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KF #2. Action Oriented

293: Body Language Insights that Get You Promoted with Dr. Denise Dudley

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Denise Dudley goes deep on the science and practice of optimizing your body language for making a powerful impression at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to smile more genuinely
  2. Postures for enhanced communication
  3. The powerful impact of speaking with a lower pitch

About Denise

Denise Dudley is a professional trainer and keynote speaker, author, business consultant, and founder and former CEO of SkillPath Seminars, the largest public training company in the world, which provides 18,000 seminars per year, and has trained over 12 million people in the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Denise holds a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, a hospital administrator’s license, a preceptor for administrators-in-training license, and is licensed to provide training to medical professionals in the United States and Canada. She’s also a certified AIDS educator, a licensed field therapist for individuals with agoraphobia, and a regularly featured speaker on the campuses of many universities across the US, and the author of Simon and Schuster’s best-selling audio series, “Making Relationships Last.”  Denise speaks all over the world on a variety of topics, including management and supervision skills, leadership, assertiveness, communication, personal relationships, interviewing skills, and career readiness.  Denise’s latest book, “Work it! Get in, Get noticed, Get promoted,” is currently available on Amazon.com, and is receiving all 5-star customer reviews.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Denise Dudley Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Denise, thanks for joining us.

Denise Dudley

I’m delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I think we’re going to have a ton of fun. You have taught many people many skills, but I want to talk about one of your skills from back in the day and that is your ability to catch snakes. What’s the story here?

Denise Dudley

Well, I will tell you first of all that of the many interviews I have done in my life, no one has ever asked me this on air.

Pete Mockaitis

I love hearing that. Thank you.

Denise Dudley

It’s a brand new question. I love new questions.

I really am a tomboy. As much as I’m dressed up in front of audiences all the time and all these sorts of things, in my real life, my real Denise is somebody without makeup on, with my hair tied up in a knot, outside looking under rocks, having fun, looking at frogs, playing, swimming in lakes. That’s who I really am.

As a kid I had a great father. My father is passed away now, but he was an adventurer, actually a jeweler. By trade, he was simply a jeweler/watchmaker, but he knew everything about the out of doors and everything that did everything. He knew how ducks flew and how things swam. He taught me how to catch snakes because we just found every creature on the earth to be interesting.

I learned how to be a really good snake catcher. I can dazzle my friends because a lot of my friends really don’t like snakes. I can actually catch snakes very well and hold them for a while and tame them and then pet them and share them with people, pass them around. My one rule though, of course, is that-

Pete Mockaitis

They appreciate that.

Denise Dudley

Oh yeah, they love that. Yes. Some people won’t even go near the snakes I catch, but they’re kind of interesting creatures.

My one big rule which I’ve taught – I have two boys who are now in their early 20s. Of course, I’ve passed on the trade so they know how to catch snakes well as well, but I’ve always said “But whatever we catch and look at, we must put back exactly where we found it,” so everyone gets to go back unharmed no matter what it is we examine.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. Could you tell us are there a couple pro tips to bear in mind should we want to go catch snakes after this conversation?

Denise Dudley

Yeah, so let me teach everybody how to catch a snake. There are a couple methods but the best way is to make sure that you are wearing first of all long pants and shoes because snakes really don’t want to be caught. They don’t seem to enjoy it so to speak.

When you’re first running up to them, getting ready to catch them, they will sometimes turn around and snap at you. But of course, I don’t catch poisonous snakes, obviously. I’m not a crazy person. It’s not really going to hurt you if they bite at you, but you still don’t want to be bitten.

If you’re wearing long pants and shoes, what you do is you get up and just gently, and I mean really gently, just lay your foot down on top of the snake as close to its head as you can get so that you’ve trapped it. You’ve got your foot not on it in any harsh way, but just kind of gently keeping it from moving and then you’ve got to get in there and get your fingers, your thumb and forefinger, right behind the snake’s head, right behind its jaws. At that point it can’t turn.

There’s a point where the snake’s head, because of its skull, is fixed. If you catch a snake farther back on its body, it is perfectly capable of whipping around and biting you and you don’t like that. It doesn’t feel good. But if you catch it right behind the head, you can hold into it.

Then all snakes, it’s very strange, if you hold them long enough, they finally just decide that you’re okay. Then you can let go from behind their head and then they just kind of crawl around on your – I guess they don’t crawl, do they? They slither around on your arm and just seem to be quite happy to be with you. It just takes about usually three to five minutes and then they just decide that it’s okay to be captured. That’s how you catch a snake.

Pete Mockaitis

I love that you went there. It’s thorough.

Denise Dudley

Yes, yes. Well, I’m a teacher, right?

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I practically feel like I can do it.

Denise Dudley

I think you should try it.

Pete Mockaitis

I don’t think my wife will like it, but I’m intrigued to try it.

Denise Dudley

Give it a whirl and call me if you have any problems.

Pete Mockaitis

Can do, can do. Now, your most recent book is called Work It. I’d like to hear a little bit about – what’s the primary idea of this one?

Denise Dudley

Absolutely. Sure. This is my most recent book. It actually is an act of love. I’ve been working with a population recently that is not the population I’ve worked with for most of my adult life. Mostly I’ve worked with adult learners teaching assertiveness training and management, communication skills. I really work mostly with communication skills in my career.

But I’ve worked most recently now just because of a few invitations I’ve had to come into high schools and colleges, I’ve worked with a lot of people who are graduating from both high school and college and heading out on their first, I’m going to call it, career job.

I always try to say your career job is to be distinguished from when you delivered pizza in high school or whatever it was you did back then. This is the job that you really think might become the thing that you could do for a very long time and hopefully aligns with your interests and passions.

I’ve been working a lot with that population of students and loving it, by the way, so a lot of times at the end of the talks I’ve been giving about how to put your best foot forward in an interview or how to discover what your passions are and people will come up and ask me for some kind of a reading resource and I didn’t find one that I thought really fit all of what I believe, so I wrote one.

It’s one of those, there didn’t seem to be one, so I wrote it. I wrote Work It. It’s called Work It: Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted for young people who are just entering the career market. It is a gift of love because I’m donating all of my royalties to youth organizations throughout the country. It’s my latest little passion right now.

[6:00]

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s cool. That’s cool. We have listeners often say, “Hey, how do I stand out? How do I do the get noticed part of this?” I’d love to get your perspectives here and feel free to not be limited to folks who are in their very first career job, but those that are some years in. What are some of the top principles when it comes to getting noticed and standing out?

Denise Dudley

Absolutely and I would want to point out just as you’re sort of implying, that really when I wrote this book, a lot of people came to me who were well into their careers and said, “I needed this book just because I’m changing careers and I wanted to really learn what I needed to do to polish up my resume and do all the things that you need to do if you’re going to get out there even in your mid-career point.”

Here are the things that I usually talk about. For one thing, I think that it’s important to – I believe that almost everything in the world actually stems from excellent communication skills. I could talk about this for hours and hours, but I believe that the way that we stand out, the way that we can get noticed and the best way is to make sure that we have command of all of the vehicles that we use to communicate ourselves to other people.

When I talk about communication, I don’t just mean sitting here talking. I mean facial expression, eye contact, what you’re doing with your hands, your actual vocal tone and loudness. I like to go into details about all of those things and make sure that I do my best when I’m working with people to bring all of the communication components into alignment so that someone really is an excellent, I always call it a walking, talking, audio/visual representation of who you are.

To master those sorts of skills, I think helps just about anyone to stand out. Good communication skills, being able to say what I want, to be positive, to be willing to take on projects that I’m asked to  do, that kind of moves over into having a positive attitude, having a can-do attitude. I think that helps us to get noticed, if we’re going to be hired to be promoted within the jobs we already have.

A lot of it has to do with our intentions I guess I would say. When I approach a job, when I approach a task that I’ve been assigned by my employer, do I approach it with a “Sure I’ll do that. I’ll take care of that,” sort of an attitude? Do I look like I am someone you want to be around? I think that has a lot to do with it too.

Even the crabbiest of employers and supervisors do prefer to have people around them who have more of a positive personality. Showing our positive sides I think also helps us to get noticed .

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, I’d love it if you could maybe unpack in a little bit of detail here. When it comes to folks doing it wrong, what are some things that I would say show up frequently and are easy to overlook and what are the fixes for it?

Denise Dudley

Oh great, that’s a great question.

There are few things that I think that people initially do wrong. Again, going back to communication. Let me just break down communication for a second and then I’ll address this.

