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Influence Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

474: How to Turn Your Boss, Colleagues, and Customers into Superfans with Pat Flynn

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Pat Flynn says: "It's those random little tiny surprises that... make the relationship flourish."

Pat Flynn discusses how to turn anyone into your superfan.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How superfans transform your career
  2. How to create the moments that win superfans
  3. How your ego can kill your blossoming superfandom

About Pat:

Pat Flynn is a father, husband, and entrepreneur who lives and works in San Diego, CA. He owns several successful online businesses and is a professional blogger, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and host of the Smart Passive Income and AskPat podcasts, which have earned a combined total of over 55 million downloads, multiple awards, and features in publications such as The New York Times and Forbes. He is also an advisor to ConvertKit, LeadPages, Teachable, and other companies in the digital marketing arena.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, Sponsor!

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Pat Flynn Interview Transcript

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

Pat Flynn
It’s awesome to be here. Thank you so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Pat, this is just so fun for me. In a way, you’re sort of like the godfather of this podcast because I learned how to podcast from watching your YouTube videos.

Pat Flynn
Hey, thank you for that. That’s cool. I love hearing that. It’s just those videos were created a while back, and to know that people are still getting value from those, and are still taking action, that’s so cool. Thank you so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. And I pointed many a person to them, like, “Okay, so how do I get started?” I was like, “Go watch these. That’s how you get started.”

Pat Flynn
Perfect.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I want to chat with you about how professionals can make, say, their boss, their colleagues, their clients, their direct reports turn into superfans of them at work? And you just wrote the book on Superfans. So, could you orient us to the big idea here?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, so I come from the entrepreneurial space where people are building their own businesses, building their own followings. And as you build a following, you want to have and realize that you understand there’s different kinds of people who are following you. There’s people who have just found you who don’t really know who you are or they’ve just met you, and there are people who are superfans, who will, if you have a business, they will share your business with other people. They’ll become repeat customers. They will defend you from all the trolls and the haters out there without you even knowing these things exist.

Pete Mockaitis
“Back off.”

Pat Flynn
Exactly. And in the workspace, a lot of these tactics very much apply. It’s the same thing whether it’s your employees or your coworkers or your boss, you can become somebody’s favorite. And in the workspace, when that happens, some really cool things happen, you have people that you could rely on, you have people who will come to bat for you, people who will, in the same, defend you if anybody says anything, and you’re going to have a lot more fun too doing that.

It’s all about those experiences that you offer for people. I think we meet so many people in this world, online and offline, it can be hard to realize just the importance of, “Okay, well, how are we keeping up-to-date with this relationship? How are we offering more value over time? How are we making them feel like they’re special and they belong such that, in return, even without asking for it, you will be elevated?” If you’re a business, your brand will be shouted. If you are an employee or work in the workspace, you might have opportunities come your way that wouldn’t have normally come your way.

And so, I think building superfans is really key. And, really, what it means is just, “How can we provide amazing experiences for others so that, in return, we’ll have more opportunities than we even know?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that. You’ve got that down. And I totally resonate and agree with what you’re saying there. And I want to dig into a bit of the how in terms of creating those experiences and the best practices for doing so. But, first, I imagine you’ve got some pretty awesome stories I want to touch upon. Can you give us some examples of just how super some superfans have gotten with regard to their superfandom?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, with me and my brands, Smart Passive Income, I’m pretty well-known in the entrepreneurial space, and I’ve generated a lot of superfans which is really amazing through a long period of time of helping serve these people. A fan is not created the moment a person finds you, right? It’s from the moments you create for them over time.

So, I’ve had people following me for over a decade, and they not only are there to purchase product when I come out with new products, or retweet my tweets when I tweet. But they send me gifts and they, like, I’m staring right here in my office. Somebody hand-painted a Bobblehead of me. It’s really strange. My wife does not like to see it because it’s really weird, and I have like a bigger head than it is my body because it’s a Bobblehead. But somebody took the time to do that.

Another person sent me, they’re from Mexico, and they have gotten a lot of value from my podcasts, they had spent two weeks creating an art piece. And what this art piece was, if you look at it, it looks like a DeLorean from Back to the Future because a lot of people know that I’m a huge fan of Back to the Future but it said, “Pat to the Future.” And when you look up close this thing that’s about two feet wide and one foot tall is made of string on beeswax. It’s like some ancient form of Mexican art that just this person wanted to give back. And it’s just like, “What? This is insane.” And then, of course, for business…isn’t that crazy? Like, I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like it took a long, long time.

Pat Flynn
Yeah. And I’m like, “’Why would you ever…?” And it’s, “Well, because you’ve given so much to me and I value what you have to offer.”

Pete Mockaitis
I just want a coffee in Chicago, that’s all I want.

Pat Flynn
Yeah, exactly. And then there’s other people who, like, I have this book coming out. I’ve had people email me, the moment they heard of this book was coming out, and they’re like, “Pat, I want to buy a hundred copies for me. I don’t even know what it’s about. I just want to help you out.” And I’m like, “This is amazing. This is incredible.”

And then you have the fans who, I come out with my podcast on Wednesdays, and if I’m late, your fans will also be upset if you’re late. Like, “Hey, where is my episode. I need it in my life. This is a part of my routine. Are you okay? Did you die? Like, you’re late with your episode. Are you okay?” It’s just really crazy.

And when we think of fans, we think of usually things like we’re a fan of musicians, we’re a fan of baseball teams, football teams, athletes, actors, actresses, but not for things like business and whatever. My first fan actually was, I remember, her name was Jackie, and this was actually before I started Smart Passive Income, which is where most people know me from now.

This relates to my first online business which was about helping people pass an architectural exam because, my quick story, I got laid off in 2008 from the architectural world. I had my dream job, I lost it, and I ended up surviving by helping people pass a particular exam in the architecture space, and it did really well. And that’s when I created Smart Passive Income to share how all that happened and all the new businesses that I’ve been creating since then.

But I got an email from a woman who had purchased my study guide for this exam, and it was like, I don’t know, four pages long of just how much her life has changed since passing this exam she was thanking me for. And at the end of this email, she’s like, “Pat, I’m a huge fan.” And I was like, “I don’t understand. I just helped you pass an exam.” Like, “Okay, I’ll just waive this off because that’s a weird thing to say.”

But then I noticed that over the next couple of months there were like 25 other customers who came in from the exact same company she was in. I could tell because the end of the email address was the same firm. And what I ended up finding out was that Jackie had gone around and convinced every single person in her firm, her boss included, to make sure to purchase my guide because they were all going to pass that test.

And she could’ve just simply given that guide to everybody individually. It was just an electronic guide, it was an e-book, but she went out of her way to make sure that I got paid back in return. And that’s the cool thing that happens when you build fans in the business. And I can imagine in the workspace something happening that’s very similar.

Let’s say you’re a manager, you can obviously be a manager who’s all in with your work, but maybe you don’t treat your employees in the best light and you’re not going to have employees that are going to bat for you when you really need it, versus if you have fans of yours, in a sense, who are there working for you, I mean, they might come to you on Monday and go, “You know, hey, Pete, I was thinking about this through the weekend. I just spent a little extra time working on this project for you because I thought it’d be helpful for the team.” Like, “Wow, you just stepped out to do something that I didn’t even ask you to do. How amazing is that.”

And this, obviously, applies in relationships too. There’s a section of the book that talks about small little surprises and how important those things are. These things to create superfans, they don’t require a lot of money. It just requires a little bit of time and intention. And if you’re building any kind of relationship, especially with somebody you’re married to, for example, oftentimes it’s those random little tiny surprises that get remembered, and that gets shared, that make the relationship flourish, versus, if you say “I love you” every night before you go to bed, it just becomes routine, it becomes usual, it becomes expected.

It’s the “I love you” at 3:48 p.m. on Tuesday. For no reason, you go into her office, you give her some chocolates, and you just say, “Hey, honey, this is for you because you’re amazing.” And then everybody else in the office goes, “Oh, my gosh, your husband is incredible. I wish my husband was like that.” Like, you’ve just created fans not just with your wife but everybody else in the office too who wishes they had a husband just like you.

Those little tiny moments go a long way. And this is the kind of stuff I talk about in this book. A lot of different strategies that you can pick and choose from, sort of like a recipe book, to allow people to feel like they’ve got an amazing person in you who is going to be there for them and something they can gravitate toward.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Well, let’s talk about some strategies here. You mentioned experiences and surprises. What are some of the top strategies in terms of, let’s say, my criteria or applicability for professionals, and potency of creating superfans, which really just packs a wallop of an impact, and it’s just very doable? Like, “Hey, anybody can do this, and there’s a good bang for the buck if you do. So, go ahead and make some great experiences like these.”

Pat Flynn
Yeah. So, imagine you’ve just had somebody new come into your life and you don’t really know them, they don’t really know you. This is a good opportunity for you to offer some stuff that would allow them to go, “Whoa, I like you. I’m going to follow what you’re up to. I’m going to be there for you. I’m going to go to bat for you.” And that’s kind of what we want. We don’t want it to be the opposite.

And there’s some amazing strategies that work really, really well. Number one, I love to make sure that I’m speaking the same language of the person that I’m speaking to. Now, yes, most of us are speaking English to each other in the United States, but I’m not talking about that kind of language. I’m talking about language as in, “What are the lyrics that that person is going to respond to?”

This takes me back to a story where I did a lot of research on superfans, by the way, mostly with my wife because my wife is a superfan of the Backstreet Boys.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. I followed you for a while. I knew you’d say that.

Pat Flynn
So, you knew this already. And I dug into her story because I knew she was a superfan because she literally has this box of like stuff, like action figures, framed pictures, event concert brochures, and all this stuff. Like, she is a true superfan of the Backstreet Boys. She’s even recently gone to see them now even 30 years later-ish, which is crazy.

But I dug into her story, and I found out that the first time she was really triggered by this band related to something that was happening to her life. She was 15, she had just broken off with her boyfriend, and she was listening to the radio. There was no Spotify or Apple Music or anything like that back then, it was just radio. And she had heard a song that she had heard many times before, but it was this time that when she heard the song, it really made an impact on her. And the reason was because every lyric that they were singing, every word in the song, was speaking to everything that she was literally going through in that moment. It was just like they took the words right out of her head and put it in a song.

And that song was called “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by the Backstreet Boys. And that was the activation trigger. And in business, it’s a very same thing. Even if you have the best solution in the world, you need to present it in a way that a person who would need that solution would understand. And so, if you’re a manager, for example, and you’re trying to train somebody, if you train them as if they already have that knowledge that you have, it’s called the curse of knowledge, sometimes it can be either demeaning the way you might speak to them, sometimes it might seem like they are falling behind, and they’d start to kind of close up in a shell in a little bit.

But if you speak at their level and understand the language they would respond to, and, yes, every person is different, you’re going to have a better chance of moving them and having them sort of pay attention to you, and perhaps even go to you before others because they can go, “Oh, well, Pete understands me because Pete gets me.” And that’s the kind of best kind of feedback you can get. It’s when a person is, you’re speaking to them, they go, “Yeah. Oh, my gosh, yes, you’re absolutely right.” That’s the kind of reaction you want to get when you speak to people. So, using the right lyrics is really important.

And then my other favorite way to sort of activate a person who you have just met is to give them a small quick win. A small quick win. And I’ll tell you a quick story. I don’t know about you, Pete, but I followed a lot of personal finance blogs back in the day. I was subscribed to probably about 40 of them. I was just kind of a personal finance nerd. I wanted to know everything about my 401(k) and 529s and all that stuff, and I followed them all in my RSS Feeds back when RSS Feeds were how we got content in our inboxes.

And there was one particular person, a finance blogger, who I was a little put off by. And I was put off a little bit because of the name of this blog. The name of this blog was called I Will Teach You to be Rich.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ramit wasn’t doing it well.

Pat Flynn
Ramit, yeah. I was just, “Hmm, this guy is a little, I don’t know, pretentious or whatever.” But he had an article posted that I got really interested because the title was “Save 25% on your Cable bill in 15 minutes reading this script.” And I was at lunch at architecture, and I was like, “Okay, I have 15 minutes. What’s the worst that can happen?”

So, I called my cable company, I read the script that Ramit laid out for me, and I was able to save 20% of my cable bill in just about 10 minutes. And it blew me away. I immediately went right into the rest of his content. That was the activation/trigger point for me.

Now, consider that quick win versus what all these other personal finance bloggers were saying. They were saying things like…

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, “Don’t drink lattes for a lot of time.”

Pat Flynn
“Don’t drink latte. Put that $30 into your savings account until you’re 65, and then you can win.” So, “Hmm, who am I going to be more interested in right now? This person who gave me the small quick win.” And if you’re working with others, number one, find out what they need help with. And, number two, surprise them by actually helping them with that even without them asking for it. That’s going to be a small quick win that’s going to get them to trigger and make that sort of connection with you in their life.

And when you need a favor, you’ve already sort of earned the right to ask for that favor when you do that kind of stuff. You’re almost kind of, as my good friend Jordan Harbinger says, “You’re kind of digging the well before you need it. If you need to dig the well when you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you will be dehydrated well before you get to the bottom of that well.

Pat Flynn
Especially when you just have a little pickaxe that you work with, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, no power tools. Well, boy, there’s so much of that that’s resonating in terms of the lyrics. It’s true. I have some odd word choices I’ve been told, and yet when people are using them, I feel connected to them, like, “This guy is cool.” And that also harkens to kind of… we’ve had a couple sort of great copywriters on the program, and that’s sort of the message that they reinforce in terms of, “Join the conversation,” in the person’s head already, and use the words they use.

And if someone refers to their child as an infant, or a baby, or a toddler, or a little one, matching that has resonance especially if it’s more, I think, unique and out there. It’s like, “Oh, yes, you called them little one and, consciously or subconsciously, it’s like we are similar to each other and I like you.”

Pat Flynn
I like that, yes. Somebody once called my kid a little human, and I sort of repeated that back about his baby, I was like, “Oh, okay. So, tell me about your little human.” And then, of course, they smiled and laughed and you get into this conversation, and just like really quickly you’re on the same level, and I love that.

And speaking of kids and little things like that, that’s another strategy for triggering people. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an event before where you’re meeting new people for the first time, and it’s just you always get that surface level sort of conversations, “Hey, what’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?” those kinds of things.

But the moment you find somebody who has had a shared experience that you’ve had, like maybe you’re both parents, or maybe you both went to the same college, or you both recently went on a vacation to Hawaii, or something, you just found that out, like you’re immediately best friends, right? You hang onto that person, you found somebody who’s like you, and you can just already have conversations that you wouldn’t be able to have with others.

And this is why on my podcast, for example, and you know this, at the beginning of every episode that I have, you hear the voice of a guy, his name is John Mele, he reads a little fun fact about me, right? Like, “I was in the marching band, or I’m Sagittarius, or I was born 11 pounds 12 ounces, or whatever.”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s amazing how many it’s been.

Pat Flynn
It’s kind of hard now to find them because I didn’t think I’d get this far in my podcast but we’re almost 400 episodes in, so, yeah. But going back to what I was saying, like I’ll go to a conference, I’ll meet somebody who I’ve never met before, and they immediately go, like, “Tell me about marching band because it was one of the funnest times in my life. Did you have fun with it, too?” Or, somebody is half-Filipino, they’d go, “Pat, dude, tell me about your parents. Like, did you grow up with this? Did you grow up with that? Did you eat a lot of lumpia or pancit?” And it’s just like we’re talking like we’re friends and we just met. And it’s the coolest thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Can you tell me, maybe on the flipside, what are some key things that just kill the vibe, the experience, the superfandom that’s blossoming in a hurry, like, some simple mistakes that too many people make that we should stop making right away?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, if you’re in a conversation, and the spotlight, you’re putting the spotlight on you before you put it on the other person, that’s going to kill any sort of chance you have to have that person begin to start to have interest in you. The trick is, really, and I think I once heard this from a guy named James Schramko, credit to him for this. I don’t know if he came up with this phrase. But it was, “We need to stop trying to be so interesting and start being interested,” right?

So, we always try to go, “Oh, like, look at me, how great I am. Look at all my credentials. This is why we should hang out because, look at me.” No, it should be the other way around. You can get interested in somebody else and, in turn, they will be interested in you. And this is actually how somebody that you may have heard of before, his name is Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, it was really interesting how quickly he came to be when his book came out in 2007. It just became a number one bestseller and everybody was kind of wondering why.

