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957: How to Push Past Discomfort and Expand Your Comfort Zone with Dr. Marc Schoen

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Dr. Marc Schoen discusses the critical role discomfort plays in our lives—and offers powerful techniques for getting better at managing it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we need more—not less—discomfort
  2. Everyday techniques to build your discomfort tolerance 
  3. The 45-second trick that helps you handle stress better 

About Marc

Dr. Marc Schoen is an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine where he specializes in Boosting Performance and Decision Making Under Pressure and Mind-Body Medicine. He works extensively with elite athletes, professional and college, as well as, executives and UCLA medical students in strengthening their ability to thrive under pressure, and in competitive and uncomfortable conditions. His method of Discomfort Training and Pilates for the Brain builds hardiness and resilience, by rewiring the fear region of the brain which is responsible for Performance Under Pressure.

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Marc Schoen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Marc, welcome!

Marc Schoen

Yes, very fun to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom. I have listened to your book, Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You: Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear and Build Resilience twice, partially because I think your voice is so soothing. I guess that’s the hypnotist in you. But I would love to kick us off by hearing what’s a particularly striking, surprising, counterintuitive discovery you’ve made about us humans and how we perform best in your many years of working in mind-body medicine?

Marc Schoen

The biggest discovery, I would say, is that I was trained to believe that performance really had to do with controlling pressure or discomfort. And what I found is that, in reality, that’s not really what it is. It’s that we all should be feeling some amount of discomfort. And it’s not the discomfort alone that impairs performance. It’s that it’s our reaction to discomfort. And I have a great two studies on that, if that’s okay to elaborate on.

One was a great study done right around the start of the Afghanistan War, where they took two groups of people, the general infantry and the Special Forces, and they subjected them to a very intense, grueling workout. And the hypothesis was, is that the general infantry would show much higher signs of stress in the body, while the Special Forces would show very little stress.

Well, what they found out is that the Special Forces actually had a higher stress response than the general infantry, but the difference was they were able to parlay that stress response into productive action and, therefore, bring down the stress response, while the general infantry continued to hover in that higher level.

And that really is something that I have seen in several studies that I’ve done, whereas we can train people to manage discomfort and pressure better. But it doesn’t mean they will report that they’re not stressed, but their physiological response shows that they are managing the stress far superior than those who do not receive that kind of training.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s beautiful. Well, I think we could all use a little bit more of that. Did you say there were two studies?

Marc Schoen

Yeah, that was my main study on it, and then the second study was the Afghanistan study. That was not mine. That was someone else’s study.

So, two studies. The Afghanistan study, and the second study was mine, my own. And that was one where I had people who, in their everyday life, come in, report just the stress levels they’re having at work, and every day took blood measures of them, then trained a group into managing the discomfort and the pressure better, and their blood measures, which were cytokine measures, called Interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor, those people that received that kind of training had a far reduced inflammatory response, but they still reported being stressed.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, we’re going to dig deep into what training consists of but, first, maybe let’s hear the big picture in terms of the big message behind your book Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You: Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear and Build Resilience. What’s the core thesis here?

Marc Schoen

The core point of it has to do with discomfort. And I think of it this way, is that here we are in this advanced technological society, and it’s done a great job of really limiting our discomfort in our lives. But the paradox of it all is that, even though we have less discomfort, theoretically, we’ve become far more sensitive to being uncomfortable. So, the premise of the book is, “Okay, how do we learn to manage discomfort without precipitating the fear response, like the fight or flight response?”

Pete Mockaitis

And that is a powerful message and question, and so rich and apt, I think, for our time. I’ve also enjoyed Michael Easter’s book, The Comfort Crisis, which explores some of these bits as well. You’ve got a fun word you use frequently in the book. Can you tell us the definition of agitants? What is that? And tell us a little bit of the story for how it is we’ve come to find ourselves here in this place with greater comforts and yet less resilience to discomforts?

Marc Schoen

Yes, I call it the comfort zone dilemma, is that we all strive to be in our comfort zone. And no doubt, it feels good to be in the comfort zone, to be a non-stressed organism, but the downside is, if we take refuge in this comfort zone, what we end up doing is that actually shrinking our comfort zone because we become more and more uncomfortable with the idea of getting out of it. It’s the effect is a lot today.

I see so much of this today, is that, as this shrunken comfort zone happens, we get many more mental symptoms, particularly phobias: fear of getting on the freeway, fear of flying, fear of closed places, or fear of heights. And so, we want to be challenging our comfort zone. If we just fall back into it, we are setting ourselves up for poor performance and many mental symptoms.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so, what is the concept of agitants?

Marc Schoen

So, agitants comes from the word agitation. And I’m very interested in, as our body gets more and more agitated, or has agitants in it, is that we cause a certain sort of high bar, I think of it, and the more agitants we have that exceeds the high bar, the more we are likely to impair performance and have psychological, physical symptoms. But if we can keep our agitants below that high bar, we tend to perform well and have no symptoms. But the key point of this is not the absence of agitants, but rather the well-management of agitants.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, is agitants the same as stress and agitation? Or what is the distinction or the core of this concept?

Marc Schoen

Well, I think of it more as a warming up of the body, heating it up. So, like, we all are theoretically around 98.6 is our basal temperature, and we do okay if we get into the low 99s, we may feel a tiny bit off. But once we start overheating and getting above 100, then our performance is very much affected. So, I like agitants more as a continuum, rather than thinking of we’re stressed or not stressed.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, certainly. And so then, and for a given stressor, we may very well experience a different internal agitants response, like whether something gets us really steamed and furious, or a little bit like, “Ah, it’s kind of annoying, but I’ll shrug it off.”

Marc Schoen

Yeah, I just find it better to refer to that because of that continuum, rather than that you either have it or don’t have it.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Well, can you walk us through the history, the chronology, the narrative of how we found ourselves in this place with lots of comfort, and yet a shrinking comfort zone? And you suggest it’s not just the smartphone but this journey starts much earlier.

Marc Schoen

I really think it starts as prehistoric humans, where humans learned to have an instinct to avoid being uncomfortable because the brain is pretty black and white about this. So, if we start feeling discomfort, then the brain starts experiencing a threat. So, in the early days, obviously, that threat was not enough food, or cold, or a mountain lion, or someone throwing a spear at us.

So, we learn real quickly to become sensitive to any impending discomfort and threat. And those humans that were capable of being able to respond effectively to that, live a whole bunch longer than those who are more tight-beat folks that were, “Oh, I’ll be fine,” and they just didn’t live long enough to propagate. And so, we’re a product of worriers and people that are constantly concerned that something bad will happen.

So, it’s natural that we would evolve more and more as a society to want to limit our discomfort because it just feels so much better. But that’s the ultimate trap, is that by continuing to pursue this path of greater comfort, which has really come significantly with technological advance, we’re losing that discomfort muscle so it atrophies, so we’re less capable of responding to the world.

And here’s, like, I think a wonderful example of this. We are in a world with tremendous amounts of psychological resources. And to help people do well and manage resilience and become hardy, but yet with all of that, and all of these technological advances, we have more mental illness than ever, and our troops are more likely to die from their own hands than they are from enemy fire. So, what’s happened is that we, as a society, have become less hardy, more fearful, and so that’s what’s happened to us.

Pete Mockaitis

Ooh, that’s tricky. And you say that in many ways that the march of technological progress has contributed to that, whether it’s microwaves and fast foods and convenient packaged foods, it’s like we don’t have to sit in even hunger or discomfort for long at all.

Marc Schoen

So true. And look how quickly we can create perfection by just tweaking things on the computer, making ourselves look better, sound better, or edit our responses. And not to mention, this was sort of what you alluded to is the issue of delayed gratification. We don’t have to wait long, do we, for gratification anymore? So, we don’t get uncomfortable in the same way we did in earlier times.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, bringing this to careers, in particular, could you tell us a story of how this scenario we find ourselves in, with a relatively tiny comfort zone, has been harmful to someone’s career, and what they did to turn it around and the cool results they saw on the other side of that training?

Marc Schoen

One great example was, some years ago I was sent a fellow that wanted to be drafted into the NBA. He was a senior year at the university, so he knew this is a make it or break it year.

And so, while he was playing during the year, he was never, by the way, historically a very good free throw maker. He’s always like around 60%, but now here he is in this last season, and many of the games being nationally televised, is that he’d get to the free throw line and freeze. He would push the ball rather than just be relaxed, and then his percentage went from 66% or 68% into the high 30s. So, he was having lots of pressure, and then of course freezing under the pressure.

So, I would go to Pauley Pavilion where he would play, and every time he got to the free throw line, the crowd would go, “Oh, no.” You just hear this large moan of 15,000 to 17,000 people. So, I had him come in, and I asked him questions, “What is your memory?” And this is so important for the bigger question that you’re asking, “What’s your memory of being under pressure?” And his memory was oral reports in school, and getting up to do an oral report and being nervous and shaking, and then the kids teasing him about his inability to talk.

So, now, years later, he goes to the free throw line, it’s like going up there for an oral report, and then when the whole crowd starts moaning, it pushes that old button and he freezes up. So, that’s a good example. So, what the solution was is that we couldn’t stop the pressure that he was feeling. Didn’t want to. What we wanted to do to make it so that the pressure, which is uncomfortable, no longer pushed the fear response.

Pete Mockaitis

And how does one make it such that that occurs?

Marc Schoen

It is possible to create a physical, emotional state in the brain that neutralizes the fear region of the brain, as many of you their listeners know is the amygdala part of the brain. So, what we do is put someone under pressure, when they’re uncomfortable, create this physical state in the brain. Hypnosis is the big way I do it, and it will block the fear response. So, now we’re having someone be uncomfortable, and learned that no fear is associated with it, and that’s how it stops.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool.

Marc Schoen

Neuro-conditioning.

Pete Mockaitis

Neuro-conditioning. Hypnosis. Okay. And you said you had another story.

Marc Schoen

Another story is more directly related to business. I see a lot of folks that are young entrepreneurs, and have come up with a fabulous concept, made a lot of money, and venture capitalists come in to give them more funding for their company. And it was their idea, their intuitions, their hard work that created the success, but now you have the venture capital people, working with someone that’s a lot younger, and the entrepreneurs can get very intimidated by these people with their mathematical models, being older, putting pressure on them, second guessing their decisions.

And so, what happens is they start getting frozen up inside, starts second-guessing themselves, start losing confidence, start basically bowing to the pressure, which isn’t necessarily good because the venture capitalists aren’t the ones that created it, nor the ones that made the money. And so, we get this, again, this dilemma where we have pressure, uncomfortableness, pushing the fear response. And what is the fear response mostly is the area of rejection.

You think about it, when it comes to performance, if you look at “What is the issue?” It’s usually rejection, judgment, worry what other people might think, what they might say. When I asked my medical students, “What’s your biggest fear?” And these are super bright medical students at UCLA, “What’s your biggest fear?” Of saying something and embarrassing themselves.

And so, we get this with these young entrepreneurs and they buckle under that pressure. So, what I do is, again, create the pressure but make it so it does not push the fear response, so they can respond accordingly, express their opinion, stand up for what they believe.

Pete Mockaitis

And in your book, you mentioned that it’s very possible to feel two emotions at the same time. You’d say, “I feel stressed, worried, concerned, anxious, and also I’m safe.” Could you talk about that principle?

Marc Schoen

Yes. And that goes to that early concept of being able to create an emotional, physical state in the brain that blocks the fear, but yet, you can have them feel pressure. So, we have a neutral state or a safe state induced by this type of hypnosis, I like to call it hypno-meditation, and the real-world stress, and I also alluded to that study I gave you, is that, yeah, the people did report plenty of stress in their lives, but physically there was no trace of it. It’s an interesting dynamic. I call it duality, is my term for it.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, hypnosis is one way that we can get there. You also lay out 15 strategies to stay cool, calm, and collected. Could you share with us maybe your top three favorites for professionals that do a whole lot for folks, and yet are pretty easy, a big bang for the buck or ROI?

Marc Schoen

Yes, so the overarching goal is not to banish discomfort. The goal is to make it so discomfort does not experience as a threat and, therefore, push the fear response. Okay, so then that’s the goal of any exercise that we want to do. I have a lot of different ones that push the button, that make us uncomfortable, because it again pushes that button of rejection, or being judged, or being embarrassed and so on.

One thing that I’ve done to help train myself in this area was to ask people for favors, and that’s an uncomfortable thing. And the exercise I did was, and remember the goal wasn’t to get the favor granted, the goal was dealing with the uncomfortableness of asking for the favor. So, I would go around and ask people for $100. And, of course, virtually everyone would say no.

Pete Mockaitis

Virtually.

Marc Schoen

I actually had one person say yes.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Marc Schoen

Of course I gave it back, but that’s really uncomfortable for me to ask that, and then justify it, or for people just to say, essentially, “Screw you,” or just ignore me, or walk away. That’s uncomfortable. But I wanted to give myself practice in that, and that’s a great tool.

Now, there’s different degrees of pushing this button. One is you could put yourself out there. Let’s say you’re uncomfortable about dancing in front of other people. You could go take dance lessons. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to sing, but you have a terrible voice. Well, you could take some voice lessons. Or, very simple, it’s so easy for us to just take the same way to drive to work or use our Google Maps. What if we were to try to navigate our way without the help of that? Again, the overarching goal is to feel uncomfortable and learn we can manage it and not get a fear reaction.

Another great way is to approach someone that you think is important or very attractive, and introduce yourself. All of these things really push that button. And so, the goal is to be uncomfortable, but still be able to do it.

Pete Mockaitis

And so, if we are in the midst of it, feeling super uncomfortable, and we’re not sure if we can do it, and we are maybe feeling the fear response getting pushed, what do we do? Do we do some breathing? Or what’s your pro tip to pulling it off?

Marc Schoen

Yeah, I have a breath technique. That’s what I call it. It’s on my website. It’s a free download, and it’s a way that you can really expediently knock down your heartbeat and blood pressure. It really just takes 45 seconds to create a result. So, you can use this as a preface to doing any of these exercises, and all we want to do, we just bring it down below that high bar that I talked about so we’re not so overheated, and then move forward with the task.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Marc, that sounds like 45 seconds well spent. Could you give us a demo on this breath technique?

Marc Schoen

Yeah, it really is something I developed back in, like, 1983 in a biofeedback room at Cedars-Sinai when I wasn’t allowed to do hypnosis on the medical units so I had to find a way that would rapidly relax people. So, I hooked myself up with all these electrodes and then later ran other people through it, borrowed from here, borrowed from there, took from here to make something really quick.

And what I found is that an inhale through the nose, just a medium inhale, not having to be a big diaphragmatic breath, just medium. I’ll make a sound, but you wouldn’t make the sound. Kind of like this, about that amount. We pause for a second, and then have a pattern of four exhales. But the key part of it is to have no inhale between the exhales.

So, it looks and sounds like this, and the sound of the exhales is important. Here’s the inhale. Hold it for a second or so. Start of the exhales. And the last one, we just release the remaining air, and then we repeat that four times. And it’s remarkable, if you’re measuring someone’s blood pressure or heartbeat, how pronounced of an effect that can have.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So then, these exhales, it’s like a shh sound, like we’re calming, like telling a child to “Hush up now. Shh.”

Marc Schoen

Exactly. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

And then there’s a pause between the shushes. And so, it’s about a medium level of inhale, not like a huge maximum.

Marc Schoen

Through the nose.

Pete Mockaitis

Through the nose. And then is the exhale there then, are we aiming to get mostly out, all of our breath out, or like completely evacuated, or just mostly evacuated, or does it really not matter?

Marc Schoen

Yeah, most of it, but we don’t want to deplete ourselves that we’re gasping for air. So, just a medium amount like that.

Pete Mockaitis

And then do we pause after the fourth exhale before the next inhale?

Marc Schoen

Yeah, a comfortable space between. And as you do this, cycles, you slow it down, so you’re pausing more between the exhales. Oh, and what I learned back in the ‘80s about this is that it’s not the inhale that relaxes us, it’s the power of the exhale.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. That’s cool. All right. So, we’ve got that breathing. And tell me, when it comes to perhaps physical interventions, whether it’s cardiovascular exercises, or resistance strength exercises, or getting in cold water, or walking with a weighted backpack, are there any kind of physical fitness-y things that go a long way in improving our discomfort tolerance?

Marc Schoen

Well, it’s best for us to think about these kinds of techniques that I’m talking about, is that we have both discomfort, physical discomfort and emotional discomfort. And so, it is very important to work on our ability to tolerate both of them, and they both affect each other. So, obviously, if we’re physically less capable, then we’re going to be more emotionally uncomfortable, and vice versa.

So, the more emotionally uncomfortable we are, the less we tolerate physical discomfort. So, it makes sense to work on both. Now, here’s what I like to do, is to challenge myself physically. For example, when I used to run quite a bit, I would run, but meditate on the ability to stay calm and keep my heartbeat at a certain level. Or, when I take a sauna and have the temperature like 175, is to see how long I can keep my body cool from sweating. So, there’s that kind of interplay that we can do.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. Well, let’s talk about hypnosis for a moment before we wrap up. And so then, for those unfamiliar with hypnosis, could you maybe first share with us some of the best data or studies suggesting that hypnosis is a real thing that’s useful beyond our stage amusements?

Marc Schoen

Yes, it used to be that we thought hypnosis only changed people’s perceptions, and so it’s just sort of like a surface charge with a battery, that you can charge it a little, but it doesn’t seep into the true fabric of what it is. But as we’ve had more advances, we can truly measure the impact of what it does, and we see that it has a cellular impact and a biochemical impact. I even did one of those studies to show that we can use hypnosis to block the inflammatory response in the body, and that’s by measuring cells.

So, now hypnosis can be seen as having both a psychological and a physical effect. I like it because it’s like the difference between a Scud missile and a Patriot missile. It is precise, direct, and much quicker than going in more globally.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, for folks who are jazzed about that as a tool for being more awesome at their jobs, I mean, I guess we could schedule a session with a professional like yourself. Or, how can we get a taste of this benefits hypnosis might have to offer us?

