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438: How to Earn Fierce Loyalty Through 3 Key Principles with Sandy Rogers

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Sandy Rogers says: "The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood. I mean, how good does it feel when people really get you?"

Sandy Rogers shares the three core principles required to earn the devotion of both customer and colleague.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 3 core loyalty principles of responsibility, empathy, and generosity
  2. How indifference can destroy loyalty
  3. The importance of weekly team huddles for reinforcing new behaviors

About Sandy

Sandy Rogers is the leader of FranklinCovey’s Loyalty Practice. He was previously Senior Vice President at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. During his 14 years there, Sandy managed the turnaround of the London, England operation and led the teams that developed Enterprise’s marketing strategy and system for improving customer service across all branches. Before Enterprise, Sandy worked in marketing at Apple Computer and at P&G. He is a graduate of Duke and Harvard Business School.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Sandy Rogers Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Sandy, thank you so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome at Your Job Podcast.

Sandy Rogers
Thank you Pete, thrilled to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thrilled to chat with you. And you’ve got many claims to fame in your life, but the one I thought was most interesting off the top of my head was that you led the teams that came up with the legendary “pick Enterprise we’ll pick you up” slogan, what is the backstory here?

Sandy Rogers
Oh, my gosh, well, I have the great fortune of spending most of my career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, actually left Apple Computer to go work with Jack Taylor at Enterprise. And one of my early Jobs was to lead the marketing part of a business, the idea of picking customers up came from one of our local general managers, and Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise, when he first heard it, thought, “That sounds crazy, I don’t know how you’re going to be able to pick people up.”

But sure enough, in true Enterprise fashion Jack empowered the local teams to go run experiments, try and figure it out, perfect it, the idea of pick up then spread across the organization. And so, when I came in as the marketing guy, we were looking for a way to share a message that would get people’s attention.

And there was a lot of push to talk about our friendly service and our great employees. But back then, other car rental companies were talking about their great service.

Pete Mockaitis
You got OJ Simpson, running through Airports

Sandy Rogers
Everyone was talking about we try harder and so I thought talking about service, the way to prove you have great service is actually to deliver great service, but not brag about it. And so instead, we did some research. And we looked for things that nobody was talking about.

So, you need something that’s unique, but we also wanted something that customers felt was really important. And in all the different things we tested, pick up jumped to the top of the list because nobody was talking about pick up in the car rental industry. And when consumers heard, “You’ll pick me up?”, it was a great message. And so we started with that, “Pick Enterprise we’ll pick you up,” we worked with a terrific ad agency in New York, and created that commercial with a brown paper wrapper car and it became a very memorable way to communicate this wonderful service Enterprise still provides today.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right and I’m curious, like, what proportion of customers end up actually requesting to be picked up?

Sandy Rogers
On my gosh, I’ve been out of the business for 12 years. So, I don’t have the latest—

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll grill you with hard data questions at the top of the interview, Sandy.

Sandy Rogers
But a lot of them do, a lot of people— Enterprise started in the home city car rental market. So, when people had an accident or they brought their car into the dealership or service, Enterprise was the only player in town who would pick you up and bring you back to the branch and get you into a car.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy, I’ve done it before.

Sandy Rogers
Oh, good. Well, I hope you had a good experience, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
It was, it was very pleasant. Thank you. Cool. Alright, so that’s the history of Sandy Rogers. But let’s talk about some of the current stuff, you’ve got a book, Leading Loyalty. I want to hear, as you’re putting this together, what was maybe the most surprising and fascinating thing that you discovered, as you were executing this?

Sandy Rogers
We have worked with a wide range of organizations, I mean, small, big. And what really surprised me is these principles that we have uncovered through all the research we’ve done about empathy, responsibility, and generosity, that these principles are not only applicable in earning the loyalty of our customers—and everybody wants fierce customer loyalty—but they’re also the exact same principles we need to earn the loyalty of our coworkers, our colleagues, our family, our friends, our kids, our spouse.

And so, the deeper we got into this, and the more stories we heard, these principles are applicable to earning the fierce loyalty of every important person in our lives.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really good. We got the empathy, responsibility, and what?

Sandy Rogers
And generosity is the third one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Sandy Rogers
And principles are like gravity. I mean, they’re irrefutable. They act on you whether you agree with them or not. And so, if you don’t obey these principles of loyalty, you’re not going to earn the loyalty of other people. I mean, there’s no shortcuts.

And sure, people talk about frequent flyer miles and discounts and point programs but Pete, we’re talking about the loyalty that’s fueled in the heart. It’s when you tell your friends “oh, I got to tell you the story about this thing. It was unbelievable.” It’s that heartfelt emotional connection that that we’re trying to fuel with this book.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I dig that, well, could you share with us maybe a story? You got some heartfelt tales that you’ve collected, and you’re doing your research and talking to folks that maybe, so I can get a picture of you of a loyalty transformation. We had some lack of empathy, responsibility, generosity, and loyalty and then we saw things turn around.

Sandy Rogers
So, Pete, I was with the CEO of a large baby retail chain, and we were talking about empathy. And he stopped me, he said, “Sandy, I got to tell you a story. You may have heard it because it’s been all over the internet. This man comes into one of our stores, he’s carrying a load of unopened baby items, and he explains to our team that he and his wife had just experienced a miscarriage. And our team told him, ‘Sir, I’m so sorry about that but with a receipt you can’t return these items.’”

And the CEO just covered his face, he said, “Sandy, I don’t know how I could’ve possibly allowed a policy like needing a receipt get in the way of doing the obvious human thing for this poor man.” And you know what’s interesting about this story, Pete, two years later, this chain went bankrupt. They closed all of their stores. And they certainly had their financial challenges, I don’t know if it was from a lack of showing empathy, but I do know this, to earn the fierce loyalty of our customers, we have got to have empathy for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, yeah, that’s powerful. And, boy, that really is an illustration in terms of, “At what point are your policies ironclad?” Every policy needs to have a breaking point somewhere below this extreme, you know.

Sandy Rogers
So, let me tell you one where we had a policy at Enterprise that was ironclad, okay? Do you remember where you were on 9/11?

Pete Mockaitis
I do. I was in my senior AP Rhetoric class with Mrs. Judy Federmeier when we got the word. I was like, “What?” Yeah.

Sandy Rogers
It was one of those moments. I was at the headquarters at Enterprise in St. Louis. Can you imagine what it was like at an airport rental branch that day? All the planes were grounded. At the Dallas Airport branch, in Washington, D.C., our branch manager has a branch that is teeming with people desperate to get home. All of our competitor car rental companies at Dallas Airport had closed and their managers had gone home, you know, check on their family and everything.

But our manager decided to stay open, and he couldn’t reach anybody on the phone because all the phone lines were jammed. And we had a policy, a firm ironclad policy back then, no one way routes. If you rented a car at the Dallas Airport branch, you had to bring it back to that Enterprise branch. Pete, he couldn’t reach anybody. He gets on a chair and stands up in front of his huge crowd of people, and he said, “Everybody, could I please get your attention? This gentleman here is going to Atlanta. Is there anybody else here that needs to go towards Atlanta or in that direction? Can you all please take this car? I’ve open up the soda machine, help yourself to a soda and a snack. Take the car, get yourselves home safely. I’ll figure out how to get my car back.”

He said, “Ma’am, where are you going? You’re going to St. Louis? Okay. Who else here needs to go west towards St. Louis? Please take this car, get yourselves home safely. I’ll figure out how to get my car back later.” This branch manager, Pete, scattered his cars to the winds. He sent them all over the country. He completely violated our policy about no one way routes.

And when we heard this story three days later, the founder, and the CEO, and the whole senior leadership team at Enterprise was never more proud, because although this team had completely violated our policies, they did exactly what our customer mission is all about. They showed incredible empathy for these customers. They took responsibility for the real job which was to get them home to their families. They were incredibly generous because imagine the cost of getting all these cars back, but we were never more proud.

And so, when I think about this story, are the people in your organization, whether you’re in a small two-person shop, or a large company, are you given the ability to be empathetic with your customers, to take responsibility for their real needs, to be generous? Because this is the secret, not just to customer loyalty, this is the way we earn fierce employee loyalty.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. Thank you.

Sandy Rogers
We started measuring customer service at Enterprise around 1994. About the same time that we were doing the research on what to advertise with pick up. And because we knew that to grow the business faster, customers had to walk away with a feeling that “wow! I love this place”.

Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise said, “It’s simple. When people walk out of our branches, they’ve got to feel like this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

So, in order to deliver great service, we decided we had to measure it. When we first started measuring service in 1994, Enterprise, we were pretty good overall, but there was huge variation across the chain.

And that’s often the challenge with organizations. I mean, you always have people, there’s pockets of greatness, but you see inconsistency from one location or one team to another. And so, we told everybody, this is the one of the most important things our mission is built on customer service, let’s get busy and improve it.

And over the next two years, we had zero percent improvement, everybody was focused on doing what they always did, which was running a great business and then Jack Taylor, the founder, inspired everybody and said, “No, I’m really serious about this.”

And so after this meeting we had in 1996, from that point forward, the decision was made not to promote anyone who’s customer service score was below the company average. And that, Pete, changed everything.

Over the next 10 years, all of a sudden, now everybody had skin in the game, we had a metric that clearly identified who needed to get better. And by not promoting the below average performers, over the next 10 years Enterprise went from delighting 67% of its customers to 80% of its customers. And that variation I talked about across the chain went from 28 points to less than 12 points.

Company sales in this 10-year period tripled from $2 to $7 billion. And Andy Taylor, the CEO at the time, this was the profound dedication and impact of improving our service across the whole chain. Fred Reichheld at Bain [& Company] created the Net Promoter Score based on this story that I just shared at Enterprise.

Pete Mockaitis
You know when I worked at Bain, I’ve done a case at Bain using the Net Promoter Score. I think I even read the book, The Ultimate Question.

Sandy Rogers
Yes.
Chapter Four in The Ultimate Question is this story.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so well, fun fact. Cool beans. So, there we have it, we made a commitment, this was how it’s going to be, you can’t get promoted if you’re below average, and we saw tremendous results in terms of people more satisfied, revenues growing. So that’s really cool in terms of, you’ve got transformation, and then I’m imagining then, in terms of what constitutes a great customer service and great customer experience, there were some particular practices that invoked some more empathy, responsibility and generosity from the staff?

Sandy Rogers
No question. And so, by unleashing our teams to go out and be creative, and to figure out, “How are we going to make more of our customers happy? How are we going to make our operation more consistently excellent?” These wonderful ideas spread from the bottom up, and Enterprise had tremendous success.

But Pete, we’ve worked with a wide range of organizations over the last 15 years. And these principles hold true in every case. The customer has to feel like you have empathy for me, that you’ve taken the time to understand my hidden story, that you’ve taken responsibility for the real job I’m trying to get done, not just selling me your stuff, but you’ve taken the time to really understand what I’m actually trying to do or accomplish.