So, I invited him on my podcast, and I found out that he was able to have all these people talk about his book on their blog by going to conferences, so number one, meeting in person. If you just stay online to try and build relationships, it’s going to be a lot harder. So, number one, he went offline, shook hands with people, met people, and was so interested in what they were doing first, that they couldn’t help but ask, “Oh, so, Tim, tell me about what you got going on.” “Oh, I have this book called The 4-Hour Workweek coming out, and it’s coming out here. I’m just trying to get people to find interest in it. I think it’s the new way of doing business moving forward.” “Oh, my gosh, it sounds interesting. Tell me more. Tell me more. Come on my show. Come on my podcast. Come on my blog.”

And that’s how he was able to break through. And I think that’s a good lesson for all of us because when we center that focus on the person who we’re speaking to, the person who we have a relationship with, then it actually comes back to us in a very authentic and organic way.

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

Pat Flynn
Yeah. So, let’s talk about superfandom by being superfan smart. That was dumb, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m okay.

Pat Flynn
The dad jokes sometimes work and they sometimes don’t. But I think another thing that relates to kind of what just happened here, you kind of got to be yourself. If you try to pretend to be like somebody else, then people, yes, maybe they’ll follow you or be interested, but they’re not going to be interested in you. They’re going to be interested in the thing that you portray.

In the online business space, you may have seen these people tout these mansions and these Lamborghinis or Ferraris and they get a big following. But why? Because people are interested in the cars and the money and the mansions but not them. The more you can be yourself the more likely it is you’re going to attract the right kinds of people, and the more likely a person is going to understand you.

And my good friend, Chris Tucker, says, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” And there’s no shame in who you are. Like, I know I’m weird, and that’s okay. My son came home one day from school, and he was crying a little bit because his friend called him weird. And I was like, “Dude, you are weird.” And he was like, “What are you talking about, dad? I don’t want to be weird.” I’m like, “Yes, you do, because that’s what makes you unique and different. If you aren’t weird, you’ll just be average and you’d be lost in the crowd. You’d be just like everybody else. Do you want to be just like everybody else?” And then I was like, “Your sister is weird. Your mom is weird, don’t tell her I said that. But we’re all weird, and that’s what makes us cool.”

Another thing, and I take a lot of inspiration from LEGO. LEGO does an amazing job of mobilizing their fans. They actually were $150 million in debt. No, actually, it was $800 million in debt in 2013. They were just building too many products, they weren’t really paying attention to who’s buying what, they were just creating and creating, and they were losing money, $800 million in debt. And then the CEO came on board who said, “No, we’ve got to shift our focus to fans and give them what they want, get them involved.”

And now they’re worth $150 billion worth more than Mattel and Hasbro alone. And they do a lot of amazing intentional things to mobilize their fans, and these are things that we could do on our lives too. One thing they do is they encourage LEGO fans to meet with each other. So, Pete, do you know what an AFOL is?

Pete Mockaitis
Adult Fan of LEGOs. I learned this once, yes.

Pat Flynn
You’re absolutely right. And what LEGO does is they encourage Adult Fans of LEGOs, who’s a very specific niche group of LEGO fans, to meet with each other, and they do. If you go to Google and you type AFOL meetup, you’re going to see hundreds, if not thousands, of different locations around the world where now Adult Fans of LEGO can come and meet together. And they do tournaments, they build contests, they just get together and talk about the history of LEGO, and they just kind of geek out about it, and it’s amazing. These little meetups, even for little groups, little niche groups in your community, in your workspace, can work really, really well.

I know back in the architecture days that I was in, there were a number of us who really bonded together very well because we love being on the softball team together, right? And it’s just kind of a cliché thing to have like a softball team for your business, but it worked so well to bring those people together and high-fiving each other and rallying and being a part of the team that only enhances the business. And if the business owner, the founder, were to encourage that and even get some really nice jerseys and congratulate the team every once in a while, I mean, what does that do for morale in the space, and to get people excited about not just the softball game but coming back to work to see their teammates, which I can imagine being really cool?

Another thing LEGO does very well is they allow their fans to actually help make decisions. And so, this means giving a little bit of room for involvement in around the people who are in the workspace with you. Well, LEGO does that. I don’t know if you knew this, but there’s a website called LEGO Ideas where any of us, you or me, could build a LEGO creation, we could submit it to LEGO on LEGO IDEAS. And if the community, not LEGO, and if the community of LEGO builders votes it up, then LEGO will actually manufacture that product and you’ll get a royalty and they’ll put your name on it. And how amazing is that to have like other LEGO creators actually help influence the business and where it’s going.

And even a little bit of involvement goes a long way. As I like to say, when people are involved, now they’re invested. And when you can get people involved, they’re going to be invested in you. We’re just scratching the surface here with superfans, but I hope this is encouraging all of you to maybe, even the next time you go to work, to see what little extra you can do to make a person feel like they belong to something, make them feel like they’re involved in something, make them feel like they’re part of something. Give them something to root for and they’ll go to bat for you, like I keep saying.

Pete Mockaitis
That was awesome. Thank you, Pat. And now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, absolutely. “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” This is Henry Ford. And it basically comes down to what you believe in, and what you believe in turning into your reality. If you are trying to attempt to do something and you really don’t believe you can do it, well, you’ll probably not going to be able to do it. it’s only when you believe you can that you’ll actually muster up the courage to get it done. And it’s all about mindset. So, whatever goals you might have in your life, inside of work, outside of work, if you don’t believe it’s possible, then you’ve already lost. You got to believe it.

And sometimes it’s hard to ask every individual to believe these things, which is why it’s so important to connect with others who are going to support you, connect with other people who are going to root for you, which is why building superfans is a great thing too.

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

Pat Flynn
Yeah, I’d point them to my main website at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m also pretty active on Instagram and also on YouTube. You can find me at @PatFlynn. And I don’t know if you’ll have like an affiliate link or something for Superfans, but I’d recommend people go to that to get Superfans if that’s something you’re interested in.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

444: How to Upgrade Your Work Conversations with Stacey Engle

By | Podcasts | 2 Comments

 

 

Stacey Engle says: "If you have emotions around a situation, that's a good thing. That means you care."

Stacey Engle offers pro-tips for engaging in more meaningful conversations at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why pointless conversations are at the root of many business problems
  2. How to have more efficient team meetings
  3. How to handle strong emotions when communicating

About Stacey

As President of Fierce Inc., a global leadership development and training company, Stacey Engle is obsessed with helping Fierce clients stay ahead of the curve. A strong innovator, she’s always connected—to clients, emerging trends and new opportunities. Stacey’s forward-thinking approach to sales and marketing reflects Fierce’s commitment to enriching lives and creating community, one conversation at a time. She relishes her role in bringing people together to have the conversations they most need to have.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stacey Engle Interview Transcript

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

Stacey Engle
Well, thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into this conversation. And I understand you’re excited about showtunes and musicals. What’s the story here?

Stacey Engle
Well, music does move me. There’s a joke in my friend group that if I could have a soundtrack of my life, I would definitely have one. I love music and, yes, I’ve been a part of that board and other boards and efforts with music and theater.

Pete Mockaitis
And are there any particular shows that are really near and dear to your heart, that you sing the songs often?

Stacey Engle
Well, I guess from, just being somewhat stereotypical in the community, when “Hamilton” came out, I was definitely singing full for the music there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, fun. You know, I have yet to see it and I really want to. And I just somehow think I’m somehow going to get a free ticket from someone somewhere but it hasn’t happened yet.

Stacey Engle
You know, I’m all for manifesting in this universe, so maybe one of your listeners can help you out there.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I have received unsolicited gifts from listeners which is appreciated—not that I’m soliciting right now for the record! —but it’s happened before, and I appreciate it each time. So, good stuff there. Well, now, I want to hear about your company Fierce. What’s the main gist of what you’re all about here?

Stacey Engle
Yeah, so we believe that the root cause of most business problems is pointless conversations. So, we are a company, a global training and learning company that helps people really have those conversations that lead to results.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued by the phrase “pointless conversations” right there because I recently had a guest who talked about, in building relationships, it’s great to, as he said, have a thousand conversations about nothing. But they’re not really about nothing. They serve to build the relationships. So, what do you mean by pointless conversations?

Stacey Engle
Well, what we mean is conversations oftentimes people do not realize they’re the most accessible tool that you have going through your day. So, as humans, we’re really navigating our lives one conversation at a time. So, when you aren’t thinking about the intent and the content of your conversations, and also your intention, you’re really missing the mark. And I think we’ve all had the experience of sitting through a meeting that we all knew that we weren’t talking about the real issue, or being with someone and not really feeling like you could share.

Stacey Engle
So, a pointless conversation is one that does not have intention and structure and a goal involved. So, when we think about pointless conversations, think about the team meetings that aren’t really discussing what really needs to be talked about, or the coaching conversation where you’re talking all around the issue. Those are pointless conversations. So, our goal is really to help people talk about what matters in a way that’s skillful, and in a way that’s intentional.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds very important, so I’m excited to have this conversation. And so, your company is called Fierce, and fierce conversations is a phrase you use frequently. In fact, there’s a book associated with it. What do you mean by a fierce conversation?

Stacey Engle
So, the definition is a conversation which you come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.

Pete Mockaitis
Come out of myself.

Stacey Engle
Yes, so coming out from the masks you wear, coming out from all the reasons why you don’t think you can say what needs to be said. Come out from those and make the conversation real. So, there are four objectives of a fierce conversation. One is that you’re interrogating reality. So, this idea of you’re getting curious about what’s going on. Two, you’re provoking learning. So, not just provoking someone else’s learning, you actually want to learn. You’re tackling to have challenges which means not putting off what really needs to be talked about. And then the fourth is enriching relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Gotcha. And so, is it your philosophy that a business conversation should always do one or more of these things?

Stacey Engle
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that.

Stacey Engle
Yes. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. We’re upping the standard here. I’m just imagining a lot of conversations right now and thinking about the extent to which these things occurred. What’s your hunch in terms of the proportion of business conversations that are checking at least one of these boxes?

Stacey Engle
Well, let me back up. So, the goal is that a fierce conversation is really achieving all four of those, so we’re going to learn something new. So, interrogating reality, provoking learning, we’re going to tackle a tough challenge and, what’s most important, is we’re going to enrich the relationship when we’re doing it.

So, that’s kind of the foundation of what is fierce, and that feels very theoretical, but the idea is let’s think of an example of just you’re going into a meeting with an idea. If you want that meeting to be a fierce meeting, you are going to walk in with the intention to get it right for your company, for your team, versus being right.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that. Getting it right for people, stakeholders, as opposed to being right, like, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” or, “I’m validating the idea I had is great and, therefore, I feel smart as a result.”

Stacey Engle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And we had some previous folks associated with the Landmark education draw a distinction between, “Are you more concerned with being right or with things working?” And I found that helpful. And this is even more punchy, I would say, an articulation, being right or doing right for these people, or getting it right for people.

Stacey Engle
Right. Getting it right versus being right. So, that’s a mindset piece. And then there are really skills to make sure that you are really hearing from others, getting curious, because you only have one perspective. And your perspective is one, and it’s not the truth, so your goal in that meeting should be to hear everyone else’s perspectives, and to really provoke learning on everyone’s side, and tackle what we need to tackle. And then, in the end, enrich the relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds like a lot more fun to be than your average business conversation. So, maybe, could you—I want to dig into the how in a moment— but could you perhaps paint a picture in terms of a case study of how a client organization of yours did some stuff, and they saw the conversations become more fierce more frequently and what sort of performance gains they saw as a result?

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. So, one of our near and dear clients, we love them, CHRISTUS Health, they’re a healthcare system comprised of about 230 hospitals and clinics, and they employ over 45,000 people. And, as you know, healthcare is very complex. They found themselves falling into the trap that many organizations face, which is becoming a culture of nice. And associates had really mistaken the value of compassion and the value of service with avoiding difficult conversations.

So, many leaders weren’t giving feedback because they didn’t feel it was compassionate    and they were scared to give that feedback, and nobody was really sharing those insights. And what was at stake there were many associates were not growing at the level that they needed to. So, through discovery, it was determined that a lot of these conversations were missing, and we needed to build this skillset.

So, Fierce was brought in at the leadership level, and we really helped them work proactively on feedback, on coaching, on confrontation, and really building a common language where these tools were accessible, and helping arise potential issues before they formed. So, CHRISTUS Health was able to achieve a 50% reduction in executive turnover.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stacey Engle
Yeah, we like that. A 36% internal promotion increase, so those associates were really developing.

Pete Mockaitis
So, all right. So, the results are there. That’s really cool. Let’s talk about how to do it. So, what are some of sort of the top things that we should start doing or stop doing to see some of these results?

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. Well, so we know six conversations that are often not as powerful as they could be in the workplace. I always like to start with three. One is that team conversation I was referencing. So, this idea of, “How do you have a more compelling team meeting? And is this actually answering more tactics?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there are six kinds of conversations, and so let’s have them.

Stacey Engle
Yes, so there are six kinds of conversations, and the three that I always love to share with our audiences, because we can really, really all relate to these. One is the team conversation, so the idea of, “How do I run a team meeting where people are really engaged and they are laying out reality without pointing blame? And sharing from their perspectives, how can we move forward on this particular opportunity or issue?”

The second is a confrontation conversation. So, this is when you and I know something needs to change. How do we best approach that topic in a way that does those four objectives? So, interrogating reality, provoking learning, tackling a tough challenge. And we actually feel like our relationship is enriched by having that conversation.

And then the third is feedback. So, feedback is a tool that we constantly need to use in our every day. And one of the pitfalls with feedback is many times people write the script of what, of the meaning of the actions. So, for instance, if I see someone talk over someone, I may think to myself, “This person is being rude or doesn’t really respect X person.”

And our feedback conversation is very much about not writing that script, so you stop at behavior, and you would have that conversation with someone, asking them, “What was going on?” versus putting the meaning, and then also what’s at stake attached to those actions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s a really handy tip right there when it comes to the feedback, is to not interpret it for them what that means, and then assume and cause all kinds of problems. So, that’s great there. So, then when it comes to those team conversations and confrontation conversations, what are some key ways to have those go all the better?

Stacey Engle
So, confrontation is all about preparation. We have a 60-second opening statement. So, this idea that you really need to frame the issue or challenge in 60 seconds because the other person, when they’re hearing this, will most likely have a fight or flight reaction, so you want to lay this issue or challenge out in front of the person, and ask and invite the conversation. So, it’s all preparation and confrontation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stacey Engle
So, succinctly, being able to share. And one thing that often gets in our way is we wait, and wait, and wait until it becomes too much. And then we have so many examples of why X needs to change. And the reality is, in an effective confrontation conversation, you’re only using one or two examples.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Stacey Engle
So, you can’t bring in all of your emotional baggage.

Pete Mockaitis
“And another thing…”

Stacey Engle
Exactly. I mean, we call it the dump truck, you know, like, “I’m just going to back up and unleash more and more reasons why this is true,” and it really can curtail that conversation. So, we want to stay succinct, we want to be thoughtful and prepared.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, could you maybe give us an example of a 60-second opening statement?

Stacey Engle
That is a great question. Yes, I can.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
And you must prepare for these conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Taken.

Stacey Engle
So, an example would be, “Pete, I want to talk with you about the affect your leadership style is having on the team.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you.

Stacey Engle
“And I want to share two examples. One, I saw, when you were in that meeting, you rushed out of the room, and you ripped the flipchart off of the paper, and crumpled it up. And you seemed pretty upset. So, that’s one example. Another example is some of your team members have expressed concerns about cancelling your one-on-ones and canceling some of those conversations. So, this is very important, this, your leadership style to the success of the company, and a lot is at stake for both us. The contribution I have to the problem is I might not have brought this up as soon as I should have, and I really want to resolve it and support you. Tell me, from your standpoint, what’s going on?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I like it. So, we got those ingredients there in terms of, “This is what we’re talking about. Here’s a couple examples. This is why it matters. And I’m in the mix as well, it’s not all you, you, you. I’m in there.” And so, then it’s kind of open-ended with your final question. And what was that again? You said, “Tell me what’s going on.”

Stacey Engle
Yeah, “From where you sit, what’s going on for you? Because I want to resolve how your leadership style is affecting the team.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so, “What’s going on for you?” is nice and broad, and it’s not as accusative as, “What’s your problem? Why can’t you get it together?” It’s, “What’s going on for you?” and that could go anywhere from, “Hey, you know what, I’m going through a really rough time with I’ve got two kids, and I’m sleep-deprived, and I get kind of edgy in that kind of situation,” to, “Oh, I had no idea. I guess when I was an investment banker that was fine in that culture.”

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And I would argue that it’s never really fine. So, yes, once you do the 60-second opening statement, your job is to really inquire about your partner’s views, to ask questions and get curious, and really dig in for more understanding. And then, what’s very potent, and when I talked about conversations need to drive results, there needs to be a resolution. So, we need to talk about, “What have we both learned? How are we both going to move forward and make an agreement, and then hold each other accountable to it?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent And so, then how long might that whole conversation take?

