough, that who knows, maybe people would associate that with me. I’d be proud if they did.

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

Rob Jolles
That’s an easy one. I would just take them to J-O-L-L-E-S.com that’s where you’ll find – I write something called a BLArticle. I am in my tenth year of BLArticles. That’s a blog-article. I just try – and by legal definition it’s 500 to 700 words. I just try and practice what we’re preaching, you and I, which is let’s not over communicate, but let’s provide value and drip out information. But anyway that’s where all sorts of information on me is.

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

Rob Jolles
Okay. Pete, you’re really coming at me. I like this. My final challenge would be I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you think is out there holding you back; get out of your own way. Pete, you and I have hit it over and over and over again. Just be kinder to yourself, accept whatever limp you have, and I can assure you, you’ve got one. That’s okay. Don’t let it be a big issue. It won’t be with anybody else.

Go in there, again, the easiest way to find that authentic you is just get up there, wherever it is, tell the truth. If the truth is a struggle right now, double back and figure out – I’ve got to rebrand, I’ve got to do something, but I’ve got to find a way of telling the truth. If you solve that, then you’ve got it made. The rest is easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Rob, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for bringing it. I wish you lots of luck with your speaking and all you’re up to.

Rob Jolles
Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

412: Access Superpowers by Embracing Alter Egos with Todd Herman

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Todd Herman shares how the concept of alter egos helps you become ideal you that a given situation calls for.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you should revisit your childhood superheroes and alter egos
  2. Enclothed cognition and Halloween lessons for being awesome at our jobs
  3. How to improve your visualization through all your senses

About Todd

Todd Herman is an award-winning author, performance advisor to athletes, leaders and public figures, and is a recipient of the Inc. 500 fastest growing company award. He’s been featured on the Today Show, Sky Business News, Inc Magazine and CBC National News. And lives in New York City with his young family.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Todd Herman Lederman Interview Transcript

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

Todd Herman
Pistol Pete, it’s a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m already getting an alter ego.

Todd Herman
Well, Pete, I’m a farm kid, who has a family that nobody ever calls each other by their first name. Everyone has a nickname. So why not kick it off that way?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. I want to hear a little bit more about some of your youth, in particular you won the world’s largest Twister competition at age 16. Tell us all about this.

Todd Herman
Well, I think that’s the thing that should highlight everyone’s resume, right? That’s the one you want at the very top.

Yeah, when I was in high school I played high school football, captain of the team. Then I was on student council as well. I grew up in a family that was involved in politics, so we hosted – my small city in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, we hosted this big student counsel conference for North America, in fact. Well, western United States and Canada.

During one of the events – Medicine Hat, one of its claim to fames is we have the world’s largest teepee. We are rich in Native American history there. They decided that they would host a huge Twister competition during this student counsel thing. I just showed up to this. I didn’t what it was really all about. In the end I won it all in process of elimination.

They had, I don’t know, 1,800 mats or no. It wasn’t even that many. It was maybe 1,500 mats. Then it all whittled down until we finally had a champion and I was it.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, 1,500 mats. Is that four people or how many to a mat?

Todd Herman
There were six.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s pretty full.

Todd Herman
Yes. Yeah, six or seven people to a mat, something like that. Anyways, then they were like “The Guinness Book of World Records is here and you’ve now just broke the record.” I’m like “Fantastic. This is great.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. You’re a Twister champion. We need to know what did you do differently. What was the secret to your victory in terms of how did you pull this off where others fell short?

Todd Herman
I’m a highly competitive individual. Actually, when I think back to that, probably not knowing that it was some big competition, I thought we were just out there playing, so I was just engaged in the process. If I had thought that this was going to be like rounds of elimination, I probably would have maybe got a little bit too caught up in winning, but it was definitely focusing on the process.

I was already athletic. I was flexible so that helped. I think strategic thinking. You’ve got to be able to think ahead a few spots. You can’t put your hand on one area that’s going to cause you to have to twist in some sort of odd way to get your other hand in a circle that’s way off on the other side. Yeah, probably a combination of a bunch of those things.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So you were just engaged in the moment instead of fixated on the winning and that served you better?

Todd Herman
Yeah, yeah. 100%.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s a lesson right there.

Todd Herman
Yeah, and it served me well for 22 years now working with different pro-Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, achievers, professionals on helping them to perform at their peak because as soon as you become outcome oriented, you’ve now pulled yourself out of the moment and the chances of you making mistakes go way up.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah. I also was curious about you’ve won the Global Leadership and Skill Development of the Year award twice. First of all, who issues that?

Todd Herman
There’s an awards company called the Stevie’s. They’re the biggest awards company in the business space. They give out tons of awards in a lot of different categories.

I’ve had my performance system put together in its current form for about 15 years. Then the last few years we’ve won the Global Leadership award twice. Then we won for the Global Leadership Training Team of the Year as well with it. Yeah, the Stevie’s is a great place to find really, really amazing people and companies and stuff doing good things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Well, I’d love to hear what are some of the keys to your victory there. I have a feeling one of them might be related to your book, but we want to hear the others too.

Todd Herman
Sure. Keys to victory, I don’t know because they have a judging panel that doesn’t really let you know that much. But we are pretty good at giving our case studies of our clients, highlighting them and then we do a discipline job of putting our stuff through a lot of rigor. We have third-party testing companies that come in and validate the result that we get with people.

There’s a company called the ROI Institute and they come in to companies all the time, typically large companies. We’re probably one of the smaller businesses that they’d be working with, but because a lot of my history is in corporate leadership development, I just took a look at the space that I was operating in, I’m like, well, this is an open hole where a lot of these kind of people that are making promises don’t actually have much validation, so let’s bring this in as a point of differentiation.

Yeah, so things like that. Judges, they like to see things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

You have my respect because I’m of like mind. if you don’t have an ROI, it’s hard to justify spending real time and money on the program even if it is a good time.

Todd Herman
Well, part of our mission for our company as well is to elevate the critical thinking skills of humanity. That doesn’t sound super sexy to people, elevate the critical thinking skills, but when you think of the problems and most of the issues that people find themselves caught up in, it’s because they’re typically operating and responding to circumstances or issues emotionally.

You take a look at the current state of the world. Maybe some of the leaders that are out there that are leading it, they are not great purveyors of the idea of critical thinking. I want to model that in the way that we do our business.

I think that just even for the listeners, I think that we’re in a day and age now where there should be a lot more being demanded of the people who are there to help you get from Point A to Point B. This idea of anecdotal, “Hey, I did it and you can too,” is, in my opinion, of a bygone era because there is no systemization in that.

That’s one of my biggest issues with the personal development, self-help and leadership world is that there’s just a lot of false prophets standing on top of great marketing that if I can be a part of a movement that takes a big swinging chisel and axe to that, then I’m happy to knock that down because I don’t like to put myself out there as a personal brand or as someone who stands on top of – no, I’ve got a very specific skillset.

I’m very, very good at what it is that I do, but I stay in my lane, whereas a lot of people like to over promise that they can solve all of your issues. I can’t do that. I think it hurts more people and it leads them down and wastes time on a path that is truly not going to get them to where they need to go or want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, we are kindred spirits. I am inspired by your vision. Keep doing what you’re doing and maybe we should cofound a company together. Loving it.

Todd Herman
In the future. In the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Loving it. All right, well, let’s talk about your book here, The Alter Ego Effect. I got such a kick out of checking this one out because I resonate on so many levels, but I’m going to give you the floor here. What’s the big idea behind The Alter Ego Effect?

Todd Herman
Well, the big idea is that we all have used alter egos and we stepped into them when we were kids when we would play with superheroes or be our favorite hockey player or basketball player when we were kids or when we were pretending to be firemen or cowboys or astronauts. We played with this idea. We actually played with the idea of alter egos as children.

What we’re doing when we’re doing that is we’re tapping into really the great superpower that human beings have, which is our creative imagination. We’re the only ones on the planet that can create heavens from hell, hells from heaven, that we create narrative and amazing story in our minds.

Sometimes that narrative and story hurts more than it helps for many reasons. Trauma is one thing. Imposter syndrome is an insidious little force that the enemy likes to use to pull us into the, what I call in the book, the trapped self.

Really, the big idea for people is that this is actually something that allows you to pull the most really authentic version of who you are and what you can do out onto whatever chosen field of play you’re using it to activate on. It’s not strange. It’s not weird. It’s not being fake. It’s not inauthentic. In fact, phenomenal leaders both in sport, business, public figures have used it to accomplish amazing things and get out of their own way.

When you think about some of the biggest challenges, complaints that people have when they say, “Why aren’t you able to do the things that you want to do or you’re not getting the results that you want to get,” a large chunk of them are mental. It’s mental blocks. It’s resistance.

Alter ego, it’s what I’m known for within pro sports, Olympic sport is building alter egos for athletes. Then that expanded out into working with a lot more entrepreneurs and executives and people in professional environments to do the same thing to help them navigate that kind of internal resistance and move away from it. It’s an extremely elegant, graceful and perseverant way of battling what can be resistance that stops many people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really fun. I totally jive with what you’re saying with regard to as a kid I totally pretended to be a superhero. I still have a Superman costume made to my measurements. Fun fact.

Todd Herman
That’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
I wear it on Halloween. I wish I had more opportunities to wear it in normal times, but they just don’t appear. There aren’t superhero themed parties, at least in my world. Maybe I should get some more Comic-Con type friends.

