Tag

Difficult Conversations

454: Embracing Conflict as a Gift with Judy Ringer

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Judy Ringer says: "When we can enter a conversation and think 'What can I learn here?' everything changes. It all works out."

Judy Ringer explains how the techniques and principles of aikido can turn workplace conflicts into valuable experiences.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to master yourself during conflicts
  2. Three effective mindsets for resolving conflicts
  3. How to skillfully inquire, acknowledge, and advocate

About Judy 

Through interactive presentations and individual coaching, Judy Ringer helps you transform conflict by changing your relationship to it. Aikido is the metaphor she uses to become more intentional and less reactive, to communicate directly and respectfully, and to create your life and work on purpose.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Judy Ringer Interview Transcript

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

Judy Ringer
Pete, it’s a delight already. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, shucks. Well, I’m so glad that everything worked out and we’re making it happen. I want to hear about something you made happen, which was singing the national anthem at a Red Sox game. How did this come about?

Judy Ringer
Yeah. Well, it’s something I love to talk about, so thank you. I had this dream for a very long time to sing the national anthem at a Red Sox game. I’m a Red Sox fan. I live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is about an hour north of Boston. We go to the games now and then when we can.

I love to sing. I’m a professional singer in my spare time. I love to sing the national anthem. I just thought, “Wouldn’t it just be cool.” Just one of those crazy dreams you have, so I set about achieving it. I wrote – I went to their website. I wrote them. I found out what you have to do and how many probably thousands of people ask every year to sing for a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

I sent them – I made a professional CD. I sent them a CD, just like they ask for, of me singing the anthem and also God Bless America. I followed up. I even sent them a couple of videos of me singing at other games that I’ve sung at more locally. Nothing happened. But every year, so I went about this for maybe three – four years and every year I’d just follow up and I found out who I needed to talk to.

Finally, what really made it happen was Dave O’Brien, who’s the announcer for the Red Sox, came to one of our Rotary meetings. I’m a Rotarian here in Portsmouth. After he spoke – and he was just a great speaker, as you might imagine – I went up to him and I said, “You know, Dave, I’ve been trying for years to get noticed by the Red Sox team. I’d love to sing the national anthem.”

I said, “I actually can sing. I would do a good job. I’ve sent them videos and audios of myself.” He said, “Well, I don’t have much control over that, but if you’ll send me an email, here’s my address, I’ll just send it along and see what happens.” That’s exactly what he did. He passed it along.

Somebody got in touch with me and there happened to be a New Hampshire day coming up at Fenway Park in July of 2017. This was in May I think that I got contacted by them. So it happened. It was an amazing event. I got there. I got to be underground with all the team. I got to walk out on Fenway Park. I got to sing for I think it was about 40,000 people that night. It was awesome. It was awesome. I practiced all my skills. Everything I talk about in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so cool and so interesting to me when there is a process and then it doesn’t matter. It’s like actually there’s a guy who knows a guy.

Judy Ringer
I know.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to, “Yes, please follow step A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” and it doesn’t – yeah.

Judy Ringer
I know. And yet I have to say that maybe the fact that they had my audio and my video, they could go to it. They could see that I was really – that I wouldn’t mess up or embarrass anyone and that all of that adds up. Maybe if I hadn’t also done all of that, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go and talk to Dave.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly, right, because it does feel a little bit more audacious like, “So Dave, I like to sing. Hook me up.”

Judy Ringer
Exactly, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. I want to hear about your book Turn Enemies Into Allies and your martial arts work. Could you sort of just tell us the whole story here? What’s the big idea that you’re presenting?

Judy Ringer
That’s a great question too. Well, the big idea is that I have a model that I use when I go into organizations and help people resolve conflict. The model is based on aikido and some of its techniques and principles, like blending and redirecting of energy, for example.

I also have – part of the model is that I work with the people in conflict – usually there are two of them – and they need to be able to work together and they can’t. I work with each person individually first and then I bring them together. As I got used to doing this model and doing it many times in organizations, I would notice that I’m not doing anything that the manager couldn’t do themselves.

I decided to write the model down in a series of blog posts. This was about five years ago that I first started writing about it. Then I began expanding them and they became Turn Enemies Into Allies, the book.

The major point here is that you can do what I’m doing if you’re a manager, a leader of an organization with some skills that I describe in the book and some attitudes that I describe in the book like non-judgment, like curiosity, like appreciating where people are coming from, the ability to listen, the ability to reframe the conflict as a gift of energy that people might be able to use to actually build their relationship and become leaders themselves and apply the skills not only at work, but in life too.

That’s what I decided to write about in the book. The big idea is you can do this. You can do it fairly easily actually if you get over the idea that conflict is negative, that it’s a bad thing, and adopt the attitude and begin to practice it that conflict can be a gift if we decide that it is to get to know each other better and to learn how to solve a problem rather than needing to create a contest over it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s so much there to dig into. Let’s see. Let’s start with that conflict can be a gift.

Judy Ringer
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us, what’s great about it?

Judy Ringer
What’s great about it? Yeah. Okay, well, the premise – the book starts with the premise that if we can’t manage ourselves, we can’t manage anybody else. The first gift in conflict is that it causes me to look at myself and ask myself “Why is this getting to me?” or “Why is this person, this situation? Is it something that I have any control over and if it is, where is my power and how can I find it? Maybe I’m not expressing myself. Maybe I’ve been avoiding the conflict. How can I decide to take a more active role in the conflict?”

The gift might be first of all I have to manage myself. I have to manage my own emotional mindset. I have to center myself, as I describe in the book, and bring a centered presence into the conflict, so there’s a gift right there, learning to center myself, learning to be mindful about how I decide to be more intentional in the conflict instead of reactive to it. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly, yeah.

Judy Ringer
That’s the first gift. The second gift, let’s say it’s a conflict that involves an issue at work that we’re trying to solve. The gift is how do we solve this in a way that’s sustainable and that meets the interests of all the parties involved. If it’s a team, how do I get the voices of all of my team members involved in solving it? If it’s just one-on-one, same thing, how do I find out what’s important to each of the parties in the conflict and then help them express those needs and help them find a solution that meets the needs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Those sound like some good things. So tell us then when it comes to aikido – well, first, could you share what that is for those who are not familiar and then what are its parallels to this process?

Judy Ringer
Right. That’s where this idea for me anyway came from. Aikido is a martial art, first and foremost. It was developed in the 20th century, so it’s a pretty recent evolution of the martial arts. It was developed by a man named Morihei Ueshiba, a Japanese man, who’s now dead, but only died in 1969.

His idea was that you could subtly transform other martial arts through aikido into a martial art that didn’t harm people. The goal is to render the attack harmless without harming the attacker. You do this by first getting out of the way of the attack and moving in to join with this energy and then redirect it.

Let’s say somebody’s coming at me with a punch. Instead of blocking and punching back, I get out of the way really fast. I join the energy by let’s say, grabbing onto the arm that’s punching me, and then I redirect it into a pin or a fall. I’m not trying to harm the opponent. I’m just trying to control and deescalate the conflict.

With that comes a metaphor. In fact, Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, had a philosophy that went along with the development of the art. He said that this is about turning our adversaries into allies. This is about not protecting ourselves from the enemy outside of ourselves, but from the enemy within, that if we could vanquish the source of the conflict within ourselves, then we would have no difficulty with those outside ourselves.

We call it blending and redirecting. We think about the attack as a gift of energy that I can use to redirect and keep the opponent safe while also keeping myself safe on the mat. Off the mat, we’re practicing aikido anytime we listen with an intention to learn with curiosity. That’s the same thing as blending and redirecting.

When I ask question – when you come at me, let’s say, with a – and say, “Judy, that’s a stupid idea,” instead of saying, “No, it isn’t. It’s a great idea” so that would be like blocking and resisting, instead I say, “Well, Pete, why do you think so? What specifically don’t you like?” or “Tell me more.”

That’s me blending, getting off the line. I’m not getting hurt and by asking a question and being curious, I find out more about what’s upsetting you about my idea. Maybe it’s that you just can’t afford the idea. Maybe you like the idea, but the budget doesn’t allow for it. We have a new way to open up the conflict and talk about it. Does that make sense too?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly, yes. Well, so now I’m curious. That particular example, talk about self-management, I think there’s a challenge right there. It’s like if someone says that to you, the knee-jerk reaction is anger, defensiveness, frustration. What do you do right there in that moment, where you’re like, “This jerk. I want to yell at him.”

Judy Ringer
Yeah. I’ve got to say that I still practice this. It’s not – just because I’ve been teaching it for 25 years doesn’t mean I don’t have conflict in my life. Your question goes right to the point, what do I do, what does one do. It helps if you practice, just like anything else. You don’t pick up a flute and learn how to play it in an instant. You have to practice it.

You practice noticing first of all. That’s the first thing. If I don’t notice I’m getting reactive, that I’m starting to react and say, “What do you mean? What a jerk you are,” if I don’t notice that, I can’t stop it. That’s the first thing.

Then you stop and you center yourself. You take a breath. You just don’t say anything. You bite your tongue. You count to ten. You do any of the things that we’ve heard about over the years to center yourself.

I have specific ways. When I ask my groups, “What do you do to center yourself?” everyone says, “I breathe.” Sometimes people say, “Well, I think about a bigger perspective,” but you can tell in that that they stop themselves from reacting and decide what they need to do next.

The amygdala, the brain stem has some very strong reactive patterns programmed into it. The prefrontal cortex is what we use to think with. To make that journey from the back of the brain to the front of the brain maybe takes a half a second, maybe not even that long, if we notice and we take that breath. That’s the first step, center myself. Now I can make a more intentional choice about what I do next.

It may be – if I’m being really reactive, it may just be I say something like, “Let me think about what you just said. Can we talk in about five minutes?” so I give myself more time to be centered and be less reactive.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. I like that. Well, so then you talk about the breath, is there any special way to breathe or what do we think about the breath?

Judy Ringer
Well, it’s basically to breathe. Most of the time, if the audience listening thinks about the last time they were involved in a conflict or something happened to them, surprising, caused them to react, chances are they weren’t breathing. They just held their breath. It often happens.

The more we can just notice that and begin to breathe again – it doesn’t have to be a huge breath. It doesn’t even have to be terribly deep. Just to start breathing again and to focus on the breath is enough. I’m doing that now because I’m a little nervous. I mean here we are a podcast. I want to say it right. I want to do everything right so that induces a sense of stress and anxiety.

It can, so every once in a while I just stop, notice that I’m breathing, and I’m standing both feet on the ground and everything is going to be okay. If I just say that mantra to myself, everything will be okay, pretty much.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so it is okay.

Judy Ringer
Let me give you a couple of other suggestions on this because I know people love to hear ideas. Okay, what can I do in the moment? That’s the question. First, you notice. Then you have a practice. If you have a practice, like I know your last speaker, the one I just listened to this morning, was talking about mindfulness.

If you have a mindfulness practice, if you meditate daily, you’re already getting into the mood of centering so that if something happens later in the day, you’ve got a sense of what it feels like to be centered from your early morning practice so you can go back to it fairly quickly. You can create rituals for yourself.

I have a client who one day she had a really tough meeting with her staff – all of her staff meeting – and she was nervous about it. I said “What are you going to do to center yourself first?” We were doing coaching. She said, “Well, I’m going to maybe look at some of the pictures on the wall.” She said, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

I said, “Well,” and there was a pen on the table and I threw the pen out on the table and I said, “You could just look at this pen. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or special. Just look at the pen once in a while.”

The meeting went really well as you might imagine. She did a great job. At the end I said, “How did you do?” She said, “I looked at that pen a lot.” Every time she looked at it she just kind of took a breath, and she recentered herself and she got physically and mentally and emotionally more stable, more balanced, more calm, and more ready for whatever might come next.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, cool. There we have it in terms of you start to notice yourself in situations all the time and then you stop and center with a breath and planting the feet on the floor, etcetera, so you’re in a good spot there. Let’s talk a little bit about some of these perspectives in terms of non-judgment, and curiosity, and appreciation. Can you share a bit about these mindsets like, what does it mean to really approach things in such a way.

Judy Ringer
Right. These mindsets are the mindsets that I recommend in the book that the manager follow when they’re listening to one of their employees. Let’s say they decide to engage in this intervention in the book that allows them to hear each person’s story first before they bring them together. What this does is that it allows the employee to tell their story in a way that they feel heard. Non-judgment is just that.

It’s impossible, of course, because we’re always making judgments, but once again, we notice we are. Maybe we favor this particular employee because they’re a high producer and we really wish the other employee would change. When we listen to each one, we try to listen without making any judgments ahead of time and just deciding to listen to the story as if it were the first time we’re hearing it.

Appreciation steps in when we think about how to appreciate the more positive intention of each of the parties. Again, I’m meeting with them separately. I’m hearing, even though they’re making mistakes and they’re going about things reactively, that they each probably have a positive intention in there somewhere.

An example might be that one of your employees tends to avoid conflict and so they haven’t said anything to the other person about what’s bothering them. The form that this takes is that they just ignore emails or they ignore requests for information because they’re afraid that they might be reactive and say the wrong thing.

If you can appreciate that the person’s afraid of conflict, that most people are afraid of conflict and the positive intention is not to make things worse, it helps to approach the coaching from this point of view as opposed to deciding that the person just has no skills and can’t do anything and nothing’s ever going to work.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Judy Ringer
Approaching it with an appreciative mindset helps everything. Another way that appreciation works is well, for example, on the aikido mat, we always find that usually one side of the body gets the technique faster than the other side.

For example, in learning how to fall, we have to learn how to roll. On one side of the body, I know how to roll really well and I don’t get hurt. The other side of the body, I crunch my shoulder every time. Instead of focusing on the side that gets hurt, I do it a lot of times on the side that works so that I can figure out what I’m doing and apply it to the side that doesn’t work.

In the workplace, this happens when we see, “Well, where are you and Jane getting – where are areas where you work well together?” in an example that I give in the book. It was with a medical practice and the team was not getting along at all.

I said, “Well, there must be some areas where you are able to work together or you wouldn’t keep working together.” They said, “Yeah, well, when we understand our roles and our goals, everything goes really smoothly.” I said, “Okay, so let’s appreciate that. Let’s figure out how we can apply that to the places in your practice where you don’t have clear roles and goals.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Judy Ringer
Appreciation, non-judgment, curiosity, one of the major tools that helps in conflict of any kind, whether it’s with employees or with people at home. These skills apply everywhere. How can I – well, I’ll give you an example of this.

One of the clients I was working with was quite upset with her colleague because she copied everyone on every single email. I said, “Well, what question would you like to ask your colleague?” She said, “Well, I’d like to ask why she copies everybody on every single email.” I said, “Okay, well, it’s a great question. Can you ask it in a more curious way?”

She said, “Okay,” and she worked on it. She practiced. She got to the point where she said it in a way that probably her colleague could hear it really well. I said, “Okay, so what do you have to do to be able to say it that way because it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it.” She said, “Well, I’d actually have to be curious.” We laughed about it. It was kind of an aha moment.

The point is if you’re in conflict now, how are you approaching what you say. Even if you’re asking a question, are you really curious about it or are you just stating the question in a way that’s kind of attacking. There’s a big difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then when you said ask it in a curious way, you didn’t so much mean choose different words like, “Why are you doing this?” but rather the sort of tone and vibe you’re putting out there when you ask that question.

Judy Ringer
Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what I mean.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Judy Ringer
One of my favorite sayings and this comes from one of my mentors, Thomas Crum, that your quality of being is primary. Everything else is secondary.

If I come into a conflict conversation with you and I have a purpose to resolve a conflict, to learn what I can about how you see things, if I come into the conversation thinking, “Well, whatever’s going to happen, I’m going to learn something and I know it’s going to be better after this,” that’s my quality of being, my mindset, my emotional state. If I walk into that same conversation thinking, “This is going to be awful. I wish I didn’t have to do this,” there’s going to be quite a different outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay, that’s handy. I’m curious when it comes to the actual listening, in terms of the bit of the mindset we discussed when you’re listening, but is there any – are there key questions you recommend asking during the course of the listening?

Judy Ringer
Yes, I can. I can recommend some generic questions that will get things started. Then what real listening does is that it continues to ask questions. It doesn’t just stop. It really – a good listener really listens for what’s being said and also what’s maybe not being said. They listen for ways like you’re doing today, Pete, for ways to go deeper into the conversation.

A generic question might be, “Can you tell me how this started?” if a manager, for example, is talking to an employee about a conflict. “Can you tell me how this started? What’s your view about how the resolution would work? If it could be resolved, what would be ideal?” Another question, just a generic question would be, “Can you tell me more about what you’re thinking?”

“I’d like to talk to you about what’s happening between us. I’d like to hear our point of view and I’d like to tell you mine. Would you like to start? Tell me what’s going on? How do I affect you in ways that are not helpful?” Now, you have to be willing to hear the answer, but that’s a great question to just ask someone to tell them how you could be more helpful, for example.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Okay, that’s cool. I suppose that these all sort of flow from that curiosity and they feel nonthreatening as result as I listen to you say them. Maybe to sort of make it all come alive and together, could you maybe walk us through an example of a conflict? You had Person A and Person B that you spoke with individually and then you brought them together and how did it all come together?

Judy Ringer
Well, one of the best things that happened in what I’m thinking of right now is that at the beginning I usually ask people on a scale of one to ten – and we’re in individual sessions now – “On a scale of one to ten, how important is it that you and Sally be able to work together,” for example. Let’s call the other person Lauren. Lauren says, “Well, it’s ten. We have to be able to work together.”

I said, “How likely do you think it is that the conflict’s going to get resolved that we’re working on together?” “Zero.” I said, “Okay. Let’s take a look at how willing are you to put yourself into this fully,” and they’ll say maybe “I’m a ten. I’m willing to do this. I just don’t think there’s any possibility.”

One of the ones that I worked on with a large insurance company, that’s the way it started. They said that they wanted to work on it, that it was important that they resolve it, and yet they didn’t think there was any chance because it had been going on so long. One of the problems is that managers let these conflicts go on too long.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s when they bring in a ringer.

Judy Ringer
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Couldn’t resist, Judy.

Judy Ringer
Good one. I’m glad that came out.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve probably heard it before. You’ve probably heard it before.

Judy Ringer
Oh, no. Well, once or twice.

Pete Mockaitis
They bring you in and your last name is Ringer, so. Okay, so there we are.

Judy Ringer
So there we are.

Pete Mockaitis
They want it resolved, but they don’t think it’s going to happen and they say they’re willing to work on it.

Judy Ringer
And they say they’re willing to work on it. I set up some sessions and we begin to talk and maybe three or four or five different depending on how polarized things are and how deeply resentful each person is, I listen to each party for three or four hours, like I said in individual hour-long sessions. I hear them. I’m listening.

What happens in this case, Pete, is that – I don’t know if this has ever happened to you or anyone listening today – but when you usually listen to someone and you ask them some questions and you say “Tell me more” and “How did you feel when that happened?” and “I’m really curious, when did this start and how do you see it being resolved? Do you see your contribution? How do you see your contribution in this conflict?”

When you ask questions like that and they really talk, things relax. They lighten up because maybe for the first time someone’s really, really listening to their side and aligning with them. Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. You said so three to four hours for each party.

Judy Ringer
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So six to eight hours total. I think you’re right that probably nobody has ever listened to them about almost anything for that long.

Judy Ringer
Well, thank you for that. I’m not saying I listen for three or four hours. I say I listen maybe in the first session and then I begin to teach some skills. And I begin-

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you.

Judy Ringer
Yeah, so it’s not all just listening for them. But maybe the first hour, most of it is listening. People love to tell how bad the other person is.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Judy Ringer
I just say, “Yeah, I get it. I know from your point of view this is how it looks.” People also get that I’m doing that with the other party too, so they’re starting to think, “Well, if she can do this with the other party, maybe I can too. Or maybe there’s a different way to tell this because this is my story. Maybe there’s another way to tell it.” I begin that way. Then we start to bring people together. Now, when they come together, they’re more relaxed, they’ve got some skills.

