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

611: How to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead by Becoming a 10X Talent with Michael Solomon

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Michael Solomon says: "Look for the bigger, the harder, the hairier, the nuttier problem and... dive into it."

Michael Solomon discusses the fundamental skills that keep game-changers above the rest.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The one thing that leads to exponential career growth
  2. An overlooked skill that sets any professional apart
  3. The most dangerous thing you can do to your career

 

About Michael

Michael Solomon is the cofounder of 10x Management, the world’s first tech talent agency. 10x matches top contract technology experts, designers, and brand innovators with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 clients like American Express, HSBC, Google, Verizon, Yelp, and more. He has appeared on CNBC, BBC, Bloomberg TV and spoken at SXSW. 

He founded Brick Wall Management, a talent agency representing multi platinum and Grammy award-winning recording artists, songwriters, top record producers, and filmmakers. Michael also co-founded Musicians On Call, a nonprofit that brings live music to over 700,000 people in health care facilities across the U.S. and remains an active member of its Board of Directors. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Michael Solomon Transcript

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

Michael Solomon
Pete, it’s a pleasure. I’m thrilled to be here and excited to chat with you today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thrilled to be chatting too. And I’d love it if we could start with maybe a fun story. You’ve worked with a lot of famous musicians in your day. Do you have a fun story that you can possibly share with us from that career?

Michael Solomon
Oh, goodness. I’m trying to think if it’s going to be a fun one, an embarrassing one, or an inspiring one. I think I’m going to go with inspiring because it’ll actually lead more into the other topics we’re going to talk about. So, I had the distinct pleasure of starting my music industry career going on tour with Bruce Springsteen in the mid-90s.

Pete Mockaitis
Good start.

Michael Solomon
First of all, yeah, what an incredible experience. No one told me it’s all downhill from here. But the good news is they didn’t tell me that so I tried to emulate it which is going to come back into the story. But I got to see that man up close and personal, and I got to see him stand on stage in front of audiences of tens of thousands of people in stadiums and pour his heart out, both through the music and through the words he spoke, but then I also got to see, in rooms of six to eight people, when he got to thank people on his team, and in his band, for their work and their contributions to his life and how eloquently and beautifully he was able to do that, showing an emotional intelligence that you might not…I mean, you could tell it’s there from his lyrics, but you might not know it from reading your average article about him. And it was astounding. The closest I can get to sort of describing it is like watching Barack Obama string together a speech who just always has the exact right thing to say, and that was pretty amazing to get to see that one. I was in my early 20s.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love it, are there any particular, this isn’t our main focus, but any sort of takeaways you gleaned associated with how to support, edify, appreciate folks you collaborate with?

Michael Solomon
I definitely think that giving positive feedback and communicating gratitude are super important experiences for at work and in life. And some of it is about communicating those things and some of it is about feeling the gratitude and being able to show the gratitude.

And, just by way of example, I think that there have been moments in our company when I’ve returned from a vacation and I was able to thank people on our team for covering things that I wasn’t able to do when I was out of the office. And in those moments, they could really feel, much more than other moments, the gratitude because it was really something that allowed me to live my life in a different way. And sure, they’re helpful all the time, and I don’t want to take anything away from the normal part of gratitude, I feel for the people who work with us and for us, but that was a particular moment where I could really feel it, like I was not just expressing an idea because I have to check the box and gratitude is good but I was really able to share that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Thank you. Well, I want to dig into a concept you talk a lot about being a 10X talent. That sounds like something I want to be. Can you define that for us? And I want to hear, is it really 10X? Is that an exaggeration? Where does it come from?

Michael Solomon
Well, I’ll tell you. I think that there are people who are really 10Xers and, its purest sense, the term originally came out of technology where it was used for coders. And the idea was these are people who write ten times the code or ten times better code than their peers, so this is literally sort of superhero level capabilities. And we expanded it to include people who are just so good at what they do, and being good at what you do isn’t enough. You have to be good at what you do and be a good communicator and be a good learner. And the only way you can really be exceptional at what you do is if you’re open to some of those things. And the emotional part goes with the skills part. And that’s really, if I broke down some of what we got to do in this new book, it’s really about understanding the marriage of these two things and that they can’t really be divorced very effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then…boy, so much to dig into there. So, 10X, it sounds like it’s not an exaggeration. In the tech field, it’s legitimately we can measure the lines of code, or the economic value of those innovations, and you see it in other industries too.

Michael Solomon
Yeah. I’ll give you a story if you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s do it.

Michael Solomon
Our favorite example is a company. So, we were approached by a company that had been around for 20 years, they had built on their product over those years. Theirs was a successful company. Not huge but very successful in the field. Everyone on the field that they’re in knows them and uses them. And they had grown to a team of 33 development people, 33 on their tech team. And the founder came in and ultimately felt like the culture is wrong for the tech team. The tech team was in a different city than the rest of the group. It was time to rebuild the product from the ground up.

And he asked whether we had people who could do that, and I showed him some of the people who I thought would be great at leading that endeavor. And he said, “Okay, just sit tight for two weeks. And he came back, and he’s like, “All right. I let 30 of the 33 people go. I took very good care of them. They have no problem with new jobs and being displaced. And let’s go.” And we basically started with a team of three people that has since grown to about six that is replacing the work of that 33-person team and we built the product from the ground up.

So, that is literal 10X-ness including the guys who worked on it were particularly excited because by the time they finished building it out, it ran at the same speed in terms of processing transactions as Amazon does. So, they were super stoked about being able to create 10X value for this company.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s an exciting experience to be sure. Wow! Okay. So, there you have it, someone really walked that talk with gusto on the 10X talent quite literally. And so then, tell me.

Pete Mockaitis
If we zoom into the world of professionals, full-time salaried employees doing their thing, what sorts of benefits if you’ve got How to be Awesome at Your Job listeners who are thinking, “Ooh, I’d like to be like that,” is it worth the effort? How would you answer that?

Michael Solomon
Yeah, I feel like there’s a bunch of things I can dive into right here that are, hopefully, right on the money for the listeners. So, the book that we’re really seeing is really two parts. The first half of the book is how to be a 10X manager and 10X your company and your organization. And the second half of the book is geared around individuals and how do you yourself become more 10X. There’s a lot of commonality in both the first half and the latter half of the book.

But, given that you’re asking more about the individual contributors who are working at companies and are not necessarily managing a huge team, I think the very important thing that people need to understand about 10Xers is it’s not just their capabilities that makes them 10X. It’s their willingness to learn, their desire to learn, their desire to problem-solve, and this is a word we’re going to use a lot today, their desire for feedback.

They are people who are willing and open and interested and, most importantly, curious about what feedback they can get that helps them improve their performance. What we talk about this with, very specifically, is what we call super vision, which is two words. One is inner vision, which are the things about yourself that you can’t see for yourself. We all have blind spots. And the other is future vision, which is being able to see around the corner, what’s coming. And do you have somebody that you’re working with in your life that can help you understand what are your weaknesses? And can they also help you understand what’s coming down the line and what you need to be prepared for so you’re better-equipped to surmount the next challenge that’s around the corner?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s excellent in terms of a few themes there associated with the curiosity, and the real desire for the feedback, and seeing how you can learn and grow. For folks who feel a little bit spooked by that idea of getting feedback and such…oh, you all right?

…what do you recommend in terms of making the leap? There are those who would rather maybe play it safe and not ask the hard question to get the hard feedback.

Michael Solomon
That’s a choice, and everybody’s entitled to make those choices for themselves, but it really will limit your ability to grow. The more open one is to feedback, and you don’t have to, just because you get the feedback, it doesn’t mean you have to take it, implement it, believe it’s the Gospel. But the idea that you’re going to open yourself up and approach it with curiosity. So, you can approach it with defensiveness.

I am, just to sort of talk about my own example and my own relationship with this, because I’m a co-founder of our company, I sit at the top of the org chart, I don’t have somebody above me to give that feedback. But we want and sought an advisor for our company, and we only have one, and he plays that role for us. And the amount of insight that I gain from his feedback, and I approach it. There are times when he says, “Do you realize you’re doing this?” And my gut, my kneejerk reaction is, “No, I’m not. What are you talking about?”

But then if I take, if I go after it with curiosity, and just start out by saying, “Hmm, I didn’t realize I was doing that,” or, “I didn’t think I was doing that,” or, “I didn’t think I was being perceived that way,” I’ve, all of a sudden, created an environment where I can play with that idea and work on figuring out how, if it’s there and if it’s a problem, how I can change it. And if I don’t seek that feedback, I will go through my whole life, and I watched this, and I’m sure everybody who’s listening sees people who are making terrible mistakes for their own self-interest, and part of it is nobody’s telling them or they’re not willing to hear it.

And the idea of getting a…it can be your boss, it can be a mentor, it can be a coach, it can be a rabbi or a priest, in the proverbial or literal sense, you need somebody who’s got a third-party point of view, who’s invested in seeing you succeed, and who’s willing to say things that you’re not going to love hearing, and you have to be willing to create an environment where that feedback is well-received so they can keep giving it to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so, when you say create an environment, I guess we kind of talk about your reaction in terms of, yeah, okay, either it’s a blowoff or it’s a defensiveness or it is that curiosity in terms of, “Tell me more about that. Can you give me an example? Who’s doing this really well? What would excellence look like?” What are some great follow-up questions to really get the good flowing if you’re starting to get a trickle of feedback?

Michael Solomon
Well, I think part of it is, even before you get the trickle of feedback, is ensuring that you will. There are some supervisors, leaders, managers, bosses who are very good at giving regular constructive feedback, and then there are many who hate that, find it confrontational, and are afraid or unwilling to do it. And you need to evaluate your own situation, and say, “Can I start up by saying to my boss…?” and one of the things that we actually lay out in the book are examples of these notes where you say, “Hey, I really appreciate our relationship, and I’ve enjoyed working here, and I’m really looking forward to the future, but I really want to grow and change and improve. And one of the best ways I can do that is learning from you and getting your perspective on things, and specifically getting your perspective on what I’m doing well and, more importantly, what I’m not doing well.”

And just by being able to open that dialogue, and say, “I want this,” you’ve now made it a little easier for the person to give it to you. And then, sort of, I think to get back to the question you were asking, when you start to get the feedback, you need to get granular, you want to ask for examples, you want to ask for, depending on the kinds of things, if it’s a mechanical thing, if it’s, in other words, when you enter in your 723 reports, you’re always missing the last period, that’s a different kind of thing than when it has to do with an interpersonal skill. And when it’s an interpersonal skill, those examples become really important, and so does understanding from your colleagues how it made them feel.

I’ll give you a great example of this, which is hard to talk about because it’s about me, and it’s not something I’m proud of. But I advised a company that has a very forward-thinking ethos. And the founder of the company is a woman, and the other, the co-founder of the company is a man, and I have sent emails to them that said, “Hi, guys,” and whatever the rest of the email was. And she is somebody who knows that I’m very interested in feedback and likes it, and she sent me a note saying, “I know you didn’t intend anything by it, but I would prefer not to be addressed with a male salutation.” And I took the feedback well, I thanked her for it, but I was a little embarrassed.

And you know what else I did? I did the same thing again a week later to the same person because it was a habit. And she told me again, and she did it with kindness, and she did it because she knew I did want to improve on it, and I apologized again and asked her to keep telling me if I happen to fail again. And the reason I bring up that example is that has something to do with making people uncomfortable. If you think that your behavior in a meeting that makes people uncomfortable isn’t going to impact your career, you got another thing coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s very true. I love that example because it’s something that anyone of us could do. It reminds of me someone who, at a trade show, she said, “I’m going to lady this booth.” I’m like, “What?” It’s like, “Well, I’m sure they’re not going to man this booth.” That just tickled me. I think of her every time I see a trade show booth.

