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KF #29. Demonstrates Self-Awareness Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

542: How to Turn Your Adversity into Advantage with Laura Huang

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Harvard professor and author Laura Huang shares how to build your edge and be perceived positively.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why the myth of hard work is so dangerous
  2. How unfair perceptions can quietly limit your career–and what to do about it
  3. A formula to turn embarrassment and bitterness into enrichment

About Laura:

Laura Huang is a professor at Harvard Business School, who specializes in studying interpersonal relationships and implicit bias in entrepreneurship and in the workplace. Her research has been featured in several publications like the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Nature. She was also named as one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets & Quants.

Laura has also previously held positions in investment banking, consulting, and management in several companies such as Standard Chartered bank, IBM Global Services, and Johnson & Johnson. She received her MS and BSE in electrical engineering from Duke University, an MBA from INSEAD, and a PhD from the University of California, Irvine.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Laura Huang Interview Transcript

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

Laura Huang
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. But, first, I want to hear what you’re allowed to tell us about your first job offer out of college being to work at the CIA.

Laura Huang
How did you know that?

Pete Mockaitis
We dig. We dig deep in your background. Maybe not as deep as the CIA did but…

Laura Huang
I know. You must have an in with the CIA. Most people don’t know that, yeah, that was my very first job offer, actually. And I wasn’t actually sure what it was about, to be honest, because I was an engineer, and I had applied for this role, and it turned out to be a different role than I had expected. Well, suffice to say that that’s what I was offered. And I sort of tried a conversation with a couple of my family members about it and I, essentially, was forbidden from taking that job. So, that was the end of that, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
What are the key drivers that lead to that being off the table immediately?

Laura Huang
It was things like, “They trust you with a gun? They would trust you with a gun?” So, things like that. And I speak multiple languages and they weren’t quite sure exactly what situations I was going to be placed in, what kind of counterintelligence projects I was going to be involved in. And so, instead, I became a professor.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I guess some professors still do get recruited into intelligence agencies depending on what they study. I’m not sure in a personal relationship.

Laura Huang
Sure. Well, you never know.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good one. Interpersonal relationships and implicit bias doesn’t sound as much like something that they would recruit for, but maybe. Maybe they will.

Laura Huang
Well, every so often, you know, when my husband is being particularly difficult or something, I’ll say, “Just be careful because you don’t know, I might still be in the CIA.”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, so the intrigue is sown. And so, I love the forced segue, but I’m also intrigued by the work that you’ve been doing talking about getting an edge. And so, I want to hear, maybe we’re going to cover a lot of good stuff. But perhaps we could lead off with what’s perhaps one of the most surprising and fascinating and counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about how people successfully attract attention and support from others?

Laura Huang
Yeah. You know, I think the most surprising thing that I’ve discovered over the last decade or so of my research is that how very many people from just a young age were taught that success is about hard work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Laura Huang
To just put your head down and keep working hard, and that your hard work will speak for itself. And the thing is, is that hard work is critical. I would never say that it’s not critical. But I think there comes a time when people realize that hard work alone is not enough, and that hard work leaves us feeling frustrated. And we hear so many super successful people, you know, we ask people that are at the top of their game, people who are CEOs of companies, on top management teams, people who are Olympians and in professional sports, and we ask them the secret to their success, and they will inevitably say something along the lines of, “It’s hard work. Just keep working hard.”

But that often leave us frustrated because we can see how much effort we’re sometimes putting in and how much hard work, and how even when we putting in all that hard work, the rewards seemingly sometimes go to somebody else. And we realize that it’s often about the signals and the perceptions and the stereotypes of others that are actually dictating who gets the rewards and who gets those coveted outcomes. And so, I think that’s something that I realized is that we all sort of have this implicit understanding of that but yet we keep telling this narrative around keep working hard, putting your thing, and just keep working hard.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, I’d say that adds up to me in terms of that sounds true, but you’ve got more than just anecdotal stuff. Can you share some of your most compelling evidence or data out there that shows this is absolutely a big force affecting professionals all the time?

Laura Huang
Yeah. I’ve studied this in a range of different contexts, with a range of different qualities and characteristics, because I wanted to see how much we could push it, how much this could hold. So, I found, for instance, people who have an accent are much less likely to get hired for top executive-level positions. They’re less likely to get raises, they’re less likely to get promotions, they’re less likely to get funding for their ventures, even when we control for all other factors. The type of venture it is, what industry it is, it’s overwhelmingly people who have an accent have this negative, have this sort of disadvantage.

We see this with women. Women are only receiving 2% of the venture capital financing out there. They’re less likely to get raises, less likely to have the same salary or the same position, a host of different things. I’ve studied this with gender, or race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, across a whole different host of things. Probably the most appalling or surprising one to me was when a couple of my colleagues and I wanted to try and find a context in which bias and disadvantage should not occur, where we should see no difference at all.

And so, what we decided to look at was people who were suffering from heart attacks and were in the emergency room. And we figured, “This is a situation, this is an instance where the physicians, the emergency room physicians, their only job is to save that patient regardless of their gender or regardless of other factors.” But, indeed, we found, again, that when women were having heart attacks, they were more likely to die from heart attacks when they’re being treated by male physicians than when they were treated by female physicians.

And so, it was this amazing sort of revelation that even in life or death situations, we’re seeing the impact of signals and perceptions and ways of communicating, and how that has an impact. But I should say also that it’s not just men, for example, that are discriminating against women. I find in venture capital and in entrepreneurship, female investors and male investors are both equally likely to bias against women entrepreneurs in a host of different ways.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, boy, yeah, that’s so intriguing and I could just imagine all kinds of contexts and all sorts of combinations of times in which folks are discriminated against. I’m trying to imagine sort of the reverse as I thought you were going with, and I think men might be discriminated against when folks are hiring a nanny.

Laura Huang
Yeah, absolutely. This is what I talk a lot about. Everybody has something. Like, everyone has something. We tend to think a lot about the typical cast of characters – gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion. But, really, it has everything. Everyone is susceptible to the perceptions and the stereotypes of others.

You go into any situation, what happens is that you are being perceived by your counterpart, and it’s based on their background and their experiences, and your background and your experiences, and so every time you go into a different situation, when you change one thing, whether it’s the context or the person that you’re interacting with, those perceptions will change as well.

And so, we are all susceptible to these sorts of first impressions and stereotypes and obstacles that others present on our behalf.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to get a sense, and it’s okay if you don’t have every datapoint right off the top of your head, but maybe just a quick sense for the order of magnitude here in terms of like with the accent here, for example, or whatever example you happen to know the numbers. Is this like a 4% difference or like a 40% difference, or more?

Laura Huang
No, we’re talking 30% to 40% differences.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding?

Laura Huang
Yeah, and it’s very, very robust in terms of repeated over different contexts. And, you know, the interesting thing about that, which is really sort of where this book came from, is that for the last decade, I had been studying inequality and disadvantage and people who are underestimated, and it’s starting to get really depressing in the sense that I saw all of these disparities and all of these disadvantages. And people would sort of ask me these questions around, “What can we do about it? Is there a way to prevent against these disparities?” And I don’t have the answers.

And so, really, what I set out to do, and over the last couple of years, what I’ve tried to do is figure out, “Are there things people can do, are there strategies that people can take to sort of inoculate against these biases and flip these signals and perceptions, these stereotypes in your favor?” And I found, indeed, we could, that there are ways to flip stereotypes and obstacles in our favor, and then we can find and create our own edge.

So, in the example of the person, if people with the accent, what I found, for instance, was that people typically think that people who have an accent are not able to communicate as well. But, in fact, it’s not about communication. When I did blind studies where I had some people with accents and some people without accents, giving pitching their ventures, I found that the people with accents were just as likely to communicate as much information, if not more, and people were just as likely to comprehend and understand what their company was about, if not more.

Instead, it was around perceptions we made about people with accents. Things like the fact that they may not, you know, we would perceive them as being not as interpersonally influential, or not as good at team interactions, or being a team player, not able to think out of the box, or be innovative. And so, preventing against these things, well, we had those same people with accents go into an interview situation and say things like, “Let me give you an example of a time when I fought for resources for my team,” or, “Let me tell you about a time when I didn’t stop until I had closed the deal.” Hence, showing how interpersonally skilled they really were. That actually prevented against these negative outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay. Well, so then that’s a rather particular instance, folks with accents trying to acquire venture capital money, sharing particular stories that combat where the bias is going. Can you share with us, to the extent that it’s possible, what are some of the best recipes in terms of, “Hey, if you have this adversity, here’s what you do to turn that into that advantage”?

Laura Huang
Yes. So, there are so many things embedded just within how we do this, which is, number one, it’s really the more that you make it authentic and recognize the way in which you are being perceived, the more equipped you are to stop and redirect. Like, that’s really the key. When you realize that somebody is perceiving you in a certain way, just stopping that sort of perception and redirecting it the perception that they should be having of you.

And people often want sort of, “What are the 10 steps to doing this?” I wish I could give like a recipe, or like the 10 steps to do this, but it’s so personal in terms of how you’re being perceived, who that other person that is perceiving you is, and how you redirect that in sort of the best way. But that’s, really, essentially what it is, is knowing yourself really well and being able to know where your strengths are, trusting and relying on your strengths as well as your alleged weaknesses, and turning those underestimated strengths upside down to succeed in both business and in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so what are some of the best practices to go about decoding that stuff in terms of how you may be perceived?

Laura Huang
Yeah, so there’s a number of different things that you can do. I talk a lot in the book around knowing what your basic goods are. Your basic goods, those are really the things, those are like your superpowers, the things that you’re really good at that really make you who you are.

For example, you could be somebody who is really hardworking and trustworthy and compassionate. When you get to somebody else who’s really hardworking and trustworthy, but maybe isn’t compassionate, and it totally changes things. It makes you a completely different person even though two out of the three of those traits very much embody you. It’s understanding things like that.

And then it’s understanding that when you are engaging with someone else, that those aspects, those traits of yours are going to interact with that other person. So, creating and gaining an edge is really edge stands for sort of the framework for this perspective around how you can gain that advantage for yourself.

The E is for enrich, and that’s those pieces are your basic good. How are you enriched? What do you bring to situations? What is the value that you provide to other people? The D is for delight. How do you delight others? Because, often, even if you know how you enrich and the value you provide to other people, you don’t have the opportunity. Like, we don’t belong to the right group, we don’t belong to the right networks, and so we don’t have the opportunity to show how we enrich or provide value. Your ability to delight, really, is your way of getting that entrance, getting that opportunity.

And then once you get that opportunity, G is for guide. Guiding those perceptions of others so that you can continue to show how you enrich and provide value. And, finally, the last E is for effort. And effort and hard work comes last in this framework because we often think that effort and hard work should come first, that it comes first and that it’ll then speak for itself but, in fact, that’s where we get very frustrated where we don’t know how we enrich and how we delight and how we guide, and when we do know those things, that’s when our effort and our hard work works harder for us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then I’d love to get your view in terms of to gather this self-awareness. Are you sort of interviewing people, doing 360-degree surveys, just sort of asking your good friends and family sort of? What’s maybe the intelligence gathering look like in practice?

Laura Huang
It’s a sort of continuous process, right? There’s no sort of easy solution to this. There’s a number of different ways that I sort of present this. One way is by following patterns and looking for patterns in your life. I talk about this a lot as life rhymes. So, your life really rhymes, and when you’re able to look for these patterns, things that maybe you had this feeling as a child, and you weren’t sure exactly what that was, but it either made you uncomfortable or didn’t sit well with you, or somebody had said something to you, or had interpreted you in another way, in some way, and then a couple of years later you might have a similar situation. You feel that same type of feeling. Something didn’t sit well. You start to develop an understanding and an awareness of what those sorts of things mean, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Laura Huang
That’s something that we implicitly start to get an understanding. The other sort of way is that it’s much more explicit, and I always say that anybody can learn how to do this. Anybody can learn how to really have that authentic self-awareness, but not everybody is willing. Everyone is able to but not everyone is willing to. And the reason why not everyone is willing to is because it does mean putting yourself out there and asking for that uncomfortable feedback from people, putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to have the humility and also be embarrassed.

I talk a lot about how being embarrassed is so key to growth in our lives, and having this real understanding, because a lot of times we’ll be in situations and something will happen and we’ll be…it won’t go right, it won’t go the way we expected, or sort of we’ll be embarrassed about it. And then we’ll say, “Never again.” We won’t ever put ourselves in this situation again. We don’t ever want to feel that way again, “That just made me uncomfortable and I didn’t like it, especially when the stakes are really high.”

But when we push through in those moments of embarrassments is a lot of revelation. And there’s a lot of revelation about ourselves, and why we felt uncomfortable, and what it was that made us feel uncomfortable, and how we can sort of go past that in the future, but sometimes it takes multiple times where we’re embarrassing ourselves in the same sort of situations before we learn how life rhymes.

And so, it’s sort of those types of situations. And there’s also this element of we’ve all been burned before, we’ve all had people who have…it’s amazing how you can ask pretty much anyone to name an instance with somebody or some situation still bugs you. Like, you still have this chip on your shoulder because that person wronged you or burned you so badly. Like, within seconds, we can bring up two to three, at least, examples of situations where we still bitter, or we feel jaded, or we still have a chip on our shoulder because we still feel wronged, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Laura Huang
Those types of situations where we really allow ourselves to experience that bitterness and think about, “Is this making me bitter? And how can it make me better?” Let it make you better not bitter. That’s also a situation where we can learn a lot about ourselves and who we really are, and those perceptions that others have of us.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that is intriguing in terms of, like, if you feel super bitter and wronged, I mean, I’m right with you. It’s like that is indicative that, hey, there’s a deeply-held value here that you think has been flagrantly violated. And by sort of digging into that a little bit, you can kind of deduce what that is.

Laura Huang
Totally. That’s exactly it. Because it still leaves us feeling that way, there is something there, there’s something substantive there that tells us a lot about our deeply-embedded beliefs and values and what we really care about. But, instead, we sort of avoid those because they’re so painful, and we sort of chalk it up to frustration because, often, those are the instances where our hard work didn’t speak for itself, and somebody else sort of wronged us or our hard work didn’t speak for itself, our hard work was not enough. It left us frustrated. It didn’t go according to how we think it should go. There’s this myth of meritocracy. For some, that was the meritocracy was violated. And it tells us about our values and how we think the world, the orderly world should be and how things should work.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, so I’m thinking about my own life and examples. But I’d love it if you could share some cool stories here in which someone came to terms with some situations that were embarrassing or caused bitterness, and what they learned and took away, and were enriched from those when they really dug in.

Laura Huang
When I talk about sort of life rhymes, there’s multiple instances where I didn’t advocate for myself because of inexperience, because I didn’t know better. And then later on something else happened that was really similar and I sort of learned how to advocate for myself and then advocated in the wrong way.

And then you sort of learn through the years. I think it still stinks every time I read about frivolous lawsuits, people who lose lawsuits because they don’t have the resources, or the know-how, or the people, it doesn’t seem always like justice is being served. It seems like the people who are getting out on the right side of things are the ones who had some sort of secret inside understanding, or had the resources and the money to continue hiring the best lawyers, and so the other participant couldn’t sustain it anymore.

It’s these instances where you…like for me, loyalty is so huge. And so, instances where I really gave my all to somebody and someone took advantage of that. Or instances where I had somebody’s best interests at heart, but then they were very willing to, for their own personal gain, even just a little bit of personal gain, create huge disadvantages for others. And those sorts of situations, I think I’m speaking on behalf of situations that lots of us have had.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And then can we sort of hear the conclusion of that in terms of, all right, so there you felt it, you noted it, you captured it. And then what?

Laura Huang
Well, I think the painful part of this is that you don’t win. You don’t win everything, right? And you only win when you take these experiences and, like I said, you let it make you better. That you allow it to inform you in some way so that in the future you can try and flip things in your favor. The tough part of this is that because it’s so often about the signals and the perceptions and the stereotypes that other people have of us, it’s these soft things that are really the poison. But, at the same time, because they are the soft things, they also become the anecdote.

We’re able to shift things and reposition them and flip them in our favor. We’re not able to put in the same thing, things when it’s a hard anecdotal of sorts of things. So, just like those signals and perceptions are the things that are leading to disadvantage, so, too, can we flip those things in our favor.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love it, if possible, if we could maybe zoom out a bit. So, much of the work you mentioned is certainly getting that deep knowledge of yourself, and then your potential, how you’re being perceived. Are there any things that you see just show up again and again and again that are maybe nearly universal in terms of, “Here are some easy little things that just about all of us should start doing or stop doing to help positively influence how we’re being perceived”?

Laura Huang
You know, a lot of it is about recognition. A lot of it is about going into situations, and realizing that people are going to have these perceptions. But, at the same time, I think it’s really important to understand that people are very complicated and varied and embracing the fact that there is not just one version of each person. What I mean by that is that it’s very easy to go into a situation when somebody says something, and then, all of a sudden, we equate that person with that statement and personify that person as everything that that statement encompasses, rather than sort of seeing it as just one aspect or one facet of that person, understanding that they are also very complicated sort of people.

I think we can all identify situations in which we said something and it came out, it would come out in a way that we didn’t intend for it to come out. And we sort of think, “Oh, I hope that that person didn’t misinterpret it, or I hope they didn’t think that I meant this.” But we don’t think the same when somebody else says something to us, that past, if ended. No, we don’t think, “Perhaps they didn’t mean it that way, or it came out the wrong way. And let me sort of understand what they meant,” thinking then as that person. So, we don’t often look at the intent of other people but we evaluate things that we say based on intent.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yes. It’s funny, when you talk about bitterness, for me, personally, that’s one of the best ways that I personally found to resolve some of that, is when someone says something I think is just outrageous, like, “What on earth? That is just so out of line,” etc. I stop it. And sometimes, hey, it’s worth just acknowledging and addressing and digging into it, but other times it’s not. But if it sticks with me, that’s kind of what I think as like, “Well, hey, there have been times I’ve said things I didn’t quite mean to and it came out wrong and I regretted and felt like, ‘Oops, I made a mistake.’” And they, too, very well may be experiencing those same emotions, like, “Oh, man, that is not what I meant to say there. Oops.”