One of the best things that happened in this particular situation was after they began to talk to each other and hear the other person’s story and see what they had in common and how it all got started and starting to be able to be more civil with each other and kind with each other actually, one of the women said, “I didn’t realize this is just a set of skills.

I thought I was a bad person because I couldn’t figure this out and I was in a conflict that I couldn’t figure out. It was driving me crazy. This is just a set of skills. Anybody can learn these.” I said, “Yeah. That’s right.” They’re mind-body skills and they’re verbal communication skills. As I said, quality of being is primary. I’ve got to learn how to be centered, curious, nonjudgmental, wanting to learn. I’ve got to have a learning mindset.

Then I’ve got to learn just some key skills like inquiry. How do I ask questions? How do I listen? How do I acknowledge – acknowledgement? How do I acknowledge what I hear? It’s not just I’m listening; I’m also showing you that I heard what you said. Then how do I advocate because I get a turn here too. Here’s how I see it. You don’t see it my way. This is what I see. That’s advocacy.

When everybody gets a chance to be heard, then all the information’s out there on the table. You can begin to sort through it and solve things. Basically, in that book and in my work across the board, I like to help people move from a mindset of how do I be right, how do I look good here, how do I make myself right to a mindset of what can I learn here. From a message delivery to a learning conversation. From a difficult conversation to a learning conversation.

When we can enter a conversation and think “What can I learn here?” everything changes. It all works out.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great stuff. We’ve talked about the being and some listening and some inquiry. Can you share with us a couple thoughts around acknowledgement and advocacy?

Judy Ringer
Yeah, I can. In the book I call acknowledgement the secret sauce because we never do it. We may listen. We may think we’re pretty good listeners and we may be actually. Then we go right to, “Okay. Yeah, but,” “Right. Yeah, but,” and then we want to advocate right away.

There’s some little piece in between that’s called acknowledgement that goes like this, “What I hear you saying is,” “Is this what you’re saying?” “Can I clarify?” “If what you’re saying is true then, it would all work out if-” I just build on what the other person’s saying.

I believe the reason we don’t do this is that we have this notion that if we acknowledge what the other person’s saying, it’s some sort of tacit agreement with what they’re saying, that if I actually hear an opposing point of view, it means that I’m agreeing with it. That’s crazy. Of course it doesn’t mean that. It just means that I’m good enough to listen to you, care about what I’m hearing, and care about solving the problem enough.

Acknowledgement – okay, if you said “That’s a stupid idea, Judy. I don’t think it’s going to work. We can’t afford it.” I would say, “You don’t think we can afford it? Can you tell me more? Why not?” Okay, I’m not only acknowledgment, I’m clarifying. I’m being more curious. Just like you’re doing today, I’m going deeper and deeper and deeper until the person feels heard. Then I can advocate.

If we’re trying to change a piece of software, for example, I’m going to say something like, “So-“ – let’s say I’m for it; they’re against it. I’m going to say something like, “So Jenny, you think that this piece of software would cause more harm than good. Am I hearing it right?” “Yeah, you’re hearing it right.” “And you think that basically what we have isn’t broken, so why fix it. Is that right?” “Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m saying.”

Now they may not have said those exact words, but I’m adding on. “And is there anything else I need to know?” “No, that’s about it.” “Okay. Would you like to hear my view on this?” “Yeah, sure.” See, now they’ve lightened up. They’re maybe ready to hear my point of view.

I have to be really clear about this, Pete. This is not about manipulation. This is not about getting Jenny to hear me – pretending to hear Jenny so she can hear me so I can get my way. This is about sincerely trying to solve the problem. I have to be ready to admit that maybe this piece of software isn’t exactly what we need. However, when I’m there then Jenny’s much more likely to be able to hear what I have to say next.

Advocacy is what comes next. That’s me not selling necessarily, but educating. That’s how I like to think about it. Let’s pretend that we’re both from different planets. In fact, in some ways we are. We all come from different cultures, different upbringings. But let’s pretend that we’re really from other planets. I need to pretend I don’t know anything about what’s going on for Jenny, but I also need to know and not assume that Jenny knows anything about what’s going on for me.

When I’m advocating, I start at the basics. “Here’s what I see, Jenny. Here’s what I see the problem and the productivity that we could increase with the new software. Here’s what looks good to me about it. What do you think?” Then you go back into inquiry and you start to go back and forth now, inquiry, advocacy.

Then if you get to a point where you’ve got some form of agreement, Jenny says something that I agree with, I’m going to try to build on that. Pick something. “Well, I hear what you’re saying about you’re worried that it might cause people stress because it’s something new. What if we started out with a trial period or something like that, where we just took a few early adopters and see what they thought? Could that work?”

I try to build on something and use what I’ve learned from my inquiry to create a solution that would work for the other party.

Pete Mockaitis
You use the phrase ‘until they feel heard.’ How do you know when you’ve got there?

Judy Ringer
I know when the answer to my question “Is there anything else?” is no.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I love it. It sounds like maybe for some the challenge is just bringing in – dedicating the time and the patience upfront that you’re really going to go all the way to the end as opposed to “Well, we have a 25-minute appointment window, Judy, so let’s hurry this along.”

Judy Ringer
Yeah, let’s get these guys together and figure it out. I know a lot of people that I’ve talked to have tried this first and usually emotions run high and things don’t get solved. That’s why I like to work with people individually first. Even just try it for one session.

One sort of fallacy about conflict that I think people have is that especially in this busy work environment that we’re all in right now is that we don’t have time for this kind of an intervention. We don’t have time to separate the parties. I don’t have time to talk with each one. Let’s just get them in the room and tell them to figure it out.” I’ll tell you, you don’t have time not to resolve the conflict.

The one that I mentioned with Sally and Lauren, that went on for two years before anybody decided to try and solve it. That’s two years.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And all the mental energy when they’re fuming quietly in their cubicles instead of doing anything productive. It’s like, “I can’t believe that she said. Oh my gosh, the nerve on her,” whatever’s kind of going on there. It’s not productive value creation. It’s sort of wheel spinning that if you could boy, just imagine if you had half an hour of that over two years mathematically, jeez, it’s like over 50 hours of productivity lost, which could totally happen when things simmer.

Judy Ringer
It’s absolutely correct. That’s not even counting the polarization that could be taking place as they complain to their teammates.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Judy Ringer
And everybody starts to take sides.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. Well, Judy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Judy Ringer
I don’t think so. Some of my favorite things will be in what we’re going to talk about now because you asked me for my favorite quote and things like that.
Pete Mockaitis
All right, well let’s hear a favorite quote.

Judy Ringer
Well, I have a couple. They’re all – well, actually I have three. They’re all in the same vein. One of them is mine, which is “When you change, everything changes.” Another one is Margaret Wheatley. She has said, “We invent our environment by our presence in it.” Now Margaret Wheatley is an organizational consultant and writer. She’s written a lot of wonderful books like Leadership and the New Science.

But that “We invent our environment by our presence in it,” and “When you change, everything changes,” when I decide to walk into a room centered, breathing, positive attitude, appreciative, it’s really hard to fight with me, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Judy Ringer
The other thing – the last one is what my Aunt Mary said, which is “Life is what you make it.” If life isn’t turning out exactly how you planned in the workplace, take a look at your contribution to it and see what you can do differently.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Judy Ringer
You’re welcome.

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

Judy Ringer
I would go to Brene Brown and her work and research on vulnerabilities and the power of that. I think when we’re centered, we’re completely open and completely flexible and completely vulnerable. I think there’s a lot of power in that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Judy Ringer
Favorite book. That is a tough one. I think – one of my favorite books actually and what got me started in this and it’s quite old now is The Magic of Conflict by Thomas Crum.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Judy Ringer
Yeah.

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

Judy Ringer
Yeah, and I just began to use this tool about maybe six weeks ago because so many people recommended it. I thought I’ve got to check this out.

It’s the Calm app, C-A-L-M, that helps people if you want to develop a centering practice and you don’t have a place to go or don’t have time to go to a class, this is a great app for teaching you how to meditate and for getting you involved in a practice that you can do every day very easily with just your phone and a set of earphones if you need them. You don’t even need those.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit.

Judy Ringer
Yeah. A favorite habit is catching myself uncentered and then recentering.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your readers and listeners?

Judy Ringer
Yes, I think it’s this idea that conflict is a gift if we make it one. Let’s say conflict can be a gift of energy. There’s an article I wrote a number of years ago that’s getting a lot of press right now called How to Turn Your Tormenters Into Teachers. People seem to be resonating with that, that in fact, I have some power here, that I don’t just have to let these things happen to me.

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

Judy Ringer
JudyRinger.com. it’s all there. I’ve got a lot of downloadable resources, articles and I have a great blog. It’s called Ki Moments, K-I Moments about the K-E-Y moments in life. Ki means energy or life force.

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

Judy Ringer
I do. I thought about this one a little bit. I would notice the red flags of blaming and justification because when we’re blaming someone else for something that’s going on or for our feelings for example, for making us angry or reactive or justifying our behavior, it limits our power. We can only change ourselves and the more we try to change other people, the more power we’re giving away.

Pete Mockaitis
Now let’s see, so justifying then is just sort of making our arguments for why you exactly as you are right here and right now are perfect and no change is required.

Judy Ringer
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
What is that song? It drives me nuts. It’s like “I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately.” Apologies for the pitch, but I was like what does that even mean and why not? You all need to change and grow. I don’t like this song. But anyway, I overthink lyrics sometimes. I’ve got to recenter when listening to the radio.

Judy Ringer
We can appreciate who we are. I don’t mean that. You know that, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Judy Ringer
We absolutely need to appreciate who we are and our positive intention. The minute we start to blame somebody else or say, “Well, I have to do this because the other person, they made me be this way,” is just sort of like saying, “Well, here’s my center. Take it away. You can go away with it and just take it.” It gives up power.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, Judy, thanks so much for sharing this. I wish you lots of fun and luck in aikido and you’re book and all your adventures.

Judy Ringer
Thank you very much, Pete. This was a joy.

398: The Hidden Root of Much Workplace Conflict…And What to Do About It with Dr. Donna Hicks

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Dr. Donna Hicks says: "People actually flourish when they're treated well and they suffer when they're treated badly."

Conflict resolution expert Dr. Donna Hicks outlines the ten elements of dignity to provide a master framework for human treatment and mistreatment. She also reveals how such treatment impacts performance.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How violating another’s dignity is at the root of many conflicts
  2. Four everyday indignities people suffer at work
  3. Business reasons to honor dignity in a work environment

About Donna

Dr. Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.  She facilitated dialogues in numerous unofficial diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Colombia, Cuba, Libya and Syria. She was a consultant to the BBC in Northern Ireland where she co-facilitated a television series, Facing the Truth, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.   She has taught courses in conflict resolution at Harvard, Clark, and Columbia Universities and conducts training seminars in the US and abroad on dignity leadership training and on the role dignity plays in resolving conflict.  She consults to corporations, schools, churches, and non-governmental organizations. Her book, Dignity:  It’s Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, was published by Yale University Press in 2011.  Her second book, Leading with Dignity:  How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People, was published by Yale University Press in August 2018.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Donna Hicks Interview Transcript

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

Donna Hicks
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. I understand that much of it comes from really the frontlines in terms of conflict resolution in work, where things can be kind of spooky. Can you maybe open us up by sharing a story of maybe when you were close to danger?

Donna Hicks
Well, there’s so many, but there’s a kind of funny one I’d like to share with you. That is that during the height of the conflict in Columbia in South America between the government and the rebel groups, I was asked to facilitate a workshop between – with members of the Columbian Army and different groups within the government.  I – “Yeah, sure. I’ll do this. This sounds really interesting.”

I’d been working in that conflict for quite a few years, but this was kind of special in the sense that it was in Cartagena. We were meeting at the Presidential Palace in Cartagena. I arrived a couple of days early just to kind of adjust and so on. I stayed in this lovely hotel right on the water right in the old city. Actually, it’s a beautiful old 15th century city, so it’s charming.

I’m a runner, so I decided gee, I’m going to get up really early the next day after I run. I’m going to go running along the wall of the old city. I did. I got up. I was really early – 6 o’clock. Out there right as the sun was rising.

All of the sudden, I turned around – I felt like somebody was following me. It sort of felt creepy. I turned around and there were two military guys with machine guns running with me because they didn’t think it was safe for me to be out there running on my own at 6 o’clock in the morning. But it never even occurred to me.

This is how naïve in some ways I was because I thought, “Oh, let’s just go out for a run.” Here I was in this conflict zone. Even though it was a very in some ways very safe city, but I didn’t even know they had assigned me bodyguards. That was the one of the funniest.

Another one I just have to share with you was when we were working – my partner and I were working in Sri Lanka during the time the war was really active there. We decided that we’re trying to bring the parties together for dialogues. We recognized that there was no way that we’re going to have a meaningful dialogue if we couldn’t get to the rebels and get the rebels.

These are people who are considered terrorists. They were on the terrorist list by the US government. My partner and I said, “We’ve just got to do this. We have to in order to do anything that’s going to contribute because if we don’t have the major parties at the table, who are you going to get to make decisions?”

Anyway, very long story short, we got this Catholic priest to take us up to where the rebels were staying in the rebel territory, which nobody could get into. But this Catholic priest got us in there. It was just one of those moments where I was – we were in a boat, in this tiny little boat, going across this lagoon at about 2 o’clock in the morning, so we wouldn’t be discovered.

I’m thinking, “Oh my God, my husband is going to kill me. What am I doing?” Here we had these machine guns surrounding us. But it all worked out in the end, Pete, because we really did – it did help our efforts to try to bring people because they gave their blessings to have certain people sitting at the table with us.

But, again, I don’t know – I guess when my number is up, my number is going to be up because I have been in so many perilous situations without even thinking about it. We were so determined to do the right thing and get the job done. We could spend the whole time talking about this, but I’m sure you want to talk about dignity.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. Well, that is exciting. Well, I think it just sort of lends credibility to everything you say in terms of “I’ve seen this work in situations where folks wanted to kill one another,” so I think that’s handy. Maybe you could I guess make the bridge for us in terms of how does your research on dignity in those kind of conflict environments really port over into the just normal workplace interactions?

Donna Hicks
Well, what happened was that I was working for all those years in different parts of the world on these intractable conflicts. It was really clear to me that there was a psychological dimension to these conflicts because these were people who we would bring together to try to come up with an agreement to have discussions about how to end the violence and end the conflict.

They were smart people. They weren’t people who didn’t understand how to actually sign an agreement. They knew exactly what they had to do, but for some reason something was stopping them. They couldn’t get to an agreement. I always said, “Look, there’s something else going on here. There’s some deep emotional aspects to this resistance to finding a way out of this.”

Again, to make a very long story short, what I finally realized was these people from both sides of the divide were feeling so angry and resentful for being treated the way they were being treated by the other side. If they could put words to it, they’d say something like, “How dare you treat us this way? Don’t you see we’re human beings?”

I thought this is what’s preventing them. They need to have a conversation about this, about how being treated as if they weren’t even human beings. Then I realized that at the end of the day, this was about their dignity. That was a big light bulb went off for me. It was a major insight that led to me thinking about how to have dignity discussions with these parties before we try to sign onto an agreement.

That’s basically what I did. Then I wrote about it. It was online. Somebody from the corporate world read this description of what I felt was really missing in our understanding of how to resolve conflicts and that is how to address these issues of dignity and these deep emotional resentments that they felt before they can go and resolve the conflict.

This one guy, consultant, called me up. He said, “I’ve been reading your stuff online and I think-“ he said, “I’ve been working for a major corporation for many years and we can’t figure out why we can’t come to an agreement with management and the employees.” He said, “Would you mind coming and talking to some of the senior VPs about your dignity approach to conflict resolution?”

Lo and behold, I did that. We discovered that of course some of the underlying root causes of the differences between management and employees that they couldn’t get past were dignity-related.

That’s when the floodgates opened, Pete, because once I stated in that organization – I worked with this organization for about five years – I got calls from health care, from education, from all these different arenas who said “We think you’ve nailed our problem. We think that our people are feeling really upset about the way they’re being treated in the workplace. We think we need you.”

They say, “We think we need you to come and help us try to create a culture where people feel that their dignity is being honored.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love it if you could just maybe paint a little bit of a picture in terms of – in the workplace what are some ways that dignity is dishonored. I guess I’m thinking – I have all these ISIS videos playing in my head right now. We’re not doing-

Donna Hicks
You have all the what?

Pete Mockaitis
-dramatic torture or killing-

Donna Hicks
Right, right, right.

Pete Mockaitis
-in the workplace. What are the ways in which folks are feeling dishonored?

Donna Hicks
These are everyday indignities we’re talking about. We’re not talking about things where people break the law or we’re not talking about people out there fist fighting or anything like that.

We’re talking about ways in which people, especially employees in management-employee relationships where the people in positions of power – just first of all, let me just say we’re not talking about bad people here committing these acts of indignities towards their workers. That’s not the case whatsoever.

It’s just that people who don’t understand the sensitivity and the volatility around the way people are being treated – if you don’t get that, if you don’t understand the effect that you have on people – and most people don’t, by the way – you’re going to end up violating people’s dignity.

What would that look like in the workplace? Well, what that looks like – for example, oftentimes people will sort of unconsciously discriminate against one group or the other. For example, some leaders may have favorites in their direct reports. They may not even realize how often they’re choosing these favorites over some other, let’s say minority groups or women.

It’s so easy to have your identity violated and feel like you’re treated as less than simply because you’re a member of some group. This is the first element of dignity around people wanting their identity accepted.

Or you can be left out of a meeting that you feel – let’s say you worked on a project for three months and you aren’t asked to be a part of that meeting. People want a sense of belonging and inclusion especially on projects that they’ve worked on.

Or simply feel like they’re being treated unfairly, where one person gets more time and attention or one person gets paid a little bit more or less. Fairness is a really common violation of dignity.

But the one that’s the most astonishing that you might be surprised to learn, Pete, is that people – when I did my interviews with people – it doesn’t matter which organization it was because it was all the same – I would ask people to tell me ways in which they felt their dignity is being violated the most. The one element of dignity that people reported 80% of the time was the element of safety.

Now you might think, “Safety. What?” Well, it’s not physical safety. I would ask them to explain it to me, “What do you mean by safety?” They said, “Well, we don’t feel safe to speak up when something bad happens to us, especially when something bad happens when our employer/our boss treats us badly because we’re terrified we won’t get a good performance review if we speak up and say something that he or she doesn’t want to hear or feels this is a violation of their dignity.”

This idea of safety, needing to feel that you can’t speak up to your boss when she or he harms you in some way – I don’t know about you, but that one surprised me that that was the most violated element of dignity in every organization that I went into.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. This has really come up again and again on the show. I think about Google’s work with psychological safety as well. It’s a big one. I’d love to spend some more time on it. Let’s hear it. They think it’s not safe to speak up because there may be a retaliation. One format of that retaliation is a bad performance review. Can you share-

Donna Hicks
That’s one.

Pete Mockaitis
What are some of the others? Because I think there may be many managers who have got their hands in the air like, “What? What’s not safe about speaking up? I need your ideas. What’s going on?”

Donna Hicks
Sure. Sure. Well, but you know speaking up requires an openness on the part of the person that you’re speaking up to.

One of the things that I’ve discovered also in my research is that people don’t like getting feedback. People interpret it as criticism. Look, we all know this. None of us likes to get feedback saying what we’ve done wrong. It’s just an unpleasant experience.

But because many of the managers and people in positions of authority and leadership with whom I’ve worked, they’ve never had any experience with asking for feedback in a way that isn’t criticism, but feedback that is helpful because the person has a blind spot.