Michael Solomon
I love that. And I didn’t mean anything by the “Hi, guys” thing and she knew that I didn’t mean anything by it, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t elicit a reaction.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Okay. So, there’s that one key set of themes there associated with the curiosity and the feedback and the desire to learn, and to seek that out and to ask for it. So, let’s talk about how one gets to have that super vision, the ability to see around the corners and more. I suppose if you’re getting regular feedback, that helps a lot. What else should we do to develop that skill?

Michael Solomon
I think the supervision for our self is a skill that, as a business owner, you sort of have to pick up on to a degree to be a successful business owner, and I think that it often alludes to other people, which is really taking a moment regularly to stop and look at what is coming or what you think is coming. You can’t know and you can’t prepare for every scenario, but just being disciplined to planning is going to get you so much farther ahead because you’re, so often, and I am this way because I don’t like surprises. I’m a control freak. I don’t really like being surprised by things.

So, I don’t know everything that’s coming, but if I don’t try and anticipate what’s going to happen, and move ahead of it, I’m always playing catchup. So, there are people in companies who are always putting out fires and never able to look ahead. And the irony, for me, about learning about planning is, even though we now have three for-profit businesses, I actually got my crash course in planning through some of the non-profits that we founded because non-profits are very disciplined, at least good ones, about doing strategic planning.

And taking the entire board, which is, in some ways, your most valuable and certainly your highest-priced assets, and taking time away from everything else to do nothing but try and anticipate “What is coming down the line? And how does it impact us? And what are we going to do to be ready for it?” And it seems so basic, I mean, I don’t need to publish a book or be a rocket scientist to say that planning is important, but so few people do it. And it’s also being disciplined about doing it in the near and the long term.

Pete Mockaitis
And you mentioned this in the context of business owners or non-profit executives. I imagine the same can be said of a professional anywhere in the hierarchy in terms of, “Okay, there are some changes with our big customers, or with the market, or with the leadership, or the management priorities. And so, given this, I may very well need to choose to put some proactive attention in a new area.”

Michael Solomon
Absolutely. Our version of this 10X management, which we founded about eight years ago, was a reaction to sitting in the middle of the demise of the music industry, which is our background of having managed musicians, and saying, “Wow, if we look at the tea leaves, technology is destroying this industry. Whether there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel, unknown, but for a long time, this is a going to be a problem.” And we were actively looking at, “What do we do to supplement our lives and our livelihood in that period of time?”

And it was only sitting down and being very intentional and sort of having that forethought that ultimately led us to the moment, and allowed us to be open enough to the moment of saying, “Oh, wait. Technologists, freelance technologists are the new rock stars. They need representation just the way the old rock stars do.” And, hence, the launch of the new business.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think that’s a bit of a paradigm shift, and not to be all over the place, but it’s handy to think about yourself as any professional and how you can benefit from those sorts of services. And I know you’ve done a lot of thinking about this. So, can you lay it on the line for us, are there some parts about our professional lives that we should be outsourcing or we should be getting some help with in order to flourish maximally?

Michael Solomon
I certainly think so. And as a result of some of the learns of 10X management where we help freelancers navigate their freelance careers, we have a clause in our contract that says, “If you hire one of our 10Xers to a full-time job, and you steal them away from us after being on a freelance engagement, then you pay us a buyout.” Fairly standard in the freelance industry.

And what happened was, as the first few times that happened, our client would come to us and say, “They want to hire me, as you know. I know you’re going to get paid on this transaction. Would you be willing to help me negotiate my full-time job the same way you helped me negotiate my freelance job?” And we’ve now started a separate company called 10X Ascend where we’re helping people that aren’t our 10X clients, they’re anybody who wants help negotiating a full-time job offer because one of the things that happens, as we did that a few times for our existing clients was we saw absolutely broken hiring is, particularly in legacy companies.

So, we’ve now done this dozens of times. And what a company say to an employee, and this is really relevant for both the individual employee and for the company before they make an offer, they generally ask a question like, “What is your salary requirement? What are your comp requirements?” We created a tool called a Lifestyle Calculator which is, I can share a link with you, which allows people to weight 24 different attributes that go into a potential compensation package.

And this is the first we do when somebody comes to us to help with a compensation negotiation, before we talk to the company, before we even talk to the potential client, we’ve now caused them to weight and figure out, “What is most important to me in my life?” For some people, it’s just salary. Some people are really interested in equity for the company that they’re going to. Some people want to work from home on Fridays, which used to be a thing. Now everybody works from home every day. Some people want to budget for continuing education, some people want to know if there’s room for growth, and in varying degrees.

And companies ask you one question then make you a job offer. And it doesn’t assume that the 24-year old engineer who’s single and post-college, who’s applying for the same job as the 37-year old who’s got three kids, don’t want the same things in a package. And the closest I’ve ever seen a company to doing this right is one company made an offer, and they said, “Here’s one offer with more equity and less cash. And here’s one offer with more cash and less equity.” And that was a great step in the right direction, but if companies would start, or individuals would start, by communicating, and this is what we do with our clients, “These are the things that are most important to me in a job offer,” we could create a much better alignment on the way in. And that alignment is both about making sure there’s a good fit, which is going to make a better result if you hire the person, and it’s also going to create much better retention and much happier environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Okay, cool. So, moving it back to becoming 10X or persisting 10X-ness if you are there, we’ve covered a few key themes. And I’d love to get your view on are there some roadblocks, some bumps along the way when folks are really looking to enter that echelon, some common mistakes, or sort of watch-outs you’d put on a radar?

Michael Solomon
Yeah, it’s tricky. We have this quiz up at the book site. The book site is GameChangerTheBook.com. And the quiz sort of measures how you are at this stuff. But, really, the quiz was inspired by this concept of the management continuum. And on one end, you sort of got the 10Xer who has a very high level of what we call the success impulse. These are people, you know them, everybody here has met them, who is constantly making the right moves that move them toward their goals. They’re not tripping over their own feet, they’re not shooting themselves in their foot, they’re just not getting in their own way at all, and they’re moving in the direction they want to move in.

And then there’s the whole middle spectrum, which is people who are in the center of the scale. And on the other end of the spectrum is what we call the sabotage impulse. And this is really the biggest problem. Like, if you have the sabotage impulse, becoming 10X is virtually impossible. The sabotage impulse is choosing those things that get in the way between you and what you want. So, these are the people who shoot themselves in the foot, reload the gun and shoot themselves in the foot again. They stick their foot in their mouth. And most of all, the reason that we encourage people like this not be in your organization is they’re not interested in and don’t accept responsibility for things, so they are constantly ducking and covering and throwing other people in the way of their problems.

And just by the nature of not being willing to accept your shortcomings and own them and explore them with curiosity, you’re literally creating an environment or you’re creating a situation, a bubble, where you’re not capable of improving because you can’t acknowledge that there’s anything to improve. And that is the most dangerous thing.

So, if you’re feeling like that is you, and most people who have that quality don’t recognize it because if they did, they would’ve addressed it, but if you feel like that’s you, there’s no question that a coach or a therapist is what’s in order because you’re doing something every day that keeps you from getting what you want. So, if you feel like you’re always the victim, that’s something to look at.

For those of us who aren’t all the way on that end of the spectrum, it is an incremental progress. You don’t go overnight. The things that I can tell you that 10Xers really have in common is loving solving problems. They look for the bigger, the harder, the hairier, the nuttier problem and want to dive into it. They’re not afraid of it. They just view it as an opportunity, like a puzzle, like a challenge. And that’s one of my favorite things about these people. And they also approach it all with curiosity. They’re data-driven.

They don’t want to just like shut off the data pipeline when it doesn’t suit them. They want to take the data and say, “Huh, that wasn’t the outcome I was expecting, but that’s the outcome that I got. Now what do I do with that?” and that’s being reality-based. Whereas, if you’re in the sabotage end of the spectrum, you’re not being reality-based. The data is there. The data is saying, “You’re doing this thing. It’s getting in your way. It’s getting in your way.” And you’re like, “No, it’s not me. Not me at all. I’m just a victim.” And that’s the biggest thing of where you are in that continuum that can move you forward or keep you stuck.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I think when you talk about that, this is bringing so many things for me. I recall I had a coaching client who was just awesome and he liked the stuff we are covering, and said, “I want my whole team. Let’s build a training program,” and then we did, and I still do that program with many other clients, so great initiative that we put together together. And he said something, like, “Man, I’m in this role in which, on the one hand, it just feels amazing in how I’m able to handle this level of complexity with so many policies and stakeholders and competing demands and tradeoffs. On the other hand, I’m kind of going insane.”

And so, I thought that was just a good articulation of, boy, this guy really is going for the biggest, hairiest problems, and his career has really taken off as a result. And then he also has some humility to know this, like, “This is kind of nuts. Maybe we need to simplify some things here.”

Michael Solomon
And one of the things that I would say about 10Xers, and this is a little bit what you’re getting at, is these are also people who have some respect for work-life balance, and they care about values. And this is another thing that companies need to factor in, it’s like, “Are you hiring somebody that shares the values and the vision and the mission of your company?” And it’s really interesting because Millennials and Gen Z’s who are not all 10Xers have very similar traits in that regard. They want to know that their work is valued, they want to know that their work is important, they want to know that the company has values and they’re stated, and there’s all this mission-driven stuff that gets pushed by the wayside that’s really important to these particular elements of the population being 10Xers, Gen Z, and Millennials. And the more we pretend or ignore that or say it’s entitlement, as the older generation is wanton to do, the less we can advance them and their productivity. And they are a huge part of the workforce at this point.

Pete Mockaitis
And the other thing that really struck, as we talk about that data, is I really have seen it go both ways in terms of, again, my world is training, some folks are all about collecting the data, and say, “Hey, does this make an impact? Was it effective? Let’s really learn from that and fine-tune and iterate, and make a case if, hey, this is really working, providing a great return, let’s really do some more of this.” And then there are those who, they’ve said to me, “Wow, the questions you put on your evaluation would absolutely terrify me. I never want to give that to a client.”

So, there it is, front and center in terms of “What’s your relationship to that data? Do you want it to never exist because you’re afraid of it, or are you hungry?” And it is, in some ways, the riskier path but, my goodness, the rewards are much greater.

Michael Solomon
But isn’t that risky because the other people already see and think these things? The only person, we talk about this concept in the book, it’s called Johari Window, Johari’s Window. It’s essentially the idea that there are four panes of perspective. Let’s say the top right is there’s what you know about yourself and everybody else knows about you. You and I both wear glasses. That would fall into that category.

There’s the window of what you know about yourself and nobody else knows about you. We won’t say what that is, but there’s your deep dark secrets. There are the things that nobody knows about you and you don’t know about yourself, which is not particularly relevant or useful but it exists. And the last one is the things that other people know about you and you don’t know about yourself. And that’s the one that we’re talking about with regard to this feedback we’re talking about.

And the fear mindset around this is that if you don’t ask about it, it won’t exist. But that’s not the reality. Other people are seeing this. You’re the only one who doesn’t know. This is like burying your head in the sand kind of thing. Like, it’s happening. You’ve got that spinach on your teeth. Would you rather know about it or would you rather not have someone tell you?

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. Well-said. Well, so about half of our listeners do have direct reports and they’ve got some management responsibilities. So, I’d love to get your take in terms of how do you shape an environment where you can identify and cultivate more 10X talent?