Todd Herman
Pete, you need to dial that. That’s the one great benefit of living in New York City, every type of party is at our fingertips here.

You just brought up something really interesting. I think it’s important for the listeners too to talk about this concept is you brought up Halloween. When you think about Halloween, Halloween is my favorite night of the year.

I don’t know where people believe on the whole Myers Brigg thing. I think it’s a good sentiment. It’s not something that’s going to solve all your problems, but when I took the Myers Briggs, when the person came back in from doing the analysis, she’s like, “Well, I think we might need to revisit this test because you just broke the extroversion side of things. You’re about as far to that scale as you could possibly get.”

For me, Halloween was always like everyone else is finally invited to my party that I live every single day of the year. I’ve got zero qualms about approaching people and talking to people. My mind frame around that is I just fundamentally feel that everyone likes to have a new good friend. No one is out there saying, “I don’t need any good friends.”

That’s why I have zero resistance to talking to anybody. I don’t put anyone up on pedestals. I don’t look down on anybody. I think everyone has a fascinating story to tell. All of those mindsets allow me to just operate in relationships very easily.

Then what happens on Halloween, people put on costumes and the moment that they do, they start stepping outside of their quote/unquote normal personality and they start to don the maybe behavior of whoever it is that they are wearing.

Now, this is an important part because this is actually something I talk about in the book. Halloween is a good example of a psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition, which we were going to talk about at some point in time during our interview, but this is just kind of a good segue into it.

Enclothed cognition is this phenomenon that happens when human beings, we add meaning and story to the things that we wear and others wear. When we see someone with a police uniform on, we start to automatically assume some things about that person. Depending on whatever your personal experience is of that uniform. Some people it could be very negative. Sometimes it just adds an overall, overarching idea. Policemen, okay, it’s they’re disciplined or they’re stern or whatever it might be. We do that.

However, what I like to do is because I’m someone who is – one of my issues, again, with that self-help personal development stuff is that people put out a lot of ideas that sound like they’re going to work. They sound nice as well. They’re very palatable. It’s almost like I look at a lot of books that are out there and I’m like, it’s cotton candy, it’s popsicles, it’s rainbows. It looks nice, but it ain’t satisfying. It doesn’t do the job.

I’m a practitioner. I work with people one-on-one and have for over 20 years, over 16,000 hours now. When you’re working with someone one-on-one, Pete, and I give you a strategy to go and implement, what happens? You come right back around next week and you tell me what? Todd, that didn’t work.

How I know the people that have got the chops and don’t have the chops, if you have never worked with people one-on-one on this, you don’t have the chops. You don’t have the chops because you have not been put under the white hot light of performance. You haven’t been put under the white hot light of getting people results.

I am working with existing phenomena that naturally occur inside the brain. This is just one of them. I just want to find a way to leverage it. Alter ego helps to leverage this idea of enclothed cognition because what we do then – a study was done at the Kellogg School of Management. What they did was they brought a bunch of students into a room. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those word puzzles where you’ve got the word of a color, but then it’s colored differently than the word.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

Todd Herman
Right, so it says green, but it’s yellow. Then it’s the word red, but it’s done in orange. What you need to do is actually say the word, which is quite difficult because the brain processes color faster than it does the word. They time you to see how quickly you can go through this grid of different words. They bring in these students and they get them to do it. They’re testing their attention, their accuracy, their detail and how quickly they can get it done and the mistakes that they make.

Then those students finish and they move them out of the room and they bring in a new group of students. This time they hand them a white coat to put on. They tell them it’s a painter’s coat. They put on the painters coat and they do the exact same test. They leave and then they bring in another group of people. They hand them the exact same white coat, except this time they tell them that it’s a lab coat or a doctor’s coat. Then they do the test.

Well, the difference in results between the painter’s coat people and the people who were just in their plain clothes was nothing. But the difference between the people who had the lab coat and the doctor’s coat and everyone else was they did it in less than half the time, they showed higher degrees of focus and concentration and they made less than half the mistakes.

Well, why is it? Because when they put on the white lab coat or doctor’s coat, they enclothed themselves in the cognitive skill set of someone that is careful, methodical, detailed because that’s what we ascribe to those types of people.

Why didn’t it work for the people that had the painter’s coat on? Because when you put on a painter’s coat, you’re enclothing yourself in the meaning, the cognitive meaning, of someone who’s creative, who might be more expressive. That doesn’t help you with that specific task.

Then they flip the task and this time they give everybody a task of a creative task, a painting actually. Now the people with the lab coat/doctor’s coat did the exact same as the plainclothes people, but the people with the painter’s coat on, they’re more expressive. They finish the project and get higher marks than the other people.

This is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When I’m trying to help people make change happen, the silliest to do is to do what has been bandied about in the self-help personal world for the longest time as the number one way that we should defeat resistance and win, which is just do it. Willpower. Willpower they think is just this massively powerful force that human beings can use to win at life.

Here’s what I can tell you. On the field of play, of performance, willpower is like a mouse staring down at a herd of rumbling elephants coming towards it. It’s the conscious versus the unconscious. The conscious is that rumbling herd of elephants and that conscious thinking of willpower and toughing it out. All that is so much smaller in comparison.

But what is our superpower that we have to defeat resistance that’s bigger than that other force of rumbling elephants? Well, it’s our creative imagination. That’s what’s there. That psychological phenomenon of enclothed cognition is about tapping into that a little bit by using an alter ego.

It’s like the backdoor to performance we can actually gracefully move around that rumbling herd, let it go do its thing. We’re going to suspend our disbelief about what we think we can and cannot do for the moment and we are going to step in and use the power of someone or something else to actually activate the qualities that we want to go show up on that field for us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so fascinating and so many things to chase after. I’m resonating from my own experience in terms of boy just pick the task. There’s sort of an outfit that goes with it and I’m raring to go, whether that’s “Hey, we’re going to go for a long run.”

I guess I’m thinking about doing jobs around the house with tools. It’s like I want to put on my John Deere hat and some dirty jeans and play some country music while I’m at. It’s like I’m a central Illinois, Midwestern boy who’s not afraid of some hard work and that’s just what’s going to happen here. Maybe buy a Ford truck while I’m at it. That kind of picture is what I adopt. I think it helps. It at least makes it more fun.

Todd Herman
At the end of the day, Pete, if it did nothing else but make it more fun, then who cares, right? When we think about life and if the listener is being really honest about what life is like for the most part – there’s a lot of mundane stuff that we all have to do. Then there’s a lot of challenging things that when you’re an ambitious person or you’re striving or you’re trying to achieve things, there’s just natural obstacles that you come up against.

If there’s nothing else that people took away from this idea, which is, by the way, 100% proven out. Every single human being that is listening to this has 100% used this. Why? Because it’s a naturally occurring part of the human psyche. You just can’t escape it. We all have played with ideas in our head.

That wasn’t you being weird, strange, multiple personality disorder. Nothing. That’s literally built into our way to navigate the challenging parts of your life with more grace. But if you did nothing else and all of the sudden life was a little bit more playful, what a huge win. What a huge win that would give someone to be that way.

Whatever, if all the sudden you became Farmer Pete for that 90 minutes that you’re outside cutting the grass and you’ve got the straw in your mouth and you’ve got the John Deere hat on, by the way, that’s not a stereotype, looking down at people because, at the end of the day, I am a huge farm and ranch kid. I grew up on a 10,000 plus acre farm and ranch. I’ve got more affinity towards that world than I do of any other world.

But who cares if you go and you play that character. You’re not being weird and you’re not being un-Pete-like. You’re being the most Pete-like person you can be in that moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. Yeah. In Danville, Illinois there’s plenty of that. We’ve got some hard data from that Kellogg study. We’ve got some notions that it’s sort of intrinsic to the human psychological experience.

Could you maybe orient us to a pretty cool case study or transformation that illustrates this in practice, like we’ve got someone who’s performing not as well as they want to, they adopted an alter ego in this sort of a way and this sort of an alter ego, and then they kind of lived it out and experienced an enhanced result?

Todd Herman
Yeah. I’ll go to probably the most fascinating one as an example of one that always catches people off guard. It leads off the book actually.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh Bo Jackson.

Todd Herman
It’s with Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson for people who don’t know is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the planet. He’s the only athlete in the history of major sports to be an All Star in two of them the same year. That’s Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

I was down in Georgia doing a talk. I was waiting in the green room ready to go out and into the green room walks Bo Jackson, this phenomenal physical specimen. In my head I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s the guy that I played on Nintendo when I was a kid.” He walked over to me right away. He said, “Hi, I’m Bo Jackson.” I said, “Yeah, I know who you are. You won me a lot of games on Tecmo Bowl when I was a kid.” He laughed.

He said, “You’re not the first one to say that. Are you speaking today?” I said, “Yeah, I’m going on stage next.” He said, “Oh, what are you going to be talking about?”

I said, “Well, I’m going to talk to them about mental game, but specifically I’m going to talk to the coaches and the players about using alter egos to help really unlock their performance and show up on the field and actually find the zone and flow state with it because you’re now getting out of your own way and you’re activating this imagination, which helps you perform.”

He just looked at me and he kind of got this weird look on his face like someone had just solved a mystery of life to him. He cocked his head to the side and he was like, “Bo Jackson never played a down of football his entire life.” I was like, “Interesting. Tell me more.”