All of us have blind spots. Everybody has blind spots. The people work the closest to us and who are in our environment most of the time, they know what our blind spots are. We might not know, but you ask any of them and they’ll tell you what your blind spots are.

Being able to speak up and to say “Gee,” to your boss, “In that staff meeting the other day when you were making jokes about me and I was the only one who wasn’t laughing, that was a really embarrassing experience for me. You probably didn’t mean it. You probably didn’t understand the impact that it had on me, but the fact is it was really hurtful.” Can you imagine giving your boss that kind of feedback? It would be wonderful to be able to do that.

The safety, and the resistance to feedback, and the lack of openness to understanding what our blind spots are, all these things are psychological skills that really do have to be developed. Because, again, we don’t want to use feedback as a weapon; we want to use it as a helpful way to show someone the unintended consequences of his or her behavior. That’s a growth experience.

But I’m telling you, every time I went into an organization, very few managers and leaders were open to having this face-to-face feedback with their direct reports.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. This Harvard Business Review study has come up a few times that the majority of managers are just uncomfortable interacting with their workers on anything, which is striking. I’d love to hear a little bit more detail in terms of painting a picture for how does one exhibit openness versus closeness.

Donna Hicks
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Resistance to feedback versus a welcoming-ness to feedback. Because in a way you said, indeed, people don’t like getting feedback in which they’re learning what they’ve done wrong, but nonetheless we need it and we want to convey an openness and a non-resistance to it. How do you play that game?

Donna Hicks
I say, “Look, here’s the research. It’s clear that dignity is something really important to people.” Then I have some neuroscience research to show that when people’s dignity is violated, it actually shows up in the brain in the same area as a physical wound.

This isn’t just some touchy feely of how we’ve got to be nice to people. No, this is something where the harm that’s done with the dignity violation is, in the brain anyway, equivalent to the harm that people experience when they have a physical wound. This is really serious stuff.

Once people get that, once people recognize, “Oh my gosh, this is serious stuff. You’re right, Donna, I have not been thinking about the effect that I have on other people.”

It’s not, as I said, because they’re bad people. It’s because they just simply have not been exposed to this kind of education. My first job is to educate, just give people what I know about dignity. Then once they have that awareness and they have that knowledge – then people say to me, “Oh Donna, this is common sense. Of course this is all true.” I say to them, “Yes, it’s common sense, but it’s not common knowledge.” We do have to learn this.

Once they develop that sensitivity about how people actually flourish when they’re treated well and they suffer when they’re treated badly. This is a real simple truth we’re talking about here. This isn’t something you have to get a PhD from Harvard in order to understand. Little kids understand this.

Once we get that and they understand, “Gee, maybe it is important for me to get feedback from my people.” It’s not important because I want to treat my people well. That is important. But the other personal – for personal development, it’s important because you don’t want to walk around the world violating people’s dignity unknowingly, because the fact is, you’re probably violating the dignity of people in your family and people who are close to you.

This just doesn’t begin and end in the workplace. This is a life skill that we’re trying to help people with. Just being open to some feedback to say, “Gee,” Again, it’s the way it’s delivered. We want people to also learn how to deliver that feedback in addition to how to accept it.

On the other hand, on the other side of this, I work with the employees and help them figure out how to give this feedback in a way where people don’t feel threatened, don’t feel criticized, and don’t feel that this is something that they want to avoid.

Pete Mockaitis
A few things there. When it comes to the particular behaviors associated with conveying the openness and nonresistance, what does that look like?

Donna Hicks
First of all, the hope is when you want to create a culture of dignity, the hope is that your people know. You announce to them when you hire  them and when you work with them that you really want to know if there are times when he – let’s say it’s a he in this case – that when your boss says something that’s hurtful, you have to tell them, “I want to know this. This is for my own growth and development. I certainly don’t want to be treating you badly.”

There are ways of saying this to your people. You have to be explicit about it. You have to say, “I want this feedback. I certainly don’t want you to be afraid of me or not feel safe in my environment.” It goes something like that.

Then you also have to be willing to actually carry through and do it. It’s all about making yourself vulnerable, Pete, as a leader. It’s about making yourself vulnerable so that you’re not trying to cover up your mistakes or you’re not trying to push people away when they are approaching you with some feedback. It looks like what vulnerability feels like. Let’s put it that way.

You have to create that sense of safety for them to say, “Yeah, I know this is going to be hard for you,” because you’re fighting resistance. Because one of the other things that we have that’s sort of a biological reality inside us is we resist confrontation. We don’t like going to somebody with feedback.

We’ve got a double resistance, a sort of double blind problem here because there’s blindness and there’s resistance on both sides. It’s hard.

It’s hard, but I’ll tell you what, with practice I have seen people do this in such a way that by the end of a session where, let’s just say there’s one employee and a manager having a problem, what I have seen many times once they become skilled in asking for feedback and they become skilled in giving feedback, that the people end up feeling really closer to each other than they did before, even before there was a problem.

When you make that vulnerable, the intimacy that gets created in that space is just lovely.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious then, when folks share the things and they’re not fun to hear and you think the other person is mistaken, shall we say, in what they’re sharing, kind of emotionally internally how do you kind of deal with your own resistance to vulnerability or tendency toward defensiveness? How do you manage yourself?

Donna Hicks
Well, this is where a good coach comes into the picture or what I call a dignity buddy. One of the things that I ask people to do is to get someone with them – to invite someone to become your dignity partner as it were. Let’s just say it’s somebody at work whom you really trust – say you and I are both managers and we have made a commitment to try to be more open and be more vulnerable with our people and ask for feedback.

If I feel that resistance coming up – because we all know what it feels like – and if I’m not being as open as I’m sort of aspiring to be with this dignity training, then I turn to my dignity partner and I say, “Help me with this. I’m fighting this. Is there any truth?” Because you can always check out what the feedback is with your trusted partner.

It takes some brave people to corroborate that evidence, but this is what we need. This is what we need to be doing for each other. It is hard to do this on our own and to walk away from that and feeling so embarrassed and feeling like, “Oh my gosh, did I really make that person feel that way? Did she really – was I that insulting?” All of that is really hard until you get used to it. It’s like developing a muscle really. You try to normalize this process.

These resistances, we have so many of these resistances. Resistance to feedback is just one. We have to fight these things if we want to lead with dignity. That’s just the way it is. This isn’t easy.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to zoom out a little bit. When you talk about the education in terms of there’s a lot of ignorance and we’ve got a lot of sensitivity to the ways that we are having our dignity violated, could you share a couple of those gems in terms of the research that is particularly striking and shocking for folks?

We heard that the neuroscience shows that when folks have their dignity violated, it’s experienced in the brain like a physical wound. That’s kind of wild. Do you have any other little gems like that as well as the proof points that point to, “Hey, folks really do flourish when treated well and suffer when treated badly?”

Donna Hicks
Yeah. There’s lot of research out there in terms of how people respond. One of the pretty amazing pieces of research that I came across was, you probably already know it, but when – this is largely done by business ethicists, this research. I’m connected with several different groups of business ethicists around these issues of dignity in the workplace.

What they discovered is that when people feel that their dignity is honored in the work environment, several things happen. Number one people are much more willing to give discretionary energy. Their loyalty increases, their productivity increases, employee engagement increases, all of these factors that are always so volatile within the workplace.

Lo and behold, at the end of the day – and I don’t even like to use this as the first bit of evidence, but profits actually increase when people feel treated well. To me this is the most cost-effective way of doing business.

Yes, you have to learn it. You have to make a commitment to how to lead with dignity, but if you’re in a work environment and that work environment is toxic and your people are breathing that toxic energy, they’re not going to give discretionary energy. They’re not going to be loyal. They’re going to be dreading coming into the workplace. It seems to me a no-brainer, just let’s figure this out as leaders of our organizations.

If we can figure out how to create these cultures where people are feeling like they’re being seen, they’re being heard, they’re being recognized, they’re being responded to, they’re feeling valued, why not? There’s just so much evidence that this works. I don’t know. I don’t know what the argument would be against it.

Pete Mockaitis
I think most of the arguments against it as I hear them, they seem not so rigorous like, “Oh come on, it’s called work for a reason. Toughen up.”

Donna Hicks
Right, right. Get a thick skin ….

Pete Mockaitis
“Life isn’t going to hand it to you on a silver platter, so get tougher.” I’m intrigued. You mentioned that there are many ways that we can unknowingly violate others’ dignity. I’d love it if you can give us kind of a checklist of what not to do.

Donna Hicks
Well, let me just share with you about what my research has uncovered about how people want to be treated. I’ve got something called the Ten Elements of Dignity because the flip side of them is what you don’t want to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Donna Hicks
Let me just run through this really quickly, the central elements of dignity. This research I did with people all over the world. I asked them questions about times when their dignity was violated, when their dignity was honored.

The interesting thing that happened in this research was that no matter where I was in the world, even though the context of the stories that they told were different, but at the end of the day, the emotional impact of what happened was exactly the same. I created these ten patterns that came out of this, these ten elements rather, that came out of these patterns of responses from all over, all over the world.

First of all, people want to have their identity accepted no matter who they are. No matter their race, their religion, their ethnicity, sexual orientation, people just want to be accepted.

The other thing is they want recognition. When they’ve done a really good job, when they’ve done something well, people want to be, I guess praised for that, is a good word to use, but they want recognition for what they’ve contributed.

Acknowledgement is another fundamental element of dignity. That simply is that people want to be acknowledged for the suffering that they’ve endured. People want to have somebody say to them, “Oh gosh, Pete, you went through that. That’s terrible. It’s just no human being should have had to go through that.” We all want that. We want acknowledgement of the suffering that we’ve endured.

We want a sense of belonging and inclusion. I mean there are programs all over the world around diversity and inclusion. Is it any wonder? Everybody wants to be included.

Safety, we talked about that element. Again, I’m not so much talking about physical safety, but it’s certainly a part of it, but more like psychological safety.

Fairness, we talked about that one.

Independence. What I found is that people don’t like to be micromanaged. They want to feel empowered to act on their own behalf. Especially in the workplace, they just don’t want somebody breathing down their necks. They want to be in control of their jobs and in a large sense in control of their lives.

People want to be understood. This element of understanding is really important because if you think about how quickly we rush to judgment about people with so little data. We do this automatically. People want to have an opportunity to talk about what’s going on with them from their perspective instead of being judged and stereotyped.

Benefit of the doubt, people want to be treated as if they were trustworthy. Finally, the last element of dignity is accountability. When something bad happens to somebody, they want an apology. They want the person who did the wrong to come to them and say, “Look, I’m really sorry. I’m really sorry.”

These ten things, those are the positive ways of doing it, but if you want to turn them over to the other side, well, if you want to violate somebody’s dignity, don’t apologize, don’t treat them as if they are – don’t treat them fairly or don’t include them in something or don’t give them recognition. You see how these you flip them over and this is what you want to avoid. You want to avoid all these things.

But I like to say them more in the positive because that really – it’s the way that we can actually put these into practice. Accept people’s identity. Don’t judge them because of their race, their religion. Treat them fairly, safely. Give them a sense of safety, all these things. Again, once you hear them, Pete, you say, “Oh, these are common sense,” but they are not common knowledge. We just have to put them to work for us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to dig into just a couple of them. When it comes to accept identity, you mentioned judging for race or gender. It’s not like, “I do not accept that you are a woman,” or, “I do not accept that you’re Black,” but it’s rather I impute some characteristic upon you based upon your identity markers. Is that what you mean by not accepting an identity?

Donna Hicks
Well, I’m talking more about being discriminated against because of something to do with our identity. We never really talked yet about what dignity is. My very simple definition of dignity is that it’s our inherent value and our inherent worth and that we were born with this dignity. This is something that each and every one of us as we come into this world, we are born equal in dignity.

Now, I don’t think we’re born equal in status. That’s for sure. In the workplace, we’re certainly – there’s a hierarchical structure in the workplace. We may not have equal status in some – we have to look up to the people. They’re our bosses and we have to do what they say. But the fact is that we’re all equal in dignity.

When people feel like they’re not treated as if they’re equal in dignity because they’re this, that or the other thing or because of their religion, that’s when they feel violated, that they’re being singled out simply because they’re a man or a woman or Black or they’re from an ethnic group that is different from yours. It’s more that, Pete, that people just don’t want to be treated as less than because of something about their identity.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Donna Hicks
That they can do nothing about.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said, well said, not treated less than. I’m with you. When it comes to being understood, could you share a little bit more about some of the best practices for doing that well with regard to listening or whatever is there?

Donna Hicks
Yeah, well, being understood, it seems like it’s a simple thing, but the fact is especially when we get into a little tiff with somebody, a little conflict – because all these things I’ve discovered in that context – larger conflict context – and what happens is that the minute you start getting into an argument with someone or you don’t agree with them, whatever, what goes first is your curiosity about why that person feels the way she does.

Being understood means that if you want to practice this element of dignity, you want to seek deeper understanding, especially under those circumstances where you’re feeling riled up by this person. But, you see, it’s all going against our biology. It’s going against our instincts because our instincts want us to fight.

But when we feel those impulses coming up inside us, the most important thing is to try to push the pause button and try to figure out what’s going on with this person, develop some curiosity about why she’s so upset, and say, “Look, I don’t really understand what’s happening here. I have a feeling something more is going on with you. Can you explain to me what you’re experiencing right now,” or something like that.

But it’s not our first impulse to do that. Our first impulse is to just not listen and not care about what’s going on and to seek deeper understanding.

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

Donna Hicks
Well, I think what I really want to impart and I do this every time I give a talk is for people to just be open to learning about this because it’s something that each and every human being wants. We all want to be treated with dignity. In fact, I think it’s our highest common denominator as human beings.

If we can make a commitment to trying to understand what the dignity narrative is of this person I’m interacting with, find out a little bit more about how this person has been treated in the past. Especially if you’re in a leadership position, you want to know what some of their sensitivities are. This stuff is all so helpful.

Just learning about our own sensitivities, probably more important, Pete, because if we’re going to be in leadership positions and we’re going to get triggered every second by someone of our employees, that’s not good either. We want to understand our own dignity past and how we got where we are.

Like you said, there’s so many people that just say, “Oh, the heck with this. Just toughen up. You can – anybody can do this. You just have to get tough.” You know this mentality. But the fact is you get so much farther with people, you bring about the best in people when you treat them well. Learning how to do that, it doesn’t take that much. It really doesn’t. But it does take a commitment.

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

Donna Hicks
This one quote I found – I can’t even remember, it was so long ago – but I use it every single time I give a talk about dignity, every single time. It’s my opening slide. It says “The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” This is John Naisbitt, by the way.

The reason why this struck me so is because dignity is at the core of what it means to be human. As I told you earlier, the ignorance around it is encyclopedic. The gap in our understanding of this part of our humanity is so enormous that I think he nailed this whole idea.

I connected it with dignity because if we don’t understand this basic fundamental aspect of our shared humanity, you’re going to continue to see all the conflicts that are raging around the world, not to mention in our own country and in our families, in our communities, in our workplace. This is a core component of what it means to be human.

I just think John Naisbitt just said it beautifully. Technology is not going to get us there, but a deeper understanding of what our own humanity is and the humanity that we share with others. Love that one.

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

Donna Hicks
Well, honestly, the best research that I came across was this neuroscience research, the social neuroscience by the people out in UCLA, Matt Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger. They’re doing astonishing research on the emotions that we all share just by virtue of being human and how to be in connecting, loving connections with other people.

I think their neuroscience research is so important because it’s giving us some hard data to show – things in the past used to be just kind of psychological. People would call them, as I said earlier, touchy feely. But now we have this evidence that it really does matter how we connect with other people and it does matter how we treat people. This launched much of my whole development of my methodology was that research.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Donna Hicks
Well, actually I’m thinking of a novel. I’m thinking of Doctor Zhivago. I just loved that book.
Yeah, yeah. I just loved that story.
Most recently there’s a book by George Vaillant. It’s a book about spirituality and human development and how at the end of the day, we are deeply spiritual beings and we really need connections with other people.

Because he did this lifelong research. He’s a doctor here at the Harvard Medical School. He did this lifelong research to show what people need in order to feel fulfilled. He has a combination of a very deep spiritual sense and he has the science to back it up. Triumph of Experience I think was what that book was called, the recent one. He’s written several, but I think it’s called The Triumph of Experience.

My other favorite author of course is E O. Wilson. He’s written several books. The latest one that he wrote that I really love is called The Meaning of Life. He is an evolutionary biologist. Any book of his that you all can get your hands on, that stuff is great. It’s a great read, if you want to understand what it means to be human, by the way. That’s the core concern.

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

Donna Hicks
All right, I’ll tell you what my favorite tool is. Story telling because I realized that when I started writing about dignity, I realized I had to put my Harvard academic hat away and talk to people about how I discovered this issue and why I felt it was so important.

Just like you opened with a story asking me a question about my conflict resolution work, I always use examples, stories to illustrate the most important points that I want to impart to people because people respond to stories much more than boring research, the data and the graphs and the this and that. If I tell them a compelling story, that really gets my point across.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Donna Hicks
Habit. Well, I love to exercise. I’m a sort of fitness – well, I just love everything related to health and wellbeing. I’m really trying. I was sick for a while. I had a very serious illness of cancer. I got through that I think by just continuing all my exercise regime and eating well. I think it’s just my favorite habit is trying to live a good, fulfilled life.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, and we’re glad you’re still here, so congrats.

Donna Hicks
Thank you. Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a particular nugget, something you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audience or listeners or readers?

Donna Hicks
Yeah. I mentioned this in a different context earlier, but I always share what I call the most simple truth that I’ve discovered with my dignity research. The simple truth is that when we’re treated badly, we suffer and when we’re treated well, we flourish. That simple truth – that was Tweeted out the other day. You can’t imagine how many retweets and likes I got. I didn’t even do it. Someone was quoting me.

That just simply touches a nerve with people. Treat people well and they’ll flourish; treat people badly and they’ll suffer. What do you want to do? How do you want to live your life? You want to live your life treating people well or badly, making them suffer or making them flourish? I just think that’s pretty basic.

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

Donna Hicks
Yeah, my website is lowercase dr – D – R – DrDonnaHicks.com. I am on Twitter. What else? I think that’s about it.

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

Donna Hicks
Oh, just I think, again, it’s really try to understand how powerful this concept of dignity is. Try to make it work for you, try to make it work for your relationships because I have to say, it’s one of those things that once you get it into your head and you understand it and you use it as a lens to look through things that are complicated in your life and problems in your life, if you look at it through a dignity lens, I think you’re going to see the solution really quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Donna, thank you. This has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you all the best as you spread the good word about dignity and all that you’re up to.

Donna Hicks
Thank you. And you too, thank you for this opportunity.

375: How and Why to Communicate Mindfully with Oren Jay Sofer

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Oren Jay Sofer says: "The single most powerful and transformative ingredient in dialogue is the intention to understand."

Meditation practitioner and author Oren Jay Sofer hashes out the tenets of mindful and non-violent communication to help get ot the heart of every interaction.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key steps for getting what you want without causing defensiveness in others
  2. Two points of subtext to listen for when someone speaks
  3. How to gain emotional agility

About Oren

Oren Jay Sofer leads retreats and workshops on mindful communication throughout the United States. A member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, he holds a degree in comparative religion from columbia University and is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication. Oren also creates mindfulness training programs for apps and organizations. He lives in Richmond, California.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Oren Jay Sofer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Oren, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Oren Jay Sofer
Great to be back, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into it. We heard a little bit more about your backstory and fun facts in a previous episode, which wasn’t too long ago. I want to dig right away into the goods of you’ve got a book, Say What You Mean, coming out. What’s it all about?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, so the subtitle of the book is How to Find Your Voice, Speak Your Truth & Listen Deeply. It’s about understanding ourselves more clearly so that we can have more meaningful relationships and more effective conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds helpful. So you’re using the term in the mix, “non-violent communication.” What does that phrase mean, precisely?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, that’s right. The full title, Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Non-Violent Communication. What’s unique about this book and about what I do is that I bring together a few different worlds.