Stacey Engle
It can vary and the goal is that you could have this conversation in 30, 45 minutes, even less, if you’re prepared. And it’s really, really powerful once you have this tool, and it is a common language in organizations because, I don’t know, de-stigmatizing confrontation is very important. The reality is we’re going to have challenges, things are not going to go as we wish, and confrontation is actually less needed once you have more of these other conversations like feedback, coaching, team.

So, confrontation is when feedback hasn’t worked. So, it’s not like you should be having confrontation conversations every single day, and there’s not a perfect equation depending on what situations you find yourself in.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. But that’s useful to know that it could be 30 or 45 minutes or less because I think some people fear, it’s like, “Oh, man, we’re going to be getting into it for a half day trouble.”

Stacey Engle
It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
And, you know, it’s often pretty quick.

Stacey Engle
Well, and what I think is something I really like to challenge others is those missing conversations, the ones that you keep saying, “Well, this time it’s distraction, and the music is playing just right, and I have this much time on my schedule,” you keep justifying those missing conversations. Those are the most costly in organizations. They really are, because the reality is everyone understands that people are busy and time-constrained, so you need to be clear about your intention, also your timeframe. So, it’s okay if you only have 45 minutes, and if there needs to be a follow-up conversation, then that’s okay. But the goal is that you begin. Because there’s a lot of justification to not start, and that’s really ineffective.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, that’s pretty handy. Thank you for those. And how about on the team conversation point with regard to being more engaged?

Stacey Engle
So, we have a strong position that you should not have team meetings with so many people that not everyone can participate. So, a team conversation is all about addressing challenges, opportunities, together as a team. So, if this is true, we need every brain cell and every viewpoint necessary to make the best possible decision. So, for team meetings, we are not big proponents of having people who won’t participate be in the meeting. So, we want to hear from every single person. And if you don’t want to hear from that person, then they shouldn’t be invited to the meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I imagine then do some numbers pop up with regard to, “Hey, at this point, you’re at risk for having some non-participators,” if you cross the threshold of, I don’t know, six people who’s there.: Do you have a guideline there?

Stacey Engle
Yeah, so typically say six to 10 would be max. And this isn’t taking into account company-wide meetings and all-hands and communication meetings. We highly endorse those. But this particular team conversation is when we have an opportunity, we have a challenge, and we really, really need to solve something together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s one key tip then is to ensure that it’s not too big, it’s a manageable size, everyone can participate, have a piece of it. Any other tips for how to have great team conversations?

Stacey Engle
So, another tip for a team conversation is preparation as well. So, we make an analogy with a beach ball, so this idea that everyone sits on a different stripe in the beach ball. So, Pete, if you were in marketing and I was in finance, you may be on the red stripe, we don’t like finance being in the red, but let’s pretend. You may be on the red stripe and I may be on the purple stripe, and we may view an issue very, very differently.

And it’s very important that we have facts and preparation beforehand because the team leader needs to come in, and the goal is the team leader has prepped every single person with what the issue is and relevant background information so that that leader can really gain all stripes, like all perspectives. So, that preparation is important, and I just wanted to give that tip around the beach ball because it’s that visual metaphor of really thinking through everyone has a different perspective. And if you are going to walk into a meeting to get it right, not flaunt what you think we should do, you must gain each perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Oh, go ahead.

Stacey Engle
The one other tip is, at the end of the beach ball meeting, the piece that’s super powerful is each participant basically absorbs all the information that has been discussed. And then the task is for each person to say, “If I was the meeting leader, here’s what I would do.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
So, it really is so insightful to gain other people’s insights, not just from their particular perspectives, but also how they have interpreted and how they’ve assimilated all of the perspectives.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great stuff. And I’m liking what you’re saying with regard to just not assuming you’ve got the answers, and be curious in making sure we get all those perspectives there. I’m also curious when it comes to conversations where you do have an intention to persuade, and maybe this is a little bit of external-facing stuff, maybe it’s about sales or something. How do you think about those conversations?

Stacey Engle
Okay. So, our coaching conversation is a great sales tool. It’s all about mining for clarity and helping a coachee or someone you’re wanting to really help surface what the true issues are. And when you want to persuade or you want to connect with people, because I think a lot of persuasion or influence is really connection with a greater purpose or a different path. So, that coaching tool, you know, mining for greater clarity, and being able to surface what’s really going on, is amazing for persuasion and influence.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, because you got the connection and you understand what’s really going on and so you’re able to sort of make the connection all the more clearly associated with this service, or whatever will address this.
Now, you mentioned clarifying, which is something I want to cover because I saw that pop up a number of times on the Fierce website. What are some best practices in terms of asking great clarifying questions and getting to clarity in your conversations?

Stacey Engle
So, we make an analogy in the coaching conversation that questions are really the drill bits when you’re mining for water, and you’ll experience different layers. And the idea is that you want to have a whole cadre of questions that you use in different circumstances. So, when you’re asking, “What’s going on for you?” or something that’s very broad, our tip is to ask, “What else?” three times.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
So, the idea is most of the time when someone is sharing the issue. So, if you open a conversation and say, “What’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?” the first thing they share, it’s often not the real issue. So, you want to help someone clarify for themselves, so asking more questions, asking, “What else? What else? What else?” is a discipline. Because it can be so tempting to give advice and to jump in or ask leading questions, like, “Well, have you ever thought of…?” So, clarifying is really about being intentional and having a practice to say, “What else? What else? What else?”

And then another tip for clarification is just repeating back, which many of us I feel were taught when listening. But the reality is many of us are not great listeners, and having reminders or cues, so if this is an issue for you that you like to jump in or you don’t ask as many questions, it’s great especially if you’re on a video call or a phone call to have a visual cue, to even write on a Post-It note, “What else? What else? What else?” just to remind yourself to really dig deeper.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, we talked about the drill bits analogy, and reminding, and “What else?” I guess I’m imagining “What else?” can often shift us laterally or to the side, but you’re saying, “What else?” can also get you deeper into the given matter.

Stacey Engle
Both.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, “What else?” is one great one. And what else would you recommend in terms of great clarifying questions?

Stacey Engle
Well, sometimes when you ask someone, this happens a lot in meetings, if you ask someone, “Well, what do you think?” sometimes people will say, “I don’t know.” And we really encourage you to say, in not a snarky tone, “What would it be if you did know?” or, “Go there with me for a moment. I really want your input.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I like that because “I don’t know” usually means “I haven’t thought about it,” or, “I’m not yet comfortable telling you what I really think about it.”

Stacey Engle
Exactly. So, that’s a great practice to clarify and also to learn.

Pete Mockaitis
Any other great clarifying questions?

Stacey Engle
I think when you’re helping someone work through an issue, it’s very important to have emotional attachment. And people will really have different reactions and emotions to talking about emotions in the workplace, so questions regarding, “What do you feel about this?”

So, for instance, “When you consider all of these outcomes that are occurring, what do you feel?” That’s so important to ask because we are emotional. We make decisions emotionally and then rationally. Like, we rationalize our emotions. So, asking, “What do you feel?” in situations really can help move an individual and move a situation forward.

And the big clarification there is not saying, “How does this make you feel?” which is a very victimizing spin to that question. You really want to ask, “What do you feel?” because you want to keep accountability for all of the emotions that a person experiences.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. As opposed to the thing is making you feel this way, so it’s just, “What do you feel?”

Stacey Engle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
The response, okay.

Stacey Engle
“What do you feel?” versus, “How does this make you feel?” We always want to put people in positions of power and not victimhood around situations they’re in. So, that phrasing, “How does this make you feel?” is more of a victim statement instead of owning the answer to, “What do you feel?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I like the distinction. It’s very helpful. And I want to talk about emotions here. So, a lot of what makes these conversations tough in the first place are those emotions, you know, you’re scared, you’re angry, you’re confused. These things are there. And so, how do you recommend to sort of, internally with your own personhood and brain and feelings, do what you need to do to have those conversations?

Stacey Engle
Well, the conversation itself is key. Preparation, the idea that you really sit back and frame, “What do I want to accomplish here? What am I trying to say?” and writing it down, or speaking out loud, however you need to work through those emotions or anger or resentment, you need to figure that out. And having tools, like a framework, whether it’s fierce conversations framework or other conversations framework, those tools really help you work through those emotions and give you confidence that all of us need to have these conversations. This is the human experience, and no one is going to die.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Stacey Engle
So, although, we may, because of emotions, our bodies may go there, it may feel like someone may die. But the reality is there are so many marriages that have been saved by having the conversations that need to happen, so many lives and companies, their trajectories completely changed because they had that conversation that really mattered.

And sometimes we can’t even predict what those conversations when they will happen, what those conversations will exactly entail, so that’s why it’s so important to just, if you have emotions around a situation, that’s a good thing. That means you care. That means there’s something at stake. And being able step back and reflect on that, that’s key.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I dig that a lot. So, no one is going to die, we have some comfort there. And, indeed, the conversation can be saving. And we had Kim Scott talk about radical candor earlier on the show, and that’s kind of her story. It’s like, “Oh, boy, if I had this conversation earlier, I wouldn’t have to be firing this person right now.” There’s a lightbulb there associated with the benefit of going there.

So, let’s say, okay, you’ve done your work, you’ve kind of taken some time to think through your goals and maybe a framework, and then you’re just about to step into it. Any sort of pro tips for the presence or the emotional management so that you deliver it well in terms of you’re not kind of angry or timid or kind of anxious and putting out vibes that impede the effect of this conversation?

Stacey Engle
Well, one tip is absolutely to prepare it. That preparation should mean that you’re grounded at least going into the conversation. That’s square one. I think being transparent with the person that this conversation is a hard one for you is important. Oftentimes, we like to just, I don’t know, what’s the phrase, fake it until you make it. There’s a certain level of necessity, I understand, for those scenarios. And when it comes to conversations that are super important and central to your success or central to your happiness, being able to step in, say, “My intention here is to explore this with you. It is not easy for me.”

And when you learn our frameworks, we often encourage leaders. So, for the listeners out there, when you’re trying a new framework, or you’re trying something new, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I’m trying this.” And just that humanity, I think, really can help squash the nerves.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And are there any other kind of magical phrases that you find yourself saying often or you recommend often? We’ve covered a few, like, “What else?” What are some other things that you find can be said frequently and sure are helpful when you say them?

Stacey Engle
Well, from a leadership perspective and even a peer perspective in your career, there can often be times we’re taught as coaches to have checklists and check in with our team members, so, “Are we getting these things done? Have we followed up on these items? Are we investigating something new?” whatever is on your checklist.

Checklists are great. And, in today’s labor market and in today’s current state, it’s very important to not rely only on a checklist. So, one question that we really love is to ask, “Given every single thing that’s on your plate, what is the most important thing you and I should be talking about today?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s good. Any others?

Stacey Engle
Well, oftentimes, there’s a slant to action, which I love. If you do StrengthsFinders, I’m an Activor which means I do like starting things. And one question, instead of saying, “What are next steps?” you can ask, “What is the most potent step you should take?”

So, that sounds very similar, but this idea of helping someone sequence, and say, “Okay, given what we just talked about, what is the first potent step that you need to take or we need to take as a team? And then, what’s next?” So, just helping break down the sequence of that can really be effective. That’s just a tip.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Well, as we wrap up, I’d love to hear, are there some things you recommend not saying, or conversations that ought not to be had?

Stacey Engle
Well, we’d like you to delete “but” from your vocabulary.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stacey Engle
We want to say “and.” So, when you think about the team conversation, or multiple perspectives, the idea is we want to say, “This is true, and this is true, and this is true.” When you use the word “but” it often discredits. So, “I like your idea, but we already looked into that.” Or, “Oh, that’s a great way to think about it, but Stephanie is already doing this.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, yeah.

Stacey Engle
It’s a mental shift. So, really deleting the “but” and replacing it with the “and” is really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And that works frequently as I think about that, “Hey, thanks so much for mentioning that, and Stephanie has already started looking into it.” It’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, I’m encouraged.”

Stacey Engle
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “All right.” And the same point is made, you know, associated with, “All right. So, I don’t have to do anything else because Stephanie is running with it, and I’m feeling better about the exchange.” That’s cool. Well, Stacey, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Stacey Engle
Well, I think oftentimes people will say that they don’t want to have the conversation because it will take too long, or, “We don’t have enough time to have the conversations you’re talking about.” And I just really want to make the case for the quality of conversations versus the quantity. So, this idea that we can be intentional and know that there should be a beginning, and a middle, and an end to a conversation. And that it’s a tool that can get us to the next level in our career. It can shift something for us. That idea, it’s very important to pay attention and engage.

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

Stacey Engle
So, I love Anais Nin’s quote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

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

Stacey Engle
So, I tend to refer more frequently to questions than studies. So, one of my favorite questions is, “Given everything on your plate at this very moment, what’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?” And through that I hear a lot of studies.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

Stacey Engle
A goodie and always a favorite Tribes by Seth Godin.

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

Stacey Engle
So, Headspace. By meditation, having the right mindset is key, and that’s been a challenge for me, so it’s great to have a tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Stacey Engle
Working out every single morning, even if it’s for 15 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with clients and listeners?

Stacey Engle
You get what you tolerate.

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

Stacey Engle
So, our website is FierceInc.com and my handle is @staceyengle.

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

Stacey Engle
I do. My call to action is to write down three people in your life who are central to your success or your happiness and decide what conversation you need to have with them, and by when.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Stacey, thanks so much. I wish you and Fierce all kinds of luck and many meaningful conversations.

Stacey Engle
Thank you, Pete.

397: Making the Shifts Necessary to Grow Your Influence with John C. Maxwell

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John C. Maxwell says: "The greatest detriment to tomorrow's success is today's success."

Renowned leadership author John C. Maxwell discusses how to shift yourself so you can continually grow and influence on a bigger scale.

You’ll Learn:

  1. John’s approach to mentorship
  2. How insecurity kills effective leadership
  3. The ACT method to make the most out of your reflections

About John

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 30 million books in 50 languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazines. He is founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from almost every country of the world. The recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He can be followed at Twitter.com/JohnCMaxwell. For more information about Maxwell, visit JohnMaxwell.com.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

John C. Maxwell Interview Transcript

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

John C Maxwell
Hey, it’s great to be with you Pete and your listeners. We’re going to have a wonderful time. I’m looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh thank you. Well, me too. You’ve been a role model for me for years and years. I’m excited to dig in. First, I kind of wanted to get your take on, you really taught leadership to millions. Can you tell me who taught you the most about leadership and maybe could you share a story of a key lesson that has stuck with you?

John C Maxwell
Well, my father, who’s 97, by the way and still alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

John C Maxwell
I  grew up in a leader’s home. I just watched it. I saw it before I understood it and kind of probably as a kid thought everybody had that kind of a home as far as leadership and just really great direction. I would say my father because I’ve been with him, watched him of course his whole life.

Then  I had John Wooden as a mentor. He was a phenomenal teacher and probably as just a quote an unofficial mentor, Pete, he probably taught me more than anyone else. He taught me about when opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare and just how to always be ready for that moment. Make every day your masterpiece. It just goes on and on. He was a phenomenal mentor.

But  I’ve been very fortunate. I just had people come into my life from my early age and even today, just people that sneak into my life and help me and add value to me. I don’t have one mentor. I think one mentor is kind of a – I think it’s kind of a little bit misguided. I’m not sure one mentor is good enough to mentor you in every area.

I  pick my mentors based upon the areas that I need assistance in. I have a couple mentors for leadership, a couple mentors for team development in work, couple mentors maybe for attitude development and tenacity and that kind of thing, and a couple of mentors for an area of communication or relationships. It depends on where I am and kind of what I need. Even then I just kind of pick the mentor that kind of that’s where the strength is.

When  people come to me and they say, “John, would you mentor me?” I tell them, “I’m not that good. The answer is no. I’m just good at a few things. I’ll be glad to help you with a few things, but most of things in life I’m still just trying to grow and learn and not too hot myself in.”

I  know this, every day of my life I’m standing on the shoulders and I’m better because of people who have invested in me and given me time. Of course, I just turn that around and try to mentor others also and be a mentor to other leaders. It’s a beautiful journey once you understand that we’re all to be a river, not a reservoir and just kind of let it flow through you and help other people and add value to them. That’s kind of where I am in the area of my mentoring world right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. When you talk about the journey, I like that. You have unpacked it a few kind of key moments or lessons in your journey in your latest book, Leadershift. What would you say is the main message in this book?