When I talk about you, your overall you-ness, as I would call it, I like to talk about, as I’ve mentioned a couple of these already, but I want to mention all of them. I like to talk about your facial expression, what it’s doing; you’re eye-contact, what’s happening with eye-contact. I like to talk about your posture, where your posture is; your use of hands, your hand gestures. Those are your visual representations.

Then there are three auditory ones: your voice tone, what the tone sounds like; your voice loudness, how loud you’re being; then finally, your verbal content, the actual words you’re using when you go to talk to people. Within those seven components, there are things that people do right and wrong within each of those. Let me just start with facial expressions .

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, let’s do them all. A wrong and a right for all seven.

Denise Dudley

With facial expression, what we want to do is we want to start with what’s called, technically there’s a word for everything, what’s called a neutral to positive open-facial expression. Now what does that mean?

It means that when you first look at me, I’m looking open. I look approachable. I have a neutral toward positive expression on my face, which means I’m not scowling but I’m also not smiling wildly because if I smile too soon and too much I look kind of scary in a way, like you might not want to approach me. I work toward neutral toward positive, skewing slightly toward positive when I first see you, when I first approach you .

When you first look at me, we know from a bunch of research here about first impressions. There are really two important first impressions.

There is a first impression that’s been really chronicled very recently, which now apparently occurs within about one second, actually under one second, a flicker of a first impression. Of course, a first impression that is found within one second can be only your facial expression. It can’t be anything else because I haven’t talked to you yet, I haven’t opened my mouth. You don’t know what I’m going to say.

Facial expression is the first first impression. It’s important to make sure that it looks open and not closed, not unfriendly, and not wildly smiling because that, as I mentioned, looks a little weird.

The things that we do wrong are sometimes we don’t pay attention to that very, very first facial expression moment when I have the opportunity to impress you toward the positive.

We know another thing about first impressions and that is that once you’ve made a first impression, it is almost impossible to alter it, almost impossible the research shows.

I mentioned that there are two first impressions, that one second first impression and then another first impression occurs within about, we believe, five to fifteen seconds of meeting someone. I personally think it’s within about ten to fifteen seconds that we’re making that first impression, which is now based on a little bit more.

I can see your face moving. It’s a little more plastic. I can see you smiling at me, which is the next thing I think is important to make sure after I presented that initial neutral to positive open facial expression, that I immediately go into a smile.

A smile is a very, very important personal trait to have. I usually spend a lot of time talking to people about the importance of smiles. We know from all sorts of research, which gets reported quite a bit in Forbes magazine and every other place.

We know that smiling does all kinds of things for our bodies, lowers cortisol, brings up serotonin, lowers blood pressure, lowers our body temperature actually, lowers heart rate, does all kinds of things for us, the people who are smiling, but it also transmits to the person we are smiling at. It actually allows the other person to experience those positive sorts of effects as well.

That smile is an important thing to cultivate. I sometimes come across people who decide that their personal shtick is that I’m too cool to smile. Have you ever met somebody like that? Like, “I’m just not going to smile. I’m not smiling.”

Pete Mockaitis

It’s like they’re brooding and they’re sipping a latte. They’re thinking some deep thoughts.

Denise Dudley

Yeah. Exactly. They’re deep and they’re edgy, so smiling doesn’t really fit in. I try to tell people, “Look, really, smiling is one of the best things you can possibly do.”

Also, research shows there’s a lot of crazy research out there on smiling, research actually shows that people who smile, rather than seeming less intelligent or less with it, we actually – we receive the benefit of the doubt, that we probably are smiling because we are intelligent, we are in control, and we do know what we’re talking about. Smiling is an important thing.

The next mistake I want to talk about, of course, is the reverse of that, just thinking I’m not going to smile because it’s not worth it. I’m too busy or I’m too cool.” I think that’s a big mistake. Facial expression, very, very important .

Pete Mockaitis

I’d love to talk, if I could at first.

Denise Dudley

Yeah, please.

Pete Mockaitis

About when it comes to smile, I think some people would say, “Hey, I’m not anti-smile, but it just doesn’t seem authentic or genuine and can’t you kind of tell when a smile is real or if it’s fake based on wrinkles elsewhere in the face that appear or don’t appear.” What are your thoughts in terms of smiling naturally and cultivating a more sort of natural smile that is real?

Denise Dudley

Good question. Of course, I don’t know if you’re referring to this or if you know about it, but there have been a bunch of studies out there that talk about real versus fake smiles and that technically when we put subjects in a room and show them smiling faces, they’re pretty much able to tell whether it’s a fake smile or a real smile on the photograph of the person they’re being shown.

This is where I go with that. We do know that fake smiles, fake smiling is better than not smiling at all.

Pete Mockaitis

No kidding.

Denise Dudley

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, insight

Denise Dudley

Yeah. For a couple of reasons. One of them is that such cool stuff by the way. I don’t want to get all geeky on you.

Pete Mockaitis

Please do.

Denise Dudley

But we know – here’s some cool things. We know that there is a brain-body connection. There just is. We know it from lots of ways.

For instance, if I were to sit here right now and tense up every muscle in my body and I held it, and held it, and held it, and held it. Pretty soon my brain would start to assess what my body was doing and think “Something must be wrong. We’re all tensed up.” I can actually talk my brain into experiencing anxiety simply by tensing my muscles up.

Conversely, we know through meditation, deep relaxation that if I meditate or if I think of a relaxing thought, I sit in a room, I quiet my mind, I can actually do things like relieve muscle pain and actually lower heart rate because my body is basically listening to what my brain is thinking and saying, “All must be well. I guess I can relax. I guess there’s no danger here.”

This brain-body connection is quite real and verifiable. We know that smiling, when we smile, what happens is that our brain is monitoring what our body is doing. Our brain actually senses the muscles of our face coming back in a smile and it senses that those muscles are coming back to smile and says, “Something nice must be happening. We’re smiling.”

That brain actually releases serotonin, the feel good hormone, simply by sensing that the smile muscles are being pulled back.

There is a very interesting study that was done. This was by a man at Stanford. He’s passed away now. But he actually did a study. This was a while back actually. Then there were several others that have been done since then using other methods.

But what he did was he had people, he had subjects at Stanford actually make two different sounds. He just simply had them make these sounds. One group of people was asked to make the sound of e, eee, a long e, eee, which mimics a smile, eee. Then the other people-

Pete Mockaitis

Eee. It’s like you’re talking to a baby.

Denise Dudley

Yeah. Eee, eee. And it pulls your mouth back. Then he had another group of people make a u sound, uuu.

Pete Mockaitis

Uuu.

Denise Dudley

When you do a u, your mouth turns down, uuu. It looks like it’s sort of a downward turned mouth. So eee versus uuu.

Based on what they were making, the sound they were making, they were asked to rate their moods. The people who were making the e sounds were actually rating themselves as much happier. They felt good after making that sound and not so much with the people who were pursing their lips. They didn’t feel as good doing that. That was just simply with making sounds.

This man, by the way, if anybody wants to look up cool research projects, this man’s name was Robert – if I say his name, I’ll have to spell it for everybody because I believe it was pronounced Zajonc, but he was – I think he was Yugoslavian or something. It’s actually spelled Z-A-J-O-N-C, believe it – it looks like Zajonc, I think, but it’s pronounced Zajonc. Don’t ask-

Pete Mockaitis

That makes me smile saying it.

Denise Dudley

Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis

Zajonc.

Denise Dudley

Zajonc, yeah. He did all kinds of interesting research projects with how people feel based on body language.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s intriguing. It sounds like part of the equation is, so a fake smile beats a no smile, but a real smile is even better.

Denise Dudley

Much better.

Pete Mockaitis

And we can get there by sort of just naturally putting our body in the spot, whether that’s meditating or having some quiet time or saying eee. Are there other sort of quick hit tactics that just kind of put you in a naturally smiley place?

Denise Dudley

Yeah. Good question. One thing that I suggest is that when you first meet somebody, in order to think of a genuine smile, I happen to be a really smiley person. I like to smile. I think I must know the benefits of smiling because I do feel good when I smile and I do smile genuinely at people, but for people who are thinking, “Eh, humanity. Eh, not another person I have to smile at.”

If you’re just not feeling it or if it’s not inside of you to smile, I always try to suggest to people, well, as you’re meeting somebody just think of something about them, if you know anything about them or you’re even looking at them, think about the most positive thing you either know or see about that person.