And three, they treat us with generosity in terms of the time it takes for us to do business with a firm, they respect us. And so those are the principles that we bring to life because we think they’re essential in every business, whether it’s a small bakery or it’s a large conglomerate.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to now talk about some of the specific practices, then, for human beings, we’re working with each other, we’re trying to facilitate some more loyalty, whether that’s with an external customer, an internal customer, a colleague, a friend, a collaborator. What are some of the key ways that you go about doing empathy, doing responsibility, doing generosity?

Sandy Rogers
The first step is we’ve got to adopt a loyalty leader mindset. Our mindset affects our behavior. And so, we choose to be a leader. It’s not what’s on our name tag, you know you’re a leader if you look over your shoulder and you see people following you.

So, this idea that, well, no, this is something my boss has to do or the CEO has to sign off on, no, everybody in the organization from the bottom to the top, has to choose to be a loyalty leader and take personal responsibility for living these principles more often.

So, let’s trail down into empathy. So, the first one is empathy and empathy is our ability to identify with and understand other people’s situation or feelings, and we know what it means. Now everybody has empathy, you don’t have to teach it. If you see somebody poked with a needle, we flinch and say, “Ugh.”

So why don’t we see more of it in the workplace and our everyday interactions? Well, we’ve got to talk about it, and we got to get into the practices. So, the first practice in showing empathy is to make a genuine human connection.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Sandy Rogers
And so often what we get from the companies we do business with, it’s not a genuine connection, it’s some kind of scripted thing that they’ve been taught to read to me on the phone after I’ve waited 15 minutes on hold, to simply tell the cable company that my internet is not working, and I’ve got an interview coming up and could you please fix it?

I don’t want to hear the script, I don’t want to hear the fake empathy. Because I know it’s a script they’re reading to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Sandy Rogers
And so we talk about making a genuine connection, even if you’re the third person in line, and I’m the host at a restaurant, and you just want to put your name down for a table, just with eye contact, I can let you know I see you, I care about you. I mean, I can give you the feeling that I’m going to take care of you. I’m so sorry you’re having to wait.

And once we make that connection, the next practice is I’ve got to listen to learn the story. We all have a hidden story. Sometimes, the hidden stories are obvious. If we’re driving down the road and we see a lady standing with her small children by a car with a hood open and steam coming out, and we get the story in a glance, right. We know what’s going on.

But so often, people will come into our workplace, whether they’re a customer or a coworker, and they’ve got a story that’s hidden from you. And for us to have empathy for that person, we’re going to have to genuinely connect so they know that this is not just a fake, “Hey, what’s up?” and when you know I don’t really want the answer. But no, “Really what’s going on? How are you?” And then I’ve gotta take the time to actually listen to their hidden story.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good.

Sandy Rogers
And I’ve got to listen not just with my ears, I’ve got to listen with my eyes and with my heart, too. I love the Chinese character for listen, it contains the symbols for all three, ears, eyes, and heart.

The deepest need of the human hearts to be understood. I mean, how good is it feel when people really get you? So that’s the idea. You can’t have empathy if you don’t know my story and you’re not going to hear my story unless I believe you’re genuine and you actually are listening to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Sandy, I’d love to get your take from the human experience of, all right, you’re busy, you got a lot of things going on, you want to be empathetic but you could just forget, in the hustle and bustle and the taking care of business and your metrics and KPIs and hustling to the next thing because there’s a fire to put out, but there’s humans in your midst.

How do you recommend folks kind of center, ground, reorient their brains and their ways of being to really empathize with folks in that moment?

Sandy Rogers
And that’s what’s so hard about this because what we’re talking about here is common sense. People say, “yeah, I’ve learned this stuff in kindergarten” and you did. And hopefully, it’s ingrained in your psyche, these principles that start with empathy. But just because it’s common sense, unfortunately, it’s not common practice.

And the reason it’s not, in so many of our interactions is we’re busy! We’ve got revenue targets, expense reduction goals, I got a list of stuff, I’ve got to get done by five o’clock today. And so, in the whirlwind of our busy daily lives, we lose sight of the power of the simple practices that we’re teaching in this book.

And so, we’re teaching people things that they already know but we’re asking them to talk about them for 15 minutes a week, in a little huddle, the team comes together. And in those huddles, the most important thing you do is you celebrate the people on the team that are doing what you talked about last week.

So last week, we talked about listening to learn the hidden story. I got to tell this quick story about Pete, and you know, it’s fun, and people laugh and we high five, and that’s amazing. And then we talk about the next principle or practice, and how do we actually apply that in the work we do here?

It’s easy to talk about this stuff in theory, but yeah, how am I supposed to be generous to these customers that are yelling at me all day, right? So, we talk about it. And then we each make a commitment to go apply this and come back next week. So, we can celebrate what worked and talk about what didn’t work. And we don’t have to have all the answers. We’re just going to create space in the whirlwind of our busy lives, to talk about the things that actually make a difference to how we’re feeling when we leave work every day.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And I’m sure that everyone’s context is a little bit different and by making that time, you’ll come up with the particulars that seem to be really effective in those realms. I’d love to hear when it comes to asking the questions, have you found that there are some particularly useful, valuable questions in building up the empathy?

Sandy Rogers
Well, sure, what brings you in today? What’s going on? Open ended questions, not yes/no questions. I mean, the classic yes/no question is that, the wait person who comes over, everything okay? It’s just like, you know, or how about you’re checking out of the grocery store, find everything, and the checker has their eyes on the work and doesn’t really listen to your answer about what have you found everything at the grocery store that day?

Now you kind of ask questions, and then leave space. And oftentimes, ask again. For example, one of the best ways that companies can improve their service: don’t wait for the survey to come, ask people walking out the door, “What, if anything, could we’ve done to better serve you today? I’m Sandy, I’m the manager, I’d love to know, no, really, I’m serious anything? Was there anything we could have done better?”

And when people understand that he’s sincere, that he actually wants to hear, then you get into a conversation, and you can learn their story. You can also learn about how to fix your business right now, if there’re any issues rather than hearing about it or reading about it in a bad Yelp post in a couple hours from now.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay, so we talked about empathy, how about responsibility?

Sandy Rogers
So once you’ve taken the time to understand my hidden story, you know how I’m feeling. Now we’ve got to take responsibility for helping people succeed to reach their goals. And with responsibility, there are two practices. As I mentioned earlier, first, we’ve got to discover the real job to be done. And what does that mean?

Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School writes that people hire products and services to do a specific job for them. People are hiring your podcast to do a specific job for them, right?

Pete Mockaitis
And I hope I’m nailing it.

Sandy Rogers
And I think you are! So, guy comes into a hardware store, “I’m looking for a wrench.” “Oh, they’re right over at aisle 14.” That’s not taking responsibility. No, instead, “Come with me. The wrenches are this way. What are you working on?” “Well, I got this old fence in my backyard and there’s these rusty nuts and bolts I gotta pull out so I can get rid of the fence.” “Well, will work any of these?”

“Yeah, they look like those hexagonal ones right over there.” “Oh, sure, to grip the rusty edges of those nuts so you can pull the bolts out and get rid of your fence, you’re going to need a set of box wrenches, they should do the trick.”

You see Pete, that’s taking responsibility for the real job. Getting rid of a fence. It’s not to sell the guy a wrench.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I find that that’s so handy. But I think that I I’ve often had that situation where maybe I’m just sort of thinking about novel things or outside-the-box sorts of things. It just seems like I’m often asking for something that’s not exactly what they people do like I want a CRM, but I don’t really want to sell anything to people using this software. I’m just looking to keep track of ABC and then, and folks are just sort of, I guess, perplexed, like, “oh, well, let me show you the cool features we have.”

Sandy Rogers
Of course.

Pete Mockaitis
Sort of like, “Okay, well, I guess, I could look at those but that’s not really what I’m most interested in.” And so, I guess I have those exchanges frequently, on sort of, like the customer side of things.

So, I dig it in terms of like, “What are you trying to accomplish?” I think that’s one of the best questions ever.

Sandy Rogers
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of, hey, as a as a consultant, if you’re trying to crack a case for a client, as a coach, if you’re trying to help someone, because they have one specific question, you take a step back and ask, “what are you trying to accomplish”? And then it opens up everything, or just, as a worker getting an assignment and getting better clarity about what we’re really going after? So that’s a great question in terms of being able to surface the responsibility and do it all the better. Any other favorite questions there?

Sandy Rogers

Well, and that’s such an important question, “What are you trying to accomplish?”, and then lead with a need. So, before we jump into, “Oh, my gosh, let me tell you about our CRM system, and all the bells and whistles,” lead with their need.

So, let’s take an example. You go into a store and you’re looking for a treadmill or something. If I’ve taken the time to really understand why you’re buying a treadmill, or why you’ve come for that, I can lead with a need.

So, “Pete they help you do well and the upcoming half marathon that you’re gonna be doing with your team, this elliptical machine, I think makes the most sense, given some knee trouble you’ve had or this comfortable pair of running shoes should fit the bill.”

But it’s, it takes discipline to not just sell our products, which of course we’re excited about, and sales are good, but if we want to earn the fierce loyalty of our customers, we’ll take the time to not only understand how they’re feeling so we can have some empathy but we can take responsibility for “What is this guy really trying to accomplish?”

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, so if someone is not too communicative like, “need a  treadmill”, he’s like, “okay, great, what makes you interested in a treadmill today?” I don’t know, any tips for those who are almost like a seek and destroy, get in get out mode, whether it’s a colleague or a customer. Any tips for slowing it down and getting the real stuff?

Sandy Rogers
It’s got to be conversational. It’s got to be natural. It can’t look like you know, some script or some spiel which you’re spilling out. It’s just “Hey, talk to me. I want to help you, I want to get you the treadmill, you’re looking for what’s going on? What brings you here? Why a treadmill now”?

And when people are trying to figure out, is this a genuine inquiry here? I mean, should I bother to spend time and actually tell this person my story?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Sandy Rogers
And if we’re sincere, though, they’ll actually tell you. One of the stories we heard is somebody comes into a store and “I’m looking for shoelaces.” “Why do you want shoelaces?” I mean it seems obvious to replace the laces in my shoes. But it turned out this person actually wanted shoelaces to tie the birdcage to the roof of their car.

I mean, it’s an odd admission, but just an understanding that, opportunity to teach this person about bungee cords and there are other solutions besides shoelaces to tie down bird cages.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I really like that. That’s good certainly. Okay, well, so then let’s hear about the third key, the generosity.

Sandy Rogers
Well, and so at the end of responsibility, not only do we have to discover the job but then we got to follow up, how did that go? And if there’re problems, one of the most powerful ways we can earn loyalty is to take responsibility for any problems somebody has.

And we teach people what we call the five A’s. We got to assume that the person has good intent. So, imagine you’re dealing with an angry customer. If you’re going to turn that detractor into a promoter, you got to first assume that their intent is good, they’re not here to rip us off, we’ll get to align with our emotions, get on the same side of the table, we need to apologize with no defensiveness whatsoever. We got to ask, “what can I do to make this right for you” and assure them of what I’m going to do and do it?