John C Maxwell
Well, I think the main message is that you can only strengthen and sustain your leadership if you continue to make changes or make shifts in your life, that there’s not one way to lead and there’s no way to lead continually and that we have to be agile and have to adjust and have to understand the times.

Leaders really understand context. What all leaders have in common, Pete, is that they see more than others see, so they see a bigger picture, and they see before others see. They not only see that picture larger than others, they see it quicker than others. That being the case, they’re the first ones to know or to sense at least or maybe to begin to grasp.

The more they can adjust and the better they adjust, the quicker they adjust, the more effective they’re going to be as a leader. The book really is all about adjustments that I’ve had to make, leader shifts, that I’ve had to make in my life to continue to be effective as a leader today.

It’s very easy to begin to kind of rest on your position or your title and expect it to do your work for you. When that happens, we’re no longer on the edge, we’re no longer are seeing more and before, so therefore we’re no longer on the cutting edge as far as leading people.

The book is really all about how do you stay on that cutting edge? I had an interview recently. The person commented about the fact that I’d been doing leadership for 40 plus years, writing books, teaching, speaking on leadership, learning, doing my best to be a better leader. They asked me, they said, “Well, how have you for so long stayed in the game?” I said, “Well, I guess the main way I’ve done it is I realized it’s not the same game.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
Yeah, it’s kind of like baseball to use an analogy. The game is baseball and every day there is a baseball game, but no game is alike. You can’t depend on what happened in yesterday’s game to be what’s going to happen today. Yes, the game is called baseball, but pretty much after you’ve finished the rules, everything else is going to be fluctuating.

Babe Ruth said? “Yesterday’s home run won’t win today’s game.” I find that very true. Whatever I was doing yesterday, I’m glad that I could do it, hope I did it well, but that really doesn’t mean that I can do the same thing today.

In fact, I think the greatest detriment, Pete, to a person’s success is or the greatest detriment to tomorrow’s success is today’s success. The moment I kind of get settled in today and kind of say, “Oh, I’ve got this for me. I’m going to hold on to it. I want to keep it,” it’s just not going to happen. It just doesn’t happen that way, especially in the times we live right now. With social media there’s such an incredible awareness that’s happening.

I was getting ready to speak for a company. What I do when I go speak for a company is I have a pre-call to kind of find out where they are and how I can best serve them by finding out what’s your theme, what’s your objectives, etcetera. This company I was going to speak for, their theme was fast-forward.

The person on the call said, “John, what does that theme mean to you?” I said, “Well, let me just tell you what each word means to me. When I think of fast, it means to me, when I think about today it’s fast is faster. Faster, it’s faster than it’s ever been before. … I’m just going to hold for a while and wait until things kind of slow down and make sense actually.” I said, “I’m sorry. You’re going to have to die for that to happen. It just isn’t going to be there.”

Fast is faster and forward, Pete, is shorter. What I mean by that is when I started leading, my gosh, when they talked about – when I was working on a business degree when they talked about a long-range plan, they talked about ten years. A medium-range plan was five and the short-range, the short-range plan was two. Well, that’s a ridiculously long-range plan today, two years. You kind of say, “Boy, can you get it down to 12 to 18 months.”

Forward is shorter and fast is faster. Well, if that’s the case, which it is, then a book like Leadershift is essential. If we are not continually looking over the land and adjusting ourselves and being very agile, being very quick to go, we’re not going to be very effective.

One  of the things in the book – one more thing Pete and I’ll shut up – one of the things in the book that I really am glad I addressed was this issue of uncertainty because a lot of people say, “Well, I want to be certain before make that move or make that decision.” I talk about the fact that’s not possible and that leaders, the best leader shift leaders, they’re very comfortable with uncertainty.

They  understand that they are having to move before they have all the answers or before they have all of the direction or all the steps. They realize that it’s in the movement that they get clarity and they get more direction. In fact, what I tell people if you really want to kind of know what’s going to happen in three months, start moving now. The resources, the events, the experiences, start flowing toward you in that process.

I  think leaders need to be clear in their vision, but I think as far as the journey is concerned, we just have to have a real sense of openness and authenticity with people and say I’m making all of my moves based upon what I think and what I believe, but I don’t have total clarity on this at all. We’re just going because, again, speed, the ability to move quick is so essential in leadership today.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. With that said in terms of the importance of being able to make those shifts, you lay out 11 key shifts as examples. We’ll dig into a couple of those. But I’d like to first hear across the board, what are some of the key perspectives or best practices when it comes to how we go about making a shift?

John C Maxwell
Well  I think first of all, security. I just feel that a leader that is insecure won’t be agile enough and so I think that’s essential.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say insecure, I’m intrigued there. Can you give you give some examples of what are the things that make leaders insecure? What are they worried about?

John C Maxwell
Well , I think an insecure person, first of all, most times is not comfortable in their own skin. They themselves haven’t yet come to a real sense of who they are. It’s very difficult to help people become who they would like to become if you’re not really sure who you are.

I  think that insecure people are those who mainly want to be liked and like people to always applaud them. Leadership is tough. There’s just – you’re going to make decisions that are not going to be always popular.

I  think an insecure person, most of them are controlling. I think controlling is a very damaging thing in the culture we live today. Again, if you’re relying on agility and speed, if you have to control every person and every decision and every movement, you’re just in deep weeds.

I  think maybe Pete this will illustrate it as good as I can. Gail Devers, that’s probably a name many of your listeners can recognize. She was a tremendous Olympic athlete and track star for the United States. I think, I’m not sure, but I think as a female track star, I think she won more medals than any other American Olympian, but anyway terrific athlete and won medals in three different Olympics, so just think of that span to be a world class athlete.

In  fact, the night I was having dinner with her and her husband in Atlanta, she was really training for her fourth Olympics if you could imagine. She was running races against young ladies that were young enough to be her daughter.

We’re  having a great meal. She had read a lot of my books and she wanted to ask some questions about leadership. We were having a good discussion. Towards the end of the meal, I said to her, I said, “Gail,” I said, “I’ve been thinking about this all dinner. I think if you and I ran a 100-yard race, I think I could win.”

I  wish you could have seen her face. I mean she looked at me in such disbelief. Of course an athlete this good is highly competitive. She looked at me and then she looked at her husband. She said, “Did you hear what he said?” Her husband said, “Yeah, I heard that.” Then she looked back at me, kind of disgustingly because I’m not in that kind of shape. I kind of look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I  can see that I’ve got her almost to the place where she’s ready to take off those heels and go out front of this restaurant and say, “We’re going to run a block and I’m just going to show you how delusional you are.” I got her right to that point, which was a lot of fun.

Then  I said, “No, now Gail, really honestly, I do think I could win 100-yard race with you if I had an 80-yard head start.” And she goes, “Oh, well, shoot, yeah. Okay, yeah. Hello.” Now to be honest with you, I really wanted to say 70 yards, but I wasn’t sure I could do it with 70. I thought, eh, no, but 80 I could kind of roll across the line. I think I could do that. Of course, then we all had a good laugh.

But  the point is very simple. The fastest person doesn’t win the race. It’s the person who gets started first.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

John C Maxwell
Starting  first is everything. Again, leadership is all about starting first. It’s all about being, again, quick and ready to move and being flexible and while others are kind of considering it, you’re already there.

When I think of the 11 leader shifts in the book, there are, my gosh, there are probably 100 leader shifts a person has to make. I made more than the 11, but these are the 11 in the book that are like what I would call the Mt. Everest type of stuff, the big stuff that not only I had to make, but probably every person that wants to lead is going to have to make in their life, sometime in their life.

I think that the greatest thing in life for me to do and one of the reasons I write and speak all the time is to create awareness. You just can’t fix what you don’t know needs to be fixed. The moment that a person who is hungry to learn, and grow, and get better, becomes aware, all the sudden everything begins to change.

Once you’ve had the light turned on for yourself, you want to go into a room of people and turn the light on for everybody. This is kind of a turn-the-light-on book. It’s just kind of a book that basically says, “Here, my name’s John. I’m your friend. Let me turn the light on. Let’s talk about a few of these shifts you need to make. Let me kind of tell you how I did it and cheer you on while you make them yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Let’s talk about a few of them here or maybe just a couple. Choosing here. What would you say if you had to pick, which one do you think is the most critical for leaders to make or perhaps the most overlooked, like, “Oh, I need to do that and I was not yet aware. Thanks for turning the light on.”

John C Maxwell
Well,  one of the ones I find when – I taught on this before I write on it. Basically the way I write books is I teach stuff and when it sticks I think, “Oh gosh, if it’s sticking with the audience, I probably need to put it on paper.”

I  think one that has given me maybe my greatest reward that people don’t think of very much is the shift from what I call ladder climbing to ladder building. In that chapter I talk about the fact that we all start off as ladder climbers. I did. I got my first leadership responsibility and the question was how high can I climb on this ladder. I’m taking off. How high can I go?

I  think for every person that is going to be a successful leader, they have to be a good ladder climber. They need to get to the top. When you think about it-

Pete Mockaitis
And get there first.

John C Maxwell
The  credibility I have, Pete, as a leader is that I’m successful. Do you think somebody wants to follow me if I’m not successful? Whoever gets up and says, “Wow, gosh I’m not doing well financially. I’ve got to go find somebody that’s gone bankrupt a couple times and get some advice from him” No, the first thing we turn to is we turn to somebody that has done it well. We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are. We turn to that person.

I  started off ladder climbing and did pretty good. I was a pretty good ladder climber. I kind of got to the top quickly, but I understood then that that really had very little to do with leadership, but had a lot to do with some competence that I had and some giftedness that I had.

But  I decided that I needed to start thinking of others and what am I doing, so I went from ladder climbing to what I call ladder holding. That’s basically where I go over to you, Pete and say, “Hey, could I hold your ladder for you?” What I know about somebody that holds the ladder for somebody is that they provide security for that person, they provide a solid foundation.

What  I know is, Pete, if I hold your ladder, you’re going to climb higher than if I don’t hold your ladder. I’m going to allow you to what I would call achieve a couple of extra rungs in your life. You’re going to go a little bit higher than you’d go if I wasn’t there. That’s kind of a shift that I made from “I’m just going to climb my own ladder and build my own thing and do my own thing” to “Well, shoot, why don’t I go help some other people.” I made the shift to a ladder holder.

Then , this is very – again, it’s a journey, so you don’t know this stuff on the frontend, you always know it during the process and on the backend. As I was holding people’s ladders, what I discovered is two things. One is they climbed higher because I helped them and served them. Number two is some of them really can climb high.

All  of the sudden I realized as a ladder holder, I was able to find out who the potential successful people and leaders would be. Some just climb higher than others with my help. Ladder holding became the qualifying exercise I did to go to the next shift, which was ladder extending.

If  I’m holding your ladder, you get completely as high as you can go and I’m saying, “Gosh, let’s extend this thing. The only reason you didn’t go any higher is there wasn’t any more ladder there. Let’s get you some more ladder feet and go for it.

Ladder  holding allowed me to qualify really who I mentored because that’s who I would put in the ladder extending areas. It’s just – it’s now all of the sudden you’re taking them to another level and you’re helping them just go to heights that they never would have gone.

Then,  again, all this does is evolves into the next natural shift. As I’m extending your ladder, we’ve got that baby up pretty high. Pete, you take that extension, just keep on climbing. All the sudden I realized you could basically climb as high as we can extend. There’s really no limits to you.

Then  it’s kind of like, “Wow, this is the ultimate.” I’m extending people’s ladders and they’re going higher than they ever thought was possible and making a bigger difference than they ever would have dreamed. I’m just getting all excited about it. Then I realized, no there’s another shift yet. This is the one that’s really going to make the big difference for people.

I’m  going, if you can see me from ladder climbing to ladder holding to ladder extending to ladder building. I just look at you and I say, “Pete, you need to build your own ladder. You don’t need to use my ladder. I need to empower you. I need to release to you. I need to bless you. I need to let you go and let you build your own kingdom, build your own business, build your own work, be your own entrepreneur. You don’t really need me.”

What’s  incredible is that when I became a ladder builder, that’s when I developed all these incredible leaders that I’ve had the privilege for so many years having watched them, many of them do better than what I could have. That’s for sure. To me I think the greatest fulfillment is not seeing how high I can go. When I was climbing my own ladder I figured out pretty quick I can go pretty high, but that’s kind of an end in itself.

I  thought, okay, I know what I can do, but I wonder what I could do with people. I wonder if I could help them to go high. Those shifts, I have a fondness for this whole ladder shifting because I just – it’s kind of almost like – it’s kind of like the story of my life, where I’ve been and what I’ve done and kind of where I am and really what I love to do.

My  greatest joy today is just fathering a lot of leaders and just blessing them and watching them, again, excel incredibly. It makes me very proud and just – and very humble to have maybe a little part in it. That’s for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. When you’re doing this ladder holding, and ladder extending, and ladder building, what are some of the particular practices or key questions you’re asking? What are you doing in practice when you’re providing this support on the ladder?

John C Maxwell
Well,  I lead by questions. That’s how I lead. Probably one of the big shifts I had in my life was that I – in the beginning I led by direction. I just kind of basically pointed and gave people direction on where to go and what to do.

I  made the discovery really that that wasn’t the highest or the best way to lead, so over time – again, it’s all maturing and learning and growing – I went from giving a lot of directions to asking more questions because kind of the whole principle is based on the fact you’ve got to find your people before you can meet them. Pete, one of the great disasters in leadership is leading by assumption. Wow, gosh, I see it all the time.

I  had a wonderful friend, Pat Summitt, who passed away a couple years ago, but she was the University of Tennessee lady volunteer basketball coach and I think the most successful women’s coach ever in basketball, college basketball. I think she had over 1,000 wins. But she was an amazing woman, an amazing leader and an amazing person.

She  would feed her team my books and got to me and talked to me and asked me to come up some time and talk to the team and go to the game. I said sure, so I did. It was an incredible experience because at half time, the lady volunteers when into the locker room and I kind of followed them and the coaches. I just said, well, sit right here in the room with the basketball players for a moment. Her and the coaches went off into another room. One of the-

Pete Mockaitis
It’s all you.

John C Maxwell
No,  this is incredible. One of the basketball players, one of the lady volunteer gals, there was a marker board at the front of the room. The marker board had two questions: what did we do right, what did we do wrong, and what do we need to change.

They  went into this exercise where one player led the other players. “Okay, in the first half what did we do right?” They wrote down three or four things they did right. “Okay, what did we do wrong?” Wrote a few things down they did wrong. “What do we need to change during the second half to improve and get better?” They wrote these things down. This exercise didn’t take them long because they were used to doing it. Took them five minutes maybe.

Here  comes Pat into the locker room, goes straight to the marker board, looks at what did we do right, what did we do wrong, what do we need to change, made a couple comments, not very many, maybe a minute or two, just a couple comments, affirmed what they were thinking, and maybe tweaked them if they weren’t or maybe if they missed something. Out on the floor they went and played the second half.

After  the press conference Pat and I went out to dinner. I said, “Pat,” I said, “that was an amazing exercise.” I said, “Talk to me about it.” Here’s what she told me, she said, “John, my first year and a half as a coach I was not a good coach and my teams were not successful.” She said, “I kept asking myself, okay, what am I missing?” She said, “I just knew that there was something that was obvious that I was missing as a coach to help me out.”

She  said, “I came to the conclusion after about 18 months that I was assuming that these players knew what I knew. I was assuming that they had basics under their belt. I was assuming that when I talked to them we were all on the same page.” She said, “John, I wasn’t on the same page with them at all. I wasn’t even in the same book with some of them.” She said, “I all of the sudden realized I was trying to lead them and I hadn’t found them yet.”

She  said, “I started asking questions, so I went to this exercise.” She said, “I can walk in now and while I’m walking to the marker board, by the time I get to the front I already know if they’re aware and if they understand. If they don’t,” she said, “it’s my job as a coach to get them on the same page I’m on as far as awareness is concerned.” But she said, “It just changed everything.” She said, “Now, I coach from where they are, not coach from where I think they are.”

When  you talk about shifting and where I am, and this book, in fact I had – one of the leader shifts that I talk about in the book is going from directing to connecting. That directing to connecting is you connect by asking questions.

Today,  pretty much I lead everybody, everything I lead I basically go in and ask questions and find out where they are. As soon as I find out where they are, then leadership’s pretty – it’s pretty simple. I put a whole chapter in the book on just that because I thought my gosh, if they just learn to find their people and it will be life changing for them. That’s for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Those questions are so great. You talk about the assumption is that you can very clearly see, “Oh wow, you have a completely different perspective on what you think you did right and wrong than I do, so okay, this is where we’re going to start,” as opposed to, “Okay, perfect,” and to just sort of facilitate ownership along the way. That’s huge.