He was like, “Yeah, when I was a youngster – people who know my backstory, I was a really angry kid. I would get myself into a lot of trouble. While it sounds like being angry would help you on the football field to dominate people, it would actually get me into bad penalties. I was a little bit uncoachable.

One night I was watching a movie and I saw this character come on the screen who was cold, calculating, methodical, unemotional, all of the things that I kind of wanted to be when I was out there. I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second. Why don’t I go out as that person instead of me?’”

It was Jason from Friday the XIII. His alter ego was actually Jason, which sounds crazy to some people because why would you want to activate, if you’re already angry, someone who’s a serial killer, but this is the power of this stuff is that it’s what your great takeaway was based on what maybe your issue might be or what you’re looking for.

He was looking for being more unemotional, more calculating with himself when he was performing. That’s what he did. When he put on his football helmet when he walked out onto the field, when his foot hit that field, that’s where Jason lived and Jason would enter him.

He unconsciously did almost every single step of the process that I talk about in the book perfectly. He created a context because he wasn’t Jason off the field; he was Jason on the field. He took the qualities that he most wanted that were the reverse of his frustrations and that’s what he found in his inspiration, which was Jason.

He actually leveraged an existing story, which is when you were looking for maybe places of inspiration, it’s a lot easier to just use characters that have already been built, whether in movies or whether in comic books or whether in your favorite TV show or whether it’s your favorite fictional book or existing people from your own personal life.

If there is a quality of an alter ego that is most popular or a type, it’s actually grandmothers. Grandmothers for me is the most popular alter ego that people use for whatever reason. There’s just many grandmothers that are inspiring to many people that are out there. There are specific qualities about them that they’re trying to activate.

Pete Mockaitis
They’re own grandmother?

Todd Herman
Yeah, they’re own grandmother.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Todd Herman
Yeah, 100%. Yeah, 100%.

Pete Mockaitis
Not an archetype.

Todd Herman
I’ve got a wealth manager here in New York worth just more money than people would need definitely and that’s what his is. He’s a hard charging person and could naturally fall into a bullying type, but when he started growing his company to be a lot larger and really having to adopt way more of a leadership role as opposed to a trading role in his business, it was just grating on the business and he was just turning over staff way more. That costs your business a lot.

When I started working with him and we started talking about leadership qualities, who he’s seen them in the past, he started talking about his grandmother. He wasn’t talking about his grandmother right off the bat. I just asked him a question and he started talking about her. It wasn’t really in the context of being a phenomenal leader. Then he started saying other people in business that he was maybe inspired by.

I said to him, “I don’t think so. I think 100% the most important leader that’s been around you is your grandmother.” We just unpacked that more. When he’s going into have performance meetings or he needs to have leadership conversations or challenging conversations with people, that’s who he stepped into was more his grandmother. Now he doesn’t need to use that alter ego anymore because he actually became that person that he more wanted to be.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, I’d love it if maybe we could take on an example. I imagine we’ll have to fast-track it because it probably takes a good while. That’s fine to push the fast forward button repeatedly.

Let’s say – this is semi-true for me right now – I find that I’m getting so many ideas, which is really fun and exciting and cool when I’m sitting down to work, that I’m digging it. I’m sort of chasing after them and exploring them. But then I look at what I had hoped to accomplish in a day and there’s quite a mismatch.

It’s like, oh, I chased a lot of cool, interesting ideas, which may very well have some huge potential, but now I’m in a little bit of an urgent hurry up mode because I didn’t do what actually needed to be done on that particular day. If I want to have more focused and – you said willpower’s tricky – but that notion of “Hey, here’s the list. I’m going to crank through it,” how can I use the alter ego effect to make that happen?

Todd Herman
Yeah. I am the poster child of that when I started out. Yeah, absolutely. When I was starting out getting to kind of one of my uses of the alter ego, I was 21. I looked like I was 12. I was terribly insecure about how young I looked, who’s going to believe me when I go up on stage to talk about these ideas. I don’t have 19 degrees. I’m not 40 years old yet.

I had all these ideas of the age you need to be before you’re taken seriously, how many different years of you’ve been using this or consulting on it or coaching on it before you’re taken seriously. It was just stopping me from getting out there.

The reality was I was very, very good at working with young athletes. That’s where I was starting. I wasn’t trying to go work with pro-athletes off the bat. I was working with 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, on it. I now was really good. I was good at developing rapport quickly, developing trust, then sharing all of the strategies that I had done to help me get a college scholarship, be nationally ranked badminton player.

My real skillset was my mental game, but I was getting in my own way. I wasn’t taking the action I needed to take.

I would. I would drift all over the place in my day. I would fundamentally just avoid doing the things that were going to make me money, which is in business or in sales, that’s when the white, hot light of performance is on you because now you’re on the field and it’s easy for people to see based on the results that you did ten phone calls today, but nothing was brought in revenue wise or something.

It’s easy for your self-esteem or your sense of self of concept to be beaten up in those moments. I wasn’t taking any action.

I was like, wait a second. I used this when I played football and when I went on the football field. I would go out as this composite kind of alter ego of Geronimo, Walter Payton and Ronnie Lott. The name I used was Geronimo for it. I was like but Geronimo is a little bit too aggressive. It’s not going to help me in business. Then I thought but I really want to step into this Superman version of myself in business.

That’s when it clicked in my head. I’m like wait a second, Superman puts on glasses to become the mild-mannered version of himself in Clark Kent, but I want to put on glasses and I want to become the Superman version of myself. That’s what I did.

I went out and I went to Lens Crafters in West Edmonton mall, where I was living at the time, and I bought a pair of non-prescription glasses so that I could activate this self that would be decisive, that would be articulate, and that would be confident, all the three things that I felt like I was lacking at the time in the way that I was showing up.

That was back when wearing glasses wasn’t cool or fashionable by any stretch of the imagination. The optometrist was like, “You don’t need glasses. You have 20/15 vision.” I’m like, “Please, just give me the glasses.” I bought them. That’s what I did.

I would literally sit and I would practice putting those on. Just like when he would take off those glasses as Superman, all of the sudden just the chest puffs out and he transforms, I was transforming into that other self. When I was in that state, I was very deliberate and intentional about being very decisive, being very confident, being very articulate with the way that I was describing what I could do for people.

The moment that I would start to fall out of it and become that other insecure self, I would take off those glasses immediately because the moment that you’re in that kind of state of being your alter ego, you don’t want to dishonor that idea by allowing that kind of other – whether it’s a weak or a mild-mannered or whatever self or scared or insecure or resistant self to show up – I’d take them off because I wanted to honor that idea.

It’s a very powerful mindset to be in when you’re doing that. I talk about that with my athletes and just even people that are on here right now. It’s very powerful to step into that mode. We have these phenomenal capabilities in our mind to do that.

Going then back to you, it’s that – some of what you’re talking about too could be just that there is a creative self that’s inside of you that sometimes you’re just hunting through and finding ideas to be inspired by to create the training programs that you want or to write the things you want to write. You shouldn’t beat yourself up with those things, but on those days when you did have certain activities that you needed to take care of, those need to be siloed.

Then there needs to be the most heroic version that you could bring to that to bring the best that you’ve got available into that moment so you can smash it and get the best result. Whether you think that’s you right now or you don’t think it’s you, what I do know is, that you is inside of you because the imagination has that power. Let’s find a way of unlocking it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s good.

Todd Herman
What I was doing with those glasses was I was accidently – because I didn’t know what enclothed cognition back then – but I was enclothing those glasses in the cognitive state of being smart, articulate and decisive. I was leveraging the power of another story of using Superman to help make that happen too.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, as you kind of deconstructing that a little bit, it seems that we started with what was already meaningful to you with the Geronimo, Superman, etcetera, so what was already sort of striking a chord and being resonant in the ways that you wanted to be as opposed to saying, “Well, technically, this literary figure embodied these qualities perfectly.” It’s like, “Well, I’ve never read that book, so that’s not helping me out here.”

The first thing that comes to mind for me in terms of if we’re talking about no nonsense, taking care of business, the first thing I think of is the Shark Tank intro because I get such a kick out of how they all do the same pose, where they fold their arms over each other. It’s like that’s, I guess, the no nonsense entrepreneur pose. You find it The Prophet and other business shows. I think we’ve adopted that. That’s what comes to mind.

Todd Herman
But if that’s what resonates with you, then that should be your takeaway. Yet, I’ve seen other people who are not even close to being an arms-crossed-type individual that are very no nonsense here in New York City or even not just here, but that’s my context because I live here and I work with so many people that are here. But I know more people that are no nonsense and they sit back in a very relaxed look.

Actually even Mark Cuban, when you see him and his matters in …, he’s actually quite relaxed. He sits back and sort of – but then when he starts to get excited, he starts to lean forward, his eyebrows go up a lot. Just as a person who lives in the world of mental game stuff, I’m always looking at body language of people. But if that’s what it is for you, then hold onto that and that’s what you can step into.

Pete Mockaitis
When I go about doing this step into, what exactly am I doing? I’m going to cross my arms. I’m going to imagine being no nonsense. What are my steps?

Todd Herman
Well, it’s what are the – all the steps are – because we’ve kind of unpacked a bunch of them. First place we start is context. We’re doing it for a field of play. Again, we’ve been talking about business and stuff, but this is 100% useful as a parent.

Kids use it all the time anyway, but as a parent sometimes you’re working all day long. You’ve been operating as a certain self throughout the day, then you go home and it’s hard to switch that off. Using this stuff, it crates great context for you.