Just go ahead and as you walk up to someone, it’s just a good way to focus. It’s what I suggest to people. Just to say as I walk up to someone just think, “Beautiful red hair,” or just something, just track on whatever you can. Or, “This person just received an award,” so whatever it is I know about this person that makes me like them or feel good toward them.

It could be superficial like red hair or significant like something that they achieved, but one way or another if I can track on some truly personal thing about that person I’m about to smile at, it will certainly make my smile more genuine .

Pete Mockaitis

Mm-hm. I like that. Thank you. Alright, we talked smiles in depth and I love it. Maybe we won’t get through the seven and that’s fine.

Denise Dudley

We may not.

Pete Mockaitis

But let’s hear about eye contact.

Denise Dudley

Eye contact, very, very important. There are a couple things that people do wrong with eye contact, things that we do right with it. I spend time talking about eye contact even though it’s in a sense part of facial expression because it has its own personal set of important rules.

For one thing, it’s very important, no matter how shy we are or reluctant we might be to do so, it’s very important that we make eye contact with people we’re interacting with, very important, whether that’s our boss, our coworkers, our children, our spouses, people we’re interacting with in the subway, whatever it is we’re doing. If we’re going to interact with someone, we want to make that eye contact.

There are a couple of times when it’s absolutely imperative and that’s when you’re either giving information, sharing some information with someone like, here are directions on how to do something or when you are giving instructions.

If you have a position at work where you need to orient someone to a job or tell them how to do something, very important that you make eye contact with the person at that point. It just helps lock in, “Here’s what I’m telling you. Please pay attention.” Eye contact, very, very important.

But the other part of eye contact is sort of a rule of eye contact, is that we make it, but we also break it. We mostly make it and then we look away for a little flicker of a moment and then look back again. We want to make direct eye contact, but that we break eye contact as well.

Now some people will ask me, “Well, when I look away, where do I look?” Well, anywhere. It won’t matter, just look away for a second and then look back. If you don’t break eye contact whatsoever, you’re going to appear one of two ways. There are two types of people who don’t break eye contact.

The first would be an aggressive person, someone who is intimidating me. If you think about somebody, whoever it is you might be thinking of right now who might have made eye contact with you and never looked away, just looked at you, and looked at you, and looked at you, it starts to get intense and it starts to become uncomfortable unless you just look away for a second, just break it and come back.

The other set of people who don’t break eye contact are people who are in love. If you’re in love with someone or you’re romantically inclined. Just think back to if you’re in love right now or if you’ve been in love, how you just don’t want to look away from that person’s eyes.

That’s a good thing. It’s an energy exchange. But when we’re first meeting people out there in the world or working with people at work, we want to break that eye contact so as to not appear either romantic or aggressive. Now, I believe that there are some people who use eye contact quite deliberately to be aggressive and know that they are showing you that they are in a position of power by not breaking it .

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, I believe there was a – maybe an Office episode about this. Don’t break eye contact and don’t break the handshake-

Denise Dudley

Yes, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

As a means of showing your power and your authority there.

I guess I look away maybe more than is optimal just because I’m thinking hard about like what they’ve said or what is the implication of this stuff. Any thoughts associated with the ratio? It sounds like you’re saying you pretty much want to be on eye contact with brief breaks. How do we think about thinking when it comes to conversing with someone while also making eye contact?

Denise Dudley

Well, if you’re someone who looks away a lot, one of my suggestions – because some people do that. Some people want to close their eyes in fact while they’re thinking. I suggest that if it’s a really important conversation that’s going to continue for a while, that you do what I call pre-calling it.

I always suggest to people that if you have some kind of thing that you really want to do that steps slightly outside the norm of what a normal interaction might look like, that you just pre-call it.

That you say, as Pete, you say, “You know I really want to focus hard on what we’re about to discuss this afternoon and I want to tell you that sometimes if I’m not looking at you and I’m looking down it’s because I’m thinking very hard about what you’re saying to me. I just want to let you know that that’s just something I do in order to truly absorb what it is you’re saying.”

I think it’s okay to say that sort of thing. Then the person goes, “Oh, alright. Okay,” and they kind of get it.

Because a lot of times if we look away, one of the things that if I’m talking and you look away for a long period of time, it tends to make the speaker run out of energy. I start to lose my energy because I’m thinking – I sort of trail off a little bit like, “Well, okay, is he still here. Is he not?” I’m not getting that feedback loop.

Continuing that eye contact with the person we’re speaking with is actually completing a communication feedback loop which is telling me as you look at me, I am with you. I am with you in this conversation. If you tend to break it a lot, I would just pre-call it and say, “This is what I do in order to concentrate.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, thank you. When it comes to making the eye contact, are you looking right at one eyeball, you’re shifting two eyeballs?

Denise Dudley

Sure, so good.

Pete Mockaitis

Which eyeball should we look at? Eyebrow? Nose?

Denise Dudley

You’re so good. I love your questions. Okay. This is going to take hours. Let’s have like a five hour interview because I love these questions.

There are a lot of things about where we look. For one thing, we want to try to look at both eyes. Now, the closer we are to someone, if I’m sitting very, very close to you, you can tell that I’m shifting from eye to eye. If we’re eight feet away, we’re not really actually shifting eyeball to eyeball. We’re just looking at the person’s eye area.

If we’re way, way, way back, like 50 feet away, then actually eye contact gets perceived in the upper third of the face. We know that from research. Anything in the upper third of the face is perceived as eye contact, but the farther away we are from someone, the more it seems like eye contact, the closer we are to someone, the more important it is to look directly in the eyeballs.

We do our best to move back and forth between the two eyes. However, I always suggest to someone, this happened to me the other day. I was talking to someone who had one eye that was impaired. It was clearly not a functioning eyeball, so I didn’t want him to feel self-conscious.

We were standing very closely together in an art gallery actually, an art museum. This was a guard and he was telling me stories about the art work. I wanted to make sure that I just focused on the eye that was working because I didn’t want him to actually think I was assessing the other eye, so I stayed on that eyeball really out of politeness plus it’s the only one that’s functioning. If he wants to see me as looking at him, I’m going to need to look at that eyeball.

I actually tailor it to what’s happening with someone if they have any kind of a visual impairment. Otherwise, looking back and forth at both eyes is probably the best idea. I love that question.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. Thank you. All right, we’ve got the facial expressions. We’ve got the eye contact. How about posture?

Denise Dudley

Posture. Posture says a lot about us and there’s some weirdly interesting studies about posture.

Posture says a whole bunch of things that we might or might not expect. A lot of times we might assume that posture might tell others that we are attentive or that we are organized. It also, for some reason, makes people decide whether we’re intelligent or not. Good posture is associated with intelligence, which is not a bad thing to have is that kind of association.

Posture tells us everything. You have posture whether you’re seated or standing or walking. You always have posture .

A few things about posture. One of the things is that sometimes I like to talk to women just for a moment and then I’ll bring men back in.

But a lot of times women got taught, especially older generations of women, far older than you or I are, a lot of older generations of women got taught to stand somewhat sideways in what was called in the 1950s, model’s pose. Model’s pose said that we put our feet together very closely and then we turn slightly sideways in order to show off the most pleasant and slender aspects of our figure. How’s that? Boy, a little bit of sexism from the ‘50s here.

That is not a powerful posture however. If I were to stand kind of sideways while I talk to you, it would look weird in modern day world.

But what we want to do instead is to stand, I like to call it architecturally, so that my feet are slightly apart. My most powerful position for posture is to stand with my feel slightly apart, so I don’t look like a big tall thing that comes down to a tiny little point, so feet slightly apart.

Then I want to make my upper body match my lower point, so I bring my shoulders back and into position so that I’m standing in a very comfortable but we’ll call it spread out sort of way so that I’m not deliberately trying to look tiny.

Now with that shoulders back suggestion there, a lot of times women like to wrinkle their noses at me if I say that because women become self-conscious about their chests.

I generally like to tell women it doesn’t matter if your chest is big or small, you like it or you don’t, no matter what it is you think about it, I promise that you will look better, more powerful, more assertive, more in charge of yourself with your shoulders back than if you’re slumping forward and trying to cover up your chest. You will simply just look better.

Taking that position is very, very important. Taking that position of I am here. I am no bigger or smaller than I really am and I own my own space. It helps you to assume that everyone in the room understands that you’re here and you’re here to stay.

Back to the brain body thing for a moment because I think this is interesting stuff too. A very interesting study was done with shy people. Shy people were asked, in this case, to sit in a meeting. You know how a shy person might sit, kind of folded over, minimizing themselves so that they don’t appear to really be present.