Laura Huang
Yeah, I mean, it was really funny. Just the other day, we were having this conversation, a couple of us were having a conversation, this person said something that was like so out of left field that we all looked like, “Whoa, wait. Where did that come from?” And one other person was like, “Whoa, where did that come from? I know you didn’t mean it in that way. It totally must’ve come out.” Like, just give that person the benefit of the doubt, and so we’re laughing with that person being so, so out of left field, but he didn’t mean it that way, like, “What do you mean?” Like, that other person was, “Oh, yeah, yeah. I totally meant it that way.” And they sort of clarified, right?

But who knows, they could’ve meant it that way but in a benign way. Give that person an opportunity to like learn, to realize, like, “Oh, I shouldn’t say things in that way.” So, it could’ve just come out the wrong way, and then we gave them, in a really safe way, a way for them to clarify. But even if they did mean it that way, it also gave them an opportunity, in a very safe way, to kind of understand and have this dialogue with us. And that’s really what getting at this really deep, rich interpersonal sort of interactions is all about, it’s like understanding and coming to this recognition and overlap and shared sort of experiences and values. That’s where you really start to enrich the lives of other people and really show where you can add value.

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

Laura Huang
Yeah, I mean, I just think one of the things that I always sort of emphasize is that when we’re trying to sort of shift the perceptions and the stereotypes of others, and flip these perceptions in our favor, I often get the question, which is, “Well, you know, it just feels like manipulative. It feels strategic. I don’t like when other people sort of do that and act manipulative. And I really don’t want to do that either.”

And what I always point out is that this is something that’s very different. This is about people are going to have perceptions of you regardless of whether you guide them to who you authentically are or not. But it’s actually much more authentic and much more real and not manipulative at all when you are guiding these perceptions and you’re not passively letting others write your narrative. You’re writing your own narrative and guiding people to who you really are. And that’s where you get much richer and much more authentic sort of relationships.

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

Laura Huang
If I had to pick just one, recently I love “Keep the main thing the main thing.” And what really is like behind that is, like, no, you know what the main things in your life are, the things that really are important, the things that really drive you, and the things that you feel are like worth fighting for. But we often get caught up in the things that are more immediate or the things that demand more of our attention, and we lose sight of what that main thing is.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Laura Huang
I write non-fiction but I love to read fiction. There’s just something about fiction, so I love “When the Legends Die” it’s one of my favorites. “Because of Winn-Dixie” is another of my favorites. These are sort of like the Young Adult books that really impacted me. I love “Girl in Translation,” which is like a really powerful story about identity.

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

Laura Huang
I used the timer functionality on my phone a lot to keep me organized. It’s really easy to get off course, and so sometimes I’m like, “Okay, I have 30 minutes.” And if you set your timer for 30 minutes, you sort of focus, like, “I’m not going to work on this for longer than 30 minutes so I better get this right.” So, it’s such a simple funny thing. I tend to use really simple tools and try and leave the more in-depth things to projects I’m working on, the papers, the writing that I’m trying to do and so on and so forth.
Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Laura Huang
I have one that’s really aspirational. I really want to spend like 10 minutes every morning meditating and just thinking through, and just having like silence. I’ve been really, really bad at that so I can’t say that that’s a favorite habit but it’s one that I see as very valuable and I’m really working on.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, they quote it back to you often?

Laura Huang
One of them is “Hire slow, fire fast.” And it applies to entrepreneurship very much so because, as you’re growing your company very quickly, the tendency is to hire very quickly and it sort of destroys a lot of companies because you’re bringing on lots of the wrong people but, yet, you feel like it impacts you.

But it also applies in life a lot too, which is like, really, we’re not as careful about sort of pruning the things in our life that are not good for us and, instead, we try and bring on lots of things that we think are going to help us without knowing that we already have all of this other stuff that’s going on that’s kind of interfering. And so, it’s like get rid of the bad, so fire quick, fire fast, get rid of those things and then hire slow, being really careful about what you introduce, whether it’s habits, people, or experiences. Being really methodical and thinking, not even methodical but being really intentional about how you do that. So, that’s one of them.

Another one I’d say a lot, that I used to say a lot in my entrepreneurship class is, like, you got to stop the bleeding. And a lot of times we start to think about all of these bigger more macro-level issues but we’re not focusing on stopping the bleeding. You got to stop the immediate bleeding. And then, as you’re doing that, sometimes you’re discovering and figuring out. But just stop the bleeding but you also have to look at what’s the root cause. And so, both of those are really important.

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

Laura Huang
Yeah, so on my website LauraHuang.net there’s lots of resources, how-tos, there’s a downloadable guide to finding your edge that has strategies and tips that you can find or exercises for how you can do exactly some of the things I’ve been talking about. I’m also on a variety of different social media, I’m on Twitter, Instagram. Laura Huang is my handle on Twitter, Instagram and a bunch of other things, Facebook, LinkedIn, all of those sorts of things.

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

Laura Huang
Yeah, the call to action is really just practice this, know that you can do it, and share with us your experiences of how you’ve been able to flip these stereotypes and obstacles in your favor.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Laura, thanks so much for taking this time and good luck in forming your edge.
Laura Huang
Thanks so much. Take care. Appreciate it.

540: Making Recruitment Work for You with Atta Tarki

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Atta Tarki says: "Hire well, manage little."

Atta Tarki sheds light on the crucial practices that improve the hiring process on both sides of the recruiting table.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The strongest predictor of job performance
  2. What makes an interview answer excellent vs. terrible
  3. The most important factors that determine career fit

About Atta:

Atta Tarki and is the author of the book Evidence-Based Recruiting (McGraw Hill, February 2019) and the CEO of ECA, a data-driven executive search firm helping private equity firms with their talent needs.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

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Atta Tarki Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Atta, welcome to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Atta Tarki
Thank you for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into a lot of your work, of evidence-based recruiting, and I want to talk about both kind of both sides of the recruiting table, as the candidate and the interviewer. But, first, tell us about painting murals. That sounds like a different part of your brain that you’re exercising in your off time.

Atta Tarki
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m a father of three and a husband of one, and I feel like it’s fun for me to engage in my local community. So, when I have some spare time, I go and help out with painting murals.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, now, any particular murals that you’re especially proud of or fond of?

Atta Tarki
Well, I have to say there is one on Main Street in Santa Monica that has a particular meaning to me, and it was my younger brother who passed away when he was 16, sadly. And we did a mural to honor him on a location called the Bubble Beach Laundry on Main Street in Santa Monica, and it’s a silhouette of my younger brother flexing his muscles on the beach.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that’s a famous beach, right, for like bodybuilders and stuff, right?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. And he’s smiling there and I’ve seen countless people standing in front of him and also flexing their muscles and smiling and taking pictures, and posting it everywhere, so I feel it’s his way of passing on that smile to others. So, that makes me feel warm and fuzzy every time I think about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is really beautiful in terms of leaving a ripple that’s impacting a lot of folks and in a fun way. So, I imagine there’ll be some listeners who’s like, “You know what, I’ve been there,” or, “I’m about to go back there and make sure we get the photo,” so thank you for sharing that. That’s cool.

Atta Tarki
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’re talking about evidence-based recruiting, and I want to cover it kind of on both sides of the recruiting table. Maybe can you share with us what’s perhaps the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made about how organizations do hiring, or should do hiring, as you’ve done your research and put this together?

Atta Tarki
Yeah, absolutely. And, Pete, like you, I started my career in management consulting and I started my own recruiting firm about 10 years ago. And the first thing I discovered when I came into consulting is that I wasn’t alone in having discovered that it’s really important to hire great people. Most companies talk about kind of like, “Hiring and retaining great people is our priority,” or, “Our employees are the true force behind our success.”

The second thing that I discovered, and maybe the most surprising piece then, was very few people actually mean those words.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Atta Tarki
These words were said by Frontier Communication and Sears, and based on their Glassdoor reviews left for these two companies, they were rated the two worst companies to work for.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we are naming names. This is going to be a juicy one. Keep going.

Atta Tarki
Yeah. Well, I guess what was surprising for me is that so many people talk a big game about wanting to have the best employees and their people being the true differentiator, but very few companies and hiring managers actually act that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that that rings true and that’s powerful and, yeah, I think it’s easy to say those words and in practice it’s pretty darn hard to systematize the practices and processes and, frankly, sacrifices necessary to make that a reality.

Atta Tarki
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then let’s dig into it then. So, there’s a gap there, and if folks want to be doing the best possible recruiting that they can be doing, what have you discovered are some of the key practices they need to be following?

Atta Tarki
I’ve discovered that a lot of folks follow old-industry norms and practices that they think are just practices that have developed over time, and are tested, and tried and true, but in reality, very few of these practices have actually been tested or are true in terms of producing better results.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Could you mention a practice that’s not getting it done for folks?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, a lot of hiring managers when they start writing a job description, they start with, “I want X years of experience in doing exactly the same job.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Atta Tarki
And there is recent research that shows that experience in a job is one of the very least predictive factors in terms of on-the-job success. It’s not negatively correlated on the job success. It’s positively correlated, but its correlation is much lower than most hiring managers believe it is. And having worked with a number of our clients as well as also looked at our internal data, we can see that most hiring managers over-index on past experience and how predictive it is going to be for on-the-job success.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. I mean, that is certainly a common practice and often, you’re right, the first bullet point you’ll see in a job description or a post for an open role. So, what, do tell, are some of the most predictive indicators?

Atta Tarki
It really comes down to what you’re recruiting for. So, I’ll give you an analogy which is 20 years ago, the old saying in marketing used to be, “Half of my spend is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Atta Tarki
And today it’s almost unimaginable to deploy a large marketing budget without taking an analytical and data-driven approach to it, and recruiting is going down the same path. And when I talk to leading executives at companies like Amazon and Google, they’re telling me, “Atta, recruiting is going down the same path as marketing did 20 years ago.” Depending on what role you’re trying to recruit for and what problem you’re trying to solve for, you have to apply a data-driven approach to see what works and recruit for those skills that are most predictive of on-the-job success. So, unfortunately, there is no one silver bullet that works for all roles, but there are a few general rules. If you like, I can share some of those rules with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, I’d like to hear the generals that are available, and then maybe just an example of, “Hey, for this kind of a role, this is the skill that is the thing.”

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. The first general rule is don’t hire for quantity, hire for quality. It sounds a little bit cliché but I feel like when most hiring managers say this but then go back to saying, like, “Okay. Well, let’s get this hire done so I can focus on putting out a few fires right in front of me.” And maybe this can be best illustrated by the work that I was doing in consulting. So, I had worked in management consulting for six years, and working in consulting in Los Angeles, I worked with a lot of media and entertainment companies.

And a few years into my role, something a little bit remarkable happened. I was going over to the Blockbuster store where I would spend my Sunday afternoons and walked through the aisles to figure out what movie I was going to watch, when I noticed that it’s going out of business. And working in media and entertainment, it was pretty clear to me that one of the factors that led to this Blockbuster store going out of business was this tiny company at the time called Netflix.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Atta Tarki
But that was a little bit confusing for a management consultant, because from a strategies perspective, that shouldn’t happen and able to happen. Netflix was a tiny company.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right, market share. Pricing power. Economies of scale.

Atta Tarki
All of those things. And Blockbuster was a $6 billion company and, in theory, they had set giant barriers to entry for all these smaller companies to come in and kind of like destroy their kind of like business model, right? And why was that so? What did this tiny company have that this giant in the industry lack? You could argue that it was a better business model, or it was more innovative techniques, or whatnot, right? But why did they have a better business model? Why do they have these better distribution models, etc.? What did Netflix have that this $6 billion giant lack? And I would argue that you can summarize it in one word, and that is talent.

So, if you want to build a very effective organization, it’s no longer sufficient to set up these barriers to entry and hide behind them, you need to lead the change in your industry. And in order to do so, you need to focus on finding the best talent possible.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that really resonates and one example that’s leaping to mind for me is Gary Keller, with the Keller Williams Realty franchise, his book The ONE Thing he wrote with Jay Papasan whom we had on the show, awesome book. I don’t remember how long he took off from being the CEO, it might’ve been a year, but he said it was so important for him to hire 12 people, or 13, in that ballpark, that he’s like, “All right. Well, this is what I’m going to do for the next year,” and just stop being the CEO, handed over the day-to-day operations to someone else to go hire, like, 13, 14 people. It was all he was doing in a year. Well, the results speak for themselves in terms of just how phenomenally successful that organization has been, and it really underscores that notion of quality versus quantity, and it’s not about checking the box and moving on to your next task.

Atta Tarki
Yeah, and I would say that that is a phenomenal example over someone actually putting it to action. And what’s more effective? Is it more effective to hire an average performer and spend a ton of time trying to mentor down and coach them and through the apprenticeship model, try to get them to be effective? Or is it more effective to obsess about finding the very best talent you can, and then let them run with things, and spending your time upfront and finding them and spending less time than training and coaching them?

And I’d say these few ideas have, kind of like, people have battled with it over the years. And these few ideas have been popularized by two different movies. One of them is Moneyball where Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Ace, one of the poorest team in baseball, obsessed about finding undervalued talent and building his team that way, and two years in a row made it to the finals. And the other movie is The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi took on a subpar performer, and with kind of like magical coaching skill…

Pete Mockaitis
Subpar performer. He’s just a kid.

Atta Tarki
He was a kid who knew nothing about karate, and within a few months turned into a superstar.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Atta Tarki
So, the question is, “Which approach do you think works better? Is it the Moneyball approach or is it The Karate Kid approach?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I don’t see why we have to make it an either/or because, hey, we get the best people and then resource them well, I think, is ideal when possible.

Atta Tarki
Okay. So, let me tease you a little bit here. So, you said, “I don’t know why it’s an either/or.” I’ll tell you why it’s an either/or.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Atta Tarki
You only have 24 hours in a day.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. In terms of how you allocate your time.

Atta Tarki
Your time. And you could take a year off to go off and find 13 to 14 superstars, or you could say, “You know what, I’ll manage to hire these 13 to 14 superstars, but during that year, I’m also going to spend 60 hours a week in meetings and trying to coach people and mentor people.” You’re not going to achieve the same results if you try to spend those 60 hours a week trying to coach and mentor people and at the same time kind of like half-assing your recruiting efforts. If you want to really achieve exceptional results in recruiting, you have to allocate a proportionate amount of your time and resources to finding the best people from the get-go.

Pete Mockaitis
That fits. So, there’s no shortcuts, you take the time, you take the effort, you’re putting the resources in. And then what are you doing with that time, effort, and resource?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, first thing you’re doing is that you’re defining what good looks like, and what are we recruiting for, what are the skills we want, what are the traits we want. And then you have to create a feedback loop. You have to understand, “Okay, how are we trying to measure these traits?” And then you have to go back a few years later and check, and that’s how you create an evidence-based approach and see if it worked or not. And if you want to have an impact on the effectiveness of your recruiting methods, you have to just start measuring, and you have to start doing that today.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. So, then it sounds like I don’t have any quick secret tips and tricks that I can employ right away, but rather it’s the long game of monitoring, measuring, and tweaking the system.

Atta Tarki
I do have a few secret…

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, good.

Atta Tarki
…tricks that I can share with you from personal experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Please.

Atta Tarki
So, first of all, recruit more for skills and fit rather than just recruiting for experience, that’s the first thing I’ve learned. So, check what skills you need and also check for fit. The second trick I can teach you is to let employees interview you as much as you interview them, and be brutally honest with them about who you are and who you’re not, and why some of your happiest employees are happy at their role, but also why you might not be the right fit for some other folks.

A lot of employers are so overly-eager, especially in these times where we have a 50-year low in terms of unemployment rates, to sell the position and sell their firm, that they’re not quite forthcoming about the challenges in the role, and that leads to mis-hires. And people starting in the role who are not happy in the role end up leaving. So, that is the second thing.

The third thing is that I like to hire people who point fingers at themselves versus at others.

Pete Mockaitis
You mean like blame.

Atta Tarki
Blame others if things go wrong. They blame it on external factors as opposed to what they could’ve done to make the situation differently. I was recruiting for a CEO role, and I asked the candidate, “Tell me about a time when you failed.” And he said, “Well, I started at this company, it was a family-owned company, and I was recruited by the founder CEO. And after a year, I left the role because I was hired by the father, but then realized that the son was not on board with the initiatives that the father wanted to do. And since the son was not on board, I couldn’t make the change, and I decided to leave.”

Now, you could take that same answer, and someone else could’ve said, “Well, what I did wrong was that I didn’t really invest the time to understand this upfront of who is the real decision-maker.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s perfect.

Atta Tarki
“I didn’t invest the time to build a relationship with the son upfront. Once I discovered that, I could’ve taken these different actions to convince the father, or the son, to do these things.” But, instead, he just blamed it on the fact that the son didn’t want to do it, “And I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that is excellent distinction because I think people will ask questions in the course of an interview, and it’s like, “How do I judge if that story is good or not? Like, was it entertained by it? Did it keep my attention? Did he seem likable while telling it?” It was like, “No, here’s something to look at sort of beneath the surface in terms of are we taking responsibility or sort of shifting blame elsewhere?”