For me when I go home, I don’t know want to be that articulate, decisive and confident version of myself that challenges people all day long because that’s what I need to do. That’s not what my children want. They want fun, playful, get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-them dad that’s gentle with them. I can be tough as well, but that’s so natural for me, I don’t need to magnify that up. That’s going to come out anyway.

I caught myself with, especially my middle daughter, Sophie, where she’s got this great emotional bandwidth, where she has these fantastic highs. Then she’s got these tantrums that can just go on for a very long time. I was meeting that force of her tantrum with my force of parent dad telling her to stop and all that and getting nowhere. I caught myself and I went wait a second. This isn’t how you perform at a high level.

Immediately I went to who I would be to get the best out of myself as a parent. It took me about a split second to go Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers undeniably is a phenomenal human being around young children. That’s who I stepped into.

The very next time she had this huge tantrum, I got down on one knee, just like he would. I reached out. I grabbed her, brought her in for a hug, despite the fact that she didn’t want to be hugged. She melted in eight seconds. Melted. She was done. That’s all she wanted and needed and then she was off running around, doing her own thing.

Meanwhile, I was still on the inside angry, enraged because noise and that screaming just drives me into an emotional state, but in that moment though, I did act as my best self for her and the result transformed.

Going back to you. Context matters. Second thing in that story I unpacked my frustrations. What’s a way that you’re showing up on whatever field that you’ve just chosen that aren’t getting you the results you want or how are you not showing up or what are the things that you’re doing that is providing you this angst and this frustration.

Okay, then now that you’ve got that, now it’s easy to go to the third step, which is well, how do you … want to show up and/or who already shows up that way that you’re inspired by. It doesn’t have to be in your work. It could be someone completely outside of it that you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, I’d like to be more like that person. I want to show up more like Luke Skywalker,” or whoever it might be.

What is it about their qualities that you’re looking at that you like? Is it their demeanor? Is it how calm they are? Is it about how confident they are? Is it how charismatic that person is? Whatever it is.

Then it’s okay, now is there a totem, this fourth step is what’s this totem or artifact or talisman that you can use to help activate it so that we can leverage the power of enclothed cognition. Is it that you are going to put on some Superman socks or Wonder Woman bracelet?

That’s what one of my equestrian riders – she’s a world class dressage, which is to the layperson, it’s like horse dance, where they have to do very, very specific and calculating kind of moves in the arena. It’s very challenging.

She was someone who was kind of all over the place inside emotionally, which then gets reflected through a horse. You talk about a difficult sport from a mental game perspective. You’re sitting on top of an animal that can detect any sort of emotional ambiguity that you might have. That’s why horses are used in therapy because they just have this phenomenal emotional bandwidth to work with people.

When I asked her, “Well, who most resonates with you as to how you want to show up,” she didn’t hesitate for a second. It was Wonder Woman. Not the current version because this was actually years ago. It was the 1970s version of Wonder Woman. I encouraged her, “Okay, go out. Let’s get an artifact or a totem to use.” She went out and she actually made a custom bracelet. I told her, I said, “When you do, make sure that the clasp has a loud sound when you snap it shut.”

Pete Mockaitis
Nice.

Todd Herman
Because sound is a phenomenal trigger in the mind. When that snap happens, that’s when she clicks into her inner Wonder Woman to show up on that horse as her best self.

Pete Mockaitis
I like what you said about sound. That’s got me thinking about get all your senses involved. Maybe there’s a small. Maybe there’s a texture. Yeah.

Todd Herman
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I don’t know how many people that are listening or even yourself, Pete, people use the term visualization a lot. They say, “You’ve got to visualize your goals,” or “People with vision are the ones who win,” or all these different things. The reality is, as someone who’s been teaching visualization with people as a skill for a long time, it’s actually quite hard to do.

That’s why I get frustrated with the amateurs that are out there saying, “Well, you’ve just to visualize.” It’s like it’s not that easy. Just because we can do it and do do it every single day, doesn’t mean that we can deliberately create movies in our mind easily. It’s a learned skill.

However, sound and we want to be using as much of the senses as possible. When I’m really teaching people about using imagery and visualization, it’s about engaging all of the senses because sometimes there’s a good portion of the population that are driven auditorily. I am. I am one of those people where I can build movies in my mind way easier when I start with sound then when I start with pictures. There’s other people who are engaged with smell of something or the touch of something.

That’s why this whole process of using a totem or an artifact is so powerful because just to your point, when you’re touching something, when you’re feeling something, when you’re putting something on, when you’ve got something in your pocket, whatever the case is, it’s there as a great environmental reminder of the intention of who it is that you’re’ showing up as.

That’s not being fake. That’s not about doing it to deceive other people because that’s being fake. If you’re doing something to deceive others or trick others, your intention is completely wrong. This is about tapping into the internal power of you saying, “I am being very intentional about who and what I’m showing up as so that I can get the best result from me or for others.”

Just like me. It’s not me being fake just because I’m stepping into and leveraging Mr. Rogers in that moment. That’s actually stepping into a very genuine part of me. Gentleness of course is a quality of mine somewhere because it’s not like I learned all of that challenging self or I was born that way. I learned some of that stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Todd, I love the Mr. Rogers in particular because it should have occurred to me when I was looking through your book, but then in the last couple months, I noticed that in marriage/family life I sort of brought more of my creative brainstorming problem solving-ness into conversations with my wife. She was less interested in that and wanted more kind of emotional stuff.

I just sort of forgot. It’s like, “Oh right, yeah, yeah.” It’s like, “I was just so interested in your problem and all of the potential options and solutions that I could offer.” I actually purchased a red zip-up Mr. Rogers sweater to wear as a reminder of – he’s got that song, It’s a Good Feeling, the feelings and to just slow down and listen and to talk about feelings. It’s like, “Well, how did you feel about that?” because that’s what she was wanting.

Todd Herman
Yeah. Well, if you’ve watched his documentary it’s fascinating because literally about a third of it is dedicated to them talking about his alter ego. His wife talks about Daniel Tiger. There’s this great sequence in the documentary when she says that Daniel was the more real version of Mr. Rogers because that’s who he really was.

When you think about Daniel Tiger, he’s this hand puppet that he used to talk about feelings and other things. During that sequence, Mr. Rogers, Fred, says – he’s holding up the hand puppet now near his head and he’s saying, “The distance between-“ which is his mouth to the hand puppet, he’s like, “This doesn’t look like it’s very far, but I can tell you it was very self-efficacious for me.”

It’s the same for me. The distance between the six inches in your ears and your mouth by what you want to say, but then you don’t say it. Nothing beats a person up more than when they get to the end of their day, their head’s on the pillow and they’re unpacking their day and they’re like, “Why didn’t I say that? Why didn’t I raise my hand? Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I ask for the sale?” or the action, “Why didn’t I take that final shot at the end of the buzzer?”

That distance between the six inches in your ears and the action that you want, the difference between thought and action is very, very short inside of our selves, but it can be a huge leap for many people to make. Well, what’s the bridge that runs over that gap? It’s emotion, proven by science again.

When you sever the ties inside of a human’s brain from their rational thinking brain and the emotional brain, which is the decision side of the brain, decision doesn’t happen then. It’s been shown in Alzheimer’s patients, where they can think that they want to have a sandwich, but they actually can’t get up and take action on it because there is no emotional grease that helps them make that decision.

Well, that emotional factor that helps you go from where you are now to where you want to be is the creative imagination to go by it and move around resistance. An alter ego is just a great tool to help make that happen. I talk about it enough in the book, all the different science of how to do it, the other people that have used it to actually get themselves out onto different fields of the play and do amazing things. Like we kind of talked about earlier, it’s a wonderfully playful way to help navigate life as well.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so excellent.

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

Todd Herman
We’ve just unpacked so much of it. I just strongly urge people to – I just know that a lot of people are just that mental part, that mindset side of things is the thing that can be a big challenge for them, whether it’s adopting new habits or changing behaviors. Stepping into and using these tools that they used, you’ve already used them in your past.

Pete, we had 19 publishers interested in my book, which if you know about publishing is an insane amount of publishers. Now, that’s not because of me actually. It’s not because I’m Michelle Obama or something like that. I don’t have a big platform like that. But it’s about the idea because people would walk into those meetings and they would say things like, “I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life.” I’m like, “I know you have because it’s a natural part of being a human being.”

There’s so many people who just saw so much relevance in the idea. I think that if people raced out and sunk their teeth into it, they would chew their way through the book very, very, very fast.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share with us a favorite book?

Todd Herman
A favorite book of mine, I love From Darwin to Munger, which is all about mental models and how to think a lot more quickly without getting down into the weeds and details. They kind of unpack Charlie Munger and his brilliant thinking for the way that he has adopted different thinking models in the way that he navigates life. It’s an amazing book.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that you share with your clients or audience listeners or readers that really seems to connect and resonate and gets them quoting it back to you?

Todd Herman
In that book, I don’t share a specific thing other than the ability to what’s called chunk up, which is the ability to kind of start to see things at 30,000 foot views so that you can think a lot more strategically and see what’s actually happening down on the field, not get tied up so much in the details of stuff. Probably chunking up is one of the big things that people take away from it.

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

Todd Herman
I’d point them to my home base on the interwebs would be ToddHerman.me. All of my kind of social profiles are out there. I’m active on pretty much most of them. Then for the book, they can also go to AlterEgoEffect.com to see some videos and click on any one of the links to find the book in airport book stores and book stores all over the place.