They were told by the researchers to sit in this meeting, you don’t even have to talk, just sit there, but in this case spread yourself out, just spread out a little bit. Spread your legs out, put your arms on the arms of the chair, put your shoulders back, own your space in the meeting. You don’t have to do anything but that.

Then they were asked after this meeting to self-rate their own ability to be assertive and when they actually spread their bodies out, their brains basically listening to what the body was doing, the brain thought, “Wow, you’re sitting there as if you own you space. You’re sitting there as if you’re a person who knows what he or she is talking about. You must be feeling good about yourself.”

They rated themselves completely more in control and more assertive just by spreading out their bodies.

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. All right, so shoulders back, own your space.

Denise Dudley

Shoulders back.

Pete Mockaitis

Anything else on posture?

Denise Dudley

Sure. You have posture when you’re seated as well, so when you’re seated you want to make sure you unfold your legs if at all possible and put your feet on the floor. That’s the most positive and powerful position to sit in when you are seated.

Making sure you do all those things, arms at your side when you’re standing or arms on your lap or on the top of the table or on the arms of your chair if you’re seated, not fidgeting, not playing with your cuticles, not doing any of those sorts of things, but making sure that you look like you are comfortable and calm with your arms and your hands .

Pete Mockaitis

Anything else associated with hands?

Denise Dudley

Oh yeah, we can talk about hands next. Your hands are saying tons of things about you.

Generally speaking I would say that you probably, all your listeners out there, are probably using their hand motions perfectly correctly unless you’ve received some kind of feedback to the contrary, which could be that somebody says to you, “Whoa, you sure use your hands a lot,” or if they just start watching your hands while you’re talking and it looks like there’s a bumblebee between the two of you, then you’re probably using your hands in excess.

What we want to do with our hands is to make our hands match our message. We do want to definitely use our hands because hands help to describe what we’re talking about. They actually help our brains to continue thinking right.

For instance, if I were describing to you a beautiful park with a lake and swans on it, even as I’m sitting here talking to you right now, I’m actually moving my hands because I’m thinking about a park and a lake and swans. It actually helps my brain to visualize what I want to describe. Hands actually help guide our words in ways.

But we want to use our hands because it also helps the listener if they’re looking at us to know what we’re talking about. If I kept my hands right at my sides and I never ever moved them it would look stiff and rigid and it would look like I wasn’t coming across in a natural way.

Another thing about hands is that we like to take a tip from newscasters. Newscasters know to use their hands, but they keep their hands within a fairly small area because they really are in a box basically. When we view a newscaster on television, we see a talking head, as we call it, sitting in a box. If they were to gesture way, way, way outside of that box area, we would lose their hands, so they stay within a small area.

I always suggest to people that you do the same, that you keep your gestures within about we’ll call it a foot and a half area outside of your own body.

Pete Mockaitis

This is so good. Thank you. I’d love to talk about voice, but I’m also watching the time. Maybe you tell me is there anything else you really want to make sure to emphasize before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things.

Denise Dudley

I would like to mention, if possible, voice tone because I think it’s very important. Again, just knowing what I know about working with people and doing so much work in communication, it’s a very good idea for all of us, men and women both, to stay in the lower ranges of our voice tone .

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Denise Dudley

Yeah, okay, I’ll do this. That’s the problem. I don’t want everybody to now start walking around talking like a truck driver who smokes a cigar, but we want to stay in that lower range because that’s our power range. That’s where we sound more like we know what we’re talking about.

Speaking very quickly to women, women have something that’s called a widely varying intonational pitch pattern. Isn’t that something? It means that we go up and down and up – it’s very, very musical, very melodic, but that upper most pitch pattern is where we lose our power, where we go, “Well, hello,” and it’s really high.

We want to stay in that lower range because it lends more credibility to what we’re talking about. Cultivating a lower pitch pattern is a good idea for men and women both .

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Denise Dudley

Okay. Gosh, I have so many. The most obvious one is really a quote that comes from Mahatma Gandhi because it is really what I believe and it’s one that gets quoted a lot. Then I’d love to give you a second one which is really my voice. It’s something that I say that has helped me so much in life.

But the one that is really in my soul is the idea that we should all be the change we want to see in the world. I think that says so much because sometimes, even I, I get out there all the time and I’m working with people, I work with young people all the time, and sometimes I’m even in my hotel room and I’m thinking, “I’m just one person. Maybe I did talk to 100 people tonight, but that’s just 100 people and how many millions of people are there.”

I start to think about one little tiny drop of water in the ocean. Then I think, “No, no, by behaving this way, by being the change I want to see, if we all did that, we would create an amazing movement of change.” I’ve always loved that particular quote. I would want the world to know that that’s what I would love to live by is that idea.

But I also want to tell you another quote because it’s something that is really my quote. It comes from my life experience and I’ve told so many people this. It’s actually in the book too that I wrote.

That what I believe is that there are definitely times in your life when you cannot tell the bad news from the good, especially when you’re stuck right in the middle of a situation. And you could think that the worst thing in the world was happening to you and lo and behold, it’s about to become the best thing that ever happened to you.

I like to encourage people to know that you don’t know the bad news from the good until you get down the road a little bit and figure out what the repercussions are from whatever it is you’re experiencing.

Pete Mockaitis

I love it. Thank you. Now you’ve said a lot of studies. Do you have a favorite?

Denise Dudley

I was kind of a study junkie because of what I teach.

We’ve already talked a lot about the smiling studies and there are a lot of them about lowering blood pressure and I even know – these are legitimate studies, so I don’t ever quote studies that I can’t really find the abstracts on.

But recently, since we’ve already covered smiling, I have been enjoying so many studies out there on walking. I’m talking to lots of audiences about walking. We kind of know intrinsically how walking works. It’s just a great thing to do, but it’s a mood enhancer and it’s a creativity enhancer. It does all kinds of things. There are some great studies.

There’s one that came from – well, from the Midwest, not so far from Chicago, from Iowa State University. There was a study that they did of getting people to walk, subjects to walk. All they needed to do was walk for 12 minutes, so this isn’t very long. It’s just getting up and moving.

They called it – in the study it’s called incidental ambulation. Don’t you love that? Incidental ambulation, which means walking without a purpose I believe, but they just got people to get up and walk.

In this study they even told the people in the study, “Okay, we want you to get up and move around for a little bit before you come back to the task at hand,” which was really a fake task. They were testing walking, of course.

They even told them, “When you come from walking, we’re sorry, you’ll probably be tired and you might not really be in the mood to finish this test, but we just want you to get up and take a walk for a moment,” so they even negatively biased the experience of the walkers.

But, of course, when the walkers came back, their mood was improved, they were better able to focus on the test they were taking. All good things happened from that in a mere – in 12 minutes basically.

There are a whole bunch of other ones. Walking tests recently – walking research is amazing. Stanford University figured out that walking for just five to fifteen minutes increases what’s called divergent thinking which is what they mean is creativity. It also helps with plasticity of the brain. Cognitive performance improves while you’re walking.

Max Planck Institute did a whole bunch of studies on it and found out that cognitive – basically just thinking, the ability to think improves while you’re walking. The only caveat there is you need to walk at you own preferred speed. It creates a rhythm in your brain that your brain enjoys, which facilitates thinking.

I’m loving studies recently on walking because they are reminding me to get up and walk every now and then.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely, thank you. Now, how about a book?

Denise Dudley

Well, I probably could be quoting business books, since this is a business, but my favorite books are really not business books because sometimes I just need to get out of my own head.

One of my favorite all time books is The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. It’s reportage at its best. It’s before Tom Wolfe ventured over into novels and fiction. He was really one of the best reportage writers in the world.

The Right Stuff
actually reviews our space program in the United States. A brilliantly written book, just a fun book to read and so interesting, just about what astronauts had to go through. I’m loving that book.

Another one I want to give a shout out about I read two summers ago and it’s Bill Bryson. I happen to love Bill Bryson’s writing. He wrote a book called One Summer: America, 1927. It’s a factual book about all the things that happened in America in 1927 and it is a crazy good read. It’s exciting all the things that happened back then. I recommend that book as just a great book to relax with.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, thank you. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Denise Dudley

I’m an article reader. I know that there’s the movement out there, what they call the TL;DR, which stands for too long, didn’t read world, where “Oh, that’s too long. I’m not going to read it.” That’s not why I like articles, although articles really are quick as opposed to books.

I like articles because I can sample a lot of different ideas in a short period of time. If I have an hour to read before I go to bed, I can read articles and learn ten different things about science and about dinosaurs and about human emotion and whatever else if I just read the right article.