We’ve talked already about the power of mindfulness and the benefits of bringing more awareness and balance and groundedness into our life, into our work, and the kind of clarity and sustainability that comes from that. What’s neat is that mindfulness isn’t just an internal practice, but it actually has all kinds of benefits for our relationships and conversations.

Non-violent communication is a process of not only communicating, but also being aware of our thoughts and emotions, desires, and impulses in a way that lets us work with others more smoothly. The process of NVC, which is the shorthand for non-violent communication, is about using words in a way to create enough connection and understanding in our relationships to collaborate, to meet whatever needs are happening more easily.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe would you give an example of non-violent communication versus violent communication? Because when I think about violent communication, I think “I’ll kill you,” but I’m imagining there’s a whole range of subtle ways that we’re kind of aggressive in our communications.

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Pete. Maybe just a word or two of history to contextualize this and then I’ll give an example or two.

Non-violent communication was founded by a man named Marshall B. Rosenberg. He grew up in Detroit in the 40’s. He lived through the race riots there. There were about 40 people killed within a couple blocks of his house as a kid. This had a deep impact on him. It was a very powerful education into our world recognizing that people might want to kill you for the color of your skin.

Then when he went to school, he found out that people might want to do violence to you because of your last name. He was Jewish and experienced a lot of anti-Semitism. This had a very strong effect on him. But he also was exposed to people in his family, like his uncle—who would care for their grandmother, who was paralyzed—with so much joy and devotion and happiness.

He had this question that was burning in him from a young age of “what makes the difference between some people who are able to take a lot of joy in contributing to the well-being of others, whereas other folks, when they’re challenged, will resort to violence to meet their needs?”

What he found through his research and his work and his studies was that how we think and how we speak plays a big role in whether or not we see violence as a viable strategy when things aren’t working. As you recognized, violence isn’t just physical violence. One definition of violence is any avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs. When we think about that—

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll chew on that for a while.

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, yeah, so there’s a lot of violence in our world today, when you think about the level of human needs that aren’t being met.

How does this apply in our lives? Well, so if you and I are having a conflict, we’re having some kind of difference and I say, “Pete, you’re being really unprofessional and irresponsible.” In some way there’s a little bit of violence or aggression in my communication because I’m expressing what’s going on for me by blaming you.

In other words, one of the ways we’ve been conditioned to think about things, and this is so relevant for the workplace, is that when we don’t like what’s happening, when our needs aren’t being met, or some objective or goal that we have isn’t happening the way we would like it to, instead of being able to own that, to be conscious of it and say, “This is what I’m valuing. This is the objective I have and what I’d like to see happening. Here’s how what’s going on isn’t really matching with that. I’d like to talk about this.”

We make it about the other person being wrong or bad or somehow irresponsible or unprofessional or uncourteous, so we project our own unmet needs out on to others and blame them.

If we just kind of pause and step back and think about it for a moment, if I want somebody to do something differently, if I want somebody to help me out with something, change their behavior in some way that’s going to contribute to my life or my work in a better way, how useful of a strategy is it to blame them and tell them what’s wrong with them?

Has that ever worked? Does that ever inspire joyful giving and spontaneous change. “Oh sure you’re right. Let me do this differently.”

Non-violent is about understanding – part of it is about understanding this conditioning and learning not only to speak, the words are actually the last thing. What’s most important is where we’re coming from inside and learning to see situations differently so that we can communicate in ways that other people can hear and understand without getting defensive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, excellent. Well, so then, that’s a handy sort of backdrop there in terms of digging into the contents of your book. I’d like to get your view on first of all, with the title, Say What You Mean, what are some kind of key ways or categories that we fall short of saying what you mean and how is that detrimental?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah. I think a lot of the time we don’t know what we really mean to say. One of the things I talk about in the book in terms of the relevance of mindfulness is that to say what we mean, we have to know first what we mean and to know what we mean, we have to be able to look inside a little bit and be clear.

Instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to say?” you can recognize that whenever we speak, pretty much all of the time – most of the time if not all of the time, we’re speaking because we want somebody else to listen, we want somebody else to understand something. We’re trying to get some message across.

Instead of just focusing on what I want to say, it’s more useful to think about, “Okay, what do I want this person to understand? What do I want them to know or hear?”

When we only focus on what it is that I want to say or I want to blow off steam or I want to tell you this, without really placing our attention on, “Yeah, but what’s the effect I’m trying to have?” and “What is the information that I want you to really take in?” we end up wasting our energy.

When we fail to actually be aware of our purpose in communication and what we’re trying to really transmit to the other person, not only do we waste our energy and time and the other person, but we end up getting entangled often in things that don’t really matter.

How many times have you had an argument with somebody where you say something and then they get reactive and start responding to something that you don’t even mean? You’re like, “No, no, no, that’s not what I meant.” Now we’ve got to take ten minutes to kind of unravel this whole thing that is, isn’t even relevant.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. That definitely happens. I’d love it if you can maybe bring this to life a little bit in terms of making that switch from “what do I want to say?” toward “what do I want them to know or understand or to pick up from that message can make all the difference? Can you bring that to life for us?”

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s take an example of something at work. Let’s say that your first impulse is to say, “You’re micromanaging me.” That’s not exactly saying what we mean. That’s just moving out of habit.

If we pause for a moment and think, “Okay, what’s the effect of this going to be?” Okay the other person is probably going to get defensive. “I’m not micromanaging me. You’re not a team player. You don’t know how to work with others.” Now we’re wasting our time arguing.

“You’re micromanaging me,” what do I really mean by that? We can use the steps that I lay out in the book to understand more clearly what’s happening.

First, we want to say, okay, what am I referring to? What’s actually happened? I’m not just making this up. This person has done or said something, perhaps several things that didn’t work for me.

We try to make some sort of a clear observation that the other person will recognize without getting defensive or arguing, like, “I noticed that last week you asked me to take care of this task by Friday and then on Wednesday you emailed me again asking if I had finished it,” so that’s what happened.

“You told me the deadline of Friday, but then on Wednesday, they were asking me if I had it done,” so there’s nothing to argue about there. It’s just like, “Hey, you emailed me, asked me to do this, and then you did that.”

Then the next thing we want to be clear about is what’s the impact this has on me? What’s the impact it has and why? What matters to me? What is it that I’m actually valuing in this situation? We can say, “I felt a little confused and slightly frustrated.” That’s different from saying I felt pressured. I felt blamed, which is again about putting the focus on the other person.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s them.

Oren Jay Sofer
Right, I’m taking responsibility for my part. I’m saying, “Look, I felt a little bit confused and slightly frustrated.” What is it I want? “Well, I really want to be able to work together in a way that we’re each doing our own piece and really supporting each other’s work with a lot of trust and collaboration.” That’s really clear. Those are values that we can get – that we can both agree on.

Then the last part is now I want to know, if I just stop there, the other person is like, “Well, okay. What do you want me to do about that?” or “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess.” We want to give the other person some kind of suggestion about what would be helpful. This is what we call a request, which is a suggestion or a proposal or some kind of indication of the direction we can go from here.

We might just want more information. We might just want to ask, “Could you tell me a little bit more about what your flow was? What was your process here because in my mind I was just expecting that I would email the report on Friday? I want to understand more where you’re coming from.”

Then when we find out, then we might start a move to making some agreements about, “Great, well next time I wonder if you ask me for something on Friday, but you actually need it sooner, could you tell me that so that I can kind of plan accordingly and we can work it out?”

Pete Mockaitis
So then the request phase seemed like you were kind of collecting more information and then sort of the agreement phase comes after the request phase?

Oren Jay Sofer
That’s right. Yeah. The more understanding we can establish between one another, the easier it is to make agreements and the more robust and reliable they’re going to be.

One of the things that we tend to get tripped up with in conversations and negotiations, particularly at work, is that we want the answer. We want to cut to the chase and get to the solution, but what that means is that we often don’t take enough time to really build the criteria for the solution.

What’s actually important here? What are we trying to accomplish and why? What are the goals the solution needs to meet and what are all of the concerns and considerations on the table? Let’s really suss that out and make sure that we all understand the full landscape as much as possible.

Whether it’s kind of a team decision, a project decision or an interpersonal situation, if we’ve established a really solid base of mutual understanding, it’s a lot easier to come up with an agreement because we both can see things from one another’s point of view. Then there’s more buy in for any agreement or solution we come up with.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s really cool. The first step is to sort of state that clear observation. The second is – well, the impact that that observation has on me.

Oren Jay Sofer
Mm-hm.

Pete Mockaitis
The third is declaring what you want for us in the collaboration. The fourth is kind of getting request or suggestion for some more information, understanding and then leading to ultimately an agreement in terms of how we’re going to operate a bit differently going forward. That sounds like it makes great sense in terms of being low probability of triggering hostility and defensiveness.

Oren Jay Sofer
That’s right. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, do you have any other thoughts when it comes to communicating to minimize the risk of the other person feeling like you’re attacking them or that you’re offensive in some way?

Oren Jay Sofer
You know, it’s a great question, Pete. I think that one of the things I emphasize over and over and over again when I teach is that communication is not about what we say. So much of our communication, so much of our relationships is in our body language, our tone of voice. It’s about where we’re coming from inside.

There’s a whole section on my book devoted to this, to the intention behind where we’re coming from because we can say things in really nice, pretty ways, we can use fancy words and whatever kind of communication technique you want to lay on top of it.

But if inside we’re actually saying in our mind, “You’re such a jerk and you’ve got to get your act together and I can’t stand working with you,” if that’s what we’re actually feeling and thinking and believing, they’re going to know that. They’re going to pick up on it.

The work in terms of taking that bite out and reducing the risk of getting embroiled in that kind of situation or just adding more tension to a workplace conflict that’s already uncomfortable is actually doing the work internally of transforming our own way of viewing the situation. This is why mindfulness is so essential for communication because you can’t do that.

You can’t really take apart your own emotions and perceptions and blame without some kind of tool to get in there and really say, “Okay, what’s going on here? Why am I getting so upset over this? Where is this getting me?” and start to actually understand more like, “Oh, okay, I see. I was wanting to be consulted in this decision and it feels like I’m not being valued enough,” or “I want clearer definitions of roles at work and it feels like this other person keeps doing my job. Oh, that’s what I need.”

Then it’s much easier to talk about. It’s not like you’re out to get me, it’s like, “Listen, I really want to make sure that we’re not stepping on each other’s feet here. Can we sit down and talk a little bit about what both of our roles are so that we’re both working toward the same end and not getting into these situations where we find ourselves locking heads?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, excellent. That’s good. Then when it comes to the intention, you talk about the work and the internal nature of it. I guess what that consists of is just really kind of thinking through clearly what do I want and I guess – I guess sometimes that can take a few loops or iterations to get yourself past “I want you to stop being such a jerk.”

Oren Jay Sofer
Exactly. Well, there’s a great tool we can use here. A couple of things. First, the single most powerful and transformative ingredient in dialogue is the intention to understand. When in doubt, just try to understand because that’s what communication is about. Even when we’re trying to just get something done, we rely upon mutual understanding. We need to be able to hear one another.

When in doubt, we can always come back to just the baseline intention of wanting to understand. “Let me see if I can understand you.” Just that phrase, just that phrase, ‘let me see if I’m understanding you,’ that in and of itself can start to change the tone of a whole relationship because the other person starts to feel our interest like, “Oh wow, you’re actually making an effort. You’re not just interested in getting your way.” Then they can stop trying to defend themselves and get about working together.

I said there were two things. Let’s see if I remember if I remember what the second one was. Intention. Okay, so the second one, so there’s a tool we can use to help us transform those knee jerk reactions and intentions to just blast the person or “Just stop being a jerk,” or “Get off my back.”

This comes from Marshall Rosenberg, who was as I said, the founder of non-violent communication. He suggested that when we want somebody to do something, that we ask ourselves two questions.

The first question most of ask, which is ‘what would I like this person to do?’ Now, if we stop there, if that’s the only question we ask, then we might go about all kinds of strategies to get them to do it. We might coerce them. We might threaten them. We might be passive-aggressive. We might manipulate them.

Now, some of those strategies can produce results, but they come at a cost. When I use my power to force someone to do something, I lose some of their trust and goodwill. This is huge, particularly for managers. Every time we get somebody to do something because we have more power than they do, we lose their goodwill. We lose that energy, that creative willingness to really engage in work.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so true. I’ve been on the receiving end. It’s like, “All right, well, I’m just going to give you what you asked for and—“

Oren Jay Sofer
And nothing more.

Pete Mockaitis
“—keep all my brilliant creativity to myself since you don’t seem to care for it.”

Oren Jay Sofer
Exactly, yeah. We take away one of the things that’s the most meaningful, which is our opportunity to contribute and give. We don’t just start by asking “What do I want this person to do?”

We need to ask the second question, which is “What do I want their reasons to be for doing it? Why? Why would I like this person to do this? Not just because they fear me or they want to keep their job. No, I want them to do this because they understand its value, because they see how this is going to contribute to the project, to the company, to the bottom line.”

When we ask that second question, now we’re going to approach the whole situation differently because now we’re not just trying to get the person to get to point B, we’re actually trying to change their mind. We’re actually trying to help them to see things in a different way.

That’s where that intention to understand comes from is saying, “Look, I think I’m seeing things in a different way than you are and I want to see if we can learn from each other here. Tell me how you’re seeing this because maybe you’re seeing something that I’m not aware of that’s important. And there might be something that I’m seeing that you’re not aware of,” so now we’re actually having a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is a handy question in terms of what you’re seeing and then it covers a multitude of issues in which you’re just like, “What’s this idiot’s problem?” It’s like, “Oh, well, they may very well know something I don’t.” Then all of the sudden all sorts of things make a whole lot more sense when you go there.

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, yeah. The other thing, all of us have to work with people who it’s just like, “What’s your problem? Why-“ just people are grumpy or they’re short. There I think what’s helpful with these communication tools and the mindfulness tools is learning how to genuinely have that feeling inside of we’re all just doing the best we can.

You know what? Maybe they had a fight with their wife or their husband. Maybe their kids got a really rough diagnosis. We just don’t know where people are coming from.

When someone is really rubbing us the wrong way, even if it’s not around a work-related issue, when we can shift out of that perception and that way of thinking in terms of blaming the other person and what’s wrong with them and why are they such a jerk, we can say, “Wow, maybe they’re having a really hard time. Maybe they’re really lonely. Maybe they’re really angry. Maybe they’ve been carrying anger around for years. God, that must be so hard.”

Two things happen there that are really important. The first is one, we release ourselves from the burden of resentment and pettiness and judgment, which is just not a pleasant state of mind to be in. The other thing that happens is we start relating to the other person in a more humane way.

What I’ve seen again and again in my own life is when I relate to people with respect and kindness and patience, it has an effect. It might not be instantaneous, but over time if I consistently come from that place, they come around.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. Then I’d to get your take then in terms of, since we touched on that a little bit, where sort of in the other side of the equation, where we’re doing the listening, how can we do that and even if someone is kind of short or accusatory, how can we do the job of listening without feeling that feeling of being attacked, offended, getting defensive, bubbling up in ourselves?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, that’s the other side of it. It’s such an important skill. This is – actually this is one of the most powerful tools that we can develop is the ability to listen to what someone really means regardless of what they’re actually saying. Yeah.

I’m finding myself talking about Marshall a lot on this – on our call today, but that’s for a good reason. He was a very wise man. One of the other things that he said that I love is he said, “I suggest you never listen to what people think about you. You’ll live longer and enjoy your life more.”

What he means by that is don’t listen to the blame and the judgments and the criticism that are coming out of people’s minds. Try to hear what’s in their heart.

We can actually train our attention to listen beneath the words to two things. One, how someone’s feeling. In the workplace, that’s generally going to be more of a silent awareness. We’re just like, “Oh wow, this person seems” – whether they’re pissed or frustrated or hurt or upset or confused or irritated or annoyed or stressed.

We can kind of pick up on okay, what’s going on for this person on the emotional level. Then that creates a little bit of a sense of empathy. We can feel where they’re at as a human being. Okay.

Then the next part, which is where the real transformation occurs is, “what matters?” What’s important to this person underneath what they’re saying, whether they’re blaming me or complaining about someone else, what do they really value here, what are they needing. That’s where we can start to listen to somebody and deescalate a situation without taking it personally.

For example, someone says, “God, you’re so critical. Why are you so critical all the time? All that comes out of you is just judgment and negative stuff?”

I can hear that. I can hear that. It’s probably going to take me a moment because I’ve got to do this little aikido move, where I don’t absorb that energy, I just kind of sidestep it, let it go past me and say, “All right, what’s going on for this person. Maybe they’re wanting a little bit more recognition, a little more appreciation for what they’re bringing forward.

I might ask, I might say, “I’m hearing that some of the ways that I relate or express myself don’t really work for you. Thank you, I’m glad you’re telling me that. It’s not my intention. I want to check. It sounds like you’re wanting some more appreciation or acknowledgement for how hard you’ve worked on this and the contributions that you’re making or is there something else that – is it something else?”

I’m actually trying to understand you. I’m not taking on that story. I’m just really listening for what’s important for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, interesting. Well said, sidestepping and not taking on that story. It really kind of sparks a visual in terms of there’s a whole lot of – I don’t know. I’m always … to think someone’s got a bucket of tar and they’re just sort of going to shove it such that it flies out of the bucket and in your direction.

You’re saying, no, no rather than get the tar and say, “How dare you? I’m a mess.” We’re just going to sidestep it and say, “how interesting that this person thought that that was something that they needed to do.” Let’s kind of – I don’t want to call it fun, but let’s – or enjoyment, but it’s sort of like – it’s a bit of a puzzle.

That’s kind of how I’m relating to it is you can get interested and engaged in that thing on a different level of “Oh, I’m trying to kind of get to the bottom of this,” as opposed to “I’m trying to conquer and overcome and win and be right within in this.”

Oren Jay Sofer
Right, yeah, yeah. There are two levels to this. One is understanding that when people are blaming and judging us, they have some unmet need. That blame and judgment is just a tragic and counterproductive expression of our own unmet needs.

When we really understand that we we don’t have to take on the blame or the story. We can just, “Oh, what’s going on for you? Something’s not working. Let me see if I can understand it.” That’s one level.

There’s another level here, which is kind of a meta level on the conversation, which is how are we talking to each other and what kind of workplace culture do we have? That’s something that we can address, but that it’s better to address outside of the actual moment.

We have the conversation. We deescalate things. We hear what’s important for them. We offer some understanding. Maybe we make some agreements or if we contributed in some way, we apologize, say, “Hey, I’m sorry, wasn’t where I meant to come from, but I can see how that had that impact on you.”

But then we can also have a conversation saying, “Listen I wanted to just – I wanted to just talk a little bit about how things came out when you said that I’m so critical and judgmental and I’m always nitpicking and I never care about or appreciate anyone else. That was kind of hard to hear. I’d just love to find a way that we can both express ourselves with a sense of care and respect for one another.”

We can actually address the way we’re talking to one another, but it’s best to do that outside of the moment. We’ve got to handle the situation that’s happening first.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that’s well said. I did want to dig into your take on sort of the best practices for how does one ask for what you need in an optimal kind of a fashion? It seems like we’ve already got a few kind of principles and processes to work through, but do you have any extra things to point out when you’re making a request?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, absolutely. Requests are tricky because a lot of us have been conditioned to think it’s selfish to ask for things from other people. Some of this falls around gender lines and how we’ve been conditioned or what our social location is, so based on our conditioning, we may feel more or less comfortable or willing to speak up and ask for what we need. A certain part of it is some of that internal work of just checking, “do I feel okay asking others to do things or help out or contribute to me?”