And so, we practice these five A’s, we talk about it, but getting good at follow up is quarter responsibility in earning the loyalty everybody wants. Okay, so now we get empathy and responsibility. Sorry Pete, go ahead.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing. So that’s sort of if they’re coming in to you, in terms of they’re saying, “Hey, this thing went wrong.”

Sandy Rogers
Well, and we don’t want to wait and find out. When I was running the London, England operation for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I would get some pushback from our branch managers that had low customer service scores and weren’t getting promoted. And they said, “Well, how am I supposed to know how to get better? I’m only getting 25 surveys a month.”

And I said, “Well, hold on, how many renters do you see every month in your branch?” “Oh, 700 to 1000.” “What would prevent you from asking as many as you want, what can we be doing to better serve you? How does your rental go? I’d love to know.” You could get 1000 surveys a month if you want them and rather than waiting for the results, you could fix whatever issue you’ve got today before it affects other customers.

And it’s not just the negative. Now, here’s the positive, you will find out in most cases that the rental was great. Susie did an amazing job. Imagine how it’s going to feel to Susie to be able to go back into the branch and say, “I just want to let you know, you blew those guys socks off. They just loved what you did for them.” “Susie, great job”.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s also your opportunity to be like, “Thank you so much. If you could share that on the official survey. It would be great.”

Sandy Rogers
Oh yeah, that is it— Now, I tell you one thing at Enterprise, if you do that, you will get fired.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Sandy Rogers
And I know that doesn’t always happen at the car dealers where they badger to give the high scores. But early on Andy Taylor and his leadership team made the decision that if you talk about the survey, or talk about top box and all that stuff, we’re going to treat it like taking cash out of the cash box. Because it completely undermines the customers confidence that we actually care about customer service.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely, because they are like, I think about the Uber driver, “Give me a five-star rating.” “No, I’ll give you the star rating that you deserve.” But I’m just  intrigued here, but it’s also inappropriate if someone says, “Hey, this was awesome.” And they say, “Hey, thank you. If you’d like to share on the survey, then we’d appreciate it.” That’s also forbidden?

Sandy Rogers
Yes, and you know what, just say thank you. That’s great. Tell your friends, leave it at that. But don’t mention the survey, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right, I think that that’s a useful distinction because many are tempted or inclined to do exactly that.

Sandy Rogers
It will then it just tells the customer that, well, this guy really just cares about his survey results. Say “Hey, if you had a great experience Pete, please tell your friends and we’d love to serve them too.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool, gotcha. All right. So then, you were gonna say some more about generosity?

Sandy Rogers
Yeah. So, we’ve got empathy, responsibility and the third core principle for earning loyalty is generosity. Generosity is giving from our heart, more than is necessary or people expect, it’s kindness. And to be generous with other people there are two practices, we to share our insights openly, generously share our thoughts, feelings, knowledge, concerns, and we need to surprise people in unexpected ways.

And so we’ve a chapter on each of these things, on generosity and sharing insights, and then surprising with unexpected extras. Because those two things have to occur in order for me to feel like you’re being generous with me and my time.

Pete Mockaitis
So can you give some examples of insights?

Sandy Rogers
Sure, well, we share insights with our customers all the time. Imagine you go into a store, and you’re looking for a speaker for your TV so you can have better surround sound and you’re awed by the beautiful display and you find one, you take it to the register, and the woman working at the register says, “Well, does your TV support Bluetooth?” And you say, “Well, actually, I don’t know”.

Well, “What kind of TV do you have?” “Ah surf.” “For your TV, that speaker is not going to work, you’re going to need a little wireless transmitter, it doesn’t cost hardly anything, let me get it for you.”

See, that’s incredibly generous sharing insights, it’s reducing the effort that you’re going to go through to get surround sound to work with your TV. Now that cashier could have done that or not, it was incredibly generous that she chose to spend an extra 10 seconds and help you out.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s good.

Sandy Rogers
But we share insights with each other too. You and I may be coworkers in a business and you notice I have some opportunities to be more effective and how I’m working with our customers. But today we have a lot of confidence about sharing our feedback with our thumbs online. But we want to make sure that our millennials and Generation Z has the same confidence, providing feedback face to face.

And so, we talk a lot about that in the book too. And how to have a coaching conversation, how to recognize what people are doing well, how to declare intent, how to have people walk away and say, “Wow, I mean, that was incredibly generous, that Pete shared that with me,” right? But we’re going to practice it and because there’s a way to do it, that is natural, and shows that the feedback is loving feedback and not criticism.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. And how about these sort of extra little tidbits? What are some of your favorite examples there?

Sandy Rogers
Well, surprising with unexpected extras, and Enterprise is the master at this, all these branches had to get better, right? And so, they ran a jillion experiment, a cold bottle of water on a hot day, going to the body shops and dealerships and bringing them ice cream, or donuts, or just little ways, little experiments.

And so one of the things you want to do in huddle 10, week 10, you get your team together, what is something that we could do for our customers that we’ve never done before that would delight them, something that we could do ourselves, we don’t even get permission from head office.

And then vote on the best ideas and then go do it.  Run a little experiment and see what happens. And it’s incredibly engaging for your team. And it’s wonderful with customers, hotel guests, housekeeper notices that they’re out of toothpaste, and leaves a little tube of toothpaste with a note, it looked like you were running out, so I left you this.

I mean, imagine what the guest feels like, that little extra didn’t cost anything for the hotel. And it not only made the guests feel great, the housekeeper felt great, too.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. That’s cool. Could you share perhaps a couple examples of these principles coming to life in terms of colleague to colleague?

Sandy Rogers
Oh my gosh, well, to earn the loyalty of our coworkers, the same principles apply. And when organizations are—they want to engage their employees, one of the challenges that people like Gallup report is that the lower you go in the organization, the lower the employee engagement, the higher the turnover. And we know that the difference between a good and a great experience often comes down to how the people on the frontline are treating us.

Whether it’s face to face or on the phone or online. And so, recognizing that the frontline is the lowest paid, and oftentimes the least trained, and has lots of challenges with retention, it is vitally important that the leaders are living these principles.

My friend Shep Hyken, often says, “The customer experience rarely exceeds the employee experience.” So, we have to first earn the fierce loyalty of our teammates, of our employees, they’ve got to be excited about coming to work, they’ve got to say, “I’d recommend this place to work to all my friends,” and then that carries over to how the customers feel, which then drives the sales that we all want, and finally, the bottom-line profits—but it’s kind of happened in that order.

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

Sandy Rogers
What I would say is, this is basic stuff that you did learn in kindergarten, but you got to create space, you got to create 15 minutes a week, almost every mission statement I’ve ever seen mentions customers and how important they are. I mean, it’s hard to argue your customers aren’t important, right?

But if they’re so important, and they’re the cornerstone of the mission statement, then we ought to be able to carve out 15 minutes each week to celebrate the people who are living these things that are creating our customer promoters.

And to also talk about what these principles and practices mean, and how to apply them, what the challenges are, to be generous, to be more responsible, to have empathy, to follow up. All these things we’ve been talking about, that it sounds great, but let’s talk for a few minutes about how I can actually do that on this team.

We’re on the calls, we’re in a call center, we’re on the phone all day. And I’m being held to this two-minute timeline for the length of calls, how am I supposed to do this? And so, we want to create space to have these conversations to help organizations get better.

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

Sandy Rogers
One of my favorite quotes is “no risk-it no biscuit.” It’s a very simple, but I find that what gets in the way of us, all of us in doing these things that make sense is there’s a fear that, “oh, it may not work or it may not be received well.” We’ve got to make the choice to go out on a limb to try these things, to run these huddles.

We’ve had so many organizations, at first maybe have questions about, “Well, will our people really do this?” We had a chain of auto repair stores. And they said, now let me get this right, you’re expecting these guys that work under the hood of cars and trucks all day to get together and talk about empathy, and generosity, and responsibility?

And I said, “Well, let’s see if any of them are interested.” And a group of 20 said, “We want to go do this, let us go do this in our stores.” And over six months Pete, we were measuring their customer service scores while they were running these huddles, they increased their customer service scores by an average of 10 points. Three of these 20 stores increased their scores by 20 points.

And they said, “You know what, this is the most fun 15 minutes of our week. We were celebrating each other, and we were talking about how to bring this stuff to life.” The simple idea is put everyone into a position to enrich other people’s lives. These principles allow that to happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now, could you share with us a favorite study something that you found enlightening?

Sandy Rogers
Tell me what you mean by a favorite study?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, like an experiment or bit of research.

Sandy Rogers
Just sort of think, I think some of the research that’s really come to my mind are the things that we have learned, the link between customer service scores in growth and profitability in the business. We often get asked to quantify what on the surface, sounds obvious, if we get better customer service, of course, the business will grow faster and will make more money but CEOs often say, “yeah, prove it.”

I remember one chain that we were working with, they had 3500 stores, and we were measuring their employee engagement, and also their customer service. And the CEO said, “Well, I’ve done a little analysis of my own and I’m not seeing a strong correlation between the employee engagement scores you’re giving me and the customer service scores you’re giving me across our 3500 stores.”

And I thought, “Uh-oh, well let’s see what’s going on here.” And one of the guys on our team, said, “Well, I’ll tell you what, let’s add another question to the employee engagement survey to find out if those store teams actually know their customer service scores.”

Because Pete, here’s the theory, people play harder when they’re keeping score. I mean, look at the kids on the playground, as soon as you start keeping score, the game gets a lot more fierce and interesting, right?

If the people in the store don’t even know their customer service score for the store, they’re not really playing the game of improving customer service, right. So, we found out that of all those stores, 40% of the store teams had a very clear idea of what their customer service score was, 60% had no idea what it was.

And guess what? The correlation between employee engagement and customer service was excellent in the stores that actually knew their customer service scores. But in the stores that were clueless about their customer service scores, of course, there was no correlation between employee engagement and customer service because they weren’t really playing. Yeah, you could love your job, but not be focused on customers.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, sure. Like “This guy keeps getting in the way. We’re having some great jokes. This guy keeps interrupting, this customer over here.” Well, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Sandy Rogers
Oh, my gosh, I am rereading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Have you heard of that book?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, very much.

Sandy Rogers
I remember reading it, like 1990 and, or whatever. And I am rereading it now because I find so many of those, habits, incredibly important in the effectiveness of our team.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool? Sorry, re-wind.

Sandy Rogers
Like be proactive. I mean, I just think that’s, I know Stephen Covey starts with this idea of being proactive, and, carrying your own weather and not looking to blame other people for what’s going on in your domain. But it takes good reminding every day to go back to the Viktor Frankl insight from the Holocaust that the ultimate human freedom is that gap between stimulus and response, and you get to decide how you feel about how other people are treating you. And that’s a very powerful insight that’s worth revisiting. But you’re asking you about our favorite tool?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Sandy Rogers
Gosh, what tool, could I not live without, Google Maps. That’s how I find my way everywhere.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, and how about a favorite habit?

Sandy Rogers
A favorite of the habits of Stephen’s habits?

Pete Mockaitis
That could be Stephen’s or yours.