For me, since I’m an article reader, I happen to like Pocket. I subscribe to Pocket. Pocket sends me all great kinds of suggestions. I don’t read them all, but I like it.

I love Reddit. There’s no doubt I like Reddit even though people kind of laugh and yes, sometimes I click on the funny tab for Reddit to look at funny things because I think that’s good for my soul.

I also like to read outside of the United States about the United States because it’s a very interesting perspective. I discovered it when I have to travel a lot for work and so sometimes I’m reading about the US while I’m sitting in London, so there’s a different perspective when you’re not the US, talking about the US.

One of the newspapers I like to read is called the Globe and Mail. It’s Canadian, so it’s very close to us but it has very interesting US perspectives. I like the Globe and Mail.

Then finally I like something called The Browser. In this case it costs money, whereas Reddit and Pocket and StumbleUpon are all free. I think The Browser is about 35 bucks a year or something, but they send me really good suggestions for articles to read as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Very cool. Thank you.

Denise Dudley

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with audiences?

Denise Dudley

Yeah, when I am working with audiences, the thing that I say that I think most people resonate with, and it’s usually after of course I’ve been talking to them for a while, is this.

I tell people “In human relations, in communication, in your life as you walk around and illustrate who you are, everything counts.” I even have a slide at the end of most things that says everything counts: how you talk, what you do, what you look like, how you interact with people, how you think, your work product, your actions, your thoughts. Everything counts. Everything is you.

You don’t ever get to get away from you. You don’t really ever get to do something that doesn’t represent you even if you wish you could. Whatever it is you’re doing, it counts. I think that that’s good news. I would say that if everything counts, from my facial expression to how I treat people, then why wouldn’t I want everything to count in a direction that makes me the very best possible person I could be.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, thank you. Denise, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Denise Dudley

I’ve got a website. It’s DeniseMDudley.com, like for my middle initial, M, so DeniseMDudley.com. Of course, I’m also on LinkedIn and Facebook, and Twitter, the usual.

I’m also the founder of a very big training company called SkillPath Seminars, which is a very big company. I’ve sold it, but I’m still quite involved in it all the time. If there were no other way that you could remember to reach me, you could call SkillPath and they could put me right through. Those would be good ways to reach me.

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

Denise Dudley

Yup, I do. I thought about what I’d want to say and it’s this. I’m a huge believer in this.

I want to strive for myself and my call to action for everyone else is that I guess I’ll describe it this way, that there are times when you meet somebody and you’ll think of someone right now. When you meet somebody and it could be in the grocery store checkout line, it’s somebody you work with, it’s someone you’re related to, but when you walk away from them, you feel better about yourself or you feel better about the world or you feel like it’s not such a bad place or something.

I call it being expanded, that somehow I feel expanded because of having been in the presence of a certain person.

Then there’s the other type of person where when I walk away from then and, again, it could be an incidental interaction in a grocery store, I feel, what I call, contracted. I feel like my energy has been sucked out of me and I have to sort of tuck in and make myself small for a while in order to protect what energy I have left.

Expanded or contracted is what I call it because it feels like that to me. My call to action for everyone is to be that person who expands others, that by the time you finish an interaction with someone, no matter what that interaction is, that they walk away feeling better about themselves or the situation.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Denise, this has been so fun, so helpful. Thanks for going into the depths with the research and the goodies. I wish you tons of luck with your book, Work It, and all you’re doing.

Denise Dudley

Thank you so very much. Gosh, I hope everybody gets out there and catches snakes and does everything else as a result of this.

235: The Power of Finding Your Why with David Mead

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Author and Simon Sinek colleague David Mead shares the importance of starting with why you do what you do–and how to find that why.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The benefits of starting with why
  2. Examples of effective and ineffective “whys”
  3. The process to find your why

About David 

David is committed to a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired to go to work, feel safe while they’re there and go home at the end of the day fulfilled by the work they do. David co-authored Find Your Why, with Simon Sinek. The book provides a step-by-step, practical guide on how to discover the Why for any individual, team or organization. David has presented these simple, inspiring ideas on 5 continents to over 150 organizations in a wide range of industries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

David Mead Interview Transcript

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

David Mead
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’re going to have such a fun chat because I’m really into what it is you do. But in doing a little bit of digging in your background I saw that you were once an Apple Store associate. Any fun tales from that time? And are you getting the iPhone X?

David Mead
The thing that sticks out in my memory about that is I don’t know what I was thinking but I showed up to my interview, it was a group interview, and I showed up in a shirt and tie, and they literally laughed at me. And so, I learned very quickly that we were going to be a little bit more casual there which worked out great. But I loved it, loved working there.

To answer the other question, absolutely, yes. Funny story about that, I woke up like 15 minutes before midnight on November 2, I think, or November 3 when it was released, and I was like, “Ah, I’ll go back to sleep. It’ll be fine. I’ll be able to order it when I wake up next time,” because I’m 40 and now I wake up multiple times at night.

And so, I happen to wake up at like 12:45 and I got on and I completed my purchase, and they said, “Your delivery date is December 5 to the 15,” and I was like, “What? Are you kidding me? This is supposed to come out like next Friday.” And so, on the actual release date, when it was going to be available in stores, I didn’t want to wait that long so I was planning to wake up at like 4:00 o’clock in the morning and go stand in line like an idiot at the Apple Store so that I could get it before December.

And so, I woke up and I checked my email and I happen to have an email from Apple saying that my delivery date had bee n moved up to November 13, so I was like, “Oh, I can wait for 10 days.” But absolutely, yes, I am getting the iPhone X.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we are recording this just before it’s entered your hands. And how are you feeling?

David Mead
I’m feeling anxious and I have a great deal of anticipation. I can’t wait for next Monday.

Pete Mockaitis
I think I also have one coming my way, and I’m excited partially just because I’ve been on the 6, and I feel such a whiny, entitled, you know, impatient, I guess I’m just barely a millennial at 34. I think I’m on the threshold there. And I guess I’ve been on the iPhone 6 for a while, and it seems like maybe there’s something wrong with it, but sometimes I’ll like push the camera, and I have to wait four seconds   for the camera, and I can’t live like this, David. I can’t live like this so I need an upgrade and the 10 was there, so I said, “We’ll take it.” Plus, the dual camera, I’ll be shooting some important business videos with that, so this is necessary.

David Mead
Of course. That’s a right off, of course.

Pete Mockaitis
It is essential that I have this outrageously expensive toy for my business.

David Mead
Indeed.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so, anyway, I want to talk. So, you’re in Simon Sinek’s organization, and so you co-authored with him the book Find Your Why which is great. And so, if anyone hasn’t already seen Simon’s famous, infamous TED Talk about finding your why, it’s well worth it, and we’ll link to it in the show notes. But for those who aren’t going to do that, can you give us the real quick summary on kind of what’s the primary concept that you’re working with here?

David Mead
Sure. So, the concept of Start With Why is very simple. It basically outlines that every organization, and even our own careers, operate on three levels, which is what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. And everybody knows what they do. This is the product you sell, the service that you offer, the title that you hold. Some people know how they do what they do which means how are you different or special, how do you set yourself apart, what are sort of the guiding principles, or how you run your business that’s different than anybody else.

But very few organizations and very few individuals understand and, more importantly, can clearly articulate why they do what they do. And by why, we don’t mean to make more money or to increase market share, or sell more stuff. By why, we mean, “What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? What’s the human reason that you do the work that you do? Really, why does your organization exist and do the things that it does?”

And so, the premise here is that most individuals, most organizations start with what. They tell you what they do. They might tell how they’re different or special or better, and that’s usually where it stops. But the most inspired organizations, the most inspiring leaders, those that we look up to, those that have more loyalty, those that are more profitable over time, those that have great cultures, they all do it backwards.

They think, act and communicate starting with why first. They tell you why they exist. They tell you the vision of the world that they have. They tell you the human reason that they’re doing the work that they’re doing. And, as human beings, we naturally respond to that feeling. We are more loyal. We are drawn to these organizations or these people who have common values and beliefs to us.

And so, it’s not that we’re necessarily drawn to everybody or every organization that articulates why they do what they do. We’re drawn to the ones that share common values and beliefs with us. And so, that’s really the key. That’s where loyalty and trust and relationship comes in. And the opportunity that we have is to shift our thinking, shift our communication, and shift our cultures to be more why-based. And as a result, see more success financially, see more loyalty and more growth rather than having those things be the goal which is really not that inspiring to anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. So, now, could you maybe give us a couple examples of a why that you’re not talking about profit, shareholder value, market share from an organization perspective, nor are you talking about just making a ton of cash, money, as an individual’s perspective? So, could you maybe give us a couple of examples, articulations of, “Oh, here’s what I mean by a why”?