John C Maxwell
Yeah, they say this Lombardi, of course, the great Super Bowl coach of the Packers, they say what he would bring all these pros together for their first practice at the beginning of the season. The first thing he did is hold up a football and he’d look at these pros. Now think about it. They played high school. They played colleges. Their pros. They’re the best in the profession.

He would start off every year with the same speech. He’d hold up a football and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He wasn’t about to assume anything. He’s just, “Let’s just talk about it. Let’s start from the basics and work our way up.”

I’m blessed I have several companies and got a lot of balls in the air. I just have found and discovered that if I just go and ask questions, very quickly, very quickly, kind of find out what they know, what they don’t know, where they are, it just answers everything for me. I think learning to ask great questions helps us to connect on common ground, which becomes pretty amazing to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. If I may, I’d love to hear maybe just a couple bullets, like what are some of your favorite, powerful go-to questions that have served you well again and again?

John C Maxwell
Well,  for example, if you and I were in any kind of a meeting, let’s say we’re in a creative meeting. We’re talking about the brand or whatever. When we’re all finished meeting, I’ll just say, “Okay, let’s just go around the room and give me what you think is the most important takeaway right now that you just got out of this time, out of this session.” It kind of helps me to know very quickly if they’re assessing what I’m assessing in that meeting or not.

With  my children, even with my grandchildren today whenever we have an experience, I always ask them – as soon as the experience is over, they know I’m going to ask them two questions. My children if I did this once, I did it ten thousand times. With my grandchildren probably about that many too. I’ll just look at them when we’re done with the experience, I’ll say, “Okay,” they know it’s coming, “What did you love? What did you learn?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
I  start with kids with ‘What did you love?” because they always know that because they feel that emotionally. But ‘What did you learn?’ and it’s just phenomenal because, you see, experience is not the best teacher, Pete. You hear it all the time. People say, “Oh, experience is the best teacher,” but it’s not. It really isn’t. If experience were the best teacher, then as people get older, they’d all get better.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

John C Maxwell
Because  they have more experience. Again, I know most people I know, they’re getting old; they’re not getting better. They’re getting worse. Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful.

John C Maxwell
Taking  time to come out of an experience and then pull away and reflect, reflection really takes experience and turns it into insight. What I do is I constantly ask myself – in fact, when I’m done with our time together, I’ll take three minutes because it’s just a habit, it’s one of my hopefully better habits, but I’ll – it’s practice that’s for sure – I’ll take three minutes and I’ll go over what we just talked about.

I’ll  say, “Okay, when your time with Pete and the listeners today, what do are you taking out of that, that 45-minute experience? What do you glean out of that, Maxwell?” Again, evaluating, reflection, asking questions.

Boy , the moment that you begin to – when you begin to understand – I had a mentor named Charles Blair who said, “John, always have an understanding so there’s not a misunderstanding.” I just live that kind of a leadership life. I’m very comfortable with asking questions. What’s beautiful, it doesn’t take a long time.

In  fact, I … all the time, because I get some push back on this from kind of choleric-type top-down leaders. They say, “John, when you start asking questions, you give up control.” I say, “No, no, you don’t understand. When you start asking questions you’re in total control because you’re in control of the questions you’re asking.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
That’s  what pulled me back to the discussion, so go back to the Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee illustration. She was in total control when she walked in that room because she was getting out of the girls exactly what she needed. “What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What do we need to change?” She was in complete control, but while she was in control, she was also getting information that was very essential to her to lead them to the next step.

Leadership is a very exciting venture when you just understand how to ask the question. In fact, I wrote a book five or six, maybe seven years ago – gosh, time goes so fast – but I wrote a book that – I just wanted to write it because I love to ask questions, but it just went kind of crazy, it took off, called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. I have a chapter in there, Questions I Ask Myself, Questions I Ask My Team.

I  just went through and helped people kind of understand. Questions are kind of like keys; they unlock the lock. You’ve got this lock and you can’t get in, but if you’ve got the key you can. Questions just kind of open up the doors for me and allow me to do that, so I love it.

That  chapter on directing to connecting in the Leadershift book was, gosh, it was a lot of fun because I think it’s just going to be very enlightening to a lot of people. I think they’re going to have a lot of aha moments when they’re going to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh that’s cool. Well, I want to talk about sort of a big key and a big question that’s particularly to shift into an explicitly Christian context for a moment for our listeners of faith. When I’ve got John C Maxwell, I can’t not ask. Tell me what’s your take on how we can most effectively listen to God’s voice and take the appropriate steps and make the shifts that he wills for you?

John C Maxwell
I made that shift about four years ago.

Pete Mockaitis
Only four?

John C Maxwell
Yeah , I really did. I think I was typical. Most people in their prayer time, I had a list. When I took some time with God, I would go down the list, typical choleric, and kind of talk to him about it and check it off.

About  four years ago, I was just thinking of basically the scripture principle that God’s ways are higher than ours and that God knows what we need more than we know what we need. All of the sudden I started getting a little bit amused and I thought how ironic that I’ve spent all my time with my agenda when I pray with God. I’m much more interested on my agenda than I am on his agenda.

It  kind of came to me – one time I had a person who I was in a conversation with them, they said – they were talking to me and they just said, “Well,” she said, “I would just like to directly hear from God.” I started smiling. I said, “No, you don’t. You don’t really want to hear from God. If you did, trust me, it’s not on your agenda. It’s not what you think he’s going to say or what he’s going to hear.” I was kind of amused by it.

Then  I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if I just took that approach to prayer. I switched, well, four years ago and I have no agenda in prayer anymore. I have an agenda and that is to listen and to be still and to hear his voice. I take a legal pad and my four-color pen and I sit and I have the Word with me. I just open my heart and basically share with God that I want him to speak.

He  may speak through an experience that I had recently or he may speak through a passage of scripture to me, he may speak through some music, but I’m just going to listen to you. It’s really changed my life. It’s made me want to spend more time with him.

Before  it was like I wanted to spend more time with him so I could get through my list, but now it’s kind of like I wonder what surprise he has for me. I wonder what he’s thinking today that is going to really add value to me or take me in a direction I wouldn’t have even imagined.

Anyway,  I kind of made a – I guess you could call that a prayer shift in my life. But I found it to be – I really found it to be very effective. I’m kind of grateful for it to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Now I want to get your take on how do you differentiate in those moments, like something pops into your head between what you think is you and what you think is the Lord?

John C Maxwell
Oh, …. I think it’s – I’m asked that question often and I think I have a really good answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy.

John C Maxwell
Is –  well, I really do. I tell people all the time, well, a whole bunch of it’s me because I’m human and so even though I have a great desire to hear from him, I don’t say that I don’t have a lot of John in that thought pattern. But where it really helps me is the fact that when it’s him, it stays with me.

What  I basically do is I say, “Okay, these are the five things I sense from you today. I think I’ll table them for 24 hours. I’ll come back and let me just see if any of them resonate.” I find that tabling them, for the right reason, not for a reason of disobedience, but more of a reason for discernment, I come back the next day and the wood and the hay and the stuff just kind of separates. The chaff separates from the real thing.

If  I keep coming back to it three or four times over a week, Pete, then after a while I say, “Okay, yeah, this is something I need to really learn from and spend time listening to him.” One of the beautiful things that has come out of this, just really beautiful, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned out of it – I don’t know, but it seems to be the biggest one to me is obedience. Whatever he says to you, just do it.

In  John chapter 2 Cana and Galilee and the wedding feast and the water turned to wine, if you can imagine those servants taking those jars and filling them up with water, they have got to think, “This is the stupidest thing …” And then when they were asked to take the jars to the host, I think they said, “And this is the day I get fired. This is the day I get fired because they’re asking for wine. I’m bringing water.” Of course, when it was poured out, it was wine.

It  said, basically a passage says, the people didn’t understand what had happened, but it said the servants knew. Well, the reason they knew is because they were in the act of obedience of putting the water in the buckets or in the jars. The point being, Pete, it’s very simple. Obedience is never understood on the frontend; it’s always understood on the backend.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I really like that and particularly that Bible story. Interesting fact, when I got married my wedding gift to my groomsmen was a little corkscrew wine opener that had inscribed on it that verse, “Do whatever he tells you.” It just seemed like a good-

John C Maxwell
I love that. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like hey, it’s wine and it’s good advice.

John C Maxwell
Oh my gosh, I’m going to steal that.

Pete Mockaitis
Steal it away. Yeah.

John C Maxwell
Oh, I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

John C Maxwell
See, shoot, this is going to be such an easy evaluation when I’m done with you. It’s going to take me five seconds to figure out what my takeaway is today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m honored.

John C Maxwell
That is a beautiful, beautiful gift, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

John C Maxwell
Gosh. You had it inscribed on the opener.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. The corkscrew, there’s a metal part, so I had an engraver put that in there.

John C Maxwell
Okay, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

John C Maxwell
I hope I’ve done for your listeners today what you’ve done for me. Of course, you’re doing it for them too because they’re hearing this. They’re all going out and getting their Christmas idea. I’m going to sit down and talk – I’m going to talk to my wife about this. I think that would be a fabulous Christmas gift.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m so glad to be able to contribute. That’s cool.

John C Maxwell
Oh gosh, I love that. I love that. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, yeah, in our last couple minutes we like to do what I call the fast faves, get a quick perspective from you on some of your favorite things. Could you kick us off with a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

John C Maxwell
Well, I have so many of them, but the one I’m talking about the most now is “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Love that quote. In fact, I visually just raise my arm when I teach it that basically what I tell people is there’s nothing you have in your life worthwhile that didn’t take time, effort, energy. It’s all uphill. In fact, if you’re going downhill, I don’t know what you’re going to arrive at, but it’s not worthwhile.

The only way that you can go uphill – if everything worthwhile is uphill, the only way you can go uphill is to be intentional. That quote means a lot to me because no one ever climbed a mountain by accident. No one ever talked about accidental achievements in their life. It’s intentional.

In fact, I wrote a book three or four years ago called Intentional Living. The whole book is all about the fact that most people accept their life instead of lead their life. If you accept your life, you just come up with much less than what can you have in your life if you were intentional. “Everything worthwhile is uphill,” I think that’s probably mine.

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

John C Maxwell
Well, of course, the Bible is my favorite book. By the way, when I do leadership and of course most of my world is secular, but people sometimes will say, “Where did you really get your leadership stuff?” I’ll tell them, “Everything I learned about leadership, I learned from the Bible. Everything.”

In fact, I’ve had some great Q&A interaction times with secular community basically saying, “You give me your best leadership thought and I’ll give you a biblical foundation for it.” It’s startling. It’s startling. It’s the greatest leadership book ever written.

In fact, the favorite thing I’ve ever done is not writing books as much as I had the privilege several years ago to do the Maxwell Leadership Bible and put my leadership lessons that I taught out of the Bible in the Bible.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

John C Maxwell
That Leadership Bible is just – a million Bibles later it’s just still going crazy. I’ve done – in fact I just finished my third edition. I have, Pete, over 600 lessons on leadership in there. Every page has another leadership lesson, but it’s all on the Word.

I’m reading a book right now called Leadership: In Turbulent Times. Fabulous book, but I’m a fan of this author. Her name is Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

John C Maxwell
She’s basically a presidential scholar. She spent her whole life studying presidents of the United States. She wrote a Team of Rivals about Lincoln and she’s written one on Kennedy, one on FDR, one on LBJ, one on Teddy Roosevelt. I consume all of them. But this one is she took Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, LBJ and Lincoln and basically wrote a book on how they lived during turbulent times. It’s a fabulous read. I’m loving it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Well in our last moment here, could you share a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

John C Maxwell
Yeah,  well I would just say whenever I listen to something or in an experience, I always do what I call ACT: what should I apply, what should I change, and what should I teach someone else. It’s just simple, ACT.
If it’s like a long session, I may get three or four A’s, a couple C’s, maybe five or six T’s. I look at them and I categorize them. I just put ACT in the margins on my notes so that I can find them. What’s one A, what’s two  – or what’s one A, one C, and one T. Whatever those are, those three A, C, T, I just take the next 30 days and I do them every day, the one A, one C, and one T, every day for 30 days until it kind of becomes a habit. I’ve done this for 35 years. It just works.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, John, this has been a real treat. Thanks so much for all you’re doing in the world. It’s greatly appreciated. I hope that Leadershift is another hit. Just keep on rocking.

John C Maxwell
Doing my best, friend. Every day I have a great job. I just get up and add value to people. It’s pretty good gig, isn’t it?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

John C Maxwell
Thank you Pete.

349: The Case for Kindness at Work with Dr. Richard Shuster

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Richard Shuster says: "You can't help but have a sense of satisfaction when you help somebody for the purpose of just helping."

Dr. Richard Shuster shows how being kind to others just because can help make you even more awesome at your job.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The implications of being kind to others at work
  2. The two kinds of kindness and which one is better for your health
  3. The number one pro tip for being kind to your colleagues

About Richard

Dr. Richard Shuster is a licensed clinical psychologist and the host of The Daily Helping with Dr. Richard Shuster: Food for the Brain, Knowledge from the experts, Tools to Win at Life® which is regularly downloaded in over 70 countries. On his podcast, Dr. Shuster’s guests educate and inspire listeners through their stories, expertise, and passion for helping make a difference in the lives of others. His mission is to make the world a better place. His show’s growing movement strives to get a million people each day to commit acts of kindness for others and post it on their social media using #mydailyhelping®. A sought after media expert, Dr. Shuster’s clinical expertise and podcast have been featured in such publications as The Huffington Post, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Inc., Real Simple, NBCNews.com, Cosmopolitan, Glassdoor.com, Reader’s Digest, and others.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Richard Shuster Interview Transcript

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

Dr. Richard Shuster
Pete, it is awesome to be at the Awesome At Your Job podcast. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, yeah, I’m really glad that we got to do this. I enjoyed meeting you at Podcast Movement. We spent about half an hour talking about barbeque, and then we got into the weightier things of life.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Yes, I think most conversations should start with some mentioning of barbeque, to be sure.

Pete Mockaitis

So, let’s go right for some heavy stuff. You have a wild story, in which you had a car accident, but you say it changed your life for the better. What’s the scoop here?

Dr. Richard Shuster

Sure. So, ironically enough, had you met me prior to this accident I would have been the anti-candidate to come on your show, because I wasn’t overly happy with what I was doing. I was doing it in a large part because of expectations that I thought that others had of me. I was in the midst of creating and IT consulting company, I had just bid on a government contract through the military and won, which was pretty wild for somebody in their early 20s.
And one day, while driving, and it was just a normal Saturday, I was in a horrific car accident, in which I broke my spine. A car went careening through a light as I was making a left turn, slammed into me, which sent me into oncoming traffic after my bags deployed. And then it was a telephone pole which ultimately stopped my forward momentum.
And prior to that car accident, prior to that day, I was very, very selfish, I was very materialistic. I would refer to my business as “The Schuster Empire”. I really felt that way, that I’m superior. If anyone’s ever seen that movie Family Man with Nicolas Cage, I wanted to be him before he had the kids – the fast cars and the money and all of these things.
And so, what’s really interesting is that there’s been a lot of research done on what happens to people when they’re in near-death experiences. You always hear the cliché, “My life flashes before my eyes”, that sort of thing. That’s not what happens to a lot of people. What happens to a lot of people is when they’re about to die, time slows down quite significantly. And a lot of soldiers have reported this, going back to many, many wars. We have letters from soldiers who have talked about this historically.
So, in this moment from when car one hits me, and then the airbag goes off and I’m careening – that whole accident scene that I described to you was maybe three seconds in total. But for me in real time, it felt like it was significantly longer. I’m sitting there, watching the center console crush into my ribs like it’s somebody’s crushing a can of Coke in their hand, and I’m thinking to myself, “I’m about to die.” It wasn’t one of these Ebenezer Scrooge kind of moments, like, “Dear God, let me live and I’ll be a good person.” I was dead. I knew I was going to die.
And my thoughts then shifted to my parents, my mom in particular. I was young and I wasn’t married, and I was like, “My mom’s about to get this call that her son is dead.” And I was so guilty. What a senseless way to die. And then the next thought that I had, which kind of came out of that guilt about my parents was, “What do I have to show? What have I really accomplished in my life? What am I proud of? What are people going to be proud of me for?” And the answer was, “Not much.” And then obviously I didn’t die. It took me quite a long time to recover, but for me, Pete, nothing was ever the same after that.
Now, I went back to work after some time, and was miserable. And I stuck it out far longer than I should have, in large part because of fear. I didn’t know what I would do. That was the thing that I thought I was supposed to do. I didn’t want to let people down. But I was just miserable, and I knew I wanted to do something more and something that helped society, helped the world. And so, one day I walked away from that. I just said, “I’m done” and I walked out. And the reactions that I got from my circle were as expected – when people do things that don’t make sense to them, people tell you you’re crazy – “What? You’re doing what? How could you possibly do that? You’ve invested all this time and money”, and blah, blah, blah.
But I went from 80 hours a week to 0, and was going through this period of time where I’m finding who I am. I know that’s also very cliché, but I’m just kind of sitting around, and even though I had left, I was scared out of my mind. I had no clue what I was going to be doing next, and thinking that all this time I spent in technology was kind of wasted.
And then something really funny happened – I went to the local grocery store in the city where I was living at the time, and I heard these women talking. This was maybe circa 2003-ish, so Facebook didn’t exist; Myspace was the thing then. Well, I think Facebook did exist but it was only for college students. And so I heard these women talking about their teens doing questionable behavior on the Internet.
And so I butted in, which is something I don’t usually do, but I interjected into their conversation. I had some background in network security and technology, and so all of a sudden now they’re inviting me to speak at their PTA and I’m volunteering my time. And somebody in the audience was in the cyber-crime unit of their local police department – no idea why they didn’t ask him, but they asked me. And that guy came up to me after and he was really excited. He said, “You’re a civilian but you’ve got this knowledge. You want to come and start doing the tour with us?”
And now I’m speaking in front of large groups of people, and all of a sudden that statement that I had made to myself about the wasted time in technology, not doing things meaningful to help society – that all went away. And just doing that speaking reframed that for me. And so that led to other experiences, which pushed me towards graduate school. In getting my first master’s degree I was privileged to work with evacuees from New Orleans who lost everything during Hurricane Katrina. That was really powerful to see that. And then I went on to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology, where I then got advanced training in forensic and neuropsychology.
So, that’s what my, quote unquote “day job” became, and while I was privileged and grateful for the opportunity to work with patients directly, the thing that was really still kind of biting at me was, “How do I do something more? How do I do something grander?” And so, that’s when I came up with The Daily Helping podcast, and the show’s mission is to help people become the best versions of themselves. And of course there are a lot of shows with similar themes, and that’s aspirational. Right, Pete? You’re not going to get a certificate three weeks from now in the mail from me, your wife or anybody else that says, “Congratulations, Pete! You’re now the best version of who you are.”