Sandy Rogers
I think sharpening the saw, I think this idea of constantly learning outside of the domain that we spend most of our lives, to get other perspectives. And I love when Steve Jobs talked about connecting the dots between what he— he said for example, we have these movable fonts, because of some class he dropped into, when he was just taking classes after he dropped out of college and just connecting the dots between different things. It just, it helps us to be more effective in the work we do every day, it also makes work everyday more interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share in your book or with clients that really seems to connect and resonate with them and they repeat it back to you?

Sandy Rogers
I think the gist that people come back to us with is this idea about putting people into position to enrich other lives. And it’s really around trusting them. Think about the organizations today that don’t trust their employees.

They say, “You know what, we’re going to give you a script, we’re going to put you on a time clock, you have to live in this tiny little box.” Rob Markey at Bain talks about giving your people freedom within a defined framework. I mean, that’s certainly what Enterprise did. But boundaries were well defined. But we gave them a lot of freedom within those boundaries. And I’ll give you some examples.

American Express completely changed how they managed their call centers, when they said, “We’re going to throw out the scripts, we’re going to throw out the time clock, your job is to create promoters.” And it not only made the card member happier and made the employees a lot happier! I mean, now this job is fun.

Tony Hsieh of Zappos totally has that insight. You think: make them happy! Okay, and he’s got the crazy story that somebody calls up and looking for a pair of shoes that Zappos doesn’t even sell but they fulfill the sale anyway.

Southwest Airlines, “Hey, look, these are the rules. You have to buy FAA guidelines, tell people about these things.” Now, if you choose to sing it, or do it as part of a comedy routine, hey, more power to you.

So, I think one of the real keys to earning that fierce employee loyalty and customer loyalty that everybody wants is we got to trust our people. We got to let them use their natural gifts and abilities within a broad framework. You got to have guidelines but within these guidelines, go for it and have fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And Sandy, if folks want to learn more, get in touch, where would you point them.

Sandy Rogers
They can certainly come to www.franklincovey.com, and they can come to my LinkedIn page.

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

Sandy Rogers
My final challenge is take a look at these principles. Try it. Say “I’m going to invest 10 or 15 minutes a week, I’m going to run this play. I’m going to run this for 11 weeks and see whether I feel differently about the work I do and whether coming to work every day is more fun, whether it has more meaning.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well Sandy, this has been a treat. Thanks so much for taking this time and sharing the good word. I wish you much luck and loyalty and fun in all your ventures.

Sandy Rogers
Pete, thank you so much.

401: Finding, Creating, and Maintaining a Great Work Culture with Brian Fielkow

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Brian Fielkow says: "Don't mold yourself to a culture that doesn't fit. You've got to understand what fits."

CEO Brian Fielkow walks through creating and maintaining a good work culture then reveals how prospective employees can find out if they fit a new workplace’s culture.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why customers pay for culture
  2. Brian’s definition of a healthy work culture
  3. How to discover if you are a cultural fit at the interview stage

About Brian

Brian Fielkow, J.D., is the CEO of Jetco Delivery, a multimillion-dollar Houston-based trucking and logistics company with 200+ employees that was named a “Top Workplace” by the Houston Chronicle, highlighted on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list, and given the Gold Safety Award by the DOW Chemical Company. Brian is also the author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Brian Fielkow Interview Transcript

Brian Fielkow
She’s well known in Hawaii and she’s starting to make a good name on the mainland. But the song, Island Inside Me, I wrote for my wife for our anniversary.

I just have these lyrics going around in my head, but I’m not a songwriter, I can’t sing, I’m not a musician. I connected with Anuhea. We put this song together sort of as an anniversary gift. It took off. It was a pretty cool experience. I don’t think I’ll have that experience again, but to have that song. Every once in a while I’ll hear it on Sirius-type stations. It’s kind of neat.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, could you sing perhaps the refrain or the chorus or a segment for us?

Brian Fielkow
Oh, you don’t want me to sing anything, but I know she’s got it posted. I know it’s available. It’s again, Island Inside Me, but if I sang it, I think we’d lose all of our listeners right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, fair enough. We’ll play it safe this time.

Brian Fielkow
Play it safe, yup.

Pete Mockaitis
You have a deep expertise when it comes to culture matters. You have some real hands-on experience instead of only doing research and writing books. Maybe could you orient us a little bit to where you’ve come from and why culture has become an issue that really matters to you so much?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I have kind of an interesting career. It’s not one that you could have ever planned coming out of school. I began my career practicing corporate law in Milwaukee. Maybe six or seven years in, I went to go work for my favorite client. They were in the recycling business. It was a wonderful opportunity.

We built that business while I was there for a good six – seven years. We sold it to Waste Management. I worked at Waste for a couple years. Then I bought my current company about 13 – 14 years ago, Trucking and Logistics. I’ve seen large Fortune 500 companies, I’ve seen entrepreneurial companies, everything in between.

It was interesting when I got into recycling coming out of the law business, I noticed that what we were selling were bales of cardboard. A bale of cardboard is a bale of cardboard, but we were commanding a premium. It took me a while to figure out why would anybody pay us more for what’s in the truest sense of the word a commodity.

It didn’t take me long to realize that other people would promise an order of a thousand tons and they’d ship 700. There was so much gamesmanship in the business, but we did what we said. People were paying us a premium for peace of mind. They weren’t really buying our cardboard; they were buying our peace of mind. That was a lesson I got very early on post law.

It kind of woke me up to the fact that every one of our businesses with rare exception to some degree is commoditized. I got really interested in de-commoditizing what we do, not having it to compete as much on price. Yes, the price is important, but if we can get to a situation where a customer appreciates our value proposition more than just the core product or service you’re offering, you can command a higher price.

Over the years I learned that what people are really paying for is your culture, kind of how you do things, what makes you different, that secret ingredient that nobody else can steal.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Your culture is what they’re paying for. It’s how you do things differently, your secret sauce. Is that how you define culture in those ways or do you have a particular definition that you run with?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, let me give you how I define it. There are books and books on culture and the theory behind it. I’m not a fan of the theory because we’re practitioners and we need to know now. I’m going to keep it real simple and say that in simplest terms, you’ve got the beginning of a healthy culture when you’ve got the right people and the right processes working in harmony.

In a healthy culture, you’ve got the convergence of people and process, that’s what yields consistent and hopefully excellent results for the customer. You could have the right people and no process and every day is a new day. You could have the right process and the wrong people and forget about that. I’ve learned over the years that it’s getting the right people, the right process working in harmony.

It’s also rooting your company in a well-defined set of values. We have so many arrows coming at us in the business world, so many different priorities that sometimes we forget that there’s this adhesive that binds us together.

I can’t tell any business what their values should be, but once you’ve established your values, you’ve got to live by them. You don’t compromise your values. That’s something that your team needs to understand, your customers understand. It’s the adhesive that binds your company together through good times and bad, where priorities, on the other hand, they change by the day. We have customer issues. We’ve got service issues.

But those priorities never, ever compromise our core values, who we are and what’s important to us and what’s important to our team. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to walk the walk. You’ve got to live and breathe your values. Whether you’re in the C-suite, whether it’s your first day on the job, you’ve got to agree that these are the rules that we’re going to play by.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting you said you cannot tell another company what their values should be. I guess I’m imagining there are some that would generally be a recipe for good things and some that would be a recipe for bad things and a whole lot that it’s sort of – it’s a matter of finding the right fit in terms of the people and the processes and the industry and kind of what is your focus as a business.

Could you give us an example of some values that are unique because I think a lot of organizations will say, hey, integrity of course is a big value. I think sometimes they live it and walk the talk and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t really seem so distinctive when you hear that integrity is a value.

But it seems like in your practice, integrity is defined as doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it really was a differentiator there. Could you give us some examples of different values and how they come to life?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. Let’s talk about integrity for a minute because you’re right. That can sound over used. What company in the world doesn’t say integrity is a core value?

But now look around and if you watch football as much as I do, you’ve seen the Wells Fargo ads, established in 1860-something, reestablished in 2018. Why? Because they had integrity issues that really hurt their reputation, opening up fictitious accounts. It was a pretty big deal. Wells Fargo had to do work to repair its brand because of integrity.

It’s something you take for granted, but then you realize that if you let it slip and don’t focus on it, it could slip intentionally or unintentionally. Something even as simple and common place as integrity, if you as the leader aren’t living it and are kind of looking the other way, one lie will breed a thousand lies.

If I’ve got a problem with a customer, I’m not going to make something up. I’m going to tell the customer what happened and how we’re going to fix it. Even though the customer may be upset, hopefully over time, the customer will respect me more because people can smell a lie a mile away.

If my team sees me behaving in that manner, they’re going to follow my lead. On the other hand, if my team sees me acting with integrity, they’re going to follow my lead. Especially as we’re starting to work with younger and younger employees, people just don’t want to work in a company where the values are adrift. Integrity.

Another great example is respect. Again, people use respect too loosely, in my opinion. When I say respect, what I’m talking about is treating people like human beings first and employees second. That’s the ultimate respect. The ultimate form of disrespect is anonymity, “Hey, you’re number 100. Go do your job. Punch in, punch out,” not knowing a thing about that employee personally.

As my company is growing, I can’t know a thing about all my employees but my managers better. There needs to be something in the culture that makes sure that my managers know their employees like I know my direct reports so that everyone is accounted for and that the ultimate form of respect, like I said, is making sure that people’s overall human needs are met and that nobody, no matter if it’s their first day on the job, feels like all they’re doing is punching a clock and if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t matter. That’s just a horrible situation to be in.

Respect is a value. Those are some of the things that we do that promote respect regardless of what it is you do because you’re an important member of the team regardless.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, okay. I would love to dig in a little bit in terms of thinking about values when it comes to finding fit with regard to career planning. How do you think about that game—I’d say both in terms of zeroing in on what values matter to you and then assessing whether a company really has it? Because I think a number of cultural pieces in terms of how things are done in a given organization really can vary and vary fine and suit different people differently.

For example, I think that some folks would say, “Oh yeah, we’re all about collaboration and so we’ve got an open office floor plan and we’ve got bays with ten employees in each of them, so they’re always kind of seeing and interacting with folks. We’re always on Slack and doing that.” Then some folks would say, “That would drive me insane. I need my quiet time to really focus and go deep in creating stuff.”

That would be sort of a natural mismatch when it comes to sort of how you prefer to do your thing and how the organization is doing their thing. How do you think about navigating this whole fit and research game?

Brian Fielkow
Such a great question because whenever I see forced fun, I run away. I go in the opposite direction. For me, having a slide in the middle of the office and having all those amenities, that’s all well and good, but that’s not culture. People mistake that kind of stuff for culture. Culture is not campfire fun and games stuff. This is a hardcore business proposition.

If kind of the slide in the office fits your culture and it’s in the context of an overall healthy culture, it’s fine. But if you’re using those bells and whistles to get employees in and then once they come in, they realize you’re in a toxic environment, that doesn’t work.