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

Todd Herman
Yeah. This is the easiest one. Don’t make the mistake I did early on. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything on your own. I wanted to be one of those people that climbed to the top of the mountain, planted the flag by myself and said, “I did it.” It’s slow and it’s stupid.

You are going to get a lot father in life by bringing around and getting around fantastic allies and being great supporters of other people. I truly do think that business and life moves at the speed of relationships. Always be finding great relationships and developing them.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Todd, this has been a treat. Thanks so much and keep on doing the good stuff you’re doing.

Todd Herman
Thanks Pete. Appreciate you.

411: The Seven Mindsets of an Effective Connector with Michelle Tillis Lederman

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Michelle Tillis Lederman discusses the benefits of being a connector, the mindsets required to flourish, and how to connect well.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three reasons people connect with each other
  2. Why to become a better connector even if you don’t think you need to network
  3. Tips for easier relationship maintenance

About Michelle

Michelle Tillis Lederman, one of Forbes Top 25 Networking Experts, is the author of several books including the internationally known, The 11 Laws of Likability, and her latest The Connectors Advantage. Michelle is the founder and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communications and leadership programs. A former finance executive and NYU Professor, Michelle is a regular in the media appearing on NBC, CBS, Fox, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, CNBC, and others. She holds degrees from Lehigh University and Columbia Business School.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michelle Tillis Lederman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michelle, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast for the second time!

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love the title of your podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. I like your titles as well. I really think that – what is it that the copywriters say? Clear beats clever. It’s like, “Oh, I know what I’m getting here.”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s interesting. I had struggled so much with the title for the new book because I love alliteration, The 11 Laws of Likability, Executive Essentials, that’s my thing. I originally titled the book The Connector’s Club and I got some feedback that it sounded exclusive and it sounded elite. I said that’s really not what I’m trying to project. I want people to realize that being a connector’s accessible. I let go of the alliteration and we landed on The Connector’s Advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now you’ve got my wheels turning in terms of alliteration. It’s like, Connector’s Club beats Connector’s Cabal in terms of being less exclusive.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I tried the Connector’s Core. I was like, “I’ve got to find my alliteration.” But the truth is what I’m talking about is the advantage of being relationship-based in your results, so that’s what you get.

Pete Mockaitis
Fair enough. Fair enough. I definitely want to dig into that, but I also first wanted to hear you’ve been doing some connecting all over the world having visited over 70 countries. I wanted to get your take on is there a country you think more people need to visit because they just don’t even know how cool it is?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
When I first thought about that question, I thought our own country.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. America.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, there’s so much – I will tell you, even after I think at the time I had been to 60 plus countries and I went to Yellowstone and I was blown away. It was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been. It’s right here. We don’t actually visit our own country enough. I think we need to do that more.

But if I was actually answering the question that you were asking, two of the places on my top five list of places I’ve been are Thailand and Africa.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Africa is kind of broad. There’s just so many places to visit within Africa. I went from South Africa up to Central Africa and I’m going back. I can’t even narrow it down. There’s just so much to see.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. In Thailand, what made it great? I guess I’m thinking that – I haven’t been there, but I’ve looked at it and I was intrigued by just how far a dollar could go and custom made clothing and more.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I did a lot more custom made clothing in Vietnam. That was awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. I was in Thailand on 9/11 when the towers came down, so how I was kind of taken care of by the people on this remote island. The people are amazing. The food is amazing. They have everything: amazing beaches, the jungle, the wildlife, the city. It just had everything.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Duly noted. Suggestion logged. Okay, cool. Now I want to hear about your book, The Connector’s Advantage. What’s sort of the key idea here?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, the big idea behind the book is that there are certain ways that connectors think, act, and interact that enables stronger connection. The advantage of being relationship-based is that you get results faster, easier, better. I know it’s not correct grammar, but that’s it. Faster, easier, better.

When we can infuse these mindsets, anybody can infuse these mindsets. That’s what I was saying before about it being accessible to all. There is such a thing as a non-connector, but there’s very few people that are truly non-connectors out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, that’s what I guess I’m wondering when you say being a connector, being relationship-based, you achieve huge results faster, bigger, stronger, and better, but what would be the alternative, like the alternative perspective of being less relationship-based?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
A lot of times people talk about it as being transactional in your interaction.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I always say people are connecting for purpose, connecting for need, connecting for themselves. It is a mindset of valuing the relationship.

Here’s how I equate it in life. When you think back in time to the agricultural age, land was the greatest asset that a person could have. Then the industrial age it was machine. In the information age it was technology. We’re now in the network age. The greatest asset that you can have are your relationships. If you think about them in the company perspective, they’re people.

When we say non-connector, a non-connector is somebody who doesn’t believe in the value of relationships. A non-connector is somebody who is so adverse to socializing and to placing any importance on the people. That’s what I’m saying. It’s very limited.

But there’s an entire spectrum. It’s not you are or you’re not. It’s where do you fall on the spectrum of connection. You could be emerging. You could be responsive. You could be acting, but maybe not quite yet a niche or a super or a global super connector. The truth is, you might not need to be. But the further up the spectrum you go, the easier, faster and better results you come up with.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I hear you. Maybe it’s just far from my experience or personal belief system to imagine being a non-connector. Maybe we’ll calibrate a bit on the spectrum to – because I think I’ve been here before and some listeners have as well.

Let’s say there’s somebody who’s like, “Connecting is good and cool and networking is apparently something I should be doing, but you know, Michelle, I’m not in a sales or recruitment or marketing-type functions and I’m also quite happy with the job that I’ve got going on right now as well as my friends and the people I hang out with. What is the necessity for me to go about doing some good connecting?”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, that’s great and I’m really happy you have all those things in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
The fictitious person is doing good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’m so happy for this person who is in that place in their life. That said, we don’t stay stagnant in our life. If you think about all the things that you may want in your life, personal and professional, it impacts both. You might want a new job externally, but you might just want a promotion internally. You are 70% more likely to get a promotion if you have an active mentor relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s quite a stat. Thank you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. Maybe you’re not in sales, but part of your job might be to make the customer happy. Referrals make all the difference in how you are perceived within the organization. It’s part of your brand. It’s part of whether or not you get a yes to being on a project that you’re really interested in. Do people want to work with you? It’s also with health and happiness.

There is a statistic. Julianne Holt-Lunstad out of Brigham Young University did research on social isolation. There was an equal mortality impact of social isolation as to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Isn’t that crazy?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
If you want to be healthier, which we probably all want, we need to be social. We need to be around other people. It’s also happiness. If you want to be happier on the job, close work relationships will boost your productivity, boost your job satisfaction, and actually predict your happiness on the job. It’s really impacting so many different things.

But let’s even take it a step further. You have all these things and you’re happy and you’re happy with your friends, but what about you might want to buy a new house or maybe a storm hit and you need some repair work. Finding those referrals and finding those resources-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. It’s so hard to get home renovation professionals that are good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Right. Faster, easier, better. All I have to do is put a little note out to my network, “I need this kind of doctor,” “I need this kind of resource,” and I have results within an hour. It’s not just one person. I’ll get multiple results. That’s what being a connector can do for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. We have a nice compelling why. Let’s dig into a bit of the how here. In your book you lay out seven connector mindsets. Can you give us a little bit of a walkthrough orientation to each of them?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Sure. I’ll list the seven for you and then we can dive into each one a little bit. But what I want to say is that these mindsets are nonlinear. It’s not like you have to do one then the other. Yes, I write them in a certain order because you have to when you’re reading a book, but they enable each other. You need to think about the ones that you might need to adopt or enhance. There’s some that you probably are doing really well.

The seven mindsets of a connector are that they are open and accepting. They have a clear vision. They believe in abundance. Connectors trust. They’re social and curious—and social and curious is one mindset. They’re conscientious and they have a generous spirit. As somebody who is a connector, does that resonate for you?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, indeed. It does. I want to dig into a little bit of all of them. All right, open, accepting, clear vision, believe in abundance, trust, social and curious, conscientious and generous spirit.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Oh, good memory.

Pete Mockaitis
No, I totally have your table of contents of your book in front of me. Secrets. Insider secrets of the podcaster. We’ll put these in the show notes or the Gold Nugget. Anyway-

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Did any of those mindsets surprise you or be like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought of before?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say that I buy them all. I would say, yup, that works for me. Although, I think there’s the potential for misconception on some of them. For example, let’s just start with open and accepting. What does that mean and what does it not mean?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Is that one that was surprising or misconstrued?

Pete Mockaitis
It wasn’t, but I think I’m going to give a little bit of a treatment to each and then delve deeper into a couple.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
You have to tell me because I’m guessing at the two that I think you’ll say for that, so I’m waiting to see if I’m right.

But open and accepting is about not just being open and accepting to other people and to connecting, but to be open and accepting of yourself. One of the things I talk about is to accept ourselves and what I call your unique charms. A unique charm is a quality about yourself that is kind of innate to who you are, but that quality doesn’t always work for you, but you don’t want to change it either.

Pete Mockaitis
I like the way you’ve packaged that because I think I’ve got a number of these and they’ve brought me great joy and great pain over the course of-

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Tell me about one of your unique charms.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve been told that I talk differently in terms of I guess word choice and pacing, meter, annunciation, pausing. For some people, that’s a little off-putting like, “That’s a little bit weird. Is this guy for real? What’s his story? I don’t know if I feel super comfortable having that person be my boyfriend,” is what I’m thinking about.