Marc Schoen

I would like to offer your listeners a free download where it’s a hypnotic set of suggestions, all geared for job performance based on this whole concept of discomfort, threat, fear, and being able to manage discomfort without threat.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. That sounds beautiful. We appreciate that. We’ll make sure to link that in the show notes, etc. Okay, so we got that going for us. And then you mentioned the notion of the precision, like targeting anything. I’ve seen a whole boatload of different hypnosis pieces on YouTube for any number of things. What are your thoughts on those? My guess is that the quality and effectiveness vary. Is there any danger in just trying those out? Or, what are you thinking about these?

Marc Schoen

I certainly wouldn’t try someone’s work that isn’t credentialed and has significant training in it. And so, it should be a mental health professional that’s done it for a while because it’s very powerful and mishandled can create some bad results. So, be careful, selective, as to who you allow to do it. And again, most hypnosis can be seen as just trying to deal with changing people’s thoughts only, and just like cognitive behavioral therapy, it certainly can work.

But, if a lot of our behavior is influenced by fear, then it makes far more sense to deal with that part of the brain where it is centered in this limbic part of the brain. So, I like to use hypnosis to go directly at those limbic areas, such as the fear center, such as the pleasure center, the sleep center, and so on. And so, you can use hypnosis in a superficial way, or you can use it in a much more profound way, because to me, if we don’t deal directly with the fear response, no matter what we tell ourselves consciously, it’s just not going to hold.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And maybe, I’d love to get your…we’ll do your hot takes. I saw a YouTube video where they quickly said underrated, overrated for all sorts of, like, health and fitness interventions. So, let me get your hot takes here, the good doctor, Marc Schoen in the house. Hypnosis for, if I would like, I’m just going to put out some scenarios and say, could hypnosis be useful for this? Maybe say yes, no, or a little would be the three options if I may. We’ll say, “I crave cigarettes, and I’d like to crave them less.” Is hypnosis useful for that?

Marc Schoen

A little.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. “I get scared when I’m asking for referrals or feedback, and I’d like to feel less scared”?

Marc Schoen

Very positive. Good.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. “I’d like to sleep longer and better with less interruption.”

Marc Schoen

Good.

Pete Mockaitis

“I would like to stop eating as many cookies, candies, sweets, and diet more disciplined-ly.”

Marc Schoen

A little.

Pete Mockaitis

“I would like to be more assertive in telling my team my expectations for them and how they can improve.”

Marc Schoen

Good.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Anything else I should have mentioned, Marc?

Marc Schoen

Well, no, you did a great job. And you noticed where I said just a little tend to be those things which are more addictive in nature, that hypnosis is just a medium, it’s a single, it’s not a triple or a home run for addictions.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marc Schoen

The thing I say is just a summary statement, is that in reality, what a lot of people say, “What doesn’t kill me, strengthens me.” It’s really more this, “It’s not the adversity that makes us stronger. It really is our effective management of adversity that makes us stronger and more resilient.” That is the key part of this.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s good. Thank you. “I often find myself procrastinating and putting off the hard, uncomfortable things, and doing easier tasks like email.”

Marc Schoen

That’s a mixed one. That’s why I have to say a little, but possibly good. It depends what’s the source of the procrastination. A lot of people just come into the world wired as a procrastinator, and those folks, you can slightly modify it. There are groups of people that are procrastinators that’s totally out of fear.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Marc Schoen

That can be modified that way.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about, “I find myself I just get so distracted. I sit down to do a thing and then I find myself around the news or social media or shopping minutes later.”

Marc Schoen

Not necessarily a good one either. Just a little bit of an effect.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Marc Schoen

One I always like was something that Lance Armstrong had said when he was the Olympic athlete. It’s something along the lines like, “Pain is temporary, but quitting is forever.” That was a good one.

And there’s an old time one, God knows if I’m saying it correctly, it was something along the lines, you know, that we really want to judge someone based on the stage or position in life, but rather judge someone on the obstacles they have overcome. I like that one. I don’t know who said that but…

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite book?

Marc Schoen

I love this book called The Untethered Soul.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite habit?

Marc Schoen

I do self-hypnosis meditation once to two times a day. That is such an incredible way to keep our body in the zone. Because as we get older, it would seem like it shouldn’t be this, but as we get older, it takes more work to stay in that zone.

Pete Mockaitis

And I’m curious, within that self-hypnosis, are there a couple key messages or suggestions that you think really hit home and bring a lot of the result?

Marc Schoen

If I had to say a core feeling is a belief, but it’s a feeling, is that when I’ve looked over my life, I have not had an absence of bad or tough things happen, but I’ve been very fortunate, that ultimately, it all resolves favorably with a few exceptions here and there. So, what I get to is a place of trust and faith and confidence, that no matter how tough something is, I will ultimately have the resources to manage it effectively. So, I’m just going to trust and let this feeling of total openness, non-tightness, safety, lightness be the prevailing dominant feeling I’m going to feel in my body. That’s what it is.

Pete Mockaitis

And is there a key nugget you share with folks that really seems to connect and resonate with them, and they quote back to you often?

Marc Schoen

It really is this notion that we have talked about that I can be uncomfortable, I can feel pressure, and nothing bad will happen to me. There’s no danger. And that I can persevere and succeed and that, ultimately, most people will say, my ability to hang in that place of fire is where the greatest results happen.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marc Schoen

I would have folks feel free to look at my website. It’s my name, Marc Schoen, M-A-R-C S-C-H-O-E-N.com. You can find out more about me. I will have the downloads that I’ve referenced already there under the product section. But it’ll give you an overview of my work.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Marc Schoen

I would really, really encourage people to challenge their discomfort zones, to push against that key thing I’ve said about rejection and judgment. And even though our tendency is to want to limit our losses, some people call that the negativity bias, often the probabilities of success are actually higher than the probabilities of failure. And so, so I would recommend really pushing that, and being uncomfortable, going in there and just challenging, “I can hang in here, persevere and succeed.”

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Marc, this is a great time. Thank you. And I wish you the very best.

Marc Schoen

Many thanks. Enjoyed being here.

956: How to Delegate Anything with Dave Kerpen

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Dave Kerpen shows how to get over delegation hangups to tackle your top life priorities and prevent burnout.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to get over yourself and finally begin delegating
  2. How to become a master delegator in 5 steps
  3. A simple rule to prevent embarrassment when delegating and automating

About Dave

Dave Kerpen is a serial entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, and global keynote speaker. He is the co-founder and co-CEO of Apprentice, a platform connecting entrepreneurs with top college students, and is the author of several bestselling books, including The Art of People, Likeable Social Media, and Likeable Business.

He is a popular contributor to Inc.com and a LinkedIn Influencer, and has been featured in many media outlets, including the New York Times, the TODAY show, CBS Early Show, BBC, Financial Times, and more. Additionally, Kerpen is the executive chairman of The Nursing Beat and the cofounder and CEO of Remembering Live. He was previously the founder and chairman of Likeable Local, and was the cofounder and CEO of Likeable Media, which was sold to 10Pearls in April 2021.

Resources Mentioned

Dave Kerpen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Dave, welcome.

Dave Kerpen
Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into your wisdom about delegation. And I’d love it if you could kick us off with maybe one of your most surprising and fascinating discoveries about us humans and delegation.

Dave Kerpen
Well, the most surprising thing is that the secret to delegating is much less about how to do it and much more about getting over yourself up here, getting through your brain, and dealing with the fear and the distrust issues and the perfectionism issues that are likely holding you back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, succinctly stated right off the get-go, Dave. Thank you. Appreciate it. All right. So, that’s the scoop. So, that’s funny, if people think I’m having trouble delegating, they may very well say, “I need a model. I need some steps. I need an acronym. I need a mnemonic.” And, Dave, you’re saying, “No, what you probably need first is to get over yourself because you’ve got some emotional stuff that’s hindering this whole process.”

Dave Kerpen
Yeah. And, look, my book has the steps and the acronyms and the models, and I love acronyms. I’m all for models, I’m all for systems and tools, but too many people do it to try a system or tool for anything, but certainly, in this case, for delegation, it doesn’t work, and then they say, “Forget it, this doesn’t work.” And the real answer is, “Let’s do the work on ourselves and deal with the issues, the limiting beliefs, the challenge, the fears that are holding us back.”

And then my model might work well but there’s a lot of other models right, or this software might work well but there’s 15 other software that might work well as well. And it’s less about choosing the software and more about getting the mindset right to be able to delegate.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear that. And so, so maybe if folks are so not over themselves, and they don’t even think it’s possible, Dave, can you paint a picture of hope, maybe share some data or a story?

Dave Kerpen
So, first, I’ll paint a picture of a sadder story and then I’ll tell my story, which, hopefully, is a little less sad. Scott came to me, names have all been changed to protect the guilty, but Scott was a long-time real estate entrepreneur, worked for himself, essentially, but built a nice little practice with having a couple people work for him over the years, made a lot, a lot of money, came to me years and years into his career, sort of mentoring me.

He said, “You know, I made a lot of money over the years. My son just turned 21, and I missed his growing up. I missed basketball games. I missed parent-teacher conferences. I missed an awful lot because I was so focused on building my business. And if I could go back, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about building my business because, yeah, it made me lots of money, but I will never get that time back with my son.” And that story struck me.

So, as I was doing the research for my book, I looked at deathbed research, and researched on what deathbed regrets people had. And perhaps this won’t surprise you at all, but, as you might guess, Pete, a very, very small percentage, under 1% of people regret not working enough hours. People almost always, over 50% of people, on the other hand, regret, when they’re asked for deathbed regrets, regret not having more time with friends and family, not having more time to pursue their passions, not having more time to pursue travel and other key hobbies.

We all get the same amount of time and we only get one shot at it in this lifetime. And the reason I wrote this book is that, sure delegation will make you a more productive employee, delegation will make you a more productive leader, delegation will make you a more successful entrepreneur depending on what it is that you do, but I think the stakes are much higher than that. I think delegation is the single biggest key to unlocking success and happiness in life.

And I will share that there’s many, many things that I’m not good at, but one thing that I’ve been fortunate, you know, the sort of happier story is that I pick up my son from the school bus every day, and shut off my phone, and for those three hours after school, I’m helping him with his homework, and we’re playing baseball, we’re having to catch, playing basketball. I’m getting that all-important family time, that all-important parenting time, that’s my priority.

If you’re listening, that might not be your priority, but then you might want to climb Mount Everest, or you might want to work out three hours a day, or you might want to find the love of your life. Delegation is the biggest tool that allows us to have the freedom to pursue our number one, two, and three priorities in life. And so, for me, that’s something I’m proud of, and I wrote this book to help share that with others.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful. So, delegation unlocks all kinds of good possibilities for us. The hangup is that we are stuck believing that, “I don’t trust them. They won’t do it as good as I can. Only I am capable of doing this,” any number of these beliefs, mindsets, etc.

So, Dave, help us out, if we are in that place, like, “Okay, Dave, that sounds really awesome. Maybe you’ve managed to find some great people, but I mean, I’ve got a team of knuckleheads or I’ve been burnt before in terms of trying to delegate, and it didn’t go so well. So, what do I do?”

Dave Kerpen
Well, I mentioned before, maybe you try a tool and it doesn’t work, and then you sort of give up. I think a lot of people delegate poorly and choose poorly the person to delegate to. And when we get into my system, an acronym, and I do believe in such things, like I said, the number one and the most important aspect in the beginning is who you choose. And they choose the wrong person, they choose the person that’s there, the most convenient, cheapest, lots of reasons, but they choose the wrong person. And then, of course, it’s going to fail if you choose the wrong person.

But you got to keep trying until you get it right because the solution can’t be that you do everything. You’ll burn out. You’ll be miserable. You won’t have all that time. So, let’s attack one of those myths that you shared, Pete, “You’re the best person for the job.” Let’s really think about this. If we think about this rationally for a minute, there’s 7 billion people. I said I’m good at delegating. I’m pretty good at marketing, there are so many things I’m not good at.

And for me to think that I am the best person for any given task, virtually anything, let’s say anything actually, because honestly, there’s lots and lots of people that are way better at any possible thing that I could do. It’s frankly narcissistic and somewhat ridiculous of me to really try to convince myself that I am the best person for the job. I am very, very rarely the best person for the job. I might be the only person that knows precisely what’s in my head for how to do something, but I might also be wrong about the best way to do something. In fact, I’m probably wrong about the best way to do something.

Chances are there’s people out there that could get to the finish line much, much better than I can. So, if that’s, in fact, true, then the next challenge that I have is, “Okay, how can I choose the right person and then explain what that finish line looks like in a really clear, concise way that allows that person to be mutually aligned with me on precisely what the outcome looks like?” And then the trust issue comes up, “How can I…?”

This is hard, I get how hard this is, you know, I’ve been there, I’ve managed a lot, I’ve coached a lot of people here that have a tough time trusting others, but there has to be some level of trust that somebody else is going to get, it’s going to make their way to the finish line, and they’re probably not going to do it the same way I would. In fact, it’s very rare that they would do it the same way I would, but they might do it differently, and they might do it better than I would. And if they can get to the finish line, if they can get even to 80% of the finish line the way I would have done it, but allow me the time to do other things and not worry about it, well, then I have won.

Pete Mockaitis
Inspiring, yes. I like the winning and that’s cool. Let’s stay with the myths for a little bit longer. I’m with you. Okay, fair enough, Dave, 7 billion people alive on this Earth. Maybe I am. Maybe I am one in a million. Well, there’s 7,000 people that are as good or better than I am at that thing. So, okay, fair enough.

But in terms of realistically speaking, can I find that person? Will they be available? Can I afford them? In terms of the practical realities, are we thinking that, in fact, it is still the case that I could find someone who will do a thing better than me, even if I’m awesome at that thing, given these real-world constraints?

Dave Kerpen
Well, let me answer that in two ways. First is maybe they won’t do it better than you, but this is where most of us, to one extent or another, are perfectionists, so we have an idea about what we want something to be, and perhaps better than us is not necessary, and perhaps the same as us is not necessary. That’s where I got to that 80-85%. If they can get to 80-85% of what we would want, but relieve us of all the stress and the work and the agita of getting there, then I see that as a good outcome.

The other thing I want to address is this issue of, “How do I find this person, this mythological person? I can’t afford it. I don’t have the resources. I don’t have the money, etc.” That may be the case, but more often than not, when people come to me with this, and I challenge them on it, we get to the heart of it, and it seems like they’re making excuses because they’re afraid or distrustful or maybe truly ignorant.

In this day and age, when I can personally go on Fiverr and hire somebody for $5 to design a flyer for me, or if I’m really looking for high level…so, that’s on the one end, on the basic task, right? And then on the higher end, folks come to me, and say, “Well, I can’t find a CMO. I can’t afford a CMO.”

And to them I say, “Maybe you can’t afford it, maybe you don’t have the cash, but then maybe if you’re an entrepreneur, you can share equity and find a partner here. Find a partner. Much better to have a smaller piece of a bigger pie and find a partner, or a partner or two or three.” I think there are always creative solutions to find folks to delegate. You could be listening to the show, Pete, and you could be an entry-level employee.

If you have a set of tasks, and you’re responsible for getting those tasks done, and you think of a more creative way to get them done than you doing it, like, for instance, hiring somebody on Upwork and Fiverr for X dollars, and you vet the process and manage the process, and you pitch your boss on the business case for getting the job done that way versus you doing data entry, or whatever that tedious work is all day long, I can’t predict what the boss will say.

But I know that if somebody came to me and gave me a good business case for managing something differently and better than I had thought of in the first place, I’d say, “Great, go for it.” So, a lot of the time, it’s a matter of creatively thinking through better ways to divvy up the work than maybe we’re thinking. Maybe we’re too stuck in the box of having to get the work done ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve busted one myth. Could you bust another or help us with a general thinking, doing approach for getting over ourselves?

Dave Kerpen
So, Pete, I think the number one thing that holds us back, and the reason Get Over Yourself is really as high as the dual meaning of get over yourself to delegate work, but also get over the mindset issues that get in your way is fear. I think that a lot of us, at all ages and all levels of seniority at companies, have fear of failure, have fear of not getting things right, have fear that other folks won’t get the job done as well as we would, have fear that, maybe if we’re off with our kids or golfing or doing something else, that we’re not doing our job right, even if the work gets done.

There are all these fears that we have, and, ultimately fear, of course, is false evidence appearing real. Fear holds us back. All fear holds us back. And so, in my model, in my vision, in my dream, and in my scenario, and what I try to do, is feel the fear because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of screwing up on your podcast right now. I’m afraid about being valuable for your listeners. I’m afraid of not delivering. But I understand that fear, and then I proceed and act anyway. That’s literally the definition of courage.

And so, instead of, like, trying to push the fear away, when we embrace it and tackle it head on, and say, “It’s okay to be afraid that this person is going to screw up. It’s okay to be afraid that we’re going to lose our jobs. It’s okay to be afraid that we’re going to lose our clients.” And, in the face of that fear, I’m going to take an action and figure out how to best delegate this work so that I don’t lose my mind, so that I don’t burn out, so that I get this job done in a better way than maybe I would have otherwise. And that’s the courage that it takes to get over ourselves in that manner.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I dig it. Thank you. So, yeah, let’s talk about the model in terms of how, in fact, do we determine what we ought to delegate, and then do so effectively?

Dave Kerpen
So, we’ve got two acronyms. You mentioned the acronyms earlier, and while I said that acronyms are great, I said, “We got to deal with the mindset issues first.” So, we’ve dealt with the mindset issues. We’re through it. We’re having the courage to act. And now what do we actually do and what do we actually delegate?

And so, the model is there’s three things that we should be doing as leaders, managers, individuals with jobs. Those three things have to do with the overall vision and strategy of the goals here. If we’re in a position to hire people, making sure that we have the right people in the right seats, the hiring process, and the resources issue.