To me, there’s some subjectivity to it. There’s definitely a component of individual taste. Maybe I prefer a company that’s more formal. Or maybe I prefer a company that’s more casual. Maybe having a social life with my coworkers is important. Maybe I don’t want it at all. Maybe the company is extremely hierarchical, has a well-defined org chart. Maybe the company is more loosely defined.

All that’s okay and none of that is indicative of whether the company has a healthy culture or a poor culture. It’s how the company chooses to operate. It’s its own personality. That’s where you’ve got to find the fit. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer there.

But when you want to talk about how do I find the right culture, regardless of whether it’s hierarchical or loose, whether we’re wearing suits or whether we’re wearing shorts, that’s the key is to dig beyond the surface, dig beyond the slide. It’s not one-size fits all.

I think the best advice I could give somebody is when you’re doing an interview, you definitely – you’re going to speak with the hiring manager. You might speak with human resources. But the real people you want to talk to are prospective peers, prospective coworkers.

We do that with pretty much all of our job interviews. Again, it doesn’t matter the level that we’re hiring for. We want to be sure that peers can talk unscripted and what it’s really like to work here. We want to make full disclosure. We want to make full disclosure about our company. We’re proud of it, but we know that just like any other company, we’re not a fit for everybody.  We’d rather know that before we make a hiring decision or before you would agree to join our company.

There’s nothing like a peer-to-peer interview where you can ask questions. “What’s it really like to work here?” The company’s recruiting brochure says X, Y, Z, but six months later is that really what’s happening? Do they have a good-looking recruiting brochure or are they really delivering the goods?

The absolutely best advice I can give is do your homework on the company. Understand what the company is all about. Understand its culture. But peer-to-peer man, that’s really where you’re going to learn what it’s like to work there.

By the way, if that peer-to-peer interview goes well, now you’re new coworkers, they know you before you start. They’ve got a vested interest in integration. They’ve got a vested interest in bringing you in and helping you succeed.

If they say to the hiring manager, “Wow, thumbs up. Let’s bring this person in,” that opens the door and creates a pathway for success in a way that just a traditional interview and “By the way everybody, here’s your new coworker who you’ve never met,” that doesn’t work quite as well.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious if that organization – if you’re interviewing an organization and they don’t have the wisdom to … process, do you have any pro tips in terms of how you’d go about proactively having those conversations and some of the key things you’d want to say when you’re in the midst of them to learn what you really need to learn?

Let’s say that I’m interviewing at an organization. They did not give me the benefit of engaging in these conversations peer-to-peer, so it’s a little bit more on me to be proactive in terms of finding these people, having these conversations. How shall I find them and engage them and what should we say when we’re talking?

Brian Fielkow
Well, a lot of companies may not offer the ability to interview a peer. First thing is you just ask. Say, “Hey, could I interview somebody in the department that I’m – can I meet with somebody in the department that I’m interviewing to work in?” A lot of times the companies may say yes, but if they say “No, that’s not our practice. We don’t do that,” okay, let’s respect that.

But I would still ask the hiring manager questions like “What are your company’s values? Give me a feeling for when those values were challenged. How did the company respond?” Just like they’re going to ask you those questions. They’re going to ask you, “Tell me a particularly difficult problem or difficult situation. How did you address it?” You better be prepared to answer that. Well, I think it’s a fair question for employers too is, “Tell me your story.”

If you look at an interview as a two-way street, not just the hiring manager interviewing you, look at it as a conversation. You’ll be able to develop the feel just almost organically in a conversation. If it’s that tight and that rigid and you don’t have that opportunity, the company is telling you something about its personality.

I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying that’s probably not a place I’d want to work. That’s not kind of how we bring employees in. I want an open door, full disclosure. But if companies don’t do that, with social media you can still network and find people who work there and talk to them informally or former employees, talk to them. But you can also have that same conversation with your hiring manager.

I love it when people come in, they’ve done their homework on the company and they challenge me with questions. That tells me that I’m dealing with somebody exceptional, who understands that the interview is a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that point on social media. LinkedIn is so cool with all the filters that you can dig in and search for folks that way.

Brian Fielkow
People used to call LinkedIn the boring version of Facebook or Instagram, but LinkedIn is the encyclopedia for how to network. I use it all the time. It’s such a valuable tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And I really love that question you asked in terms of “Tell me about a time a value was challenged,” because I think a lot of times you’re probably going to get total blank stare response, like “Uh, these are just the words we repeat. I can’t think of any real experiences to share with you right now.” That tells you something right there.

But now you’ve got me curious, Brian can you tell me about a time in your company that you had a core value that got challenged and how did you live it out?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. In 2015 – ’16, we’re in trucking and logistics in Houston. That was a rough time. The energy markets collapsed and business was really challenged. We had to make some very difficult decisions.

In doing so, it wasn’t like memos from the C-suite; we brought our employees into the process. When we had to make the company smaller and downsize, we met with our employees. We treated them with respect. We made sure that everybody knew what we were doing, why we were doing.

What it did is it created sort of a foxhole mentality that we’re not working around our employees. We’ve not sugar coating like, “Oh, everything’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” We brought them in and we fought the war together because we were so transparent and open with them. You’ve got to be prepared to share good news and bad news.

In doing that, for example, safety in our company is a core value. We don’t compromise it. Well, no matter how rough business got, no maintenance got deferred. Every single vehicle was maintained regardless of the company’s financial performance.

I’ve seen other organizations where “Oh, business is bad. Let’s figure out where to cut. Well, we can cut maintenance.” No, if safety is a core value, you don’t cut, you don’t defer maintenance. You keep running your business.

I can use that time when this company was really challenged and really stressed by a rough economy. People in other businesses were losing their jobs left and right in Houston during that time and we just took a very contrarian approach that we’re taking our employees with us. Even though we couldn’t take everybody with us, and we did have to let people go. It was done, like I said, with dignity, with respect and then with complete transparency to the rest of the team.

That’s created kind of I think an unparalleled level of camaraderie as the company has rebounded, recovered, and grown so well in the past couple years.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, could you share some other perspectives when it comes to zeroing in on determining if a culture is a fit for you?

Do you have some extra perspectives and tips when it comes to determining if an opportunity has a good cultural fit for you?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I think that you’ve got to be careful not to conform yourself to become somebody that you’re not. Don’t mold yourself to a culture that doesn’t fit. You’ve got to understand what fits.

In our situation, in a healthy culture, you’ve got to have employees who are technically excellent and who are in line with the company’s values. You get yourself in a lot of trouble when you look the other way.

I’ve got a technically excellent employee that’s walking all over everybody else, just a horrible team player. Well, I have to either coach that employee back in to working within our values or they can’t be part of the team no matter how technically good they are.

A lot of times we look the other way when it comes to technically good people even if they’re destroying the morale of the company. As an employer, you’ve got to stand up to that and be sure that you’ve got people who are value aligned and who know what they’re doing.

Well, similarly, for the employees, you can’t really fake it. I’m assuming you got the job because technically you met the criteria, but in a healthy culture, I hope that you’re yourself, that you don’t force anything. In a healthy culture you’ll be challenged.

Hopefully that culture will make you a better employee and a better person and hopefully you’ll do the same. You’ll make the company a better company and you’ll improve your coworkers. But if it doesn’t fit, you’ve got to know it.

I’ve seen too many times where people jump at the money. They jump at the money. “Oh, somebody wants me, I’m going to accept the job,” without asking these questions of “Am I going to be happy?” You may make money and you’ll be miserable. Life is too short.

That’s why interviewing for culture and being aware of culture is just so critically important because we’ve all had maybe in our careers, the Sunday night blues, kind of that horrible feeling that Monday is coming and I’ve got to a place that I really don’t want to go. I’ve had that in my career.

Because I’ve had that in my career and I understand it so well, part of my job is to make sure that we don’t have the Sunday night blues, that people are excited to come to work because they’re treated right, because it’s a place that they know they fit in. But if you don’t fit in the place and it’s not right for you, you’ve got to know when to get off the bus too.

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

Brian Fielkow
I like to always say that at the foundation of the culture is what I call the three T’s: treatment, transparency, and trust. If you’ve got that and if you work at a company – look I’m in the trucking business. I’ve got a lot of people who told me, “Well, geez, I never thought in my life I would get into the trucking business. How did you as a corporate lawyer decide to do it?”

First of all, I love the industry, but it’s an industry that a lot of people might not necessarily just automatically gravitate to. But it almost doesn’t matter what you do as long as you love the job, you love the people. I think treatment, transparency and trust, whether you’re in a medical office, trucking business, law office, doesn’t matter.

Treatment, like I said before, you’re a human being first, an employee second. The ultimate form of poor treatment is anonymity.

Transparency, is just making sure your team is engaged. The best way to engage your team is to explain the why. If you give me a memo and you say, “Brian, just do it,” my personality is going to be to rebel. I’m not going to do it because you told me to do it. But if you say, “Brian, look here’s why we’re doing it. Here’s the why. It’s not a democracy. I’m not asking for your vote. But here’s the why,” I’ll be a lot more inclined to participate. I’ll be a lot more inclined to support. Just make sure you take time to explain the why.

As an employee, if you don’t know why, ask why. If somebody says, “Well, never mind. It’s none of your business, never mind,” that’s a little tip, isn’t it? But the key to an engaged workforce is for everybody to know their mission, know the company’s mission, know their role. Why?

Then finally trust. If there’s no trust, let’s forget about all this. In a company where trust is lacking, where people say one thing and do another, you’re operating on quicksand. You’re never going to have employee satisfaction where there’s a lack of trust among coworkers, lack of trust where leadership doesn’t trust the employees, employees don’t trust leadership.

Treatment, transparency, and trust are the three critical elements that I would look for in any business. I don’t care what the business does, as a sign of a healthy culture.

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

Brian Fielkow
The problem with my favorite quote is it’s too long, but I’m going to just read a little bit of it. It’s Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that we’re all here in the game and there’s people on the sidelines. They’re always going to be throwing stones at you.

It says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I love that quote. I just love it because you’ve got people throwing stones at you your whole life. Just forget about those people and go out there and be your best.

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

Brian Fielkow
I’d like to if possible move to a couple books that I’d like to kind of recommend.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Brian Fielkow
My favorite book, if you took all my books away, would be The Advantage by Pat Lencioni. I think that’s the one book that everybody needs to read in college, coming out of college. I go back to that book all the time. It really lays out the basis for healthy organization and your role in the healthy organization. Really, I like anything that Lencioni writes, but The Advantage is my favorite.

Another book that just came out last year that I’m really into is called The Motivation Myth. Because I’m not terribly into – as you probably can guess by now – I’m not into a lot of the motivational, feel-good speakers and those kinds of books.

What The Motivation Myth does is it takes the concept and turns it on its head and says it’s not like you have to have the motivation then you do the job, then you’re successful. The motivation comes from the journey itself.

The book argues that it’s those small steps. It’s the victories. It’s getting knocked down, getting back up. The motivation comes from those incremental successes. The more you have, the harder you work, the more motivation you have. Motivation isn’t like a prerequisite. Instead, motivation is one of the things that comes from doing something you love.