Michael Solomon
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that the first thing for everybody to understand is the days of employees being cogs in the machine, with some notable exceptions, are over. Nobody wants to be thought of that way or treated that way. Certainly not 10Xers and certainly not Millennial and Gen Z. It’s just not how it works. The days of, “Have that on my desk at 3:30 or else,” it’s just not the way we’re working anymore in most places. And now, what we’re starting to see is places that do operate that way don’t last long, and it eventually blows up in their face, and you hear all kinds of complaints about management and hostile work environment and all that stuff.

So, let’s assume you’re already not being in a hostile work environment. The flipside of that, the other direction to go with that, is really being driven toward humanity. These are human beings that you work with, that you’re close to, that you spend every day with, they have lives, and their lives impact their work. And without trying and without being inappropriate in how far you reach, the more you can treat somebody as a human being and show them empathy and care, the better.

So, a tiny example might be I have one agent who works for us who’s on vacation or traveling in a given week, and just remembering and saying, “Hey, I was going to assign this project to you. Is that okay because you’re traveling? Or do you want me to give it to somebody else?” is a way of showing a consideration for a human thing, like as a work person, I don’t care, like, “Do this.” Like, if all I cared about was getting it done, I wouldn’t ask the question.

But if you want to have a relationship and a culture and an environment where people help each other, and one of our core values in our company is helping each other, then you have to live that. You have to really, really show that, and you have to let people know that you actually care about them as a human being. And, hopefully, that’s not hard for most people but it is different than what came before, at least as far as the workplace goes.

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

Michael Solomon
I think that the most important thing that we’re getting to in the sort of how to manage people is that it’s bespoke. It used to be you’re a boss, you treat your employees a certain way, and you need to recognize that each employee is a unique and different snowflake that needs to be treated in the right way that is best for them to be productive and useful, and that’s more onus on us as managers. And you know what? It’s a better workplace as a result of it.

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

Michael Solomon
My father, who’s also an author and a non-profit luminary, has always said, “When you want something done, go to the busiest person in the room,” which is so counterintuitive. And when he first started telling me that in my, probably, 20s, I thought he was nuts. And now I totally understand it. The busiest people I ever emailed are the ones who emailed me back within three seconds.

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

Michael Solomon
The two pieces of data that I’m going to bring up for this, and I’ll try and do it quickly, is the idea that helping other people is more beneficial to your happiness and your sense of joy in the world than doing something for yourself. And that’s a little counterintuitive, and most people don’t operate that way. And if we did, as a world, we’d have a much happier world with much happier people and much better cared-for people. And then the second one, which is sort of related and definitely related to feedback, is data says the appropriate amount of positive feedback to negative feedback is five to one. I find that to be hard to pull off but even if I aim for five and end up at three positives to negative feedback, I’m okay with that.

Pete Mockaitis
And not to dig too deep into that, but sometimes, I don’t know if this is cheating, I think about it in terms of like relationships and experiences and encounters. So, maybe the hard feedback is an unpleasant experience, but there were multiple pleasant experiences that were not necessarily feedback-related but were still cool, like, “Michael, I don’t know, gave me something, thanked me for something, made an accommodation, or asked, ‘Hey, you’re traveling, can you handle this?’” And so, that may not be feedback but it’s a positive encounter and so I think that can buffer some of the negative. I don’t know if it’s just my own spin on the research or if that’s actually the research, but that’s how I roll.

Michael Solomon
Yeah, I agree with that. There’s also the idea of sandwiching negative feedbacks where you say something positive, you say something negative, and then you end with something positive again. I know I have, earlier in my career, have been guilty of not practicing this. And I had one experience where I did a performance review, and I was very happy with the person I was reviewing but I focused on a critique, and she came back at the end and said, “Am I doing anything right?” And I was like, “Oh, my God, have I failed at conveying the big picture here.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s a handy question in terms of feedback getting the whole story.

Michael Solomon
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And how about a favorite book?

Michael Solomon
Currently reading a book called The Anatomy of Peace, which is really interesting, based on psychology and parenting.

Michael Solomon
The thesis is that you can treat people like people or you can treat them like objects, and have a different perspective when you see them in the different ways.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s huge. I think Arbinger Institute has a lot of good themes on that, and so true.

Michael Solomon
I think that’s actually who wrote that book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, then I’m just behind the eight ball, and I got to pick up their latest. Thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Michael Solomon
I love dictation for email, so the tools that I would cite for that are Siri, and then a plugin that actually somebody built for me when I was complaining, “You couldn’t dictate into Gmail other than on your phone,” so he built, a client of mine, he built a Chrome plugin that allows you to dictate into Gmail, which is called Dictation for Gmail.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, this is AI dictation? You’re speaking, it’s…

Michael Solomon
It’s me speaking and it’s transcribing.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And that’s officially accurate to accelerate you.

Michael Solomon
Oh, yes. I would say 80% or 90% of my composing that way, I draft articles and books and emails. It’s my biggest timesaving hack. I can draft an email, like a serious email, walking down the street.

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

Michael Solomon
I’m going to go with pushups. I do a hundred pushups. I’ve done that now consistently for eight years every day. I’ve missed five days in eight years. And it’s not so much that the pushups are my favorite habit. It’s the religiosity or the fervor with which I’ve committed to it and to myself that really is what I love. And I got that from an EQ training I did.

Pete Mockaitis
And is this 100 consecutive pushups?

Michael Solomon
No, it’s five sets in 20.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michael Solomon
But all within five minutes, so at least it’s…

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah, there’s not much of a break. Okay.

Michael Solomon
No. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Michael Solomon
It’s going back to the idea I said when we talked about experiments or studies. I gave a speech a few years ago, it was for a non-profit, and I ended it by saying, “Be selfish. Help somebody else.” And I really love that concept and that nugget of the more you do for somebody else, the better you’re going to feel.

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

Michael Solomon
I’m happy to take emails directly at Michael@10XManagement.com.

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

Michael Solomon
I would say take the quiz at GameChangerTheBook.com. I think that the act of taking it will teach you something, the results will teach you something, and you can learn a lot more about us and the ideas that we were talking about today.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Michael, thanks so much for taking the time. And good luck in all the ways you’re 10xing it.

Michael Solomon
I’m trying. I got a ways to go but I got time still, I hope.

604: Closing the Seven Power Gaps that Limit Your Career with Kathy Caprino

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Kathy Caprino says: "Be strong, be confident, but that doesn't mean abrasive, aggressive."

Kathy Caprino discusses how to bridge the power gaps that hold you back from career success.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The seven most common barriers to career success 
  2. An easy way to start advocating for yourself more 
  3. The one habit that drastically minimizes your presence 

About Kathy

Kathy Caprino is a career and executive coach, author, speaker, and leadership trainer dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is a former VP and trained coach and marriage and family therapist, a Senior Forbes contributor, and offers career consulting, executive, and leadership and communications coaching and training, as well as keynotes and workshops. 

She’s also the Founder and President of her own coaching and consulting firm, Kathy Caprino, LLC as well as the host of the podcast, Finding Brave. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Pitney Bowes. Simplify your shipping while saving money. Get a free 30-day trial and 10-lb shipping scale at pb.com/AWESOME
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Kathy Caprino Transcript

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

Kathy Caprino
I’m so happy to be here, Pete. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m happy to have you. And I’m excited to talk about Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, the subtitle of “The Most Powerful You.”

Kathy Caprino
It’s a bit of a mouthful but it’s important.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a fun one to say. Well, how about you kick us off with an inspiring story of a professional who felt like they needed some bravery-boosting, and then they did some stuff, and they saw some cool results flow from it?

Kathy Caprino
Can I make it my story for two minutes?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Kathy Caprino
Okay. The hard thing is to keep it short, but I’ll try. Eighteen-year corporate career, successful on the outside, not successful on the inside, and I faced bumps, bumps and bumps. And when I hit 40, they were full-blown crises. Sexual harassment, gender discrimination, toxic bosses, actually narcissistic bosses, toxic colleagues, zero work-life balance, chronic illness, I had infections of the trachea every three months for four years. It was a mess, Pete, really. And I know a lot about this now because this is my work, but it wasn’t back then, and I didn’t know what hit me, and I thought I was to blame. It was a mess.

So, I didn’t really move forward. I didn’t move forward at all to change career. The last VP job, literally, I swear, I felt like it almost killed me. And instead of doing the right thing, which was to pivot or leave, I didn’t. And one month after buying a bigger house and more financial responsibilities, it was 9/11, and one month after I was laid off. So, talking about bravery and power, for 18 years I didn’t have it, and there’s reasons for that, which we’ll talk about, why a lot of people don’t have the bravery and power they need to change things.

But, often, human beings need a breakdown. They just have to collapse into a heap. It’s got to be a breakdown moment, and that’s what I had. And there’s a story in the book about I’m sitting in my therapist’s office crying because I knew I could never return to that life but I didn’t know what to do. And he said, “I know from where you sit, it’s the worst crisis you’ve ever faced. But from where I sit, it’s the first moment you can choose who you want to be in the world. Now, who do you want to be?”

And now I know why I didn’t have any answer, and so I went, “I want to be you.” That’s all. That’s all I knew. And he said, “What does that mean?” And I said, “I want to help people, not hurt people and be hurt.” So, flash forward, I became a marriage and family therapist, and that wasn’t the end destination. And, as we know, a lot of times we think, “Yay, we’ve made it. We’re done.” I wasn’t done at all. That wasn’t the final thing. And then I became a career coach for professional women. So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.

And there are stories in the book, seven different ones, of clients and course members that have closed these seven power gaps that we’re going to talk about, from “I don’t know how to speak up,” to “I can’t say stop to the mistreatment I’m facing,” to “I can’t even figure out what I want to ask for, let alone think I deserve it.” So, there’s really riveting stories of real-life people that have faced these seven gaps and overcame them and, in every case, it’s incredibly inspiring, because if we have these gaps, Pete, and 98% of the women I interviewed, I surveyed, 98% have one of these, and over 75% have three or more. When you have these, you cannot thrive at the highest level in your work or your life, so that’s that story.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. And our audience is mostly women. But as I perused these gaps, they’re certainly not exclusive to women.

Kathy Caprino
They’re not but I got to say, Pete, I think men do experience it, and they say, “Write a book for me, for goodness’ sake,” but they don’t internalize them and process them in the same way.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

Kathy Caprino
They don’t, and I think I know why that is, but we’ll talk about that later.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, you got me so intrigued, Kathy. Bring it. What’s going on?

Kathy Caprino
Bring it on. So, what we have to know, and I mention this a lot, a few people have said, “Are you blaming the victim here?” And the whole point is to rise people out of victimhood, to let them take control of what they can control. But the reason, one of the reasons women have these gaps, and I’m not trying to paint every woman with the same brush, or every man, but it’s this – we live in a patriarchal world. It’s not to bash men, this is just to look to the system we live in. And in a patriarchal world, we split ourselves in half. We talk about the “masculine” and the feminine. The masculine is strong, dominant, not vulnerable, not emotional, gets it done, assertive, makes it happen. The feminine is soft, malleable, pleasing, accommodating, emotional.

Well, the reality is, when you grow up in a world that that is what is expected of your gender, most people live up to that, and it really starts early on. It starts, the research shows, that before age 13, girls and boys are really on par in how they feel about themselves as leaders, interest in STEM, raising their hand to share their thoughts. And at age about 13, girls start to go underground, and stay there. So, all of these gaps, I feel, are hitting women harder than men because we’re conditioned and trained that they should be, that we should not be speaking up powerfully, not asking for what we deserve, all of that.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, how about we maybe take one or two minutes to just hear the list of the seven gaps, and then we’ll dig deeper into a couple of them, shall we?

Kathy Caprino
I love it. And I’m going to give you the number, the percent, of the over 1,000 women who said yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love data. Thank you, Kathy.