Pete Mockaitis

Even if I sign up for your Elite Double Platinum Diamond program?

Dr. Richard Shuster

Unfortunately no, we just can’t make that kind of a guarantee.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh man.

Dr. Richard Shuster

I know, I know. It’s a bummer. But in all seriousness, that’s an aspirational statement. We of course strive to learn and become better than we were the day before, but applying what I learned in graduate school about neuroscience is that the research indicates – it’s very interesting – that we as a society… I’ll take a step back because my doctoral dissertation was on the impact of personality functioning from technology, and in particular social media.
So, social media really has turned us into this society where we are often presenting this idealized version of ourselves, and often a false version of ourselves to the world, because when we log on to Facebook or Instagram and whatnot, and we see our neighbor always on an amazing vacation, doing something crazy – we want to do the same thing and we want to show how wonderful we are.
So what I wanted to do with the podcast was tie the show’s movement into something that has been researched, and that is when we help people, the same structures of our brains, the same neurotransmitters, the same things fire as when we receive assistance. And a lot of people don’t know that, and a lot of people don’t think about that. So, part of my show’s movement is I encourage my listeners every episode in our call to action to go and commit an act of kindness and post it in their social media feeds using the hashtag #mydailyhelping, because I know that if I can get people…
And the goal is to get a million people every day doing this, by the way. That if we can get that many people committing acts of kindness, they’re going to feel better about themselves, they’re going to like who they are. And when we’re all liking who we are and liking what we’re doing, that’s going to make the world a better place.

Pete Mockaitis

That is cool, and a beautiful vision, and I’m so glad that you’re alive and that you took good inspirations.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Me too, me too.

Pete Mockaitis

From that scary experience. And so, you’re helping and you’ve got all kinds of neuroscience insights into helping. So, making the world a better place – yes, I am about that, and even more precisely we’re about that in the context of people being awesome at their jobs and experiencing the joys that come with that, in terms of being able to better serve others and just experience the joy of excellence in doing your thing and how that enriches everybody all the more, as opposed to being lame at your job. So, I want to get your take then on, how does helping others help us become awesome at our jobs?

Dr. Richard Shuster

So there is a lot of research done by I/O psychologists about what happens to us when we like what we do and when we’re good at what we do. And so, particularly those that have high degrees of employment satisfaction are demonstrated to have higher levels of oxytocin present in their blood. And oxytocin is a hormone that’s released by the hypothalamus, it flows out into our blood stream, and it’s really been demonstrated to do a lot of things, including promote feelings of trust.
So if you’re good at your job, you’re likely going to be more prone to connect meaningfully with your coworkers, to value your team, to be helpful to others who are in your workplace. And what the research has also shown is that people who are in that space – who like what they do, who are all about the camaraderie, who have a high degree of competence and satisfaction in their job – they also experience – how about this – less stress, less anxiety. They report having an overall brighter and better mood than those that don’t, and their relationship satisfaction is higher. And for those people who are employers – you’ll like this too – fewer sick days have been demonstrated consistently in the research by those who excel at what they do professionally.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s compelling stuff, so good news there. And oxytocin – that whole molecule is fascinating. We had Dr. Paul Zak discuss oxytocin in a previous episode.

Dr. Richard Shuster

He was actually my first guest on my show. He’s phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis

Good choice.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

So, good stuff. I’m with you there. So, being awesome at your job has benefits that extend beyond just a good review and maybe a pay raise or a promotion. That’s cool. And so, I’m curious, in the realm of helping – when you’re helping other folks, I guess I’m thinking about the Adam Grant Give and Take stuff. How do you think about that, with, sort of, your mission about changing the world and making it a better place, with more helping and becoming the best version of yourselves, and then doing these acts of kindness? How do you think about in the grand scheme of, you’ve got your resources, your time, your energy, your attention, how you spend your day. And how do you think about the allocation of, “Am I giving or am I taking? And am I giving to just anybody or am I giving strategically? Or is giving strategically really self-serving and not truly giving, and thus I don’t get the cool brain benefits?” I just want to enter this messy tangle with you.

Dr. Richard Shuster

It’s the most controversial non-controversial subject ever. It’s interesting, because there’s research on both sides of this. There are those that pose it that if you are strategically giving, i.e. giving from a self-serving perspective, that’s not truly generosity. Whereas there are others who say that any kind of altruistic act, even if it is self-serving or has some intentionality behind it, the end result is that it helps others. So, the textbook definition of altruism is “an act which helps another person, where one is expecting nothing in return”.
And what I would say is that I think both sides can be right. And I’m not saying that to pass the buck, but if you think about it, let’s use the example of strategically self-serving. So there might be a charity or an organization or something – a fundraiser for your kid’s school – and you have X number of hours in your day. You talked about the allotment of time – you have X amount of time, X amount of resources or money, and so you choose strategically to give that to something which is important to you.
To me that is just as altruistic as the person who wants to help a little old lady cross the street. It’s still an altruistic motive, you’re intending to help somebody. Even though example A – that helping is more directed, it’s still helping. There are the other proponents who say if I give somebody $5 because I think the universe is going to pay it forward to me and give me $10 back – is that really altruism? So there’s where the research gets interesting.
There have been some studies which show our brains react the same, whether we’re giving with intentionality, hoping to get something back, or whether we are in fact just giving to give. And yet, there’s also research on the other side. What we do know definitively is that if I were to take two people and hook up real-time diagnostic imaging of their brains – units that could do that; we live in this wonderful age where we have the technology to do these sorts of things – and person A gave somebody $1,000 and person B received $1,000, the same parts of the brain light up.
My take on all of the research is that I believe that you can’t help but have a sense of satisfaction when you help somebody for the purposes of just helping. When you’re just trying to do something nice for somebody else and you do it, it feels intrinsically better than it does if you’re kind of coerced into it – if it’s a fundraiser or a Girl Scout cookie drive or something. There’s just a difference there.
Whereas this reward system that I’m talking about, that I’ve referenced, which is called the mesolimbic pathway in our brain – that’s a pretty old biological system. And so what really separates us from lower animals is because of our frontal lobes, the prefrontal cortex, we have the higher reasoning abilities and we have the capabilities of applying experiences and emotions to things in a different way than, say, a dog, right? So, to me, because of the evolution of our brain and these other capabilities we have, it seems intrinsically reasonable to say that if you’re doing something that is truly altruistic, you’re going to get that extra kick of feeling good that you might not get if you’re doing it for an ulterior motive, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, I hear you. And it’s funny, as you mentioned the $1,000 and the same parts of the brain lighting up, I think that in a way that’s surprising, but in another way if I really put myself in those shoes, it is similar. If I were to receive $1,000 I’d be like, “What?!” It’s like, “What a delight! This is crazy, and wild and surprising and wonderful.” At the same time, if you were to give that just for kicks, it also feels that way. I remember I’ve had a couple of experiences – not to toot my own horn, but we’ll just use the examples here to illustrate.
But I heard some gals chatting behind me in the line at Chipotle, and it was clear they were in college and pretty broke. And I was like, “Man, I remember those days – having $300 total and hoping that I could not spend all of it until the summer, where I could work and do some more, an internship or something.” And so, I heard them talking about being broke, college woes. And so I just decided to pay for their Chipotle.
And it was kind of a delight, in the sense of, “Hehehehehe.” It’s almost like I’m getting away with something. [laugh] And then they were very appreciative and whatever. But yeah, that feels awesome. And likewise, a couple of times I’ve paid the toll for the person behind me. I think I heard a motivational speaker suggest that once. It was like, “Let’s give that a shot.” And it was really fun, because then you look through your rearview mirror and they’re like, “What? Really? Huh? Awesome!” [laugh]

Dr. Richard Shuster

It’s so funny, and what you described, I do similar things. I will sometimes buy the grocery cart for somebody else when I’m in line, and the reaction you described is exactly right. They kind of freak out; they start looking around for hidden cameras, they wonder what the angle is. But I’m sure you saw in these college students the same thing that most people would experience when they do that – once somebody realizes that this is a genuine legit thing, their mind is so blown that you can see their entire perspective change. They go from suspiciousness to “What’s going on?” to disbelief to “Really?” to “Oh my God, this is so amazing.” And it’s that feeling of, “This is so wonderful.” And that’s why I’m really trying to help people get out there and do that, because the more we feel that, as I said, the better our lives are, the better everybody’s lives are.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, totally. That’s cool. In the workplace then, it’s intriguing. So in giving, you are not only just being helpful, and maybe a listening reciprocation, although I guess it’s a little bit debated whether if you fixate on that, that you may be shooting yourself in the foot, in terms of the biochemical benefits flow into you. But when you do so, you’re feeling awesome, and so that has all kinds of cool follow-on effects in terms of being able to be happy, more productive and cheerful and energetic and creative, and all that sort of stuff. I’m thinking about Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage stuff here. So that’s cool. Then how else do you think about giving in the realm of relationships and networks and colleagues and collaboration? What are some of your other favorite perspectives or pro tips there?

Dr. Richard Shuster

So, one of the things that’s been very helpful for me is, I remember – I’m sure the audience remembers when those bracelets came out that everybody started wearing – WWJD, I think they were called. And it was like a reminder, kind of like this string around your finger to act in a certain way. And for me the thing that I kind of asked myself, which is my ONE thing – to talk about Geoff Woods here a little bit – I try and act in a way that all of my actions in some way can help other people, even if it’s of no benefit to me directly.
So, in terms of networking, in terms of colleagues – and not just in a work setting; this can certainly apply to your spouse, to your children, to your neighbors – it’s, “What can I do?” That’s the question: “What can I do to add value to you? How can I help you?” The quickest way to put people off is just to start talking about yourself. Nobody wants to hear that. But if we’re genuinely interested… And I’m not talking just paying lip service to Dale Carnegie. These are not secrets; these are things that have been out there for a very long time.
But when we genuinely show interest in others and say, “Oh, you do this. You’re new to our department. Well, here’s the ropes” – that person’s going to be appreciative of you. And that’s the first place I’d start is, connect with people by finding out more about them and finding out how you can leverage the things that you’re intrinsically good at to help them make their jobs easier.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, right on. That’s good. So that’s the scoop when it comes to the helping in the workplace. I’d also love to hear some of your research-based insights. Your subtitle is awesome: “Food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, tools to win at life”. So, could you give us some of the greatest hits, in terms of tips and takeaways for how one does transform to become the best version of themselves?

Dr. Richard Shuster

I think you have to be very clear on what matters to you, and that starts with your values. If you don’t know what you stand for and you don’t know what’s important to you, then it’s really going to be difficult for you to define with any degree of certainty who you are as a person. I tell everybody the first thing to do is get extremely granular about that, and then the next thing is to once you know your values, find out what specific things fire you.
So, people hear me talk, and I’ve had people come up to me at conventions and say, “What you’re saying is great and all, but I’m in my job and it’s a good job. I’m looking for fulfillment, but I’ve got two kids and I don’t want to start my own business”, or something like that. And so what I would say to people who are thinking that, listening to us talk, Pete, is that there are a lot of different ways to find fulfillment. And that’s why knowing what you’re passionate about matters. You can keep your day job and you don’t have to, at the age of 40, quit and go back to graduate school to become a counsellor. You can volunteer at boys’ and girls’ club or something like that. So, if animals are important to you, you can dedicate some time at a shelter or foster animals, or what have you.
So, the whole point is that it’s not such a black and white thing, and just because you like something doesn’t mean that it has to be what you love to do. We talked about barbecue; we spent a significant amount of time talking about the awesomeness of smoking meat. And yet, neither you nor I are going to be quitting our jobs to open up a barbecue restaurant, right? So, there is some common sense to this, but I will say this – if for those of us who are able to find something we’re passionate about, that it’s something that we feel good about doing, ergo makes the world a better place, helps society, and that we’re able to generate income from that – that is the tops. That is absolutely the tops.

Pete Mockaitis

I dig it, I dig it. Now, could you share with us, for you in interviewing all of your different podcast guests, are there a couple of those guests who have really made a lasting impact on how you think and operate in your daily work and life?

Dr. Richard Shuster

One for sure was Sean Swarner, who was episode 31 on my show. And Sean, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, was voted as one of the eight most inspirational people alive. I think he won the ESPN award for courage as well. And Sean’s story was so powerful, because basically he did at two different points in his life contract two extraordinarily rare cancers. I don’t remember the number he gave on the show of the odds of getting both of these different types of terminal cancers, but the odds were like winning the lottery, a gazillion times. It was a ridiculous, an impossible number.
And yet, despite having these two fatal diseases, he overcame that. And not only did he overcome that – and one of the cancers cost him a lung – he then on to climb Mount Everest with one lung, and continued to scale Mount Kilimanjaro. He’s climbed all of the top mountains in the world, and he plants a flag for people with cancer. And hearing his story was so incredibly powerful, and it’s one of those things where if you hear it and you think about any obstacle in your life, no matter what it is – how could you not believe that you can overcome it after hearing a story like that? So I think that’s probably the most powerful episode that I’ve ever heard.
I had another episode that I recently recorded. I’m not sure if it will air before this does, but with John O’Leary, who had a similar story, where he miraculously overcame medical odds, which were like 99% chance that he was going to die as well. And shared his story about how he inspires others.
Others that have really resonated with me – episode 48, David Osborn, the New York Times bestselling author of Wealth Can’t Wait was on my program. And what was so powerful about David, and for those of you who know and meet him, he’s the most down-to-earth guy in the world. And he’s got a net worth of well over $100 million that he created himself. And his whole mission in life is to give it all away. So, what an awesome reminder for those of us driving for success about what it’s really all about. Those are a couple. There are others, but those are two top of mind that are really special episodes for me.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, thank you. And finally, you have started a non-profit recently and you’re doing some helping through that vehicle. What’s the scoop here?