And what I think is so powerful about that is, one, it’s just sort of a more pleasant, humble human being to interact and work with, and, two, that’s a learner. That is someone who is actively reflecting on their experiences and thinking about, “How can I get better?” and so they’re kind of naturally growing, and they are some folks who are going to really take some ownership and drive things, and you can feel better about that. So, I love that trick.

Atta Tarki
You’re touching upon a very important point. One of the best ways you can improve your hiring results is to follow more structured approach interviews. Most hiring managers follow unstructured interviews where they come in and they have a few questions in their mind, but they haven’t really written out all the questions, and then they haven’t really thought about what constitutes a good answer versus a bad answer.

And what happens in those scenarios is that you end up liking someone or you end up like connecting with someone on a personal level, and regardless of what they say, you feel like, “Oh, that was a pretty good answer.” And you’re not really checking for the content of the answer, you’re more checking for if you connected with the person or not. And that is not a great way of predicting on-the-job success. A much better way of predicting on-the-job success is where there is a right or wrong answer, and you can grade the answers on a scale of, call it, one to five, one to ten, or whatever scale you want to use.

And then at the end of it, you go back and try to kind of like give them a gut feeling on overall, I think, this is how I would rate the candidate. But having had those objective answers upfront and grading system upfront, keeps your emotions a little bit in check.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, we’re talking about interview questions, and I would imagine you’ve got some approaches beyond taking a look at resume and a cover letter and conducting an interview to get some predictive insight and how a candidate might perform. Is that true? And what are those other ways?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. I’m a big fan of skills-based assessments, and a lot of the companies that use evidence-based hiring methods also use a skills-based assessment. So, Amazon, Google, and a number of other companies give you an assessment that is similar to a task that you would perform on the job, and ask you to perform that task.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That is exactly what I do and it works wonders. Go figure. “You are good at doing the thing that I need you to do, and I know that not by conjecture based on your experience, but, in fact, from having seen the fruit of your work, and saying, ‘Yes, that is good. I would like more like that, please.’”

Atta Tarki
It does work wonders. And it’s not only important for every senior-level roles, but one of the CEOs we worked with, he had gone through three executive assistants within a year, and he called me up and said, “Atta, I know you only hire senior-level people, but I’m desperate here. I keep hiring these executive assistants and they don’t work out for me. Can you help me hire them?” And I sat down with him, and I was like, “Okay, how do you assess them?” He’s like, “Well, I just have like a half an hour free-flow conversation with them, and then I make them an offer. It’s not that important. It’s not that complicated.”

I was like, “No, let them do something that you would do. Okay, so here’s an assessment you could use for them. Give them this task and say, ‘I’m going to fly to Hong Kong this weekend, I’m going to spend two days there, and then I’m going to fly to South Africa, and then I’m going to come back. You have 10 minutes with me. What are the questions you would ask me?’ And they would write up the questions.” And it was an enormous difference. He almost fell off his chair when he saw the difference of level of questions that he received from some folks.

Some people were like, “Okay, are you flying economy or business class?” He was like, “Of course, I’m flying business class. That’s not even a question. Or first class.” But someone else was like, “Okay, when was the last time you updated your passport? Have you checked how much time you have left on the passport? What would you like to do when you’re in Hong Kong? Do I need to send over your golf clubs? Do you need transportation to come pick you up? What are the hotel preferences you have?” and so forth.

And he was like just seeing that difference between the level of their answers, completely changed his mind about which of the candidates that he should hire.

Pete Mockaitis
That is perfect. Thank you. Well, let’s kind of switch the channel a little bit and sort of step into the candidate’s role. So, if we want to use some evidence-based recruiting to evaluate which workplaces are kind of great fits for us versus not so great fits, what do you recommend we do?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. I’d say start again with you asking yourself the right questions. So, if you’re a candidate, try to understand, “What makes me happy?” And I would say that most candidates, the mistake they do is that they start with, “What is the job I want to do? What do I want to become when I become an adult or when I grow old?” “I want to become a fireman.” “I want to be a police officer.” “I want to do this job.”

But in my experience, how you do the job is almost as important for your happiness as what you do as a profession. And what I mean by that is like, “Okay, where is the location of the job? What are the work hours? How are you interacting with your colleagues?” Ask yourself, “What are the jobs that I’ve been happy in before? How did I interact with my supervisors? Was there someone who stepped kind of like by my desk five times a day and made him or herself available to me, or kind of like tap me on the shoulders and said, ‘How are things going?’ or is this someone who kind of like left me alone and checked in with me once a month? Is this a very high-performing environment where I feel like I got pushed to kind of like do my very best or was it a little bit more low-key environment?” etc.

And asking yourself, “Who are the supervisors that I had a great relationship with versus not? And what are the day-to-day activities of those roles that actually made me happy?” helps you to kind of like figure out what questions you can ask about the role to see if you’re going to be happy in those roles or not.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I think that’s excellent. And so, you’ve sort of laid out a few, I guess you might call them continua in terms of low-key versus intense high performance, checking in frequently versus infrequently. Could you maybe rattle off a few more that we might think about where we fall to make sure we don’t overlook something?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, most people say when I ask them, “What made you happy in your last job or what you did?” They go to kind of like the mission of the organization, they’re like, “Okay, I really like the fact that this organization worked with topic X.” I was like, “Okay, but what made you happy about working with that supervisor? What in their style made them happy?” And they’re like, “Okay. Well, this person was fun.”

The question I would ask yourself as a candidate is, “How did that demonstrate itself in the day-to-day activities or my interactions with this person?” I’d say most people will not describe themselves as really boring people or mean people, but how you define fun or nice might be different than someone else. And most companies would say, “Oh, we have a very fun company culture.” “Great. How does that demonstrate itself? What is something fun you guys did in the last month?” And you might find out that what they think is fun is to go out and drink at 2:00 a.m. and you might not like that at all.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I always love it when…I never actually said this in college but I was so tempted when I heard all of these companies recruiting, and I said, “Oh, so tell me a little bit about your culture,” and they say, “Oh, it’s work hard, play hard.” And I was like, “What does that even mean? What does that even mean?” And so, I was always tempted to be like, “Oh, so play hard like we’re having a couple drinks after work, or play hard like we’re doing cocaine.”

Atta Tarki
Like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. Like, “They play hard. Is that what you mean? I don’t think it is.” But these terms are quite ambiguous and that it’s well worth it kind of digging in another layer to get after, “What do we mean by that?”

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. “What do you mean by that? How did that manifest itself in the job and the culture of the company? What are some of the activities that you could say are examples of that trait in the culture? What are some of the activities of the people that you enjoyed working with?” Kind of like try to think about that and try to distinguish between it.

Another jargon that I hear from candidates as I ask them, “Okay, who are some bosses you enjoyed working with? Who are some of the bosses you didn’t enjoy working with?” They say like, “Well, I don’t like it when my boss micromanages me.” And I’d say, “Ninety percent of candidates tell me that. Like, what do you mean by that? Because I know that some folks, they do enjoy it when their boss kind of like provides them supervision and checks in with them frequently, other people don’t. And would you say that everyone who checks in with their direct reports are micromanagers or are they just being helpful?”

So, understand the right cadence. How often? What types of task that they would provide you feedback on? How often you got opportunities to kind of like take a first stab at things versus not? And how do you define micromanage-y so that you can find the right fit for yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s great stuff there in terms of getting really clear on, “What do you want? And what do you mean by that?” in terms of what do you want.

Atta Tarki
Yeah. And one other thing is I would ask folks in the role, or currently performing that role, is, “How do you split your time between various activities?” So, if you come in to work at my company, an excellent question to one of our project managers is like, “Okay, how much of your time do you spend speaking with candidates versus talking to clients versus thinking about what search strategies that are effective versus other activities, right?”

And that kind of like gives you a sense. If you’re someone who doesn’t get a lot of energy from talking to people, but our project managers say, “Well, I probably spend about a good four hours a day talking to candidates,” you’re like, “Oh, wow, that sounds draining. That’s like starting a search strategy sounds really fun but you’re only spending an hour a day doing that, but I have to spend four hours a day talking to candidates, and that’s going to drain me.” It’s not about kind of like a checklist of tasks and traits but also how much of your time is going to those different types of tasks and traits that kind of give you energy versus kind of drain you for energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I think that’s excellent. And so, let’s say, all right, so we got a really clear picture on what we want and we are looking at an opportunity that sure seems to be that. What are some of your top tips for just crushing it and looking fantastic during the course of the recruiting process from networking conversations to resumes to the interview to work samples? Like, how do you dazzle?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Try to anticipate what are the questions that are going to come up, or work sample tasks, or skills-based assessments, etc. that are going to come up in the interview. If it truly is a role that you definitely want, do your research, go online, there are all these resources like Glassdoor.com, etc. See if you know anyone who used to work there or works there now, and ask them, like, “Okay, what could I anticipate?”

I’d say 80% of the questions you can anticipate regardless if you know someone there or not. And don’t just kind of think about them but write it out, and then role-play ideally with someone else. You’d be surprised how much more refined you’re going to be if you actually kind of sound it out once or twice versus you just try to wing it. I’d say the biggest mistake we see from people who want their dream job is that they think they can wing it, and then they come in and they’re just babbling on,

Atta Tarki
And then they blow their opportunity. But, also, then research not just the company but also the role and the people you’re talking to, and understand a little about them, and try to connect with them on that personal level when you’re going in there, and say, like, “Okay. Well, Pete, I noticed that you used to work at Bain & Company. How do you feel like that prepared you for your current job?”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, I could tell you the things I do with my engagement at them but I don’t think they’re very common amongst podcasters. But that’s another conversation for another day. Okay, so I dig that. So, those are prepare, prepare, prepare, do those things. And then you’ve done some research on how star-performing employees deliver just a wildly big multiple of value greater than, say, average-performing employees. Can we hear a little bit about that research?

Atta Tarki
Yeah, absolutely. So, this is also one of these things that you hear a lot about but then people don’t kind of know what to do with it. So, what I did is I looked at the lifetime prize money won in a few different sports. So, let’s talk about the prize money won by tennis players and poker players.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Nice and public data.

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, if you look at 24,000 ATP players, now, ATP players are phenomenal tennis players. They are the top-ranked players in the world. And you look at the lifetime prize money that is collected by these players, the top 10% of the players there collected 98% of the total prize money from these 24,000 players.

And poker, I found data on 450,000 poker players, and there, again, it’s a very large sample size so we’re not talking about a small sample bias with five poker players or 20 poker players in a small tournament, but 450,000 of them. And in this enormous dataset, the top 10% of the players took home 85% of the lifetime prize money.

So, what that means in reality and in practice for you and your organization is that if you hire a top engineer, this person might not write 100 times more code than an average engineer, but the value of the code that they write might result in billions of people using Google every day as opposed to AltaVista or some other search engine.

Pete Mockaitis
Lycos, HotBot, Ask Jeeves.

Atta Tarki
Yes, all of those. America Online. All those search engines that were so famous once upon a day but no one knows about them anymore. And when I was using this example in one of my seminars, someone raised their hand and says, “Excuse me, what is AltaVista?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man.

Atta Tarki
Putting this to practice, it’s not just Google who’s put this to practice. But let me give you one example of how this has applied in a team setting. Apple launched its operating system, iOS 10, using 600 engineers in two years, and it’s considered to be one of the better operating systems ever launched. Microsoft launched AltaVista using 10,000 engineers in six years, and then they later on had to retract AltaVista. Now, if you’re building a team, which staffing model would you prefer? Would you rather have the 600 Apple engineers or the 10,000 Microsoft engineers?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And what’s striking here is so the multiplier can be huge. And I think it really does vary by role in terms of if there’s something that’s sort of like, “No, you just sort of have to follow this process repeatedly to go from input to process to output.” “Okay.” But there are other things like, “Hey, if you are generating patents, or coming up with a killer marketing campaign, or something, then the multiples become huge.”

And so, there are many kind of situations where the way the market or the environment is setup, it’s kind of like a winner take most, maybe 80/20, or even more concentrated.

Atta Tarki
I would say 90/10.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. So, the Apple employees, you know, I’m sure they’re getting paid more than the AltaVista employees, but they’re not getting paid that 10, 20, 100X multiple more. So, I always find this interesting, like we got many of the listeners in our audience. Like, let’s say you are that star-performing employee who is just really delivering extraordinary amounts of value, and, by golly, if you ask for a raise, it seems like you’ll get a little something, but there’s like budgets and dah, dah, dah, and that just sort of drives me bonkers. If you’re delivering 10 times the value than the average employee, how can you get paid at least two, or three, or four times what the average employee is getting paid so that you receive the rewards of the value?

Atta Tarki
Sure. And I’m sure that there are multiple approaches to this but the approach that I have seen works best is to, first of all, define the value upfront and agree upon that value with your supervisor and set those expectations upfront before you go off and do all that work, say, like, “If I’m able to get 5 billion users start using our search engine as opposed to kind of like 50,000 users, can I get a raise then?”

And when you do that, it becomes much easier to tie it to value and the results that you’re driving for the business and getting folks to, upfront, agree to that, “Okay, if I do that and I really kick ass, can I get a commensurate pay-raise?” As opposed to kind of like saying you hire from a business perspective, you hire 100 people to go out there and go look for gold coins on the beach here in Santa Monica, one of these 100 people comes back and says, “Look, I found a gold coin. I should get 90% of that value.” And you’re like, “Well, I have to pay for all the 99 other people as well that I hired to do the job, and I can’t give you 99% of the value of that one gold coin that you found.”

But if you kind of set the expectations upfront and say, “Look, I’m much better than everyone else at finding gold coins, or whatever it is you do, if I find you X, will you share Y percent of that profit with me?” if they say, “Sure,” go ahead and do it, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I like that because I imagine many managers have just never been asked that question before. It’s like, it’s never occurred to me that it was possible to achieve that level but, now that you mentioned it, yes, and hopefully you can get that kind of locked-in. And I imagine many of the…well, hey, Netflix does this, right? The top-performing organizations just sort of go in expecting that you’re going to generate way more than an average employee, and they go in compensating you like they expect it from the get-go, and then that creates all kinds of nice virtuous cycles there.

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, Netflix has a philosophy that they pay over market but then they also expect over market performance. Their role is that in procedural roles, a top performer is twice as effective as an average performer in creative jobs, like a programmer, or a marketing director, or whatnot. A top performer is 10 times more effective as an average performer. And, therefore, they might not pay 10 times as much for the top performers, but they definitely pay above market.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, that will do it. Boy, but there’s so many things I’d love to talk about.
Well, you tell me maybe in terms of just sort of burning issues in terms of absolutely candidates or employers need to start doing this or stop doing that, what’s something you really want to make sure you get out there before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Atta Tarki
Okay. So, I’m not going to repeat something I’m going to say there, but I would say that most consequential mistake people do when they are trying to hire superstars and they’ve kind of like already set their mind on the fact that, “Okay, it’s really important for me to hire a superstar,” is that then they overdo it a little bit. They say like, “Okay, who are all the superstars that I’ve ever worked with? Okay, Pete is a superstar, and Janice, etc., and all of these people were superstars.” And what made them superstars? “Well, Pete is a great strategic thinker, Janice is a great communicator, and this person has really good people skills.”

And then they say, “Okay. Well, I need someone who has all those things.” And they end up with kind of a job description with 17 different traits, and I call it that they end up recruiting for Frankenstein as opposed to kind of like superstar instead, and it’s the Frankenstein method of recruiting does not work. The Moneyball method of recruiting works. And the Moneyball method of recruiting is to reduce the number of factors that you deem are important to predict on-the-job success, not increase them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. That’s great. Thank you. Now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. My favorite quote is “Be the change.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Atta Tarki
I find myself referring a lot to Jason Dana’s study. He works at Yale. And he did a study that is called the Dilution effect, and in this study, he essentially showed that if you give people more information about candidates, they make worse decisions about their on-the-job success rather than if you focus on just the most important decisions. So, keep that in mind, don’t replace quality with quantity when you’re trying to predict on-the-job success.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I really like that and I think that’s part of the reason why your pitch resonated with me so much is because I am doing some of this. And, like, when I’m hiring now, I’m all about, “Show me what you can do with the evidence so that I will, in fact, not even look at resumes until pretty late in the process.” It’s like, “You’ve already demonstrated a lot of key things. Now I’m going to look at your resumes because I just found them heartbreaking.” It’s like, “Oh, my gosh, you got all these incredible writing bylines. You must be an amazing writer.”

But then when I kind of put them to the test, I was like, “Hmm, actually not so much. Maybe you had a lot of help from an editor at each of those places where you have cool bylines,” or maybe they spent, I don’t know, ten times the amount of hours in creating those pieces as compared to my assessments. But, anyway, yeah, I buy that because I might be deceived because I think, “Oh, well, it must be pretty good because of this,” then it’s like, “Well, that’s actually not predictive after all, so, hmm.”

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. And keep also in mind that it’s almost like a little bit like chemistry there where a person might’ve been very good and effective in another setting. And let’s say they worked at a magazine where they had like three different set of editors that gave them detailed feedback and revisions, and they had a language editor that helped them with the language, and this person was just really good at coming up with brilliant ideas and statistics, and gather people, like, “Okay, as a team, we can make this happen.”

But in your setting, you might need them to be a single contributor, and it might not work as well for you in your settings. So, given them the skills-based assessment will show you, “Okay, this is what I need for this job. And do I think that this person is going to be effective in our organization or not?”

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

Atta Tarki
Fiction book, 1984 George Orwell. Non-fiction book, I would say, Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Atta Tarki
So, in terms of favorite tools, favorite thing works that have been like very helpful for me is the concept of ABC tasks. The way I think about them is A tasks are the must-dos that I will definitely not miss doing. B tasks are things that are important but I’m not going to get to them today or this week, but I know and I promise myself that I’m going to get to them later. And C tasks are like if I get to do it, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And a habit?