Kathy Caprino
Data, yeah. Can I tell you? I’m not making this up, right? This is from 15 years of work, thousands of people I’ve worked with. All right, gap number one, not recognizing your special talents, abilities, and accomplishments, 63% said yes or maybe. There’s this underpinning of this, which is, “I don’t even know what I’m great at. And even if I did, I don’t want to say I’m great.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Kathy Caprino
Okay. Number two, communicating from fear, not strength, 70%. It means you weaken your message, you soften it, you apologize, you start your important messages with, “I don’t know if this is smart or…” You are communicating not on strength. Number three, reluctance to ask for what you deserve, 77%. “I’m not sure I deserve more. And even if I do, I don’t know how to ask for it,” is what they say in some way or another.

Number four is isolating from influential support, 71%. What this means is, “I hate networking, and I’m very uncomfortable networking higher, networking up to influential people.” Number five is acquiescing instead of saying stop to mistreatment. And by mistreatment, I mean everything we know: harassment, gender bias, racial discrimination. It’s, “I’m afraid to challenge the mistreatment I’m facing and that I see around me.” And, interestingly, 48%, that’s not as high as other numbers, say it. Frankly, after I get talking to women, every one of them. Do you know the research shows that eight out of ten women are going to be sexually harassed in their careers? And four out of ten feel they’ve experienced gender bias, so I think that number is too low because we don’t really recognize what we’re in.

Number six is losing sight of your thrilling dream for your life, and that is 76%. And what that means is, “I have no idea what I want to do for a career. I’m not meant for an amazing career, and I bailed on the dream I once have for myself.” Number seven is allowing the past, or past trauma, which is a word that therapists throw around a little more easily than non-therapists, allowing the past to define you still, and that is 62%. And, interestingly, so I worked with thousands of people around the world, almost all of them are being impacted by something that happened in the past but they don’t know they’re being impacted by it.

So, it’s only when I’m looking at their career path assessment, which is 11 pages of questions I wish someone had asked me 30 years ago, and if I’d answered them, honestly, I wouldn’t have made some of the mistakes I made. When I see their answers, I can sense there’s something more here. Something happened. Something happened in childhood. Something happened. And then they’ll sometimes mention it and sometimes it’s in the first call, I’ll say, “I’m really sensing something. Could it be this?” And if you were raised, I love to say this, you are what your childhood taught you to be unless you unlearned it. And for so many, Pete, including me, the messages I got, while they might’ve been coming from love and wellbeing, I mean, wanting us to have wellbeing, they got in in the wrong way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thanks for giving us the rundown there. I guess the percentages are somewhat similar when you bring up the low one to what we think the true number may be. So, maybe could you share, what do you think is perhaps the most debilitating in terms of finding career bliss and excelling, “Boy, this one really seems to pack an outsized punch for killing the bliss”?

Kathy Caprino
I have to say it’s number one where if you…I really love to talk about this because women are so tied up around this. If you cannot see how you are special, and there’s tips and strategies all over the place, like TEDx Talk talks about it. If you can’t see how you are different and how you are better than the competition, whether that’s, “I’m an HR director,” or, “I’m an entrepreneur,” if you can’t see how you’re special, number one, and you can’t leverage it because you don’t even know you have it, and part of that is talking about it. So, if someone says to me, and I use this example a lot, “Kathy, why should I hire you? There’s a lot of coaches.” I rattle off four facts.

Pete Mockaitis
Facts.

Kathy Caprino
They’re facts. So, I call this the process of 20 facts of you. Listen to this podcast, and this weekend, pull out a pad of paper, and for an hour sit with yourself, no distractions, and write down everything you’ve accomplished that you are darn proud of. Everything. And then I want you to kind of embrace how that was made possible through who you are, your ancestry, your cultural training, your interests, your passions, your failures, your miserable flops, your relationships, everything that’s made you you. What are the 20 facts of you?

And when you can say that, can I give one example? Would you mind? If someone says, “Why should I hire you?” And this is not a sales pitch. This is for people to understand what I’m saying. Number one I say, “I had an 18-year corporate career. I know the challenges mid- to high-level professional women face. Number two, I’m a trained therapist so I go deeper. I’m not just going to talk about your interviewing and your LinkedIn profile, I’m going to go deep, deep, deep.”

“Number three, I focused on professional women’s challenges and written the book, two books on it. And I, honest to goodness, think I probably know women’s challenges, professional women’s challenges better than most people on the planet.” That’s not a fact, but it’s close to it. “Number four, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m in that arena of what it is to be brave and powerful. It’s not just me in my jammies not needing to be out there and run a business. It’s me speaking from…and I have my own podcast, and I’m speaking to amazing folks making a difference in a brave way.”

So, the question I have for people is, “Do you think that sounds like I’m bragging?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, especially not if you’re asked. It’s sort of like, “You’ve asked me a question, and here is your answer,” and it’s a darn good one.

Kathy Caprino
Well, thank you for that. But does it smack to you of, “Oh, she thinks highly of herself. Eeh.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no, it doesn’t. And I suppose, I guess, it’s all about the context. If I said, “Oh,” if I met you at a cocktail party, it’s like, “Oh, hey, Kathy. Tell me about yourself.” It’s like, “Well,” and then you went there.

Kathy Caprino
“Do you have an hour?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say, “Okay…”

Kathy Caprino
“She’s a narcissist.”

Pete Mockaitis
“I don’t know. That’s not quite what I was going for.” So, that’ll be a little off-putting in that context, but in a normal context, in terms of, hey, what are you all about, or an interview, or a performance review, or, “Hey, let’s have a conversation about which teammates should fill which roles,” it’s like, “Yeah, these are facts I want and need to know right now. Thank you.”

Kathy Caprino
But the way you said it, Pete, is so interesting. I want, if you don’t mind, go and ask five women in your life to do it. They can’t. It’s heartbreaking, “I don’t know, I think I’m kind of good at maybe analyzing systems.” It’s like that. Or, “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’d say I’m great, but I really listen well.” I’m like, “No, I don’t mean that.” And when I look at people on LinkedIn and I’ve got a big following there. I’m on it constantly. I love it. I can tell in five minutes what is holding someone back from a great career by looking at their LinkedIn profile.

Their headline is their job title. That’s not your headline. That’s not it. Or their summary is one sentence, or they have the jobs listed but no bullets, or they don’t share any thought leadership, they don’t share content that’s interesting to them, they’re hiding, or they’re confused. So, while it seems kind of straightforward to you, I think you’re going to be shot if you ask five women in your life, “Tell me what makes you great at work.” You’ll let me know if I’m wrong, but they pretty much can’t answer it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Wow, that hits hard. Thank you for sharing. And I think that’s a brilliant technique into get those 20 facts, and then once you’ve got them, they’re there, they’re top of mind ready to go. Serve it up.

Kathy Caprino
That’s it. Weave it. I don’t mean you’re talking about your HR thing and you’re weaving into the story, “By the way, I’m this.” But use that. And when we talk about networking, which is another thing, women, especially introverts, it’s so hard for them, and here’s a little tip. When you hate what you do, you don’t want to network because what are you going to say?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Kathy Caprino
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s not fun, “So what do you do?” It’s like, “How do I talk about this? It’s not fun.”

Kathy Caprino
“Ah, I don’t like my vice president job. I hate the people I work with, and it’s putting out not so good stuff.” “Oh, very good.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beating it, Kathy.

Kathy Caprino
Right. “I’ll see at the bar.” But what’s cool is when you have those soundbites, even if it’s half a percent of what you do in this job. Like, I remember when I was laid off, I really thought I was a loser. Although a hundred people were laid off after 9/11, why did I internalize it? But it took me a few years, but then I went, “Wait a minute. I did some great things there.” And then you really pull them out and you do weave them into the story about what you love to do, what makes you proud. So, that’s that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so I’d love to dig a little deeper even. So, when it comes to your special talents, abilities, and accomplishments, one of the tricky funny things about strengths is that to you they may just seem normal, but to outsiders, they’re like, “Wow, you did this?” and you’re like, “Well, it wasn’t that hard. I just did…and then, hey, it’s all done.” So, that’s a great exercise with that reflection in that hour and the facts. How else do you recommend we surface that, “Hey, this is a pretty special thing about me”?

Kathy Caprino
Love it. Love the question. Ask people. So, I’m a big fan of giving recommendations on LinkedIn but also asking. The first time you ask, you cough up a hairball, it’s like, “Ewk, I don’t want to.” But then you get good at asking. And what people write back will blow you away. It won’t be what you think they loved about you. Like, this job that I keep talking about that was the death of me almost, I thought I was a lousy leader because I was getting my tush kicked constantly. I was not inspiring, and that’s hard when you hate who you’ve become.

On LinkedIn, somebody wrote me, a young woman, she wrote, “I was not in Kathy’s department, but she was always something…” and you can read it. That’s the first one I got.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m there.

Kathy Caprino
Something like, “She was always inspiring, and someone who always seemed calm and,” whatever, “someone I emulate or wanted to emulate.” I swear to you I cried when I saw that. It was a healing statement because I thought I was just the worst. So, people are going to tell you things you don’t know with language that you would never use, so ask for recommendations. Not randomly. Pick the 10 people you know who love you in the past five years or 10 years of working, and ask.

The other thing is, ask your family and friends. The really good friends who don’t just whitewash it will tell you, “You know what, Pete, like I have to say, even your prep work for this shows me a lot about you.” You want to know what it shows?

Pete Mockaitis
I hope that not that I’m anal.

Kathy Caprino
All right. Well, I wasn’t going to say that. No, it shows…I’m making this up. I didn’t think of this before. It shows how much you care about how good this is and how good your guest looks. You don’t want them to look bad. You don’t want them to sound bad. It’s not just about you. I see it. Also, you ask some really interesting things here that other people don’t ask. So, I do a lot of podcasts myself and I’m on a lot. You wouldn’t believe how many people just show up and haven’t looked at the material, and don’t know where to go. It says so much about you, about the level of work you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. You’re right. That feels great.

Kathy Caprino
Does that seem right?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s true. I care a boatload, sometimes too much, it’s like, I’m thinking about the podcast with my kids, it’s like, “Yeah, I got to try to turn that off and…”

Kathy Caprino
I dream about my Forbes blog, like writing it. I wake up and go, “Really? You didn’t need to do that at 3:00 in the morning. It’s terrible what you’re dreaming to write.” Anyway. So, ask people.

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, Kathy, I just couldn’t resist, so I went on your LinkedIn, and I’m looking at your first recommendation, and I’ll go ahead and read it, and it is awesome.

Kathy Caprino
Read it. Who is it?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s Rica.

Kathy Caprino
That’s who it is.

Pete Mockaitis
“While I was not in Kathy’s group, she served as an example of how a professional woman should be in a corporate environment. Kathy was one of several female executives that I looked up to, and, on occasion, would offer mentorship during my career,” I’ll just skip the name. I don’t know. “To me, that kind of impression left on an up-and-coming professional in the marketing world speaks volumes about the caliber of work and motivation that a woman like Kathy leaves behind.”

Kathy Caprino
What year was that, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s 2008.

Kathy Caprino
I mean, I still get choked up because it healed me to read it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s beautiful. And I love…and it’s so powerful what you’re sharing here, is that you say you ask, and it was uncomfortable at first but then you got good. And then, sure enough, you got 61 recommendations, which is in the ballpark of the most I’ve ever seen, which leaves a huge impression and is something you can look back to if you’re feeling bombed on a given day.

Kathy Caprino
It’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
And it makes anyone checking you out, be like, “Oh, wow. Okay.”

Kathy Caprino
Thank you, Pete. Nobody’s ever read that to me. See? That’s so interesting. But a lot of people go, “Do we really need those? Why do we need those?” People, if someone can write something about you, that’s lasting as long as LinkedIn is going to be around. Why wouldn’t you want that?