One of the keys there, because a lot of us have stories that, “I should be able to do it on my own. I’m selfish if I ask for something. I don’t want to be needy or dependent,” all of these kinds of junk that we pick up along the way in life.

But if we turn the tables around for a minute and we just think about if a friend or a coworker came to me and said, “Hey, I could really use some help. Do you have a few minutes?” If someone’s sincere and we have the time, we’re more than happy to help. We’re like, “Yeah, totally. What’s up?” That feels good. It feels good to lend a hand to someone when we can.

If we contemplate that, then we can recognize if I can ask in a way that’s inviting, I’m actually giving the other person something beautiful. I’m giving them an opportunity to contribute in a way that feels good.

That’s kind of the key behind making requests. It’s one, finding that place inside where we’re not demanding that somebody do something, which takes all the joy out of giving and helping, but we’re inviting them. It’s an open door.

One of the things that makes that the most possible is letting them know how it’s going to contribute to us. We need to let someone know why we’re asking. How will this actually help me? What’s the reason behind my asking? Then that gives the person a reason to want to help.

The other part is really making sure that we’re clear that there’s no obligation or demand here. This is a suggestion. I’m just saying, “How about this? If this doesn’t work for you, I’d love to see if we can find another way that this could happen.” Then, again, it becomes a dialogue. It becomes a collaboration.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. You’ve got another term I want to hear and touch about because it sounds like something I want. What is emotional agility and how can we get some more of that?

Oren Jay Sofer
Oh, grasshopper. Yes, emotional agility is essential in life. Emotional agility is that ability to be aware of what we’re feeling and have the strength and the capacity to manage it without it dictating our actions or our words. This takes practice, but it’s completely feasible. There are a few steps to it.

The first step is learning to be aware of our emotions, just using mindfulness to identify how we’re feeling and finding a way to experience our emotions with some degree of balance, so we don’t get swept away in the tide of thinking and reacting and sinking in the emotion or lashing out or the other extreme, which is suppressing and avoiding our emotions.

We find that middle ground, where we can just feel the way we feel and stay balanced with it. That’s a lot of the work of mindfulness.

Then the next kind of phase is starting to actually understand our emotions and the function that they play in our life, in our relationships. Emotions are there for a reason. If we feel something, it’s because there’s something that matters to us. We don’t feel emotions if there’s nothing that matters to us in a situation.

Emotions are sending signals. They’re sending signals either that our needs were met. Pleasant feelings: things are going well, my values and needs are being confirmed or met in some way. Unpleasant emotions: it’s a message, it’s a signal that there’s something not working for me here, there’s some need I have that isn’t being met.

What’s essential in understanding emotions is connecting them back to what actually matters to us and being able to identify, “What am I actually wanting here? What’s important to me?” When we can understand that, when we can really see it clearly, there’s a settling that happens inside because the message has been received. The emotion has actually served its purpose. Now we can go about figuring out how to meet that need. What action is necessary here?

Then the last aspect of emotional agility – so we’ve got being aware of our emotions and staying balanced. Then we’ve got understanding our emotions, “What message is this sending? What’s actually important to me here?”

The last part is learning how to communicate them constructively, how to hear other’s emotions and how to express our own emotions in a way that’s helpful. This is really where that training and non-violent communication comes in where we’re able to be aware of how we feel on the inside instead of those stories of blame, “I feel ignored. I feel attacked. I feel judged,” which are all pointing the finger at you.

Instead, being able to talk about, “You know? I felt a little bit sad when I heard that I wasn’t invited.” To be able to own how we actually feel instead of “I feel dismissed,” which is again, telling you what you’re doing to me. Being able to state our emotions in a way that’s about us and then connect them to our needs, to why.

“I really wanted to be included,” or “I really value being a part of the team,” or “I really enjoy your company and want to be able to build our relationship,” so linking our emotions and feelings back to our needs. That’s the kind of overview, the snapshot of developing emotional agility. I go into that a lot more in Say What You Mean, in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, one of the things when I heard the term emotional agility that I got to thinking about is how often I am in one emotional state, let’s just call it irritated. There’s a distracting noise that a laundry machine keeps making a bunch of noise and vibration that is drawing my attention away and I don’t like it.

But then the emotion that would be most kind of constructive might be in a conversation could be, maybe curiosity or interest or compassion. Do you have any thoughts for how can we – I know we’re not robots that can sort of flip a switch and execute new emotion instantly, but—do you have some pro tips for when we kind of need to access a different side of ourselves to rise to an occasion? How do we do that quickly?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, how do we do it quickly? I think it takes practice. It’s not something that happens overnight. If we want to be able to come from that place of curiosity or more genuine care or compassion, we need to actually practice it. We need to cultivate those kinds of emotions and intentions in our self.

Then when we do, when we’ve actually trained our heart or our mind to know how to find goodwill, how to find curiosity, then in the heat of the moment, it’s there for us and then we can come back to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly.

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, I think one other key there – I appreciate the question – one other key there is one of the central perspectives to non-violent communication, which we’ve been dancing around, but I haven’t stated explicitly, which is a particular view or perspective on human behavior, which is at the heart of humanistic psychology going all the way back to Abraham Maslow and Mendel and Carl Rogers, which is that all human behavior can be seen as an attempt to meet some kind of basic needs.

When we view things in that way, we can always ask our self the question, ‘What does this person need? What matters to this person?’ That’s a way to get curious even if we’re reactive, to remember that sense of “Okay, human beings do stuff because there’s something that matters to them. What matters to this person?”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Any final things you care to share before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Oren Jay Sofer
No, it’s been great talking. I’m really happy to share all these tools with you and your audience. I just hope they’re helpful for folks in their life and at their work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve given a few already on the show, but I’ll share one more. This really points to an essential communication tool. “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like that. Thank you.

Oren Jay Sofer
It’s that simple skill that a lot of times we do over email. We’ll say, “Let me know that you got this,” but we can do that during conversation too.

We can actually check, especially when we say something important or meaningful to us or it feels like someone else is saying something important or meaningful, we can check. We say, “I want to make sure I’m still with you. Let me just tell you back what I’m hearing and you tell me if I got it right.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Oren Jay Sofer
Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild is phenomenal take on culture, society and nature. It’s just a beautiful collection of essays that bring together a lot of wonderful ideas.

Pete Mockaitis
A favorite tool?

Oren Jay Sofer
A favorite tool, say more my friend. Do you mean a physical tool or a-?

Pete Mockaitis
It could by physical tool, it could be a piece of software, it could be a framework of thought.

Oren Jay Sofer
Great, yeah. Piece of software. I have a screen app that I use called Time Out that I can set it to different intervals and it reminds me to take a pause while I’m working at my computer for my physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Is there a particular nugget you’ve been sharing from the book that really seems to connect and resonate and get folks nodding their heads?

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, one of the main steps that I encourage people to do in communication practice is to focus on what matters. That’s skill we can develop to keep coming back to that question of what really matters here in myself, in another person, in a situation and to get underneath the layers of the stories, and the judgments, and the what-if’s, and the who-did, and when, and why into okay, what really matters here. Focus on what matters.

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

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, there’s a great way to get in touch, which is through my website, www.orenjaysofer.com.

If folks want to learn more from me, I have a free gift to give away six guided meditations when you join my newsletter. The way to sign up for that is to text the word ‘guided’ G-U-I-D-E-D, like guided meditation, to 44222. You’ll get six guided meditations and then every month I send a free guided meditation or an article or a link to a free online event that I’m doing, so it’s a great way to stay in touch and also get some more teaching and tools.

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

Oren Jay Sofer
Yeah, absolutely. Take this on as a practice. Communication is a learnable skill. It’s not just something that some people are good at and other people aren’t. You can improve your communication if you set an intention to work with it. Bring more awareness and presence into your communication and focus on what matters. If you want to learn more, you can check out my book, Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Non-Violent Communication.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Oren, this has been a treat once again. Thank you. I wish you tons of luck with the book, Say What You Mean, and all you’re up to.

Oren Jay Sofer
Thanks so much, Pete. It’s been great being back on the show.

360: Five Principles for Accelerating Your Career with G2 Crowd’s Ryan Bonnici

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Ryan Bonnici says: "When someone's giving you feedback... remember that they're taking a risk."

G2 Crowd Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bonnici shares his five steps for figuring out and advancing along your career path.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two core principles for mastering your craft
  2. How to get good at giving and receiving feedback
  3. Two LinkedIn tricks that make all the difference

About Ryan

Ryan Bonnici is the Chief Marketing Officer of G2 Crowd, where he’s driving growth of the world’s leading B2B technology review platform that’s helping more than 1.5 million business professionals make informed purchasing decisions every single month. Prior to G2 Crowd, Ryan held several leadership roles in some of the most well-recognized companies in the tech industry. He served as the senior director of global marketing at HubSpot, where his efforts led to triple-digit growth for the company’s marketing related sales.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ryan Bonnici Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ryan, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m looking forward to getting into both your story and your tactics. Maybe you could orient us a little bit to your career journey as it started as a flight attendant and then how that kind of progressed to a really cool trajectory.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, absolutely. Look, I was kind of one of those kids going through school that was just always told that “He has real potential. He just needs to work harder.” For some reason, I’m not sure what it was exactly, but in kind of year nine, back in Australia, something just flicked in my head and so years ten, eleven and twelve I worked really, really hard, got a really good GPA, a 4.0, worked my ass off.

Then I started doing university in Sydney, Australia and I was just super not interested in it. I, over the holidays, applied for a job at Qantas Airways because they were taking on international flight attendants. There’s huge interviews. It’s a really long process. Long story short, I got the job.

I did that for a couple years. It was always a short term thing for me because I ultimately just wanted to travel. I wanted to save up money, which allowed me to buy my first investment property when I was like 19. I was kind of really focused on traveling and just starting to make savings.

Always knew I’d get back to university and get back to my marketing degree. I had always kind of known weirdly from the age of maybe 18 that I wanted to be a CMO before the age of 30. Just after my 29th birthday, I actually joined G2 Crowd as the CMO, so it was really timely. I’ve been really lucky. Everything has gone to plan fortunately.

But, yeah, that’s kind of the background really on the flight attendant thing, bit of an odd job. Then I then went back to university and did flying on the weekends and did university throughout the week. It was kind of hard to juggle it, but it was fun. I learnt a lot. I’m someone that gets bored easily, so I need to be doing lots of different things, so it worked well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. While working as a flight attendant, did you form some connections or some skills or some insights that helped lay some good ground work for your future success?

Ryan Bonnici
I think I did. Qantas – for anyone listening – Qantas is actually the world’s oldest and most experienced airline. They had the first kind of commercial airline up and running. It was set in Queensland in the Northern Territory, which is what Qantas stands for.

I think one thing I learned that Qantas does incredibly well is customer service and just how your customers are the life blood of your business. Qantas did a really amazing job at training their staff and their flight attendants because at the end of the day, they’re really the main people that the consumers are interacting with.

I think I learned a lot about customer services and I learned a lot about word-of-mouth marketing and just the importance of having a cohesive message. That was one thing I think I learned from that early experience.

But then I also was able to eventually start to move and work more in our business class and first class cabins. I just started having fascinating conversations with different executives that were travelling different places for work. I had the CEO of Qantas on at one point in time. I had different celebrities on. I just had different executives and learned a lot from them.

Actually, I moved then from Qantas to Microsoft into my first kind of marketing role offer, kind of the insight from a marketing executive at Microsoft that mentioned to me that they were hiring. I learnt about that and then went through the hiring process and stuff and started my marketing career at Microsoft. It all worked out really, really well.

I’m just one of those business geeks that just loves to chat with executives and business people and learn ultimately about what gets them up in the morning, what they love about their business, what are they doing. I’m just innately fascinated by it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. I’m imagining when you say you picked up some insights from these executives, during the course of those interviews, you probably had some real smart things to say, like, “Whoa, we weren’t expecting that level of strategic insight from this kid.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, maybe. I’ve kind of always been one of those kids that I’m an only child. I think I was always around adults from a really young age. I’m not afraid kind of I guess to share my opinion. I have lots of opinions on different things and I’m really passionate about those opinions and those thoughts. I equally love to discourse and learn about other people’s opinions and kind of argue about our opinions.

I think that’s a little bit of an Australian cultural paradigm. That’s just something that’s kind of been in me from the get go. I think that’s probably helped me throughout my career, but definitely back then I was quite a bit younger and as I was getting to know these people.

I think it kind of made me a little bit more memorable and also it allowed me to stand out from everyone else because most other maybe flight attendants that were speaking to these executives probably felt like it was too personal maybe to ask them about their work or what they were doing for business, whereas I was just genuinely interested.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That’s cool. Well, so one of your other passions beyond business and strategy and marketing is helping young professionals figure out their path and move forward and progress. You did a real nice job as I reviewed your slides of crystallizing some key principles and perspectives on that at the Drift HYPERGROWTH 2018 event.

I’d love it if you could kind of just walk us through some of the greatest hits with regard to the five steps you shared there.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, sure thing Pete. The five kind of I guess high-level things that I talked through at Drift conference – I’ll just run you through them quickly first. The first one was mastering your craft. The second was solving big problems. The third was building your brand. The fourth was getting good at feedback. The fifth was just some advance hacks that I have kind of learned throughout the years that I wanted to kind of give folks as takeaways.

I think it’s worth maybe mentioning that I’m a big believer and I think you and your audience are fans of this too, but I’m just a big believer in really practical advice, so things that are really tactical that someone can immediately go and do themselves straight after listening to this.

That’s how I guess I built out my presentation for Drift conference, that’s how I build out all my presentations regardless of what the topic is because I think there’s so many people that can talk about the fluffy strategy. I really like to kind of marry that with really tactical things that anyone can do right now.

If we get to jump into a few of those, I think some of the things that I try and teach my team at G2 Crowd, and I have a team of about 30 marketers at G2, is that every single person on my team really needs to own a number and it needs to be an important number for the business.

It’s really my job and my leadership team’s job to help those team members actually know what their numbers are and to help them understand how those numbers actually roll out to the bigger business.

An example here might be if you’re a social media marketer and you might have been given a number of “Grow our followers from 10,000 followers to 20,000 followers a year.” A lot of social media marketers will be given a target like that.

It’s a pretty normal kind of thing, “Grow your followers,” and they will never ask for understanding of “Okay, cool. Yeah, I can grow my followers from 10,000 to 20,000, but how is this going to help the business?” A lot of people just do what they’re told and they never kind of stop and question why.

In an ideal world if they asked their boss, their boss would say, “Hey, look, we find for every 10 followers we have, every time we post that increases the number of likes that we get on those posts by 10% and that increases the number of people clicking through then to our site, which helps us drive more leads and MQL. By doubling the followers, we’re doubling the amount of traffic we’re going to get from social referral traffic over the course of the year, which will help us.”

Now, that’s just an example. But that’s, again, helping that social media marketer understand how their follower count ties into traffic count and that traffic count ties into leads and leads ties into MQLs and MQLs ties into sales revenue. I think it’s just really, really crystal important that everyone actually be able to know what their number is and how it rolls out.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of some additional numbers? I’m thinking maybe outside the marketing function, particularly I think a lot of time we think about “Oh man, owning a number, that’s for directors and vice presidents,” in order to sort of own that sort of thing.

But I like it sort of the social media follower count is an example of a number that someone maybe in the first few years of their career might have ownership of. Can you give us some other examples of numbers that aren’t too senior and are different functions?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Everyone in every role can have these numbers. I think that’s the key is to work out what they are.

You might be a junior recruiter and you just joined a company as a recruiting associate and it’s your job to run into these for example, right? Or to maybe source candidates for roles that you’re hiring, whether you’re an intern or whatnot.

The company’s role or the recruiting team might have a goal of say, “We have 50 open roles that we need to get filled by the end of this quarter.” Then they might divvy out all of those jobs across say their recruiters. Regardless of how senior you are or how junior you are, you kind of need to chat with your boss and work out “Okay of that big team number, what portion am I responsible for.”

If you’re really junior maybe you’re not responsible for that high level number, but you might be responsible for a leading metric that ties into that. An example might be-

Pete Mockaitis
Number of applications.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. Number of applications or the number of calls that you run with people or the number of kind of approved candidates that you hand through to the recruiting manager or anything like that. If you’re a BDR, so business development rep, your numbers might be the number of calls you do a day, the number of meetings you set for sales.

I’m just trying to think on the fly what different roles are in our team. If you’re in accounting and you’re a junior in the team, the accounting team’s metric might be, “Hey, we need to close out all of our invoices by the end of the month and get payment on 90% of them.”

You might have a metric of “Okay, I’m going to send three emails over the course of four weeks before the accounting payments are due so that we increase the number of people that pay us.” I would be monitoring “Okay, last month 80% of people paid us on time. Let’s change it and do a few more activities to try and get 85% this month and then 90%.”

It doesn’t really matter. There’s a number that you can apply and connect to everything. I think that really connects in with kind of the second big kind of core thing that I talked about with regard to mastering their craft and that was reverse engineering your funnel.

We just talked through some funnels then, like the number of people that apply for a job, the number of people that then do interviews, the number of those interviews that make it through to stage one, two, and three, and then other people you hire. Everyone has a funnel in every element of the business.

What I think most people don’t do a good job of is actually knowing what are the average conversion rates for my funnel and then working backwards. Let’s say your boss says, “For next month, hey little Jesse who does recruiting or is our recruiting intern, next month you need to generate five times as many people into jobs.”

Then when you would say, “Okay, well if I need to generate five times as many job fillings, then I probably need to run through five times as many different LinkedIn profiles at the top of the funnel.”

I kind of gave a lot of different examples of how you can think about reverse engineering your funnel, whether you’re an email marketer or a PR person or a sales rep. Everything can be reverse engineered. That’s just one of those tactics that not enough people in business do.

It sets them up for failure by not doing that because you might be trying to achieve something, like that 50 different heads to fill in a month might be really unrealistic, but you’ll just accept it and go after it and then you’ll fail.

But if you would have reversed engineered from the get go, you might able to then say to your boss, “Hey, I just ran the numbers for this and if we want to hit that number, we’re going to do 5X the number of applications. How are we going to get that? We might need help.” Does that kind of make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. What’s really nifty is – I’m taking a look at your funnels right now, and, I’m curious, you’ve sort of laid them out in the world of the email and PR and social media. How would you recommend – what would be some good sources that we might go to in order to identify what are some appropriate benchmark ratios in other fields?

Ryan Bonnici
I’m a big believer in there’s no such thing accurate benchmarks

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
Just because I think every single business is different. Every single role is different. If you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to recruit C-level executives, that’s going to take a lot longer. The funnel is going to be very different to if you’re trying to recruit junior entry level positions. If we change industries and look at a finance executive versus a marketing exec, it might be different again.

Those funnels in my deck that I ran through are more so kind of the methodology for how someone should think about … this for their own business. They would need to input their own metrics and then look at what their conversion rates are for themselves because I think you really just can’t apply standards here because a lot of these funnels, they’re purpose built for very specific things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s interesting if we’re talking about solving big problems here, one big problem could be “Wait a second, we’re converting at half of the rate somewhere that we should. This is broken and it needs to get fixed.”

I’m wondering if you have any intuition on how you might get a sense for if – you can know the way sort of that the ratios have unfolded historically. That’s very helpful in terms of kind of planning out, “All right, well then just how much activity do we need at each of these phases to get our end goal,” so that’s really cool. But I’m wondering further, any pro tips for zeroing in on, “Hm, this part is broken and needs to get fixed.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I definitely think you can zero in once you’ve laid out the numbers for your funnel for whatever it is, whether it’s a recruiting funnel or an email marketing campaign funnel or it’s an anything funnel ultimately. It could even be literally a simple funnel of generating employees completing the monthly net promoter score.

Every month I send out a survey to my team. It asks them a really simple question from one to ten, how happy are you at work? I know if I send four reminder emails to them versus two, I’ll get probably double the amount of people that fill it out at the end of the month.