Atta Tarki
Touch everything once. I try to drive tasks to completion when I start it. So, if I start an email, I try to kind of like just finish it. If I start writing on an article, or a chapter of the book, or a section of the book, I try to really drive it to completion so that I don’t have to start and stop multiple times.

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

Atta Tarki
Hire well, manage little.

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

Atta Tarki
Go to our website ECA-Partners.com and then click on my name.

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

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. So, if you do really believe that quality hires make a big difference for your business, quantify how much more valuable they are for your business, your division, on your role. Don’t just kind of like say it but quantify it, and see if you’re willing to act upon it. If the quality hire is that much more valuable to your organization, are you willing to invest in finding those hires or not? If not, it probably is an indicator that you don’t really believe in your numbers, and review your numbers until you’re willing to act upon them.

Pete Mockaitis
Atta, this has been a thrill. Thank you for sharing the good word. And good luck in all the ways you’re helping folks hire and get hired.

Atta Tarki
Absolutely. Pete, thank you so much for having me.

529: Finding Greater Success and Fulfillment with Dr. Daphne Scott

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Dr. Daphne Scott says: "I'll never have enough time to do the things I don't want to do."

Dr. Daphne Scott debunks harmful myths to explain how to build a healthy relationship with success.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How your ambition is sabotaging your career
  2. How to end the vicious cycle of stress
  3. How to easily fit meditation into your daily routine

About Daphne:
Dr. Daphne Scott brings two decades of real world coaching and corporate development experience to her work with organizations, teams and individuals. She combines strong leadership abilities with highly-trained facilitation skills to bring individuals and teams into greater relationship, creativity, and ultimately, success.

Daphne is a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, a Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), certified Hendricks Coach, a founding member of the Conscious Leadership Group, and a member of the International Coaching Federation. She also holds a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Doctorate of Science in Physical Therapy from Andrews University. Daphne is the Chief Culture Officer at Confluent Health and was previously the Director of Leadership Development at Athletico Physical Therapy.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Daphne Scott Interview Transcript

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

Daphne Scott
Oh, thanks so much for having me, Pete. It’s my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into this conversation as well as learn a bit about your sketch comedy tour in the past. What is the story here?

Daphne Scott
Well, I like to say that’s almost where it all started. It’s not actually the total place where it all started, but I did improvisational theater at the famed Second City in Chicago for quite a while, about three to four years, and then went on to travel with a sketch comedy group that traveled around the United States and we’d do all kinds of festivals and write funny sketches and think we were just hilarious and, yeah, that’s where it all started. And that translated into many of my skills that I have in facilitating groups now.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m curious, was there a particular sketch that just was the hit, it got more laughs than the others, not that you can perform the whole thing for us, but maybe give us a taste, what was the premise?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, there were two that were really big hits. One was called Amish pornography. By the way, I need to give acknowledgement to Nick DeGrazia, who was the founder of the group, The Comic Thread. Amish pornography, which was the theme song to Space Odyssey 2000, so bom, bom, bom, you know, the whole thing, and it was just simply two people, it was him and myself and we’re dressed up as Amish sort of folks, and we’re just simply…he is removing his suspenders very slowly and all I’m doing is lifting up my skirt about a half inch at most while this whole song plays all the way through. So, it’s just literally us standing on stage facing each other in this elaborate, much elaborate sort of setup of this Amish barn and that was always a really big hit because we didn’t say anything. We really weren’t doing anything but it was just this idea that this would be really what Amish pornography kind of would look like, if you could.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, clever. Clever.

Daphne Scott
It’s very clever.

Pete Mockaitis
Risqué.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, yeah, very, very risqué. And then there was another sketch which was based on the movie Braveheart and it was about this grandfather who was very obsessed with the movie so much so that he thought it was real, and it just culminates in this great hijinx of him torturing his grandson, and it was very, very funny. So, those are a couple. Those are a couple, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Mercy. Well, I love comedy that’s just a little bit out there and I think Key & Peele, my personal opinion, are the most amazing sketch comedians I’ve bumped into. Netflix has a new series I Think You Should Leave which is a sketch comedy show, and it’s amusing, it gets me some chuckles.

Daphne Scott
I have not watched it yet. I’ll have to check that out.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Cool. Well, so let’s talk about your modern-day programming or what you’re up to these days. You got some stuff called Waking Up A Leader. What’s sort of the main thesis or point behind this?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. so, I like to say my latest book, it’s my only book, but it is my latest, so, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Your first book.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, it’s my first book, also my latest book. Yeah, so Waking Up A Leader, really, the essence is this combination between the transformational skills that leaders and, by the way, people who want to be great at their jobs, need to have on board as well as the skills, some of the transactional skills, that are really helpful for leaders to have on board. And it’s specifically about looking at how we relate to sort of these five domains of our life, which seems to be these areas, especially in work, that can take over.

So, the five relationships that we’re having are our relationships to time, money, our self, our identity, how we see ourselves, and friendships, and then, of course, the very well-known unknown, in how we relate to the space of the unknown. So, that’s really what the book is about at its root.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, I love a good framework, you know, breaking that into five key ingredients. And so, I understand, in your own story, you had some relationships that seemed a bit out of whack. Can you share your tale?

Daphne Scott
I did. Yeah, so good. That’s a really nice way to say it, out of whack, absolutely. Well, I started, when I wrote the book, really started with in terms of the five relationships, the relationship to time, that’s always a big one for clients at work and with myself. I had much the same experience that all of us have had, which is feeling often as though I never had enough time to do things I really wanted to do and never have enough time playing guitar. I didn’t have enough time to write comedy, these sorts of things that I enjoy doing outside of my working world now. And, of course, I never have enough time getting my work done. That was one in one big relationship that had to change.

If I got, really, to the root though of what was happening, it was really there was this particular way that I was just relating to how I saw myself in the world, who I believed that I was, and also who I believed I needed to be to be successful. And I needed to be a person who had no less than 50 responsibilities at any one time, I needed to be a person who ran from thing to thing, and got more degrees and more certifications, and took on more responsibilities and all these sorts of things that I had created in my mind, by the way, as these marks of being successful.

And ambition took over and so the story progresses, my story progresses, a little bit through the book. And I really had to work to shift that relationship at the root, that really what was happening. And it’s intentional that the relationship to the self and the identities in the middle of the other four, in the book by the way, I discovered that that’s what’s going on the whole time.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, yeah, so intriguing. So, you felt that you didn’t have the time to do the things you really wanted to do from the guitar to the comedy. And what the holdup there was you had some ambition going on that said that you needed to tackle X, Y, Z. So, can you really zoom in there in terms of sort of what’s going on in the experience of your life and the feelings there in terms of frustration or overwhelm, etc., as well as sort of the internal dialogue that’s kind of propagating that?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, oh, man, so good. You’re getting right at it, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Daphne Scott
Again, I think, well, I’ll just kind of talk about through, I love what you said, the internal dialogue because this is really what, at the core, is what’s happening for all of us, is if we paid attention long enough, and this is really the beginning of the book, if we pay attention long enough, we start to realize that we’re giving a lot of attention to thought that’s happening, the things that we’re telling ourselves. Really, there’s a whole part in the book around the stories that we tell ourselves, right?

So, when I looked at how I was organizing myself and my life, and by organizing I mean sort of my energy, my time, my thought processes, how I was taking care of my physical body, my emotional, mental, spiritual wellbeing, and I was really wiring that all altogether. It was based on sort of these root sort of experiences or these ideas, one that I had, first of all, let’s just take this, that I have to be an ambitious person to be successful, that I had to take on a lot more work.

And what was starting to happen was, when I really paid attention to my experience, I was really creating sort of this idea that, “One day I would arrive. One day I would finally get there, I’d finally reach the finish line,” which is really at the root, underneath all that, is this idea that things are permanent, that I would finally get the title, or the promotion, or the money, or one day I would finally have all the time that I wanted, then I could be happy, then I could relax.

And the idea that, even once you had those things that they would stay permanent, it’s really the root, if you paid attention, to all of our suffering. It’s really the core that we’re going to finally get this thing, then, and only then, can we finally be happy. And then when we have it, that it’ll last forever. And once I saw the truth of that, that was years and years and years, by the way. I make it sound like, “Oh, it’s one day, it happened.”

But once I started seeing the truth of that, I started unhooking myself and having a different relationship with myself. I started relating to this idea of time differently. I started relating to this idea of money. That was a big one. I don’t know how much you’ve encountered the idea that you can’t leave your current job that you’re making so much money on and go find another job that could pay you just as much. You have to stay in your current job because if you leave, you’ll be broke, so you stay but feel miserable. And I was really working through that relationship.

And so, the more that I kept paying attention to what I was really telling myself, the more that I kept paying attention to my feelings and how, also, transient they were, one minute I could be really feeling great, happy. The next minute I could be not so happy. And I started realizing, “Wow, maybe these things that I’m blaming on the outside of me, maybe there’s more going on in the inside that I need to pay attention to.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. So, then the lie is, “Hey, one day I’ll have X, and then it’ll be all gravy from there on out. I’ll have it, it’ll be there, it’ll be permanent, and happy days are here.” So, that’s sort of the falsehood that you’re entertaining and it’s causing some troubles. And so, how would you articulate the contrary truth in terms of how is it really, and how should we really optimally operate?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. Well, great question. It’s tricky in a way because there’s the inherent reality, inherently things that are true but they’re not inherently true, right? So, it is true on one level that it’s good to have some cash. Like, if you’re going to have a business and we want to have a job, and it is true that that’s good. We need to keep the lights on, probably that’s all true. And there’s some truth to money, right? I’d sound like a complete crackpot if I was on your show right now and be like, “Look, money is not real.” It’s just that it’s not inherently real. It’s not the thing that’s going to ultimately, one day, get you the peace, calm, joy that you ultimately desire, that people are really looking for in their life.

And so, when we really look at the idea of money, yeah, there’s some truth to it. It’s reality. If we look at time, it’d be weird if I was like, “Oh, don’t concern yourself with time. It doesn’t really exist.” There is clock, that we had an appointment today, right? It’s helpful. But if I start to believe that it’s inherently true, that that’s all there is, and I start wiring my life around that, I really start to create a lot of suffering for myself because the clock just does what the clock does, it’s a convention, it’s helpful to a certain degree, but time and space are really, in the inherent reality, they’re not dependent on the clock. So, how I choose how to relate to that clock really actually sets up my experience.

I can be sitting quietly reading my book and feeling really, really great about everything. I can also be quietly reading my book and feel really stressed out and overwhelmed. Same exact thing on the video camera but very different experience, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So, how you choose to relate to these things makes all the difference in terms of how you’re feeling and operating, and your ability to be effective in your job, and more broadly as well.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
So, can we dig in, then, in terms of what are some best practices and worst practices in terms of relating to each of these five key things?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, such a great question. And this is where the transactional part of it, sort of what sounds very transactional, transactional-sounding, fits into this whole thing, so I really, really love the question. So, let’s talk about time. Yeah, totally true, time, we use it, it’s a convention. The clock is a convention. I don’t have to feel at the effect. One o’clock is no different than 3:00 o’clock. It’s not doing anything to me sort of idea. That sounds great, right?

It also helps though if you know how to put stuff on your calendar, it also helps if you do some planning week to week. And what I really like to tell people is when I sit down and I review my calendar two weeks out, for example, review my list, so I work from a list every day, it’s one of the actions in the book, I really see that as a mindfulness practice because I know that when I do that thing, when I review that calendar, when I have my list up-to-date, and I’m keeping track of things, and I know what’s coming, I relax. My mind is clear.

Even if I day full of appointments, when I look at that on Friday, it’s not going to happen until Wednesday, I know these are the things I need to be prepared for, these are the things that I’m planning, that are coming. Even looking back on the calendar, for example, a week can be really helpful. There might be meetings, and I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t grab that one. I told that guy I’d get him that thing, and I didn’t write that down. I need to write it down.” So, we really start to relax.

And so, I think that is one around the experience of time. That is one of the key practices that if people really are willing to just slow down to go fast type of idea, right, it really starts to shift our relationship and how we experience things.

Pete Mockaitis
And the practice is simply maintaining your calendar and a list of things and so that sounds like a prudent thing to do. And so, what would you say many astute professionals do instead of that that’s causing them problems?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, so good. That’s just so great. So, let’s see how this fits together, right? So, imagine this, imagine if believing that you don’t have enough time, I’m sure you’ve had that experience before, you don’t have enough time, and you’re starting to believe that. Now, if you already start to believe that you don’t have enough time, that’s like your operating system, what’s it like to think that you’re going to sit down and review your task list and your calendar? Right, exactly. You’re like, “I don’t have the time to do that. I just have to get things done.”

And so, people are playing whack-a-mole, they’re not grounded in, “What really requires my attention right now? What’s really most important right now?” and they spend an awful lot of time sort of rethinking things because you didn’t have it written down and you’re having to go back and sort of re-plan the thing that you’re going to do next. So, that’s what I want professionals do, and this is where I think where the mindset and the understanding of our attention and how we train ourselves to pay attention and how we work with the mind, where that fits in with the very practical thing that we talk about, which isn’t really rocket science, right? Like, review your calendar.

But when you get these two things working, kind of working against each other, it creates a ton of stress for people. So, yeah, that’s really how this starts to wire, sort of congeal itself into creating a lot of overwhelm and not the best practices for folks.

Pete Mockaitis
I see. So, sort of like a vicious cycle in terms of, “I don’t have time. I need to go ahead and do this thing,” and, thusly, they don’t take the time to plan and setup the calendar and that list, and then things get all the more out of control. And so, is it a similar kind of a pattern with the other four relationships? Can you maybe show us how that plays out with them?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. So, there’s sort of this common myth, this sort of mindsets that we get into, let’s take money, for example. And this is probably one of my favorite ones, honestly, because I work with very successful people, and it’s fascinating to me, and I ask them, “How much money do you need?” It seems like a reasonable question. None of them have an answer.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating. I want to dig into this a bit just because I know exactly how much money I need.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, me, too.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I guess, I don’t know, I sort of thought that was something that people who were interested in growing wealth knew. So, tell me a bit more about this. So, you’ve got dozens of clients, and you’ve asked them this question, and zero have told you a number?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. So, they struggle to have a number, and what’s really sort of lurking underneath all of that is, in some instances, they’ve had enough for a really long time. And it really starts to back them in a corner mentally, sort of in a way, because they start to see, like, “Wow, if I have all the money that I say I needed and that I wanted, then why am I not spending more of my time living my life the way that I really like to live it?”

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to spending time to generate more wealth.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

Daphne Scott
Which is fine but that’s not in and of itself a problem but, exactly, it’s sort of the way they relate to it. And so, the common myth that we all start to believe is that we need more. We need more money will ultimately make us happier. More money. And, by the way, when you get as much as you need and want, then you get to play the game of your fear of losing all of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

Daphne Scott
Right? So, you’re never settled, right? So, we’ll look at that. So, you start getting into this mindset around this, and this starts to drive that quest for more, that quest for greed, which lends itself to everything from people not spending time with their families, people not taking care of themselves, their physical wellbeing because they’re working all the time, to really, really horrific sorts of things, like creating fraud, defrauding people in the company, or stealing, all these sorts of things that we’ve read about in the news.

And so, when we have sort of this relationship with money, that the only way we’ll be happy is we have to have more, we’re not clear. We don’t have clarity around what is enough individually, and then even in our businesses, what does that need to look like. Leaders, really, and people in their lives, really get swept away then with this constant run on this treadmill all the time, and we’re not never going to get there so it creates a lot of stress for people.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Daphne, can I really put you on the spot here?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, totally.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you talk about what is enough? Can you share, for us, personally, as you thought through these things a lot, what is enough time, money, self, friends, unknown for you? And why?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. Well, enough time for me is me, really, lives in spending my time the way that it’s truly in line with my values and my purpose. And I want to tell you, again, it’s not a straight line. I think, in my experience, and I feel like I live in my genius 95% if not 100% of the time with my work, but it’s not a straight line. People are asking me to do things all the time, different things, things that, by the way, would be great. I wish I had the space to just say yes to everything on some level.

But then there’s the part where I know it’s not mine to do, and I had to really work it through in my life at getting very good at saying the word no. And I know if I go do it, my energy level won’t be that great. It ultimately won’t bring me the fulfillment that I really, really know that I can have. And once you start having that in your work, it becomes pretty palpable when you’re not doing it.

So, not matter what, when it comes to time, what I know is that I’ll never have enough to do the things I don’t want to do. And so, as soon as I start aligning myself with doing a lot of things that I don’t want to do, we just become more and more unhappy. There’s that. So, what’s enough? What’s enough time? I have all the time in the world to do the things that I want to do and never feel constricted around that.

Around money, it really was a matter of looking at, “What’s the wealth that I know I want to have to live a reasonable life and to be able to, obviously, pay my bills?” Now, my lifestyle is a little different. I don’t have children, by the way, so that changes some things for people who have kids, you have more responsibility in that way. But it was really a matter of setting up my life so that, quite frankly, where work wasn’t costing me more money. And I think when we start looking at life in that way, when I understood that the place that I was spending my time, how I was doing my work was really my energy, my life energy, and it was the only energy I had, it’s the most valuable thing that I do have, how do I really want to be “spending” that, and is there cost on the backend that I’m not paying attention to.