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ll tell you this, candidly, people are making decisions about you and opportunities all the time. Sometimes we, most of the time actually, these days, we proactively seek out guests who match a listener request, like, their expertise matches what someone needs. But yours came from a publicist, and that’s the minority of guests these days, and so my team checks them out, including LinkedIn. And so, there it is, the fact that you’re here means you’re leaving great impressions.

Kathy Caprino
I passed. Oh, that’s nice to know.

Pete Mockaitis
Because you’re doing what you need to do to make sure that those special talents, abilities, and accomplishments are shining through and not hidden and invisible.

Kathy Caprino
Right. Thank you for that. And one final thing about that, now that I’m doing a lot more speaking, even virtually, if someone says, “Holy cow, that was fantastic,” I do ask them to write a speaker recommendation because they’re going to say it’s fantastic for a completely different reason from this bank or PayPal. So, yes, ask for them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that’s beautiful. We’re just still in the first gap so there’s a lot of richness here.

Kathy Caprino
Do we have seven hours?

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’re doing the 20 facts, some reflection time solo, and then you are asking people, and sometimes those asks can be in a public place, like a LinkedIn recommendation. Any other pro tips on identifying your strengths that may be hidden to you?

Kathy Caprino
Well, I love your point that what comes easily to us we don’t recognize. So, go back and connect the dots of who you always were that you let go of. So, for me, when I was 16 to 20, I was a competitive tennis player, went to the state of New York. I was a singer, I loved to be on stage, I loved to use the voice. I was intensely interested in psychology, “Why do people do what they do?” to the point where my dad was like, “Oh, here she goes with trying to figure out why mom did that, or whatever.”

Number four, I didn’t understand this but I had a therapeutic ear, so people would call me, young people, my friends, my peers, guys would say, “Can I come talk to you?” “Yeah. What about?” “Well, I really like Sally and she doesn’t like me.” I can’t tell you how many times people would want to talk to me about that. And I’d say to my mom, “Why are they calling me? I’m 16,” or 18. And I loved ideas. I loved books. My mom used to read literally a book a week, and when I was bored, she’d say, “Read a book,” and I would.

When I look back, it’s every one of those things that makes me love what I do today. But in 18 years of corporate life, none of that was being used. So, look at who you are now. A lot of people say, “Well, at 16, I was miserable, I was depressed. My parents were getting divorced. I didn’t know who I was.” Okay, I don’t mean literally 16. For me, 16 to 20 did it. It’s who I was and then I lost it. But look at when you were really rocking it. As far as you can remember, what were those things that people say, “Ooh, wow”? Like, the standing on stage, I think that’s number two in the most stress-inducing thing after losing a spouse to most people.

So, if you love it, people are going to say, “I can’t believe you love to do that,” or, “You love to write,” or, “You love to flip or horseback ride,” or whatever it is. Look back on those things because it’s usually the things that came so easily to you, you don’t see that it’s a strength, and then connect the dots and leverage that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. That’s great. Well, let’s talk about the second one here, communicating from fear and not strength, and saying, “Oh, I don’t know if this is any good.” I guess there’s a limited context where that is helpful in the sense that you don’t want to overpower or shut down free discussion in a group and you want to explore variance of diverse opinions. But it sounds like, in your experience, hey, the vast majority of the time it’s just the opposite. We’ve got folks who are sort of undervaluing, underemphasizing, underselling, what they have to communicate. So, how do you address that one?

Kathy Caprino
Well, I want to say this because it’s really important. I interviewed The Behavioral Science Guys, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, in my Forbes blog, and the article, look it up, it was “Gender Bias is Real.” And what they did was take a video enactment of an actress, now we call them female actor, and a male actor, saying the same exact thing, and it was forceful. And they were in a meeting, at a table, and they said, “I don’t agree with the direction the team is going here.” Audiences, both male and female, when they looked at the woman saying that, her perceived competency and literal dollar value dropped exponentially. His dropped a little, so, apparently, we don’t like forceful people. Period. But hers plummeted.

So, what we have to understand here is we, women have been trained not to speak powerfully. If you ask the women in your life, I’m an assertive person, I have been a powerful person in the corporate world, I’ve been called, I can’t say it here, biatch. I talk about in the book, I had a senior vice president call me a, “Buzzsaw.” He goes, “You’re a buzzsaw.” And I said, “I’m speechless. Is that good or is that bad?” “It’s that good.”

Pete Mockaitis
You mean, you’re able to cut through large pieces of wood easily.

Kathy Caprino
“You get it done. You get it done. And where no one else does.” The thing is, would he ever have called a man a buzzsaw? No, I’ve never heard him use that word, and I don’t want to be a buzzsaw. But what I found is, because I was suppressed as a child, meaning I felt, and this is a fun story, but I felt like I had to be obedient for my mom and brilliant for my dad. I grew up with a Greek mom. You don’t challenge your Greek mom. And she came from an upbringing where you speak only when spoken to, and you don’t challenge authority. So, I could not speak up. Thus, the chronic infection of my throat.

When you come from that, when you’re trained that you’re going to be punished, and forceful women are punished. It’s just the way it is, we’re penalized. I mean, still today, I’m 60 years old and I still deal with, when I say very clearly, when I push back, whether it’s on my publisher or anybody, “This is what I need. This is what I’m asking for,” you can sense that they think, “What a…” not my publisher per se, but it’s just not accepted yet.

So, the first thing I ask women to do is just watch yourself in the way you speak for the next week. Now, I do want to say this. Being strong doesn’t mean harsh, mean, abusive, critical. It means strong. It means, “Hey, this is my view, this is what I’m thinking,” and, in fact, The Behavioral Science Guys, they did a research on “What statement can you put before a forceful statement that’s going to mitigate the backlash?” Brilliant. And the one that worked the best is if you put a value statement before.

So, in this case that I’m going to say, listen, people, and I’m on a board of a small singing group, I have to say this all the time that we don’t agree with each other at all, ideologically or otherwise, half the time. They say put the value statement. So, it might be something like, “Hey, folks, I really value honesty and transparency, and that is why I have to share that I don’t agree with the direction we’re going.” And what happens is…

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.

Kathy Caprino
Is it that good? And part of it is human beings are fragile. If you bring up something, Pete, and I go, “Can I tell you I don’t agree with that at all?” you know, you’re going to be like, “Oh, okay.” But if I say, “Wow, I think that’s a really good point and I’d love to build on that. I see it slightly differently.” I mean, am I backpedaling? Am I making myself weaker? I don’t think so. I think I’m helping you hear it. What do you think?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I think it’s brilliant in that it’s…you accomplish the goal of not getting people rankled…

Kathy Caprino
Right. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
…without saying less of what you want to say, so I think it’s landing excellently. And so, I’m sort of thinking, give us some more examples. I’m chewing on this real time. We’ve got a value and then a statement.

Kathy Caprino
All right. So, let me say this, so in this board meeting we were having we’re talking about…we’re singers so super spreaders, so we’re talking about what we’re going to do, and I won’t reveal, but this is what I said. We made decisions and we have to present these decisions. And what I’ve always found, and whether this is to your spouse, or your mother, or your friend, or your singing group, if you half-bake an idea and present it, “This is what we are putting forth as what we feel is the best decision, and we’d love to share it with you.” You’re going to get a heck of a lot more positive response and engagement than, “The board met. Here’s what we’re doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, half-baked, not so much as you haven’t thought it through but, “We’re inviting additional collaboration and input.”

Kathy Caprino
Yes. And now somebody said, “I love you to pieces but, no. We’re the board and we’re going to say what needs to be said.” And, in fact, if they don’t agree, what are we going to do about it? We made the decision. I don’t agree with that at all. When you’re asking people to do things, like in this case it’s not what anyone wants. We want to sing together. Nobody wants to sing in a mask. And I believe in masks. So, if you’re going to slap them with some mandates, it’s going to make them angry.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Kathy Caprino
So, my view is, “Here’s what…” and we did this before. We made a big change, and I stood up there, and said, “Here’s why we’re thinking of this. Here’s what the research shows. Here’s what…” not about COVID and masks, but something else. And we expected, out of the 50 people, maybe five to 10 to be furious. Not one person was angry.

Now, some people didn’t like this change we made but there wasn’t that hysteria you get when you’re slapping someone with something. So, I feel like where you can make it so that it can be a dialogue and that you can…I think part of why people don’t like this is they don’t want to hear the feedback, they don’t want to have to deal. But if you’re a leader and you want to move something forward…Now, I’m not saying that every president who’s closing their offices for another three months is going to say they don’t invite a lot of feedback. But wherever you can, wherever there can be an open engagement of ideas, it’s better than the mandate, if you ask me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. And even if you’re making, “This is the decision and this is what holds,” I mean, getting that input in advance is great both so you make a better decision and that people feel included. So, even if you get a survey in terms of like, “Hey, to what extent are you interested in returning to the office versus are you thinking, ‘Hey, working from home is awesome’?” Kind of collecting that is good to know, and makes people feel heard, and can influence some great stuff in terms of, “All right. Well, hey, you know what, there’s…” I don’t know, if it’s a walk-up office, you can have a limited number of spots available for those who really want it, and like you sign up on the system, and it’s like, “Okay, that’s cool. Thanks. Thanks for thinking about me there. It would be nice to get away from the kids here and there,” and that’s a possibility. So, I dig it.

Kathy Caprino
So, the point is be strong, be confident, but that doesn’t mean abrasive, aggressive, “This is what it’s going to be.” One more tip, I want women, and men, to watch how much they apologize. So, the study shows women apologize, I don’t even have the number in front of me, exponentially more. They say the words, “I’m sorry.” And my son, who’s now working right in the bedroom over there, says, “Oh, mom, that’s just like an idiom. It doesn’t matter.” It does matter.

And I say it so much. Here’s an example. You’re in line and someone cuts that line. How many people say, women, “I’m sorry, there’s a line here.” You’re not sorry. You’re angry. Don’t say the word sorry say, “Excuse me,” or, “Oh, I need to tell you there’s a line here.” Watch the words that come out.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I’ve thought about this in terms of, I think, it was years ago. Yeah, I remember I was headed somewhere and I was with my girlfriend in the car, and I was driving, and I don’t remember the specific context, but she was going to send a message to somebody that we’re meeting, and she started by saying, “Hey, sorry,” something, something, something. And I said, “Can we remove the sorry?” And she said, “What? Why?” And it’s like, “Well, I don’t think we’ve actually done anything wrong. We haven’t made a commitment that we’re falling short of.”

Kathy Caprino
Interesting. Interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
“It would be an unjustified expectation for them to have that we do…” and she was so surprised.

Kathy Caprino
And she was probably thinking, “For goodness’ sake. Just say you’re sorry already.”

Pete Mockaitis
Because I guess I just really like my words to have integrity, to be true, to be complete. And when I say I’m sorry to mean it in terms of like, “Hey, I’m saying sorry all the time.” But in terms of it’s like, “You know what, I did something that I shouldn’t have done,” or, “I didn’t do something that I should’ve done,” or, “I didn’t even consider that perspective of yours, and I really should have. That was inconsiderate.” So, that’s sort of how I view sorry. And I guess, in a way, there’s a balancing act. You don’t want to be stubborn or rigid or…

Kathy Caprino
Or narcissistic where you can’t say you’re sorry. But you said a key thing, Pete. You think of every word. You want it to be what you mean. And those of us in the media or when you write, I don’t even ever fire off an email ever. I don’t care how short it is. I look at it and I read it again, and I’m always editing. I didn’t mean I’m sorry, I didn’t mean thank you when I don’t mean thank you, because your words are powerful. And if you weaken them because you’re saying what you don’t mean, it’s going to weaken your whole impact.

