Tag

Influence

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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.

323: The Surprising Power of Seeing People as People with Kimberly White

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Kimberly White says: "Ordinary people have so much capacity and so much greatness inside them."

Kimberly White breaks down why seeing people as people dramatically increases productivity at work and in life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What you miss when you see people as objects
  2. How seeing people as people turbocharges problem-solving
  3. Three ways to change the way you perceive people

About Kimberly

Kimberly White is the perpetually amused mother of some very theatrical children, and the lucky wife of the funniest person she’s ever known. Her nine months of research for The Shift included dozens of hours working alongside nursing home employees in offices, showers, vans, patient rooms, kitchens, and one very creepy basement.

Kimberly earned a degree in philosophy, studying under C. Terry Warner and serving as his longtime research assistant. She was editor of her department’s undergraduate philosophy journal and copy editor for Epoche: A Journal for the History of Philosophy. She has also worked for the Arbinger Institute as a group instructor and as a first-draft editor of Leadership and Self-Deception.

Kimberly’s family recently moved from Harlem to the village of Pawnee, Illinois, where they have gloried in mid-western sunsets and accumulated pets at an alarming rate.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

 

Kimberly White Interview Transcript

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

Kimberly White
Thank you Pete. I am so glad to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well I think this is going to be a fascinating conversation on all sorts of levels. But first and foremost, I want to hear about your synesthesia. My wife also has it. Tell me how that works for you.

Kimberly White
For me it means that numbers and letters of the alphabet have colors in my mind. It’s consistent over time. But I also have concepts, so like days of the week and places that I’m familiar with and certain holidays appear in my mind in color and also located in space around me that they always appear whenever I think about the concept or the letter or the number. It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of interesting.

The only thing about it that’s proven to be a drawback in my life is that somehow I don’t know how these things develop, but I must have been young when I learned about east and west because the color I have in my head for west is the same color I have in my head for right, as in the right side of my body.

When I’m trying to get directions and people talking about east and west, I always confuse them because the color for west is the same as the color for right, when of course, when you’re reading a map that should be on the left. But I’ve learned that if I’m getting east and west directions, I have to stop and write it down because my brain is going to confuse that. There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fascinating. With my wife, numbers seem to have a color and a gender to them.

Kimberly White
I’ve heard of that.

Pete Mockaitis
As a result, they’re so much more meaningful to her and she’s able to memorize numbers rapidly, whereas I rely on this old school technique of turning each of the numbers into a letter, turn those letters into a word, link those words. I’m thinking hard for like five minutes to memorize a sequence and she just has it in less than one minute.

Kimberly White
Yeah, because it brings in more of the brain. Yeah, mine has not really proven to be helpful, just interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s also interesting to me is you recently made a move to central Illinois, right?

Kimberly White
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s Pawnee, Illinois, not to be confused with Pawnee, Indiana, the fictitious home of Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec.

Kimberly White
No and that’s what everybody asks me. All I can say is a) I wish and b) my Pawnee is much, much smaller.

Now, what’s crazy is we moved here from Manhattan.

Pete Mockaitis
That is crazy.

Kimberly White
We actually lived in Harlem. It was the biggest city. It’s all very cosmopolitan. And everybody’s a doctor or an artist or an opera singer. Everybody has tiny, little tiny places to live, but sort of big jobs and big dreams. We moved out here to farm country and it’s like being in a different country, but it’s great. It’s a great different country. We’ve been very, very happy here.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. The motivation for the move was just to have just less distraction and to be able to do more writing?

Kimberly White
Partially that and the money.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Kimberly White
I love New York, but it is so expensive to live there. Rents just go up and up and up. We just we got priced out.

Pete Mockaitis
I think beyond just the sheer income versus outgo, it would just irritate me. Writing checks that large ore paying this much for a drink or for milk or whatever you’re buying, like, “This is ridiculous,” grumble, grumble.

Kimberly White
It’s really true. I would be happy – if I saw a gallon of milk for five dollars, I’d say, “Hurray, it’s only five dollars.” This was two years ago. I’m sure milk is seven dollars now. It really did wear on you after a while, but there were lots of great things about the city too. Wonderful people.

New Yorkers get a really bad rap. It’s mostly deserved, but there are really, really good things about New Yorkers. They’re very loyal.

I’m always telling people who wanted to go visit, they always want advice from somebody who’s lived there, I tell them, “Do not be afraid to ask somebody on the street for directions. New Yorkers are really friendly that way. But don’t stop in the middle of the street and block them from walking. Then they’ll be really mad.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right, walking too slow. That’s the cardinal sin.

Kimberly White
Don’t walk too slow. Don’t do that. Just don’t. Don’t do it. Don’t stop at the top of the subway stairs. Don’t do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. Well, that’s a lot of fun. That’s the backdrop.

Kimberly White
There we are.

Pete Mockaitis
Then I’m going to get some more backdrop. You have a good bit of experience collaborating with the Arbinger Institute. Can you orient those who are not yet familiar? What’s this organization all about?