And then, on average, they say, the research says that once you hit about 80,000 to 90,000 a year, your positive emotion, access to positive emotion, doesn’t really increase that much, even up against people who are multimillionaires. And so, I really started to look at that, and I‘m like, “What is it for me to live my life in a way that can really allow me to retire ‘early,’ to have some financial independence? And what does it look like for me to set my life up that way so that I have more flexibility around my time and my money? I’m not in debt. I’m not walking around with the most heavily-marketed product outside of crappy food and the United States’ credit. What’s it like to just not be living like that?”

And so, I really started setting up my life that way and realized how much money. When you choose to live on less money, guess what happens to your retirement account? You need less.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, certainly, yeah.

Daphne Scott
You don’t need as much. So, yeah. And then, around my ambition and what that needed to really look like, and where was I out of my integrity with myself, meaning where I wasn’t in wholeness and driving myself in a certain way where I’d gain 30 pounds, my relationships are really falling apart. I even make this comment in the book, like I had all these great degrees and certifications but all my plants were dead, not taking care of things in my life, and not keeping friendships intact both at work and in and out of work.

I think one of the things I really landed on was that I was spending, and still do, a good deal of my energy, my life energy, working, that I love it. And to think you only have acquaintances at this place where you spend 40 or 50 hours or 60 hours a week, that gets pretty dry. And so, what was it to really understand and to live into, really, cultivating friendships and keeping track of people, and not just seeing people as a sort of a means to and end, or, “They’re just going to help get my done and then I’m going to go home”?

Yeah, so that was all of them except the unknown.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s hear it.

Daphne Scott
All right. Well, the unknown, really, the thing that I landed on with the unknown really has a lot to do…are you ready? It almost sounds like the buzzkill of the show, but really has a lot to do with death. I really got in touch with the reality that it’s coming, I just don’t know when, but it is coming. And I had a meditation that I was taught by one of my teachers, Stephen Batchelor, this is in the book. But it really is taking a close look at, and really sitting in this question that, given that is unknown, or given that it is known, that I will, one day, take my last breath, I will one day have taken my last walk, I will have one day pet my dog for the last time, given that that is true, but given that I don’t know when that is, now what should I do?

And that was really the meditation that started to unhook me quite a bit from being sucked into that myth that things were permanent, kind of letting me get outside of myself a little bit to realize that this whole thing that I’m doing and existing isn’t just about me, like other people matter, other people are here.

And so, given that, what should I do? Is it me going to be about me just accumulating more ambition, more degrees, more, more, more, knowing that this is all going to come to an end? Or is there some other way that I might want to be organizing my energy and spending my time, which is finite in that regard? For lack of a better explanation.

So, it was all these things together, how we relate to all these things together. And, interestingly enough, these were the things that I kept watching my clients struggle with. It was the same sort of thing, and I’m getting in these coaching conversations about, “Wow, I get it. I, too, have had these struggles.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued then, so when you do that meditation, so given the fact that I’m going to die, therefore, what shall I do?

Daphne Scott
And given the fact that I don’t know when that is.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. What sorts of action items tend to pop up over and over again for yourself and others when they engage in this?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, that’s great. One, it’s interesting because I’ve been doing that meditation for years, and one interesting thing, I think you’ll find this very curious because I find it curious, when you sit in it, it’s the ideas to let any answers come to you, and sometimes nothing phenomenal shows up, you’re just kind of doing your meditation. But one thing that does consistently pop up for me is the word rest. And how it lands is not like rest, like, “Go take a vacation.”

It’s more like a resting with what is. It’s more like a call to be with what is, which I think is probably a balance to my personality type, which is the unconscious or a part of my personality type is to want to be in control. It’s wanting to make sure things are going to happen. It’s wanting to have things turn out the way I think they should, right?

And so, there’s more to this theme of rest, be with what is right now, and more of this call for stillness, being still. And even in the midst of activity, having a sense of stillness, in the midst of us having a conversation, having the sense of stillness that there isn’t something that I have to make happen or that has to happen in this moment. So, that is a thing that comes up pretty reliably for me.

And then there’s really simple things like it can be I’ve done the meditation and just a simple thing will pop up, like, “Take care of your car.” Like, there might’ve been something that I was avoiding doing, and it finally just says, “Look, it’s time to go take action on this. Enough dragging your feet to have the thing.” So, it runs the gamut for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, all right. Well, so then we talk about rest, I’d love to get your take on are there some particular self-care practices that really seem to have a lot of bang for your buck in terms of much rejuvenation in not a lot of time?

Daphne Scott
Yeah. Well, again, this comes back to time for sure and how we relate to it, but I will say that, undoubtedly, there are two things that we know really impact people’s physical health. So, if we start to recognize, a few things I want to say about that, leading up to it, that the body, it’s what allows this being over here to move around. It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to nature. It will ultimately do what it’s going to do.

However, if we really start to look at what allows the body to really function well and to be in its best health, hands down, there are two things that have really been shown over and over again. The food that we eat really matters and getting some sleep. And, again, those aren’t really sexy things, right? Like, we are looking for sort of all these sorts of magic bullets, this sort of one-stop shop-type of thing.

And, for sure, in my own experience, when I am eating very healthy, meaning I’m staying away from processed foods, I’m staying away from foods that are laden with sugar, processed stuff, they’ve pulled all the good nutrients out of it, you’re eating out of a box kind of thing, staying away from that stuff, eating as healthy as you can, and getting, for me, it’s about seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Those two things really trump just about everything, anything that I could do.

And the science really has shown us a lot, I think, over this many last, you know, especially this last 10 years or so, although the media will try to grab all these weird sorts of things to try to tell you differently, but there’s just no substitute for that, I think, for the physical body. And this fits into our mental and emotional wellbeing. The body and the mind work together. And so, if we haven’t taken care of the physical being, and we haven’t made sure that we’re well-rested, and made sure that we had plenty of sleep, we act real crabby.

Like, the examples I love to give is, and especially people who have kids really get this. It’s like if you have a baby, let’s say the baby is one and a half, one years old, they’re not really talking, they’re non-verbal, and they’re crying. I’ll ask people in a group, like, “Tell me what your checklist is. Like, what do you go through if your baby is crying? You’re starting to analyze why is the baby crying. You have a checklist in your mind.”

It’s really great because parents will say things like, “Well, are they hungry? Do they need their diaper changed? Do they need to sleep? Do they need a nap? Do they need to move around?” That’s the other one as far as the body is concerned is getting regular movement. And I point out to people, I’m like, “I don’t know why we made this weird jump that just because we had a little body, and then it became a big body, that we don’t still need those same sorts of basic things.” We need to have good food, we need to get good sleep, we need to be well-hydrated as far as taking care of the body.

So, I think that really is something. And I could go on all day about sleeping. But that is really one of, really, a significantly-overlooked part of our health. For all of the emphasis that we can put on exercise and all these other things, I think sleep is what I watch people really skip out on. And all you have to do is pay attention to how you feel after you’ve been sleep-deprived for about one or two days, and we’re just aren’t in our best space. We’re just not going to be. The body is really running on empty so we really have to keep that gas tank full, and I think those are two of the big ones.

And then the third, of course, that I’m a huge fan of is meditation and learning how to pay attention because I think that is really at the root. When we can keep working with the mind, which is kind of the mind is really all we have, when we can keep working with the mind and training the attention in a certain way and teaching it how to pay attention, then we’re more skillful, actually, at noticing when things are getting off for us, we’re more skillful at noticing, “Wow, I am feeling like I need a bit of a break here,” then we can take action on things a little bit more clearly, and we’re aware of how we’re relating to things, too. So, I think those are the big three.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say meditation, what do you recommend people do to get that practice up and going?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, a few things. I will tell you Headspace is probably one. If you’re going to sort of go through the app route to learn, I am a huge fan of Headspace. Andy Puddicombe is the guy that put that together, and it’s such a great app. You can do 10 free sessions, and then there’s a nominal pay part to it that you can do. People can also access my meditations on InsightTimer. InsightTimer is a free application. And, actually, there are hundreds of meditations on there, and teachers too, and I have sort of an intro, a couple of intro meditations that people can do. But I think any of those are really good places for people to start so that they can sort of be guided through a process.

And then some people really like guided meditations and listen to them consistently. I kind of mix it up. I don’t do as much guided, I do a lot more just silent meditation. And I’d like to say a word, too, about one of the other forms of meditation that we probably need to talk about a little bit more. We talk about being seated and meditating a lot, that’s I think what most people imagine, right? But there’s walking meditations, and you can meditate and walk.

And I’ve even noticed in my own teachings when I work with people, I don’t talk about that probably as much as I could and probably should because learning how to sit, most of us are just not used to being still that long so that can take a little bit longer. Whereas, I find if people learn how to meditate and how to do a walking meditation, that can be just as beneficial. And so, you can use all these different postures, sitting, lying, walking, and be in those different positions, which I think is really good too. So, Headspace, a big fan, and my meditations are also on Insight Timer, too.

Pete Mockaitis
And if we’re doing a walking meditation, how does that go in practice?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, a couple of ways to do it. One, the way that I teach is, and the reason I like this is because it doesn’t take a lot. You don’t have to walk five miles to meditate. You can just do it in a space of about 20 feet long, which means that people can do it sort of in their office building or in their place of work too. But you find a stretch, about 20 feet or so, and the idea, the basic premise is that you’re putting your intention, and this is the basic premise of any meditation, but you’re putting your premise on what it is that’s really happening in that moment. And we really bring the attention to the feet, because you’re walking, and noticing what each step actually is like, and noticing that, like, “Oh, my right heel is touching the ground. My right toe is lifting. The bottom of my foot is touching the ground, and then my left leg is moving.”

And, really, bringing your attention to all of those moment-by-moment nuances as you’re just in this space of going from one side of the room, if you will, to the other side of the room, and then just simply turning and going back the other direction. And so, the idea is just bringing the attention and awareness to, “Oh, this is I’m stepping now, and this is the next step, and I’m doing that.” And so you’re using the walking and the stepping, and literally the foot making contact with the ground, as the anchor just like you might with the breath if you are using seated meditation.

Yeah, give it a shot. I think you’ll like it. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. If you haven’t done it before, it’s pretty cool. It’s a nice way to do it. And I think people really do enjoy it because you’re moving. I think people kind of can feel a little constrained when they’re sitting at first, and then do a combination of them, which is great. Yeah, it works pretty good.

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

Daphne Scott
No, I think that’s good. I think we got through the whole point.

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

Daphne Scott
I love the quote, it comes from Aristotle, but, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Yeah, I’m a really big fan of that quote, and I think because it brings me back to being mindful, it brings me back to being aware of how I’m organizing myself, how I’m moving through the world. And when I get on autopilot, I’m not paying attention, how I can be unskillful sometimes. So, yeah, I’m a big fan of that quote.

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

Daphne Scott
Oh, my gosh. I’m going to cite, there’s two. I have two favorite research articles. I’m going to totally nerd out now. By the way, I was a physical therapist and did clinical research in my first career. But one of my favorite articles was an editorial that was written by a pretty popular physical therapist at the time, Tony Delitto. And he wrote this article, and it was basically titled such, “Stop Looking for the Magic Bullet.” And he was writing about treating low back dysfunction in the United States, and how people were just trying to find this one cure-all, like people will just take a pill and they’d be rid of all their back pain.

However, that article really shifted my awareness of life in general, of how much time I was spending trying to find that magic bullet. And it was really what we were just talking about, Pete, around, “I’ll finally be happy when…” “If only…” And that article, I think he wrote that, I mean, I want to say it was like 1998 or something. It might’ve been 2001, but that always stuck with me even though it was very clearly around back pain. It was very clearly around clinical science. The idea, the premise stuck with me for a really long time, even till now.

And then the other study was done by Killingsworth, and it was on looking at how people are relating to what they’re doing in the moment and if that really matters. The idea is that our minds wander all the time and does it really matter? Does it matter if we’re really present? Everybody tells us it matters, but how much does it matter? How much does it really impact our experience day to day?

And so, they did this amazing study where they did experience sampling and they had these over 2,000 subjects, and they give them, it was an app on their phone, and they sort of could interrupt them through the day, and say, “Hey, what are you doing? Are you thinking about what you’re doing? And how much are you enjoying what you’re doing right now?” And so, they just collected all these variables from these people, and what they found was pretty amazing, actually.

First of all, this might not surprise you but, of course, when people are doing something that they enjoyed and they were fully present with it, they really enjoyed it. Interestingly enough though, when they asked people, “Hey, what are you doing right now? Are you liking it?” people are like, “Not so much.” “But how engaged are you with it?” And they’d be like, “Fully engaged.” And they’d say, “How much enjoyment are you getting? People reported just as high of positive engagement as they did when they were doing something that they actually enjoyed.

And what they really found, and this I think really comes back to the premise of my book, is that it’s when people were fully present with what they were doing, it didn’t matter as much. The actual content of what they were doing wasn’t driving how much wellbeing they were having in the moment. It literally was how present they were to what was happening that was really impacting the outcome of their enjoyment, positive emotion, and feeling engaged with what they were doing.

So, I thought that that study was very, very telling about the importance of how present we are in our day-to-day actions and our day-to-day life basically even when we might be having a difficult conversation with someone. The more present we are to it, the more benefit we can get out of it. So, those are two of my favorite studies.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Daphne Scott
My favorite book, I would have to say, I’m going to cite this one, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Have you heard of this book or read this book?

Pete Mockaitis
I have not read this one, no.

Daphne Scott
Oh, my gosh, okay. So, it is some of the most beautiful writings by Dillard, Annie Dillard. Some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read in a book. She opens up with this description of this tomcat that she’s living in sort of this kind of wooded shack type of thing, and this tomcat that comes into her room, and she just gives this amazing description of what this animal is like.

What I really love about the book is she literally would just go and watch. She’d sit out on this rock or she’d go out into the woods and she’d sit there, and she would just watch the most simplest of things, like a bug crawling across the grass, or the way the light was changing with the sun, and she would just write about. She writes about it.

And, to me, the book is just so representative of what it is to be fully present and what it is to really notice the tiniest of things that we sort of don’t give much attention to in our day-to-day existence. So, it’s one of my favorite books. I’ve read it like four times. Yeah, it’s not a leadership book, right?

Pete Mockaitis
But, in a way, it is. And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be more awesome at your job?

Daphne Scott
Yeah, a favorite tool. I use for my project and task management, I use the app Asana, and I’m a huge fan of their approach. It’s a flexible enough system. I practice quite from a productivity standpoint, tasks management, mindfulness of my stuff, David Allen’s approach in Getting Things Done, and that app works really well because it’s flexible enough and lets you set things up that way. It has great project-sharing tools and they have an app on the phone where I keep track of things with my assistants, so I really, really like it. And that’s pretty much my go-to for sure outside of my fancy pen. So, I do have some fancy pens that I like.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, tell us what brands. What do we get?

Daphne Scott
Well, I have a Mont Blanc pen that I really, really love. It’s a fountain pen but it has a cartridge in it instead of having to old-school put ink in it, and it’s like my favorite. And it’s black and it has a red cap. So, Mont Blanc is if I’m going to use a fancy pen, I will use that pen, yes, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Daphne Scott
A favorite habit. Meditation for sure. And reading in the morning. My ritual in the morning is I wake up, I do get a cup of coffee, that’s my favorite thing, and then I read for about 30 minutes, and then I do my meditation for about 30 to 45 minutes every morning. So, that’s my ritual. Those are my favorite habits for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular piece that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Daphne Scott
Yes. I think there are two. The biggest one was a statement I said earlier which is you always have all the time that you need to do the things that you want to do. That really lands for people. And you’ll never have enough time to do the things you don’t want to do. So, that one really lands for people. And I think the other thing that really lands for people is when I really allow them the space to discover that nothing is permanent. That’s a game-changer.

And once they realize it, they’re really trying to strive to keep things the same, hold onto the good times, keep away the bad times, which, by the way, isn’t a horrible thing for us to be wired that way. But I think what really lands for people is when I’m really telling them and getting them to understand that they don’t have to worry about the good times staying around or the bad times staying around, that nothing is permanent. So, that seems to really resonate.

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

Daphne Scott
I would point them to, they can go to my website www.WakingUpALeader.com. That’s where they can find the book. And, of course, the book is also on Amazon. And then they can message me there, and I also have a 10-week online leadership course, too, that they might want to check out if they’re interested in getting some of those really key critical skills to leading and living your life that could be helpful.

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

Daphne Scott
Yeah, I think my challenge that I would love to give to folks today to be awesome at their jobs is sit down once a week, clean up that list, and take a look at that calendar. That would be the challenge. Sit down once a week 30 minutes and see what happens. Just give it a shot. Give it a try. Yeah, that’d be my challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Daphne, it’s been fun. Yeah, I wish you great luck when it comes to all the ways you’re waking up and making it happen.

Daphne Scott
Yeah, thanks, man. This is super fun. I really appreciate the conversation. Thanks for having me on the show.

527: How to Boost Energy through Greater Mental Clarity with Chris Baréz-Brown

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Chris Barez-Brown says: "You'll be amazed where your brain can take you."

Chris Baréz-Brown shares high-impact approaches to boost your energy for more fulfilling workdays.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The surprising root of our energy problem
  2. The tiny change that massively boosts productivity
  3. A powerful way to lower stress and find clarity

About Chris:

Author and global event speaker, Chris has over 25 year’s experience in coaching, and counts multi-nationals such as ITV and Sky amongst the clients he’s helped transform their business, from a personal level up. He has interviewed senior business leaders including Apple’s Steve Wozniak and regularly coaches on leadership style at global events like Leadercast.

Chris recently created a new social enterprise programmed called Talk It Out, which has been proven to help reduce stress levels and increase self-awareness.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Chris Barez-Brown Interview Transcript

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

Chris Barez-Brown
Hey, it’s absolutely a pleasure to be here, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am so intrigued. You have taken the bold step of naming your business Upping Your Elvis. Please explain.