Now, resource is a tricky one. If you’re the CEO, yeah, it’s your job to make sure there’s money in the bank. If you manage an apartment, it’s your job to manage up and make sure to your boss that you have the headcount and the resources to get the job done. And if you are managing projects but not people, it is absolutely your job to make sure that you, personally, have the bandwidth and resources, and that, again, you manage up your boss, to say, “This is what I will need to get the job done.” And if that includes an extra $100 to manage a Fiverr project, well, then you’ve got to advocate for that.

So, those three things, strategy and vision, hiring the right people in the right seats, and access to resources and capital to get the job done. After those three things, my belief is that you can delegate nearly all, if not all of the rest. And so, the SHARE model is strategy, hiring, access to capital, and then remind ourselves that, if there’s anything else, we can, E, empower somebody else to do the job.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Dave Kerpen
Then we move into the 5Cs model of delegation. The first, and probably most important C, is choosing the right person or resource to delegate to. Again, we may think, listening right now, because I’ve done a bunch of podcasts that I already know, and I’ve done a lot of coaching of people, and I’ve heard all of the complaints, all the excuses already, “I don’t have the resources. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the budget.”

So, let me share that when we’re thinking about choosing the right person, it is not just a full-time employee that you could delegate this work to. It could be an intern, it could be an apprentice, it could be a contractor on Upwork or Fiverr, it could be a virtual assistant, it could be a vendor, a consultant, there are a partner, there are numerous types of folks that you could delegate the work to.

And the biggest mistake folks do is jumping immediately to hiring the wrong person, maybe just the person that’s the closest in proximity, the person that works down the hall from them, the person that is their peer, the person that, “Oh, my goodness, my first company was in the social media space.” Do you know how many people hired their 21-year-old niece or nephew to run social media for their company because they happened to be the 21-year-old?

Pete Mockaitis
“You use Instagram.”

Dave Kerpen
“You’ve been on it. You’ve been on TikTok. You have a TikTok account, don’t you? Make some videos for me.” So, this first big mistake is choosing the wrong person. And if there’s anything that should be the bottleneck – nothing really should be a bottleneck – but if there’s anything that it’s worth taking the most time on, it’s that first piece of choosing the person to delegate to.

The next C is communicating clearly what the intended outcome is. And, note, what I’m talking about is not every step. There are some folks out there that, whether I say it or not, they’re going to micromanage, they’re going to do the standard operating procedures, they’re going to do detailed instructions on precisely how to get to the finish line.

And if that’s really important to you, I’m not here to say you can’t do that, but in my experience when hiring people, folks like autonomy. They like to be able to get to the finish line in their own way, zigzag a little bit, learn a little bit, have some freedom. People aren’t robots. They don’t want to just, like, input in, output out. They don’t want to be robots.

Exception might be GPT and actually delegating to robots. We can get to that in a little while. But when we’re managing people, what I would say is, the key thing here with this C is to communicate clearly the intended outcome, what does success really look like, paint that picture, and then, ideally, empower them to get there the way that they see fit.

The next C is coaching them to success. Way too many people see themselves as managers. Nobody likes managers. Managers are bosses. Managers are in your face. Managers are not there to support you. They’re there to boss you around. Coaches, on the other hand, which is I strongly urge you all to use the word coach instead of manager. Coaches, anyone that’s played sports as a kid has had the experience of having a coach, hopefully, a good coach, somebody that cheers them on, teaches them along the way, supports them when they have challenges. So, by all means, coach your person on to success.

The fourth C is check in on the regular. I personally like weekly 15-minute check-ins, just where I’m there to say, “Any challenges? How can I help you reach your goals, etc.?” And then the final C, which is often also forgotten, is congratulate them. When you get to the finish line, please, by all means, like, celebrate success. Celebrate success together and then, of course, move on to the next project. So, that’s, in a nutshell, the SHARE model for what to delegate, and the 5Cs model for how to delegate when possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like that a lot. And, Dave, I’d love it if you could make this come alive for me with an example that I’ve heard is quite tricky. I was chatting with someone who is just excellent at sales, in terms of when he’s having those conversations with a prospect, they are just listening wonderfully, asking great questions, building rapport, being super honest and creative, like, “Hey, these are the solutions we got. This might work for you. This probably won’t. This is what I would try instead, such that it generates referrals and business and great close rates, all sorts of lovely things.”

And yet, the challenge is there’s a whole lot of other responsibilities in the universe of making sales happen beyond talking to a prospect in terms of managing the lists, and the outbounds, and the marketing, and the vetting of the potential prospect, etc. And so, we’ve had some conversations, like, “Boy, it should be great if there’s a way that we could delegate all of that, such that you just had appointment after appointment after appointment, and doing what you’re amazing at, and doing less of what sort of sucks your energy, and is not perhaps the highest and best use of your time. That’d be really cool.”

And he said, “Yes, that would be really cool, but in practice I’ve never actually seen a master salesperson do that effectively because people come in, prospects come in, you want to be quick and responsive to them, like, all the time, before the demo or the meeting, and then have the follow-ups, but the follow-ups are best coming from you and not someone else, because they’re like, ‘Wait, who’s this other person? Am I going to talk to this person? I want to talk to the main salesperson, and not the secondary assistant to the salesperson.’”

And so, these are the sorts of hang-ups that have made this tricky. So, Dave, I’m just going to lay that on you, and say, here’s the trickiest delegation question I’ve bumped into, how do we crack it?

Dave Kerpen
Well, Pete, it’s as if we planned this, and God is my witness, we did not. But the story that I will share is actually precisely the same role, and I didn’t write about this in the book, but perhaps I should have. A very impressive young man, Sam, who was a salesperson for me, who, very similar to what you said, was an excellent salesperson, not so excellent, as frankly probably many salespeople are, not so excellent at the pre-work, the post-work, the putting it into the CRM, all of that administrative stuff.

And he said to me, “Dave, can I have a budget for an assistant?” And I said, “No. So, here’s what I’m going to do. You take the chats. You prove the business model. You hire the assistant out of your commissions. And if it works, I’ll make the budget for you.” I wanted him invested in making it work. And, lo and behold, he took money out of his own commission check to fund an assistant to do all of that, to delegate all of that stuff to. And this is a rare case because in corporate America, you’re not funding a headcount out of your own pocket, right? That’s pretty insane.

But in this small business entrepreneurial environment, he pitched me. I said, “Here’s the deal. You want to do this? Go ahead.” And guess what? It worked, and I created the budget for sales support, for admin support because he was able to prove that there was a business value in delegating all that other stuff, that frankly was not the best use of his time, to somebody else. So, it’s absolutely doable. It is doable.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so it is doable, and that’s encouraging. Could you share with us a little bit of the particulars, some of the nitty-gritty for how this vexing delegation problem can actually be cracked in the nuts and bolts?

Dave Kerpen
I mean, he chose, he interviewed a bunch of people. We’ll walk you through with the five C’s model. So, he interviewed a bunch of people. He knew what he was looking for. And for him, while the tasks were important, the fit, the cultural fit, the somebody that he could reach out to and really bounce things off of was probably even more important. So, I’m not him, but as I understand, he interviewed maybe seven or eight people, hired somebody.

Hired AJ. Gave AJ very clear directions over the types of prospects that he wanted him to reach out to. AJ did the prospecting. AJ did the outreach. There were some missteps along the way. People are going to make mistakes, that’s okay, as long as you coach them. So, Sam coached him, “You know, actually, I’d like more prospects like this,” and he did just that.

He adjusted along the way, getting him better prospects. They showed up for the call. Sam did his work. He closed them up, passed them back to AJ, who followed up to do the contracts and do the follow-ups and do all of that administrative work, getting them in the CRMs and doing the contracts and all that stuff. And, ultimately, both people did their jobs. And Sam made a lot more money for himself, and for me, for the company, by delegating that work and see him coaching his assistant through the steps that he needed done.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And not to get too much into the weeds here.

Dave Kerpen
Yeah, no, weeds.

Pete Mockaitis
When AJ was reaching out, AJ is reaching out, as AJ in his name and his email to the people, and he’s saying to the prospects, “Oh, let me have you speak with Sam.” And there’s a handoff? Or is AJ stealth being Sam?

Dave Kerpen
No, no, there’s a handoff. I think that authenticity is important. And so, I’m all for delegating, clearly, many, many things, but if you get a LinkedIn message from me, it’s from me. And I might have an assistant, my apprentices are going to write all the messages, they might draft all the messages, they might select all, using whatever criteria, they’ll do all the work in figuring out who to send messages to. But I like to click send. I do think it’s important, at the end of the day, for authenticity of we are who we say we are.

Pete Mockaitis
And I agree. And what’s really funny is, in this particular delegation scenario, and I guess this is a tricky nuance I’m glad we’re discussing, it’s funny because, well, so, Dave, I get a lot of inbound pitches. People want to be on the podcast, and that’s cool. What a great place to be. What a blessing. But what’s really funny is it’s clear that either there are, I don’t know, PR firms or software or automations or something happening, where someone says, “Oh, hey, Peter, I think we could really make a great podcast, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,”

And I say, “Yes, I agree. In fact, we did make a great podcast four months ago. It was memorable to me. I’m sorry if you’ve already forgotten it.” And I’m just teasing them because I know what’s happening, and they’re like, “Oh, Pete, I’m so sorry. Oh!” you know. Or, I’d be like, “Hey, Justin, I’m getting this message from you, but it feels as though we don’t have a relationship and we haven’t seen each other in person numerous times, and we certainly have.” And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, sorry!”

And so that happens, and I don’t hold it against them, like, “You’re dead to me for this faux pas.” But it does diminish a little bit. It’s not a good feeling, and it could actually, in fact, be more devastating if, in fact, they’re like, “Hey, what the heck, man? We’ve had a long-standing business relationship, and maybe actually things are tense right now in our business relationship, and I’m getting an automated message from ‘you’ that isn’t really from you.” That might be enough to push it over the edge.

I think there’s a lot to it, whether it’s a human or a robot or an automation, that the way you’ve said it is, it’s like, you’re the person who clicks send, because then you can be like, “No, wait a minute, not that person. I’m already friends with that person. They don’t get a message like this.”

Dave Kerpen
That’s right. That’s right. And as much as I think that there are lots and lots of opportunity for delegation to tools and use of software tools when we don’t have, you know, I talk about resources to delegate, sometimes we don’t have individuals, or we don’t think we have individuals to delegate to. There are a lot of great tools to manage a lot of tasks. But when it comes to communication with people, I do think authenticity is an issue.

It’s funny. I told the story in my very first book, now 12 years ago, about I was friends with a State Senator on Facebook and I got a chat, a live chat from him asking me for a donation. And I was like, “Huh? I donated. I feel like I donated recently.” And he replied, “I know but I really need a little bit more.” And something was amiss, so I said, “Wait, this is my State…” I’ll protect the guilty here. I said, “This is my State Senator, X and X name, right?” Pause. And I said, “Please respond.” “Actually, this is an intern. I’m managing the account.”

Like you said, sometimes the stakes are higher than other times. I mean, if I really wanted to blow that person up for using interns to pretend to be them, to ask for money, I mean, it’s a really bad look, I think. So, I think we have to be very cautious about how much we, I’ll say how much we automate, and how much we automate about that final step in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And I’ve heard that said as a general rule of thumb for AI, like, “Have a human in the process so it doesn’t do dumb things, like automatically deny everybody’s health insurance claims.” Like, whoopsie daisy, you know, or a number of the embarrassments that people have managed to get themselves into when they use AI without the human oversight touch.

Dave Kerpen
Yeah, I love, love, love large language models like ChatGPT for drafts, first drafts of articles, of emails, of marketing plans. I mean, there is massive, massive value in the work that a large language model can provide and produce, given the right input. So, the work becomes less about what to produce and more about the inputs, the prompts that you give the models.

But all of that is really wonderful, again, for a first draft, and then I urge you, as a human, to take that first draft and check it over, first of all, like literally, for some obvious ones. We’ve heard some of the horror stories there. But then work with it, use it as a starting point, because what a great starting point. Sometimes folks have come to me super overwhelmed.

Actually, I just had a woman that I invested in say, “I need a marketing plan. I don’t know even where to start.” And I said, “Here’s where to start. Go to ChatGPT, put in your goals, put in your budget, put in your target audience, and ask for a draft of a marketing plan.” She did it, and it produced a six-page marketing plan for her to consider. Now that’s a great first draft, but it took 10 minutes. And years ago, or without me, without that idea, she might have taken 10 hours to come up with that initial starting point.

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

Dave Kerpen
I want to give the listeners credit. Sometimes I take for granted that some of this stuff is easy because I’ve been doing it for a while, but I want to recognize that it’s hard. It’s hard to shift the mindset. It’s hard to change. It’s hard to let go of stuff that you’re used to owning and controlling and doing the work on. I want to really take a moment to recognize that and appreciate that. If you’re listening and you’re thinking, “Well, he’s full of S-H, and in the real world, this is hard.”

I hear you and I get it. It is hard stuff and it is worth doing the work on, is my pitch. It’s worth muddling through and challenging oneself, and becoming more self-aware about the limiting beliefs and challenge and fears that are holding us back from delegating more, and the constraints that we think we have that maybe we don’t have as badly as we might think, and then doing the work. And there’s a brighter side on the other side of the rainbow, it really is. It gets easier.

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

Dave Kerpen
Sure. My favorite quote is from Seth Godin, who writes, “How dare you settle for less when the world’s made it so easy to be remarkable?” I think so many of us go through life like not being as intentional as we could be, and not doing the work to really stand out, and be amazing. And I think, like Seth says, it’s not that hard to be amazing. Go for it.

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

Dave Kerpen
Probably Adam Grant’s research. He’s probably my favorite author and I love his research. I’ll go back to his initial research from his first book, Give and Take, that talked about givers, takers, and matchers, and the value of becoming a giver and giving freely. It’s a little tricky to talk about this on a podcast because I get that I’m giving information, but it’s more of a matching situation. I’m expecting to get book promotion. I’m getting that and I’m grateful for it.

But that first book of his that I read really moved me, if I wasn’t a giver already, to become a giver to the extent possible, and the research shows that it pays. It’s ironic because we need to give without the expectation of getting something back, but when we do that, it just comes back to us tenfold in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And can you share a favorite tool something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Dave Kerpen
There’s so many that I could talk about, but I want to say that the free, simplest set of tools is Google Suite. Yeah, Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides. Those three I use nearly every day, and for next to nothing I’m able to do a lot of cool stuff. So, thank you, Google.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Dave Kerpen
Walking. Walking gets the blood flowing and is a healthy habit. I chuckled because I have a whole bunch of habits that maybe aren’t enjoyable, maybe not as healthy as walking.

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

Dave Kerpen
With the context of delegation in mind, it’s probably “Hire slow, fire fast.”

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

Dave Kerpen
I would say, first and foremost, I have pro bono office hours. I’ve met with 838 people over the last 10 years on Thursday afternoons. So, anyone that wants to chat with me, get some free coaching, absolutely no strings attached, I never charge for coaching ever, go to ScheduleDave.com, and you can book some free time with me on a Thursday afternoon. Of course, the book Get Over Yourself, and all my books are available on Amazon and bookstores everywhere. And if you’re looking for really awesome college-level talent, ChooseApprentice.com is our website.

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

Dave Kerpen
Feel the fear. Life is scary. Be courageous. Think of what you can get off of your plate and challenge yourself to say no, say no to more, and then figure out how you can take those no’s and get that work done in one way or the other, either delegating to humans, delegating to ChatGPT, getting that work off your plate so that you can say yes to more, not necessarily at your job, but more of your priorities in your life and with your family.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Dave, this is powerful stuff. Thank you. I wish you many more successful delegations.

Dave Kerpen
Thank you so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to connect.

955: Mastering Emotion and Conversation Like a Top Hostage Negotiator with Scott Walker

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Former hostage negotiator Scott Walker shares powerful principles for masterful dialogue when the stakes are high.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one skill of master negotiators
  2. Two tricks to help prepare you for any conversation
  3. How MORE PIES help build rapport 

About Scott

Scott Walker is one of the world’s most experienced kidnap-for-ransom negotiators. He has helped resolve more than three hundred cases and other crises, such as piracy and cyber-extortion attacks. He spent sixteen years as a Scotland Yard detective engaged in covert, counterterrorist, and kidnapping operations. He left the police in 2015 to support organizations, government departments, and private individuals in securing the release of hostages. He now delivers negotiation workshops to organizations all over the world and is sought after as a keynote speaker. His first book, Order Out of Chaos, is out now and is a Sunday Times bestseller.  

Resources Mentioned

Scott Walker Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Scott, welcome.

Scott Walker

Thanks for having me. Good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, it’s great to have you. And I think we must start with a thrilling hostage negotiation story.

Scott Walker

A thrilling hostage negotiation story, just like the movies obviously, because that’s how every single one where the helicopter gunship comes in and there’s a mass battle. I’d like to say, actually, before I get into the story is if there was a fly on the wall for 99% of these kidnap-for-ransom negotiation situations, people will be thinking, “Is that it?” in terms of, “Where’s the high drama? Where’s the high stakes?” but that’s the last thing we want if things are getting really off the chart, we’re kind of doing a job wrong.

But you want a story, let me give you a story. Okay. A few years ago, I was in Africa, on a case in West Africa, and six people have been taken off a ship by pirates and were being held to ransom by the kidnappers, by the pirates for several millions of dollars.

And my job was to work alongside the families and the company whom the hostages belong to. And, usually, there’s a bit of a delay until we hear from the kidnappers, their initial demands, “We’ve got your people.” But it’s taking a long time, I’m looking around the table, there’s lots of senior people here, and I’ve kind of given them, “This is how it’s going to play out. You trust me, follow me, this is how it’s all going to work out.” and it’s not. Nothing’s really happening.

But then, as if the universe is listening, the phone rings, and they say, “Yeah, we’ve got your people. We want five million dollars and we want it by the end of the week, or we’re going to kill them,” and then you can hear a pin drop. And I turn to the guy I’m using as the communicator, and we agree to a strategy about, “Okay, for the next few calls, we’re going to get a proof of life. We’re going to come back with an initial offer to manage their expectations, and everybody, family as well, we need to be prepared for some conflict, for some threats,” and this is standard practice. So, anyway, the next week or two, two and a half weeks goes by, and we get them from five million down to about half a million, I think it was.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, 10x, there you go. Good work, sir.