Kimberly White
The Arbinger Institute is a management consulting company. They’re a philosophy. They’re management consulting approach is based on the work of a philosopher named Terry Warner, who founded the company decades ago before I was involved with them.

Their approach is to teach leaders and managers how to see the people that they’re responsible for, and the people that they work with, and the people that report to them as real people not just as sort of cogs in the corporate machine.

They have found over the years that you can do a lot to improve productivity and avoid infighting and the sort of battles that develop between different departments and so on just by taking this approach.
I worked with them in college. They have a very popular book called Leadership and Self-Deception that was written about that time. I was involved. I didn’t write the book but I looked at the first draft, edited it. I was involved with the first couple of drafts of that book. It’s still worth reading today. Your listeners should check it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh absolutely. It is worth reading. I heard several guests cite this as one of their top, top books. It’s like; I’ve got to check this thing out. I actually listened to the audio version. I still hear that guy’s voice in my head sometimes, like, “You’re in the box. … going to get out of the box.”

Kimberly White
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s really powerful stuff. I was intrigued just because it’s one of the few books that I know of that doesn’t have an author listed as the person, but it’s like the entire organization.

I always try to figure out this is a great book. Who should I get to talk about it on the show? Well, it’s like I don’t know because there’s not an author I can snag. You’re sort of like behind the veil of mystery as an editor.

Kimberly White
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s something special.

Kimberly White
I know. Yes. It’s very interesting. They did that on purpose. They were very considered about that. They have a few other books out now. Usually they are primarily written by one person in the company, but they all sort of collaborate together and work on it together.

They made the decision – and this is a very Arbinger thing to do. They made the decision to have all of their books be authored by the Institute and not by the individuals so that the credit for the ideas would be shared. There wouldn’t be one person, for example, who’s doing all the podcasts. That was their point.

You’ll notice in my book that I’ve written we had the same sort of issue. It’s primarily a profile of one company and they didn’t want their name to be primary. They wanted the stories and the insights to be sort of more universal. More important, they didn’t want to feel uncomfortable offering the book to their competitors and other people in the same industry. They just wanted the ideas to stand for themselves.

That’s why there’s this veil of mystery, as you call it, is to keep it even and to keep the focus on the ideas and the work and to make it as accessible for any one person as for anybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool and that’s interesting. It just really feels like it’s really based upon true values. I think it just makes it, well, I guess from a marketing perspective, all the more intriguing. It’s like I’ve got to see what this is about.

Kimberly White
You can tell that they’re really living what they preach. They have the kind of collaborative relationship that they teach other people how to have.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. You’re telling me that the name of the organization is not the real name of the organization?

Kimberly White
It is not. That just stands for Healthcare Group.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got it. The mystery continues. Cool.

Kimberly White
Yeah, such a mystery.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s sort of the backstory. Then can you orient us a little bit. We talked about the main principle or concept is people as people. Can you give us a little bit more background on just sort of the conceptual piece and then I want to hear how it came alive for HG. I said the box a couple of times, could you maybe unpack just a couple of those foundational concepts?

Kimberly White
Yeah, let’s clarify all of those. Especially because the subtitle of my book is How Seeing People as People Changes Everything. The question I get all the time is how else am I going to see them. Obviously they’re people. It does bear talking about.

The point isn’t that Arbinger or I, anybody thinks that anyone really doesn’t know that people are people and thinks of them as subhuman or anything like that. That’s not what we’re talking about.

But the point is this, when I am focused and kind of obsessed with my own interests and my goals and the things I’m trying to accomplish and my fears and my dreams, when that’s the only thing that I’m caring about and thinking about, then the people around me only enter my thoughts in so far as they have an impact on the things I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t think about them beyond that.

If I’m trying to get a promotion at work, then my coworkers, I only even see them as far as they impact that. She might be a competitor, someone else who’s trying to get that promotion. That’s all I see. This is a person I’m competing with. How do I drag her down? How do I make myself look good in comparison to her?

He might not be in the running for the promotion. He kind of likes me and maybe he’ll say something good about me to the higher ups, so I only see him in so far as I can use him for that purpose. Now, the reason we say that seeing people like that is like seeing them as objects is because it reduces them to functional.

Pete Mockaitis
Only if you’re there.

Kimberly White
Yeah. Objects, they come from the factory. They’re supposed to perform something. If I’ve got a pen, it came from the factory. It only exists for me to be able to write with it. If I can write with it, then I’m happy with it. If my friend at work will praise me to the higher ups, then I’m happy with him. I don’t think any further about it.

If my pen is broken, then I’m mad and I’m frustrated and maybe I’ll throw it away. I might lick it, shake it, whatever, because it’s just an object. What I don’t do with a pen is think “I wonder what happened to make the pen feel bad. I wonder if I can talk it into providing-“ no, because it’s not a person. It doesn’t have feelings. It doesn’t have thoughts. It’s just an object.

But I find myself treating other people that way too because-

Pete Mockaitis
You lick them. You shake them.