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

Kathy Caprino
Can I suggest and ask that anybody listening take my power gap survey?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Kathy Caprino
And if you’re like 98%, you’re going to have one of these gaps at least, and do something about it. I have a free 7-Day Power Boost Challenge. Ooh, wordy. A workbook if you want to give it away, I’m happy to, and it’s a condensed version of the book where you can look at “What can I say to myself differently? What can I literally do differently in the external world in a positive reframe? How do I look at this challenge differently so I embrace it more fully?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that sounds great. And how do folks get that?

Kathy Caprino
Certainly, if you buy my book you can get it. But I am putting up a page where people can just add their name and get it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, now, can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kathy Caprino
It’s Madeleine Albright. Let me get it right, she says, “It took me a long time to develop a voice. And now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”

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

Kathy Caprino
Okay. I don’t mean to sound it’s all about me but it’s the power gap survey because it showed me the incredible epidemic proportions of powerlessness that so many women have.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Kathy Caprino
It’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Kathy Caprino
Oh, my gosh. It’s so powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. It is.

Kathy Caprino
I try to read it every year and remember.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I found it helpful actually with COVID.

Kathy Caprino
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
In that, oh, in some ways, I feel, not be melodramatic, but a bit imprisoned, constrained, many of the things I would like to do I cannot do. But then to look at what the man went through and survived and found meaning and value and enrichment for others from it, it’s like it just puts things in perspective.

Kathy Caprino
Yes. And the idea that you can choose. The one thing you can choose is how you’re going to respond. That’s all you can choose. So great.

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

Kathy Caprino
You know, this may sound boring but I’ve just recently used Slack, found Slack, with my team. I adore it. I have a small team, a team of four, but I feel like we’re in the fabric of each other’s lives that way. And it’s, to me, so much better than email or text. I adore it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Kathy Caprino
Okay, this is a little bit of a spiritual thing. But I do believe we have a higher self that knows more, that’s more connected to everything, to wisdom. And my favorite habit is, every morning, literally, I have a little candle here, fake candle but I love it. And I will look at it and think, I will say this to myself, “What is it that I need to learn today? And what is it that I need to let go of?” And I listen. And, usually, there’s a big nugget of truth there.

Pete Mockaitis
Love it. Oh, I was just about to ask you for a big nugget of truth. Is there something you share that people frequently quote back to you or retweet or highlight in your books?

Kathy Caprino
It’s something around this, “We are all like our thumbprint – absolutely unique. And there is so much specialness in that uniqueness.” And so, what I’m really begging people to do is love themselves enough to see that specialness and bring it forward, talk about it more, use it more, leverage it more, because the truth is, the world needs it. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the world because, look at what we’re in here, we’re in a tough time, so we need your special talents, abilities, and gifts. And do not, for a minute, think you’re not great. And just look at your thumb and your thumbprint, and remember. That’s how special you are. Now is the time to use that in service.

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

Kathy Caprino
KathyCaprino.com. FindingBrave.org is my podcast, and you can find The Most Powerful You anywhere you love to buy books, audio, hardcover, wherever you’d like.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kathy, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best.

Kathy Caprino
Thank you, Pete. Thanks so much for having me, and your really thoughtful questions. I so appreciate it.

599: How to Break the Habit of Anxiety Using Curiosity with Dr. Jud Brewer

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Dr. Jud Brewer says: "Fear plus uncertainty equals anxiety."

Dr. Jud Brewer discusses how anxiety leads us to form bad habits—and what we can do to make a change.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How anxiety takes over—and what we can do about it
  2. Three steps to go from anxious to curious
  3. How to put an end to bad habit loops for good

About Dr. Jud

Jud Brewer, MD PhD is a thought leader in the field of habit change and the science of self-mastery. He is the “executive medical director of behavioral health at Sharecare,”, the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, and an associate professor at Brown’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine. He is the author of The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love, Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Dr. Jud Brewer Interview Transcript

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

Judson Brewer
Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. One of my favorite pieces I read in your bio is that you’re a thought leader in the science of self-mastery, and I love self-mastery. So, could you kick us off in maybe sharing a surprising or counterintuitive insight when it comes to human beings and achieving self-mastery?

Judson Brewer
Well, just one of the many is that it’s actually less work than we tend to think it is. And, in fact, the more we push often, the more the world pushes back. So, this idea of what we resist, persists. And that also applies to trying to master ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. Thank you. Much to chew on already. Well, specifically, I want to zoom into mastering ourselves in the realm of anxiety. Ooh, there’s a lot of that going around these days. I guess it’s been on the upward trajectory for years, and then worldwide pandemic and lockdowns certainly kicks it up a notch. So, maybe to get on the same page, do you have a working definition of anxiety that we can kind of tether us and anchor us in this discussion?

Judson Brewer
Yeah, I think I have a very simple one. It’s kind of fear of the future basically or relating to worry. And there’s an official definition but I’m terrible at remembering things. But, basically, it’s like worrying about something with an uncertain outcome or something in the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, then it sounds like we all do some of that and, to some extent, maybe we need to do some of that, and feel free to correct me if I’m off base here. So, I think most of us would like to have less anxiety. But can you maybe share an inspirational story or case study or something? Like, what’s really possible and realistic in terms of the human condition and our relationship to anxiety? And what would be…what’s optimal really look like? And can we get there?

Judson Brewer
I think we can, and my lab has been studying this for a long time, and we actually have some data to back that up. I’ll give you an example from a patient that I’ve been seeing in my clinic. He was referred to me for anxiety and, in fact, when he walked in the door, I didn’t even need to have him utter a word. He looked pretty anxious.

And when I took his history, he reported that he had actually stopped driving on the highway because he had gotten so freaked out just with having thoughts of getting in a car accident when he was on the highway. So, basically, he had full-blown panic disorder, and it went something like this. He would be on the highway, and he would have this thought that would come into his mind that would say, “Oh, you’re in a speeding bullet,” is the way that he put it. And that thought would lead him to get freaked out and anxious, and then his behavior was that he’d basically stopped driving on the highway, and barely even drove on residential streets.

And the result of that was that he would avoid those situations that led to these anxiety-provoking or these panic-provoking moments. Now, not only did he have panic disorder, but he also had what’s described as generalized anxiety disorder where he was basically anxious all the time. It didn’t have to be just when he was on the highway. So, it’s both panic and generalized anxiety disorder.

So, the idea is, and we can walk through how this works, but just to give you this nugget of this case study, we started having him map out how his mind had learned to become anxious. And over time, he got much better. And I can give you a little bit of a cliffhanger there so we’ll talk about how he did as we walk through this.

But one way to think about this, and how I worked with this patient, was to really understand how our minds work. If we don’t know how our minds work, how can we possibly work with them? And, in fact, we have these very basic learning mechanisms, these survival mechanisms. For example, fear is a really helpful mechanism for our survival. If you step out into the street, and you almost get hit by a car, step back onto the sidewalk, you learn, “Oh, look both ways before crossing the street.” So, that’s really helpful.

And there are actually only three elements that are needed to learn something like this. It’s called reward-based learning. You need a trigger, a behavior, and a result. So, the example with this patient, the trigger was he’d have these thoughts, the behavior was that he would avoid driving on the highway, and the result was that he avoided those panic attacks and those panicky feelings. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so, in so doing, you kind of learn, “Okay, that’s the way to go is don’t get on the highway.”

Judson Brewer
Exactly. Exactly. The problem is driving tends to be helpful, especially for folks that don’t have good public transportation systems and whatnot, and these things, these learned anxiety behaviors and worry and things like that, can pigeonhole us into not even leaving our house and being very limited in many ways, let alone feeling anxious throughout the day, which isn’t very good.

So, the way to parse this, and the way that I worked with this patient was to help him see the difference between fear-based learning, like this negative reinforcement, which is reward-based learning, is the difference between that and how that can lead to anxiety. And the difference is that fear is a helpful survival mechanism but it can lead to anxiety when we have the absence of information.

So, think of our old brain, the survival brain, as helping us remember stuff, right? It helps us remember where our food is. It helps us remember where danger is so we can avoid it. Now, on top of this old brain, we’ve layered on this new part of the brain literally the neocortex. And the neocortex helps us think and plan for the future but it needs information in order to do that. It takes past instances and scenarios, it takes current information, and it kind of extrapolates into the future.

But if we don’t have that information, it just starts spinning out in these worry thoughts, like, “Oh, this could happen. Oh, no. Or this could happen, this could happen, this could happen,” because that uncertainty, there are a bunch of different scenarios that pop out. And what that leads to is anxiety. So, fear plus uncertainty equals anxiety. Fear by itself isn’t a problem. Uncertainty by itself isn’t a problem. But when you mix those two together, you get anxiety soup.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so now we zoom into the pandemic right here and now. I’m curious, are we doing some fear-based learning on some particular things? You’re also an expert on habits. Are there maybe some bad habits that we might be fear-based learning and reinforcing right now? What are they?

Judson Brewer
Yes. So, we’re certainly seeing this most prominently, I would say, and I pay attention to addictions and things like that because I’m an addiction psychiatrist. Drinking, for example, in society has gone up a lot. People are stress-eating more, they’re anxiety-eating more. Social media use, especially, people getting glued to their newsfeeds has gone up.

And so, here, with all this uncertainty, there’s more anxiety, and with that anxiety as a trigger, people are going to these things like drinking alcohol to make them feel better, or going to their newsfeeds to try to get information because information itself is kind of food for our brain. It helps us plan for the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, well, yeah, I could see that could be problematic in terms of if you’re eating more than you need to, then you’ll have the risk of becoming more overweight or obese. If you’re drinking more, there are natural consequences. And then the newsfeed, in terms of like addiction to distraction. Yeah, bad news. So, what should we do?

Judson Brewer
Well, the newsfeed, in particular, is kind of like a casino. So, if you think of reward-based learning, and the most potent form of reward-based learning is called intermittent reinforcement. So, think of a casino, and the casinos have dialed in those formula for their slot machines so that the slot machines only pay out at a certain schedule. And that schedule, you don’t know when it’s going to happen, otherwise we’d all win and the casinos wouldn’t make money.

So, they dial it in so that you don’t know when you’re going to win but you win basically randomly. Well, the same is true when people go on the news right now. They check their newsfeed, nothing new, nothing new, nothing new. And then, suddenly, bam, big news article hits. Dopamine spurts in their brain, and they say, “Oh, wow, I should check the news more often.” So, the news right now is just like a slot machine. I just want to highlight that.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s funny. I’ve been thinking more and more that I should check the news less often because I guess I’m…call it self-awareness or a good week vacation in the nature, but it’s like it so rarely pays off. I guess what I’m looking for is I’d like some hope, “Hey, we got a treatment. We got a vaccine.” I’d like something rich and interesting to tickle my brain, like, “Hmm, I’ve never thought about that situation or that reality for people. And how about that, I’m quite intrigued and fascinated to dig in and learn more.” And I’m satisfied in the sense that I’ve had a pleasant learning. I very rarely get any of that. When I go to the news it’s sort of like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, COVID is still happening, and, yeah, politics are still happening. Okay, I guess I’m all caught up now.”

Judson Brewer
Yes. Well, you’re actually hinting at what we can do about this.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, do tell.

Judson Brewer
Yeah, I think of this as a three-step process. The first is understanding how our minds work, right? As I mentioned earlier, if we don’t know how our minds work, we can’t possibly work with them. So, just like my patient, well, I’ll give you an example. So, the patient that I described earlier, the instruction I sent to him home with was to simply map out habit loops around anxiety. Just start there. What are the triggers? What are the behaviors? And what are the results? And once he could start to map these out, then he could start to work with them.