Regardless of whatever the funnel is that you’re building, I think you need to just map out what are the different activities throughout it and what are the conversion rates. Then you need to start to look at some of the drop-offs.

If it’s that employee net promoter score survey and you’re sending lots of emails and only five percent of people are opening, but then of those people struggling that open you have like 50% of people completing it, then you’d probably say, “Okay, well the message in the email obviously is engaging people because anyone that opens is completing it, but we’re to get people to open it in the first place.”

Then we have to look at is it the time of day that we’re sending it, is it the subject line? What factors could be affecting that? Are we sending it on a busy day when they’re doing other things? That’s really how you then start to work out “Okay, where is my funnel leaking?” is how I would think about it. Where is water falling out of the funnel?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s just sort of the absolute number ratios can give you some hints. Then in some ways I guess you might think for like a cold email, you can be like, “Well, hey, we don’t really expect a whole lot of opens on a totally cold email to strangers.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But, in the context you presented there, it is internal and that might get you thinking about having some sort of benchmark ratio in terms of “Well, hey, when you look at the other emails that get sent around our company, the open rates are triple this. What’s wrong?” It’s like, “Oh.” I think that’s where things get interesting.

Ryan Bonnici
100%, 100%. I think whenever you’re comparing funnels to marketing funnels, which there’s been lots of research done into them and you have a high volume of data that you can look at. Emails is a really easy example. Web traffic conversions is an easy example. Yes, you can definitely find some benchmarks. Again, I don’t know how important I would be leaning on those. I’d still be looking at your own data.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Ryan Bonnici
But once you start to get – most people aren’t marketers. That’s just one role in a company. Once you get out of those roles, the methodology and what I’m trying to help teach people to understand is you should just be reverse engineering whatever it is that you’ve been asked to do to work out how you can most successfully do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I think that within your own data, you can grab some good stuff. It’s like, “Hey, the other emails we sent internally, how do those compare here?” I think that gets really exciting when you discover, “Oh wait, this tiny little thing we’re doing is dumb. Let’s fix it. It turns out we’re using a tiny font that is really hard and obnoxious to look through. Let’s cut that out right away,” and boom, there you have it. It’s pretty thrilling, at least for me.

Ryan Bonnici
Absolutely. I think it’s when you actually stop and actually start to analyze the impact of the different things that you’re doing in a business that things get really interesting.

I find so often that businesses and employees never actually stop and properly analyze their activities to look at the impact. Everyone is running around. Everyone says they’re busy. No doubt they are, but being busy and working on unimportant things is very different than being busy and working on important, critical projects.

An example that I can think of that comes to mind from when I joined G2 Crowd is I noticed when I first joined that the company placed a lot of emphasis on having every employee do social sharing of content that we were creating as a company. Let’s say there was a news article about G2 Crowd or we created our own content, a lot of people would post it to Slack and everyone – every manager would say, “Hey, John, Jesse, everyone, please share this to your social channels. We want to get this news out there.”

I was doing some analysis when I joined and I basically was seeing that there was all of this activity being done. Everyone was taking out people’s time on their team to have them just share content on social. I understood why. Naturally you want to share happy news about your business. That makes your employees feel good. It’s an exciting thing.

But because most people at a company don’t really have many followers on Twitter or on LinkedIn, we were getting a very insignificant amount of net new traffic and engagement on this content purely because most employees are junior, most employees don’t have big networks. No one is clicking on their content.

It was just an interesting thing that I saw when I came in and I noticed wow, we spend so much time getting everyone to do this and no one has actually stopped and looked at how much traffic does it actually drive for us and it’s driving nothing, so let’s stop wasting everyone’s time. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s great. All right, so you mastered the craft, solving big problems. How does one build a brand?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah. I think this is a really interesting one that a lot of people sort of don’t really think enough about. I think to build your own personal brand at work is really, really key because that personal brand that you build, it doesn’t just help you today and in the future, it helps the company that you’re working for.

I always try and preface this hack or this tip with people on the basis of there’s no point trying to build a strong personal brand if you don’t actually have a unique point of view because if you don’t have a unique point of view, you’re not going to develop a strong brand. You’re just going to be sharing your opinion.

If your opinion isn’t unique or different or interesting or complex or has something unique about it, you’re just adding to the noise. No reason why you maybe shouldn’t do that if you want to and get that out there, but it’s probably not going to give you the effect that you’re hoping for.

I’d say that’s the key thing is to work out what is it that’s a unique angle that you have a unique perspective or insight into that you can share content of authentically. Once you know what that is, I think for people that are junior in their career or even more senior, the easiest place to start is with your company blog.

Most companies are doing content marketing or inbound marketing today, most of those content and inbound marketing teams don’t have enough time to create enough content, so they always welcome someone willing to create some content for the company blog.

My step one recommendation is reach out to your content team or your blogging team or your marketing team, if it’s a team of one, and literally say, “Hey, what’s a topic that you’ve been wanting to write content for on the blog that I maybe could create for you.”

Go ahead, do that, write it really well, have them edit it, and start to get some content up and live on the internet from your company because that’s automatically then starting to help you build your reputation and build a bit of an online footprint for who you are.

Then what I recommend people do is after they’ve done that a little bit, I’d suggest they start to reach out to maybe very kind of junior or small tier, low tier kind of press and media outlets in their city or in their industry and write a guest post for them.

In my slides – which if you head over to my Twitter account, it’s Twitter.com/RyanBonnici, just my name, you can download the slides that I’m running through because I have some templates … emails that I recommend sending to the editor of the different publications and what my follow-up emails look like.

But basically once you get a piece mentioned in one of those publications, then you reference that. Then you reach out to a tier two publication. Then once you get a few of those published, you mention those and then you reach out to a tier one publication.

I have done this myself over the last few years and worked my way up from small industry press in Sydney that no one in the US would probably know about to then being a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and now more recently I’m writing for The Telegraph and for Harvard Business Review and I think I have a post coming up for MIT’s journal tomorrow.

I’ve only done that through just working my way up and creating content. I wouldn’t have been able to work my way up if a) I didn’t start small, but b) most importantly, I had a unique opinion on different things. I think building your brand is key.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us a bit of an example in terms of what does it look, sound, feel like to have a unique point of view versus just to be everything else. Could you give us a couple examples of “Hey, not unique sounds like this, whereas unique sounds like that?”

Ryan Bonnici
Sure. I mean, look, I did an interview recently for The Telegraph. Basically it was all about how I kind of network on planes. An example of a boring article that The Telegraph wouldn’t have written is if I wrote them a piece of content that said “Here’s what you should do on a plane: go to sleep and watch a movie.” Everyone does that.

Instead I said to them, “Hey, I do something that’s different that no one else does on planes. I have a set of questions that I like to ask my neighbor. I’m good at gauging if they’re interested or not. I work out who they are. I research them on LinkedIn if I can see their name from their boarding pass,” blah, blah, blah, a little bit stalky. That’s different. That’s unique. Naturally now they want to write about that.

That was a flight example with regard to networking, but similarly I write a lot about marketing. A boring article that is not unique and no one would write would be an article for me saying digital marketing is important. No marketing industry press is going to publish that because obviously everyone that follows them knows that.

But if I wrote an article about how digital marketing is dying and here are some data points to back that up or digital marketing is transforming and here’s why, etcetera. Now we’re talking about something a little bit more interesting.

A unique angle really comes down to just building out what is the interest with the story and are you sharing something that’s new that people don’t know or is a different take on something.

If you look at the way Trump does media, he’s obviously very good at trying to have a unique angles for things that are very different, very I guess confrontational. That’s kind of a big part of what hooks press and gets them interested. You need to try and adapt that in the same way if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think in many ways it’s almost like you know it when you see it at the onset. It’s almost sort of just refusing to write something just because you should, like, “Oh, I write a blog post every month,” as opposed to, “Oh, now that’s something. Okay.”

Ryan Bonnici
Totally. Exactly. I take – throughout – I didn’t have a regular cadence because just to exactly your point, these ideas come up throughout the day, throughout the week. I find the best way to start for people that are new to this that are still trying to get their heads around what’s their unique angle is I always say the best place to start is think about what frustrates you the most at work.

You might do a regular meeting – you might be in a meeting and you might just be frustrated because meetings are always unproductive. That could be a unique angle, like saying, “Hey, most meetings are horribly unproductive and these are the five reasons why they’re unproductive. Here are the three easiest things that you can do right now to make your meetings at work more productive and to help you be better at your job.

Those things are a) require that there’s always an agenda written into the meeting invite, 2) if it doesn’t need to be a brainstorm and they’re just sharing content, it doesn’t need to be a meeting, and 3) blah.” That could be one example of the way you kind of find an idea through that frustration at work.

Or you might just have a regular meeting where you’re told in that meeting, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. You have a good viewpoint on this topic.” Whatever that topic might be, you then need to kind of quantify and kind of build out what that view is outside of just an opinion and formalize it and share it with people.

If we use just my presentation form HYPERGROWTH last week, I’ve been told by lots of people that I’ve moved up in my career pretty quickly to become a CMO by 30. I just thought about what has made me successful. That was what I got to kind of these five kind of key things that work for me.

A lot of that came from me just reflecting and working out what actually was it. What are some things that I do that most people don’t do? I think everyone can do that for their own domain, their own part of the business or their own skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that that that when it comes to the frustration, it means it’s resonating for you in the sense that your frustration kind of equals something is happening and it’s wrong.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. If you’re getting frustrated, then other people probably are too in those similar situations. You know you’ve got a hook, an interesting topic that’s going to be relevant most likely.

Then I think the next step is – this actually ties funnily enough really nicely into my fourth tip that is like get good at feedback is one thing that I always try and teach my team is it’s one thing to get frustrated with something, but if you’re just getting frustrated and you’re complaining, you’re not doing your job. You’re failing and you should be fired.

Great employees and people that get good at their career and move up is they give very good constructive feedback.

Instead of someone being frustrated because the meeting is unproductive, a really amazing employee would say – they might send an email around to everyone after the meeting and say, “Hey gang, I’ve been thinking about the agenda for our regular weekly meetings and I wanted to put together a potential draft agenda that we can use moving forward that I used maybe with a previous team that worked really, really well. Here is the agenda that I was thinking. What do people thing? Should we try this? Would it be worth doing or not?”

I’ve been in those meetings before where someone on my team has stepped up and been a leader and actually created a new agenda. It’s been brilliant.

A) that’s kind of a little bit of a meta example, but being able to kind of pull yourself out of the frustration and work out what could be done to fix it and then to drive that change is really key to moving up in your career and being a leader and just key for life really.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so that’s part of the feedback equation is delivering it, stepping up, finding some actionable improvement nuggets and courageously putting it forth in a kind of an appropriate, diplomatic way. How about on the receiving feedback side of things?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I’d say this is probably where most people struggle. Everyone says they want feedback, but it’s like until they get it about something that they weren’t expecting it for that they really struggle to accept it and then they push back and then it defeats the purpose because the person giving you feedback now can see that you’re defensive and just breaks the relationship down.

The first thing that I like to try and help my team kind of be more aware of is that when someone’s giving you feedback, you need to remember that they’re taking a risk in giving you feedback because people typically don’t like to receive feedback, but feedback is the only way we grow. We need to kind of a) remember that, but b) just like stop the first reaction that you have.

The first reaction that 99.9% of people have is to disagree or to give an example for why you did that or just to start to rationalize what happened. I think what people don’t realize is whoever is often giving the feedback doesn’t really care for why you’re doing it. They probably already know why themselves, but they’re giving it to you just so that you can be clear that this is something that needs to be improved on.

Let’s say as an example you give someone – someone gives you feedback that “Hey, you talked to fast in that meeting and that made it hard for people to follow, which meant that people left the meeting without really understanding what the goal of the meeting was.” A typical person might say, “Well, I had to rush because we had limited time.”

That’s not the point. The point isn’t that you had limited time. The point is that “Well, because you rushed because there was limited time, now the message was lost. The people don’t know what it is.”

Instead of refuting the feedback and arguing with it, the lesson there is “Oh, great. Thanks so much for that feedback, boss. What I might do next time is that if I see that we’re running out of time, I might just say ‘Hey guys, let’s take the 20 minutes back in your day and I’m going to schedule a new meeting to run through what I was going to run you through because we need more time.’” That’s how you respond in a proactive way and you learn from something.

Anyway, back on track, first thing to do I guess is stop that reaction. The second thing I recommend people do is remember that you asked for feedback. Feedback is something that you want. Third or fourth thing is just to say thank you. Thank the person for the feedback.

If it’s complex feedback that you really need time to deconstruct, then I always recommend my team just say to the person, “Hey, I really appreciate your feedback. I’ve taken down notes,” and actually write them down, say, “Hey, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to get back to you maybe tomorrow because I would love to really digest this info and get back to you with a full response. I hope that’s okay.”

No one’s going to say to you, “No, it’s not okay. You need to respond to my feedback immediately right now.” That will give you time to cool down, to think about it more properly and to realize that actually this is helpful, this is good.

Once you start to get into the good habit of doing that, a few ways I recommend people get better at this and get better at getting more feedback so they grow faster in their careers is just telling them that they need to ask for feedback regularly.

Some of my best employees, after every single one of our one-on-ones, they’ll just say to me, “Hey Ryan, thanks for this. This is really helpful today. What’s one more thing that you would like to see me doing more or less of?” Notice the open ended question there.

I’d say, “I can’t think of anything this week. You’ve done a really good job.” Or I might say, “Hey, yeah, you did this thing really well this week, although I felt like when you did this thing it kind of slowed you down and maybe next time you can do this.” Just teaching team members to not be afraid to ask for feedback is key.

Even if you’re meeting with like an executive or you’re in the elevator with the boss or someone more senior, maybe don’t ask them for feedback on yourself because they probably don’t know who you are or they probably haven’t been working really closely with you and so they can’t give you really helpful feedback.

But for those sorts of people what I would recommend asking is saying something to them like, “Hey, you obviously have an amazing leadership team. I’m curious when you’re building that leadership team, what qualities do you look for in those leaders or what are your best direct reports, what do they differently than everyone else?” At least that way now you can get insight from an executive that maybe can’t give you specific feedback. Does that make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. What you said about that – just note that the person who is give you feedback is taking a risk is excellent in terms of reframing the whole thing because your first reaction indeed can be like, “That jerk. Oh, spare me. Does this guy have a clue,” whatever, insert the defensive reaction or whatever as opposed to note that – unless of course, there’s a few sociopaths out there.

But for the most part, for the most part, when someone shares an observation about how you could improve, that is a kind act. I went to a leadership conference, it was called LeaderShape. They said feedback is love. I thought that was well said.

It’s a kind gesture. It does require risk because the person on the other end may very well think less of you for having provided it. If you start there, that just kind of puts you in I think a much more receptive place like, “This person cares enough about me to take the risk that I’m going to be mad at them. That’s pretty cool even if I don’t really like or agree with what they’re saying to me right now. I’m going to chew on it a little more.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly. Trying to think I think about the intentions behind the feedback is key. If it’s feedback that’s coming from your direct boss, out of everyone that gives you feedback, that’s the one person that you just shouldn’t push back on most likely because they know you intimately, they probably work with you very closely. If they’re giving you feedback, they’re only giving you feedback to try and help you, otherwise what’s the point?

But I’d say if you get feedback from someone else in the business and you disagree with it or something like that, maybe you chat with your boss about it. But also at the same time, I still don’t think you change the way you respond to it. I think the response is still, “Hey, thanks so much for that feedback. I really appreciate it. I’ll be sure to think about that and think about how I can respond differently next time.”

Whether or not you actually do it or not if you think it’s a load of crap, doesn’t matter. The way you respond is key. If you respond in a defensive way, you’re basically kind of voiding that relationship growth opportunity with that person.

If you respond in a really good way, regardless of whether you actually implement the feedback or not, you kind of by doing so showing and telling the person that you’re benefiting from the feedback and it was helpful. That will only help you in terms of your relationship with them and what’s the point in calling out to them that their feedback sucks or it’s inaccurate. Is it going to really help you? Sometimes you have to think about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And just that notion that if you make it really difficult, they’re like, “All right, not worth it. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and not share any useful tips in the future.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, Exactly. Then that person might also think that you disagree with them or now you don’t like them because they took that risk and gave you that feedback or a bunch of different things. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of how I think about that.

Then I think to wrap it up, I guess, Pete, with my presentation where I then went to kind of towards the end was really I wanted people to better understand what are some really small hacks that you can do really quickly. One of the things that I mentioned was helping people grow their network.

Something that I always do on LinkedIn and some people will probably disagree and don’t think this is the best strategy, but it works for me and I’m a big fan is whenever someone kind of looks at my profile on LinkedIn, I always add them to my network.

I just basically on my commute home or if I’m on the boss or if I’m doing – I’m bored and I’m somewhere, I’ll open up LinkedIn and I’ll just look at who has looked at my profile. Every single person that looked at my profile that I’m not connected with, I just tap the Connect button on them. All of those people always connect with you because they’re looked at you first.

Pete Mockaitis
They started it.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. They started it and they were interested in you.

The reason why that’s important is it helps you grow your network so the next time you change jobs or you share an article about yourself on LinkedIn or share anything, there’s more eyeballs that can potentially see your posts to then help like it and help perpetuate more people seeing it. That’s one thing I always recommend.

That’s worked well for me to the point where now I think I have something like 33,000 followers and connections on LinkedIn. …

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a particular message that you send them when you click, like “Hey, saw you looking at me,” or what is it?

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t send anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t have time for that to be honest. Also, if that – yeah, some people do that and I think if you have the time to send a message, awesome, more power to you. I just haven’t gone down that path.

That would be the one thing I recommend. The other thing with regard to LinkedIn is what I’ve always done in my career is I always kind of work out what’s the company that I want to work for next. What I’ll do is I will basically do a search on the LinkedIn app and I’ll search maybe recruiter and then I’ll tag the companies that I want to work for.

Let’s say if you want to work at Facebook and Amazon and Snapchat, you would search for recruiter. Then you would search those companies in LinkedIn. Then I would then tap on the plus to all those people.

Now, what that’s doing is a) recruiters never say no to people that add them on LinkedIn because naturally their network is what makes them good at their job. The bigger the network, the better they are typically. They’ll always accept.

But the other great thing is not only have they accepted and you’ll probably get their email address and potentially their phone number through their LinkedIn profile, but they will now also be seeing your content.

As you do that tactic I mentioned about building your personal brand, where you’re creating that unique content for your company blog and for other articles, when you start to share that on LinkedIn, you’ll start to become more known as a thought-leader in whatever your space is.

Now recruiters that might in the future see you and recruit you for a job will start to recognize your name and know that you’re good at marketing or accounting or recruiting or whatever it is that you do. That’s just a very easy way to build your network.

That’s helped me now get to the point where I probably receive three to five different in-mails a day maybe on a good day from recruiters offering me board roles or interesting CMO roles at different companies. I don’t need to engage with them if I don’t want to, but it’s nice knowing that there’s options available if the time should ever arise where I need that.

There, yeah, I think it would be kind of broad set of really – some of those lessons that I think I’ve learned, Pete, over the last decade or so of my career. As you kind of mentioned as we’ve been talking about, I just think there’s so many things that you can do in your career to help you move faster and by doing so it helps your company move faster.

I think those two can always be aligned. That’s really the sweet spot. You shouldn’t be doing stuff that’s just good for your company and not good for you, like try and do stuff that’s good for both sides.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Gosh, no, I think that’s good background. For anyone that wants to connect with me obviously, my details I’m sure are listed in the podcast. Feel free to just search my name online. I’m very accessible via any social network really.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ryan Bonnici
I think something that I find really inspiring is just leaders that aren’t afraid to fill leadership voids. I don’t know if this is necessarily like a quote, but it could be.