Scott Walker

And it’s not about saving money, and there’s a reason why we do that, and I can go into it afterwards, and it’s relevant to workplace negotiations as well. But it’s taking its toll. It’s taking its toll. It’s making the guy that I’m using super stressed. He’s a broken man, and I realized in that moment, “Actually, we need to do something here.” Kidnappers phoned again, and he’s like, “Hey, you need to give us more time. You’ve got our people, you must look after them, they’re your responsibility,” and then this booming voice comes out from the phone saying, “No, they’re yours. We want the money by Friday or we will execute them.”

And the communicator smashes his fist against the table, and I think, “That is going to come my way any second.” But he walks out and I realized, “Unless I can establish or re-establish the trust, make sure the rapport is there, influence and persuade, and bring about some kind of cooperation with him, we’re not going to get anywhere here, and the hostages are going to die.” The kidnappers can wait, they’re easy to deal with. At the end of the day, kidnappers are just businessmen looking for a great deal. That’s it.

And so, I need emotional intelligence 101, and over the course of 24-36 hours, I get the communicator around, he jumps on the next call and we agree to a deal of about $300,000 in the end. And then a few days later, the hostages come back, of which that is in itself was interesting. And depends how long the podcast is, I could go on and on about…maybe I can say the second part of the story for later on, but some key points from that as well. Hopefully, that whets your appetite.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, it does, and that’s really, really fascinating that you’re not so much worried about the kidnappers who are making demands and threatening to kill people, as you are about your relationship with the guy talking on the phone in the same room. That’s intriguing. And so, your experience, and you sort of know the stakes and what’s going on. And so, I’m intrigued, how did you solve that problem with that person that you’re working with communicating?

Scott Walker

Well, first of all, let’s just take a step back here, and just have a look at what is a negotiation. People get scared, they run a mile when the term negotiation gets bandied around. It’s simply a conversation with a purpose, okay? And I think it’s fair to say the world needs us all to be able to have better conversations right now. Everyone’s shouting, no one is listening. And so, there’s an art, there’s a skill to having better conversations with people, if they’re kidnappers, teenage kids, or you’re working for a big corporate.

But in terms of, let’s look at a negotiation per se, there are three elements of that. There’s the other side you’ve got to manage, there’s your own side, and then there’s your internal emotions, your own mindset. And so, we often overlook our own side and we call it the crisis within the crisis. So, this is when, again, let’s just take a business setting, where dealing with your clients and the customers is the easy bit. It is relatively straightforward, but you’ve got the egos, the internal politics, the competing demands, the silo mentality, the competing budgets, whatever it is, all vying for your attention. It’s just noise on your side of the table, and that actually would take 80% of my time to manage on a case on our own side.

But again, it’s taking a step back and looking, “Okay, what’s really going on here? What is this person’s underlying needs and wants? Is it they just want a save face? Is it they want a bit of control? Are they just an ego-driven boss that likes the sound of their own voice?” And they’re easy to deal with because it’s all about them and you can play to that. And we can go into that a bit later about some of those techniques about what we can do to achieve that.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, there’s already so much to dig into there. So, 80% internal stuff, that sounds annoying and frustrating to folks like myself. Activator is one of my top strengths, “I like to get stuff done, let’s make it happen. And this, ugh, dealing with all the internal stuff is a bummer,” and yet you understand that that is often necessary for it to take up the majority of your efforts, as unpleasant or annoying as that may be to some personalities, so as to get a good outcome. And so, in this instance, you need to sort through something with your communicator. And, Scott, the human person needs completion on a story. Lay it on us. How did you resolve that?

Scott Walker

Sure. Okay. Well, again, there’s two things to remember here as well. In a negotiation, yes, there’s problem solving. You want to gather some information to solve a problem, which, in your personality type there, the behavioral trait is you want to get stuff done, and that is a natural instinct, particularly in the corporate world, “Come on, let’s get it done,” but that can overlook the second fundamental aspect, which is about establishing and building relationships.

Because unless you can do that, the gold medal, the desired outcome of every negotiation, really, is some kind of cooperation or collaboration, and you can’t do that if it’s, “I’m going for my target. Get out of my way. I’m coming through.” That can serve sometimes, but if you want a long-term client for life, a great team culture, it’s about establishing those relationships.

Funny enough, on this case, obviously working lots of empathy, active listening, validating with the communicator, he comes on board, we get the deal, but just because we’ve got an agreement. It’s not the same as the safe and timely release of the hostages, because they could get picked up by another gang, they can fall ill or injured after being released, who knows. So, we get the money, the ransom money, 300,000 US dollars in two bags, and we’ve got to get across the border from one country to the next.

And we used a courier, some brave soul who’s had lots of courage for breakfast, who then follows instructions by the kidnappers to get to where they need to get to. Meanwhile, the kidnappers are phoning me and our team, checking in to make sure every four hours that it’s going according to plan. Four hours go by, we don’t hear anything from the courier. Eight hours go by, still nothing, and you can see where this is going now. Twelve hours, nothing. Thirteen and a bit hours later, we get a phone call. The courier has been intercepted by the local police who are refusing to let him go with the money.

Cut a very long story short, we managed to fly a very important person, a trusted community elder down to speak to the chief of police who then releases the courier and the money, well, most of the money, obviously local taxes. And we think, “Great. The courier can get back on the road. This is our problem solving, remember, easy,” but then the courier wants nothing to do with it. So, that relationship is shattered, and he does a runner.

So we have to find somebody else, but meanwhile the kidnappers are going apoplectic, they think we’re trying to rip them off, we’re trying to ambush them, they’re going to get killed, and I’m just thinking, “Oh, this is a bad day in the office, really.” But again, it’s about problem solving, but importantly, it’s about establishing trust and developing those relationships.

And, thankfully, over the course of the last month or so, we built up a really good working business relationship with the kidnappers. So, we got that in the bank. I was able to placate them. Eventually, we find somebody else who takes the money, goes out to sea to a waypoint where the kidnappers come out. And this is one of those very, very rare moments where there’s a near simultaneous exchange of ransom money for hostages.

And so, the hostages get back on our boat and the kidnappers hand them a mobile phone, a clean mobile phone, and they say, “If it’s okay with you, we’re going to escort you to safety in case you get intercepted or you get into trouble. And then even if you do so later on, give us a call on this phone and we’ll come and help you out, no extra charge.” And it’s, like, talk about customer service and client loyalty.

And so, they escorted them back to safety, and then we picked them up and everybody’s happy. So, there’s some key things there around trust, building those relationships, don’t be in a rush too quickly to problem solve, and until you can really identify and deal with those high powerful emotions, you can potentially land yourself in even more trouble.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. So, again, so much there. And then with your own communicator, rewinding a little bit, how did you resolve that issue there?

Scott Walker

Time. Suspending my own ego about what needs to happen. It’d be easy for me to go, “Come on, pull yourself together. Get in there. Get on the phone. Your friends are going to die unless you pull this out of the bag.” That’s probably the worst thing that I could’ve done. Thankfully, I didn’t. It is using techniques like lots of empathy and emotional labeling. Empathy, people can confuse that with sympathy or compassion, but really empathy is it’s a doing word. You do empathy rather than feel it. The other side feels trust and rapport if you can demonstrate empathy properly.

And empathy is really me with the communicator kind of reflecting back to him where I think he is at and what’s going on for him, “Okay, John, it seems like you’re taking this personally for what’s happened to your friends here, and that you feel personally responsible that they’ve found themselves in this situation, and that this is really not going to get anywhere.” Simple things, when we use terms like, “It looks like,” “It sounds like,” “It feels like,” and you can label, which anybody listening or watching this, with any kind of semblance of knowledge around communicating and an active listening, these are really powerful.

They’re simple but not easy to do. And particularly when the stakes can’t get any higher, when people’s lives are on the line, it works, but it also works with your kids and in the workplace. So, by doing lots of active listening with the communicator, he was able to come back on board, and basically, he felt, crucially, this is crucial, he felt seen, heard, and understood. And until we can feel that, particularly if we disagree with somebody, if we can get the other person to feel seen, heard, and understood, then we’ve earned the right to then start to look to influence and persuade them to our way of thinking.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s lovely. And two of my favorite guests on the show, we had Chris Voss, who wrote the book Never Split the Difference, and Michael Sorensen, who wrote the book I Hear You, all about validation. And they had some similar messages there associated with empathy and validation, and that “It seems like,” “It looks like,” “It feels like,” and how that is just magical, even in surprising situations, like someone has robbed a bank and they have hostages, and it’s like, “Oh, it seems like you feel kind of stuck and scared about the situation you’re in right now.” In some ways, it’s like, “Duh, yeah. What the heck am I supposed to do?”

But it’s kind of amazing that it does take some internal emotional mastery to get past the fact that, “They don’t deserve the dignity or honor or respect, or whatever nice goodness of this warm validation stuff,” like these kinds of rage thoughts can start circulating in these circumstances, even at work too, “My boss is a jerk! Like, he doesn’t deserve that I put in this extra effort to blah blah blah.” So, help us out, Scott. When we’re in that place, how should we think about it?

Scott Walker

Well, first thing that comes to mind there is when people say, “Find the common ground. Come on, find the common ground here so you can build that rapport.” But, Pete, from your previous guests, I’m sure they said something similar around common ground is the biggest load of BS you can have in a negotiation, because I had zero common ground with kidnappers. Anybody with kids listening to this, with siblings, that’s the biggest link, biggest common thread, common ground you’ll ever have with anybody as a sibling. But how often do they fight and look for attention and seeking invalidation?

And so, really, it’s about approaching any form of conversation or negotiation with the golden rule that it’s not about you. If I go in seeking to understand, “Okay, Pete, where are you at with this? What are your challenges and issues? How do you view me maybe in this deal?” If I can put myself there and then use the active listening, the empathy, the labelling to check that, and we keep working on that, time spent doing that and establishing that trust and that rapport, using that empathy, is time well spent because I’ve seen it so many times where people rush to problem-solve, and they allow their own egos to get in the way.

And so, it’s about realizing that you can’t separate the person from the problem.

Sometimes we hear that, don’t we? “Well, separate the person, the emotions, get them out of the way and actually we can look at it rationally, logically about how to approach this.” But, again, you may get one or two wins like that, but, ultimately, what you want is this long-term repeat business or establish this rapport and this friendship or this relationship that’s going to last. And that requires you to deal with the emotions first.

And I’d say the number one skill of all the top negotiators out there, in my experience, is this ability to emotionally self-regulate, because it’s no good if I’m there with a family who are losing it. They’re breaking down understandably, they’re highly emotional, highly strung and if I’m the same or haven’t got my own act together, it’s not going to come across very well.

And emotions are contagious if we let them, which is why, when I left, when I wrote the book as well, I called it Order Out of Chaos for that very reason. My job in a negotiation is simply to bring order out of the chaos that reigns, whether or not it’s in the family kitchen or in the boardroom where the negotiations are taking place from.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Scott, so number one is emotional regulation, okay. So, lay it on us, how do we do that effectively?

Scott Walker

And, again, I learned this the hard way. In my very first negotiation, where it nearly went wrong, where I allowed my own emotions to be hijacked, so to speak, and thankfully, a more senior negotiator, a colleague of mine, he kind of interrupted my pattern just by the little hand on my shoulder, and then I watched a master class as to how he really did that, how he regulated his own emotions and those of other people.

And over the years, over 10, 12, 13 years doing it, I came up with this immediate action drill. It’s a three-step process, i.e. drill, that I use to this day, even though I won’t be negotiating with kidnappers, I still use it in traffic or I’m in a line somewhere, or go on social media, and you get that triggered, you find that frustration, something really just, it presses your buttons. And so, the first step is interrupting that pattern.

And what that means is, if you’re sat down behind a laptop, actually just stand up and go outside and get some fresh air, or put some music on, or if it’s your thing, go and do some jumping jacks in the corner, or just do some deep breathing. Whatever it is for you to interrupt that spiral where you’re looking to name blame or shame, or to be overwhelmed by the urge to say or do something, which you may later regret.

Because once you’ve interrupted the patterns, it’s the first step, and the second step is, ride the wave. Ride the wave. And for any skiers, surfers, skateboarders out there, as you’re really surfing the waves or you’re skiing down the mountain, you are kind of riding the wave. And what that really alludes to is, when you get hit by that trigger, you have about 90 seconds, two minutes, where you’ve got cortisol, adrenaline, and other powerful drugs pouring through your body, coursing through your body. This is when you get tense, and this is when you say and do things which you later regret.

So, really, you’ve got to be able to expand your awareness, so to speak, at least internally, as to what’s going on for you, and it’s about feeling the feeling but dropping the story as to why you’re feeling it. So, it could be, “Do you know what? I’m feeling a real churning in my stomach or a tightness or tension in my shoulders. It doesn’t matter why I’m feeling it, it doesn’t matter that Pete has just said something that’s really annoyed me, it doesn’t matter. I need to, for now, I need to interrupt the pattern. I need to ride that wave for 90 seconds or two minutes. And then the third step, once I’ve allowed my nervous system and my body and my emotions to calm down, is to ask better questions.”

And you can only ask better questions, such as, “Okay, what am I missing here? What else could this mean? What’s the opportunity? What’s the learning here? How else could I look at this?” Questions that, when you’re in that fight or flight, when you just want to say something or you want to punch somebody, you’re not going to come up with those questions, or you’re going to dismiss them really quickly. So, you’re going to interrupt the pattern, you’re going to ride the wave, and then and only then can you ask really better open, really empowering questions that can maybe open up a new perspective of how you can present yourself, or actually how you can communicate to somebody else.

And you can do this before a really important negotiation or presentation. You can just check in with yourself and do that three-step process. Or in the middle of it, when the metaphorical bullets are flying, you can do it there. And no one needs to know you’re doing this. You could just do this, sat at the boardroom table, take a couple of breaths, ride the wave, and ask yourself internally a few better questions to give you some more insights.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Thank you. And I think my favorite part there was when you talk about riding the wave, you’re feeling the feeling but you’re not engaging the story. So, it’s sort of like you’re feeling anger and so you can recognize the bodily sensations of anger, it’s like, “Okay, my eyes want to squint, I have a bit of like a growling breathing, and my fists are getting a little tight, a little fist-like, and that’s…”

So, I can experience that feeling and just ride the wave, just experience it as it goes through me, instead of interrogating the emotion, like, “Why is this so ridiculous and unfair and bad and stupid, and yada, yada, yada?” I’m just experiencing those feelings without the story. So, then is your mind just kind of like empty-ish as you’re riding the wave?

Scott Walker

No, whilst riding the wave. No, it’d be full of judgment. It’s, “How on earth could they be so stupid to come up with that decision? What were they thinking of?” But then it’s being aware that you’re coming up with that story and just letting it go, and you’ve got to ride that wave. You’ve got to just tune into the body, the sensation of, “Right, just breathe through it.” And the more you can practice this, it’s like anything, it’s muscle memory, the easier it becomes.

Pete Mockaitis

And I guess what I’m saying there is as you’re tuning into your bodily sensations, you’re naturally tuning a bit away from your internal verbalizations of the words you’re hearing in your head about how this is ridiculous and enraging.

Scott Walker

Yes, because in 10, 20, 30, 50, 60 years’ time, you’re not going to be raging, or that story’s not going to be going around inside your head. If it is, you may need to let some stuff go, because you’re not going to worry about it then. So, actually, why don’t you bring in a mindset that you can come up with some solutions, you can resolve the issues from a grounded, balanced place of equanimity rather than, “That Pete, he’s to blame. I’m going to…” whatever? And that serves nobody.

We see it all the time now, people becoming far more polarized, and, “I’m right, you’re wrong. And I’m going to do everything I can to prove that, and I’m going to cancel you in the meantime.” Whereas, actually, it’s like, “Let me just stop for a second. Let me just try and clarify where I think you’re at with this particular topic, check in to make sure I’ve got that right. Is it okay now, because I’ve earned the right, to now offer my viewpoint? Great. And let’s see where we can find a way through this.” Simple, but not easy.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. So, we talked about emotional regulation. Now tell me, when it comes to identifying your counterpart’s underlying needs, what are your favorite approaches to elicit that information?

Scott Walker

Preparation is key. In the times of crisis and when you’re under distress, you rise or fall to the level of your preparation. Even though, as we know the best laid plans often don’t survive the first contact with the enemy, you still need to go through that, you still need to spend the time as much as you can. And one of those ways of doing that, there’s two steps really. The first one is A-B-C, and this was drilled into me as a young detective at Scotland Yard, the training school, was assume nothing, believe nothing, and challenge and clarify everything.

And so, if you and I, Pete, are going to enter into a business deal, the worst thing I can do is to assume I know where you’re at of how this is going to work out. And I need to clarify, I need to check my own understanding, I need to do my homework, and then I need to do what I call come up with a bunch of fives. So, you do your ABC, and then you come up with a bunch of fives as in the palm of your hand. And what that does is it reminds you that you’ve got to come up with, say, five challenges, issues, questions, threats, demands that you, on the other side, are likely to raise that might get in the way of this deal.

So, if I can identify what those are, it can help me to start to build a picture of “What is Pete really after here?” And I can test those hypotheses, and that’s all they are, at the start of our conversation, our negotiation, and you’ll either confirm, clarify, or say, “No, no, I don’t know where you got that from.” “Okay.” But through asking better questions and through that labelling and paraphrasing, quite quickly, the other side will signal, albeit subconsciously, what their real needs are.

For example, if somebody is going for a job interview and it’s all about the job title, it’s about the perks, you know really, really quickly that significance and a sense of control and certainty and a bit of ego are really important to them. So, if you want to get the best out of them, you can’t go in and judging them as to, “Well, they’re not a really good employer.” Well, actually, they could be a really good employer, but their needs are going to be different to yours, which may be, “Hey, it’s all about the team, it’s all about balance,” which is a completely different approach perhaps to that. So, it’s getting your ABCs, it’s coming up with your bunch of fives.