Other teams it’s just like, “Oh man, this guy he’s kind of fun and different and unique. I enjoy sort of the energy and the vibe of it’s just sort of fun and different being around him.” As a podcaster I’d say, hey, that’s a differentiator. I’m going to claim that as a unique charm there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That is a great example of a unique charm. Mine’s not that different. I’ve had multiple ones, but one of mine is that I can talk a lot, which I’m sure you’ve already picked up on. I was always very uncomfortable with silence. I’ve gotten better at it. But I would just fill it up. If I ever got nervous, I would just talk more and talk faster. Here’s the thing. I can come on too much and I can come on too strong. That’s when it can work against you.

But what we talk about in being self-accepting is not just saying, “Well, this is me. Deal with it.” It’s about saying, “Okay, in this exchange it’s not working for me, so I’m going to flex.” A flex is a momentary, temporary adjustment to enable connection to form with somebody else. It’s not changing who you are, but it’s adapting to enable somebody to see beyond that quirk or that charm.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I like it. Very good. Okay. We’re being open and accepting of ourselves as well as others. Can you give us an example of what are maybe some barriers or closeness, non-accepting-ness that people can mistakenly engage in?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, so that was that phrasing that I have to now follow non-something.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess the opposite of being open and accepting – closed and non-accepting.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, so one of the things that we tend to do as humans, which is totally natural and we should not be hard on ourselves for it is that we quickly form conclusions. Now, this is natural and this is necessary and has been in the past. You had to determine very quickly was somebody friend or foe. Do I need to be ready for fight or flight? But it’s still innate.

We have brains that are constantly taking in information, processing it, and forming conclusions. What I try to have people do is to slow their thinking down. One of the things that I talk about is staying in a place of curiosity versus conclusion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
And to stay open to being wrong. I think back to business school. You’re put into these cohorts in business school with 60-something other people and you go through your entire first semester in all of your classes with these same 63 people. There was this one woman – now, your listeners can’t see me, but I am about 4 foot 10 and a quarter.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got to count every fraction.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’ve got to go with that quarter. I want to round up to 4’ 11’’, but the driver’s license people wouldn’t let me. There was a woman in the cluster who was, oh God, 5’ 10’’, former model, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, gorgeous, smart, rich. You just wanted to hate her, right?

She never spoke to me. I always felt like she was just looking down her nose at me because she literally was looking down at me because she was towering over me. We went on a spring break trip together and ended up being placed in the same room. I thought, “Oh my God, this is going to be the worst trip ever.”

Turns out she’s really shy. She just didn’t talk to me because she was not an outgoing person and she didn’t know what to say. We were on this trip and I got to know her and we talked. I ended up being a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there you go.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That is where part of me started saying, “Oh, you know what? I was too quick to look at certain pieces of information and to draw a conclusion and then look to prove myself right.” That’s what we do. We look to prove ourselves right. To being open and accepting is to stay open to being wrong, to stay in a place of curiosity. I give these four questions in the book to help you stay in that place and to question your first assessment.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Well, thank you. That’s well understood and encouraging. It’s like any time you think that someone doesn’t like you, it’s like there could totally be another angle to the story and wouldn’t it be fun to discover what that could end up becoming.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, and sometimes it’s not about you.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s about them. We’re a little self-centered, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Well, tell us a little bit about the clear vision piece now.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
This is one of the ones I thought you might think could be misconstrued. This is one I often get push back on because people will say, “Well, connectors are really supposed to be outwardly focused and focused on the other person.” I say well, yes, they’re relationship-based. Relationships are bidirectional.

But if connectors are going to get the advantage – results faster, easier, better – they need to know the results they’re looking for. Having a clear vision is about knowing what you want and knowing how to ask for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
In this chapter, one of the lessons on teaching is how to ask for what you want and to ask in a way that doesn’t put the relationship at risk.

Pete Mockaitis
What are some of your top do’s and don’ts for asking?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, there’s different types of asks. I’ll give you one example. My favorite is called the opt-out ask. I tell you when you make an ask, give them the reason to say no. Now, I know that sounds counterintuitive, but if somebody wants to say no, they’re going to find a way to say no. If they’re uncomfortable saying no, now they want to avoid you and that puts the relationship at risk.

If instead you say, “If you have the time,” there’s your excuse, “If your company will allow it,” there’s your excuse, “If,” blank. If whatever reason I can tell you that you can use and it would be okay to say no, then I would love for you to do this. Then they could easily say, “Oh, I am really too busy right now.” Then you can say, “That’s okay,” and you live to get a yes another day.

Pete Mockaitis
I kind of like that. The request I get most often these days is “I want to be on your podcast.”
It would be kind of refreshing and nice if someone gave me that upfront permission, which is “If you think this would absolutely delight your audience, otherwise feel free to delete this immediately.” That would make me feel a little bit better. Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, it’s interesting because as I’ve been doing podcasts, at the end we always have our little conversations and I often say, “Hey, if there’s another show you think I’d be a great fit for, I welcome a recommendation.” That’s very easy for you to be like, “Well, I can’t think of a show that is a great fit.” That’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Or that pitch person can say and be a little bit more specific about “Here’s why I think it would be a fit if you’re looking for that angle right now.” There’s your excuse, “We’re not focused on that angle right now.” You can see how quickly you can find that little clause to add to give that person permission.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s also great because in a way it gives you some permission because if you’re like, “Oh, I’m kind of scared to ask. I don’t know. I don’t want to put them out. I don’t want to be too aggressive or make them uncomfortable.” It’s sort of like if that little bridge lets you get over the hump so that you can make the request that needs to get made, then well, it’s just great for yourself psychologically.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Exactly. We have to get over the hurdle of asking. I forget that you can ask half the time. I’m so accustomed to asking somebody else what they need and trying to be helpful and give and all of that, but I have to remember and we all have to remember that we are allowed to ask as well.

It’s much easier to ask when you have a mindset of that generous spirit, which I know we’ll get to because even if you haven’t given to the person you’re asking something of, when you know you have that mindset, it gives you permission to put a request out to the universe because you give to the universe. I know that sounds a little bit hoo-ha, but energy is exponential.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Let’s talk about hoo-ha and the universe. Let’s talk about abundance for a second because that could go any number of interpretations. When you say they believe in abundance, what precisely do you mean by that?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, when I originally wrote the chapter, I said people come from a place of abundance versus scarcity. Then I just kind of wanted to get rid of the negativity and I just said they believe in abundance. I don’t want people to think that abundance means that you have a Pollyanna attitude and everything is just rose-colored glasses. That’s not what abundance is.

But abundance is the belief and the mindset that there is enough and that what is right now, doesn’t mean that’s how it has to stay.

I always think back to my time in my finance days. Usually they don’t put in my bio that I’m a recovering CPA, but I did spend ten years in the field of finance. When I started, there was only one female partner in the firm. It was a scarce accomplishment for a woman to rise to the top. At that time, women were very competitive with each other because it was you or me. That is a scarce attitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
An abundant attitude would be okay, there might only be one now, but who’s to say there can’t 100 in a few years. It’s open to the possibility of more.

For me, it enabled me to start because, I will tell you, this one’s hard for me. I grew up as a without and it was hard for me to move from that knowing place of protectiveness and defensiveness and scarcity and keep what you have because you might not have it, to a place of “I don’t have competitors. I have a … partners. I have a lot of potential people to collaborate with. But I’ve got nobody to compete with.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I think that that’s a nice way to think about in terms of abundance. It’s not that we have to fight for a limited slice of anything because there could just be more of that something.

I keep bringing it back to the podcast because I guess when you have a mic in your face, that’s what you’re thinking of. I think that some would say, “Oh, there’s a finite amount of time that someone can listen to a podcast in the course of their day” and therefore you might think of other podcasters as competitors, but I really don’t.

I think well, if you have enough really good engaging shows out there, you’ll just sort of reallocate time as a listener away from something less compelling maybe in terms of lower quality TV or talk radio or whatever. I’m right with you there. It’s not about competing with others for a finite number of spots, but, especially if you’re getting creative, you can grow the number of spots.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, or even a finite number of guests. I know a lot of podcasters that have the same guests. I was on one last week and he was saying one of the things about abundance is not to judge yourself or compare yourself to others. It’s to really kind of have your own measures against yourself because as soon as we start doing that to others, then we’re coming from a scarce place.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. When I was thinking about abundance, I was wondering in terms of – I enjoy connecting. I think it’s a lot of fun to build relationships to hang out, chat with people, and become friendlier. I guess where I get hung up a little bit is the extent to which time spent doing that is with opportunity cost potentially at the expense of cranking out deliverables, work product, whatever.

I’m sort of wondering, well, how much is optimal in terms of the allocation of time because in a way, if I’m doing stuff on LinkedIn with folks or at networking event, a cocktail party, etcetera, then I’m not producing a document or podcast episode or whatever.

I guess it’s about that clear vision again, is what is the best amount of time to spend doing the people stuff versus the other stuff because your thesis here is that those connections let you get more done faster, better, but at the same time you are spending less time sort of doing the thing itself.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Totally get it. The struggle is real. It is one of my biggest challenges is finding the time. I have these mindset missions throughout the book so that you can think about how you can incorporate that mindset into your interactions. In this chapter, the mindset mission is about investing time, but there’s also finding time. There’s a lot of time that is underutilized.