I think of businesses as just being these organizations with holes within them kind of like Swiss cheese. I think a really strong leader starts to see those different deficits in a business and isn’t afraid sometimes to actually fill the gap and maybe step on someone’s toes that wasn’t filling the gap, which would have been filling the gap.

I think that’s been something that’s been an important thing that’s helped me grow in my career. It’s not easy to always do, but it’s worked for me. I’d say filling the leadership voids within the business is the fastest way to move up in a business and drive impact in the business would maybe by my self-created quote right now on the fly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. How about a favorite book?

Ryan Bonnici
The first one that I’d say probably, let’s focus on business, but I think there’s impacts that to me from a business perspective is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Absolutely love it. I think it’s a really good book. I try and reread it at least once a year if not more than that.

But it just kind of helps you really focus on what you can do right now and what’s important in the moment. Really good book I think for folks that sometimes suffer with feelings of depression or feelings of anxiety or feelings of trying to always achieve more and need more and not have enough. Really amazing book. Big fan of mindfulness and all of Eckhart Tolle’s work.

Maybe the other book that’s a bit more business focused is a book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott that I absolutely love. Kim published the book I want to say last year, maybe early 2017. It’s all about basically how to give you feedback to your employees so that you challenge them really directly, but while at the same time they know that you really care about them personally. That’s helped me I think become a better leader, but I’m always trying to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We had Kim on the show. It’s definitely powerful stuff.

Ryan Bonnici
Oh, fantastic.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite tool. There’s a ton. I’m a massive fan of HubSpot as a marketer, so HubSpot would probably be my favorite marketing tool. Then Asana would probably be my favorite productivity tool, like my whole team, our whole company actually at G2 Crowd, runs HubSpot for marketing and Asana for productivity and task management, so massive fan of Asana. Yeah, love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite habit. It’s kind of this is like a semi-tool slash habit, but I’m a big fan of light therapy actually. I’m a geek when it comes to bio-hacking and neuro-hacking.

For anyone that’s interested in trying to have more energy in the daytime or to work better throughout the nighttime or better attention, I tell them – I use a device called the Joovv, J-O-O-V-V.com. It’s basically kind of like this wall unit that hangs from a door. It’s got red lights and infrared lights on it. I will literally every morning and every night stand in front of it for ten minutes.

It’s good for resetting circadian rhythms. It’s really good for your skin. It’s good for kind of inflammation in your bones. I’m obsessed with it. Red light therapy/infrared light therapy is my biggest favorite habit knack.

The technical term for what it is for anyone that really wants to geek out, it’s called photo-bio-modulation. There’s a lot of research now coming out of Harvard and MIT that shows the benefits of what near infrared light and red light therapy can do for your brain and for your cells and your mitochondria. That’s probably my big habit and favorite fun thing.

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

Ryan Bonnici
I would say, gosh, the one thing I never see enough of in business is people just really owning their outcomes and committing to their growth. I think I’ve always had to throughout my career, I’ve never been given a promotion just because.

I’ve always – I earned it, but be like earned it and then told my boss that I’ve earned it and said, “Hey, this is what I need. If you want to hold on to me and you want me to keep driving impact in this company, this is what I want.”

I think more people can do that because there’s so many amazing people in business that are driving impact. It’s not that their bosses or their businesses are trying to intentionally overlook them and not give them that raise or that promotion or that new business opportunity. A lot of the time it’s just everyone’s busy and no one sometimes realizes it.

I think my one big thing in addition to kind of what we’ve been talking about all about this is just speak up and if you’re unhappy, tell your boss. If you want a new challenge, tell your boss. If you think that you’re undervalued, tell your boss and frame it in a way in which that it’s not a complaint, but that it’s a constructive thing.

Explain to them how much you love the business and how you want to drive more impact, but you don’t feel like you’re valued. Here’s why and here’s what you need to change. That would be my one big challenge and … for people.

In addition to just follow me on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Snapchat, and all the channels. Feel free to connect with me and share your challenges or your thoughts and feelings with me on this. If you agree/disagree or anything, I really am super sociable and I respond to everyone that messages me assuming they message me with nice messages that are constructive.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck at G Crowd and all you’re up to.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much Pete, really appreciate your time. Thanks everyone for listening.

329: Asking Courageous Questions with Dusty Staub

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Dusty Staub says: "When we don't give people honest, direct feedback... we really failed them. Being nice is definitely not nice."

Dusty Staub shares seven acts of courage and how to apply them wisely to your work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three biggest lacks of courage in the workplace
  2. The problem with being nice
  3. Finding and liberating others’ purpose, passion, and power

 

About Dusty

Robert “Dusty” Staub has worked for over 30 years with executives, families, and communities as well as with private and public companies. He has trained and coached executives and teams in creating high performance outcomes. Dusty has been a pioneer in the process of creating systemic accountability by aligning leadership and group behaviors with strategy to produce bottom-line results.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dusty Staub Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Dusty, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Dusty Staub
Pete, it’s my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us first and foremost orientation to this Dusty nickname? Where did it come from and how has it stuck?

Dusty Staub
Well, my father was Robert Earl Staub. He was a – had a full scholarship to Notre Dame playing football in 1942 out of Canton High School. He didn’t go. He went and fought in World War II. His nickname in high school was Blood and Guts Staub. Working as a paratrooper for 26 years in the military, he became even tougher.

When I was born, there was only one Bob Staub and that was him, but I was named Robert Earl Staub II. Staub is a German word that means dust, so when I was one day old, my dad didn’t want me to be called Little Bobby, so he nicknamed me Dusty.

I’ve been known by Dusty, except by the nuns in parochial school who refused because there’s no saint Dusty. When they called me Robert I wouldn’t respond, so I had more than one ruler cracked across my knuckles over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh gracious. I’m wondering, surely there’s a saint somewhere that – of the dusty roads or travels or hospitality for cleaning people’s feet. I don’t know. Somewhere I wonder, but who knows, they may or may not have been receptive to your counteroffer at the time.

Well that’s cool. I’m also curious, did your dad want you to have the family name, but also differentiation in the household is that he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too?

Dusty Staub
Yes, he did. He named me after himself. He didn’t like junior either, so he made it the second because he didn’t like junior. He wanted me to be different than he was and unfortunately, for both of us, I was very different. He and I had – like two rams crashing heads with each other for the first 28 years of my life until I had an awakening and transformed the relationship by changing the way I dealt with him.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Does this have to do with courage or is this a whole other area of expertise of yours?

Dusty Staub
Well, no, that’s actually where – I was working at the VA hospital. I did a TEDx talk on this called Developing the Cardiovascular System of Your Soul. I was working with a veteran and his family as this veteran was declining. I worked with him for about six weeks. I was at his bedside when he took his last breath. I was providing a psychological consult.

When he died, I realized that if that was my father in that bed, because he was the same age, that I could not have said to that man what the daughter said to her father. I realized that at some point my dad was going to die or I was going to die and we were in a hellish position for each other.

That’s where the acts of courage were born, the courage to look in the mirror and see the way I was acting, the courage to dream of a different way of being, the courage to be confronted by my father, and the courage to confront myself, and the courage to be more vulnerable and open, etcetera.

Seven different acts of courage were required for me to transform myself. In the nine months of work I was free. Then two years later my father changed. He became the dad I always wanted. Somehow in changing myself and my way of relating to him, it changed his way of responding and relating to me. It’s not funny when you think about system dynamics, but it was a revelation to me at the time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful and powerful and so we’re hearing courage being transformational in personal relationships. I’d also like to hear how this is powerful in the work environment.

Dusty Staub
Well, yeah, because most of my work in the past 35 years has been in corporations, for profit, not for profit, across all segments of US industry. I keep seeing in organizations where a lack of courage at senior leadership levels, as well as down through the ranks, but speaking of senior leaders where it leads to problems.

Two of the biggest lacks of courage occurs most often in corporate America is a lack of the courage to be confronted, number one, so people get antsy, they shut people down.

When somebody comes to give you bad feedback or give you criticism, Pete, in your organization, they’re inviting you to join a conversation that’s been going on for a while. If you shut them down, they just go back underground behind your back and it redoubles and then you get blindsided, which is never good.

Then the second lack of courage is the courage to confront to tell truth to power, to a colleague, to a powerful subordinate, to a superior. People don’t tell their truths. People don’t understand what’s going on because they lack the courage to be confronted and there’s a lot of issues there. Those are the two big ones.

I guess the third one I see is often a lack of the courage to be vulnerable, to be open, to admit I don’t know, to raise my hand and say I need help. Those three acts of courage are really critical if you want to be a good leader and if you want to have a sustainable performance in your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, yeah, that’s clear. That’s big. I love that perspective in terms of it’s the conversations going on underground and then you’re sort of being invited to participate in it is what’s really going on there, which is a beautiful reframe in terms of instead of being defensive, to embrace it.

We had Kim Scott, who wrote the book Radical Candor, on the show earlier talk about how she sort of had an ah-ha moment when she had to fire somebody and he was like, “How come nobody ever told me this?” She’s like, “Oh yeah, we weren’t doing him any favors at all, were we, by trying to be too nice and polite and dancing around the issue at hand that needed to be addressed.”

Dusty Staub
Yeah, what I would say is people get addicted to being nice and being pleasant. They’re not protecting the other person; they’re protecting themselves from the emotional reaction, from feeling like a bad guy or a bad gal. When we don’t give people honest, direct feedback, corrective feedback, as well as encouragement, we really failed them. Being nice is definitely not nice.

I live in the South and down in the South – in New York if someone doesn’t like you, it’s a nice big FU. Down in the South it’s bless your little heart. Add the little into the heart and that’s an FU in the South.

It’s a – I do a lot of work internationally and my German clients tell me, they say, “Americans, you can’t trust them.” They said, “They’re not reliable.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, they say what they think you want to hear and they will say yes when they haven’t really committed and then they don’t follow through.”

I think that’s, again, we want to be pleasant, we want to be liked, we’re saying yes, but we’re not really thinking it through. We’re not saying, “You know? I can’t say yes to that. Here’s why. Let’s talk it through further.” Instead of going deeper or being more honest in our dialogue and conversations, we are polite and nice and we therefore fail the individual, the team, the organization, and it really damages careers. It really damages performance.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re talking about courage a lot. I’d love it if maybe you could share some of the disguises or packaging or lies or excuses or rationalizations we use when we’re really just frankly, not courageous and that’s really what’s going on. It like we’re really scared, but it gets dressed up or rationalized in some prettier terms that we use to ourselves.

Dusty Staub
One of the biggest rationalizations – but the way, rationalize is a rational lie.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Tweet it.

Dusty Staub
When we rationally lie to ourselves – and there are psychological mechanisms. I talk about this in my second book, The Seven Acts of Courage. I talk about the defensive mechanisms of denial, of projection, of blame, of rationalization.

We rationalize, “I don’t want to hurt Dusty’s feelings.” “I don’t want to rock the boat. Things are okay.” “I can work around this. We can just work around this person. This person has been with me a long time. Yeah, it’s in over their head, but we can carry them.” There’s all kinds of rational lies that people tell themselves. They’ll even say, “You know what? Well, that person’s just mad at me. That’s not really true.”

We do 360 feedback. We gather data from multiple sources, 8, 9, 10, 12 people around an individual. People are shocked sometimes at the themes around the critical things they need to change. It’s because they’ve been hearing it from one or two people, but when they see it as a theme from five or six people all at once, it’s inescapable and then it hurts their feelings.

One of the things, Pete, I believe is that – my father said this to me. I came home from graduate school and my dad had left the military and started his own business. He said, “Son, these damn civilians.” I said, “Dad, what did the damn civilians do now?”

He said, “Son, if they were in the military, we’d shoot them. They don’t tell you the truth. They talk behind your back. When you give them a chance to tell you what’s going on, they won’t tell you. When you try to tell them, they get defensive.” He said, “They let their emotions run them.”

I said, “Well, dad, that’s – you’re calling that amateur. What’s a professional?” He says, “Son, a professional is somebody who does what’s required and necessary, not what’s most comfortable, habitual or routine.”

Pete, what I see in so many of the clients we work with and so much when I read the news is people do what’s habitual, what’s routine. They do the personality. Integrity, doing the right thing when things are easy, is not integrity. Doing the right thing when it’s hard, when it’s painful, that’s integrity.

We talk about a lack of integrity in corporate America, lack of integrity in politics right now, well, until people start showing the courage to be confronted, until people start having the courage to tell the truth without laying down judgments. I mean I can tell the truth to somebody in a way where they thank me or I can tell the truth in a way where the person feels judged, belittled and put down.

When I say the courage to confront, it’s the courage to confront with respect and compassion. When you get angry and you think you’re telling your truth, you’re vomiting on somebody, you’re dumping on somebody. That’s not respectful. That’s not respectful confrontation. That’s not the courage to confront.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. Well, so you lay out seven acts of courage progressively, could you walk us through a little bit of sort of each one and how it looks in practice.

Dusty Staub
Sure and interrupt me if I get going too long here. The first act of courage, which I discovered, was the courage to dream and to put forth a dream.

I had a dream that I could have a better relationship with my father, that when I stood at his graveside, there would be no guilt, there would be no shame, there would be no resentment and anger, that I would be at peace with my dad. That was a dream and that was not where we were.

It takes courage to put that dream out there because the world is full of cynics. We have internet trolls. You put a dream out there on the internet, you’re going to have all kinds of people telling you can’t do it, and why you can’t do it, and what’s wrong with you. But there’s never been a statue or a tribute created for a critic. It’s for the creators of the world.

The courage to dream and put the dream out there is the courage to say, “I’d like this.” You might fall flat on your face. I had the dream – I’ve had many dreams and until I put it out there, until I begin to express it and tell other people what I want to create, it doesn’t really become real. I can’t keep it a secret. That’s a big one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so when it comes to the courage to dream, in a way, dreaming seems easy. It’s like, “Hey, you’re just sort of thinking about something.” But what kind of stops that from happening in the first place?

Dusty Staub
Well, there are many people who tell themselves they can’t have it. There’s a wonderful book by Robert Fritz called The Path of Least Resistance. He talks about the creative mindset. In there he lays out stuff that I found to be very true, which is we want something, but we tell ourselves we can’t have it. We listen to that voice and we give up on the dream. The dream is just a pipedream.

But when I say – so I’ll give you an example. When I decided I wanted to change my relationship with my father, I’d always dreamed of a better relationship. I realized that I needed to tell my mom. I needed to tell my friends. I needed to tell my dad I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with him.

I knew my dad was going to laugh at me and be critical. I knew that my mom would be sympathetic. I knew some of my friends were mad at their dads, would think I was just caving in and some of them would be supportive.

But when I put it together and said, “I believe I can create a better relationship. I don’t expect him to change. He won’t change one bit. What I will do is change how I respond and what I do. I’m going to stop being critical. I’m going to stop finding fault. I’m going to stop complaining about him. I’m going to stop yelling at him when he yells at me. I’m going to start working on showing some appreciation for what he’s been through.”

He went through two wars, World War II, Korea. He grew up in the Depression, etcetera, etcetera. By beginning to express that dream and put it out there and make it concrete, until you make it more concrete and you give some scope to it, and you begin to express it, it’s just a pipedream. But that’s – and it takes courage to do that because there’s a big part of us that says, we can never do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Then the second act is to – the courage to see current reality. How does that play out?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, and the reason I have that as the second act is you first need to know where you want to go and start to claim it. Then the second is you have to have the courage to see what’s working for you and working against you.

Again, using my dad and I as an example, just sticking with that image, I had to look in the mirror and see the nasty way I had of reacting to him. I totally justified my behavior based on his behavior.

There’s no justification for bad behavior. I don’t care. The other person can engage in egregious behavior, my behavior is not tied to that. Otherwise I say that I’m just a reactive machine. They push this button, I react. They push that button, I react.  … my father was going to do what he was going to do and I could choose how I was going to respond.

Seeing the current reality is claiming my strengths, claiming my weaknesses, what’s working for me, what’s working against me. Not having a pipedream, somehow my dad is going to be different, but seeing the way it is and seeing how I’m interacting and what’s problematic in the way I interact and seeing that current reality and claiming it.

Some people, Pete, will not claim their strengths because then they’d have to do something with them. Some people lack the courage to claim their weaknesses. They gloss over them because then they would have to own up that there’s something they’re responsible for and they have to do different.

The courage to see current reality is sometimes the courage to see our strengths, but for some people it’s the courage to admit and see weaknesses or gaps.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. Next up, the courage to confront. How does that go?

Dusty Staub
I’ll put it this way. Imagine you have the courage to dream. That’s your guiding star. That’s what you’re going after. The courage to create reality is the ground you stand on. If you don’t know the ground you stand on, you’re not going to be able to move. But to go from current reality to the dream, requires five different acts of courage.

The first act is the courage to confront, the courage to speak your truth, to tell other people what you see, to tell other people what you like and don’t like. It’s finding your voice and finding the power to express your voice without being judgmental or critical or negative. Just saying, “Hey, this is what I see. This is the reality I have. What do you see?” We engage in a dialogue rather than a one-way conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then likewise, there’s the courage to be confronted by the other.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. That’s the fourth act of courage is the courage to be confronted. Some people will dish it out. There are people who have the courage to confront.

Right now I think of our president of the United States. He will put it out there. He doesn’t do it nicely, but he puts it out there. But he lacks the courage to be confronted. If you’re not willing to hear confrontation or differences of opinion, it means you’re going to create extra resistance, you’re going to create more negativity, and you’re going to guarantee you’re going to get blindsided because people will just go underground with it if you have a lot of power or they lack the courage to continue to tell their truth.

The courage to be confronted means I don’t want to be blindsided. It’s like going – crossing the street, a big highway, busy highway, a thoroughfare in New York City, by putting blinders on that are about three feet out. You’re going to get hurt, maybe killed. You want to take the blinders off.

You want to have the courage to be confronted. You want to have the courage to let people tell you things, maybe not always in the nicest way, but from that at least you have more perspective and more information with which to work.

Pete Mockaitis
In this kind of conversational dynamic, you talked about not unloading with anger and what are some other sort of pro tips for engaging in a way that is positive and constructive when you’re going to the difficult territory?

Dusty Staub
Yeah, one of the major tools – we teach two major tools of the ten we teach. One is what we call power questions. Power questions are questions that are Pareto based, the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of the information gives you eighty percent of the value.

They’re also designed to go for root cause. To be most effective in your work, to add value, to grow in your position, to grow in your power as a leader, you want to be able to do root cause analysis and you want to ask value-added questions that are powerful.

For example, you’d say this is an example of “Do you like working here?” Terrible question. Yes or no? “What do you like about working here?” Better question, but still not very valuable. A power question, “What’s the one thing you like most about working here?”

If I’m an employee I go to my boss and I say, “Hey boss, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate, want to make sure I keep on doing? Now what’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest positive difference in my performance in this team?” Then a bonus power question, “Boss, what’s the one thing I can do to either take something off your plate or to help you and this team be more successful?”

By asking those three powerful questions, you gather information from your supervisor, from your peers, from your … – if you’re really brave, go home and ask your spouse, “Hey sweetheart, what’s the one thing I’m doing you most appreciate in our marriage that you want me to make sure I keep on doing? What’s the one thing I could change that would make the biggest difference? What could I do to help you feel more loved and supported in this relationship?”

Then ask follow up questions to uncover and go for a root cause. You hit a root cause, you take care of a dozen symptoms. Poor employee morale, dropping profits, angry customers, poor quality, lack of performance, slow decision making, those are symptoms, they’re not root cause. Poor teamwork, those are symptoms. What’s the root cause? Being able to ask powerful questions.

Then the second tool that goes with that is highly interactive listening, where you follow up on what you’ve heard. You ask follow-up questions. You reflect to show that the person – that you’ve heard them. You check to make sure you really heard them well.

There’s a wonderful quote. I can’t remember who it’s from but I love it. It’s like, “The biggest problem with communication is the perception that it has occurred,” because we all hear what we want to hear.