And then once the conversation, the negotiation has started, it’s really just, listen. I call it level five listening. The first couple of levels of where you’re just listening for the gist, or you’re listening so I can rebut what you’ve said because, “Hey, after all, I’m right and you’re wrong, and I’ve got the better deal.” And then you can kind of go down to level five which is I’m almost listening for what you’re not saying. I’m listening for the space in between the words, “What’s the tone? Like, is it incongruency and mismatch between what you’re saying and how you’re saying it, or even your body language, if we’re in person?”

Which is why, as part of the preparation and the planning, I would ideally, if we’re going to meet in person, is have somebody whose sole job was just to sit and observe, that we’re going to take part in the negotiation. Because when you’re in it, as happened with the communicator in that story I mentioned at the beginning, is you can become very focused on the challenge at hand and you can miss all these cues where somebody’s got a slight step back, they can spot these and afterwards when you go for a break they can go, “Hey, do you know what, there’s a real incongruency there. I think they’re hiding something. We need to perhaps dig a little deeper on that particular topic which, because you didn’t see it, you just skirted over and you moved on to the next one.” Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. And you mentioned a number of underlying needs there associated with control or significance. Can you share with us, do you have kind of a go-to menu or checklist you’re thinking about in terms of, “Oh, these things come up often in terms of people’s underlying needs, and I’m kind of looking out for”?

Scott Walker

Yeah, essentially, I mean, there’s many behavioral assessments you can take, and these profiles, they’re all very similar, as well as the needs that we want to experience as human beings. So, we know full well, a lot of us, we want a semblance of control. We want to be able to call the shots about what we do in our life. There’s an element of we want to feel important or different or we want that connection. It’s all about people. Or, actually, we’re just a lover and a giver, and all we want to do is give, give, give all the time and it’s about growing as a person.

And so, the more you engage with people and truly start listening to that deeper level-5 level, you can pick up these.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Thank you. When it comes to the validation, empathy, active listening, reflection, language, do you have any top do’s or don’ts we should keep in mind here?

Scott Walker

Well, first of all, there’s a mnemonic that I love using that just reminds me of this, that enables me to apply it when I need to. And I always advise people to eat more pies. You want to eat more pies. M-O-R-E P-I-E-S. And just very, very quickly what they are, and I’ve got stuff on my website that people can go to and actually have a look at that in more detail. These are things like the minimal encouragers, all the open questions, or using paraphrasing or silence or labeling, for example, or mirroring.

And so, these techniques are contained within that mnemonic. And the do’s and don’ts there are don’t treat them as a checklist. With any of these techniques, with any of these approaches, intention matters. You’ve got to be able to approach it from, “First of all, I just need to understand and demonstrate that understanding of where the other person is at.” Not, “Okay, tick rapport. Yeah, I’ve got rapport. Now I’m going to do a bit of labelling. Now I’m going to do a bit of mirroring.”

It’s actually approach it with the right intention, genuinely listen, and invariably you’ll be doing a lot of this stuff anyway. It’s just bringing a bit of consciousness, a bit of intentionality to it, and maybe just try one or two at a time, rather than trying to do all six, seven, eight different techniques.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So, I don’t want to go through the checklist, but it is good to have in mind, “Here are some tools.” Lay it on us, Scott, this eat more pies. What are some of these components?

Scott Walker

Yeah, more pies. The M is the minimal encouragers. So, this would be things like what you’ve just done there, “Mm-hmm, okay.” It could be a head nod or a little bit of a laugh. It just encourages people to keep talking. And you know when people are out of sync, maybe you’re on the telephone to somebody and you think, “Are they watching TV? Are they watching television whilst I’m talking?” Because they’ll be like, “Uh-huh.” You’re like, “Hang on, I’ve already moved on, why are you uh-huh-ing?”

Pete Mockaitis

I was going to say, “Sounds good.” I was like, “I didn’t say anything. What is it that sounds good?”

Scott Walker

“Yeah, well, that was 30 seconds ago,” you know? And so, the O is the open questions, the what, the how, the which, the when. Try and avoid why if you can, but it just elicits more engagement there. The “R”, that’s the reflecting or the mirroring. This is when I might mirror or reflect back the last couple of words or the keyword within what they’ve just said that I want to focus on.

So, rather than it sounding like an interrogation, with me bombarding you with lots of questions, I can just mirror the last couple of words or keyword from what you’ve just said. So, M-O-R, E is the emotional labelling. It looks like, it sounds like, it feels like, and that can be described to emotions as well as behavior.

We’ll go through my alphabet here. Okay, yeah, Pete, paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is similar to summarizing. This is where I’d say, “Okay, Pete, is it okay if I just share with you where I think you’re at with this deal right now? You think that we’re asking for too much money, we’ve taken too long, and actually you’re going to hold out, or you want to hold out for a bit more equity in the business. Is that right?” That’s all I’ve done. I’ve just paraphrased and summarized back where I think you’re at. And that’s really important to get that validation.

That’s the “I” statements and this is when, this is particularly good for dealing with, well, I say it with my teenage kids when they’re leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor, for example. It would be, “When you leave towels on the floor, I feel a bit frustrated because we’ve all got to share the bathroom. And in future, would you mind just hanging them up on the towel rack when you’re finished?” So, “When you,” “I feel” because, it’s like you’re owning how you’re feeling, and it doesn’t sound too much like an accusation.

E is for effective pauses. Again, it’s great if you’ve got the confidence to sit or stand in a bit of silence. I can guarantee, as human beings we hate it, we’re so uncomfortable. It doesn’t take long before somebody will make a noise, utter some comment, ask a question, do something, shift. But I guess I’ve had years of practice of sitting across from criminals in interrogation rooms, of questioning them. The best skill we ever used was silence. We’d ask a question.

So, if you’re labeling something, for example, “Pete, it sounds like you’re frustrated right now.” I’m not going to verbally vomit and continue talking. I’m just going to sit there and allow that to sink in, and then it’s going to encourage you to then repeat. And then S is the summarizing, which is very similar to paraphrasing. It just depends whether or not you use your language or their language. But I just urge people to not get too hit up in all the different terms here. Just one or two that resonate.

Because for some people, they just can’t do mirroring. It just feels too awkward. Okay, well, practice paraphrasing. Well, just summarize when you have a conversation with somebody, particularly if they’re talking for a long time, it’s helpful for you to get an angle. Rather than going, “I’ve lost track where you are. Kind of just check in to make sure I’ve got this right,” and then you repeat what your understanding of it. So, that is MORE PIES.

Pete Mockaitis

What I love about that is sometimes someone says a bunch of stuff, and I’m thinking, “I have no idea how to respond to that.” And so, I think that’s just great to have in mind, MORE PIES, it’s like, “No. Well, here I have eight options as to how I might respond to that, and they’ll probably appreciate most of them more than me contributing my two cents to the matter.”

Scott Walker

You’ll be able to contribute your two cents once you’ve utilized some of the MORE PIES and they feel heard. They feel seen, heard, and understood, you’ve got yourself an open goal to have a free rein there.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Scott Walker

Marcus Aurelius, what gets in the way becomes the way.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Scott Walker

I’m a big fan also of Lisa Feldman Barrett. She’s a professor of psychiatry, psychology at Northeastern University, I think, and she talked all her studies around emotions. And it really turns how we view, and interpret, and apply emotions on its head from what we thought 50 years ago. And she’s doing some great research on how emotions are made and how we can best utilize them.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite book?

Scott Walker

I think the one that had the biggest impact on me was probably Nonviolent Communication.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s so good.

Scott Walker

Marshall B. Rosenberg.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Scott Walker

I think the thing I use the most is my WHOOP score because it gives me a real-time reading of, “Oh, Scott, you probably need to take a bit of time out. You need to rest that nervous system because you’re in the red or the amber.” And I think, interestingly, dealing with the kidnappers, my scores were always pretty level. I was always getting good scores there in the feedback. It was dealing with maybe something closer to home, or as I said to you before, the crisis within the crisis, that can send the heartrate rocketing, or the nervous system out of whack.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Scott Walker

It’s, “Seek out worthy opponents.” And what I mean by that is rather than seeing people as being difficult, if you can utilize what we’ve gone through on this recording today, and put that into practice, particularly with those worthy opponents, those difficult people, they will make you a negotiation and communication superstar because, actually, you’re going to have to really bring your A game, you have to get to that next level when you’re dealing with people like that.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Scott Walker

You can go to my website, ScottWalkerBooks.co.uk, and there’s a whole host of information on there about workshops and books and other bits and pieces and courses that they can enjoy.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Scott Walker

Regulate those emotions. If you can just become more conscious and more aware of when your emotions hit home. So, if you can practice, “Okay, my aim for today is to regulate as much as possible, i.e., feel the feeling, but drop the story,” the more you can do that, the more you’ll be able to just go through life with things, problems, challenges, issues, just bouncing off you and not landing.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Scott, this has been fun. I wish you many successful negotiations.

Scott Walker

Thank you very much.

954: Rewriting Your Source Code: How to Identify and Cure the 12 Patterns Holding You Back with Dr. Sam Rader

By | Podcasts | One Comment

 

Dr. Sam Rader discusses a fresh approach to identify and cure the unconscious patterns that keep us from living fully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The surprising origins of many work dysfunctions
  2. The 12 coping styles and their antidotes
  3. How to build your patience for annoying co-workers 

About Sam

Dr. Sam Rader is a former psychologist who took what she learned about childhood development, personality, and growth and turned it into a new quantum healing  modality called Source Code.

She is the author of SOURCE CODE, a forthcoming book about the 12 Coping Styles we adopt in childhood, which helped us then and hurt us now, and how we can heal. Dr. Sam believes that our early childhood experience writes a source code within us, which determines the rest of the way that our story unfolds. She helps people rewrite their code for a healthier, more beautiful life. 

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Sam Rader Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Dr. Sam, welcome.

Dr. Sam Rader

Hi, Pete. I’m so happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I’m happy to be here as well. Mawi sang your praises so strongly, I was like, “Well, I’ve got to hear what all this is about.” So, let’s jump right in and tell us, what is Source Code in your parlance and lingo?

Dr. Sam Rader

Sure. So, Source Code is a new technique and theory that I’ve developed over the last 13 years. I was a psychologist for 18 years, and during that time, I started seeing all these patterns in all of my clients across everyone, no matter their walk of life, where they’re from, who they are. They all seem to have the same 12 problems. And once I saw these patterns, I started working with those instead of any other old ways of diagnosing things. I just saw them as these patterns.

And over time, I found that the ways to heal them are quicker when we bypass the mind and just work with the patterns themselves as sort of symbolic energies, and I can speak more about that later. But as we’ve done this, I’ve developed this new way of healing. It’s an alternative to coaching and therapy, and I call it Source Code. And Source Code is based on the premise that in our first five years of life, our early experience writes a code deep within us. And that coding kind of becomes the algorithm that runs our matrix of reality for as long as we live.

So, we keep reliving the same patterns and problems that we had from our family system when we were little, keep attracting and reenacting it, and we’re not even aware of it. It’s kind of like living in an invisible prison. And what I do is I help people jailbreak. We kind of liberate ourselves from these life-long unconscious patterns so that we can finally feel truly free and feel more connected to our essence of love and joy and peace.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, boy, intriguing stuff. Okay. So, more love, joy, peace. Sounds great. I mean, I think we could all sign up for that, but I got to be true to the ethos of the show, “But, Sam, how’s that going to make me more awesome at my job?”

Dr. Sam Rader

I know, it’s so good. It’s such a good one. Well, so, Source Code is based on the premise that we live in a fractal universe, and let me explain what I mean by that. Fractals are, probably, your audience has seen 3D renderings of them online. They look kind of trippy and psychedelic and beautiful, but it’s really a mathematical equation representing how there’s a pattern that repeats at scale.

So, when you look at a fractal image, it’s got a certain amount of squigglies and doodly dots, and if you were to zoom all the way in microscopically, it’s that same exact pattern. Zoom all the way out, same pattern, all the way to the left, all the way to the right. It’s the same exact pattern that keeps repeating. So, when we’re encoded in our first five years of life with these patterns, these what I call our coping styles or the glitches in our matrix, they keep repeating at scale in every area of our lives, including our work life.

So, if we’re always a pushover because we had a parent that was highly dominating, we are going to attract best friends who dominate us. We’re going to attract lovers who dominate us. We’re also going to attract bosses at work who dominate us, and we’re going to keep doing that pushover people-pleaser thing and feel like we can never say no and never hold a boundary. This is just one of the 12 potential glitches that I’m outlining now, and it deeply affects our work life. It deeply affects our finances, how we show up at work, the circumstances we attract at work, what we’re capable of, and the money we’re able to make is all determined by our coping styles.

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing. So, that, in essence, it sounds like I could have one or maybe multiple. Or, what’s your take?

Dr. Sam Rader

We all have several of the coping styles because none of our parents were able to get it right so many times because they were working with their own coping styles. So, I personally had all 12, which is what allowed me to be the conduit for the work. Most people have like a dominant, maybe five or eight of them. But, yeah, we all have a combination of them.

And another cool thing about the fractal is like that whole thing, “as within and so without,” that, let’s say, you’re a business owner. If you have a certain holding pattern in your energetic system that repeats in your life, your business is going to be an exact reflection of that same holding pattern inside of you. So, when I do coding work with CEOs and business leaders, when we code out all the glitches inside of them, lo and behold, all their clients start acting differently, their employees start acting differently, the money starts flowing, the whole organization feels completely different because the organization is just an extension of them.

So, whatever we’re embodying, whatever patterns we have, those patterns are going to show up exactly reflected in our work and in our businesses.

Pete Mockaitis

Could you give us a cool example of someone who identified one of these patterns, took some actions, and then saw some cool transformation unfold in their career life?

Dr. Sam Rader

Absolutely, yeah. I was recently working with this CEO and founder of a consumer product company, and what we discovered was that his core wound was what I call the “withstanding subtype of the frustrated coping style.” So, let me break that down for you.

When we’re little, around 10 months of age to 4 years old, we’re developing our will. We’re developing our sense of what we can and can’t control with our will. If we are overly frustrated, during that time and our will doesn’t get to matter, we won’t be heard, things are really hard around us, we become frustrated. We develop the frustrated coping style and it haunts us through life. But there’s four subtypes to frustrated, and the one this man was working with is called withstanding.

Withstanding is when we grew up in a family that was kind of extremely harsh, things were really hard. Maybe we were abused literally or emotionally. It was like high neglect or high abuse, just like really painful stuff, right? And so what we do on the inside to cope with that is that we become withstanding, resilient, durable, unbreakable, unbeatable, “I’m going to be so firm that none of that pummeling from the outside is going to break me or destroy me,” right?

And so, for this client, as we started processing it for him, he said he identified with the Man of Steel, like Superman, right, who can withstand anything. But the thing is, when you’re in the Man of Steel embodiment, because you’ve had to withstand so much abuse from the outside, that Man of Steel embodiment is paired together with a villain on the outside. There’s no superhero without a villain. He’d just be Clark Kent, otherwise, right?

So, what would happen in this man’s business is he’d be going along, thinking he was doing the right thing, and then, all of a sudden, the other businesses he was doing deals with, they would do these sinister, villainous, damaging things to him, and he would have to be that resilient, durable, withstanding Man of Steel because that’s the fractal pattern he was living inside of. So, he kept attracting and reenacting these circumstances where he’d be beat down, and disappointed, and the rug pulled out, and pummeled, and he’d have to just keep withstanding it.

So, once we were able to do the work and soften all that need to withstand, and realize that there can be an entirely new reality beyond the harsh, beyond the hard, where things actually get to be easy, which is the antidote to withstanding. Each coping style has a corresponding antidote. When things get to be easy, all of a sudden, the business starts taking off in a more effortless way and business partners and associates are coming in with kindness, fairness, gentleness, collaboration, playfulness, warmth, instead of that pummeling from the outside that was so familiar.

So, we were able to switch the story he was living in, and recode his matrix so that now he’s living in a world that’s easy and in flow instead of hard and challenging and “Aargh!”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. Thank you. I dig that story. And it was funny, as you were talking, I was thinking a little bit about David Goggins’ book, Can’t Hurt Me, in terms of that’s very much the story. We had some abuse and then he became the hardest mother-fer alive, is kind of his tagline, and I don’t know the particulars as to his business partners or what has gone down there. But, yeah, I can sort of see how, indeed, certain experiences could form us to cope, have a coping style in a certain way.

I guess what I’m wrestling with a little bit is, talk to me about this word “attracting” in terms of what is the pathway or mechanism by which that unfolds in reality?

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah, so if someone is showing up in meetings and in life as the Man of Steel, or whatever that guy’s book was, “I’m a badass mother-fer,” right? If you’re showing up into meetings and in that embodiment, “Come on, bring it on,” what is that going to elicit from the outside? A fight. A struggle. It’s just natural. It’s just instinct. You’re showing up ready for a fight, “Come on, try to break me,” and then that’ll happen.

And if you show up soft and present, and in a different kind of power, a power that’s not like, “Try me!” but a power that’s like, “Let’s try this. Let’s work together. This is my power.” It’s an invitation for the other to be collaborative, to be gentle, to be harmonious and synergistic in how our powers can work together. So, you can just think about, “Man, how I show up in my body and my energy really does impact what happens next in my story.”

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. So, let’s hear the rundown, perhaps, just the couple-minute version of what are the 12 coping styles, just like the listing, and then the alternative, just so we could hear the definition and perhaps see ourselves, or start to a little bit, like, “Oh yeah, that does feel kind of familiar to my experience”?

Dr. Sam Rader

The first coping style I call “disconnected,” and the disconnected coping style is when we essentially learned that we wouldn’t be understood by our caregivers, and so we figured that maybe we don’t belong in this world. So, we feel separate in some indefinable way than the rest of society. We feel like an outcast, we feel like an alien or a weirdo, we feel like we don’t belong in this time and space and place and planet.