Chris Barez-Brown
Yeah, usually it raises an eyebrow or two to that. So, the name was actually inspired by Bono. So, when he was doing his third-world debt campaign, he used to want to go in organizations and work with and play really fast. So, he used to ask what I think is a great question, he just asks people, “So, who’s Elvis around here?” Now, if you ask that question, people are going to always answer it because what you’re really asking is, “Who here is a bit of brown, a bit of a maverick, they get stuff done, they got loads of energy about them?” And they love every minute of it. Now, I fundamentally believe that business needs more Elvis now than ever, and I know that we’ve all got a bit more of Elvis to bring. So, that’s what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly. Well, energy, I mean, hey, I’m all about having more of that. Can you paint a picture for us, what’s sort of the current state when it comes to energy levels in the workplace? And, yeah, what’s to be done about it?

Chris Barez-Brown
Well, I think the biggest problem is that we’re just not designed for business, and business is not designed for us. So, if you think about the way that we’re programmed, yeah, we’re designed 50,000 years to be hunter-gatherers on the Savannah and, therefore, we’ve got quite interesting programming as far as our brain is concerned, the way we react to stuff.

The business world in which we live right now is changing so quickly and it’s very hard to keep up with the dynamism of what’s going on when we are 50,000 years old. And, therefore, we have a few problems, like we don’t like change, we can’t focus for more than 90 to 120 minutes a day deeply. We’re not actually designed to sit down. We’re designed to move.

A lot of our design is making sure we have habitual patterns and routines we do every single day. And if things are changing fast, we’ve got problems. So, I think we’ve got some work to be done on our energy because we’re just not dealing with the way the business is speeding up.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Well, so then maybe to paint a picture in terms of what’s really possible for us, could you maybe share a tale of someone who wasn’t feeling it so much, they didn’t have a whole lot of energy, but then made some changes and has been enjoying the fruits of those labors?

Chris Barez-Brown
Yeah, so I was working in Basille last summer and a guy came up to me, and he said, “Chris, you’ve changed my life.” And I’m like, “Good. That’s a wonderful thing to hear, but can you give me some details?” And, basically, I haven’t seen him for three years. And when I was working with him, I shared how I manage my time and he had basically taken the principle of that and applied it to his.

It tells the story that basically he works in drug development, which is obviously quite a big job, it’s very complex, lots of moving parts. But what he did was he just stepped back from it and realized there’s two main things that he does. The first thing that he does is he spends lots of time doing deep thinking, and it’s all creative, it’s analytical, it’s looking at lots of data and working out what the answers are. And it’s quite cerebral stuff.

The second thing that he does is he runs lots of things internationally. Now, what he was doing before he met me was mixing those two functions up throughout the day, but actually they need two quite different energies and quite different approaches. So, what he now does is he walks the dog first thing in the morning, and I think this is a key thing for us all to do. Go outside, spend some time in nature thinking about, “What is your big thing you need to deliver that day?” Because if you don’t work that out when you wake, it ain’t going to happen. So, that’s the first he does.

The second thing he then does is he spends the morning at home doing that deep work, the thinking analyses, all of that great stuff, and then he goes into the office and he spends the rest of the day doing things. He reckons he is 500% more productive as a result of it and a lot happier because he’s not scrapping around so much trying to make different energies meet when it’s almost an impossible task. So, that’s a simple example of how a very easy behavioral practice can change the way we work.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. And so then, what do you think are the key reasons behind why these little changes make all the difference? Five hundred percent, I mean, that is substantial.

Chris Barez-Brown
That is substantial. Well, it’s all about really having great awareness of what makes us tick and how we function. And, actually, with awareness, it comes in very, very simple things, but we do them every day all the time. And the fact that they are things that we do repetitively, such as have meetings, learn and get feedback, think creatively about stuff. It’s stuff we’re doing on a daily basis. If we get just 10% better at doing those, there’s always an exponential impact over a whole year. So, I’m a massive believer in little things that you do every day that make a difference rather than the big, tricky, complicated things that actually a lot of the big change programs are focused on over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I’m with you there. And I’m intrigued by one of the little changes you’ve been exploring lately. You’ve got a Talk It Out program. Please explain. What is this all about?

Chris Barez-Brown
Yes. So, Talk It Out is a creative exercise that I first wrote about in my first book in 2005. And we’ve taught it to thousands of people and it’s great for getting insights and ideas. So, basically what you do is you grab a buddy and you go for a walk, and one of you just talks flat out about whatever it is that you’re trying to work on while the other person just listens. Now, if you do that fast enough and long enough you run out of conscious story and then you start to get into your subconscious. So, it’s great for an unearthing more of your creative genius.

Now, we’ve done that many times for ideas and creativity, but time after time people are coming back and saying, “I’ve got great insights, I’ve got great ideas, I’ve got more clarity. But you know what, I just feel better.” So, we’ve realized there was potentially some therapeutic benefits to this so we’ve researched it with the University of Bristol, and it turns out, to no surprise, it reduces anxiety, it increases happiness, and as a lot of people described, it just feels as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

So, the way that we’ve been thinking about it with the University of Bristol is we’re great at looking after our bodies with exercise and nutrition. This is a very simple thing you can do for your mind to make sure that, with all the complexity and demands on our attention, we just get the focus of the right stuff, and we give ourselves a chance just to breathe a bit more.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly, that sounds great and that’s really intriguing. So, you say after the first few minutes. Explain. We sort of drain the conscious stuff, and then we’re into new territory. How does that work exactly?

Chris Barez-Brown
Yeah. So, if anyone says to you, “So, how’s life?” you will tell them the conscious story, and it’s a story you would tell your family, your friends, it’s, “Oh, work is okay. It’s a bit busy, dah, dah, dah. The house is fine. It’s great to see the kids. Boom, boom, boom.” It’s that kind of conscious story. Now, as long as you’re telling that story, you are stuck in that 5% to 10% of your conscious brain.

Now, we know that there’s so much processing that’s going on in our subconscious. Actually, if you want to tap into what really makes you tick, tapping into that subconscious is the way forward because there’s a lot of stuff that’s going there that’s beneath the surface, that it often takes the way we think and the way that we feel without us being aware of it. So, if we can flush that out, we will start to understand what’s really going on for us, and rarely is it the conscious story. It’s usually some stuff that’s a bit surprising, it’s hidden away.

By bringing it into consciousness and by bringing it into the light and talking about it with somebody else, we can look at it in the cold light of day and then deal with it, and say, “Well, is this something that I want more of in my life, the less of in my life? Is this something I need to fix? Is it something that I just need to live with?” But if you leave it just in the subconscious, you’ll never know. You’re just often walking around, going, “There’s something bothering me but I don’t know why?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. And so then, that’s intriguing because you have that dedicated time. And you recommend a specific amount of time. How much is it?

Chris Barez-Brown
I do. So, the whole process, we pack away in an hour, but you do 20 minutes each way and, obviously, there’s little setup beforehand, and then after 20 minutes you just need to land where you’ve got to, and then you swap over, you go the other way. And the beauty of it is, if you do it with a buddy, you both get a chance and, therefore, there’s a real connectivity that comes from that.

And one of the biggest issues we’re going to be facing over this planet over the next 20, 30 years is actually loneliness. And loneliness has a massive impact on our wellbeing. And what we hear time and time again from people doing Talk It Out is, “Yes, I feel better. My anxiety has dropped. I’ve got more clarity but I also then feel so alone.” And that’s the beauty of, therefore, doing it in a partnership.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then, let’s hear it. So, we got 20 minutes of each side, and then some setup. And so then, how does it go down? Is it just sort of like, “Okay, you talk, Chris,” and then away you go or are there some prompts, some structure? How does it go down?

Chris Barez-Brown
Well, so we’ve got some digital stuff that people can access online for free just to teach them how to do this because this is a charitable arm so we’re trying to get this out to as many people as we can. So, it’s all structured. If people want to check it out, you can find out on TalkItOut.org or Upping Your Elvis, there’s information about it. It’ll just give you a little setup.

So, if you haven’t done this before, it’s good to just get a warm up in. If I’m facilitating a session, I’ll often get a pair just to go for a quick one-minute walk in either direction and just rant about something just to get used to walking and talking. You then come back and then at that point, you set them off and you’re taking turns, say, “Whoever wants to go first, rants.” They can talk about any aspects of their life.

The key thing is it’s something that is on their mind. It might be health, it could be relationships, it could be work, but the key thing is they shouldn’t be filtered. They’re just talking flat out and as honest as possible, and actually with a bit of pace because you don’t want to talk too slowly or you don’t run out of conscious story. So, that’s the brief, it’s as simple as that.

Now, their buddy, their brief is great because all they’re listening for is changes in energy. So, if the person talking slows down, speeds up, gets stuck, starts swearing, those are the things that are interesting. So, we pick up on those energetic changes really well. We’re not listening to everything that’s said, we’re just looking for the energy changes. And those are the things that give us a clue that they said something interesting because that’s how the subconscious talks to us.

So, when you stopped after 20 minutes, your buddy just goes, “Hey, here’s a few things I noticed,” and they just play it back. They’re not advising you, they’re not coaching you, they’re not telling you what to do, they’re just saying, “Look, I just thought these may be interesting.” And then you have a chance to land it. And, invariably, when people land it, they’ve definitely got more clarity.

If you rant for 20 minutes about your life, you will get more clarity. A lot of people get some key insights into things that are holding them down and actually blocking their energy. And a lot of people come away just going, “You know what, I’ve got some actions from that. This is what I’m going to be doing differently from today,” which I think is a pretty productive use of 20 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say land it, what precisely do you mean there?

Chris Barez-Brown
Well, the challenge with doing any subconscious exercise, and actually the same could be said of dreaming, we often wake up in the morning, we’ve got this dream in our heads, and we go, “Wow, that’s amazing. I have to tell my friends at work.” We go to work and we can’t remember anything because, actually, when you’re in the subconscious, by definition, that’s not part of your conscious activity.

So, what you need to do when you’ve gone through this rant is make it conscious. So, you, therefore, need to listen to your buddy, what insights they’ve had from your rant, and then you’ve got a chance just to articulate where you’ve got to, “So, after just doing this exercise, what I’ve realized is this, or what I’d like to pay attention to is this. This is the headlines of my output.”

And, actually, by articulating that, it helps you access it, sorry, plumb it, write it into your memory so you’ve got something you can work with into the future. So, it’s as simple as that. It’s just a simple way to make sure you are using the insight that you’ve got.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say you can talk about anything just so long it’s something on your mind and you are talking completely honestly, so then I guess I’m curious, have you started to notice some themes in terms of…? Because it’s kind of unique, frankly, to have the opportunity to rant about something for 20 minutes without interruption.

Chris Barez-Brown
Sure. Yeah, it is.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I can how there’s some therapeutic benefit to that. So, when people are handed this opportunity, what do you find are some key themes that get talked about and maybe are suggestive of we need more opportunity and environment to be able to discuss these things more frequently?

Chris Barez-Brown
Well, there are the classics that come out. So, being overly busy and not really living life as much as people want to, not tapping into their passions, people still talk about work-life balance quite a lot. There’s a fair amount of people who are looking for more meaning in their life, which is an ever-present one as it should be.

Most people just tend to find there are certain elements in their life that need a bit of order. We have a lump of people that come around going, talk to me saying, “Hey, I’ve got a problem with a relationship,” and it’s very top of mind, and they get straight into it, and they find that that works. Interestingly, a lot of people go and say, “Well, I just talk about life.” They don’t know what their issue is they want to crack, but the subconscious will help them get there.

So, as they talk, it changes topic to topic to topic until they find the thing that’s got some energy and then they go deep. So, it’s interesting the way the brain works, right? It kind of finds the true blockages and the true things that hold us back if you let it off to lead long enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Well, so then, I’m curious, if we don’t have Chris and company facilitating these sessions, how do you recommend we get started in enjoying some of these benefits on our own?

Chris Barez-Brown
Sure. Well, I would check out the digital support that we’ve got on the website, so Upping Your Elvis or TalkItOut.org. It’s got everything there. It’s got instruction videos, it’s got a little step-by-step guide, but it’s incredibly easy. There’s lots of things I’ve taught in my life that needs manuals and training and practice, this is not one of them.

We are all brilliant at walking. And guess what? We can talk while we walk. In fact, most of us talk much better while we walk because we process kinesthetically. There’s a great research study by Stanford that shows that when we walk in our natural gait, our creative spikes by up to 60%, 6-0 percent, and that’s because we are accessing our subconscious.

So, we’ll often find, when we’re walking, we just get more clarity and more things come out, so there’s not a great deal to it. The important thing is, and this is the golden rule, whilst you’re talking and your buddy is listening, your buddy just listens. That is the golden rule. As long as people are doing that, it’s good. If they start chipping in and having a conversation, which is really tempting, you’ll not going to get the depth and it’s just chat. So, beyond that there’s very little you can get wrong. Just have some fun with it and you’ll be amazed where your brain can take you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that seems like a powerful approach to boosting energy certainly. What would you say, in all of your research and experience and working with clients, etc., are some of the other really big high-leverage activities you’d recommend folks engage in to boost that energy?

Chris Barez-Brown
That’s a great question. We just spent the last year doing what we call energy experiments where we will do ourselves what we hope what our clients will do. And we’ve done everything from using different kind of strategies for sleep, fasting, some fitness stuff, digital detoxes. And, interestingly, there are some of those that just resonate more than others, one of which is a morning routine.

And morning routines, I don’t know what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years, but I had no idea of the power of a morning routine. And yet the more I research it, the more I realize all my heroes and heroines were already doing it just quietly but the secret is now out. So, my belief of why this is so important is when you wake up, it is the one time of the day that you own. Now, that is the moment that actually is, as long as you stay away from your phone and you don’t look at anything digital, you have a chance to get your energy right.

So, we’ve been doing some experiments with some very simple things as part of a morning routine, one of which you’ve got to hydrate when you wake up. So, we wake up very dehydrated, so drink a pint of water with some sea salt in it, high-quality sea salt because you need the electrolytes to take it on, and you should do that on waking.

Keep away from everything digital, get your heartrate up, just a little bit of exercise, and then I think sitting outside, as I mentioned with the guy walking the dog, and just getting clear on what your big thing is, is just an invaluable thing to do because you know autopilot is going to kick in, you know you’re going to get caught up in busyness. But if you get that direction right first thing in the morning, at least when it does, you’ve got a chance and you’ll succeed and achieve something useful.

So, that is one I absolutely love and that’s where we get uniform feedback that that is super useful. But a personal passion of mine, and I’m going off of one slightly, is cold water immersion. I don’t know if you’re into that, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’ve heard of it, and I’ve seen it. Tell us more.

Chris Barez-Brown
So, I go into it through Wim Hof, the Dutch guy is known as Iceman a few years ago, and I live by the sea so cold water is not hard in Britain. But the benefits of getting into the sea, especially around December, like it is now, just seems to be fantastic at doing all sorts of things for you. Very, very good for you physically, very good for you also mentally, I find. It tends to clear things out, makes you incredibly present, but it’s an extreme one, Pete. So, I’m not going around making my clients do that. It’s one that I personally really enjoy. If I start the day with a jump in the sea, I know I’m going to be fizzing.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog. And, now, so I guess I’m thinking about motherly wisdom, “Oh, don’t get super cold. You’ll get sick.” That does not happen to you?

Chris Barez-Brown
Well, no. I mean, it’s actually good for your immune system. So, by exposing yourself to cold, chances are you’ll get less sick. I know lots of people that do it every single day of the year, that it’s almost a religion to them, and they are the fittest people I know. You rarely see them with a cold, you rarely see them run down. So, no, I think quite the contrary.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. Well, so we’ve got a few of them, a few of those approaches, so we got the morning piece, we got the hydration, we got perhaps a dip. Once the morning has passed, so what are some of your top recommendations for keeping energy flowing the rest of the day?

Chris Barez-Brown
Sure. So, there’s a couple of, I think, ignored moments. Well, one is lunchtime. It’s amazing how many people work through their lunch and they don’t take a break. Our lunchbreak is the equivalent of five weeks holiday a year, and yet people just keep working through it. And five weeks holiday, I think, most people would really relish so we should take that. And it’s important because it’ll help us reenergize but, actually, we can use that time really well for us. We can do stuff that fill us. So, we can learn something, we can connect with people, and give ourselves a boost again for the afternoon.

Personally, a little bit of exercise is great at lunchtime. So, using the lunch also to reflect on the morning and then set an intention for the afternoon, I think, is a very clear thing to do. I’m also, and I have to confess, Pete, I’m a cheeky napper, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Cheeky?

Chris Barez-Brown
Yeah, I sneak off and have a little sleep when I can in the afternoon. And what I learned from Nick Littlehales, a sleep coach, is that we’re not designed to be monophasic in sleeping. So, this whole idea of having eight and a half hours every night in one big block is not the way we’re designed. We’re actually designed to be polyphasic, i.e., we’re going to sleep more than once in a day. And, therefore, if you feel as if you need a little top-up, a little nap during the day is actually what our body often craves.

So, I’m a big fan of actually going away, just having a little quiet time just to refuel. In fact, I had one just about an hour and a half ago. And I’ve been working about 11 hours flat out, I’ve been up very early this morning, had lots of stuff to do, and I just need a little boost before I talk to you. So, a little nap and here I am.

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

Chris Barez-Brown
Anything else I want to mention. Well, I think, as I said at the beginning, the whole game here around energy is threefold. Number one, it’s about awareness. We need to understand what makes us tick, and actually learning the way our biorhythms are like, and when we have our peaks and when we have our dips, and what we can do to play with those, I think, is really, really important.