Kimberly White
Yeah, you lick them, you shake them, try to get them to do it and see how – and if they don’t do what I want, then I’m just mad and I get rid of them.

But the person who’s a competitor for the promotion for me in the office, that is not why she exists. She doesn’t exist to compete with me. She has her own life. She grew up somewhere. She has perspective. She has a culture she came from. She had hurts when she was young and triumphs and all of these things have made her the person she is. She has her own goals and her own reasons.

There are just thousands of things inside her mind and in her life having her act the way she does and bringing her to this point. But when I’m only thinking about myself, I don’t see any of that in her. All I see is “I want a promotion, she might get in my way,” just like she was a pen that wasn’t producing ink.

When we see people as objects like that, the problem is obviously, that’s not fair to her. She doesn’t exist for me. He doesn’t exist for me. It’s not fair to people. They don’t like that feeling of being seen like an object, but it’s also false. When I see somebody, just a thin sliver of what they’re … me and that’s all I care about, then I’m missing a lot.

She might have a very good reason for wanting this promotion. She might … fit for the promotion than I am or maybe not, but I don’t know. As long as all I can see is that she’s a competitor, like an object competitor, I can’t see anything else and there are bound to be important things that I’m missing.

That’s why in the Arbinger materials, you’ll find them talking about being in the box because when we see other people as though they were just objects, our perspective is so limited that it’s like being locked in a box where we can only see a few things. I can only see the stuff that matters to my goals. I can’t see anything else. It’s a way of being blinkered.

In my book I talk about it as being kind of blind because we miss so many important and crucial things and it leaves us unable to solve problems and build relationships when we’re seeing others in that shallow object-like way.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talk about being blinkered and blind, what this is reminding me of is some study that I think it looked at brain scans associated with people who are looking at pornography.

What was sort of troubling there is that sort of the same parts of the brain associated with using an object or tool like a hammer or a saw or something were being activated and lit up sort of in that context when they were looking at images of people, which is really spooky that there’s some sort of physical or biochemical stuff happening just inside of us that’s there.

Blindness really does seem like an apt terminology because it’s kind of like a physical dysfunction or disability.

Kimberly White
Yes, there’s just so much we miss. Nobody has ever studied the Arbinger term specifically, but they have done studies and they’ve shown similar things when you’re part of an in group and there’s an out group that you have a conflict with, like racial groups or gang members from different affiliations that you find, again, the same thing.

You find different regions of the brain activated for the people that you’re seeing as objects and as enemies than for the ones that are part of your in group and that you care about.

Like I said, this specifically hasn’t been studied, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it would show up in a brain scan because we do, we get so blinded and so blinkered when we are self-absorbed and not seeing the people around us as people.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there that it doesn’t sound like a pleasant way to live and experience collaboration and interaction with people. But if that were enough for the hardcore achievers, what are some of the results or performance impacts associated with making this mental shift?

Kimberly White
Oh gosh, it’s so crazy because I think it’s easy to hear something like this and think, “Hm, yeah, but having to get to know people, that takes time and I’ve got to earn money and I’ve got a deadline,” as though seeing people as people is going to take more time and it yields uncertain benefits.

But it is absolutely the opposite. I have seen so many cases where seeing people as objects has led to all kinds of conflict and wasted time. In my book, it’s primarily focused on the healthcare industry.

One thing that’s very, very common in health care environments is the management – it being responsible management – will sort of look at their budget and all the things that are going in and out and notice that they spent a lot on supplies, gloves and adult briefs, and wipes and things like that and will say, “Hey, I think we’re using too many. Let’s try to restrict this a little bit and try to save money on our supplies.”

The problem is that the nurses and the nursing assistants who have to deal with the patients face-to-face, one-on-one, that’s a horrifying idea to them because what are they going to do if somebody needs  a change or they need their wound looked at or they need to be rolled over and the nurse has run out of gloves. You can’t even touch a patient without gloves. There’s so many things they wouldn’t be able to do.

The nurses become panicked and the first thing they do – and this is so common – they’ll sort of sneak the supplies out of the closet and go hide them around the patient rooms. They’ll hide them in places so that each individual nurse knows that she has enough supplies for her patients. But they all do this because they’ve all been told we’re cutting back on supplies.

Then management comes and they look at it and they go, “Wait, we’re still overusing our supplies,” and they yell at the nurses and they give them lectures. They have a big in service meeting to talk about how important it is. The nurses go, “Oh my gosh,” and they hide more stuff because they’re afraid of losing their supplies and not being able to care for their patients.

This happens so frequently and things like this happen in every business as departments feud for resources and as reports try to sneak things from their boss if they feel like budgets are being constrained.

This problem only arises because the management isn’t trusting the nurses to be responsible with the supplies and the nurses aren’t trusting the management to purchase the amount of supplies they truly need, so they’re back and forth and everybody is upset and angry.

You end up spending a lot of time, and meetings, and a lot of emotional energy trying to solve this supply problem that should be going toward your actual product, which is taking care of the patients, taking care of their rooms.