Dr. Richard Shuster

So, I talk about miracles in my life, and surviving my accident was the first. My son being born was the second. And before I turn people off and you think I’m rambling off a Hallmark card, my son who is now five and a half years old, and perfect and wonderful, nearly died in utero. And the miracle that I spoke of was that at 31 weeks into my wife’s pregnancy, she collapses at work and has to go to the hospital right away, of course, and we’re fearing the worst, thinking something’s horribly wrong with the baby.
And the doctor who comes out gives the “good news and bad news” speech, which I think is actually worse than just getting bad news. You just kind of want to know what it is. And so, the good news was that the reason why my wife was in debilitating pain was because my little guy was kicking her sciatic nerve, which is extraordinarily painful, and yet not really dangerous to the child, and certainly wasn’t dangerous to my wife.
So, in a way he was letting the world know that we need to get my wife into a hospital, because what the doctor told us was that she had a very insidiously slow leak of her amniotic fluid – so slow that it was imperceptible. And yet, had we not come in when we came in, my son would have suffocated to death in her womb 12 hours later. That’s what they told us. So, we’re freaking out.
And I’ll very much abridge the story for you, but my wife was on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy, cooking until 37 weeks, but when he was born because of the lack of fluid, he had fluid to live but not fluid to move, and so he was born with a tremendous amount of developmental difficulties, yet he was smart.
And so, as he got a little bit older and we tried to get him some help, his high cognitive scores really brought up his overall scoring and we couldn’t get him all of the help that he needed for some of these other delayed areas. And we struggled. So, where we had been reasonably financially responsible up until that time, we did what any parent would do – we got our kid the help any way we could, which was we put stuff on credit cards, and financially nearly – this was in 2012-2013 – almost destroyed ourselves at the time. But I would do it, of course, as would any parent, over and over again to save my kid, help my kid.
And so, he struggled so mightily, but because we got him the help, because his teacher was so amazing and his preschool was so amazing, now as I said, I have a very happy ending. I have a very wonderful kid who can do everything that any other child can do. And what I really wanted to be able to create was this entity that helps those kids like my son that just need a little bit of a push to reach their true potential.
There are a lot of organizations in place, and God bless them and I wish we had more that are going to help those kids with severe issues. And the schools are federally mandated as well for those children that meet a certain criteria, that are beyond a certain threshold clinically or academically, in terms of impairment, that they have to give them some degree of assistance.
But the vast majority of kids with problems are not the ones that are acting out behaviorally. They’re silent, and they sit in their classroom and they wonder why their classmates are so much better at the things that they can’t do. And they are the ones who are at increased risk for things like depression and low self-esteem. And there’s nobody in this space, Pete.
Our charity’s called Every Kid Rocks, and so what we are as a … we collect money, and schools apply to be a part of our organization. Participating schools are trained by us, and they are taught how to identify these children that might need just a little push, a little bit of speech, physical or occupational therapy, so that they may reach their true potential.
It’s the most exciting thing that I’ve ever been a part of. I feel really honored and grateful that so many people have come out in support of it, and we’re just actually getting ready to launch. I don’t know when this is going to air, but we finally received our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in July, and so now we’re just putting the final back end infrastructure in place, technology in particular. And we are going to be turning the lights on in October, so we’re very excited. And our goal is to help 10,000 children a year in this country.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s awesome, thank you.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. So now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dr. Richard Shuster

So, I don’t know if there’s a favorite quote I have per se. I would say the Jim Rohn quote is one that always resonates strongly with me, and it’s, “You’re the average of the five people that you hang around with.” And I know that’s been overused in this space, but I want to qualify as to why, in that one of the things that we’ve discovered in recent years are these little guys up in our brains called “mirror neurons”.
And so, a number of months ago – it was actually during the last football season – NBC.com asked me to collaborate with them on what happens to our brain when we watch football. And the example there was, if you think about this scenario – why would a total stranger go up and hug another total stranger, high-five another total stranger? It’s just not something that we often do. And it’s because we have these things in our brains that are all throughout our brain, called mirror neurons. And what mirror neurons do is they wire us essentially to connect with people who evidence similar emotions or characteristics to things that we find intrinsically reasonable or valuable.
So, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Jim Rohn – all of these guys have been talking about this forever. And the “birds of a feather” – it’s another spin on the same thing. But the science behind the mirror neurons is our brains adapt to become more like people that we associate with. So, if you want to be really happy and successful, there’s a reason why being around really happy and successful people push you into that space as well. And the mirror neurons are the hardwired science behind that. So I guess I backed into that response, but I’m going to own that, Pete, and say that’s my favorite quote.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite tool?

Dr. Richard Shuster

Oh God. My big green egg. No, I’m just kidding. The things that I use the most are Slack, Trello, and Upwork.com, which isn’t a tool but it’s a place. Basically my position is, any way that I can leverage technology or resources to automate processes within my organizations, or take time off my hands, which allows me to spend more time and be more present with my wife and children, is important to me.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite habit?

Dr. Richard Shuster

Favorite habit is getting up at 5:00 a.m. every day and starting the day by writing three things that I’m really grateful for, every day.

Pete Mockaitis

And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with listeners and folks that you’re engaging with?

Dr. Richard Shuster

What I tell everybody is, do something for someone else, even if it’s of no benefit to you. Do something nice for somebody else. And when you do that, your days are going to feel better. And if you can start stringing days together, weeks together, months together – you’re going to feel good every day.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

I think I just did it.

Pete Mockaitis

It sounds like it.

Dr. Richard Shuster

I think I just did, yeah. I would encourage you, and this can be an act of kindness within your workplace, this can be an act of kindness within your community, this can be an act of kindness with your significant other. Do something unexpected, do something nice. And I’ll go even a step further – that if there is somebody who you have historically butted heads with in your organization, I challenge you especially to start doing nice things for them, and watch what happens.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

So, I would point everybody to TheDailyHelping.com, and that’s the mothership of everything related to the show. And you can check out all the latest episodes of the podcast and happenings right there.

Dr. Richard Shuster

And we have something called Personal Helping and I’d like to offer that to your audience, if you’re okay with that.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure, thank you. And what’s Personal Helping and how does that work?

Dr. Richard Shuster

So Personal Helping is our coaching system that I developed with a number of behavior science experts. So, there’s a little bit of neuroscience, there’s some research into strengths. And essentially, Personal Helping is going to help you do some of those things that I talked about earlier – really find out what your core values and beliefs are, what are the things that power you, how to implement some of those things into your life. And using the neuroscience of habit formation, we help you build out a schedule and a routine to where those things become a part of what you do every day, which overall makes you happier, perform better, and more on top of your game. And so, if you’re interested, we give away 10 coaching sessions a month through the platform. Go to TheDailyHelping.com/Contest and sign up, and hope that you win.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool, thanks. Well, Dr. Richard, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for taking this time and doing all you do with the helping!

Dr. Richard Shuster

It’s been great being here, Pete. Thanks so much.

340: How to Be a Chief Even without a Title with Rick Miller

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Rick Miller says: "Real power is clarity. Real power is confidence."

Rick Miller outlines what power really means and the five components needed to build it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where true power comes from
  2. Five ways to create insight and energy
  3. Why supporting other people’s success grows your influence

About Rick

Rick Miller is an unconventional turnaround specialist, a servant leader, and a go-to Chief. He is also an experienced and trusted confidant, an author (Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, September 4, Motivational Press), a sought-after speaker, and an expert at driving sustainable growth. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit. Rick earned a bachelor’s degree from Bentley University and an MBA from Columbia. He currently lives in Morristown, NJ.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Rick Miller Interview Transcript

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

Rick Miller
Great to be with you Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think there are many things that I’m excited to discuss with you. One of them that is chief among them – get it – is your—

Rick Miller
Well done.

Pete Mockaitis
Is your experience training at a professional wrestling school. What is this about?

Rick Miller
Well, you asked for something that was a little different. Back in the early ‘80s when WrestleMania I came out – showing a little date here – it was a couple of wrestlers: Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. I was running a sales organization at the time and I wanted to do something fun for our sales kickoff, so I went to Killer Kowalski’s Wrestling School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Now Killer Kowalski’s at the time was still the famed six foot six inch 325 pound monster that he was years earlier. Let’s just say, Pete, that the 325 had settled differently in his body.

I went with a couple of other folks. We learned to throw each other around and worked with Killer and a professional midget wrestler and were there for a couple of weeks and put on one heck of a kickoff for our sales team, one they didn’t expect.

But at the time WrestleMania was all the discussion. Again, I know they’ve had a bunch since, but back in the day it was fresh and it was new. No I didn’t garner the tights, but it was interesting to be thrown against turnbuckles and coming off ropes and things like that. I have a real respect for learning how to fall the right way.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. So you went through all of this to put on a show for the sales team?

Rick Miller
I did. I did. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s amazing.

Rick Miller
Oh yeah. I mean listen, you’re trying to get people motivated and have some fun and frankly show kind of a fun side of yourself. You’re going to spend the rest of the year trying to work with the team to perform miracles in terms of generating numbers that you’re trying to build up. But at the front end of most sales years is a fun kickoff and we thought that year that was the way to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Who were you wrestling in your exhibition?

Rick Miller
I was wrestling Killer Kowalski. I had a-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the Killer himself. Okay.

Rick Miller
Yeah, I was – yeah, yeah. It was great because it was funny. You grabbed them by the hand and a little tug and of course he launched himself into the air as if you did it. I got to tell you, the sounds of 300 and some-odd pounds landing the way it did, I can’t even express to you.

But the real fun was the way the skit was set up is that I was going after Killer and I was beating him for a while, but then he threw me once and I stayed down. The way the skit was set up, I reached up and said just loud enough for the audience to say, I said, “I need help from headquarters,” and in came his partner, a professional midget.

The size difference between the midget and Killer and then obviously the midget who was the headquarters, at the time it was the computer company I was working for, and he had our logo emblazoned to the midget on his chest.

He starts throwing Killer Kowalski around in a well-choreographed dance, if you will, that they had done many times. At the end, the midget holds my hand up and we’re standing on Killer Kowalski’s chest and the crowd is going crazy because obviously with headquarters’ help you can defeat – I think at the time we had Killer Kowalski with an IBM shirt on. It was really sappy, but I tell you what, it really had the sales force pumped up.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh. That is so fun. Wow. Thank you for sharing and really painting a picture there. That’s really cool. Well now I want to hear a little about your company. It’s called Being Chief LLC. What’s this organization about?

Rick Miller
It’s the organization that I set up when I left the last big company job that I had ten years ago to give me a platform to do what I like to do, which is I do some speaking, I do some writing, and I work really as a confidant, an advisor, to business leaders who want to work together on personally and professionally being more powerful.

That’s the umbrella term. I’ve long since lost the need to run large organizations. At one point I had 10,000 people when I was at AT&T that were under my direct kind of area of responsibility. I’ve really enjoyed over the last ten years having an employee base of one. It’s working out just fine for me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Yeah. I dig it. You have articulated many of your kind of core beliefs or messages there at Being Chief in the book, Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title. What are kind of the main pieces of this?

Rick Miller
Well, the central element of the book is about power. I was fortunate enough to do a TED talk a number of years ago. The line – I thought later on about the book – but the line in the TED talk that got the most resonance was people have an awful lot of interest in the term “chief,” but they frankly have a lot more interest in the power associated with the word “chief.”

Back in the day when I got out of business school, there was a chain of titles that you tried to move up. You become a vice president to a senior vice president to an executive vice president to a president to a CEO. That was the path that many of us took. Now, the term of the day is “chief” as in chief fill-in-the-blank officer. There are chiefs everywhere.

But the reason that the term “chief” is being thrown around is because people want the power associated with the word “chief.” The book – a central element of the book, again, the subtitle is It’s a Choice, Not a Title because I believe that power, as some people define it, conventionally is kind of yesterday’s newspaper to be honest.

Power, in many people’s minds, still if they’re thinking in an old paradigm, is about authority and control that comes from a title or a position or some element of superiority. That’s an old way of thinking about power.

The book offers that real power is energy. Real power is clarity. Real power is confidence. With those, that anyone can have independent of where they are in any organization, that’s where they can have influence and that’s where they can make a real impact.

The book is all about redefining power, giving you a way to measure your power, to increase your power, and then have your power spread to other people, other parts of your organization.

Because as an unconventional turnaround specialist, which is the label that I sometimes get – although my favorite label, honestly Pete, is professional nudge – but the turnaround thing is about walking into tough organizations and organizations having a tough time and putting a plan in place not only to turnaround performance and develop growth, but to sustain it.

I think the key to sustainable growth, and this is the net of the book, the big idea is that people and the way that you deal with the power that is in a workforce has everything to do with your ability to sustain growth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. In terms of the definition of power, it seems like you’re still thinking about it in terms of influence or the capacity to do work, which is sort of the same as the old or not? Could you correct me there?

Rick Miller
Yeah. Influence no question.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Rick Miller
Power is about influence. The question is who has it and how do you get it because in the old world you needed to wait for someone else to give you the promotion. You needed to wait for somebody else to say it’s time for that next rung in the ladder. As you went up in an organization, you got more powerful.

The key change is that power doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from the inside. Allowing people to find their power their way, we’re all different, and to make sure that you can become the fullest version of who you are, certainly increases your engagement. That’s one of the business topics that’s out there these days. According to Gallup, only three out of ten people are all in or fully engaged at work.

Well, some companies say well the managers aren’t doing their jobs. Blame it on the managers. Eh, you probably want to take a look at the people who you’re hiring and creating environments with them to allow them to be the best versions of themselves. That’s what I focus on.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Now we talk about energy and clarity and confidence being sort of the core underlying forces from within that turn into this power.

Rick Miller
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you tell us a little bit, you say you measure it and you increase it. How does that work?

Rick Miller
Well, there’s a – this is the best part. We’re happy to talk a little bit about the book that’s coming out where all proceeds are going to charity. We’ll talk about that later. But the best thing I have to share with your listeners is there is on my site right now, BeChief.com, a free assessment tool.

Take you five minutes. And allow you to answer some very simple questions and get a baseline of how powerful are you defined in those terms, Pete, that we just talked about. How clear are you? How confident are you? How energized are you? What is your influence score and what is your impact score?

From the way you answer those questions, you have an opportunity to say “How do I feel about the choices that I’m currently making and make those tweaks?”

I find that the language of business is numbers. The language of business is numbers. We can talk – my dad is a human resource professional. I used to call them personnel guys back in the day. But I’ve always believed that human capital is the area that we need to focus on. The challenge is the metrics aren’t there. You can’t measure it by zip code, by shoe size, by time of day, which you can financial capital.

I designed this tool, this very simple tool, to give people a quick snapshot of their power and that obviously opens them up to choices to what they choose to do about.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to dig into a bit of each of these in terms of how are your defining energy, clarity, confidence, influence, impact and then what are some of your sort of best practice pro tips for boosting each of them?

Rick Miller
Sure. Where do you want to start?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s go with energy.

Rick Miller
Okay. Energy is – we talk about power comes from the inside not the out – the core of this thing is inside actually because being chief, I’ll give you another way of looking at it, kind of pull these together.

Being chief, being the most powerful person you can be is connecting what you do to who you are, connecting what you do to who you are. If you think about who you are, who are you, really requires you to develop some insight, insight into – self-understanding and insight to me are synonyms. That’s where I think energy comes from.

Talk about five different ways that you can build insight and create energy. I suggest that part of it is being present, being focused on the moment at hand. You’ll see Pete, that many of these things are well-discussed in many different ways in many different forms by other people. My focus is not to supply you with a new piece of information, it’s to help you apply it. Supply and apply.

I’m a business guy; it’s got to be simple. I’ve got to be able to retain it. I’ve got to be able to use it. When it gets to energy and insight, first off, be present. Learn how to focus.

Second, be still. Learn how to develop your own voice. All the voices that are yapping at you from the media to a well-intentioned spouse, to your kids, to your neighbors, everybody around, everybody’s got a voice that’s in your ear. How can you develop the energy that comes from hearing your own voice and knowing it well?

Third one is being accepting. Don’t fight what is. You want to fight for the future, that’s fine, but conserve your energy. Don’t needlessly waste energy by fighting a current truth. Accept what is. The energy that comes from being generous and the energy that comes from being grateful.

I offer that there are five ways to actually measure how present are you, how still are you, how accepting are you, how generous are you, and how grateful are you. These are all your own self views, but my observation is the more you are any one of these, you can absolutely increase your level of self-understanding, your insight, and the benefit to you is the energy of knowing more who you are.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s a great sort of subset there being present, being still, being accepting, being generous and being grateful. Do you have any thoughts in terms of a particular action step one can take that really takes you far in terms of being more of one or more of these things?

Rick Miller
Well, the question is how much are you doing it? Let’s take being present. I know that many people take great benefit from the time they’re being present, but even the most accomplished, enlightened, even people who are very much focusing on the mindfulness movement, which you’ve very familiar with I’m sure, would say that there’s a percentage of their day that they aren’t present. We’re human beings.

The objective is always to can you – if you are present every once in a while, can you be present more often. Then can you be present consistently. It’s all in the small tweaks.

If someone is never present and they’re always scattered, are they going to take a step from being scatterbrained and all over the place to mindful all the time? Of course not. I’m not advocating that anybody try and skip steps, but just try to move a little bit on the scale of one to ten.