And so, we found ways to disconnect, and we really struggle with feeling misunderstood a lot, feeling like an outsider, feeling like there’s no point in even trying to explain ourselves because no one could fully understand. And that causes a lot of ruptures, and it’s really not easy to maintain connection because connection feels really confusing and bad, and disconnecting is the only thing that feels safe.

So, if we’re disconnected the antidote is to become connected. And to do that we learn how to feel our feelings, share our feelings, repair the ruptures, take the risk to let people know what’s going on for us, let them know what we need so that we can actually get in that loop of connection and communication where things get to be a fit.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call frictive and it’s when there’s a lot of intensity and energy in the body. We feel like we can never stop going, and moving, and doing, and thinking, and it’s because, subconsciously, we’re quite afraid of disappearing. This comes from not having enough physical containment as a little one. And so, the physical containment being squeezed and held from all sides, especially as newborns, is what allows us to feel like we have a body and have a self and we’re not disappearing.

And so, without that kind of physical containment, we feel like we’re always at risk of coming apart and fragmenting, and so we have to create a friction that keeps us tethered to this world so that we don’t essentially fall off the edge of the earth and die. So, that friction means we never get to rest or pause because, in the silence and stillness, it feels like there’s a void that could swallow us up. It’s a very existential wound.

So, what it looks like as adults is you’re just kind of anxious, and manic, and talking fast, and doing a lot, and really can’t slow the self down and rest. And if you’re frictive, you think about at work, you know, it’s like work always has to be some drama. There’s always a rush. There’s always a drama. There’s always a challenge and the friction and this, because it’s the friction that makes us feel alive and feel connected to something. So, the antidote to frictive is to be spacious where things can be really easy and gentle and quiet and kind of effortless and things don’t have to be so high drama anymore.

The third coping style I call omnipotent. And this is when, well, the word, let’s break down the word. Omni, all; potent, powerful. So, when we’re omnipotent, we actually feel so out of control because everything affects us so deeply, we’re hypersensitive, everything in our environment impacts us so deeply, we need everything just so, or else we feel very, very reactive and very frightened and get very angry very fast. And so, we feel we need to try to have complete control over everything and everyone around us. That’s omnipotent, all-powerful.

And that’s actually secretly because we don’t know how to self-soothe. We don’t know that, instead of controlling everything out there, we could actually just take care of ourselves in here and start to feel safe. So, instead we become very bossy and demanding. And at work, we might find that our employees are scared of us, they perceive us as bullies or dominating, and, really, we’re just trying to prevent the chaos. Like, as omnipotence, it feels like, “If I don’t have everything just so, it will devolve into total chaos.”

And so, the antidote to omnipotence is to feel safe. And we do this by kind of creating a psychic skin that we didn’t get to develop as little ones, where we know that something outside isn’t actually us. We don’t have to control it and we don’t have to change it. We can actually just relax and calm ourselves down inside, and know that that thing out there that’s out of place isn’t going to kill us and isn’t us, and that we’re okay even when it doesn’t feel okay.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call deprived. This is a big one for people in their careers, but deprived is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when we don’t feel connected to the good stuff. So, it really feels like, “Other people can get the good stuff, but not me. I’m the unlucky one. I’m the one that experiences a lot of limits and lack, and I don’t ever get to be fully resourced. I’m always grabbing and grasping and wanting and longing for the good stuff, but it always stays just out of reach.”

And the antidote to deprived is to become resourced. So, when we’re deprived, it’s often really hard to get ahead financially, because no matter how much money we get, it doesn’t seem to stick around. For some weird reason, we always hover around that zero balance because we’re so used to feeling empty inside. But when we come out of deprived, and we become resourced, we learn how to drink in the infinite well of goodness that’s inside and outside because this universe is so abundant and benevolent.

And when we start to experience ourselves as living in that buoyant state of fulfillment from all that resource that we’re resourcing on, lo and behold, the world starts to reflect that by giving us more income, when we feel more valuable and good inside instead of feeling broken, bad, or empty inside. When we feel good inside and feel full inside, the outside starts to reflect that by us making a lot more money, having a lot more opportunities, and being fulfilled in life.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

So, the next coping style I call symbiotic, and this was the one I was kind of bringing up at the top of the hour where we become pushovers and people-pleasers. We’re really afraid of conflict. We’re afraid of ever saying no, firming up, taking shape, disagreeing, having our own point of view, being separate.

So, we tend to attract a lot of people who are dominating and we become kind of their sidekick, and their yes-person, and we kind of give up ourselves to have them, and we pretend like we have all the same preferences but actually we’re betraying ourselves to do that and to be in that twinship with them. And then after a time, it gets really annoying, and so we bail, and we cut and run, and we’re like, “I got to get rid of you to have me.”

And then the pattern just continues because we find the next dominating person, and we do the same exact thing over and over and over. It’s absolutely exhausting, and you can imagine what happens at work. It’s just, we get totally emptied out, totally used feeling, and then we have to quit and leave and go to the next place and do it all over again.

And we often don’t feel totally respected because we don’t respect ourselves. We often don’t find a lot of value monetarily because we always are in that kind of assistant mentality and embodiment where we can’t really get ahead because we don’t know how to firm up and take aim and be kind of potent because we just have to stay limp and malleable in order to stay in those fused connections with people.

So, the antidote to coming out of symbiotic is to become truly solid. And when we’re solid, we know that we have all the resources and all the capability inside to be able to feed ourselves, and trust ourselves, and have our own compass, and have our own agency. And when we can do that, then we can be more honest with people. We can say no, we can set boundaries, we can become in healthy relationships that are a two-way street, where there’s room for two people negotiating and collaborating rather than losing ourselves in the connection with others.

The next coping style I call premature, and this is when we had to sort of grow up too fast as little ones and take care of other people in the families when we were still kind of babies on our own, kind of toddler times. And so, what we do when we’re premature is we’re over-givers, we’re overachievers, over-doers. So, we’re the ones always planning, contributing, giving, volunteering, nurturing, cooking, caring.

We’re the ones always providing, and so all of our energy goes out to feeding others, and we go hungry. Our needs are always last on the list, and eventually it leads to a lot of burn out, so we can feel very, very drained. Even though it feels really good giving to others, because it generally does feel good giving, if we just keep depleting ourselves and we never nourish ourselves, we never take in any of the goodness that we’re giving to others, it’s an equation that doesn’t really work and it leads to burnout.

So, the antidote to coming out of premature is to become nourished, where we learn that it’s actually okay for us to need and feed. When we’re premature, we worry that our needs are too much and they make us needy, and so we wouldn’t want to ask anyone for help or be a burden. But when we come out of premature, we know that it feels just as good to other people to feed us as it does for us to feed them, and then it becomes a loop of nourishment, and it’s sustainable and very fulfilling.

And this definitely plays out at work if you’re the one picking up the slack for everybody, staying overtime, doing everything for everybody, and you’re starting to feel really drained and depleted, you may have the premature coping style, and it’s time for you to be nourished.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

Okay, the next coping style I call idealizing. And this is a wound about identity, really. But it’s when we’re really hyper-focused on our outsides, meaning anything we could measure or write down on a paper about ourselves, like our looks, our achievements, our status, our level of intelligence, our level of success, and we are constantly caught up in this rat race of comparing ourselves to people who are above us or people who are below us.

And what we never get to do is just stand eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart with people and get to be human, which is the antidote to idealizing. So, when we’re human, we’re more in touch with our sentience, the fact that we’re living beings with thoughts and needs and feelings and values and our essence energy inside of us, which is so much more who we really are than any of those outside things you could measure, which always do, by the way, go up and down, “Maybe today I got the best score on the quiz, and maybe tomorrow I don’t.”

And that ping-ponging up and down between “I’m the best, I’m the worst, I’m the best, I’m the worst” is so painful. When you’re more connected to your humanity and your insides, there’s no ping-ponging because you can’t compare essences. And there could be a lot of freedom in that in the workplace if you’re no longer the one always trying to beat everybody, beat your opponents, get the gold star, be the best, and it really starts to become about your own humanity and your needs, it could really change the game for how work starts to work for you.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Dr. Sam Rader

All right. The next coping style I call frustrated. And I started to speak to this a little bit when I was giving the story of the CEO who had the withstanding subtype of frustrated. But frustrated is a will injury, where, as we’re developing our sense of will, of what we can and can’t control as little ones, we need to feel that we can control some things, that we’re not always crushed and thwarted and blocked by our parents, but we’re allowed to have a say, we’re allowed to make choices, we’re allowed to have a will.

And if for whatever reason our will is blocked, we become frustrated, and there’s nowhere for our power or our anger to go, and so it gets turned inwards, and it actually turns into self-sabotage. This is major for the workplace. If we’re always feeling like “Life is hard, I’m stuck, I can’t,” can’t is such a key word for frustrated, “Things are hard,” “I can’t,” all of that, that is a frustrated experience. And the truth is, that’s how it was when we were little, we couldn’t. Like, the thing outside, the parents were so much bigger than us. Of course, we couldn’t, right?

But we’ve been carrying that baggage with us and calling it true now as adults, which is what was happening with this man who felt he had to be the Man of Steel, and life is hard, and all these challenges. And it’s like once we melted that and we brought him into a state of ease, he was able to get in flow, which is the antidote to frustrated. Coming out of frustrated means owning our no and saying no to things we don’t want to do, and saying yes to things we do want to do.

And so, I say, we’ve got to say no to get in flow. So, if you find yourself at work feeling frustrated, like things are not going the way you want them to go, things aren’t fair, things are unjust, things are such a struggle, think of the places that you haven’t yet said, “You know what? No, I have a boundary here and I don’t want to do X, Y, and Z.” Once you hold that no with your universe, boom, things get in flow and you start to get what you do want, instead of always getting what you don’t want, which is the frustrated coping style.

Pete Mockaitis

Alrighty.

Dr. Sam Rader

And the next coping style is kind of a pair to frustrated. It’s another will injury, but it’s the opposite, which is when our will is actually overindulged. Instead of overly frustrated, it can also be overly indulged. I call this the indulged coping style. This happens when we’re either neglected so no one’s there to block our will, or we’re overindulged by our parents, but basically, whatever we want, we get. And these are kids who kind of would fail the Stanford marshmallow experiment of the “If you don’t eat one now, you can have two later,” right?

We never developed that capacity in our frontal lobes to have any self-restraint. We just want what we want when we want it, and we want to get it, and we want to get it now, and we want to get it at any cost, and we’re not aware at all of how we impact others. And so, that entitlement, that indulgence, that impatience, that “Me, me, me,” it’s really, really rough. And if you find yourself at work, feeling like other people don’t trust you, or they’re kind of shunning you, or they’re kind of like, “This one’s not a team player,” you might be struggling with the indulged coping style. In some ways, it’s one of the most shameful coping styles to have. I had it.

This is how I’ve discovered all 12 is because I have found them in myself. It’s a hard one to reckon with, but if we find the courage to reckon with it, it is a revelation because, really, when we’re indulged, we were just lacking a village. We were lacking a sense of belonging because when you know you belong to a tribe, then you know how you impact others, because you all impact one another. And so, we’ve been living in solitary confinement as empty, lonely consumers, so, of course, we just want to fill that hole. It makes so much sense.

But coming out of indulged is to enter the antidote of interbeing. Interbeing is a term coined by the late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and it means that within every being is every other being that, in this computer that we’re talking through, the silicon parts were mined by miners, and it was part of the dirt and the earth where trees were growing, and all of those things are inside of this computer that we’re looking at each other through. Like, everything that is, is interwoven, inextricably interwoven with everything else. We’re all interconnected.

And so, coming out of indulged is realizing, “Hey, it’s not just me here. I’m part of a larger whole.” And when we do that, we work so much better with our teams, and we actually end up getting what we want, truly want, in a more holistic way than when we’re just grabbing in the moment in that impulsive, entitled way.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And number 10.

Dr. Sam Rader

So, the next one I call the squashed coping style. This one could really be at work, too. So, this is one, as we were developing our sense of power and beauty and magnetism as little ones, somebody was jealous, and so they actually squashed us. They didn’t want us to have that beauty and that power and that shine, and so we now inadvertently squash ourselves.

We keep ourselves small. We dim our light. We hide our shine. We play small. We’re always being the nice one or the invisible one or the one who doesn’t want to step on toes or threaten anyone. And it’s kind of like the archetypes of Cinderella or Harry Potter, and when we’re squashed, we’re usually not aware at all that we have this special sauce, that we’re a Cinderella or a Harry Potter. We don’t realize that we’re actually so beautiful and so powerful and so radiant and so potent that it makes other people envious. We’re not aware of that, but we do keep ourselves small unconsciously.

And so, coming out of squashed is to finally be erect, is to stand up into our full height, and be as radiant and potent and beautiful and powerful as we really are so that we start to become a true leader and an inspiration rather than this fear that we’d be a threat.

So, when we own that we are the radiant, beautiful bell of the ball, things really start to work for us in a new way and other people start to respond to us in a new way, and we’re no longer bullied and we’re no longer shunned, and we actually become a real leader and inspiration. So, this could be huge for people at work. If you’re like, “Why does everyone else seem to get ahead and I always have to play the nice guy?” you may be squashed and your story is not over. You can play in the big leagues. You can go to the ball. It’s time to go to the ball.

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

The next coping style I call provocative. If we’re provocative, unfortunately, our parents play out a love triangle with us, where one of them was our object of desire and they kind of overindulged that and played into that with us of like, “Yes, you are my special one and I wish mommy would go away,” or whatever the vibe is, and then the other parent was jealous.

And there is a way to come out of provocative and become clear. That’s the antidote to provocative. So, when we are clear, we understand where the boundaries are “Okay, this person’s my business associate, this person is my secretary, and this person is my lover, and those things are very different, and I’m going to act very differently with those different people because I’m clear.”

Pete Mockaitis

All right.

Dr. Sam Rader

And the final one I call constricted. So, this is when during that time of proto-puberty when we’ve got all this exciting mojo coming through our little bodies, and we are no longer these chubby toddlers, but we want to run and jump and play and, “Tag, you’re it” and “Come, chase me” and be competitive and excitable during this time, how our parents respond to this animal-alive part of us determines how we feel about this part of us.

Whether our parents are overly controlling of that, they say, “Don’t do that. Put your head down. We don’t do this. This is bad. Aggression is bad,” whatever that is, or, if we had parents who were overly amorous, and we saw that that animal part of them got them in trouble in either case, if they were overly controlling, us or if they were out of control, in either case we learned that the animal instinctive wild part of ourselves is bad, and that controlling that part of ourselves is good, and now we’re constricted and we’ve got to hold everything in.

We can’t spill out. We can’t make a mess. We can’t be too wild. We can’t be aggressive. We can’t be expressive. We can’t be tender. We’ve got to keep it all held in, because if we don’t keep it all held in, maybe someone would judge us as weird, or bad, or wrong. And in all of those cases, we would feel humiliated, possibly shunned, and none of that feels okay to us. So, we’ve got a tight lid on ourselves. We have to be hyper-controlled. So, in the same way, an omnipotent person tries to control everything and everyone outside, a constricted person tries to control everything inside, like, “I should never fart,” “I should never scream,” “I should never do anything weird. It’s all got to be held in.”

And the antidote to constricted is to become free. And when we’re free, we get to trust our animal nature, and trust that everything we do and everything that we are is innocent, and that no judge out there has the right to decide what’s innocent or guilty, that we can have an inner authority, and we know that we’re innocent, and we know that our instincts are actually holy and beautiful, and will lead us exactly where we want to go. We don’t have to control them.

It’s actually the repression of them that causes them to act out. But when we know that all these animal parts of us are so good, there’s nothing to restrict or constrict around, then they only do good.

So, when we’re coming out of constricted, we become free. We’re able to express and desire and follow our instincts, and be more animal and alive and vibrant. And when we would stop resisting the flow of life, we can finally feel all the pleasures of being alive. And how this shows up in work is that things start to be a lot more creative, and flowy, and less literally constricted. Like, all the ways that it was like, “Uh-oh, we can’t do this, and we can’t do that, and we can’t do this.” It’s like, “Wait, the sky is the limit. The world is our oyster. Let’s do anything that we feel like doing. I’m free.” And it’s like, “Oh, my God, the workplace becomes so different and the results become so different at work once we’re free.”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, beautiful. Well, I really appreciate you going into the full rundown of the dozen here. And what I like about this lineup is these are patterns I think that we can recognize, like in ourselves or others, like, “Oh, yeah, I know someone who’s kind of like that. I know someone who’s kind of like that,” and it’s sort of handy to have some language and some categories to operate with.

I’m curious, beyond just sort of listening and reflecting, how do we know which ones are active in us? And then what do we do once we know that?

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah. So, you can go to my website, DrSamRader.com, and take the free quiz, it takes like two minutes, and that’ll give you your “top coping style,” your most prevalent one. And once you do that, there’s like a really sweet little $11 mini course you can take to start unraveling and dissolving and resolving it. And then you can also take, once you get inside that mini course, you can take a full-length test. They can give you all of your coping styles and to what degree you have them, and you can start working on all of those as well.

But it’s funny, you also mentioned the thing about people at work, because once you start to understand the coping styles – and, by the way there’s also a free pocket guide on my website that describes all of them so you can kind of have that handy – you start feeling less annoyed with other people when you understand that it’s just a coping style and where it comes from.

So, for example, if there’s someone at work who’s frictive, who’s always like, “Hey, hey, hey, can I have your attention? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and they’re really like needy and intense, and you’re like, “Oh, that person won’t leave me alone,” you can be like, “Oh, they’re frictive. They didn’t have enough physical containment as little ones. Maybe I can just give them a squeeze and a hug, and, wow, they’re much calmer now. Wow, they’re bugging me a lot less.”