When you get leaders who are willing to back out of that conflict and say, “We’re on the same side here. Let’s work together to talk about things where we can save money. How many supplies do you realistically need? I’ll make sure you have them,” then you don’t have those problems. That hording issue completely disappears when the people trust each other.

Now, no nurse, no janitor, nobody who’s on the housekeeping staff, none of these people are going to trust leadership that doesn’t value them. If I know that my boss basically just sees me as an object, I am not going to trust him. I’m not going to trust her. I’m going to feel like those nurses and I’m going to feel like I need to hoard my resources and hoard my stuff.

When you can really see people as people as a leader, you get so much more productivity, so much more cooperation, so much more openness from the people that you’re working with because people can tell that the difference. They know. They know when you’re seeing them as an object. They know when you don’t matter to them.

You can save all kinds of energy and money, frankly, because you don’t need to spend that much on supplies if everybody is being honest about where they’re going.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. You talked about resources in different environments. I’m aware of an employee who it’s kind of challenging to type all day at a laptop, so this person wants to use speech software.

They have speech software, but the laptop is underpowered in terms of RAM or hard drive space or whatever is necessary to run the thing and making the request to get the computer you need to do the work is just nightmarish in terms of the policies and the standards.

Kimberly White
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
You can have me operating at sort of half-power, which is going to amount to 30 – 40 – 50 K a year of lost productivity.

Kimberly White
Of loss, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Or you can pay 500 bucks to get me a RAM and a hard drive update and I’ll be a happy camper.

Kimberly White
Right. I’ll be happy. I’ll be pleased. I’ll get my work done instead of gripping about my computer. I think so many, especially business leaders and managers, underestimate how much time is lost in complaining and in gripping and in just sort of being unhappy.

Here’s a little experiment for you. If you think about somebody that you don’t like, somebody that’s irritating and drives you crazy. Just think about how much time you’ve spent in your life just basically sitting and thinking how annoying that person is or complaining to somebody else about how annoying they are. Calling your mom, “Oh, did I tell you what so and so did today.”

We actually spend a lot of time on that and not nearly as much when we trust and value people. That doesn’t take away from our work. We don’t devote the same kind of energy to it. We tend to devote that kind of energy into working together.

I was in a building – this is in my book too – where I met two nurses. They’re both male. They were just so happy in their job. They were so happy where they worked. They were so happy with the way they were treated by management and they created this entire environment where all of the employees were supportive and helpful.

One of these guys actually had a second job in another facility that actually paid him more per hour, but he wouldn’t give up this job because it was so pleasant. He enjoyed it so much. Talk about productivity increase, talk about engagement, talk about motivation.

We spend so much time and energy trying to get employees to feel engaged, to be motivated, to be committed, to reduce turnover, all of these things. People will stay where they’re happy, where they feel valued, and where they know their feelings and their hopes, and their dreams, and their perspective matter, especially when they feel like they matter to the management.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. I’m thinking of another instance in which an employee shared all sorts of input on sort of the process and the use of contractors and how they could do a better job executing a certain area of work.

Then one or two days later, they started up doing the exact same old process with the exact same problematic contractors, threw this person into a meeting and is absorbing this with not a word of acknowledgement about the exchange.

Like, “Hey, I know what you said about the contractors and we’re really working on that, but it’s … right now, so we’re going to have to go with who we’ve got because we can’t get someone else quick enough,” just 20 seconds.

Kimberly White
That’s all it would take.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, “Hey, I heard you.”

Kimberly White
Right. But here’s the thing and here’s why the Arbinger approach and the stuff I talk about in my book I think are so important, it’s because that kind of thing, just being willing to take the time to explain what’s going on kind of arises naturally when you really see the people around you as people.

When you care about your coworkers, when you care about their feelings, you would always make those clarifications. You would never just ignore them. That’s how we treat the people that we care about. That’s how we treat our friends.

It’s in this environment where we just see our coworkers as objects, as other cogs in the machine that you end up kind of either feeling awkward about it or not knowing how to bring it up, all these sort of things that people end up doing that stops them from saying what they really should say. Those sorts of things arise in an environment where we see people as objects.

When we care about people, when we know them – this is one of the things that this company HG in the shift did so well – is they trained their leaders not in some process that made employees feel valued, not in some procedure that would make people think that they mattered, but they would literally tell them.

When a manager went into a new building for the …, he or she was instructed for the first 30 days or thereabouts they weren’t allowed to do anything except get to know the staff and the people. They weren’t allowed to change processes. They weren’t allowed to make new plans. They weren’t allowed to change their suppliers. They just spent all of their time getting to know people.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so funny. I’m imagining myself as that manager, like, “What an awesome month. This is just going to be fun.”

Kimberly White
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
“I can just get to know people. I cannot stress about lots of stuff.” It’s almost like having an extended vacation, hanging out with cool people.