The book also argues that quit trying to be like some of the celebrity CEOs. They did what worked for them. You’ve got to figure out what works for you. Spend less time emulating and spend more time figuring out what your own formula is. I just love that as opposed to just, “Hey, do what I say. Follow my advice and you’ll be successful.” I just don’t buy that. I buy, you figure out your own formula and that’s the key to success.

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

Brian Fielkow
Trying to maintain a semblance of work/life balance. I’m not by any stretch nine to five, but I listen to my body rhythm. I listen to how I work. I’m up at crazy hours of the morning because that’s when I work the best, but unless something is really important, you’re not going to find me here – later in the day, you’re not going to find me here necessarily on a Friday afternoon.

What I’ve learned over the years is that we’ve all kind of grew up in this eight to five world or seven to five or whatever it is, but hopefully as technology evolves and as employers become more and more progressive – this isn’t true for every job obviously. If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you’ve got to be with your patients. But for a lot of jobs, the more you can listen to your body clock and know when you’re productive and kind of know when you’ve got that momentum, the more effective you’ll be.

I could do something in a half hour that would take me five hours if I picked the wrong time and the rhythm isn’t there. Listening to your body, kind of knowing how you work. Some people, as you know, are night owls. Some people, again, like me, are up before the sun. But being able to know that and capture it, I think, is the secret to optimum production and success.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your employees and folks who are reading your stuff?

Brian Fielkow
When I’m talking to audiences, I do a lot of keynoting, there’s a couple things. First of all, take your frontlines with you. I use that all the time and it resonates. I don’t like doing keynotes and just kind of closing and leaving. I like to do keynotes and then saying, “All right, what are the takeaways? We’re not here to talk about theory. What are the things that you’ll implement the minute you get back to the office?”

A lot of my keynotes, a lot of my presentation revolves around frontline engagement because I think that as a country, we’ve broken our contract with our frontlines. The more we engage our frontlines, the better. Take your frontlines with you. Bring them in.

In my company our drivers are – we have an elected driver committee that’s part of how we run the company. We’ve got our drivers in management and operational decisions. Take your frontlines with you is very – people use that a lot.

The three T’s. If imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, I’ve heard other speakers use the three T’s, but I think I may have invented that one.

Then there’s 20/60/20, which people quote a lot. This is a story when I was at Waste Management. I got to Waste Management at a time when there was a CEO, a brilliant CEO, Maury Myers, was brought in to turn the company around.

He brought his management team into the room. It was a large room. He had a large team. And was kind of rumored to say this, something like this, “20% of you know where we’re going and you’re with me. You know that we’ve got to make changes. I appreciate that. 60% of you, you’re scared. The ship is changing drastically its course. I’m going to work 24/7 to win you over.

The remaining 20% of you have made up your mind. You don’t like me and you don’t like the direction that we’re going. Here’s the commitment I’m going to make to you. This will be the smoothest transition you’ve ever had out of a company, but make no mistake, you’re out.”

20/60/20 means don’t find yourself in that bottom 20. Figure out how to continue to rise in your company. You’ve either got to align with the company’s direction and values or leave. From an employer’s standpoint, you’re not there to bat a thousand, simply not. Part of your job is to weed out the people who are kind of a drain on your culture, a drain on your performance.

I’ll tell you people in my company will use 20/60/20 a lot. We all know what they mean. The three T’s, 20/60/20, take your frontlines with you really are essential things that I talk about not just when I keynote, but when I run my own company.

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

Brian Fielkow
I would point them at my website, which is BrianFielkow, so B-R-I-A-N-F-I-E-L-K-O-W. com. They can also email me, just Brian—B-R-I-A-N @BrianFielkow.com. I’m easy to get in touch with and glad to kind of continue this conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, Brian, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you all the best in making your culture all the more vibrant and excellent and business growth and all that you’re up to.

Brian Fielkow
Thank you so much for the time. I really enjoyed this conversation.

379: The Four Steps to Creating Chemistry with Others with Barney Feinberg

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Barney Feinberg says: "When people disconnect with each other, we tend to listen more to ourselves than to the people we're talking to."

Veteran life coach Barney Feinberg shares how appreciating your many values can help you better connect with others and facilitate chemistry for smooth working relationships.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to identify your values from your life’s peak moments
  2. Approaches for discovering the values of others from what they say
  3. How we end up settling in our relationships

About Barney:

Barney Feinberg began his career as a CPA learning the language of business. At the age of twenty-five, his career journey took him to live in Asia for seven years, where he was COO for a large clothing conglomerate. There he learned how to assimilate into a multitude of cultures, always with the purpose of building strong relationships at work. His career in executive placement began in 1994 and in 2002, he became a certified coach with the Coaches Training Institute. Over the past 25 years he has worked with thousands of executives, coaching them on how to strengthen their chemistry factor for greater success.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Barney Feinberg Interview Transcript

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

Barney Feinberg
Thank you for inviting me Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into some of your perspectives when it comes to chemistry, but I want to maybe go back in time first. You at one point worked as a tennis instructor. What’s the story behind this?

Barney Feinberg
Wow. Well, tennis ran in my family. Since I was a little kid a tennis racket was put in my hand. Everyone in my family played. And it’s interesting that you bring up tennis because it happens to be something that really when looking back and writing my book, there was a peak moment that really exemplifies what I’m sharing with people. If you’d like me to share that story, I’d be happy to.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I can’t resist. Let’s hear about a peak moment.

Barney Feinberg
Okay. Well, as I mentioned, tennis was everything. I mean I was in high school playing on the tennis team. My big ambition outside of that when I went to college was to make the team at college.

It’s my freshman year, first week at school and we’re having tryouts. What I find myself doing is I’m playing not to lose, which inevitably, last day of practice the coach came to me and said, “I’m sorry, you didn’t make the team,” which frankly was really embarrassing and devastating. I was like, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I had all this free time on my hands, so I joined a concert committee, grew my hair down to my shoulders, got a beard and a moustache, digging on groups that came to college, which were like Springsteen, some really good groups, Arlo Guthrie. Anyway, here I am overcoming this major defeat.

Sophomore year rolls around and I show up for practice to try out again and the coach looks at me and says, “You’re late. You can’t try out this year.” Again, a blow. But I’m having a good time. I never had so much time on my hands to really enjoy myself and get into the music.

When my junior year came around, it was my last chance. I wasn’t really nervous about it. I started playing my game. I was playing really, really well, fully expecting to make the team.

The last day of practice the coach comes up to me and one of the other players that had been on the team for two years, he was also a junior, looks at both of us and says, “You’re going to play one set. The winner is going to make the team and the loser is not going to make the team.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah. Here I was suddenly wondering what happened because I had played this guy earlier and beat him. It’s beginning to dawn on me as we’re walking to the court, the coach says to him, “Go out and beat him.” I’m like, “Oh man, this guy doesn’t want me on the team.” Then it dawns on me, well, he’s ex-Navy. He’s got a crew cut. I’m wearing long hair and a moustache at this point.

I walk on the court again playing not to lose. Inevitably it’s 5 – 3. He’s leading. Triple match point on his serve. This is a big guy. He’s ex-football player. As I’m going to the Ad court expecting to lose, suddenly out of nowhere, across the quad, one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs comes on, China Cat Sunflower, which has this real upbeat rhythm.

As I’m walking to the Ad court, I transform. Suddenly, I’m relaxed. Suddenly, I’m smiling and I’m having fun. He hits his first serve and I bang it down the line. I get a winner. He hits the next first serve and I do it again. Next one he double faults. He starts playing not to lose and I make the team.

Here’s the interesting thing, what happened was, the circumstance changed. The song shifted who I was in the moment from being disconnected from confidence to being totally connected to it because I shifted to having fun.

Now that happened by just pure luck. I swear I think it was angels above looking over me, but when I looked at it again as I was writing this book, I realized that I value shifted. I shifted from what was disconnecting me to something that purely connected me. The results were inevitable. Obviously it worked. By the way, good news, the guy I played against, he stayed on the team.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I was wondering.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah, he stayed on the team.

Pete Mockaitis
After two years it’s kind of intense to say, “Yeah, you’re out if this one match doesn’t go your way.” Well, that’s really intriguing on many dimensions. I want to kind of dig into your phrase; you said you were playing not to lose.

Barney Feinberg
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Then later you said you were having fun. What do you mean by playing not to lose versus playing to have fun? What are the alternatives along that spectrum?

Barney Feinberg
Here’s the deal. Playing not to lose is living in the expectation of winning. Some famous person once said that expectations are the mother of frustration. When you look at work, how many times are we working with expectations in our mind?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Got you. As opposed to-

Barney Feinberg
As opposed to actually empowering your values. Expectations take us off the game. Expectations put us in the finish line before we start the race.

My daughter’s a runner. If she’s thinking about the finish line before the gun goes off, she’s not going to run very well. It’s going to seem like it’s taking her forever to get there. But if she’s thinking of the moment, if she’s empowering say the value of confidence and she’s not looking at the future or the past, but in the moment, she’s going to run a much better race.

It’s kind of like do you ever get directions to go someplace and it seems like it’s taking you longer than it should?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah. When you go back the same way, it seems to go a little shorter because now you know how to get there. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Okay. Then-

Barney Feinberg
Go ahead.

Pete Mockaitis
So playing not to lose mean you’re thinking about the outcome, the end, the finish line, the expectation as opposed to the moment, the having fun, the what’s immediately in front of you right now.

Barney Feinberg
Whatever value you choose to empower. It just so happened that fun came up when I was playing that tennis match with that song. It just brought me into that jovial place, which took away anything about winning or losing away and just playing the game.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you’ve used the phrase a couple of times, ‘the value that you empower,’ what do you mean by that?

Barney Feinberg
Well, it’s a practice. Most of the time we have a lot of values and what I call DNA values. DNA values are values that are ingrained in us that we’re brought up with, that create our success formulas. They more likely control us than we control them. When circumstances come about that disconnect us from a value that we find is important, life becomes hard, difficult. However, we have the ability to empower.

What is empower? It’s the difference between being in love and thinking of being in love. It’s story. That’s really what I focus on. When you look back in time, the communications that were most important in the tribe before there was the written word was from the storyteller. The storyteller would tell us stories that would empower or emphasize values that were important to us.

You watch movies now. I can watch a movie and there’s a scene that just catches me. It’s empowering a value. We have our own stories in life that empower values that are important to us. Imagine instead of allowing the circumstances dictate who we are, we get to choose who we want to be by allowing that story to take us to that value in that moment. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
So you say that we’re choosing it as opposed to hey, the song comes on and there you go. Maybe could you walk us through a couple of examples in practice in terms of you’re kind of living and experiencing one thing and you make a choice to empower a value through story and then things are transformed?

Barney Feinberg
Okay, I can give you a story of someone that I coached. Does that work?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, yeah.

Barney Feinberg
Okay, good. I have two professions, really three, but we’ll talk two: coaching and recruiting. I’ve been in executive placement for 25 years. As an executive recruiter I was talking to one of my clients who was looking for a new job.