I’m all for downtime and I believe in it wholeheartedly. If that’s what you are intending to do with that time, then don’t do anything else. But there are times where it is just underutilized.

For example, lunches. We often are just doing them at our desk. You’re not really being efficient with your work. That’s a great time to actually – once a week, it doesn’t have to be every day – just once a week have a meal with somebody else. It can be right in the building. It can be right in the kitchen area. You don’t have to go out and make it crazy, but just spend a little time with somebody else.

Your commute time is another underutilized time. Your not really downtime, but I’ve shared commutes with people as ways to catch up. I’ve done emails reconnecting with people while I’m commuting. That’s great found time. If you’re a driver, it’s a great time to be on the phone. They can keep you company.

For me, anytime I’m in food coma is a great underutilized time because my brain’s not really functioning after I eat, so might as well schedule a call after lunch every day and just do a catch up until the food digests and I can use my brain again.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s very clever.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. I always say do the things that you’re doing and invite people to do them with you. I used to do dog walk play dates. I met somebody at the dog park that I ended up hiring on my team. I do the circuit at the gym and I will get in a group with some people to catch up with the moms from school or somebody who is also writing a book or whoever it might be that’s in the gym that day.

You can capitalize on the things that you’re already doing and invite people who might be interested in doing them with you.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. I love it. Tell me then, what’s the conscientious part about?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’m so glad you went there because when you were talking about the podcasting and people asking you for things, I’m like oh, you’re going right into the conscientious mindset because connectors do what they say they’re going to do. They follow up. They follow through.

In order to be conscientious and to have that mindset, you need to be very clear on what you’re willing to say yes to and be comfortable saying no and setting boundaries. One of the things I talk about in this chapter is know how to say no and know how to say yes. Yes and no are never just yes or no. There’s ‘yes, if,’ and ‘yes, after’, and ‘yes, when,’ and ‘yes, with,’ and there’s no ‘but.’

Pete Mockaitis
‘Yes, if,’ ‘yes, when,’ yes, after,’ not ‘yes, but.’

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The ‘but’ goes with the ‘no.’

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The ‘no’ is hard, but we might say, “No, not at this time,” “No, but this,” “No, but somebody else can-.” You might not be able to do something that they’re asking, but here’s something else. It feels a lot better for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I think it might be an Austin Powers’ movie where they say “Short answer yes with an ‘if.’ Long answer no with a ‘but,’” which is kind of what I’m thinking about and giggling right now.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, so I don’t know that line, but I’m loving it ….

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s from an Austin Powers’ movie. We’ll make sure to link to that. That’s very important for the show notes. We’ll cover that. I like that a lot.

I want to hear some of your favorite ways to say no. You sort of offered some alternative resources they can link to or different timings because say no is tricky for some people, so how do you do it well?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
One of the things I do is I give them a way that they can get a yes later. For you, if somebody wants to come on your show and it’s not the right fit right now, you might say, “Well, when you have written a book,” or “When you are focused on this area.” You could give them a when they could get a yes from you.

For me, I get a lot of people asking me to come do talks. I have a pro bono calendar and I’m happy for non-profits and for causes that I think are wonderful to come out and do a talk, but I also try to set boundaries because my husband literally had me put the word ‘no’ on my computer for over a year until the sticky gave out to give myself permission to say no because I was saying yes to everything and then you stretch yourself too thin.

I remind myself that saying no to something is saying yes to something else. Sometimes that saying yes to something is saying yes to yourself or your family or that downtime.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That was a mindset to become more conscientious of what I was agreeing to. When somebody would ask me to do a free talk and they were like, “Yeah, we have 30 people and it’s an hour from your house during rush hour, but we’ll buy you dinner.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I can’t eat when I’m talking anyway. And it wasn’t really about the dinner. It was “No, I can’t do that, but I’ll tell you what. If you can get a couple of organizations together and get me a couple hundred people and if they’ll each buy a book in advance, I will come down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Or something along those lines that say “Here’s how I can say yes to you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued. When you say that you’re saying no to something is saying yes to something else. That’s getting me thinking of did you have, as you were learning to say no better, a particular sort of default comparison point in terms of “Hey, if I say no to that, I’m saying yes to this particular other thing,” whether it’s myself or family or a paid speaking engagement or whatnot.

I’m thinking that really strikes me as a means of if you can establish a clear bar in terms of “what am I comparing this to?” Because in a way you’re comparing it to everything, opportunity cost means you can do anything else in the world if you weren’t doing that thing. But did you have these sort of go-to comparison points like “Is this more worthwhile than X?”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s a really good point. I love that. I don’t know if I really did. I think at any given time that I was being asked it was what was on my mind at that moment. But what I was finding was I was being asked to do things that I just didn’t have capacity. In my mind I was leaving myself open for potential and for opportunity. I was also really okay with a day on the couch.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s good. You compare that to that alone and that’s working for you. Okay. Cool.

Well, also when you said conscientious, where I thought you were going to go with that as well is just the notion of the follow-up. It’s so common that the follow-up just never happens. I wanted to get your take on do you have any pro tips for bringing about more consistency if you say, “Oh yeah, I’ll send you the name of that contractor,” or “Oh, I’ll make sure to send you,” whatever.

It seems there’s a lot of verbal promises made that don’t materialize in my experience. What are your tips there?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
We all need our own systems. I’m happy to share mine. That is one of the things that a connector does. They follow through. They do what they say they’re going to do. They do things in a certain way. I talk about how does a connector do things in the book like how do they make an introduction, how do they follow up. Whatever it is that they might do, they do it in a particular way.

For me, I’m often saying those things. I think about the anatomy of a conversation as looking for the next point of contact. If in your mindset, if you’re relationship-based, you’re looking for the reason to stay in touch with somebody. You’re looking for that connection point. I’m always looking for that in that conversation. Once I find it in the conversation, I feel that it’s okay for the conversation to end because I know the relationship can continue.

What I will do is depending on the situation, if I have a card, I will write something on the back of their card. I have a graveyard of business cards in my office. I’m looking at the pile that probably is over a foot tall if I stack them all on top of each other. If that card did not have something written on the back, they probably did not get a follow up because you can’t.

It’s okay that you cannot follow up with every single person, but if you know what the follow up is going to be, it’s much easier to do it. If I don’t have a business card, I will actually take my phone out and I will put it write in my to-do list. I don’t use the tasks. I actually just literally put it as a calendar item, an all-day event. It shows up at the top of my calendar.

I’ll say connect so-and-so to so-and-so or send so-and-so something. Then I don’t have to think about it because my calendar will tell me and I’m a slave to my calendar.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. OmniFocus is my tool of choice there. It’s beautiful when your mind feels free to not have to remember and hold those things. It’s there and you don’t have to worry. It’s going to get done and you can continue with life. We’re talking tools now, so let’s keep it going.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I want to hear more about your tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. Well, Omnifocus. Have you heard of it or seen it in action?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a dream. It is software for the Mac and iOS. It’s so nifty in that you can take a task or action and just do everything with it. Some people say, “Whoa, this is overkill,” and it can be.

You can take a task and then you can add it from your phone and it’s just one button, just super quick. Then that’s sort of like the fundamental unit. If you wanted to, you could choose to tag it with the context in which you can do it or assign it to a particular project, give it a due date or a flag or tagging with certain resources or people you need to be with, you may be add the amount of time it needs to take you, you can add an audio recording or a pinned note.

That’s what’s nifty is you have the ability to manipulate it any way that you could conceive of wanting to manipulate it or if you just want to snag it and make sure you didn’t forget it, you could just simply do that too. I like that it has the simplicity and beauty, but it also has the power.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It does sound a little overwhelming.

Pete Mockaitis
If you just want to hey, here’s my to-do list, here’s 15 things and I’m checking as I do, then that works as well. But I guess, what I dig is how when you put them in by project – I’ll get tons of ideas every day. Then I can sort of bring them into their respective project areas. Then when I am ready to kind of move forward, it’s like, “Let’s get some podcast growth going,” and I can say, “Oh hey, great. Over the last three months, here are the dozens of ideas that I’ve had all right there.” I think that’s pretty cool.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I think it’s all about what you get used to that makes you efficient. You were talking about tools, I love Outlook. For me, it is everything. I color code my calendars, so I have conditional formatting, where if I put the word ‘call’ in an item, it turns out orange, if I put the word ‘meeting’ it turns out blue, so I can visually very easily see how I can plot my day.

I try to do calls on certain days and meetings on certain days. I even have a note for a video so I know whether or not I have to put makeup on if I’m going to be on one of these shows.

I don’t use the task functionality with the flag. I don’t need to add the layers to it. I have my own system of putting everything in the all-day event and then every day I look and if I did it, I get to delete it and I don’t even see it anymore or I move it over.

Then I can also say, okay, follow up with so-and-so, I’ll put in the note “Last contact, certain date,” or I’ll put the text of the email or whatever it might be so that I have the quick way to find the information rather than having to search, “Who is this person I have a call with three months from now? Why do I have a call with them?” It’s all right there and very easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s excellent, yes. I think that you’re right. Some people can get sort of zealous about their systems or their tools, like this is the way, but I’d say hey, if you feel like your brain is clear and not oppressed with remembering and you’re not forgetting and embarrassing yourself, then it sounds like you’ve got a workable system. If it’s not the case, well, hey, maybe think about your system.