Kimberly White
Right. Although, I’ll tell you. They continually had a problem that these managers couldn’t stand not to be solving problems because they’re managers. They wanted to go in and fix problems, so they had to make it so that they’d have to report on who they met that day and report on what they learned about people.

They’d also have to report on problems that they saw but didn’t fix because otherwise they’d go around fixing problems, which is I think just sort of a manager thing. But they would do this. They would legitimately do this.

Thirty days later – I mean just imagine. If you worked for a bad company – a lot of the time there would be these bad healthcare facilities that were losing money and they failed health inspections and they were not pleasant places to be in.

Then HG would come in, buy the facility, bring in a new manager and turn them around. That’s how they grow. That’s how they earn their money.

Now if somebody comes in, which is typical in the industry and in most industries, if a new boss comes in and just says, “You’re doing this wrong and that wrong, and this process is bad, and this person is bad. I’m going to fire a bunch of people, bring in all my own guys, tell you guys that you’re all doing it wrong.” The employees that stay just feel so insulted by that.

You might as well come in and say, “Everything you’re doing is wrong. You’re stupid,” because that’s how it feels. We got a new boss and he hates everything I’m doing. He thinks everything I’m doing is wrong. He’s firing my friends. It’s really demoralizing. It’s really, really difficult. It’s hard enough to get a new boss even if he’s great.

They would send these people in and they would spend 30 days just getting to know people. At the end of 30 days, you’ve got a staff that isn’t thinking, “He thinks I’m dumb. He hates me. He’s got all these new processes. We tried that last year. We already know it didn’t work.” They don’t disdain him. They are fond of him.

They know that he knows them. He can greet them by name because he spent all month getting to know people. He knows who has kids. He knows who works a second job. He knows who’s going back to school to get a nursing degree.

When you’re in an environment like that where people know each other and you know the boss cares about your job. When I say everybody, I mean everybody: the kitchen, the housekeeping staff, everybody. If you wash dishes in one of these facilities, the boss knows you.

Thirty days later, the boss would say – and this is the second important piece to the HG approach – the boss would gather all of his department heads and the leaders of the facility and ask them what they thought they needed to work on in the building.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Kimberly White
Now, instead of this new guy coming in and telling them all of the things they’re doing wrong and giving them a new process, he’s saying, “What do you think we can do better?” You know what? They always know. The people who are in this building, they know why it’s not making money. They know why it’s failed the health inspection.

They can feel perfectly free just to say, “I think our billing is inefficient. I think this process is too slow,” because they don’t have to feel defensive about it because nobody is attacking them.

I couldn’t find anybody who said there was a big problem that the leader had identified that the staff didn’t identify. They always get it.

Then the leader too. Now he’s a guy or she’s a girl who not only knows everybody on her staff, top to bottom, but also she has proven to herself that they know what they’re doing, that they know what the problems are, that they’re smart about identifying problems and solutions.

When she goes forward as a boss over the next years, she’s doing it with people that she trusts, that she values, that she knows, and people that she knows she can count on.

That kind of a work environment, where the boss isn’t pretending, doesn’t have an initiative, doesn’t have a binder that he’s looking at to try to make you feel good, but where the boss genuinely values you and can go into the kitchen and speak to the dishwasher by name and tell him he’s doing a great job.

The amount of dedication and hard work that these people put into their buildings is incredible. They work longer hours. They do more. They go out of their way. They do things that aren’t in their job description. They cover for each other when they’re on vacation.

I saw business behavior I would not have believed and I saw it all the time because people want to be friendly, people want to be helpful when they feel safe, when they feel like they matter, and when they know that they’re a real person to everyone around them. Then they treat each other that way. It kind of spreads.

That it’s not just – you bring in one boss who’s willing to make that 30-day effort to get to know people and treat them like they’re intelligent and like their input is good input, then everybody else becomes more willing to treat their coworkers that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a beautiful picture that you’re painting. It’s inspiring. It’s a beautiful thing. This just sparks so many things.

When we talk about sort of efficiency, many things came up. One, people are going to work at a lower wage when they’re just feeling great about the environment around them. Two, you’re coming up with all of these solutions and I’m thinking about my management consulting days. One month of a manager’s compensation is less than one month of Bain & Company fees.

Kimberly White
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
To come up with a bunch of solutions.

Kimberly White
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
In a way it’s massively efficient if it’s like we’re looking for leveraged approaches to getting solutions, we can hire the consultants or we can hire a manger who does nothing but get to know people for a month. It sounds like odds are strong you may come away with a bigger ROI on that month there than you would with a consultant or other solution finding approach.

Kimberly White
Yeah, HG is convinced that their financial success is largely due to this willingness to invest initially.

Like I said, so many people want to come in, snap their fingers, make a bunch of changes in the first 30 days, first 100 days.

In fact, I met a woman who had worked for a different company doing exactly that, going into facilities. She had 100 days to turn them around and make them profitable. She was a powerhouse. She was so fierce. She did that and made a ton of money. But she heard about HG and their way of doing things and got hired with them. When I … that she doesn’t make as much money … fixer.