David Mead
Sure. So, first of all, before I give you those, just to the point you made, there’s nothing wrong with all those things. There’s nothing wrong with growth or nothing wrong with making a ton of money. I think the challenge comes in or the danger comes in when we place an unbalanced amount of focus on those things because, ultimately, that’s not what drives fulfillment and meaning which is what we, as human beings, ultimately seek.

So, I’ll give you an example of an organization’s why and then I’ll give you an example of an individual’s why or I’ll use my own. So, an example that we like to use a lot is Lego because everybody knows Lego. Right there, a pretty popular brand, and they happen to be the most profitable, excuse me, toy company on the planet, and I don’t think that’s an accident. I think it’s because they have learned to be very clear about why they do what they do. They weren’t always that clear historically.

And it’s funny, as they sort of – if you follow their history, as they have been more aligned with why they do what they do, they’ve done better. And as if they worried more about, “Let’s just beat the competition. Let’s come out with all these different products because our competitors are doing the same thing,” when they compete on what and how their profitability goes down, loyalty goes down, so it was really interesting to see what has happened just with Lego. But Lego’s why, essentially, is everything they do is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

David Mead
So, in their why – and this is true for any individual or any organization – we have no idea what the product or service is. For an individual, we should not know what you do for a living by your why. Essentially, we don’t want any “whats” in the why. Those have their place but they’re just not supposed to be in the why. So, that’s an example of an organization’s why.

I’ll give you another one just for a little added flavor here. I’ll give you the why of our organization. Let’s start with why. In everything that we do is to inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

David Mead
On an individual example, again I’ll use my own. My why, the way that I articulate it, is to propel people forward so that they can make their mark on the world. So, what that means for me is every day, no matter what situation I show up, whether it’s at work, or at home, or with my friends, or in the community, at church, wherever I am, if I can just help propel people forward, help them take that one extra step forward so that they can be a little better than they were before, so they can go on to do the amazing things they’re meant to do in the world, that’s what really fills me up and inspires me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so, then, you laid out some of the benefits in terms of zeroing in on your why. That’s so meta, why does the why matter? So, in terms of inspiring organizations, leaders, and then also just tends to lead to the great sort of, I guess, immediate financial or more short-term type results like profits and whatnot in the case of Lego there. So, I guess I’m intrigued then.

Now the book is called Finding Your Why. How does one arrive at that why statements? And could you sort of walk us through a bit of the process? And maybe even before we do that, say, how do you know when you’ve hit it? It’s like, “That’s it,” versus, “That’s not it.”

David Mead
That’s a great question. The why is a feeling. It is a belief. It is something that is borne from inside of us. I’ll explain that a little bit more when I explain the process. But to your question of, “How do you know that that’s it?” Essentially, it feels right, and so you come up with this why statement, and even though the words might not be perfect at first because we’re kind of dealing with sort of imperfect medium of language to describe a feeling that we have or a belief or a driving force in our lives, and language is a tough thing to use to describe that feeling, but essentially when you look at that why statement it should feel like, “Yeah, that’s me.”

And what we find is a lot of times when we help individuals specifically find their own why, it’s not like it’s a huge revelation where they’ve got fireworks going off and it’s this whole like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it. I never even thought that this was it.” It’s more of a, “Oh, yeah, like that’s me.” That’s now just put into words, right? And it shouldn’t be a huge surprise for an organization or for an individual because a why is not something aspirational, it’s not something that we hope to become someday. It’s borne from who we are.

And so, when we help individuals or organizations discover their why it’s really a discovery process of looking to their past and pinpointing specific experiences, stories, events that have been particularly significant, that have really stuck out in their minds for all the right reasons, right? “This is a time where we’ve been proud to work for this organization,” or, “This is an experience that I had that really helped me, that made me feel like I was doing something meaningful and it really filled me up. It was really fulfilling for me.”

And so, again, in both cases, organizationally or individually, it’s through storytelling of the specific times when we have felt at our best, when we felt like we’ve been doing the things that we’re meant to do or that we’ve been acting in ways that really represent who we are at our natural best. And then we look for the patterns, or the themes, the things that keep coming up over and over and over again in each of those stories, and that sort of begins to put together what we call the golden thread, the thing, the commonality the thing that ties all of those stories together.

And, essentially, what we’re looking for is in each of these stories, “What is the overall contribution? What is it that we give? What is the piece of ourselves or the piece of our organization that we contribute to the world? And as a result of that contribution, what’s the impact? What happens when we show up and we make that contribution?”

And so, you’ll notice, just comparing back to my own why statement, to propel people forward is my contribution, that’s what I can show up and have control over so that people can make their mark on the world. That’s the impact. So, when I show up and I make that contribution of propelling people forward, of helping them with the knowledge that I have, or the experience that I’ve gained, or I can help coach them through something so they can be a little better than they were yesterday, the impact of that is that they can then go on with that knowledge or that experience or that encouragement or inspiration, from me hopefully, and make their mark on the world. That’s the impact of the why.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. And so, I guess I’m curious then, in terms of if it’s down there, it’s just a matter of sort of discovering it as opposed to inventing it. I know it’s a turn of phrase you use which I think is a nice distinction there. So, if it’s down there and you’re discovering it, kind of once you have it articulated, what changes or transforms for people or organizations? Just like, “Oh, yeah, that’s it. Now we are consciously aware that that is the articulation.” Sort of how is life or organizations different afterwards?

David Mead
Sure. So, I think a big part of a why discovery is, obviously first, articulating it and figuring out what it is, and that is just the first step. A couple of follow-on things to that that can really help you to bring that why to life or to sort of make it actionable within the organization or on an individual basis as well is to articulate your hows. And during the process of the why discovery there’s a lot of output, there’s a lot of themes and patterns and words and phrases and things that are really meaningful and important that pop out.

And a couple of those ideas, the ones that are sort of the overarching, you know, seem to be the biggest things, the ones that we love the most or the things that really resonate with us the most, that seem to sort of encapsulate everything else are what ends up in the why statement. The rest of those themes don’t go away. Those become really candidates for our hows which are more the sort of day-to-day behaviors and actions and guiding principles that direct our behavior every day, that when we live in those ways, when we operate in those ways, either individually or as an organization, that’s what allows us to bring that why, that contribution of impact to life.

And so, I think for a person or an organization who is really interested in applying this and making it actionable, it’s really important to articulate those hows as well. And so, every decision that you make, every strategy that you plan, every partner that you partner with, every person that you hire, every job that you look at taking is going to, then, flow through the filter of your why and your hows, “If I move forward with this opportunity, is it going to allow me to live my why? Am I going to be able to behave according to my guiding principles?”

I’ll give you a sort of an example. Like if one of my hows were to “do it together,” I need to have a team around me, and a company calls me up, and they say, “David, we’d love to have you put together a training curriculum throughout the next 12 months, a series of four workshops where you’re going to put all of our middle managers through this leadership training. We’re going to lock you up in a room for six weeks, and at the end of it, I want you to come out with a perfectly-articulated plan of how this is going to happen.”

I know right then, because one of my hows – I’m postulating, this is not one of my hows but this is just an example – one of my hows is “do it together” which means I need to have a team around me. I can’t work well alone. I know that that opportunity is going to turn out badly for me. And so, I can use that as a filter that I know that if this seems like a great opportunity and this organization seems like one that we share common values and beliefs, they’re going in the right direction, I believe in what they’re doing.

I might just simply say, “You know what, I work much better when I have a team of people to bounce my ideas off of or gain some other insight from. Are there a couple of other people that I could have access to that could help me understand the inner workings of the organization and who these middle managers are and what they need and all this kind of other stuff?” If I can have those people around me and I can do it together then we’re going to end up with a much better result at the end than if I have to do it on my own.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you there and so that’s great, having gone through that process, you’ve zeroed in on it. And so, I’m thinking as you engaged in these questions, you’re zeroing in on experiences that you’re proud of and that are meaningful to you as opposed to – is this fair to say – just experiences that you thought were just a ton of fun, like, “That was really cool.” You’re saying, like, “What kind of like emotion feeling are we targeting where we look at these experiences?” When you say meaningful, does that also like that’s really fun? Or kind of what’s in scope and out of scope for why leading experience reflecting?