So, once you start to understand the motivation of other people’s behavior, it also causes really great team building, you’re much easier to manage others, and be managed by others when you understand what makes them tick, and how you can support them in being a little less in their coping styles and a little more in the antidotes.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader

One of my favorite studies was of a troop of orangutans in Africa, who, all the alpha males contracted a disease from eating from a garbage pile that was infected, and they all died. And so, traditionally, when new adolescent males join a troop, they’re sort of hazed by the alpha males and the females are not allowed to groom them. But once all the alpha males died out, when the new adolescents would come from other tribes, because that’s what happens to adolescents, leave their troop to go to a new troop so there’s no inbreeding, they would be welcomed by the new matriarchy who would groom them and touch them and welcome them. And they created a completely peaceful, egalitarian, anti-hierarchical troop that survived for nine generations forward that just had a completely different culture.

And why I love that study so much is that even though things can seem so effed up right now on the planet, all it takes is one shift in how we treat one another to create an entirely new culture here on Earth, and that’s my wish for humanity.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite book?

Dr. Sam Rader

I love the Hafiz, the Sufi poet, and this book translated by Daniel Ladinsky called The Gift. It’s Sufi poetry.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader
“There are no bad people, only hurt people hurt people. And we all need more love, not less.”

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader

Come to my website, www.DrSamRader.com, or you can follow me on Instagram @drsamrader. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to DM me. I’d love to chat about what you loved about this interview or not. Or, I’d love to just meet all of you.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Sam Rader

Yeah. See if you can spot any patterns, the things that are bugging you about your vocational life. See if you can spot a pattern in that that is familiar, that it’s not just now, it’s not just in this job, but it’s been haunting you and with you for as long as you can remember. And then see if you can trace that pattern back to actually your early experience as a little one, how that’s actually in a reenactment of a drama from home.

And when you do that, sometimes just that awareness and seeing that it is a pattern, it’s not just this one thing that’s happening today at work, but it’s actually the pattern, that once you recognize that pattern and just hold it for what it is, sometimes that alone can start to dissolve and resolve it on its own.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Lovely. Well, Sam, this has been fun. I wish you much luck in transformations with you and your clients.

Dr. Sam Rader

Thank you for tolerating my woo, and it’s been a pleasure.

953: How to Transform Tension into Progress amid Tough Conversations with Todd Davis

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Todd Davis shows how to fix strained relationships and shift conversations from difficult to productive.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to reduce the discomfort in difficult conversations
  2. The three steps to turn tension into progress
  3. How to recover from worst-case scenarios 

About Todd

Todd Davis is a senior consultant and thought leader at FranklinCovey, and has over 35 years of experience in human resources, talent development and executive recruiting. Todd has been with FranklinCovey for 28+ years and until recently, spent 18 of those years as Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President where he was responsible for the global talent development in over 40 offices reaching 160 countries. Additionally, he authored and co-authored best-selling books including Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work and Everyone Deserves A Great Manager. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

  • Storyworth. Give the moms in your life something super special this Mother’s Day with $10 off at StoryWorth.com/awesome 

Todd Davis Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Todd, welcome back.

Todd Davis

Thank you, Pete. Great to see you again.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m excited to talk about difficult conversations, and I’d love it, for starters, if you could maybe paint a picture for us about the landscape or the state of play, the world of difficult conversations and their avoidance. What’s the status of that today? I have a feeling that’s happening a lot. Can you tell us just how much a lot and what’s the impact or cost of that?

Todd Davis

Yeah, I think great question. I think difficult conversations have always been a part of work and life, but I think, to your point, now more than ever before, with just the unrest, certainly in the U.S. but around the world, our emotions, our reactivity is at an all-time high. And so, I think just the crucial nature of how we handle difficult conversations is more important than ever before now, because people, at least in my experience, have more of a shorter fuse, so to speak. And so, we got to approach these very carefully and methodically in my experience.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Todd, how about we just don’t? Difficult conversations, by definition, are difficult. I think they may be unpleasant. Why not just skip them?

Todd Davis

You know what, I like your idea there, and I have done that, and in the short term, that’s very helpful. In the long term, it’s not. I wrote very quickly, several years ago, I had a situation at work with one of my team members, and just that, Pete, I thought, “Ah, this is going to just go poorly, and they’re going to feel upset, and I’m going to damage our relationship,” and I let this behavior go on and on and on until not only was this person looking bad, but I was starting to look bad because other people could see that I wasn’t taking charge here and trying to course-correct something.

And when I finally did talk to this person, they were upset and it was uncomfortable, like I thought it would be, but the thing that they were most upset about was how long I had waited to bring it up with them, and rightfully so. They said, “Gosh, if you realized this eight months ago, why would you let me look foolish for eight months?” I think those were this person’s exact words.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Todd, now we’ve got to know, what was the behavior?

Todd Davis

Well, I want to be loyal to the absent. It was a team member. It was a personal habit this person had of being on their phone too much. And while they were getting most of their work done, there were other team members…and this was before the pandemic, we were all in the office seeing each other, and it was a less than mature behavior that this person was modeling, and it was really making them and our department look bad.

And they didn’t have a lot of extra time like others did to pitch in and help others with their work. So, that’s about as detailed as I’d like to go with respect to this person, but it was awkward at best. And when you’re talking to somebody about a personal behavior they have, naturally we can get very defensive with that. So that was the situation.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, I hear that. And what’s so funny, that notion of, “But why did you let me look foolish for so long?” really sticks. I can recall a time I was in the office, and I was completely unaware that, I don’t know what happened. I put a sweater on and my hair got really weird, and I had multiple meetings. I’m thinking maybe nine different people I interacted with over the course of several hours, until I went to the bathroom, and I looked, and it’s like, “My hair looks so ridiculous.” It’s like, “How long has this been going on? And how has nobody said anything to me?”

It’s not just like a hair out of place. It’s like, “Are you going for a mohawk look this morning in the consulting office, Pete?” But it’s so funny, I love that reframe, that, “Yes, it might seem uncomfortable, but you may also have something to lose by avoiding it, and the person is actually less pleased with you for having kept silent.”

Todd Davis

Pete, it is so true. We think about the reason we do avoid or put off having these difficult conversations is because we’re worried about, in general, most of the time, we’re worried about offending the other person. And so, we think we’re being considerate, we think, “Gosh, it’s consideration that is getting in the way because I don’t want to offend or hurt in any way.” And yet, to your point, and your example of your hair, the ultimate opposite of consideration is not sharing something with them.

Now, again, easy if we’re talking about hair looking out of place or somebody who’s obviously doing some behavior on work hours that aren’t beneficial. Harder when we see things a different way. A leader sees something, a different way of doing something than their colleague is doing or whatever, and it’s not as cut and dried as these examples. But, still, if the leader will begin the conversation, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here in the conversation, but if the leader will begin by making sure the person knows, “Hey, I just want to help. Please know my only intent is to help you be as wildly successful as you are, and I know you can be in your role.”

And if we can continue to make sure that the receiver of the conversation knows that’s our intent, it doesn’t make the awkwardness or the uncomfortableness go away, but it certainly helps us get to a point where we can start to really discuss and collaborate.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So, we’ve teed up a little bit of the why associated with folks can get upset, even more upset with you if you don’t tell them what’s up and they need to be told. What is ultimately the outcome, the consequence of professionals and teams consistently having the difficult conversations versus consistently avoiding them? What roads will this take us down?

Todd Davis

Well, I love that question because I have been on teams before and I have led teams before, and we have created a culture of feedback where it is the norm. And again, I don’t want to pretend that, “Oh, so I just love it when people tell me things that I’m doing wrong that I need to change.” I’m not saying you get to that point, but if feedback can become the norm for both all the team members and for the leader, the outcome is a high-performing team.

I mean, if we have this level of trust where I say, “Gosh, when Pete shares something with me and it’s different than I was seeing it, I know that he just wants us both to win. He wants this whole thing to get better.” And if we can create that spirit of trust on the team where we know that nobody’s out to get us, we’re not feeling defensive or wondering what some ulterior motive is, the outcome is that we have probably the highest performing team in the organization, and others look to us to say, “Gosh, how are they doing that?”

And it’s through creating this culture of feedback where difficult conversations, yes, they’re still difficult, but we assume good intent. We are open to what the other person has to say, and we learn from it, and we all grow together.

Pete Mockaitis

I like that so much. And what comes to mind right now, it’s so random, is Mr. Beast, the top YouTuber, and whenever he tells his origin story, he goes back to, like, four or five other YouTubers, and they just “roasted” each other’s videos day after day after day after day, continuously telling them all the ways their videos are poor and could be made better. And, go figure, you compound that and he is the best in the world at that. And so, in your team, you saw they could become the highest performing.

And yet, I’ve seen the data suggest that a good majority of folks are not comfortable with having such conversations. I think Harvard Business Review had a Harris Poll showing that 69% of managers are just uncomfortable communicating with employees, which is quite a statement. Like, that’s sort of your job is communicating with employees, your whole job you’re uncomfortable with. That didn’t even put uncomfortable, difficult conversations in the mix but just straight up communication. So, you’ve identified through your research the number one driver of this discomfort. Lay it on us, Todd.

Todd Davis

Well, it’s tension. There’s something at stake. I mean, you think about it, Pete, think about your last difficult conversation, whether it was with someone in your personal life or someone in your professional life. When you really think about it, there’s something at stake for both parties. If I’ve got a performance issue on my team, well, what’s at stake for me as the leader? Well, that we’re not getting the results we could be getting if they could improve their performance. What’s also at stake for me is the nature of the relationship moving forward. I want to make sure that I get this information across, but that I also do it in a way that is respectful so that we don’t have this awkwardness going forward.

What’s at stake for the person that’s going to be receiving this conversation, hopefully receiving this conversation, is their dignity, their respect. It’s embarrassing. We can use other words for it, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how senior we are in our roles or how long we’ve been in the workforce, it’s embarrassing to get feedback. It’s awkward. And I think if people, I know, if these people that were cited in the Harvard Business Review, if they were thinking about, “Wait a minute, let me put myself in the place of this other person, that will help me structure this conversation, and, first and foremost, I got to remember that this is awkward and embarrassing. So, what can I do to reduce that defensiveness?”

And so, I coach with, and we coach in our work sessions, with an actual step-by-step, first of all, construct a purpose and an intent statement, “What is your purpose?” You want to declare that to the person? “Well, I want you to know, Pete, I need to share with you something that I believe will help you be better in the role that you’re in right now. Maybe it’s something that’s not even on your radar, but it’s going to be a little bit awkward. And please know that my only intent in sharing this with you is to help you be wildly successful in your role.”

“And I also, while I don’t ever know how anybody else feels, I know when I’ve been on the receiving end of feedback, it stings a little bit. So, I’m very mindful of that. But again, I want to reiterate my intent is to help you and the team be wildly successful. So, are you okay if I move forward and share with you what I need to share?”

Now, I don’t pretend that that removes all of the awkwardness. But, boy, is it a logical and a helpful way for me to say, “Okay, I can have this conversation. I now know how to begin the conversation and get into it.” So, that’s what we coach in the work sessions. You start from this place of courage and consideration.

Courage, recognizing “What do I need out of the conversation?” Consideration, “What do I need to make sure the other person needs?” And while we completely, or we immediately jump to, “Well, they need to know what they’re doing wrong,” but before that, they need to feel respected. They need to feel whole. They need to feel valued.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. So, fundamentally, we got some steps there as to handling things. And then what makes it tricky is there’s tension, there’s stakes in terms of for you, for them, for the organization, the team, and then that that fear of eliciting a negative emotion you’ve identified in your course materials as like the number one driver, kind of that visceral emotional level of folks avoiding stuff.

So, I’d love to hear, maybe before we even get into the how of the conversation, can you tell us how do we feel okay enough to pursue it, find the courage?

Todd Davis

Well, you talked up front about this mindset that’s so easy to get into of “Gosh, I’m just not going to have it. Maybe it’ll go away. Maybe it’ll get better on its own.” While, again, that can feel better for the short term, it’s not what we call an effective mindset. Anybody who’s worked with Franklin Covey knows that we always, always, always start with a person’s mindset. So, a very common mindset is, “Hey, this conversation is going to hurt, so no matter what, I just got to get through it. I just got to minimize the pain.” And that’s natural. I’ve had that mindset before.

But a more effective mindset, if we can start there, and we can realize as leaders or whoever is initiating the conversation, sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s the employee who needs to initiate the conversation with their leader. Regardless of who’s initiating it, if they can get their mind around the fact that, “Wait a minute, I can reduce the pain and I can actually make progress when I’m focused on balancing both my needs and theirs.”

So, we get in the right mindset and that’s all around this balancing of courage and consideration, then we can begin the conversation with what I already shared, is first of all, stating what the purpose is, making sure that the person understands your intent, and then diving into the topic.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Courage and consideration, that’s fantastic. And I think sometimes we might find ourselves deficient on one or both of those. It’s like, “I’m feeling scared and timid, so I’m lacking courage,” or, “I’m mad. I am mad at this person for screwing this up repeatedly,” or whatever the context, like, you are mad about the thing. So, you may feel a little short on consideration of their feelings and perspective and context in the moment. Can you help us, how do we give ourselves a bit of a jolt or a boost on these dimensions if we’re feeling short?

Todd Davis

Well, if we’re talking about a leader right now that’s going to be initiating the conversation and who’s mad because of the person’s performance, I would suggest, and again, says easy, does hard, but I suggest we step back and say, “What is my role as a leader? My role as a leader is to get results with and through others. My role as a leader is to develop others. So, yeah, it may feel good for me to just go tell this person off and vent and tell them how angry I am. But am I really then developing and helping them get better results in the future?”

We define effectiveness as getting results in a way that allows us to get even better results over and over again in the future. So, I might get the results of making this person feel bad and apologizing and knowing how upset I am with their behavior, and that’ll make me feel good in the short term, but again what have I done for the long term? So, we want to approach these conversations, unless we’ve got the wrong person. Clearly, there are some times when you’ve absolutely got the wrong person in the role. And then, of course, that’s a different conversation as you’re going to help them get to a place where they can contribute in a better way.

But 90% of the time, we’ve got the right person or someone who can become the right person, but we’ve got to slow down, we’ve got to have that balance of courage and consideration, address what needs to be addressed, but in a way that they can hear it, in a respectful way. I think all of us, I know, all of us know what our tendency is. I don’t know you well enough to know what yours is, but I know what mine is. Mine is to err more on the side of consideration than courage so I’ve got to be mindful of that when I go into the conversations, “Okay, Todd, you have a tendency to sometimes sugarcoat or talk around an issue, hoping the message will get through so you don’t offend the person.”

And what I’ve learned through that is that sometimes it works, but more often than not, the message doesn’t get through. So, I remind myself of that before I go into the conversation, to say, “Todd, don’t lose that consideration, but you got to be a little more direct with respect for that person.” There are many people who are the opposite.

Pete, you seem like a pretty mean guy, so I bet you go in and say, “I’m just going to tell them like it is,” and it’s good to be direct, but also, “Can I tell it to them? Can I initiate the conversation in a way that they can lower their defense and feel hurt? So, maybe I need to increase my consideration.” So, the self-awareness of one when you’re beginning a conversation like that, this is so important.

Pete Mockaitis

Alrighty. How about you give us a demonstration? We’ve got some steps.

All right, Todd, let’s hear the situation. Give us a demonstration of these steps. Let’s say the situation is we are peers, you are leading a project, and you sort of need my cooperation to do stuff, and yet I am not giving you much of it, in terms of, I kind of show up to some of your meetings, I do most of what I say I’ll do most of the time, but sometimes it’s kind of late, and you would like for me to kick it into gear and be a dream collaborator, but you’re not my boss, you are a peer. How do you work it?

Todd Davis

Okay. Thanks for that softball. So, I would, first of all, determine the right time to talk with you, and so we’ll kind of fast forward here, we don’t have all day, but I would probably take you to lunch, see if we can go to lunch together, if you show up. And so, we go to lunch, and I would begin with some nice icebreakers, so then I would just say, “Hey, Pete, I wonder if it would be okay. I have some concerns about how the project is going, and I know we’re all equals in this, we’re all collaborating, but as the project leader I have some concerns I want to share with you. We go back a-long ways. We’ve worked together on different things for a long time. I have a lot of respect for you and your talents, but I also have some concerns about how the project is going that I really need your help with. Would you be okay if I share those with you?”

Pete Mockaitis

“All right, sure. Lay them on me.”

Todd Davis

“Okay. Well, I appreciate that. So, we’ve got this deadline looming in two months, and several of the people on the team look to you. You have a lot of influence with them. And it’s been my experience, and again, I may be wrong. I don’t think I am. But it’s been my experience that you’re not fully bought in on this project, and it’s showing up in ways that are really damaging to the team, and I don’t think that’s your intention. But, for instance, the other day when you didn’t even come to the meeting for the XYZ step of the project, it kind of showed your, at least in my opinion, showed your disinterest. I hope this is okay that I’m sharing this with you.”

“I care about you. I care about our relationship. I’ve worried about this for a while, and I haven’t quite known how to bring it up because I don’t want to damage our relationship. We’ve been good friends, and I’d like it to stay that way, but I also need to feel comfortable sharing these things with you. So, I’m wondering, I’d like to understand what your level of interest is on this project first. And if I’m misinterpreting your behaviors, I want to be certainly fair and respectful that way. But could you tell me a little bit about your passion or lack thereof for this project?”

Now, that would be how I’d begin the conversation, Pete. It would be a long conversation, but I would want to say those kinds of things so that Pete knows I’m not trying to pull rank on him because I don’t have rank, but, really, my interests are in having the project succeed in time and our relationship.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. Understood. Thank you. And so, I’ll just sort of step into the role and be like, “Well, yeah, Todd, I mean, sure. We’re going to be friends, and I guess you’re in a spot here. Yeah, that’s not fun to hear. I do like to crush it in everything I do. But, yeah, it’s true. Like, I don’t, I mean, I care about you. I don’t care much about your project. No offense. I don’t think it’s going to make much of an impact to the organization long term.”