I think, then, understanding how that’s kind of deployed on a daily basis to make sure that the leakages don’t happen through excessive meetings, through spending far too much time in the weeds, answering emails, all those things, is key to our success. So, awareness and topping up, that’s one and two really important, but the deployment is the thing that, I think, makes all the difference because it’s so easy these days to just wake up and be buffeted by demands. And learning how to manage things so you’re working on your agenda is the key.

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

Chris Barez-Brown
I suppose one of my favorites is, “Not everything that counts can be counted.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Chris Barez-Brown
I like that one. I like that one because, in my business, I’m sure you come across the same thing, it’s all about ROI. Everything is about the number. It’s all about the money. And yet the stuff that makes people tick in organizations is the stuff that you can’t count. It’s about joy. It’s about love. It’s about the stuff that brings people to work to do extraordinary things. There’s nothing to do with our salary. And I find that in every walk of life, not just in work but in homes and in life. And I think we need to remember sometimes, not everything is about spreadsheet.

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

Chris Barez-Brown
I presume you’ve read Lost Connections, the Johann Hari book. There’s so many studies in there. And I know that the book is all about depression and anxiety, and how you can find hope, but I just think it’s like a manifesto for living. It’s got so much stuff in there that basically can help us have an insight and to have every day work for us.

And there’s one piece of research in there that just pretty much slayed me. If you are intensely lonely, the impact on your body as far as cortisol and adrenaline, is the equivalent or more of being hit in the face by a stranger. And when you hear facts like that, and you start to think, “Well, what are we doing to help people get that connection?” I think that takes me to quite profound places and it makes me think that actually we need to do much better work on this planet and within organizations to get them to hook up on stuff with meaning.

So, that was one that certainly had a big impact on me.

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

Chris Barez-Brown
One of my favorite tools, and this isn’t directly for my job, is my guitar. It’s not that I go on stage and play it, that’s certainly not what I would make everyone do. But I travel quite a lot, and what I find is that 20 minutes of playing my guitar in my hotel room is the best way for me to get my energy back. It takes me to a different place, it de-stresses me, there’s a creative output, and, therefore, it helps me get in the right place to do the work the next day. So, I would say my favorite tool is my guitar.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite habit?

Chris Barez-Brown
I would say being outside with my dogs is my favorite habit. So, I’ve been out with them three times a day. Each time I have gone out with a headful of stuff. Each time I’ve come back with it nice and clear again. And walking in nature, playing with dogs who love you beyond your worth, and just remembering the simple things in life, I think, is incredibly grounding.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Chris Barez-Brown
I suppose the one thing that seems to connect with everybody, that they sometimes forget, is that a third of our days on this planet are work days. And if we’re not loving every minute of it, it’s a terrible waste of life. And I think sometimes people forget the joy and the playfulness of the work that they do, and it becomes way too serious. And, often, when people connect to that statistic, they go, “Oh, fair point. Fair point. Am I making sure I’m properly living my life through my work? Or is it just a way of paying the bills?”

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

Chris Barez-Brown
Yeah, come to the website UppingYourElvis.com or Barez-Brown.com got all the information on there. And if anyone wants to play with us on Talk It Out, and help us get out into the world, we’re doing it all for free. We just can’t do it on our own. So, any partners who want to play, we are here with open arms.

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

Chris Barez-Brown
You know, I think the key thing is that when you get your energy right, which you do through morning routines and looking after yourself and clearing your diary and making sure you’re working on the right stuff, I think it’s then incumbent upon us all to be more kind. So, my challenge would be, once a day, grab somebody in your life, and just tell them what you love about them. And I think what you’ll find, if you do that, you’ll get so many benefits.

Number one, your relationship with that person will get better. Number two, it’s karmic so you will find that you will get a little bit of love back, which we all need. Number three, what you’ll start to find is that you’ll program your selective attention to see just more good. And I think that’s a great personal benefit and you’re doing that will make the world a bit better. So, find one person per day in your life, it could be a work colleague, it could be a family, your friend, say to them what you love about them, and your day will be that much more shiny.

Pete Mockaitis
Chris, thank you for sharing the good word. And good luck in all the ways you’re upping your Elvis.

Chris Barez-Brown
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me on, Pete. It’s been a real joy.

512: Retraining Your Brain for More Effective Leadership with Matt Tenney

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Matt Tenney says: "The best leaders make love their top priority."

Matt Tenney discusses how mindfulness vastly improves the way we lead and relate with others.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How an emphasis on goals hurts your leadership
  2. A monastic practice that improves engagement
  3. Why mindfulness is the ultimate success habit

About Matt

Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur and the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a BoardroomHe is also an international keynote speaker, a trainer, and a consultant with the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute, whose clients include numerous Fortune 500 companies.  He works with companies, associations, universities, and non-profits to develop highly effective leaders who achieve lasting success by focusing on serving and inspiring greatness in the people around them.  Matt envisions a world where the vast majority of people realize that effectively serving others is the key to true greatness.  When he’s not traveling for speaking engagements, he can often be found in Nashville, TN.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Matt Tenney Interview Transcript

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

Matt Tenney
My pleasure, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into a lot of your good stuff from servant leadership and mindfulness and more. And in the subtitle of your book Serve to Be Great, you mentioned there’s some leadership lessons from a prison and a monastery. So, I love a good story. So, what are the cool stories coming from the prison and the monastery?

Matt Tenney
Well, there’s a lot.The summary here is that I’m pretty hardwired, I would say I’m 100% hardwired to be just a Type A, goal-driven, pretty selfish person, and I think we all have certain ways that we’re wired, and that’s certainly me.

But this certainly reached its peak when I was, this is 2001, that was about 18 years or so ago. When I was 24, I tried to take a shortcut to success and attempted a fraud against the government and, as a result of being both dishonest and stupid, I ended up spending five and a half years confined to prison. And, at first, of course, this was just the worst thing that had ever happened in my life and I was suicidal for a while.

Then, as everybody does, I think when you’re in a really difficult situation, whether it’s one you put yourself in like I did, or one that just kind of happens to you, you gradually adjust. And about a year into it though, I started learning about the practice of mindfulness and this actually made that experience of being confined, it transformed it into the most meaningful experience of my life.

Because I’m Type A, when I started learning about it, I went at it 100%. And within about six months of starting the practice, I was making the effort to be mindful, just about every waking moment of the day, during all of my daily activities. And it was around that time when it just hit me one day that, “Holy cow, I’m actually happier here that I’d ever been in my life.” And I don’t know anything, and I’m not achieving anything, I’m just being, and there’s no fun per se.

So, that inspired me to go as deep as I could in the practice and I ended up essentially ordaining and training as almost identically to how monks train in monasteries for the last three and a half years.

I found the monastic ideal to be extremely noble because the core of it is you’re making love the top priority. Instead of making your own selfish ambition or your own goals the top priority, you’re making, contributing to the wellbeing of others your top priority.

And that turned my time of confinement into the most meaningful experience of my life, so much so that that experience inspired me so much so that, after leaving, I went to live “real” monastery and almost ordained to become a monk the rest of my life, but then realized for me that would be like trying to take another shortcut because it was really easy for me.

I’m an introvert, I like having lots of quiet time, so I realized if I really want to be able to serve on a large scale and be most helpful to people, I need to go out in the real world and do stuff, and earn a living, and probably have a family, which I do now with two small kids, so people can relate better to what we’re talking about.

I would imagine if a monk came into the average company and said, “Here’s the way to be more at peace and more successful,” everything that person said is going to be taken with a grain of salt because you’re thinking, “Dude, all you do is sit around and meditate and do the dishes. Like, what do you have to worry about?” So, that was why I ended up not ordaining. But I’ve tried to live as close to the monastic ideal as possible for the last 17-18 years on my journey from prisoner to monk to social entrepreneur.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating and there’s so much to dig into there. All right. So, let’s talk about some of the nitty-gritties of mindfulness and practice a little bit later.

Matt Tenney
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
And, first, talk about sort of this mindset that when it comes to making love the ideal and serving others. So, you talk a lot about servant leadership. Can you share how exactly do you define that and how does that differ from the norm?

Matt Tenney
Well, the kind of the standard definition of servant leadership is if you imagine a pyramid and most organizations are structured with a C suite at the top of the pyramid and then below them are VPs, below them are directors, below them are mid-level managers, and then all of your frontline people fill out the base of the pyramid.

And the basic idea of servant leadership is that instead of viewing the hierarchy like that, where you’ve got these very senior people on the top and everyone in the organization is serving them and their agenda, it’s actually upside down. So, the senior people view their job as serving all the people that they lead.

And, counterintuitively, another way of putting this is the way that I like to put it is making love the top priority. In fact, I just did a TEDx Talk that that was the title, why the best leaders make love their top priority. And there’s an abundance of evidence demonstrating why this is so. But you can summarize it very, very simply. I mean, it’s kind of common sense.

The idea is if you make profit the top priority, you, as a leader, you’re either going to consciously or unconsciously neglect employees in a systematic way. And when employees are consistently neglected, they’re going to become increasingly disengaged over time and, as a result, customer service is going to decline, product quality is going to decline, and innovation is very unlikely to occur. In other words, the organization is eventually going to fail to serve the customer. In fact, they might be failing immediately.

Whereas, if you flip that, so to me a servant leader or someone who makes love the top priority, the filter that they use for every decision is, “How is this going to impact the long-term wellbeing of the people that I lead, that I take care of?” And if the answer is it’s going to have a negative impact, then it’s eliminated as an option.

And, counterintuitively, what happens when you do this is when people know that the leadership genuinely cares about them and is more concerned about their long-term wellbeing than they are on their next bonus, then what happens is people take very good care of their customers, right, through customer service, through better quality, through being more free to innovate because they’re not in a culture of fear. And, as a result, the customer is very well-served and, of course, the key to any organization, whether it’s for profit, non-profit, education, is having customers that are happy and loyal. And that’s the way that that’s achieved over the long term.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, that filter is particularly applied from the employee perspective, like how all these affect their long-term wellbeing of those I lead. And so, those you lead, you’re thinking about employees as opposed to customers.

Matt Tenney
Exactly, yeah. If you take very good of the employees, they take good care of the customers. And that’s actually something that a lot of organizations get wrong, in my opinion, is that you hear a lot of organizations say, “We have this intense customer focus.” And so the problem with that is, it’s not that it’s wrong, and I’m sure everyone listening and knows a story that they can relate to about this, but if you have a customer that’s a real pain in your side, they’re a pain for all of the employees that serve that customer.

And if they’re demanding too much and it’s unrealistic, to continue to enable them to do that, what you’re ultimately doing is you’re degrading the wellbeing of your employees and their ability to serve not only that customer but other customers. Morale goes down, and it’s actually a net loss. Whereas, if you were to say, “Okay. Well, this customer is a real pain. We need to ask them to change their behavior or fire them,” in the short term that sounds really scary, right? You say, “Wait a second, but that’s a big source of revenue.” Well, revenue is nice but not at the expense of the morale and the wellbeing of your team members, because if that degrades, not only is that customer going to end up being failed to be served but others will be as well.

And this is actually one of the counterintuitive applications, I’m sure many of you have heard of the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 Rule, that many of the most successful entrepreneurs I’m aware of apply, is they realize that 20% of their customers are delivering 80% of their results and, usually, those 20% are really easy to work with. Many of that 80% of your customers that are only delivering 20% of the results, and oftentimes they’re the ones that complain the most, they create the most stress for employees. So, a good practice is to, as many of those as you can afford to do it, to refer them out to your competition. Let your competition serve them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. So then, I’m thinking about zooming in a little bit in terms of, okay, so we’re making love the top priority and you’re filtering out based on that guideline. What are some of the everyday practices, behaviors, activities that really make this come to life?

Matt Tenney
That’s the secret right there, Pete. So, in my experience, I wrote Serve to Be Great I think in 2012 or something so that book has been out for seven years and I’ve spoken extensively on this subject, interacted with many leaders, many employees and organizations, and, almost invariably, everyone wants to do this.

There are very few people that get up and say, “You know, my recipe for success is I’m going to go into work today and be a selfish jerk. That’s my plan.” I’ve never met anyone like that. I’m sure they’re out there but they certainly don’t come out and proclaim that to you. Everyone that I’ve met wants to do this. But I think if you were to ask most people to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being you do this consistently 100% of the time, and 1 you never do it, most people aren’t anywhere near at 10. Most people would rate themselves at a 6 or 7, maybe an 8 at best.

So, the way I like to look at it is, well, let’s think about it as, “What’s stopping us from doing it?” because we all want to, right? What are the biggest blocks to doing this? And this kind of comes back to your original question about the subtitle of the book, “Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom.” Interestingly, I think the three biggest blocks are resolved by living a little bit more like a monk.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Matt Tenney
By that, I don’t mean people need to go out and be monks. But I’ll give you the three big ideas and then you can dive in wherever you like and we can go as deep as you like.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Good.

Matt Tenney
So, here’s the summary. So, the three big blocks, in my mind, are, one, is that because of our conditioning and the way society has programmed us, we don’t focus on making love the top priority. We focus on achieving goals. And not that there’s anything wrong with achieving goals. The problem is if we focus on achieving goals at the expense of our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us, that’s when that becomes problematic.

So, the first biggest block is that we just don’t focus enough on what we know in our heart of hearts is the most important thing not just in business but in life, which is to prioritize loving people over getting stuff or getting stuff done in a worldly sense. The second block is we’re busy. Have you noticed this, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Matt Tenney
People are busy. As I’m sure every listener listening to this knows that we’re all very busy. And there is science supporting, and we can talk about the study if you like. It’s actually both a hilarious and sad study at once demonstrating what, I think, we all know to be true, is that the busier you are, the less likely you are to serve the people around you, the more likely you are to be focused on your own self-interests and short-term gain.

And then the third one is we’re incredibly distracted, and not just distracted by things, but even by our own thinking, and this is where mindfulness training becomes absolutely key. So, that’s the summary, and then, yeah, wherever you’d like to dive in, I’d be happy to.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I am intrigued by, I think, the study you have in mind, the one about the seminarians who read the good Samaritan story.

Matt Tenney
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s come up a couple of times, so I’ll let those who haven’t heard of it yet Google it and enjoy, but it’s a goody. It’s a goody.

Matt Tenney
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
So, let’s hear about we don’t focus on love, we focus on achieving goals. And you make a nice distinction between there’s being goals and there’s doing goals. And this has been kind of resonant for me lately because I’ve got a pretty crystal-clear picture on one page, like everything that I want to achieve in life, and I feel great. Like, that’s it. That’s everything, it’s on a page, we got clarity. Game on. But I don’t have as much crystal clarity on everything I want to be in life. And I’m working on that right now, I’m thinking about who I really admire, and what is it about them, but it’s a work in process for me at the moment, and so not yet at that level of clarity. So, lay it on us, how do we shift that focus?

Matt Tenney
Well, I think the first step that’s a very, very simple one, there are multiple steps of this, but the simple one that can be applied immediately and has immense benefit is to just simply shift our focus. Because if you think about what we’re focusing on, on a day-to-day basis, most of us reflect on that, there’s not a whole lot of time, especially if we’re in a really demanding work environment where we’re really focused on, “What am I doing to serve my teammates?” Or, if you’re in a leadership position, “What am I doing to serve my direct reports or my peers as leaders?” Where it’s just from one thing to the next, right? It’s like, “Well, I got this. I have got to take care of this. I have to take care…” and there’s pressure to achieve the goals, so we focus on that.

And where I think it can start most simply is just by simply changing your job description and using that as something that you review at least every day – to start, I would recommend multiple times a day – so that you start to refocus. In fact, at first, if you really feel like you’re just in a really demanding environment, you may want to read your job description once an hour, you know, take a five-minute break, go to the bathroom, come back and re-read this job description.

But what I suggest is if you simply change your primary job description and then place everything else as a secondary responsibility, because if you look at most job descriptions, they’re just terrible and they’re not inspiring. Your average leader job description is, “Oh, you’re in charge of the strategic planning and the direction of the organization and working with stakeholders, blah, blah, blah, blah.” That’s, for one, is not inspiring. Two, it doesn’t really give you an idea of what you really need to be focused on as your primary goal in making love and serving the people around you that primary goal.

So, what I suggest is you just simply reword it. I’m not saying go to HR and say, “Hey, can you rewrite my job description for me?” But this is what I’ve done with every job I had until I started working for myself, and when I worked for myself, it’s very easy because our mission is just obvious and the vision is obvious, so it’s not really written per se as a job description, but you could just change your first line of your job description as, “My job is to help the people around me to thrive.”

And if you want to be more elaborate, “To do whatever I can to do good by the people around me, to contribute to their wellbeing and their growth. And that’s my primary job. Everything else in my job description is a secondary duty.” And if you just remind yourself of that, it’s amazing what happens to brain.

This is actually one of the keys of the transformative process of the monastic training is that you recite vows every single day, reminding yourself multiple times. At first, it was probably 20 or 30 times a day reciting this vow that, essentially, my job is to help all people to be happy and to be free from suffering, which is obviously a bit grandiose but it’s inspiring. It’s like, “This is why I wake up in the morning. I work on myself to make myself better so that I can be a benefit to others and help them to be happy and to, thereby, make a better impact in the people around them.” That’s the core of monastic training.

So, to give little examples of how this works, we’ll start with maybe a case study, and you can cut me off, Pete, if this one has come up a lot as well. But, years ago, and I think this might be close to 15 years or so ago, Disney was having problems with their custodial staff. Do you remember hearing about this?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no. Keep going.