Maybe it’s Outlook, maybe it’s Omnifocus, maybe it’s the notes app in your phone, but whatever it takes. I want to hear your take on LinkedIn, connecting in LinkedIn.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love LinkedIn. I actually do a whole chapter on tech tools with a major focus on LinkedIn. If we think about the entirety of the virtual world, there’s so many platforms out there. There are great ways to connect. What I tell people in terms of choosing your platform, for me, my main platform is LinkedIn, is thing about where you already are, where you’d like to be, and where are the people you connect with.

If you are in a very visual field, if your job is in graphics or architecture or design or anything like that, even food, you might want to be in Pinterest or Instagram because they’re very visual. If you are more of a B2C in your work, you might want to be on Facebook because that’s a little bit more of the individual, whereas LinkedIn is B to individual, but it’s also B2B as a business platform.

That’s just kind of a big picture as you think about what platforms to be on because you can’t be on them all. You’ll stretch yourself too thin. If you think about like I don’t have enough time in the day, then really focus on one or two platforms and not on all of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I know you’re going to put all my social media in the show notes, but I usually do direct people to LinkedIn. That’s the place I’m spending the most time. What my tips are, I have tons of them. Where do you want me to start?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. I’d say what are most of us doing wrong on LinkedIn?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The biggest mistake that I don’t think I’m seeing as frequently anymore, but I still see it, the biggest mistake is not having a picture or having a picture that is not kind of a head and shoulders clean shot. Unless what you do is related to what that picture is like if you’re a snowboarder or something like that. It shouldn’t be a glamour shot. It shouldn’t be a motorcycle shot. It shouldn’t be a cartoon of you, unless you’re a cartoonist.

It should really be able to say, “Okay, I can recognize that person if I passed them on the street.” That’s one of the biggest things. The other biggest thing is – sometimes the app is at fault for this – is connecting to somebody without a personalized note.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t mean that note that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Don’t give me that canned message.

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh. You’re saying that it’s partially the app’s fault because sometimes when you push it, you don’t even know that it’s automatically doing that.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I try to do it on my desktop a little bit more than on my phone because I find when I try to connect to somebody on my phone, it doesn’t allow me to put that note. What I try to do if that happens is then I will go then send a message, but if they haven’t connected, then – it just is easier if you can send the note from the onset. Sometimes it works on the phone and sometimes it doesn’t, so we’ll tell LinkedIn that.

But I always just tell people to be personal. Why are you reaching out? I actually reached out to somebody today because my chiropractor watched his show and was talking about him. He started talking about him in a way that was kind of like, I do all those things. This is somebody I should know. I reached out to him and said, “My chiropractor likes your show. Sounds like we do a lot of the same things. Would love to connect.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That was the note.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s got just a little bit of context because otherwise, I don’t know.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s real. They know I’m not like-

Pete Mockaitis
A bot.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, that’s …. That will get somebody’s attention. I also love to look at shared contacts. If you are a second contact with somebody, go look at the shared contacts and then look for that obscure person like, how the heck did they know that person I went to camp with.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Then I’ll say like, “How do you know Jo Shmo? I went to summer camp with him when I was 13 years old.” Then you have that – now we’re kind of going to my first book, which The Law of Likability, that’s that law of similarity and that law association. People like people like them and people like people who they know. It kind of gives you that, “we have this person in common.” It’s not just another contact; it’s somebody I really know and we can start a great conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Do you think about the keywords at all with regard to what’s in your profile and how you representing yourself and what’s findable?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yes, but maybe not as much as I should, but yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Any pro tips there?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I do think if you go down to that skill section, that really helps a lot with the SEO and the search-ability. Yeah, people give you those recommendations, but even just having those phrases within your profile will help you come up in the search.

The other thing I would say is, unless there’s a reason not to, then I suggest connecting to more people than less. I don’t have LION. I’m not a LinkedIn open networker, but if I can find a reason – if I don’t think you’re going to spam me or ask me for my hand in marriage, which I’ve had happen a few times. ….

Pete Mockaitis
You’re making an impression, Michelle.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’ve had these notes where it says, “I know this is not – but I was taken by your smile,” I’m just like, “Oh no, block.” But unless if they’ll be one of those, then you are going to increase your search by being connected to more people because it expands your network and you’re more second in line and you’ll come up in other people’s searches. It helps you to be connected to more people.

Sometimes people are really stringent with it. I used to be a little bit more stringent with it. I really wanted to know who was in my network, but I what I started to realize was if I was willing to receive a request from somebody in my network and ask a request from somebody in my LinkedIn network even if they were weak ties, then I would be willing to say yes to those connections.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Cool. All right. Well, tell me, any other final tips when it comes to maybe the maintenance of authentic relationships because it can be quite easy to kind of lose touch with folks, especially if you’re connecting with a lot of them. How do you go about the maintenance mode?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That’s a great question. It’s never too long. That’s the one thing I want people to remember. It is never too long because some people are like, “Well, what’s too long before you can’t really reach out anymore?” There’s no such thing.

You know how many emails I have sent that had a subject line ‘Been too long,’ or ‘Thinking about you,’ or ‘Let’s reconnect,’ and just owning the fact that yeah, you lost touch or yeah, it’s been a while, just really doing those little light touches to just keep in somebody’s mind without getting in their face.

Pete Mockaitis
So that’s your subject line, ‘Been too long.’ Then what’s the rest of the message?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Then I’ll send a note saying, “Hey, you just popped into my head. Wondering what you’ve been up to. Here’s my quick update. Let’s catch up.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Two, three sentences. You’re spending less than three minutes on the effort of just putting yourself back into somebody’s mind. Even if they don’t respond, you still put yourself back into the front of their mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, and now I’m wondering is it the – if you had to put a number on it, what proportion of those messages get a reply?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I would say the majority of mine do to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I use different formats. Sometimes I’ll use email. This week I actually reached out to somebody on Facebook Messenger because I know that’s where she is. It’s somebody who I know. She’s not a strong relationship, but I also know she’s going through something, so I sent a little note on Facebook Messenger saying, “Hey, I was just thinking about you. Hope-“ somebody in her world is ill and I said, “Hope your friend’s feeling better.” That was it.

She was on at that moment and she instant messaged m
e back and we had a quick three or four back and forth and that was that and she knew I cared. That’s all you’re really trying to do in maintenance is to say, “I care. I’m thinking about you. I want to stay in your world. You’re important enough to me to make an effort.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Any final thoughts before we hear about your favorite things?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Oh, I know these favorite things. I don’t know if-

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if they’re new. We’ll see. The diligent listener might compare.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t remember all of them, but hopefully I’ll have some good answers for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, let me have it. I’m ready.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite quote?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
One of my favorite quotes is actually from a song, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

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

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if this is a favorite, but I actually recently was just looking a study, so it’s front of mind. It was the Decision to Attend study because I was looking at why do people say yes to go into certain networking conferences or social events and actually networking was one of the top three reasons. I thought it was really interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
7 Habits of Highly Effective People if we’re doing business books.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
If we’re doing non-business books, I have a whole other list.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll take one from the other list as well.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Anything Ayn Rand, anything Frank McCourt. What did I read recently? Oh, Ely Oliphant is Perfectly Fine was very good.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
We already talked a little bit about Outlook and LinkedIn and those are probably two of my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
All right and a favorite habit?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if I really have habits.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing right there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I think I will get into habits but then get out of habits. I’m very inconsistent with structure. I think maybe being unstructured is my habit.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if that’s a good answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m wondering are you unstructured at reoccurring times of the day.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No. Okay, maybe the only habit I can think of is that there’s typically always a jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table. How’s that?

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding. That is interesting. My brother’s amazing at puzzles and somehow I’m not. He’s two to three times faster than I am at putting together puzzles. It’s amazing.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love them. I find them meditative.

Pete Mockaitis
It really is soothing in terms of you’ve got nothing else to do and it takes all – at least for me – it takes all my brainpower or the vast majority to continue making progress on a puzzle, so I can’t worry about anything else.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I’ve got a monkey brain. It’s always thinking about a million things, but when you’re focused on a puzzle, everything else falls by the wayside, which is why I find it very calming.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that is really seeming to connect and resonate with folks from the book? Maybe it’s highlighted or retweeted a lot.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, actually the last line of the book. It’s that networking is something that you do, but a connector is someone that you are.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. That feels very retweetable, but hopefully you haven’t ruined the book if you spoil the ending there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No, no. That’s just kind of the way to land it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. That was one of my favorite jokes is a non-fiction book and they said, “Oh, tell me how it ends.” Zing. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The best place to start is my website, which is Michelle, with two L’s, Tillis, T-I-L-L-I-S, Lederman, L-E-D-E-R-M-A-N.com. From there you can get to my YouTube. I do videos on my blog. You can find all that social media that we were talking about.

But if you want to get the book, go to TheConnectorsAdvantage.com. I’m giving bonuses away even after the pre-order period. I’m going to leave those bonuses up so that you get some extra goodies when you get the book. I’m actually telling people to BOGO with the book, to buy one, gift one and use the book as a means to reconnect with someone.

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

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Pick three. Pick three people. I want you to pick one person that you’ve lost touch with from your childhood, your college days, your last job that you want to reconnect with, one person that is in your existing life that you want to strengthen a relationship with and then one person of your choice. Pick three. Have those people’s names in your mind and then find one way to reach out to them within the next week.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Michelle, it’s been a lot of fun once again. I wish you lots of luck with your book, The Connector’s Advantage, and all your other adventures.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Thank you for having me. It was so much fun.