“And, again, I could be wrong. I mean, I don’t know. That’s really not my area of expertise, and it’s also not really in my quarterly or annual goals, this stuff. So, it’s accurate. Like, I’m not that passionate about what you’re cooking up. I’m trying to be like enough of a team player to not just be totally rude but, push comes to shove, it’s like the things that I’m getting evaluated on, and my bonus is contingent on, really do have my heart and priority. And I’m kind of done working to midnight as a lifestyle, which, I mean, I could. It’s fair. I could stay up later and do your stuff, and I choose not to. That is accurate. So, yes, it’s kind of a tough spot.”

Todd Davis

“Okay. Well, first of all, thank you. Thank you for being open and honest with me. I appreciate the transparency. While, of course, I wanted to hear, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to just jump in and I love this kind of stuff,’ I would rather deal with honesty like you just shared. So, I want to be clear, what I heard you say is that, on projects you love and that you’re fully engaged in, you love the recognition and just crushing it and knocking it out of the park, and you’ll stay up till all hours of the night doing that.”

“But on projects that you’re not fully bought into, like this one, and that you don’t, and it’s okay, we all have our right to our opinions, that you don’t believe is going to make a difference, you’re kind of pitching in to help when you can, but you’re really not that excited about it, and want to spend your time more focused on those things that are going to matter to your next promotion, your grade, and things that you believe are really going to make a difference. Have I understood correctly?”

Pete Mockaitis

“Yeah, for the most part. I would say that I don’t care to stay up late anymore for work in general at this phase of my life with three young kids, unlike my earlier days, even if I am into a project. But, yeah, more or less, that’s the situation.”

Todd Davis

“Okay. Well, again, I appreciate your honesty with that. Is there anything? Because while we have different views of the impact this project will have, the deadline is the deadline. I’ve committed that we will have this done by that deadline. Is there anything that I could do differently to inspire or motivate you to bring yourself, not work until midnight, but during the hours of operation and working on this project? Is there anything I could do differently that would be more motivating for you to dedicate more time to this? And if there’s not, I respect that, and we can look at some additional resources, but if there is, I’m open to looking at things differently if there’s something I could do to inspire you to be more excited about this.”

Pete Mockaitis

“Oh, thank you. Well, I mean, motivation, I don’t know, I could tell you that I get most jazzed about sort of the creative aspects of things and the actionable aspects of things. And I am less into hearing meeting status updates, some person did that, some person did that. So, I think maybe, I don’t know, it might be hard to get much more motivation from me.”

“But I think you could probably get more of what you need from me if you could just like have a super tight scope in terms of, ‘Pete, this is exactly what is critical for you and you alone.’ That is kind of motivating. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’m the guy who can handle this, other people cannot,’ so I’ll do it. As opposed to, ‘Okay, you kind of need input from everybody on a thing to seem like it was inclusive. And I guess those don’t, I find as compelling. Like, the survey seems sort of long and not targeted. So, yeah, I guess that’s what I’m thinking there.”

Todd Davis

“Okay. This is super helpful as well, Pete, because at the end of the day, what I need is your creativity and your expertise, and I realize, as I’m listening to you, I do tend to be a consensus leader. I want everybody to feel like they have input. And what I hear you saying is that that’s fine, but you don’t feel you need to be in those meetings or those updates. That’s taking time away from some of the other projects you’re on, and from some of the specific creative things you could do on this team.”

“So, what I’d like to do is think about how I might restructure this a little bit, use you in those targeted areas, maybe have Jamie come in and she can, in working with you, she would have enough of a sense of where you are on the specific things I give you that she can attend to the status updates meetings because it is important that we meet weekly and know where we’re going. But what you’re saying is that’s not the most exciting use of your time and the best use of your time. So, I’m going to use Jamie for that, allow you to be, and I’ll be very direct and clear on setting expectations of what we’ve got to have you do each time so that we’re moving the project along.”

“But that your time, maybe once a month, I’d ask you to come in and give us an overall update, but not on a weekly basis like we’ve been doing. Would you be open to us trying that for the next couple of weeks and seeing how that works for you and for me, and then we’ll be both very honest about how it’s going?”

Pete Mockaitis

“Oh, sure, yeah, that does work. And, thank you, I appreciate you, you know, considering my preferences, and I think that will work. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll give it a shot.” Okay, Todd, that’s really cool.

And so, what I’m observing here is that you brought a good amount of humility in terms of you’re just trying to figure out how to make this work for everybody, and you’re not like, “Listen, Pete,” even if you were my direct manager or the CEO, it sounds like you probably wouldn’t be like, “Listen, I’m going to lay down the law. You gotta step up and, like, ABC, that’s what’s up.” Mic drop. But rather, it’s very collaborative and humble. It’s like, “Hey, I’m trying to make this work for everybody. I’m observing this. How might we find something?” And so, I like that a lot.

Todd Davis

You’re exactly right. And because, and you made it, and it is difficult, you made the point a couple times, we are peers. I have no formal authority over you. If I had, if I did, if you reported to me, if I were the one responsible for your next promotion, your next increase, while I would hope the humility and the empathy would be there, the conversation would say, “You know what, Pete, I appreciate this isn’t exciting for you, but I’ve made the determination that we’ve got to have these weekly updates, and I’m okay with maybe using Jamie to come in and give those a couple times, but at the end of the day, I’m really concerned about your reputation.”

“You are genius on your creative side, but if you’re inflexible on how you work with people, that’s not going to work for you. So, please know, I’m not sharing this with you to be critical. I’m sharing this with you because I would hate to see someone with your talent and your genius get passed over for really cool projects because you’re somewhat inflexible. And sometimes we have to work on things that we’re not as excited about but that gives us the ticket to then be chosen for other things that we are excited about.”

“So, I hope that you know my intent is to, again, reiterate, I just want you to be the number one pick for everybody on these projects. But if you’re going to be inflexible on this, that’s going to hinder your growth and progress in the company.” That would be the conversation I would have if I had the formal authority. But with your peers, it’s got to be like I did before, in my experience.

Pete Mockaitis

No, that is handy. And it does, I feel the difference, and it seems appropriate in terms of, it’s like you’re not saying it, but it’s clear, it’s like, “I am the person who judges your goodness as an employee.”

So that is, because in a way, I think it’s possible for folks to forget that. Like, if you’re too considerate and sugar-coated all the time, we can sort of forget that fundamental truth about the reality of your career progression. Now, it’d be pretty ugly to, like, stomp, like, “You know who I am, and I own you,” and, like, whatever.

Todd Davis

Never do that, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

But when you speak in the way you speak, it just sort of brings to mind, “Oh, yeah, the context we’re in is that…” Like, it was a little judgy, like when you said I was inflexible, but at the same time, you are the one who judges. And by judging in front of me, I am reminded that you are the one who judges.

Todd Davis

Well, it’s a good point. And, again, I would never use, hopefully would never use that language, and even maybe saying inflexible, I would soften that a little bit because that makes people feel defensive. But I would say, “You know, it might appear to some that you’re inflexible. I know you. I know how talented you are, but I also want you to know that, in addition to being creative, flexibility is a number one strength that really successful people have.”

And when I have someone and some people think this is generational. I don’t, I haven’t experienced that. People of all generations might say, “Well, that’s your opinion.” And I will say, “You’re exactly right. And part of my role as a leader is to form an opinion. And so, I gather as much information as I can, and I want to hear your input as well, but at the end of the day, I have to make a judgment call. So, you’re right it is my opinion and that’s what I’m paid to do.” And that helps. And, again, always in a respectful way but I’m pretty successful. You can be pretty successful at getting the message across in a good way if you use that kind of language.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, this also reminds me. One time I was an intern, and I was receiving some feedback and the context was actually unclear to me, and I said, “Wait a minute, am I supposed to be dazzling you? I thought the manager was making the decision.” It’s like, “Well, yeah, but I am the primary input to the manager’s decision, and I would like to be dazzled.” It’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry. Okay, I kind of thought of us as just like pals, like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’” I was an intern, I was just learning what’s up in career stuff, but that was very useful to kind of recontextualize our relationship.

Todd Davis

You bring up really good point because going back to, for your listeners, recognizing, “Do I heavily weigh more on the consideration side? Or, am I more on the courage side?” Recognize that because, if you’re like me and you tend to weigh more on the consideration side, you can fall into that trap and you can say, “Gosh, I had this conversation, but she or he left thinking we’re just pals and we’re here to work together and I get to have as much say as they do.” And so, you got to be careful of that.

When we were doing that, I really appreciate the roleplay you set up. That was really helpful, and there are three tools that I used in there that we teach in the “Navigating Difficult Conversations” course that I just want to call out. They were pretty subtle, but I’ve used them for so long that they come quite natural to me, and they can come quite natural to others if you use them, and that is to pause, observe, and ask.

And what I coach people on, and what I remember myself is, “Pause. Don’t panic when we’re talking,” because you can see some new leader or maybe some seasoned leader, when you say, “Well, no, I just don’t like doing that,” and they go, “Oh, my gosh, what do I say now?” Just pause, don’t panic. Observe, don’t judge. Even if I’ve worked with Pete for a long time, I go, “Oh, yeah, this is the routine he goes into.”

Well, everybody’s different in different seasons of their life, so observe, don’t judge, and then ask, don’t assume. And I tried to really emphasize that, and ask you, “So, what I hear you saying is this, and what I hear you saying is that.” And you were great because you said, “Well, mostly it’s just this.” And so, if I had assumed that I might have missed a couple of things that you shared with me when I was asking those questions. So, pause, observe, and ask.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, now, I’d love it, Todd, let’s say things go as horribly wrong as we fear, I’d love your take on what then. So, let’s say instead, I say, “Todd, that’s ridiculous. I’m working my keister off on your project and all these other projects, by the way, which are on my evaluation, critical path for reviews and such, and yours is not, incidentally. And I think it’s pretty flippin’ rich for you to make these heinous accusations when I feel like I am going above and beyond for this team again and again. And what about Mark? That guy is a real slacker. I think you should probably be taking him to lunch.”

Todd Davis

Yeah, and we’re peers, right?

Pete Mockaitis

Yep.

Todd Davis

This is still we’re peers. Yeah, that would be fun. I would make sure that you get the tab. But I would, yeah, in that situation, I would say, “Gosh, Pete, clearly, I have hit a sensitive chord here, and I apologize for that. That wasn’t my intent. My only intent was to see if we could make this work because I need your talent on this team. What you’ve shared with me here is that probably is not going to happen. I’m going to get what I’m getting, and nothing else.”

“And if that’s the case, I respect that. I don’t have, nor would I take the authority to say you have to do this, but I don’t have that. So, unfortunately, I’m going to have to get somebody else to fill that role and free you up to do what you want to do. And I’m going to have to go back to Joe, my boss, and let him know I’ve got to delay the timing on this.”

“Because if you’re unwilling, which I heard you loud and clear, and while I disagree, I respect that, I’m going to have to get somebody else to fill this role. They won’t be as good as Pete because I’ve worked with you before and your genius, but I got to have this level of dedication. So, thanks for being open with me and honest with me so I know what my next steps are.” That’s how I would end the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. And I like that because it’s respectful and not just screaming right back at me. And then I might very well say, “Todd, I’m sorry. I’ve got way too many things cooking right now, and you didn’t deserve that. So, yeah, I mean, if you could find someone else, that would really be a relief, if that’s workable.”

Todd Davis

And, Pete, if I could interrupt, that might be a way. And again, we’re talking hypothetic here, but if Pete truly is this genius, creative genius, that might be a way for him, for me to work with his…and I’m not trying to be manipulative, but for me to recognize his ego, and say, “Oh, they’re going to get somebody else here and I know I can do a better job in this.”

There might be a way for us to continue the conversation after this to say, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t want you to have to change your deadline. I don’t want you to have to go to Joe and change the project deadline.” It might be a way to continue the conversation. It may not be. It may be just what you’re saying, “Thanks. Yeah, get somebody else. My heart is not in this.” But it might be a way to continue the conversation after a blow-up. I can think of several situations where that positively has happened.

Pete Mockaitis

And I find that encouraging, Todd. You’ve lived through several blow-ups, and it sounds like you’re suggesting that’s not terminal. When the absolute worst-case scenario happens, it’s actually not a horrific scorched earth, nightmare escape. Is that accurate?

Todd Davis

That is accurate. I’m thinking of one right now. We had a director, I won’t say what department, and this person went through, I’m not kidding you, six executive assistants, because they were so difficult to work with. Six. And in my chief people officer role, I was overall of the recruiting and that, and finally the recruiters came to me, and said, “We can’t find anybody that’s going to please so and so. It’s just not going to work.”

And so, I went and talked to this person, and I was respectful, and I said, “I know you’re frustrated with the talent that our team, the recruiting team has been finding, but I need to be really honest with you about what I’ve observed.” And granted, it’s my opinion, I did not have authority over this person, but I was the chief people officer, and I said, “What I’ve observed, and I don’t know how to say this in a way that’s not going to be offensive, my intent is not to be offensive, you are very difficult to work with, and every one of these people who have left have said that in the reviews, and they’ve talked about the micromanagement and the demeaning nature. And I know you and I know that’s not your intent, but I’m telling you six people now have felt that, and I don’t see this ever getting any better unless we can address that.”

And this person blew up, like I knew anybody would, who felt personally attacked. And I just listened and, two days later, I went back after them, and I said, “Hey, wanted to check in with you, see how you’re doing. I wanted to reiterate my only intent in sharing with you what I did was to see if we could get to a place where we could get you some help, and I didn’t see that ever happening unless we could address what I’ve observed is the elephant in the room. And would you be at a point now where we could maybe talk to this?”

And we did, and we started talking through it, and this person actually asked me for some of the micromanaging behavior, because they couldn’t see it. And so, anyway, long story, but we got to a good point.

Pete Mockaitis

That is great to hear because even when it’s the absolute worst-case scenario, it is salvageable, and good things come from it, and maybe even better things. Like, your relationship with this collaborator, this peer, is probably even stronger now for having lived through that, because no one else found the courage to say what needed to be said to him.

Todd Davis

Well, the people that quit after one week did, but they didn’t count.

Pete Mockaitis

But no other peers in the organization had observed?

Todd Davis

That’s correct.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Fantastic stuff, Todd. Can you share anything else you want to make sure to put out there before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Davis

I think, as we’ve been talking, Pete, if I could only use one word, and this would be ridiculous, but in coaching people, it would be empathy. If we can, in any situation, not just in difficult conversations, but in any situation, if we could do a better job as a world, and I don’t want to wax too philosophical here, but if we could do as much as we could to put ourselves in the place of others, not agreeing or disagreeing with them. I don’t mean that. Empathy is not that.

But seeing things from their point of view, we could have these conversations that are more productive. If we could, you know. Dr. Stephen Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits and a man I had the esteemed privilege of working directly with for many years before his passing, he would often say, “The deepest need of the human heart is to feel understood.” And when I first heard that, I didn’t disagree, but I thought, “Really, is that…?”

And then just, in my years of experience, that has proven itself over and over again. So, if we can just slow down a little bit and take the time to understand, even that person who has so many crazy ideas, you’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh, how do they think this?” If we could slow down and understand them, try to understand them, we can have a more productive conversation.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Todd Davis

I love this one, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and their potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” I love that quote. I try to live by that quote.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Todd Davis

It’s Seth Godin’s Linchpin. He has many best-selling books, and for those of you who don’t know Seth Godin, he’s a world-renowned marketer and just brilliant all around. Great man. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with him personally. And he’s written several books, but he wrote a book called Linchpin talking about, “Are you the linchpin in your organization?”

It’s not about ego. It’s not about hoarding all the information so they can never get rid of me. It’s about, “Are you the connector? Are you the one that makes things happen? Are you the one that knows how to pull the right people together?” and just the value in that. So, I’ve done a lot of, I wouldn’t say study, but work on that and coaching on that, helping people to become the linchpins of their organization.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Davis

Gosh, a favorite tool. I’m standing there right now. Long before the pandemic, our offices, back when we were in offices, went to, or you had the option of getting a standup desk. And I think I had convinced myself that, at a standup desk, I would be losing weight, which isn’t true, but my back feels better, my posture is better.

And so, I’ve had a stand-up desk for four years now. I had one in the office. I bought one at home during the pandemic, and I just continued to use it. And I think and feel so much better when I’m standing.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And a favorite habit?

Todd Davis

Favorite habit. Well, I was going to say runner, I’ve been a jogger, and about 20 years ago I started running marathons. I haven’t won any of them so I’m not bragging, but I have run 17 marathons. And I’m realizing I’ve been lucky that my knees, like many people, they haven’t suffered from that, but I want to be mindful of that. So, I started about four months ago, I read this article on fast walks on inclines, and so I have a treadmill and I have it at a steep incline. And every morning, I get up and I walked three miles at a pretty fast pace.

And it started to get old, so I started to watch a series that I had heard about for many years. People are going to laugh because I’m way behind the times, but this series called “Suits,” and that’s my motivation to get up in the morning and watch another 45 minutes of “Suits” every morning. In fact, it was a great episode this morning. So, it’s a recent habit I’ve been into for the last four months, and it’s a great way to start my day.

Pete Mockaitis

You’ll have to find a new series when you’ve exhausted the episodes.

Todd Davis

You’re exactly right.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Davis

Yes, actually. You had mentioned one of the books I was fortunate enough to write, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work. I was driving somewhere and I was following a motorhome that was towing a boat, that was towing some ATVs, and there was a big bumper sticker on the back of this big train, and it said, “The man,” or, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

And I looked at that and laughed, I thought, “Gosh, I’d want every one of those things. Those look like fun.” And I thought to myself, “You know what? I think he or she who dies with the most effective relationships wins.” At the end of the day, for me, and I think for all of us, it’s all about our relationships and about how we interact with one another, and having those meaningful relationships. So, the person who dies with the most effective relationships wins, in my book.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Davis

FranklinCovey.com. www.franklincovey.com.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Todd Davis

Don’t settle. Don’t wait. Time is short. We’re reminded every day, I think, of how fast things can change, here in the U.S., the bridge that just collapsed, and how things can just change in an instant. So, do it today. Start today. Whatever your passion has you going after, don’t waste time. Do it today.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. Todd, this has been much fun. I wish you much luck at all of your difficult conversations.

Todd Davis

Thank you too, Pete.