But the reason she made the switch because she would go to these big meetings with the executives at the previous company and she had made them millions of dollars. She is so good. She had made them tons of money. Not one of them knew her name, not one of them. Over at HG, they all did. Even the executives made sure to get to know people and meet them. It’s a top down all the way thing.

There you go. She was making tons of money, more money than they could afford to pay her at this other … company. She left and they got her skills because she would rather be in an environment where she was valued.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. What you’re painting really does sound like a paradise, but you’ve got a chapter called The Paradise Delusion, so what’s the other side of this coin?

Kimberly White
Yup, yup. Oh my goodness, so yeah, we’re talking here about all of the good stuff and it behooves me to say none of this means that they didn’t have problems at HG. They still had turnover. You just always are going to have turnover in healthcare. They would still have government restrictions coming.

They dealt with things. None of this means that you’re not going to have problems, but you’re never going to have different departments needing or wanting different things. It just means that when those things happen, when you have people who really value each other, they can work it out in a way you can’t if everybody’s just an object to each other. You beat heads.

But as paradise delusion is concerned, the thing is very often when we are seeing people around us as objects and we’re unhappy and I would suggest that if we’re seeing the people around us as objects, we’re invariably going to be unhappy because objects are so stifling.

I found in my personal life as I went into HG and … these people and saw these friendly, familial work environments where people cared about each other and so on, it made me feel so much worse about my home life, which was very unhappy at the time.

I began to think, “Oh, I wish my husband would be like this person at this facility. I wish that my kids were as well-behaved as these people at this facility. I wish that my neighbors and coworkers were as … as these people.”

I called it a paradise delusion because I became convinced that what I needed to become happy in my life was to be surrounded by people who were going to be kind to …. I think that’s not at all uncommon when we’re unhappy, to feel like what I need is different people, different, nicer people who are going to value me again.

The reason that’s a delusion is because for one thing it’s never, ever, ever, ever going to happen, that there’s anybody on earth who’s completely surrounded by people who are always nice to him or her all of the time. Can’t be done. We are human beings. Nobody is nice all of the time. No group of people are all going to be nice all at the same time. It’s just never going to happen.

The second thing is when I think that paradise means everyone is going to be kind to me; I’m only thinking about myself. I’m thinking about what I want. I’m thinking about how I wish my husband would treat me, but in all of that – and maybe he is doing things that are unkind – but in thinking that way, I’m not sparing any mental energy to wonder what my husband wants.

What does he want from a spouse? What would he like for me to be doing? Does he want a nicer spouse? See that never crossed my mind. All I was thinking about is how I want other people around me to be different. I never thought about how they might want me to be different.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Well, so let’s get zoomed in shall we in terms of an individual professional in the heat of battle, if you will, in their workplace. What are some of the real keys to making the shift?

Kimberly White
Okay, first of all you have to be present with people. You have to be around them, especially if you’re a leader. You can’t get to know people if they’re always in their offices and you’re always in your office. You have to get to know people and take effort.

Usually that will mean asking questions. Where did you go to school? How do you like your job? What are you interested in? What do you do for your spare time? You can ask questions of people and get to know them.

There’s no way a person can be a real person for you if you don’t know anything about them. You have to start there. You have to start with finding out about them so that you know what’s relevant and what bothers them in their life.

At HG, you’ll see this in the book, they train their leaders to ask people

Kimberly White
“What makes your job hard for you?” because it validates them in the fact that there are things that are going to be hard, but then as a leader you know what the difficulties are. Instead of sitting back frustrated that people aren’t getting things in on time, you can just find out why is it hard to get things in on time. Then you know. Very often you can do something about it.

This works in personal life too. Why do you always forget to bring the milk home? Instead of just being mad and yelling at the person who isn’t doing what they’re asked, “Why is that hard?” You might find out there’s something you can do about it. You might find out there’s something you didn’t know that was going on in the background.

Asking questions is absolutely the first step. You get to know people and particularly find out if there’s something that’s irritating to you or something that’s a problem from your perspective, find out from them why it’s difficult. It’s a very, very humbling thing to do.

The second thing is to pay attention. You can’t fake caring about somebody. You can’t fake that they’re valuable to you. You can try and people see through it. It’s a waste of time, so don’t bother.

Ask the questions and pay attention. Watch people. Is this a cheerful person? Is this a grumpy person? See what’s going on. Then if there’s a change, you’ll notice it. If there’s a change, you’ll see it.

None of us want to be that person who … ten years later they suddenly woke up one day and said, “Oh my goodness, I never noticed how much he changed. I never noticed how much she had changed.” We need to pay attention as we go and notice the changes as they happen.

The third thing I would say is to always be willing to consider whether I am the problem because I don’t know what the problem is, you see. It’s quite possible that it’s me.

Talking about the paradise delusion with our coworkers or spouses or neighbors, we can be very irritated by something that they’re doing and wish that they would change and wish that they would be better, but we can never solve these problems and improve these relationships until we’re willing to recognize what we are doing that’s irritating to them.