Matt Tenney
Okay. So, the problem was, as I’m sure almost everyone knows, Disney pride themselves on an amazing guest experience. That’s what they want to deliver. They want everyone who comes there to have a magical experience as a guest. And what was happening was the custodial staff was getting all of these complaints about how they were being rude and they weren’t being helpful, and it just kind of degraded from the experience at Disney which, of course, was a huge problem for them.

So, they put a lot of energy into trying to resolve this. And what it turned out, they figured out what the problem ultimately was, was the job description. The job description read, “Your job is to keep the park clean. You need to keep the bathrooms clean. You need to keep the trash looking neat. You need to keep all the walkways clean and tidy.”

So, think about this, if that’s your job description, and you see guests walking around throwing trash all over the place, you view the guests as your enemy essentially, right? “This person is making my job really hard.” And so, when someone, when a guest who just threw trash on the ground came up and ask the custodian, “Hey, where is the Dumbo ride?” the custodian would say, “I don’t know. I’m just a janitor,” and that was their response.

So, they decided, “Well, they do more than that. They’re part of our team. They’re part of delivering happiness to our guests. Why don’t we let them know that?” And they changed the job description, they said, “Your job is to create happy guests, to contribute to the happiness of our guests. How do you do that? Well, you provide them with directions when they need it, you give a kind smiling face when they ask you questions. And, as a collateral duty, you pick up the trash, and you clean the bathrooms, and blah, blah, blah, blah.”

And guess what happened? All the complaints went away, janitors were motivated and inspired to come to work because they had a noble cause for coming to work, which is to serve people and bring happiness to people, which is something we all want to do, and the guest satisfaction scores went up, and the job satisfaction for the janitors went up. Everybody wins.

So, I don’t know if there’s any neuroscientist that can explain this perfectly, but I think what’s happening is, from my limited understanding of the neuroscientist friends in my circles, is that we have a portion of the brain, and a lot of people attribute this to the particular activating system or the particular formation that its job is to filter out that which we don’t think is important.

And we’ve all had the experience of you buy a new car or you meet a new friend with a unique name and then, all of a sudden, you start seeing that car everywhere, or you hear that name everywhere.  And we know, intellectually, that car just didn’t magically multiply all over the place because we bought it, or that name just didn’t magically get slapped on everyone just because we heard it. What happened is our brain started telling us that it’s important so we start to see it everywhere this thing that we had never seen because our brain didn’t allow us to see it.

And my guess is this is what’s happening, is when you start to tell your brain, over and over and over again, “This is what’s really important to me,” you start to see opportunities to serve others and to love well. You start seeking out opportunities to improve in that area. You start to eliminate activities that degrade your ability to love well. Why? Because you’ve simply shifted your focus.

And, again, I think the easiest way to do that is to just change your job description and read it every day for a while until you really start feeling that, “Hey, I believe this. I believe that my core job description is to help the people around me to thrive.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And so, then you naturally notice those opportunities because it’s built in there. And that’s a nice tip there is that it may take a couple dozen reps and the first days to get into that groove. Excellent. Thank you. So, a lot of stuff coming together here with regard to that creates satisfaction for your own self in terms of you’re enjoying the job more as well as for the folks that you’re leading, they think, “This person is great. I enjoy working with them.” So, a lot of good stuff happening here.

So, let’s talk then about mindfulness in particular. You’ve called it the ultimate success habit. First, why is that?

Matt Tenney
Well, I use that word very intentionally and very precisely because I think we kind of live in two worlds at once, right? So, we have this conventional world where stuff like getting a paycheck and being able to pay your bills really matters. And then there’s something more ultimate, which all of us have a sense of. I don’t think any of us really know intellectually, but we have this sense that there’s something much deeper about life. In the end, what really matters is, “Were we happy?” and, “Did we love well?” That’s what really ultimately things come down to.

So, the reason I call mindfulness the ultimate success habit is because it actually has benefit in both of those realms. So, the practice can be very instrumental in improving our effectiveness in the conventional realm where we’re more effective at our job, we’re more effective as leaders, we make better decisions, so on and so forth. But it was designed not for those purposes. It was actually designed for the ultimate, which is to be happy under any circumstance, so no matter what happens to you, you’re okay and you have peace.

And because of that, you have this tremendous capacity to love well and your ability to overcome our selfish conditioning that we’re all subject to, to some degree, we can gradually overcome that conditioning. That’s actually what the practice was designed to do and that’s why I call mindfulness the ultimate success habit because it contributes to success in the conventional realm as well as what really, really matters, ultimate success.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, yeah, I’ve been playing around, reading some assorted studies on mindfulness and its benefits. I’d love it if, perhaps, you could share your favorite in terms of this result emerged from mindfulness practice, whatever sort of study is your favorite that has a big number that you find exciting.

Matt Tenney
The one that I’m most excited about is not necessarily a single study in particular, but it’s actually the work of a neuroscientist who’s a professor at the University of Wisconsin, named Richie Davidson, and he’s been doing this work for a long, long time.

And, in the ultimate sense, so we’ll skip some of the conventional things, and there are many benefits in the conventional sense, especially around decision-making and emotional intelligence. Those two benefits are fairly well-established in the scientific literature. But the one I’m most excited about is there seems to be very sound and replicated evidence for the fact that we can actually change traits with mindfulness, specifically traits like kindness and compassion.

And this isn’t like a flashy number or something that sounds super sexy, but I’d like you to think about this for a second. There a lot of things you can do to change your state, right? If you’re about to go give a speech in front of a group, you can do 20 pushups and then stand up and raise your arms over your head, like Amy Cuddy teaches in her TEDx Talk, and you’re going to go out there and be way more confident than you would have had you not done that.

But there are not too many things that we know of that literally rewire your brain so that you develop a new trait that becomes your baseline way of being in the world. And there’s very compelling evidence that Richie Davidson and his team at the University of Wisconsin had been putting together. In fact, he and Daniel Goleman wrote a book on it called Altered Traits.

So, if you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend that book. They go through all of the ups and downs and the shortcomings and the pluses of the research, and then kind of really focused in on this stuff that there’s consensus in the scientific community that this is actually fact and not just theory. And that’s where they seem to come to consensus, is that with prolonged training, although you can receive some benefit immediately, if you really make the effort to focus here on this type of training, you can change your traits so that you become the person that we all aspire to be, which is somebody who’s not just effective at their job, and earns a good living, and has friends, and so on and so forth, but we become a person who exemplifies kindness and compassion in all of our interactions.

And I know everyone listening, is somewhere inside that immediately resonates with them. Why? Because this is ultimately what we’re here for. We’re all in this together and we all know that being kind and compassionate and doing what we can to be of benefit to the people around us is what really makes life rich. And I’ve never met a person who there just isn’t some glimpse of aspiration to live that way. This is something that just, it seems to me like this is just why we’re here.

So, that’s why I’m most excited about that, is the idea that this doesn’t have to just be a high-minded ideal, “Yes, I’m inspired by someone like Martin Luther King, or Herb Kelleher at Southwest, or Gandhi, or someone like that,” and think, “I could never be like that.” Actually, that’s not true. We can be like that. We can rewire our brains in ways that allow us to embody the traits of the people we most admire in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. And so, these traits are in the realm of service and generosity. But I imagine, it’s fair to say that, I guess, is it like any virtue that we can grab – courage, patience, fill in the blank – it’s within your reach via these approaches?

Matt Tenney
I think, immediately, people become skeptical, and think, “Oh, this can do everything?” Well, it’s not that it can do everything, but I think you’re right, Pete, it can help us to develop most of the qualities that we’re most interested in.

And just to give a brief explanation as to why, is that I think if we really look at what prevents us from having those qualities, it’s this tricky little thing that lives between our ears called the ego, right? It’s that little voice in our heads that’s always telling us that we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not beautiful enough, we don’t have enough stuff, we haven’t achieved enough goals, we need to be somebody, get something, do something. It’s just never satisfied.

And what mindfulness training, at its core, is all about is learning to recognize that that voice is just simply not who we are. It’s something that we can actually listen to, with third person objectivity, just as though we’re listening to a podcast. And that’s not a theory, that’s not something you have to believe, that’s something you can realize directly just by doing the practice, because that’s what the practice is.

The practice is to learn to wake up and, instead of being in your thoughts all the time as though you are your thoughts, to just wake up and realize, “Oh, I can observe these images going through my mind as though I’m watching a television screen. I can listen to this voice in my head just as though I was listening to a podcast. And when I do that, something really special happens. There’s a little bit of space between what I feel I truly am and that voice.” And the degree there was some space there is the degree to which we’re free from that voice.

And so, now that voice can say whatever it wants and it doesn’t affect what we actually do or how we actually behave in the world. It’s just something else. It’s like if you’re watching a television program, here’s a really interesting way of looking at this. So, let’s imagine that you’re watching a movie or a television program from start to finish, and you’re about halfway in, and there’s a really emotional scene, and it draws you in, and you can feel the emotion of the actors on the stage, and you’re just in it like it’s real, right? We can all relate to this.

Now, let’s imagine that you were in the kitchen getting a slice of pizza, and you came in, you haven’t watched any of this thing, and you just look at the TV screen. It’s just some actors doing stuff, right? You might laugh at somebody who’s at a funeral thinking, “Oh, that’s really bad acting.” Whereas the person on the couch is just in tears because the star just lost their beloved one and it’s really sad.

And so, this is what tends to happen. Everyone that I’ve ever worked with that practices mindfulness consistently, it’s more and more of this drama in our heads become something that’s like, “Oh, that’s just like programming. It’s just like a TV,” and it has less and less of effect on how we actually show up. So, if the thoughts are skillful, we engage them and we follow them. If they’re not, they can be allowed to just arise and pass away as though it was a television screen across the room while we’re eating a piece of pizza.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And so then, when you are doing mindfulness or engaging in a mindfulness practice, what does that mean in terms of what’s happening? Like, I sit down, and then what?

Matt Tenney
Well, there’s a common misconception I’d like to clear up, Pete, I hope it’s okay with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Take it away.

Matt Tenney
It’s that I think that’s exactly what most people think of, is, “If I’m going to practice mindfulness, that means I need to go sit down and do nothing and engage in some type of special practice.” And there’s great benefit to sitting still and just being, and I highly recommend it. However, mindfulness can be practiced at any time in any situation. And so, how I recommend people start, especially if this is something that seems foreign or it’s just you’re thinking, “Oh, it’s one more thing I need to add to my schedule,” I recommend looking at this as like you don’t have to add anything to your schedule. What I recommend is just change the way that you do things that you’re going to do anyhow.

So, for the average person, if you were to make a list of all the things that you do in a day in relative solitude that you’re going to do anyhow, things like rolling out of bed, going to the toilet to go pee, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, commuting to work, sitting and waiting for a meeting to begin, standing in line waiting for something, if you were to add it all up, I think for the average person it’s probably right around two hours per day.

Make a list of all those things that you do every single day that you’re going to do anyhow, and for the first week just pick one of them. Let’s say it’s washing the hands, for instance, and unless you’re driving, listening to this podcast, you could actually play along with us while we do this.

So, if you think about what washing the hands is like most of the time, if we’re honest, we’re thinking about everything in the world other than washing the hands. Would you agree with me, Pete, that when you wash your hands?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, yeah.

Matt Tenney
So, we’re thinking about, “Hey, the dog just crapped on the floor. I’ve got a report due for my work tomorrow.” Whatever. We’re thinking about all types of stuff. We’re not really present with washing the hands.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re going to wash your hands again after cleaning up after the dog.

Matt Tenney
Yeah, yeah, you wash your hands then you go, “Oh, man, I forgot about the crap on the floor.” You go clean that up and come back and wash again, yeah. So, this is what’s happening when we live our lives this way, is that we’re reinforcing this identification with thinking and we’re constantly distracted by our thinking, and this is taking us in the opposite direction of being free from that voice in our heads and from our thoughts.

So, the idea is to make it a practice of being free. It’s not like you have to get somewhere or achieve something. Like, just be free right now. So, when you’re going to wash your hands, just take a half a second and just remind yourself, “I’m washing the hands now.” And then that little reminder is a wakeup call to just be really curious about the experience of washing the hands. And if thoughts arise, it’s perfectly fine, they probably will. But the idea is just you’re curious about the thoughts, “Oh, there’s a thought about this or that. Okay, what else is going on? Oh, yeah, there’s this wonderful sensation.”

So, why don’t you try this for a second, those of you who are not driving? Just pretend like you just started washing your hands, you’ve got soap and water on your hands, just rub them together. And what I’d like you to do is just be intensely curious like you’ve never washed your hands before. And just notice, “What is it actually like to wash my hands? What does the skin feel like as it’s being massaged by the other hand? What do the muscles feel like that are making the arms and the hands move? Are there any thoughts happening?” If not, it doesn’t matter. Either way it’s not important. Just be curious about what is it like.

Now, every time I’ve done this exercise with any group, 100% of the time, unless people just didn’t raise their hands, people say that washing their hands like that is diametrically opposite of how they normally wash their hands. So, this is a very different experience, right? And some people even get anxious because what we’re so used to doing is washing the hands as fast as we can so we can get onto what’s important, right?

What we’re doing now is realizing that, “Well, if I want to have clean hands, I need to wash them for 30 seconds anyhow, so why not be here for that experience?” And what happens is there’s this, as silly as this might sound just with these little activities, of just being aware of the body, aware of the mind, aware of what it’s actually like to wash the hands during that experience, what’s happening is we’re creating what I think may be the most interesting paradigm shift that we can consider. Because if we think back to how we normally do it, what we’re doing is we’re rushing through it to get it over with so we can get onto what’s next, oftentimes either it’s partially or completely distracted by our thinking, so as a result three negative things are happening.

One, we’re reinforcing this bad habit of being identified with our thoughts. Two, we are creating a little bit more anxiety because we’re not there, we’re rushing through it. That’s going to make us less effective at whatever we do next. And, third, and perhaps most important, is we’re not actually living that moment of our life. We’re rushing through it to get onto whatever is next. And, sadly, there may not be a next. The person that you’re with right now, and what you’re doing right now, is the most important. And we don’t know, tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

And when we start making, allowing mindfulness to permeate our daily activities, those three negatives are transformed into three amazing positives. So, first, you’re training yourself to be mindfully self-aware, and self-awareness is arguably the most important professional skill that we can develop. So, you’re creating a very positive habit of being mindfully self-aware.

Two, your anxiety, you’ll find, as I’m sure you noticed when you wash your hands like that, it’s pretty relaxing. Did you notice that, Pete? Did you actually wash your hands with me?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, in my mind’s eye, yes. No faucets in the…

Matt Tenney
Okay. I’m sure you’ve got things you’re working on there with the podcast, yeah. When you actually do it, what you’ll notice is, “Oh, that’s actually relaxing to just be fully present with the sensations of washing the hands.” So, your anxiety goes down a little bit, making you more effective at whatever you’re going to do next.

And then, of course, most important, is you’re actually living that moment of your life and you’re developing this new habit of actually living the moments of your life so that when you come home from work, and you greet your child, you’re actually there for him or her. And you come home from work and greet your spouse, or your dog, or whoever, you’re actually there for them instead of reliving everything that happened at work in your head.

And, as grandiose as that might sound, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it does happen little by little if we just start integrating mindfulness into our daily life. So, coming back to the list, we start with just washing the hands for week one. Then, for week two, continue with washing the hands and add a second activity, brushing the teeth, let’s say. And you can see where this is going, right? Each week you just add another activity.

After 12 weeks, you’re going to have 12 anchors that, if nothing else, you know you’ve got 12 30-second to 60-second activities where you’re breaking the habit of constantly being identified with and distracted by thinking, and instead being free.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. And so then, in practice then, the difference is, one, you’re sort of noting what’s happening here, “I’m washing my hands now.” Two, you’re getting curious about each of these, I guess, the finer details of the experience, like, “Oh, that’s pretty warm. Oh, that’s pretty slippery. Okay, that’s pretty relaxing as they go together. I can hear the sound. I could maybe see some steam rising up a little bit. I could smell, perhaps, the soap.”

And so then, in so doing, you are there as opposed to elsewhere in terms of, “I better hurry up and reply to that email.” And so, there you have it. Okay. So, that’s really cool. All right. Well, thank you for that, Matt. Tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Matt Tenney
Nothing comes to mind immediately, Pete, other than just I have said it a couple of times, so I apologize if this is redundant, but I would just ask people to, as they’re finishing up listening to this podcast, to remember to just be kind.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Matt Tenney
A favorite quote. Yes. I apologize if this might be paraphrasing, but Martin Luther King said something that actually inspired the title of Serve to Be Great, which is, “You don’t need to have a Ph.D. to serve. Anyone can serve. And because anyone can serve, anyone can be great.”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Matt Tenney
I think my all-time favorite book is actually a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Peace Is Every Step.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Matt Tenney
Well, I think Google Calendar is pretty magical believe it or not, so, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. I can buy it. And how about a favorite habit?

Matt Tenney
Mindfulness, by far, is my favorite habit.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, they repeat it back to you?

Matt Tenney
What I hear probably most often is just, “Yes, I want to be a leader who serves and loves well.”

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

Matt Tenney
Well, I guess you could go to MattTenney.com and that can direct you to anything else that you might be interested in.

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

Matt Tenney
Absolutely. I would, please, encourage anyone listening who stuck with us here to the end to please go ahead and create that list of all the things that you do every day anyhow, and see if you can incorporate those activities into your day in a more mindful way, just one activity at a time. And I think that simple exercise, you’ll find has some incredible benefit in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Matt, thank you. This has been a treat. And keep up the great work.

Matt Tenney
Thank you, Pete. Thanks so much for having me.