That courage to be confronted is the courage to listen very carefully, interactively and ask powerful questions. Those two skills alone can transform your perception of you in the workplace because many people are not open to feedback, especially corrective feedback. Many people don’t ask for it.

When you show that you’re willing to ask for the good as well as the not so good, you’re willing to ask for how you can step up and be better and you show that you’re listening and you get into an interactive conversation, your value added, the perception of you as a value added employee, as a value added leader, just really goes up tremendously.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you talked about the power questions that sort of really hit the 80/20 goodness and surface it, then what do some of those follow ups sound like to get to root cause?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. Let’s say I say to you, “Pete, what’s the one thing I could do to make the biggest positive difference in our working relationship?”

You say, “Well, Dusty, if you would start being more proactive. Instead of waiting for me to give you an assignment, look and see what you think needs to happen with our key customers and come to me with some ideas. Don’t wait for me to tell you.”

I’d say, “Okay. Can you give me an example of a time you saw me waiting to be told when you think I could have been proactive?”

You go, “Yeah, two weeks ago with Mr. Jones. When he called in and there was an issue. You’d gotten an email three weeks before that, but I got on the call and I talked to him and as I talked to him I realized there were some things we could do to solve it. When I came to you to ask about it, you had several good ideas. Why didn’t you get on the phone and call him three weeks before after that email to have the conversation with him and come up with the ideas.”

I go, “Oh yeah, okay. That’s great. What would be a question that I could ask of him if I get another email or I see emails like that, what would be some of the questions that you’d want to see me ask? If I could ask only two questions, what would be the best questions from your perspective, from a strategic perspective, Pete?”

“The one question I want you to ask is ‘What’s the one thing we’re doing that makes us most value added to you and what’s the one thing we could add or do different that would make us even more value added, dear customer?’” “Those are great questions. Yeah.”

“I’d like you to start asking those of all of our key customers. I’d like you to start asking that of your teammates. I’d like you to start recording that and about once every four or five weeks, Dusty, I’d really like it if you come in and you give me a down-low on what you’re hearing and what the themes are. That’s where you start being more strategic and proactive.” I go, “Oh, that’s great, Pete. Thank you.”

Right there, you did some coaching and guidance, but I initiated it by asking the follow up questions and being willing to listen and ask for more guidance.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well next up you’ve got the courage to learn and grow. How does this go?

Dusty Staub
Well, that’s a big one. Chris Argyris, a Yale University psychologist, wrote a little book, which talked why is that really smart, successful people start to fail. It’s because they become blinded by their past success. They become – they begin to suffer from something my old boss, Dr. James Noble Farr, called hardening of the categories. The categories get harder as they experience success and they get blinded by that success and they stop learning and growing.

The courage to learn and grow is the willingness to step into ambiguity and the unknown. Most people don’t like ambiguity. They don’t like uncertainty. Yet, when you start something new, when you’re really going down into new territory, it’s going to be uncertain, it’s going to be ambiguous. There’s going to be a lot of fog. You have to be willing to navigate through the fog. That’s one part.

The second piece is – and this is true for a lot of very successful people who start to limit themselves – is you have to give up the addiction to being right. There are two pieces to the courage to learn and grow. The one is to step into ambiguity, the unknown, move through the fear. The second is to give up any addiction or need to be right.

I would rather win. I’d rather find a better way than insist on being right because being right means I’m locked into a cognitive trap. I’m trapped in my old ways and patterns of thinking. It’s what my dad would call being an amateur leader as opposed to a real pro.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Then next up we’ve got the courage to be vulnerable.

Dusty Staub
Yup. And I actually add the words to love. I got the courage to put that in there my – the publisher of the book, the hardback cover of Seven Acts of Courage, was Executive Excellence. My publisher wanted me to take out the courage to be vulnerable. He said, “Executives won’t want that. That’s not good.” But I insisted.

In 1998 the hardcover of Seven Acts came out and … I had the courage to be vulnerable to love. It’s turned out to be one of the most powerful concepts.

In fact Brene Brown did a TED talk that’s gone viral and has millions of views now. She’s talking about vulnerability and the power of vulnerability. Well, I’ve been talking about it since 1998.

For me, the courage to be vulnerable is the willingness to be open. I actually got that term from Max Depree. He wrote a little book called Leadership is An Art. He was the chairman and CEO of the Herman Miller Corporation for 20 years. There were 456th in total sales in the Fortune 500, but number 12 in total return to investors.

In his book he said, “First and foremost the leader must be willing to be vulnerable to the strengths, talents and wild ideas of the people around him.” I was so inspired by that and I realized that that’s exactly what I had to do with my dad to transform myself.

It’s one of the few things that we Americans are really taught. We’re taught to be tough and strong and independent and being vulnerable is weak. Well, being vulnerable takes real strength. It means being open, to raise my hand and say, “I don’t know,” to ask for help, to be willing to be open to new ideas and inputs.

In fact, there can be no real innovation and true passion and creativity until there is the courage to be vulnerable in the corporate ranks and the C-suites, and in the teams and organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, all right. When you say to love, what does that really mean in that context?

Dusty Staub
In a business context it means the courage to really care, the courage to really care.

I worked for a boss who was very opinionated, very stubborn. He was the first founder of the Center for Creative Leadership, Dr. James Noble Farr. He was the head of graduate studies at Columbia University. Brilliant man. A pioneer in leadership thinking.

He was always right, meant all of us were always wrong. Had – being vulnerable and open to him was to admit that I really cared about him. I didn’t like him sometimes, but I really did care about him. I cared very much about our customers. I would call that love, but in business I think it’s showing that you care, that you respect, that you really value other people.

The funny thing is, Pete, I find that – I was … in family therapist many, many years ago. In private practice I found that many, many, men and more than a few women have a fear of being vulnerable, of being hurt and so they block the love. They create the very thing they fear most, which is feeling lonely, isolated and ultimately leaving or being left.

The courage to be vulnerable, to love is vitally important in a relationship. It’s vitally important in business. It’s around that respect, that caring, that sense of letting people know “I need you. I can’t get it done without you.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear, how did that story evolve with you – what was his name, the founder of the Center for Creative Leadership?

Dusty Staub
That was James Noble Farr, Dr. Farr. Well, after being there for two years, he made me Director of Leadership Development. I worked as Director of Leadership Development for three years, created all kinds of programs, and finally I realized I wanted to go off and create my own business.

I want to Jim and I said, “Jim, you and I struggle all the time. Every time a client wants something new and I’m creating something new, you and I fight and argue. I’m actually tired. I think I can go out and do my own thing. I want to give you plenty of notice to leave.”

He appreciated that. I was also the top biller and the top creator of product at the time. He said, “All right, give me two months.” I said, “All right.” Then a week later he came and said, “No, no, go ahead and go, go ahead and go,” because he was afraid other people might want to leave with me I guess.

But I had a three year non-compete, so I couldn’t work with any of the clients, but fortunately AT&T picked us up and a few other clients came in very quickly. It was a real risk. It was really scary, but I tripled my income within the first 15 months and was able to create things the way our clients were asking us rather than trying to always filter it through the thinking of a 70-year-old guy who had things his way.

But Jim and I – I brought him out here to the farm. We did a Christmas party and we gave him a plaque and thanked him because he helped launch this business. I couldn’t be where I am or couldn’t have had all the success without him and his teaching.

He said something really nice to me. He said, “You know Dusty?” He said, “Of all the consultants I’ve worked with over the years, you’ve done more and taken my work further than anybody else and I really appreciate that.” He and I were planning to do some things and then he died from heat stroke at the age of – he was in his early 80s.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man.

Dusty Staub
But it was always that sense of respect and caring even when I needed to leave to start my own business. You can do things like that if you treat others with respect and dignity and you have that willingness to be vulnerable and open.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
The final piece there is the courage to act. What’s behind this?

Dusty Staub
The courage to act is where it all comes together. It’s the seventh act for a reason.

One of the things that I think that you do in this podcast is you help people to really be awesome in their jobs, to really step up and play their game at a higher level.

For me, wisdom and acting, there are people who have the courage to act, but they do it without really thinking. They don’t do good critical thinking. They’re not strategic, so they’re very tactical. There’s lots of activities and they’re acting on lots of activities, but not their highest and best use.

The courage to act without the dream, seeing current reality, confronting and being confronted, learning and growing, and being vulnerable is not going to have as much wisdom or guidance to it. If I act informed by those prior six acts of courage, then I can act with greater wisdom and greater strategic guidance. I might be doing less, but I’m having a far greater impact.

There is a book out now called Essentialism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we had Greg on the show.

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I love Essentialism. Greg’s brilliant. I love it because he – I like him and Daniel Pink, Drive because – and Brene Brown and Simon Sinek because these guys are all talking about stuff I’ve been doing since 1998 in business. They just keep validating me, which is wonderful.

What I love about that is I was asking ‘what’s my highest and best use.’ Looking at all of the things on your plate, all of the things you can say yes to, all of the things you’re being asked to do, the vast majority of them offer minimal value. There’s some that offer tremendous value.

Being able to act informed by those prior six acts of courage, allows you to act in more of an essentialist way saying, “What’s my highest and best use? What’s tied to my dream, tied to my strengths, tied to what I’m willing to address, tied to the information I’m getting from listening to other people carefully and to criticism, to be being vulnerable and open, to learning and growing and stepping into the unknown? What are the things I can do?”

Then reorder your priorities. Reorder your goals and let some of the goals go.” What is it I should stop doing?” is a great question. “What is it I need to start saying no to?” because every no is a strategic yes to something else and every yes is a strategic no to something important like time with my spouse, time with my kids, time to recharge my batteries, time to write my book that I’ve been talking about for 15 years, etcetera, etcetera.

Greg’s concept and his way of looking at things I think is a great gift. It’s a key question. How can I be more strategic and offer greater value. Instead of being hypnotized by activity and being a good guy and always saying yes, I need to be able to say no politely, respectfully because I’m saying yes to something more important.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have any thoughts when it comes to – this courage stuff, it’s inspiring. It gets you going, like, “Yeah, bring it on.” At least that’s how I feel, so thank you. It’s fun. Do you have any tips for bringing in wisdom and prudence to ensure that you are applying this well and not in a way that could be overzealous or problematic.

Dusty Staub
Oh yeah. That’s a great question, by the way. It’s possible somebody could take one or more of the acts of courage and go rushing off thinking, “Oh, this is great,” but they haven’t really thought through the implications. Again, it’s like pick your battle.

The courage to confront means being able to tell your truth, but it doesn’t mean you tell your truth all the time to all people in every situation. You need to say, “All right, is this the right situation?”

An employee who confronts the senior leader in a town hall in front of other people is never going to get a good response. Even if the guy or gal is a great leader, they’re going to feel some defensiveness. The better confrontation or conversation is a one-on-one and done politely and respectfully. Yet some people don’t get the courage up until they can attack somebody in a public setting.

I think being prudently aware of timing, of what am I trying to accomplish. Because you can win a battle, but lose the war. I want to think long-term, what do I want to create, how I want to be seen as value added, what are the ways I need to begin to offer my truth.

And let me stage it because I might not be able to tell all my truth all at once, but what’s the first phase, what’s the next phase, how do I see if people are willing to really hear me, how can I position this. Then also in listening.

People might have three or four things they’re critical of. I might – I’d say, “Pete, of these three or four things that you’re talking about, what’s the one thing – if I could only do one of these – what would make the biggest positive difference?” You’d say, “Well, this one,” because you know. Then I know what I need to work on.

Then I can ask follow-up questions about that one and why it matters and what difference it would make, how we would know, how you would know, how I would know that was actually making a difference. That then unpacks it. That’s that interactive listening with power questions built in.

That means I’m being prudent, I’m doing it with wisdom and information. Because to act without information, to act without guidance, to act without a plan, to act without asking for input and insight and corrective feedback is usually a recipe for disaster.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

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

Dusty Staub
Gosh, I would just say this that I love the idea of helping people be really terrific in their work place, being awesome at their jobs, which really drew me to you, Pete.

What I would say is that I think the essence of it is how do we help liberate the purpose, the passion, and the power of those around us. If I can help people focus on their fundamental why, going to Simon Sinek’s talk, we can focus on the purpose here, the why. If we then then look at how the why informs what we do and how we do it, we’re going to be much more effective.

Now, we focus on purpose. What is it that really turns you on? What is it that really is going to excite you? What’s really going to make a difference? Where are you most passionate? Now, together, focus in a purposeful way on our why or what in doing that which gives us a greatest lift, we’re going to really liberate our power collectively.

There’s a term that I coined a number of years ago. I call it the effective intelligence of an organization. One of the things we focus on is multiplying the effective intelligence of an organization by getting people to focus on these fundamentals and then giving them tools to help them move forward in a more powerful way.

I would say wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, if you can focus on the purpose, if you can then find where the passion lies and how to begin to liberate that – my dad had a great quote, he said, “Son, any damn fool can tell you you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The trick is to get the horse thirsty, then you can’t stop it from drinking.”

What makes someone thirsty? Do you know? What kind of questions do you need to ask to figure that out? Then how can we work together in the most powerful way? Liberating purpose, passion, and power I think is a key.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you.

Dusty Staub
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dusty Staub
Oh, my favorite quote right now is one by Einstein, Albert Einstein. It goes like this, he says, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe everything is a miracle and those who believe nothing is.”

I’m the kind of person, Pete, who believes everything is a miracle: the fact that we exist, that we’re alive, the fact that we can see and we can hear, the fact that I can have this conversation with you in this mysterious technology, my children, the love of my life, my family, beautiful trees here in the forest around me. Everything is a miracle.

I think that when we believe everything is a miracle, we’re open to possibility, we’re open to finding our best self. We’re able to find more and more and continue to grow and discover. If I believe nothing is a miracle, it’s all transactional. It’s all just a series of transactions. You live, you work, you die. I think it’s – the real issue is how deeply have you loved, how fully have you lived, how completely have you been your best self?

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.

Dusty Staub
Oh, you’re welcome.

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

Dusty Staub
Oh gosh, well, Google just released its research on teams. Google hired really smart, bright people. They put these teams together. They had some teams that were outperforming other teams consistently and they were trying to figure out what the difference was. They looked at over 200 factors.

Finally, – this is on the Google site. It’s been listed in several other sites too. Apple News had it. But basically they discovered that when they started looking at the research there were five factors that make for great teams, but the number one factor that outweighed everything else was a sense of psychological safety.

If you think about it in Good to Great they’re talking about the organizations that went from good to great engaged in vigorous intellectual debate that was not personalized, where you have the type five leader, who’s not egotistical, but really looks out at the world in terms of what he or she can contribute to the world and how he or she can engage others as opposed to how everything can make him or her look better.

Vigorous intellectual debate requires a sense of psychological safety. If I feel that I’m going to be ridiculed, made fun of, punished for offering a crazy idea or offering a criticism or putting an idea out there or putting something half-baked or exploring something I’m not so sure of, I’m not going to do it.

You have people holding back, not sharing ideas, people not engaging in vigorous intellectual debate, so you don’t come up what the best answers. You don’t come up – that sense of psychological safety and then structure, and then a sense of effectiveness and feeling valued, those all come in, but the number one factor is psychological safety. I really love that study.

Years ago Becky Langford, who worked at AT&T in PR, told me, she said, “Dusty, you should let everybody know that you create a sense of safe space for people.” I said, “Eh, it’s too touchy feely. It’s going to scare people.” This was back in 1990 but actually I think if I’d done that, the business would probably be ten times bigger because that’s really the key.

When we walk in to do a training, when we walk in to do consulting or coaching, if we can’t create psychological safety, we’re wasting our time. If you don’t have psychological safety on your team, in your organization, you’re never going to be great. You might be good, but you’ll never be great.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Dusty Staub
Oh, well, I love – I would say Daniel Pink’s Drive. Daniel Pink really when I was reading his book, I had tears in my eyes because he was talking about all the research. He did – looking at the last 30 years of research.

He said, “Look, most managers and leaders in corporations are still using understanding of the 1940s and 1950s. They haven’t caught up to modern research. They’re still using extrinsic motivators, the carrot and the stick. Do this, you get this reward. Don’t do this, you get punished.” That only works if you’re making widgets. But when you need complex intellectual task and innovation, you need to have intrinsic motivators.

He identified the three big intrinsic motivators in the first half of the book. The second half is how to actually use them, which is a sense of purpose, being part of something greater which I get to contribute to, that’s intrinsically motivating; a sense of autonomy, some say so in my work week, in my work month, my work years, so I have some say so and some … in there; and a sense of personal mastery that working here I get to grow and develop.

I love that. It just gave more intellectual fire power to the work we do. It also just made sense in terms of what I felt and known since 1990 in writing my own books and my own material.

Then the other book I really like is The Heart’s Code by Dr. Paul Pearsall. Pearsall is a psychologist who works with heart transplant surgeons and cardiologists.

He said that in all of his research, in all of his work, what he’s come to realize that the heart actually carries memories. In heart transplant cases, people’s personalities change. Some of the characteristics of the heart giver, the donor, shows up in the recipient. He tells about five or six amazing stories in the book.

I was in tears throughout that book because I’ve always said look, the essence of being a great leader is that it comes from the tone and quality of your heart. He just really brought that to bear when he talked about that from his own experience and from his own work as a – working with physicians in heart transplants, heart transplant recipients.

Those are two books I really recommend: The Heart’s Code, Dr. Paul Pearsall and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Dusty Staub
Oh, put first things first. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits. I love put first things first. Know what matters most and make sure you do that first, make sure you put that first. What I see so many people do is we will put first things last. We let the trivial few overwhelm us – the trivial many overwhelm us and the important few get lost.

That goes back to Greg’s book on essentialism. Let’s focus on what really matters most, put first things first. Let’s focus on the essentials.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Dusty Staub
Yeah. When I was a young psychotherapist I came to a realization after about three years of private practice that have really carried over into the consulting work in our organization. It’s simply this, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it alone.

No one can do it for you. You’ve got to have the courage to step up and have the dream. See the current reality and confront or be confronted. Learn and grown and be vulnerable and open and to then take action.

No one can do that for you and you can’t do it by yourself. You can’t go off in a cave and make everything right. It’s through interaction. It’s through learning. It’s through listening. It’s through help. It’s through conflict and confrontation, through criticism, through appreciation, through recognition. It’s the interactive nature of us human beings with each other at our best and knowing that the intent is to help us be our best. That really helps.

I would say this, Pete, no one can do it for you and you can’t do it by yourself.

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

Dusty Staub
We actually have two websites. The business-to-business website for corporations and senior leaders and so forth is StaubLeadership.com, www.Staub – S-T-A-U-BLeadership.com. That links to a YouTube channel. There are like 30 YouTube videos of me. There is a – there’s a list of the books and materials, and also the team that works with me is listed all there.

The new website we started last year is for the general public. It’s for teachers, students. It’s for everybody. It’s called www.TheActsOfCourage.com. TheActsOfCourage.com. There are short videos explaining each act of courage with a story about each act. There are interviews with executives and psychologists and business leaders, and entrepreneurs. There are many articles on there. I’ve written articles, interviews I’ve had with people.

I’d recommend people take a look at both of those websites. Then of course I have a TED talk, a TEDx talk, Developing Cardiovascular System of the Soul, which there’s – also people can pick up.

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

Dusty Staub
Yeah. I would say the final challenge I would say is do you have the courage to be your best self, to claim your deepest dream and to face the thing you least want to face because it’s the act of courage that you’ve least developed that will be your Achilles heel, that will keep you limping through life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Dusty, thank you so much for going deep into this good stuff. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I just wish you all the best in all you’re up to.

Dusty Staub
Thank you Pete and thank you for the great work you’re doing. If I can ever be of any help as you work on helping people be awesome at work, just let me know.

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks a lot.

Dusty Staub
It was a great interview. Thank you.