When I am willing and able to say, “What am I doing that’s a problem for you?” that opens up the possibility of truly being able to fix these relationships that can’t be fixed as long as the only problem I’m willing to recognize is the one that they’re causing me.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, there’s just a lot of profundity here to sit with. I think I’ll be listening to this episode multiple times and I recommend listeners do the same.

Kimberly White
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s a few more pieces I want to get if you have some time.

Kimberly White
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
You say it’s possible that our worst employees can actually be the best. How does that work?

Kimberly White
Well, it goes back to the blindness we were talking about. When we see somebody as an object, we don’t really know what they’re capable of.

Some of the time, my experience has shown, that a person who is being a bad employee, who is acting out, who is resistant to instruction, all these things that make an employee difficult to deal with, very often those are people who react very … against being treated like an object. Very often these are people who are just very resistant to that feeling and can’t … that feeling.

Then when they’re treated well, when you begin to get to know them, and understand them and see where they’re coming from, there isn’t anything wrong with them as an employee. Their devotion to the work is great. Their knowledge is great. Their skills are wonderful. They just were so troubled by being treated like an object.

This is a funny story in my book. The founders of HG, their company, it became a running joke for them. When they would purchase a new facility and go in, they told me that invariably, invariably, the previous owners would tell them, “Well, watch out for so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so because they’re such trouble.” They’d give them like five names.

He said invariably when they went in and stated doing things this way, seeing people as people and started off by getting to know them and doing all that that most of those people on the watch-out-for list turned into their best employees.

We can’t make judgments about people while we’re seeing them as objects because there’s no way of knowing how much of their behavior is just a reaction to the very fact that I’m seeing them as an object.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s powerful. I have to ask, even though it feels a little too silly from the heavy, powerful stuff we’ve had, but you’ve got a chapter that has poop in the title.

Kimberly White
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I can’t just walk away from that. What’s the story here?

Kimberly White
No, you can’t. It’s the poop chapter. I couldn’t believe my publisher let me do that. I’ll tell you why. It’s stilly, but it’s also profound I think.

This story is in the book too, but I was in a facility early, early on, the very beginning of this research, before I understood a lot these things that we’d been talking about. I learned it from these people. But I was in this facility and I was talking to a nursing assistant who didn’t speak very good English. I remember her so clearly.

Now, nursing assistants are the ones who change beds and for people who are incontinent, they change the briefs. They’ll help people to the toilet – somebody who needs to be rolled over or helped out of bed, they do all that sort of very close and physical work.

I had developed a habit of asking everybody that I met what was the best part of their job and what was the worst part of their job. I was asking this woman, “What’s the worst part of your job?” She paused for a minute and she told me that the worst part was when her patients pass away, which was just astonishing to me. I didn’t know that the people who worked in these places cared that deeply for one thing.

But the second thing was I knew what nursing assistants did, so I knew for a fact, we all know, that it’s got to be like changing the diapers and doing the poop and the diarrhea and stuff. That’s got to be the worst part. I asked her, like maybe she’d forgotten, “What about the diapers and stuff?” She looked at me like I was crazy. She said, “No, no, that’s for their dignity.”

I realized that for me poop was just this gross thing that I didn’t want to touch and that made me not want to work in healthcare because you might have to see some of that stuff and that’s yucky.

But that’s not what it was for her. Because the people that she cared for were real people to her, she didn’t see it as yucky, gross poop. To her it was well, these people, their bodies are failing them. I can help keep them dignified if I assist them with the toilet, if I keep them clean. I’m making them clean and safe and happy.

It wasn’t remotely the worst part of the job to her because it was what real people, people that she cared for, it was what real people needed.

The point of that chapter and the point of talking about poop at all is just to show how different everything, everything about other people looks when we can see them as they really are.

An object person, yes, their diapers are gross, but a real person with a life history who chats with me about their kids and tells me stories of the past and maybe tells me jokes, with that person if their body is aging and doesn’t function for them, it’s not the same thing at all. It becomes a sense of I want to help clean them up, make sure they don’t feel embarrassed.

It’s even the feces is different when we see people as people.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. This is just so good.

Kimberly White
Thank you. Thank you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you share a little bit when you’re in the midst of things, I think that many of us want to, we aspire to care about people regularly and then we get caught up in our own stuff and we get defensive and such. Do you have any tactical tips for when you’re in the moment, in the heat of it, what are some great ways that you can kind of quickly bring yourself back to a caring position?

Kimberly White
Oh my gosh. You’re asking the wrong person. I am so bad. But there’s a chapter about this too. It was one of the most disappointing things – one of the hardest things, but it turned out to be wonderful about learning all this stuff and this shift and seeing people as people.

It turns out I’m still just kind of me. I’m still just kind of a jerk. I can still fight. I can still see people as objects. I didn’t just magically turn into a fairy princess who scatters flowers around. It was very disappointing. I thought I was going to be better.