David Mead
That’s a great question. And I would say no story is a wrong story necessarily but I like the sort of the fine point that you put on this which is we’re looking for events and stories and experience that have some sort of lasting significance. And so, it’s not like, “Oh, my gosh, I rode the biggest rollercoaster in the world, and it was a total rush. That was so much fun.” Like that’s great but it didn’t really mean anything.

So, we’re looking for things, experiences where you have learned something that was really valuable too in your life, and these don’t have to be huge monumental things like you won first prize in whatever. They can be the tiniest little thing, like you stopped by the side of the road and helped an older guy change a flat tire and you had a bonding moment with that person.

Like it can be seemingly really insignificant things, but as long as you took something away from it, and you learned something, or it impacted you in some way, helped you see the world in a different way, or sort of helped you consider your role in life in a little different way, something that just sort of you’ve kept with you and taken something from or learned something from. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. And I think, maybe, to make it come to life all the more, I’d love it if you could spend, oh, three, four, five minutes of you just doing what you do in terms of if we are kind of dialogue partners and you’re helping me get to my why, what would you ask me? And maybe we’ll just do that live real time. I’ll give you some responses and you’ll do some follow-ups and we’ll kind of get a flavor for how this unfolds.

David Mead
Sure. So, I mean, in three, four, five minutes we’re not going to get to your why but I’ll give you an essence of kind of what the process looks like. So, I would just ask you to start out by telling me an experience in your life that has been significant or meaningful to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure thing. I’ll say coordinating the speed dating event at church just because I got an email about that this morning. It reminded me, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that was pretty awesome.”

David Mead
Cool. All right. Tell me more about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it was really cool. We had a 152 people each year that goes down and I’ve met some cool folks myself in terms of friends and girlfriends at the event myself, and there’d been a number of people who have gotten married as a result of having met each other there, and it was just really cool to just see an event come together and go live as well as just like the beautiful clockwork of blow the whistle and everyone rotates in just like an elegant system.

David Mead
Interesting imagery of a beautiful clockwork, and I’m curious. It seems like that’s part of the story that you really love. Talk more about that. What’s so amazing or so beautiful about that for you?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you just put so much time and effort into the thing and then it’s alive, you know. And then it’s a little bit chaotic, like, “What’s going on? Where am I going? Is this the right table? Where actually am I going?” And then it’s just a cool, efficiency in terms of, “Okay, three minutes.” The whistle blows and everyone moves in the direction, coordination, and it’s like in that moment, it’s like, “All right. You know, 76 pairs of people are getting acquainted all at once, and then it happens repeatedly again and then again.” And it’s just really cool to watch as it unfolds.

David Mead
Is this the first, this one that you’re talking about, is this the first event like this that you’ve put on?

Pete Mockaitis
No, I’ve put on a number of like leadership conferences and retreats, and so there’d been several events.

David Mead
Okay. So, I’m interested because you could’ve told me about anyone of those but you chose this particular speed dating event. Tell me what it is about this particular event that really sticks out in your mind if you had to pick one thing.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s that there’s just so many people I care about in one place at one time whether they’re volunteers or buddies looking for romance. It’s like, “Hey, I know you people, and good luck. It’s fun creating this with you.”

David Mead
You used the word create. What do you feel like you’re creating?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I would say it’s an experience, it’s some moments that are just a ton of fun in terms of whether folks find their spouse or not, it’s like that was great. I got plugged into meeting a lot of really great people that I’ll likely remain in touch with. And we’re just having just kind of like a magical few hours in terms of people and food and beverage and enjoyment.

David Mead
And, again, curious on that, the word magical. If you had to describe, what is magical about that?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s exhilarating and fun in a way that it’s stimulating on numerous human dimensions at once, you know, I guess emotionally, intellectually, relationally, food and beverage in the belly. It’s enjoyable on multiple sides of your human experience all at the same time.

David Mead
Sure. And if you had to sort of zero in on, what’s the part that you feel like you played? What was the thing that you gave of yourself? What did you contribute in that?

Pete Mockaitis
I thought I brought like a coordinating mastermind type element. It’s like, “These are how all the pieces of the system and processes are going to work from the signup to the table placement, to the software that then does the matching and the email notifications. It was fun to kind of tie all of these things together in a cool combination that worked.

David Mead
And because of this contribution that you made, this coordinating, this arranging, this orchestrating that you took care of, what was the result of that? What do you think you made possible for people?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that, well, for some people it is their spouse, you know, it’s the person they’re married to right now, and their whole family life, so that’s just so exciting. Like, “There you are.” For others it was kind of introduction to a cool community, it’s like, “I like these guys. These will be my friends now.” And so, kind of the main place they find fellowship, camaraderie, good times, and then just maybe even on a small scale, just folks and all the feedback forms, saying, “This was a fantastic night. Thank you.”

David Mead
Yeah, and you said that you just received an email – was it this morning – about this event?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. They said, “Oh, hey, Pete. You know we’re putting this together. We need…” So, I’m not as directly involved now, “We need all of your quick tips and tricks and documents. Hook it up.”

David Mead
Yeah. And, I mean, do you see the result of these people who some of them have gotten married, others maybe not, but you said that you keep in touch with all of these people, or a lot of these people. Do you any or are there any specific people that stick out from this one event that the impact of what happened for them, whether marriage or something else, really just inspires you or really fulfills you, and you thought, “Man, if for nothing else, that was worth it”?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I’m thinking about Megan, my friend, who did meet her spouse there, and I think I just remember how we were talking and it seemed like, for no good reason, she’s a great gal. It seems like she’s having some trouble meeting a good dude, and at the same time the event sort of fills out so quickly for women more so than men. That’s a whole another conversation.

And so, it was cool that it was through a volunteer capacity where one was bartending, the other was participating that they got to make a connection there. So, I just thought that was pretty cool, that here’s someone I know and then there’s value kind of flowing not just if you’re a participant but also as a volunteer. It’s like you’re a part of what it can be.

David Mead
That’s great. So, just pausing for a minute, I think at this point I’ve taken down just a bunch of notes on a little sticky pad, but if we were continuing this process, we would go on to another story and I would just say, “Hey, Pete, go ahead and tell me another time in your life when you felt fulfilled or when you’ve done something that was really significant or meaningful for you.”

And what I would watch for is any of the same type of themes or words or ideas or phrases that would’ve come up in these first stories. So, if you’re curious, I’m happy to share some of the things that I jotted down.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Thanks.

David Mead
So, I wrote a thing. You know, in the process when we talk about how to take somebody through it, when you hear these stories there are two components of the story. There’s sort of the logistic of it, like what happened, when it was, how many people were there, all that kind of stuff. And then we separate those from the feelings, the emotions, the meaning behind the story, and so keeping those sort of separated out, helps us as we’re filtering through three, four, five, six different stories that somebody might tell. We can go back and we have one section that’s just for the meanings and the emotions and so we don’t have to filter through and look through all the logistical stuff at the same time.

So, I separated those things out a little bit. I’ll focus more on the meaning and the significance part. But some of the things that I jotted down were creating a moment, and I love that, which is what you said. This idea of bringing people together, of connection, relationship, coordinating, arranging, orchestrating, giving people a sense of belonging, fellowship. And so, again, just a couple of those things that I would want to watch for as the next few stories unfold, because the idea is that your why is who you are at your best no matter where you are.

And so, you should be able to live your why at church, at work, at home, with your friends, it’s all the same. And so, this is why we want stories and experiences from every different part of your life because all those things tie together, because it doesn’t matter where you are because we are who we are wherever we are.

Pete Mockaitis
Right on. Well, thank you. Well, yeah, that’s fun. Cool. And so, then, so you got those course on StartWithWhy.com.

David Mead
Yup, that’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, how’s that go down?

David Mead
So if you go to StartWithWhy.com there’s an online course which is in the very final stages of being revamped. And so, basically, Peter and I, who co-authored Find Your Why with Simon, basically guide you through with videos and online exercises to take you through this process of discovering your personal why.

So, the online course is right now mainly designed for individuals, also entrepreneurs, solopreneurs as well, not so much yet designed for businesses. That’s where Find Your Why the book comes in. And we have at least half of that book dedicated to teams and organizations to discover their why.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, then, it sounds like you’re going to want to have a partner engaged in the why discovery course in order to really make it pop.

David Mead
Absolutely. We’ve had a lot of people in the past try to do it themselves, and they think, “Ah, I got this. I can figure it out.” But it’s sort of like, I mean, this is why we have to go to therapy, right? We cannot analyze ourselves. And so, it’s really, really difficult, I would say impossible, for an individual to identify their own themes and patterns, and it’s very important to have that third party sort of outside perspective.