So, for example, he came back, I think it was two weeks later, and he actually looked much happier than when he first came to see me, and he couldn’t wait to tell me something when he sat down in the chair. And I said, “What’s going on?” And he said, “Oh, I lost 14 pounds.” So, this guy was very, very overweight. And I looked at him kind of puzzled because I was thinking we’re going to talk about anxiety, and he said, “Well, I mapped out these habit loops and I realized anxiety was triggering me to eat, to stress-eat, and that was actually not making me feel any better so I stopped doing it.”

And granted, losing 14 pounds in two weeks is pretty fast, but let’s just say, he had a long way to go, he had a lot of weight to lose. And so, in that case, when he just stopped overeating, he was naturally shedding weight because he was not taking in as many calories as he was burning. Long story short, with his weight, so he was overweight, he was hypertensive because of his obesity, and he also had a fatty liver, and he also had sleep apnea. Within six months, he had lost 100 pounds, and all of those had results. He had normal blood pressure, his liver was back to normal, he didn’t have obstructive sleep apnea anymore.

So, that was the first step, was helping him see what he was doing, what these habits loops were around anxiety. So, that’s first step, map out these habit loops, what’s the trigger was, what’s the behavior was, what’s the results. The second step is to see very, very clearly how rewarding or unrewarding this behavior is. There’s a lot of science, this goes back to the ‘70s, there are these two researchers called Rescorla and Wagner who had this reward value curve where basically what they determined was based on previous rewards, how rewarding a behavior was in the past, you’re more likely to repeat it in the future. If it’s rewarding, you’re going to do it again.

The problem is that we tend to lay down behaviors as habits and we don’t pay attention to the reward value. For example, I work with a lot of people who want to quit smoking. And on average, they start smoking at the age of 13. And, actually, I had a patient who had come to me after 40 years of smoking, so he’d reinforced that habit loop about 300,000 times, and it was just habit for him. So, I told him to start paying attention as he was smoking, to really just notice what it’s like to smoke. And he realizes, smoking actually doesn’t taste very good.

And so, here, it helped him see what the current reward value was for this behavior, not when he was 13 when he was smoking to be cool or rebel or whatever, but right now. And so, that reward value naturally drops. And we’ve actually done studies both with overeating and with smoking, and it takes us few as 10 to 15 times of people actually paying attention when they do these behaviors for that reward value to drop.

Now, that opens the door for what I call the BBO, the bigger, better offer. Our brains are going to look, and say, “Okay, smoking isn’t that great. Overeating isn’t that great. Give me something better.” So, what we have people do is just notice what it’s like to just eat a normal amount of food, or eat healthy food instead of junk food, or not smoke a cigarette, for example. And within these 10 to 15 times, they actually flipped their behavior from overeating to stopping overeating, basically eating a normal amount of food or not eating the junk food because it actually feels better.

And we can even teach them simple things like getting curious about what those sensations in their body feel like that urge them to eat. And that curiosity itself is a more rewarding “behavior,” it’s an internal behavior, than getting caught up in a craving or getting caught up in worry.

I remember working with a patient, we have this app-based mindfulness training for anxiety, actually we did a couple studies where we got close to 60% reduction in these generalized anxiety disorder scales. She talked about when she started to get anxious, just getting curious about that anxiety itself, and that it flipped into, “Oh, curiosity feels better than feeling anxious.” And then it became habitual for her that whenever she notices anxiety starting to come up that she would get curious about it instead, and then the anxiety would go away.

So, that’s really the step two and three once we’ve mapped out these habit loops. Step two is really noticing how unrewarding the old behavior is, which then opens up that gap to find that bigger, better offer. And a bigger, better offer can be awareness itself, curiosity, “Oh, what it’s like when I have an urge to eat? Can I get curious about that? Oh, that curiosity itself feels pretty good.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love it if we could maybe apply that to some bad habits perhaps that professionals have, maybe they’ve picked it up in the midst of the pandemic, or maybe it’s always been there. So, it sounds like I was starting to do some of that with regard to my news habit, like, “Hmm, it seems like the current reward that it’s offering isn’t that great.”

Judson Brewer
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I guess we’d do the same if you’re checking emails compulsively like 30 times a day, or if you’re in the social media newsfeed. So, can you sort of walk through that process in those contexts? So, you get curious, you sort of notice what it’s doing for you and what it’s not doing for you. And then how might that play out?

Judson Brewer
Yeah. So, how about this? I’ve been seeing a lot of people comment on how they are really struggling with procrastination right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Judson Brewer
So, I’m guessing this can apply to a lot of folks at their jobs, a lot of professionals. So, whether it’s stress or anxiety as that trigger, or even just seeing or thinking about a project that they need to complete, or even looking at their inbox where they see a bunch of emails from their boss that they haven’t responded to yet, right? So, there’s the trigger. It doesn’t feel good so the behavior is to procrastinate. Maybe they go on social media, maybe they do something else, maybe they go for a snack as a way to avoid that unpleasant feeling of actually doing the work. And then the result is they get a brief relief because they’re not thinking about what they should be doing. So, there’s a habit loop around procrastination.

What we can do is help people map out that habit loop and just kind of articulate what’s happening, see what they actually get from it, “So, how does it feel to procrastinate?” Well, in the moment, it might feel a little bit better but, ultimately, they’re further behind on the project. They might feel guilty for going and eating food when they weren’t hungry, or checking out their social media feed, or looking at cute pictures of puppies on Instagram, or whatever it is. And then they realize, “Oh, this isn’t actually that great.”

And then I have them compare what that procrastination habit feels like to actually turning off their email alerts and their phone, and just taking an hour and just doing a deep dive into work. Nobody has ever said to me, “You know, it feels terrible to be focused, it feels terrible to get work done.” It actually feels very good. So, here, just being able to compare what procrastination feels like compared to being focused, helps people shift from that procrastination habit into getting work done.

Now, notice how this didn’t take any willpower. It really just takes the power of observation, awareness, “Oh, what’s this feel like compared to, you know, what is A feel like compared to B?” And if they can see the results of each of those very clearly, their brain does the work for them through this reward valuation system.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great. Sounds easy. I’m guessing it’s not in practice. Quite so easy of an experience because, at least a few times, you’re still going to feel the urge whether it’s smoking, eating, email checking, even after you’ve sort of observed, and say, “Hmm, you know what, this doesn’t pay off so well. The alternative is better,” you’re still feeling the urge. What do you recommend?

Judson Brewer
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So, this isn’t to say that this is a magic pill or a perfect fix, especially when those urges feel very uncomfortable. Our natural inclination is to do whatever we can that can make that urge go away the fastest. If it’s an urge to smoke a cigarette, we quickly go out for a smoke break. If it’s an urge to check our social media feeds, social media is set up to decrease the barriers to entry so that we will quickly hop on social media. So, that’s really important to understand is that they’ve basically greased the skids to make it very easy for us to perpetuate these old habits.

Now, so you asked, “So, what can we do?” The key is, even afterwards, after we’ve done something, we can still learn from it. I think of this as these retrospective moments where you can still learn from a behavior if the juice is still there, if you can remember what it felt like to do it. So, let’s say that, we can use procrastination, we can use eating, we can use any of these examples, after we’ve procrastinated, as long as we can link up the behavior and the result of the behavior, and we can feel into what that feels like or what it feels like to even recall what it felt like previously, we can still learn from it.

I think it’s important to highlight that reward-based learning isn’t based on the behavior itself. It’s actually based on the result of the behavior. That’s what drives future behavior. So, the trigger isn’t that important, the behavior itself isn’t as important as how rewarding the behavior is. So, if we can link up that behavior result or that cause and effect relationship, and if we can even do that retrospectively, and we can see, “Oh, when I’d procrastinated, it didn’t actually feel that good,” that can help us learn for the future so that the next time we have an urge to procrastinate, we can just start to bring to mind, “Oh, what was it like last time I did this?” It takes a moment of awareness, a moment of reflection. And the more we can do that, the more that opens that gap between habitual reaction and kind of an aware response. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And so then, I guess if we’re trying to establish good habits, it seems like much of that would apply, it’s just that the feeling is a happy positive one. Is there any different suggestion that you’d put forward when it comes to if we’re trying to build up a good habit?

Judson Brewer
The same process applies just as you surmised. One thing I would say is that it’s really important to notice all the nuanced qualities of these good habits. So, for example, I think there’s a societal habit now of divisiveness, of this tribal psychology where it’s so easy to categorize somebody, or get them to categorize themselves as an us-them thing, everything from politicizing, wearing masks, to this and that.

So, we can notice, “What is it like when I feel othered, when somebody says, ‘Oh, you’re wrong, I’m right’?” or when we’re trying to defend a position, for example, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” What does that even feel like as compared to when we’re all working together for a common cause? For example, eradicating a viral infection, just hypothetically speaking. So, here, for these good habits, I think it’s really important to pay attention to what that quality feels like, and my lab is actually studying this right now. We can look at it in simple terms, like, “Does something feel more contracted or closed down versus opened up or expanded?”

So, as a pop quiz, hotshot, let me ask you. What’s it feel like when you are afraid or when you’re anxious? Does it feel more closed down or does it feel more opened up?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s very closed down and it seems like there’s almost only one option.

Judson Brewer
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
This must be the thing that happens now.

Judson Brewer
Yeah, absolutely. And so, it knows us, it focuses us, that’s the survival thing, right? If you’re being chased, your job is to quickly run away as compared to sit back and think about, “What should I do?” So, now compare that to joy. Does joy feel closed down or does it feel opened up?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it feels opened up in the sense that, you know, if I’m really joyful, it’s like, “Oh, I might want to dance or sing or jump on trampoline or give thanks.” There’s many options that feel great.

Judson Brewer
Right. So, there, we can now look at…and my lab has actually done this. If you look at these different categories, so if you look at fear, you look at anger, people tend to categorize these as more closed feelings. If you look at joy, but also look at things like curiosity or connectedness, people report that these feel much more open than these others. Now, if you had to pick, would you rather have something that feels more closed or would you rather have something that feels more open?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, open. Sure.

Judson Brewer
Yeah. So, our brain actually has these already lined up in its natural reward hierarchy. We’d rather do things that feel more open than closed. Now the reason that I bring all this forward is that we can start paying attention to things like, “Well, what’s it like when I’m fighting with somebody on the internet or with a family member? What does that feel like compared to when I’m really listening, like deeply listening, wanting to understand their perspective?” Which ones feel closed? Which ones feels open? And which of those categories actually feels better?

If we simply pay attention to those things, we’ll naturally move toward these “good habits.” I think of connectedness, working together as a good habit. It’s probably the way that we will survive as a species as compared to divisiveness. So, if we look at those and we just pay attention to how does something feel. Does it feel closed versus open? That can actually help lead us in the direction of these good habits simply through paying attention to the results of those behaviors.

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

Judson Brewer
No, I just want to highlight I think of curiosity as a superpower. And I’ll mention this and just kind of bring the circle to a close around the patient that I mentioned at the beginning. So, I talked about how we taught him to pay attention to understand how his mind worked, to notice how unrewarding, for example, stress-eating was, and then what the results of these behaviors were versus different behaviors. He lost 100 pounds.

But, ultimately, over the course of about six months, and I kid you not. I remember walking out of…I was teaching a class at our school of public health at Brown University, which is on South Main Street, and this guy pulls up to the curve in his car and rolls down the window, it’s my patient, and I looked at him kind of confused because this is the guy that was struggling driving anywhere. And he says, “Oh, yeah, I’m an Uber driver now.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Judson Brewer
So, here’s an example when somebody really learns how their mind works, they can really learn to master it and move from overeating to losing a bunch of weight, and move from full-on panic to sort of where they can’t drive to literally becoming an Uber driver.