She’d only been with the company that she was with for six months. I said, “What happened? What makes you want to leave?” She said, “Well, I took this job. I was really excited. Then I got this new boss three months into the job. This boss is just a micromanager, driving me crazy.” I’m like, “Wow, yeah.”

We talked about it. I started coaching her for a while. What was showing up were certain values that were just disconnecting her. This happens to us all the time at work. We just get numb to it. We just think that’s just the way work is.

But values such as independence, she didn’t have any. She felt, “Oh my God, this woman is not giving me any independence.” Very, very frustrating. She felt she wasn’t trusted. She felt efficiency wasn’t being honored. All of these things were really making it difficult for her to be effective and productive.

We talked about trust. She came up with a story after some coaching about where trust was everything for her. It happened to be with her husband down a ski slope going down a black and how much she trusted him to help her get down. It all worked brilliantly. Every time she thought about that moment, trust was empowered.

I challenged her. I said, “Start empowering the value of trust with your manager.” It wasn’t easy. It took her some time, but it took her some time because you can’t just do it on a dime sometimes. It takes practice. She got better and better at it. Suddenly, the manager was trusting her because she was authentically trusting him and that made a world of difference.

Micromanagers drive themselves crazy more than anybody else. They overextend themselves because they have to check everything twice. When they can trust somebody to do the work, boy, it takes a lot of relief. Suddenly life became a lot better for her. She got promoted rather quickly because not everybody was able to deal with this person as she was.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so then the key then was, she reconnected to an experience, which sort of trust became all the more real and felt and lived and experienced, kind of like when you said thinking about being in love versus actually being in love.

Barney Feinberg
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
So she got there. Then as a result she was able to bring that kind of an attitude to the manager and treat her in a way as though she trusted the manager even though she wasn’t maybe as naturally inclined to do so. She kind of summoned that up from within her to-

Barney Feinberg
When you empower a value, that is your rule of conduct. Values are our rules of conduct. They characterize your sense of self and are elemental in the actions you take. You can’t fake it.

But here’s the deal. What was happening before she did that was she was making the manager wrong. Even if she wasn’t saying it outwardly, inwardly it is felt. The circumstance was dictating who she was.

She was having these values that are on automatic pilot with her, which I said before, control her more than they control – she controls them. They were coming up and saying, “Warning, warning.” Frustration, anger, misunderstanding, boredom, whatever it may be, they were putting her off the game and the manager will feel that.

But when you’re truly authentically connecting with somebody, the world changes. It changes 100%. By the way, I became really good friends with the guy that I played against. He knew what was going on too. But it’s something that is just permeates.

Thank God it’s Friday was invented because we get disconnected from our values throughout the course of the week. We don’t even realize it’s happening. We’re numb to it. We’re so used to it. But when we start learning how to empower our values consciously, the world changes. Suddenly, we can start looking at the values we have in common with people and choose to connect to those rather than the ones that disconnect us.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. We use the example of trust, so then can we dig into some more in terms of-

Barney Feinberg
I’d be happy to dig into one with you. How do you like that?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing.

Barney Feinberg
Oh good. Okay, great. Talking to you, I would imagine that collaboration is a good value for you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. I do enjoy a good collaboration. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s energizing.

Barney Feinberg
Great. I want you to imagine that that’s the value that you’re holding important right now. That’s the one that you are connecting to.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Barney Feinberg
Now, I want you to imagine that I’m connecting to independence. I want nothing to do with collaboration. How do you feel?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just a little sad. It’s sort of like, “Oh, Barney, we were going to have a fun time creating this thing together, but I guess we’re not. Okay.” It’s disappointing.

Barney Feinberg
Right. That’s what happens. We get frustrated, angry, disappointed. Whenever you’re honoring a value that’s not being honored in return – we put up a brave face. I’ve seen a lot of people who will smile on the outside and turn on the inside. In fact they get so used to it, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. But then they wonder why they’re so tired and they need the weekend to recover. It’s because of that.

But it begins with knowing yourself. Imagine now you’re collaborating. That’s what it’s all about. I am too. I love collaboration in case you didn’t realize it. How do you feel now?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, it’s a lot of fun I guess. But what I’m thinking about though is, how do we make the leap? How do we bridge the gap?

Barney Feinberg
Well, it’s really a four-step process the way I show it in my book.

Pete Mockaitis
Do tell.

Barney Feinberg
The first step is to better know yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Barney Feinberg
How many values do you think you have?

Pete Mockaitis
Brene Brown says two.

Barney Feinberg
God bless her.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean I don’t know. In a way you could – I don’t know. We’ll say two to nine in that range.

Barney Feinberg
All right, I’m going to say this to you, most people will tell me two or three. Those that are really self-aware maybe will be able to tell me ten. But those that are self-aware when they say ten, how long do you think it takes for them to actually be able to articulate that?

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe a lifetime.

Barney Feinberg
It takes a while. Trust me. It takes a while. We are very clueless to the values that we have. I’m going to tell you, you have tens, you have hundreds of values. But what we tend to do for convenience sake, is we mesh them into a giant value, like the value of integrity.

You look at most companies that have these are our values, many of them will say integrity. I’ll applaud. I’ll say integrity is a great value. Then I’ll ask how many values do you believe there are in integrity.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean we can subdivide it infinite ways.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It covers everything from not stealing to not being late.

Barney Feinberg
Well, yes, exactly. Exactly. You’re 100% right. Yet, here’s the thing, there may be, let’s just use an arbitrary number, 30 values in integrity. Maybe 29 of them you have in common with the person you’re working with, but you’re connecting to the one that disconnects you. Crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Now you say I’m connecting with. What does that phrase mean?

Barney Feinberg
You are noticing the timeliness, as an example, is not being honored.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m connecting with – as I’m noticing it isn’t there and it’s ticking me off.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah, …. Yeah. Then you go to other values that affect it, like my efficiency is being drawn down or I’m bored because I’m not getting anything done. All of these things show up, but it’s all about timeliness.

What happens? We get into a rut. Suddenly, say you’re working – look I work with advertising, public relations, media services. Those are my forte industries. Say you’re working with a creative who consistently is late. Well, if every time you set up an appointment that’s in the back of your mind, you’re already disconnecting from that value.

You may be smiling, “Oh, you’ll be there on time, won’t you?” but in the back of your mind, you’re like, “They’re going to be late again.” Because of it, they’re going to be late again.

Pete Mockaitis
You say, because of it, they’re going to be late again. Can you say more about that?

Barney Feinberg
Sure. You’re making them wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. As a result of me making them wrong, they respond in a-

Barney Feinberg
… by either being late again or they’ll do something else because nobody likes to be made wrong. Nobody. That’s probably the biggest disease we have in business, is being made wrong. People were taught to do that. That’s how we were brought up.

We were brought up in what I call a test society. I think they’ll look back a thousand years from now and say, “Oh my God, these people were giving and taking tests every day of their life.” Hey, not only were we taking tests, but we were taught to learn what we got wrong, so we wouldn’t repeat it, so we’re always looking for what’s wrong.

A lot of us are really like that, not all of us, but a lot of people are always looking for what we could do better and what someone else could do better. It creates a lot of wrong and people don’t like being wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re saying that if someone’s late, I value timeliness and I make them wrong, whether I verbally express it or not, they are picking up that I’m not too pleased with something about them and then they react in way that is unfavorable, kind of like a vicious cycle.

Barney Feinberg
Well, it gets to be. Einstein gave the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That’s kind of what we are on automatic pilot. We’re on automatic pilot with people.

Some people we just don’t trust. There may have been something that happened years ago that they did that made us lose trust in them. Ever since then we always question trust. Maybe we’ll get over it. Maybe we don’t. Trust is important, but it ain’t everything. Sometimes because we’re not trusting somebody, they’re not trusting us. It just happens that way.

If you can connect with someone with a value authentically – you can’t fake empowering a value – but if you’re authentically connecting to someone with a value that you’re empowering and they are empowering it at the same time, believe it or not, suddenly you start trusting each other again.

Pete Mockaitis
In the realm of the timeliness example, what would we do there?

Barney Feinberg
With timeliness?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so someone’s late-

Barney Feinberg
It all depends on where …. Connect with that person. You could go to sense of humor. You could go to so many different values. We have so many to choose from. Maybe they appreciate honesty. Maybe there’s something about the situation that calls for empathy. I don’t know.

But the point is there are four steps. We’re jumping the gun. First step is to know yourself better. I challenge people to have at least 20 or 30 values that they can empower consciously.

Because if the person is late and you’re thrown to them being late and making them wrong, you’re allowing the circumstance to dictate who you are just like when I was told you have one set and the winner take all, I sensed he didn’t want me to make the team, I went automatically to playing not to lose, being upset, all of that. We do that all the time. We do that all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve got your 20 values that you can empower. It’s sort of like, let’s say gratitude. I’ve got a-

Barney Feinberg
I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
-a story, an experience of gratitude raring to go. It’s sort of like it’s in my repertoire to summon it. Then if I can pick up on – I guess we’re jumping the gun again – if I can pick up on the notion that this annoying late person also values gratitude, then I can kind of change the focus such that we’re vibing on this shared gratitude value thing and thusly have more of a positive rapport and less of an I’m irritated with this tardy person.

Barney Feinberg
There’s no such thing as perfection. We’ll all have values that disconnect us from each other. We’ll all have values that connect us. We’re just really good at noticing what’s missing. Business teaches us to be that way. We do that in relationships.

I’m a believer that the biggest asset any company has are the people they have in it and the talent. If you know how to help people connect with each other, you’re going to have much better productivity, much more satisfaction, much more innovation. When people disconnect with each other, we tend to listen more to ourselves than to the people we’re talking to.

You ever notice that when you’re angry or upset? Imagine you’re in a meeting. You’re in a meeting and the value of I call it full expression, you have something to say in this meeting, but you’re basically being told to keep quiet. You want to say it. How do you feel?

Pete Mockaitis
I hear what you’re saying there with regard to talking to yourself. You’re sort of muttering, like, “Oh, this is bull crap. They never appreciate anything I have to offer.” All that kind of stuff.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah, but we’re so numb to that. We hear those voices, we don’t even realize we’re talking to ourselves. We just think we’re hearing the truth. I lost my train of thought there. You got me off a bit.

Pete Mockaitis
We had four steps.

Barney Feinberg
All right, the second step, once you have say listed 20 values, the second step is to learn how to empower them. That takes step-by-step process.

What I do is I have people free write. I tell them to free write a peak moment in their life. If you looked at my book, you’d see what I did with it. You free write a couple of paragraphs of a peak moment and I can promise you you’ll learn at least 20 or 30 values from that one story if you go through it a number of times. You’ll see so many different values that pop up.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.

Barney Feinberg
Once you list the number of stories – I actually break it down. I mentioned DNA values; they’re values that are on automatic pilot, that just show up all the time. Then there are other values we never even bring to work that could be brilliant if we realized that we could actually use them, but we don’t. We just go with what’s on automatic pilot usually.

The next step is to find the story that empowers that value. It’s your story. If you can’t find it, you can find a story that you’ve read about or a scene in a movie, something that every time you think about it, it just lifts your soul.