And one of the kind of fun things that I do when I do an individual discovery with somebody is, before I sort of repeat back to them after they’re done telling me all their stories, before I read back, repeat back to them any of the themes or the patterns that I’ve noticed, I ask them, especially if there are some that are really, really strong, I say, “Do you see any of the patterns that keep coming up over and over in these stories?” and, usually, they say, “No, not really. They all seem pretty disparate and separate to me.”

And then I lay out what their themes are, and I point back to each story that those came from, and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, you’re right. Like I never would’ve seen them myself.” And so, having a partner, or in an organization’s case, having a facilitator, preferably from the outside if you can do it, who does not have that – the biases and the sort of preconceived notions and the things that make us subjective versus objective – is really, really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s good. Well, so then, thanks for making that all the more real now. And so, I want to get your take, then, so the show is for professionals and we got folks in different workplaces. So, how does one individual’s why kind of interplay or map to the workplace or the team or the company in terms of like how do those jive together? Maybe sometimes they don’t. Like how do we think about those interplaying?

David Mead
Yeah, so the idea is that our individual why will align with and contribute to the why of the organization that we work for. Now, most organizations don’t have a clearly-articulated why and so that becomes a little tough. However, a lot of us work in places that we love our jobs, we love to go to work, it’s a great culture, it feels great, we love the people that we work with, we enjoy our jobs, and so the culture and the feeling is there, even though the words aren’t necessarily clearly articulated and put on the wall in the form of a why.

So as long as we’re in an environment where we feel comfortable, where we feel like we’re doing meaningful work, our own individual why can still play into that because if you think about it, really, anybody’s why is about the contribution and the impact that we make on the lives of people. And so, we have the opportunity to show up and be that person for our colleagues, for our team members, for our customers, for our partners, for our vendors, and so there’s nothing really keeping us from living our own personal why even if the organization doesn’t have a clearly-articulated one.

Where the beauty is, and where really the inspiration and fulfillment comes in, is when our organizations do have a clearly-articulated why, and we can see how our own why really feeds in and contributes directly to that bigger picture of the organization, and that just gives us that extra drive to get to work and to help this organization achieve this great vision.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that. Well, now I’m kind of going back and forth in terms of they all have the common ingredients of are all contributions so that an impact is created. So, then, I guess I’m wondering, just how diverse or varied can why statements be? Could you maybe give us, I don’t know, three more quick individual examples so I could see, “Oh, I see how they’re the same and yet different”?

David Mead
Sure. So, let me see if I can pull out a couple. Are you talking about individual or organization examples?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s go individual, yeah.

David Mead
Okay. So, I’ll give you a couple, the why statements of a couple of people on our team. One is to support and encourage others so that they can revel in who they are, and that one is really around just helping people find the beauty in themselves and reveling in that, so that’s one. Another one is to help people connect in meaningful ways so that we could live in a more fulfilled world.

And so, you’ll notice, I mean, the pattern, the commonality among everybody’s why is that it is, in some way, in service to somebody else. It’s our way of helping other people. And, you know, you talk to so many people and they say, “Oh, I feel so good when I help other people. My why is to help others.” You’re right, it is, but the power of going through an exercise like this is that we can get into a more detailed articulation of what your version of help means, right?

So, when I help somebody, I might do it in a little different way than you do it. Our whys will be slightly different even though, ultimately, they’re both about helping other people but it’s just the way that we articulate them that can make them really authentic and feel genuine to us.

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

David Mead
Again, if anybody is interested in learning more about this StartWithWhy.com is a great place to go. We’ve got links to Simon’s TED Talk if you haven’t seen it, a lot of other free resources, and you can Google Simon Sinek, you’ll find endless pages of videos and talks and that kind of stuff which is all great.

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

David Mead
Yes, I have a few but one that pops to mind, and I actually have it on my desk, and it feels a little bit of a cop-out, but it’s a Simon quote, but it ties directly to what we’ve been talking about here, which is, “If you’re a different person at work than you are at home, then in one of those two places you’re lying.” The idea behind that is we should be who we are at our natural best everywhere that we are, and that includes being who we are at work and who we are at home, and we should not be two different people in both of those places.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

David Mead
I love, love, love, and again, call it a cop-out if you want, but Leaders Eat Last, Simon’s second book, is so incredibly good. Like I don’t know what not to underline. So, from a leadership book perspective, I think that is one of the most influential and impactful books that I have ever read.

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

David Mead
Can I give you a habit?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, let’s take it.

David Mead
Yeah, so a habit that I have is every time right before I get on stage to do a talk or a workshop or something, I remind myself that I’m there to give. And so, I say to myself out loud, “Show up to give.” And it puts me in a mindset of, essentially, I’m getting out on that stage, I’m putting my arms around all those people and I’m giving them the knowledge or the experience or the things that I’ve learned, and I’m not there to get paid – of course, I do get paid – but that’s not what’s going on in my mind.

I’m not thinking about, “Well, jeez, I hope they like it so that they hire me again or they can refer me to somebody else,” or, “Who am I going to meet here that can be influential in my career?” I don’t think about any of that stuff. I just put myself in the mindset of show up to give, and that is a habit that has served me very well, and just keeps my head in the right place.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thanks. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

David Mead
I think, again, it ties to what we’ve been talking about here, about whether you go through the online course or the book or something completely different or nothing at all, at least think to yourself and consider, “Why do you actually get out of bed every day?” And if you really want to be awesome at your job there’s got to be passion, there’s got to be drive, there’s got to be love there.

Human beings are not inspired to make a huge paycheck or to hit a number or a metric, those are all motivating things. But, like we said before, it’s like that experience of taking a rollercoaster, it’s like, “Yeah, it was fun. That was awesome,” and then it wears off. Knowing your why and living based on that and finding an organization where we can bring that to life brings lasting fulfillment, and that’s something that we all deserve to have.

It shouldn’t be like, we shouldn’t feel lucky that we love our jobs. It’s something that should be available to everybody. And so, it simply just starts with considering, “Why do we actually do this?” And if we don’t feel like what we’re doing is a good fit, what changes do we need to make? Where might we be able to go that does feel a little bit better where we can bring our best selves to work every day?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, David, this has been a real treat. Thanks so much for sharing and questioning and getting some wheels turning both for myself and for everyone who’s listening here. So, I wish you tons of luck and keep on rocking.

David Mead
Thanks, Pete. You, too.

207: Getting Psyched Up For High Performance with Daniel McGinn

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Harvard Business Review editor Dan McGinn applies techniques from athletes, musicians, the military, and more to get yourself psyched for success.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to amp up confidence and dial down anxiety
  2. How to psych yourself up with your own “greatest hits
  3. The best pump up music there is

About Daniel

Daniel McGinn is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review, where he edits the IdeaWatch and How I Did It sections, manages the magazine’s annual Best Performing CEOs in the World ranking, and edits feature articles on topics including negotiation, sales, and entrepreneurship.

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206: Owning, Loving, and Growing Your Job with Lisa and Elizabeth McLeod

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Mother and daughter team Lisa and Elizabeth McLeod share their mindset of taking the reins and leading yourself towards meaningful success at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key questions to ask yourself for better self-assessment
  2. A mindset that will make you enjoy your job more
  3. Why to view your peers as colleagues instead of competitors

About Lisa & Elizabeth

Lisa McLeod is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant who espouses the “noble purpose” approach. She has served clients ranging from Apple to Peterbilt Trucks. She is the author of four books on leadership, sales, and personal development. She is also the sales leadership expert for Forbes.com, and she has appeared on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, Oprah.com, and Good Morning America.

Elizabeth McLeod is the vice president of client services at McLeod & More, Inc. Elizabeth manages projects for clients like Google and Hootsuite.

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202: Discovering the Work You’re Built to Do with Don Hutcheson

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Talent guru Don Hutcheson shares how to better know yourself in order to select jobs that optimally align to your talents.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Approaches to get more insight into your unique talents
  2. How to break out of your bubble and expand your perspective
  3. The seven ways people get stuck

About Don

Don Hutcheson is a lifelong entrepreneur, inventor, author and coach. He hosts the daily podcast: “Discover Your Talent—Do What You Love,” which he created to help people find their true talents and use them to build a career of success, satisfaction and freedom. He’s never had a “boss” and has created 6 innovative companies in advertising, publishing, coaching and career planning—and now on the Internet—over the last 40 years.

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