I actually think the first thing to do is just to remember human beings have faults. The other people around us are going to have faults. We shouldn’t condemn them for that and neither should we condemn ourselves. We can always fix the situation later. You can always apologize. There’s no sense in getting depressed when we find ourselves doing the jerky thing that we know we’re prone to do.

The second thing is when it’s a relationship that’s pivotal in your life, a spouse or a coworker or something that’s likely to come up a lot, then I would really, really recommend spending time –

We were talking before about the amount of time we spend griping about people that annoy us, try to spend an equal amount of time or even any amount of time thinking about the person that annoys you the most and what in their life, what pains and sorrows, and frustrations might be leading them to behave in a way that you find so difficult.

Then you have that place to go to. In the moment when you find yourself frustrated, you’ve already thought about that person as a person and instead of trying to generate that when you’re already upset, which I can tell you I don’t do very well, I don’t think most of us do.

But if I’ve already thought about it and already found a way to see that person as a person, and even please, taken some steps to show them, steps of kindness, to demonstrate the caring that I have, then when I find myself irritated, frustrated, grumpy, I have that mindset present to me. I can go there.

I can remind myself, “Okay, take a deep breath. Remember that she just got over being ill and she takes a medication.” “He was really disappointed last week at his performance, no wonder he’s stressed right now.” You can remind yourself of the things you know about the person that will make them seem human to you.

We do not have to just fall back into that, “He’s so annoying.” “She’s such a brat,” kind of way of thinking. We have the power because we run our own minds, we have the power to remind ourselves of the things we know about the person that are real, that are true, and that are human.

Then if you can’t do much in the moment, don’t be afraid to apologize. People love to get apologies and to make an acknowledgement of what I’ve done wrong. Nobody ever minds, ever, ever, ever will mind hearing, “I’m sorry. I messed that up.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Kimberly White
You’re quite welcome.

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

Kimberly White
Oh, we’ve had such a great conversation, Pete. I think we’ve covered everything. I just want to emphasize again how much power we have over our own lives and our own relationships.  The seeing people as people stuff, that’s not only for people who were born cheerful. It’s not only for people who were born calm. That is a decision we get to make in every moment of our lives.

Am I just going to sit back and think about myself and everybody around me gets to be an object or am I going to say, “Wait. What’s he thinking? What’s she thinking?” It doesn’t take any skills. It doesn’t take a degree. It doesn’t take a particular upbringing. That is just a choice we get to make. It’s a choice that will change everything in our lives if we’re willing to make it.

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

Kimberly White
Well, it was just so powerful to me. One of the founders of this company was talking to me about motivating employees. He said that he’s against trying to motivate employees. He said this, “Leadership is like a fire.  A good leader doesn’t come in and blow on the flame and take credit. He sees the flame that’s already there and clears away debris to let it grow.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.

Kimberly White
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Now how about a favorite book?

Kimberly White
The Remains of the Day. Are you familiar with that one?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know a lot about it, but I know the title. It’s ringing a bell.

Kimberly White
Yeah, and they made a movie of it. No, it is a story about a man who devoted his whole life and made tremendous and painful personal sacrifices thinking he was on the right side of history and it turned out he was not and sort of had to confront that in his old age.

I just am so moved by the human experience and just the disappointments we all have just because we’re flawed human beings. We don’t have to have lived the perfect life. Humanity isn’t about getting it right. It’s just about being human.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Kimberly White
I like to eat a chocolate smoothie in my bed and read with my door locked. I will read anything. Mostly I read non-fiction. But the chocolate smoothie just puts that over the edge, I’m telling you. It’s like ice cream without the guilt.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people when you share it?

Kimberly White
You asked great questions and brought out all the good stuff.

One thing that resonates a lot with people is this little tidbit. Before I started working on this book, I was headed for divorce. I was so unhappy. I thought this was going to be the way to make the money I needed to be independent and split. Now, I am happily married to the same man.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Thank you.

Kimberly White
In case you’re wondering, does this really work? Yeah, it does actually. It really, really, really does. It’s not just pie in the sky. It’s not just quotable quotes. Life can be different. Life can be better than we tend to think. Humans are awesome. Ordinary people have so much capacity and so much greatness inside them. We’re surrounded by it. We can produce it and we can see it in others and it’s just miraculous.

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

Kimberly White
I would point them to my website, KimberlyWhiteBooks.com. That’s books plural. My book, The Shift: How Seeing People as People Changes Everything is available at all major book sellers. For leaders, I recommend 800-CEO-Read. For everybody else, go to Amazon and you probably will anyway.

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

Kimberly White
Yes. If you want to be awesome at your job, start by finding out where you’re not awesome. If you’re not willing to … and fix them, you can never be awesome at your job. Find what it is, fix it, and ask somebody at work. They’ll be able to tell you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Kimberly, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing the goods. It’s powerful stuff and I’m excited to see what transformations emerge from it. Please keep doing the great work that you’re doing.

Kimberly White
Thank you so much. It’s been just delightful to be with you.