I’ll tell you, once I realized songs helped me out in tennis, I was listening to the Rocky theme song a lot when we were going to matches. It really pumped you up. You know what that’s like. That’s what people – song is great. I use song as a trigger to empower values.

Once I have the value defined as to what my definition is, and it’s mine, it’s nobody else’s. I could have a definition of a value that’s different from your definition and we could disconnect or your value of A and my value of B are the same, but we have different names for it. It’s really to get to know who you are. Once you have a better sense of who you are, ah, now it’s easier to understand where you connect with others because now you understand it better.

It’s like if I go to Alaska and I look at the snow, which you were just talking about, I’d see three kinds. I’d see wet, dry and icy because that’s what I shovel. But if I spoke to an Alaskan, they’d say 50 kinds that you can drink from, that you can walk on, that you can camp on, that you’re going to fall through. They have names for them.

Once you start being able to better articulate your values, it’s much easier to understand the ones that are connecting with you. I mean, “Oh, he’s out of integrity.” Okay, maybe you’ll call it late. Maybe it’s something else, but we generalize. We generalize. I think it’s much more powerful to let them free, to really get to understand them better so that you know exactly where you’re disconnecting and where you’re not.

I’ll say this, in every sentence there are multiple values, multiple. If you listen for them, you’ll hear them. You’re not going to get them all in the beginning. It takes time, but all you have to do is find a couple. …-

Pete Mockaitis
So I’m listening for them-

Barney Feinberg
-really works with him and I or with her and her whoever. I mean, wow. Suddenly, you’ve got the ability not to allow that circumstance to dictate who you are.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess with the listening am I looking out for strong emotion, like, “Whoa, that person is mad about that,” or “Oh, that person is passionate about this thing,” or “That person really seems to be quite disappointed by this.” What am I listening for to zero in the values?

Barney Feinberg
I’ll give you – one of the things I help people do is learn how to listen for values in the interview process. I say the most important factor in taking a job or hiring is the chemistry you’re going to have with people. I have them listen for values. I’m going to give you one sentence that I use. I use a number, but I’ll use this just one to give you as an example.

I have people ask what makes you and your company successful. Usually when I’m talking to people about that, they’ve already listed 20 or 30 values in the conversation we’ve had. I say just look at the values you have in front of you. Aren’t they what make you a success? Generally speaking they will agree. Absolutely.

With that in front of them, I give them a couple of sentences to understand how many values can be in one. I’ll give you one. What makes me and my company successful? “Gee, that’s a good question. What makes us successful? Well, we’re always looking for better ways to accomplish the job and we do a brilliant job.” Now, I’m going to ask you, what values did you hear in that?

Pete Mockaitis
I’d say innovation, execution, maybe praise or celebration.

Barney Feinberg
Awesome. Okay. Let me tell you what was intended. “Gee, that’s a good question.” I just acknowledged you. Acknowledgement is a value some people really appreciate.

Pete Mockaitis
… a good time to think.

Barney Feinberg
Well, no, no, no, no, no, but you’re not going to get – look, I don’t want to be unfair. It’s four steps. The first step is to know yourself better. It doesn’t happen that quickly. It takes time, but if you do it step-by-step, it’s a practice. It’s not a one and done situation. But it’s for people that really want to have a better way of connecting with each other. I think the better you connect, the more successful you’re going to be.

But just to go through that sentence quickly, I’ll just throw a couple out there. Acknowledgement, full expression. I said, “That’s a good question.” I’m maybe someone who encourages other questions. “What makes us successful?” I find reflective thinking an important value. I just repeated the question, so maybe I’m a reflective thinker.

Then “We’re always looking for better ways,” strategic thinking, efficiency. “We do a brilliant job,” dedication to excellence. Then what’s peppered in there are three us and we’s, which could indicate collaboration, team play, whatever the value is you choose to name it, but you can see, oh my goodness, how many values ….

What usually happens in a good conversation is people have a gut feeling. Gut feelings are great, but they’re coming from your stomach. They’re not coming from your head. When you can actually understand what’s causing it and it’s these values that are actually being – showing up in the conversation, it gives you a lot more wisdom to make decisions and a lot more wisdom to know how to connect with people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting how you said maybe there a couple times. It’s sort of like you are generating hypotheses and then sort of finding further reinforcement with subsequent sentences. It’s like, “Oh, well, you know what? That collaborative thing only showed up once, but then the other showed up again, and again, and again, and again. Maybe the collaboration was more of a fluke or a lesser value from that one sentence.

Barney Feinberg
Maybe I misheard it. Maybe I was listening for what I wanted to hear and it wasn’t there because a lot of times we go in on what I term a test mentality. If it’s an interview, we’re trying to pass the test. When we’re testing, we’re absolutely listening more to ourselves than the people we’re talking to. It’s when we’re – I shifted.

To listen for values, you want to be using what I term a field trip mentality. When you’re on a field trip, there’s much better chance you’re in curiosity, open mind, and discovery, three values that I find really important. What I do with everyone that I talk to and you can do this right now, think of a moment when you were on a field trip or a vacation that was just amazing. Tell me when you get it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, got it.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah. How did that feel?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it was-

Barney Feinberg
Thinking about that vacation.

Pete Mockaitis
It was cozy. There was just great people just enjoying each other. We didn’t actually do a whole lot. We mostly stayed inside. It was very snowy out and it was a pretty remote location, but it was just great times together, whether we were talking or playing video games or cooking or eating. It was just great fun.

Barney Feinberg
Imagine going into an RFP feeling that way rather than trying to pass a test. Imagine going on a blind date that way rather than that test mentality that generally shows up in a blind date conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I see there. So we use the vacation prompt to get us to a place of hey, feeling good and enjoying in a relaxed way.

Barney Feinberg
Yes, here’s the deal. If you’re talking to someone and you’re in that mentality and you’re not feeling that way, I suggest it’s probably disconnection from the person you’re talking to. What is it that’s disconnecting?

If it’s an interview, it’s a good chance maybe that’s not a person you want to work with every day. But if it’s someone you’re working with every day, what is it that’s throwing us off? What are the values that are disconnecting us and what are the values I’m hearing that would?

Pete Mockaitis
Once you’ve sort of identified, “Okay, I think this person values this and I’ve got that within me as well, so I’m going to try to bring it forth,” I guess that’s with either the music or the story or the memory. Then you’re just kind of showing up and interacting with that person with that kind of in the background of what’s going on for you.

Barney Feinberg
But …. You’re being that. If you’re truly empowering a value, it is dictating who you are. It clarifies your voice. It focuses your mind. It aligns your visions. It’s who you are. Some people will say to me, “Gee Barney, how come I have to change? Why should I be the one that changes?”

Pete Mockaitis
I just think that’s so funny because we just talked about making other people wrong. It’s like-

Barney Feinberg
Yeah, but people do this. They say, “Well, I’m right. They’re wrong.” A lot of people like being right. Being right is fine, but when you’re making others wrong because of it, it doesn’t help you that much. It doesn’t. It certainly is not going to build a relationship.

What I say to people that say this to me is you’re being yourself. You’re just choosing to connect rather than disconnect. I’m not asking you to be a value that doesn’t – isn’t who you are. I’m suggesting you try something that really will connect you and build bridges of connection to knock down the walls of disconnection that might have been there for a long time.

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

Barney Feinberg
Well, I would say one other thing we didn’t get to discuss. There are three types of relationships. One is dysfunctional, one is stagnant, and one is on the rise. Dysfunctional we know. We’ve probably had them. But on the rise is what I call out for everyone.

However, unfortunately, most of us settle for stagnant, which means, yeah, we are connecting. We are connecting. We have values that work, Barney, and we’ve been using them for years and years and years. I’m like, yeah, so if you were a business and you just kept doing it the same way over and over again for years and years and years, chances are you’re not going to be as successful.

I challenge people to look for new values that can connect them to people even the ones that they’re connected to because it can create a whole new opportunity for innovation and satisfaction. I use a quote from Michelangelo, who said “The greater danger for most of us is not that we aim to high and miss, but we aim to low and succeed.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got it. Thank you.

Barney Feinberg
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share with us a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Barney Feinberg
A favorite – well, there was something that came out for 2017, SHRM, Society for Human Resource Management. They looked at the satisfaction levels of people in 2017 at work. They made an announcement that it was the best they’ve seen in five years. They said people that were very satisfied equaled 38% of the population.

I was like, 38%, very satisfied. That means the rest of us are either simply satisfied or not satisfied. I never – people that are looking to succeed are not looking just for satisfaction. I think that’s an optimistic thing because that means there’s a lot of opportunity to rise up.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Barney Feinberg
Well, then I’m going to go way back. This is a book that really captured me when I was in high school, Siddhartha. Are you familiar with it?

Pete Mockaitis
I think I read it a while ago. Hermann Hesse?

Barney Feinberg
Hermann Hesse.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Barney Feinberg
Yeah. We’re all on a journey for self-discovery. I just look at life that way. Had a big impact on me.

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

Barney Feinberg
Every morning before I start officially working, I practice empowering my values. Then I get to choose which one I want to start my day with.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and folks repeat it back to you often?

Barney Feinberg
Well, one that really is a nugget that people really can relate to and appreciate, the better you know yourself, the easier it is to know what you want. The better you know what you want, the easier it is to achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that sounds true. Yeah. And yet overlooked in terms of taking the time to get to know yourself better and then getting to know what you want better because what I like about that is it connects some very practical kind of results-generating utility effectiveness type thinking to maybe more fuzzy kind of feel good introspection thinking and say, no, no, in fact one is a pathway to more of the other.

Barney Feinberg
Buddha said this, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” When your thoughts are empowered by your values, the world becomes a brilliant place to be. By the way, that was my ending. That was me at the end.

There’s one other – if you were asking me quotes, I could quote you all day. There’s so many quotes I love. Do you know the Gandhi quote about values?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m not sure.

Barney Feinberg
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, and your habits become your values. Your values are your destiny.” Then I paraphrase. When you’re empowering your values, reaching your destiny is easy and you can go beyond it. But when you’re disconnected from your values, it is a hard road and you’ll never reach it to the point you want to.

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

Barney Feinberg
Discover the wealth of values you have, rea  lly. Know them. They’re tools that you can use that you haven’t been using consciously most likely. Empower them and it will give you greater opportunity to authentically connect with people at work and in life. This works for everything, but I’m focusing it on business.

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

Barney Feinberg
Barney@TheChemistryFactor.com, www.TheChemistryFactor.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Barney, it’s been a whole lot of fun. I wish you lots of luck with The Chemistry Factor and all you’re doing.

Barney Feinberg
Pete, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for your time.

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Richard

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Richard Shuster Interview Transcript

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

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

Oh man.

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

Me too, me too.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

Good choice.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

That’s awesome, thank you.

Dr. Richard Shuster

Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite tool?

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite habit?

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

I think I just did it.

Pete Mockaitis

It sounds like it.

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

Pete Mockaitis

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

Dr. Richard Shuster

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

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

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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.