If you’re a five on a one to ten in terms of being present, what benefit, what power, what energy could you get if you became a little more present than you have been. That’s the advocacy. The advocacy is don’t ask people to do what they can’t do, ask them to make slight tweaks in what they can do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so you’re not suggesting a particular regiment or series of exercise to boost presence, so much as you’re just saying, “Hey, get some awareness and some focus and do more of it.”

Rick Miller
Exactly. Exactly. Again, there are wonderful places to go. I view Be Chief, Pete, as an integrated piece. I’m not trying to go – there are volumes and volumes and volumes on how to be present. I’m not trying to outdo the present movement, the mindful movement. Go study Jon Kabat-Zinn. There’s plenty of places to go.

My – as I work with executives and leaders at all levels, chiefs at all levels, the idea is how do you integrate all of the stuff that’s out there to make it actionable. You can go in any particular vein, but the idea of connecting what you do to who you are is the central premise.

I’ll take the next step with you. One real powerful practice that I’ve used with a lot of my clients, and, again, it’s on the free survey, is my belief that values, understanding your values, are the key to confidence.

Here’s why I say that. When I work with great groups of people, I will generally put up a list of – or talk about a list of 30 or 40 values that are all very positive things. I’ll say to a group, I’ll say, if you had to pick four – because you can’t stand for 50 things. You can’t take a stand for 50 things.

But in the compass, which I use, north, south, east, west, if you were to choose four and you were very conscious about those four, you spoke about them, you wrote about them, you took actions that were very consistent with them, not that you’d ignore the other 46, but the observation I make is that confidence comes when you can take a stand. Once you figure out what you stand for, you can take one.

For me, I’ve done a lot of work on this as you might imagine, my four are truth, service, equality, and connection.

Those – the test that I use and I advocate this, if you think you stand for something right now, ask the ten people who know you most, know you best, family, friends and say, “What do you think I stand for?” You might be surprised, maybe four – five, three, four, five answers, you might be surprised that there might not be any commonality. You may be okay with that. You may be okay with the fact that the ten people who know you best would describe your values differently.

The only question I would ask is if the ten people who knew you the best described your values in a consistent way, does that in fact make you more powerful? I would advocate that it does.

Yeah, there might be a difference between – I mean if someone says you’re kind and someone says you’re empathetic, okay that may be a difference without a distinction. But if you got a wildly different set of things, they could be all positive, but it’s like it is the same topic of focus.

If you know what you stand for, you can take one and then I think those people around you resonate with the confidence that you have that you stand for something. As just an example, but as we talk about connecting what you do to who you are, the two parts of the compass that are who you are, are your insight, which we talked about the five ways you can build that, and your values.

Insight and values and the study of those or the thinking about those gives you more clarity about who you are. When you take actions knowing who you are, you’re taking actions that are yours, on your voice and your values, not on Uncle Sam’s or Aunt Sally’s or a cousin or a boss or something else. I do believe it makes you more powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, it sounds like then we’ve got clarity and confidence there or is that – or are you distinguishing clarity in a different way?

Rick Miller
I am distinguishing. The confidence is there. The clarity I believe in having studied it and worked it in business situations from a start up to a multi-national, I link very much the topic of clarity to the topic of discipline. I believe that clarity, again, when you think about who you are, which is insight and values, then what you do has to do with discipline and support.

Discipline I link to clarity because I believe that if you plan the work and work the plan, if you have a vision and a strategy and tactics and you adjust, the more you reinforce where you’re going, that clarity comes through to the people around you and also reinforces it to you as well.

I think the vision and the strategy, which you identify, followed by planning tactics and implementing and adjusting, those all lead to clarity. Again, that clarity with discipline if it’s built off your insight and your values, it gets stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us an example or story of the clarity and discipline piece coming alive for somebody?

Rick Miller
Sure. Well, I’ll give you for an organization. When I have had the opportunity to walk into an organizations as a turnaround guy that things are pretty muddy. I walked into – I’ll give you an example. I was the first outsider in AT&T’s 100 year history to be recruited from the outside to come in and run a piece of a major division back in the day. First one, 100 years.

I walked into AT&T, great company, but they had all kinds of messages, all kinds of, all kinds of high potential programs or leadership attributes. You couldn’t crystalize any – it was all good, but there was too much of it.

I came into an organization, this is the one that had 10,000 people in it, and I said “Guys, we’re going to focus on one thing.” Forget everything else. Forget everything else. We’re going to focus on something I used a symbol to encapsulate it called R3, R to the power of 3, R to the third power. We had symbols made. It was on hats. It was – that’s our focus. Forget everything else. The discipline was—

Pete Mockaitis
What’s R to the three mean?

Rick Miller
It’s results for three important groups of people: customers, employees, and share owners. That’s the what, but the how was about teamwork, innovation and speed. It wasn’t R times 3; it was R to the power of 3.

It was taking – again, AT&T, back in the day, Pete, there was a rule in the consulting industry about AT&T, which means if you did – at the time, if you didn’t have a consulting contract with AT&T, it just meant that you weren’t trying hard enough because it was consultant’s galore, everybody with a different – all good stuff, by the way, but no focus, no clarity because it was all over the place.

I came in, 10,000 people all around the world, and I said, “Guys, this is the focus. The discipline that we’re going to have around this clarity.” We developed strategy and plans and implemented systems and took measurements and adjusted based on that’s all we’re focused on: results for three important grounds of people, focusing on three attributes: teamwork, innovation, and speed.

At the time we were growing at 5%. The market was supposedly growing at 10%. We tripled the growth rate and held on to that growth rate for three years before we changed organizations. I – it was a lot of things we did, a lot of things we did at AT&T that turned around that situation, but the focus on clarity and discipline to stay focused on an area was a big part of the success.

Pete Mockaitis
When you says discipline, you mean it’s about saying no to some things. What are some of the things that you said no to because it doesn’t quite fit into exactly what we’re focused on here?

Rick Miller
Well, a great definition of strategy, as you know, is defining what you’re not going to do. The best story I remember about how that strategic element came in an organization, where I was running a government unit and we wanted to go at all parts of the government: the civilian, the defense, all parts of it, but we didn’t have the resources.

Our strategy was to optimize one part of the government, so we actually said no. We actually pulled back selling to the civilian portion of the government unit at that time because we just didn’t have the resources. Strategy at that time was to focus on Department of Defense.

By the way, in that particular situation, different company, once again we tripled the growth rate. You’re right, strategy is key and often strategy is saying no. Couldn’t say it better.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. All right, then let’s talk a little bit about influence and impact.

Rick Miller
Yeah. Influence to me it comes from the word support. Influence comes when you support other people. People say, “Isn’t influence when you have kind of an influence over others?” No, it comes the other way. The more you support other people, the more you make choices to support other people, that’s when your influence grows.

If you are able to listen and enable someone else’s success, your influence grows. If you’re able to model the way you’d like things to be, your influence grows. If you’re able to question people about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and help them think through it if they need it, that helps your influence grow. You can inspire them by what you do and how you do it.

There’s also this – a good friend of mine, Chester Elton, wrote The Carrot Principle. You just can’t recognize people enough. It’s such a – the word is encourage. Reinforcing what other people do, whether it’s a formal program or an informal, “Hey, well done,” encouraging other people, it’s just an incredibly powerful way to build influence by supporting other people.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say that the supporting of other people results in you having more influence, is it because these individuals are like, “Wow, Rick has been just so awesomely good to me, I will follow him to the moon,” or, “I’ve got his back and I will help him in any way can,” kind of sort of like a reciprocity instinct or kind of what’s the pathway or mechanism by which that support turns into influence?

Rick Miller
Great question. But it starts with listening. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The point is if I’m listening to you, if you are my boss, Pete, and you’re going to invest time with me to say, “Okay, I want to enable your success. I want to support you,” the first thing you’re going to do is ask me what do I need. You’re going to invest some time.

The benefit of truly listening – all people want to do is to be heard. You know that. If you take the time to really find out, not to come in with the “I’ve decided this is what the answer is,” and you come in with a plunger and you’re trying to ram it through an organization.

I can tell you when I joined AT&T as the first outsider, first thing I did was ask a lot of questions. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t think – ask questions. You don’t know. More often than not, the higher you go in an organization, the less you know about the subject matter which is critical to your success. It’s an inverted pyramid. Taking the time to ask questions, to learn from the people who know it best, create a bond of influence that can be incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. Let’s talk now finally about that fifth element when it comes to impact.

Rick Miller
See this is where it comes together. Think about where we’ve been. Think about who you are: insight and values, what you do: discipline and support. It comes together with an ability to be creative.

Now when I say creativity, I’m not talking about some artistic ability to put colors together and be creative on a canvas. When I say creativity, I’m talking about an ability to manifest the future. That’s my definition of creativity. If you’re going to create the future, you’ve got to understand a couple of things.

First off, there’s something called internal creativity. That’s how you feel and how you think. You are in fact creating when you start thinking. That’s how the whole thing starts. People are very familiar with external creativity in terms of how you act, less so how you speak and how you write.

But if you understand that there is internal creativity, you understand there’s external creativity, and the power comes when you align all five. You’re feeling something, you’re thinking it, your actions and the way you write, and the way you speak are all aligned.

We all know the quickest way to lose credibility is to say one thing and do a different something else. We just lose all credibility. You lose all power. But your ability to understand that your thoughts lead to your actions, it should be your thoughts lead to your words. Your words to your actions. Your actions lead to your habits. Some would say your habits lead to your character and your character leads to your destiny to steal from Gandhi.

There’s a power in the alignment and the way those things flow. If you’re fully creating, again, connecting what you do to who are, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t matter what title you have, you are powerful. The organizations that do incredibly well with turnarounds have more and more people operating in what I call an all-in way of being.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We’ve got one more point I want to dig into in the book. You talk about the wisdom of letting go. What exactly does that mean and how does one pull it off?

Rick Miller
It’s interesting. In our culture we have taken a good idea and kind of taken it to extremes. We’re all familiar with terms like ‘whatever it takes,’ ‘nothing’s going to stop me.’ We’ve got these ideas that you work through adversity all the time. That’s not a bad idea. The problem is we don’t know when to stop.

There’s economic law called the Law of Diminishing Returns, which means from a pure logic standpoint at some point, ‘throwing good money after bad’ is certainly a phrase that we’re familiar with.

But I find that many of the great leaders that I have the privilege of working with understand the first part of it, which is okay, never give up. Drive, drive, drive. But sometimes there’s a time when you are best served, your organization is best served, to let go of an objective that may have made sense 6 months ago or 12 months ago but now no longer makes sense.

The ability to, and some would say discipline, to adjust. But some people, and you know them, are manically focused, “I’m going to do this just get out of my way.” At some point diminishing return sets in.

The idea of letting go is a very important topic and one that doesn’t get as much traction I don’t think in our culture as it needs to because I find an awful lot of people are burning themselves out going after an objective that has shifted.

I talk in the book about examples and how to do it and the focus is on first recognizing it, accepting what’s going on, investigating new opportunities to do it, and not identifying yourself with the objective. Many times this is ego driven. I am not the person I want to be if I can’t sell that next contract or can’t achieve this goal.

Separating the person from the goal, I find with otherwise very high performing individuals, it’s really important you are not that quota. You are not that objective. You are who you are. The wisdom to understand when it does make the most sense to let go of an objective that isn’t serving you is really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Thank you. Well, Rick, tell me any final points you’d like to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Rick Miller
No, no. I think, again, we’ll go to favorite things, but if – if I could I would just like to mention that BeChief.com is the website. BeChief.com is where you can find about the book where all profits, author profits, are going to charity. We’ve got a wonderful charity partner down in Austin, Texas called Sammy’s House, which is an educational and a rehabilitation opportunity facilitate for kids with severe special needs. All author proceeds are going there.

They can learn about Sammy’s House. They can learn about the book. They can also, by the way, take the free quiz. This is what I’d ask everyone to take a look at. The book – I’d love to sell as many books as possible because all the money would go to the kids, that would be great, but for your audience that wants to be more powerful, the compass, the survey, if you will, is a free tool on BeChief.com.

You can also read a chapter of the book and see it floats your boat, but most importantly, take a baseline, measure your power, understand how you feel about it and how you can help others. That’s the most important thing that I’d like to share.

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

Rick Miller
No, the one I like, it might not surprise you, but “Power is never given; it’s only taken.” That’s one that I live by because I did spend 20 years of my career waiting to be given power. I’ve been okay. I moved up the corporate ladder pretty well. But I was waiting. For people who want to take power, I just think it’s a wonderful quote because it encapsulates everything I believe.

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

Rick Miller
Well, the research, actually I’m going to go back to the book. There’s some wonderful research done by a researcher named Segal Barsotti out of Yale. Segal’s work builds on the work done by Christakis and Fowler on the happiness effect.

Now the happiness effect is a well-known study that talks about the impact of introducing a happy person into a group. The surprising – a 20-year study by the way – talks about the a fact that if you introduce a happy person, not only is a next door neighbor likely to be more happy, but the next door’s neighbor’s friend and friend’s friend, it’s like two or three degrees of separation, will statistically be more happy.

Christakis and Fowler did a wonderful piece of well-reported research on the happiness effect. What Barsotti did was take that great work and bring it into the workforce and proved that introducing a person with positive emotions into a workplace, affects the productivity of all workers in that work place.

That’s really the fundamental element that we talk about in the book. I use the term viral engagement. It’s great when you try to do things to enable the engagement of someone who’s working for you, but viral engagement is when you’re constantly taking a look at the impact that everybody can have, that really anyone can influence everyone. Once you understand that, the opportunity for growth is great.

By the way, that makes sense intellectually, but Barsotti did the research that proved it.

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

Rick Miller
Right now I’m reading When by Daniel Pink. I love When. I’m a big Dan Pink fan. But I’m reading When right now and I love it because it talks about how to bring out your peak performance when it matters most.

I’m an avid reader. I’m fascinated by this one because, again, well-researched, as Daniel’s stuff always is, but the idea of professional athletes, professional musicians, what are the tips, simple tips. I won’t go any further because it’s Daniel’s book and you want to read it. You don’t want to listen to me give you the tips, but it’s a really good read.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Rick Miller
A tool. I would tell you the tool – the app that I’m having a lot of fun with now and I’ve got lots of company, so I’ll just add my log to the fire, which is the Calm app. I’m a big meditator and have been blessed with the ability to meditate, but even when things get going so quickly that it’s a little harder to slow down a little bit, the Calm app does a wonderful job. I know there’s many fans, so I’ll just add my log to the fire.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. How about a favorite habit?

Rick Miller
The habits – I am amongst other challenges, I’m a type one diabetic, so for 40 years I’ve been giving myself four shots a day. I think this habit has probably come out of the necessity to manage blood sugars and health and numbers and things like that, but actually my favorite habit is a combination of sometimes I do the meditation in the morning, followed by some really rigorous exercise, sometimes I’ll flip it.

But my morning routine, getting up and starting the day with a combination of exercise, getting the blood flowing and mediation. It seems like gear yourself up and calm yourself down, that little kind of sweet and sour, if you will, first thing in the morning works really well for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, gets them retweeting, etcetera?

Rick Miller
I don’t – not so much honestly because, again, I do draw a distinction between wonderful people who supply those kind of nuggets and those who apply them. I’m an applier. I’m a business guy. I work in organizations and I’m on the front lines.

I don’t probably generate the kind of quips and thoughtful little musings that are on the tips of people’s tongues much like most of this book is taking and always giving credit for the great stuff that’s out there, but my focus is on how you simplify and – first you have to retain it if you’re going to apply it.

I rely on others for those inspirational moments. I just try to help the people I work with apply them so that they can have a great day.

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

Rick Miller
I would point them to BeChief.com. Whatever you can find there, whether they connect with the power compass, if you will, or develop your own. But there’s lots of stuff on the website and wherever it takes you. If it takes you to the book and you can see fit to make that purchase, know the money is going to Sammy’s House and that’s terrific. But whatever you find there, I hope it’s helpful.

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

Rick Miller
I think it’s about power. Really think about who you think has it, who really has it. More often than not, the powerful people in your life, the most powerful, the most influential, are probably a family member who doesn’t have a title. It’s somebody in the community who doesn’t have a title, but they make choices that consistently show you who they are. You can’t get enough of them because they’re the people you admire.

I think that’s what power means to me. I think the more people open themselves up to that definition of power and make the choices to be the best version of themselves, it spreads and the world’s a better place.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Rick, thank you for all you’re doing to make the world a better place. This has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you and Be Chief tons of luck, massive sales and massive impact.

Rick Miller
Appreciate it Pete. Thanks so much for the time.