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

Judson Brewer
One immediately that comes to mind is Dorothy Parker, where she says, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

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

Judson Brewer
I’ll give you one favorite study recently, where there was a group at UCLA where they were studying adolescents who were shown their own Instagram feeds since they were measuring their brain activity as they were viewing their own Instagram feeds. And the only manipulation they made in the study was how many likes each picture got, and so they can look at the difference in brain activity between a bunch of likes and a few likes.

Long story short, they found that when adolescents got a bunch of likes to their Instagram pictures that their reward centers in their brain lit up the nucleus accumbens, which is the same network of brain regions that gets activated with every known drug of abuse, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, tobacco, all these. So, Instagram seems to activate these reward centers and, at the same time, they were activating these self-referential networks, this default network, in particular the posterior cingulate cortex.

And so, the study was one of the first that I know of that actually linked reward and basically thinking about ourselves or something to do with ourselves. And so, I thought that was absolutely fascinating. I wrote about it in my book The Craving Mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I don’t want to say anything negative about “influencers” but sometimes I just get a little bit of that impression that you’re really into yourself, and it’s not so appealing. Now, I understand in some ways it’s a business model, and they’ve got sponsors or whatever, and it’s the game and the business they’re in. But sometimes that just seems to kind of come across, and it sounds like there may be some scientific evidence that it could be a real thing.

Judson Brewer
Yes. And I think people can get lost in it just like any addiction basically. Somebody is so lost in their own persona or whatever, especially if they’re receiving a bunch of rewards, monetary or whatever, that it’s hard to step back and get a greater perspective. I would think of YouTube really should be named MeTube because that’s what it’s all about is getting that one video to go viral.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Judson Brewer
In terms of novels, I think my favorite one is The Art of Racing in the Rain.

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

Judson Brewer
Awareness. Does that count as a tool?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Yeah. And a favorite habit?

Judson Brewer
Being curious.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, when it comes to the habit of being curious, are there particular go-to questions you ask yourself that spark that up and get it going?

Judson Brewer
There’s a particular mantra I use but don’t ask me how to spell it, which is basically “Hmm…” And I like that because it drops me into my direct experience rather than getting lost in my head.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, what’s so funny is that it’s like mantra I think is the word for it because almost just like if you sing something or you do a little dance, it’s hard to feel all that bad. Like, the action itself produces an emotional response. And I think “Hmm…” falls right in that same category, so thank you for that.

And how about is there a particular nugget you share that you’re really known for, people quote it back to you frequently?

Judson Brewer
The linking this habit loop to reward-based learning is something that people bring back to me pretty frequently. And the emphasis on curiosity as a superpower is something that I hear reverberating a lot in my teachings.

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

Judson Brewer
I have a website, DrJud.com, and also a YouTube channel, same name DrJud.

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

Judson Brewer
I would say challenge yourselves to step out of your comfort zones and really embrace uncertainty so that we can move into growth zones rather than panic zones.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jud, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best.

Judson Brewer
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

594: Achieving More by Embracing Your Productivity Style with Carson Tate

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Carson Tate says: "There's no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity."

Carson Tate discusses the four productivity styles—and how to pick the best tools and practices that best suit you.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to pick the right system for your productivity style
  2. The top tools for keeping your inbox under control
  3. How to work in harmony with opposing productivity styles

About Carson

Carson is the founder and Managing Partner of Working Simply. She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. Her views have been included in top-tier business media including Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, CBS Money Watch, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, The New York Times, USA Today, Working Mother and more.

Prior to starting Working Simply, Carson worked in Human Resources and sales functions with Fortune 200 firms. Carson holds a BA in psychology from Washington and Lee University, a Masters in Organization Development, and a Coaching Certificate from the McColl School of Business at Queens University.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Carson Tate Interview Transcript

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

Carson Tate
Thanks, Pete. I’m glad to be with you today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m glad to be with you and to get into some of the mess that is our lives and productivity and such. But I understand you also love the mess of mud runs and more. What’s the story here?

Carson Tate
Yes. So, a couple of my girlfriends and I got bored a few years ago with just regular road races and we decided to branch out, and it is some of the most fun that we have, and we are literally cleaning mud out of our ears for days afterwards, and obstacles, and you push yourself, but it’s great fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Let’s see, I’m familiar with the Tough Mudder. What are the other big names in mud running?

Carson Tate
So, the Tough Mudder is the one that we’ve done. And there’s also, in North Carolina, a couple of just very small local races as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s some fun background. I want to get your view here, so you’ve done a lot of work about work, researching people and productivity, and kind of what makes us tick. What would you say is maybe the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made about people and productivity from all of your explorations?

Carson Tate
If we really want to be productive, you’ve got to align your tools and your strategies to how you think and process.

So, what often happens is people try a new app and it doesn’t work for them, and then they think they’re not capable of getting organized or there’s something wrong with them. No, it’s just the tool that doesn’t work for you. So, it’s about aligning your tools to how you think and process, and then really creating a custom toolkit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so in your world, you defined four different productivity styles. And I’d love it if you could, call me a skeptic or what the word is, but I’d love to hear a little bit about the underlying research in that. I guess for like with the Enneagram, for example, I’m like, “Who says there’s nine types? How do we know there’s nine? Why are there not eight or 12? Why are they not like 34 like the Strengths?” So, can you lay it on us, how do we come up with four?

Carson Tate
Absolutely. So, first of all, my graduate research looked at cognitive thinking styles, so this is different than personality. This is literally how you think and process information. And so, I looked at the research, neuroscience and research, into how we think. And so, the concept of left brain and right brain, it’s not technically accurate but that’s easy classification, and then started digging into an instrument called Hermann Brain Dominance Inventory that looks at thinking style, and realized that that’s a great instrument, and there’s a gap, and that that instrument does not tell you how your thinking style informs how you work. And by how you work, I mean how you think about time, how you structure your day, whether you like to take notes or not, what your inbox looks like, and whether or not you like file folders.

So, using what I understood around our thinking styles, I developed first-tier assessment in grad school and then tested it out, and realized that there really are topologies, there are four different styles that broadly characterized these thinking styles. So, one is prioritizer, analytical, linear, fact-based. These are the folks that like spreadsheets and data and details. Then planners, organized, sequential, detailed. These are the folks that have never met a checklist they didn’t like. These are the project planners. Arrangers, these are your intuitive, kinesthetic, relational folks. They do their work with and  through people. They like colorful pens, they’re visual. And then visualizers, these are your big-picture strategic thinkers. They are the ones that are pushing the envelope, “Why not?” They don’t like structure. They think in big, broad concepts.

So, first iteration, tested it, had to refine the topology. Tested it again. And now we’re on an iteration, this is our third iteration. We’ve had over 2.5 million people take it and validating the results.

Pete Mockaitis
Wait. What’s the number again?

Carson Tate
Two and a half million.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Good work. Cool.

Carson Tate
So, it’s working. It’s definitely working. And, Pete, I think what is helpful about it, like any of these assessments, and I hear you on what’s the science behind it. Fundamentally, it’s just an awareness tool. So, if you’re my client, I’m coaching  you, and I can help you see how your thinking is informing why you do not want to schedule your day in 15-minute increments in a way that would better help you optimize your time, that is what’s going to lead to your productivity. So, that awareness. So, it’s just an awareness too. It’s just access into how you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I would love it if you could sort of make that come alive for us here in terms of if you could maybe share a story of maybe someone who was doing something and it wasn’t working for him, and then they made a discovery about this, and then they saw some cool results from there.

Carson Tate
Yeah, absolutely. So, I was working with a client, we’ll call him Bill, he worked in the nonprofit sector, and Bill, very tech savvy, Bill had probably tried every app that’s out there, every to-do app, and he would stick to it for like a week or so, he’s so excited, and then the wheels fall off, and he’d be crazy it’s not working out. He could never find an email. He’d taken plenty of email management classes, he was late on all of his projects. And so, when I met with him, the first thing I realized was that he was a visualizer, really big-picture thinker. So, an app that was very linear and very designed for really discrete details, it went counter to how he thought about things.

He thought about things in terms of ideas, so this was how he was going to solve the waste management issue, like these big concepts. So, what I’d asked him to do was try mind-mapping software so he could anchor the central concept, and then from it, pull out things that needed to happen around it. So, making these really graphical charts he could see. And the second thing we did was we removed every single folder that he had in his inbox because out of sight was out of mind. He’d get an email and then he’d file it away in the to-do folder, but he’d forget about it because he was visual.

So, we turned his inbox into a visual to-do list by changing the subject line of his email messages to his next action steps so he could see them. They never went away. He could search them and see them. And then we reconfigured his calendar. So, these tight little very structured meeting, meeting, meeting didn’t work for him. So, we started thinking about his work in terms of theme days. So, Monday’s theme for him was admin, so all of the internal work, the internal meetings, the one on one’s. Tuesday, he was out in the field, he did some work out in the field inspecting job sites. Wednesdays was back in the office. Thursday was another field day, so he could kind of group and organize things based on themes.

So, fits and starts. Three weeks later, I checked in with him, and he’s still on those early stages of trying to get it to work, but what had happened is that his manager noticed that he was arriving on time to meetings, and that he’d actually turned in two things early. He was so proud of him, super proud of him. Fast forward six months later, he’s hitting all of his marks, he’s up for a promotion, and he actually had started working on a book that he was talking about for his nonprofit that he had setup because he created the mental space and the time space to also start to pursue some of his personal passions because he got work dialed in.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot in there. And it’s funny because I’ve heard about how grand mind mapping is, and I haven’t really had much cool results with it, part of it is like my writing is hard to read and it gets kind of crunched. I could try the big piece of paper. So, yeah, I haven’t personally had a mind-mapping session that knocked my socks off in terms of, “Wow, that’s so cool. I’m glad I did that.”

And, yet, when you first mentioned the prioritizer, I am in so all about finding sort of the 80/20 high-leverage thing that does it. And I do have a spreadsheet that estimates the profit generated per hour invested of various business initiatives and then that gets me fired up, like, ‘Holy smokes, that one is worth ten times what that one is worth.” So, as you laid this out, it makes a lot of sense how, hey, mind mapping is game-changing for some but, for me, it hasn’t been resonant yet.

Carson Tate
Right, because it’s not quantifiable for you. So, as a prioritizer, you need to quantify your efforts. So, we either quantify in terms of minutes, we quantify in terms dollars, we quantify it in terms of emails processed in minutes, number of items checked off, how quickly you achieved an objective, how many minutes were shaved off of a meeting. So, that is speaking your productivity language. But for Ben, he doesn’t care. That doesn’t motivate him. He doesn’t care about that. He’s more concepts, “What’s next? And how do we build a system for him?” And he actually used a whiteboard, and then there’s also a software called MindJet that you can do mind mapping on the computer.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, okay, since you opened up that door, I can’t resist. Let’s hear the tools because it can be tempting to play tools all day long, but if we can have just a couple of minutes. So, MindJet is cool for mind-mapping individualizers. Is there any other sort software or tools you recommend for each of the other three?

Carson Tate
So, I like Trello for planners, and arrangers can use it a little bit. Evernote is great for arrangers and for visualizers because they have blank pages. And prioritizers, you can use Todoist, you can use Things, and there are a host of them that are designed for prioritizers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, I think that I love OmniFocus and just a spreadsheet most often because I can see those numbers.

Carson Tate
Right.
I would say that you’re definitely onto something but it really doesn’t matter what the tool is as long as it works for you. So, Excel, a great tool for you, but it might not have the flash or the name recognition, but it works for you. So, part of the push and the struggle on productivity is, can you stand on the ground of, “Hey, you know what, I use a legal pad. It works for me”?

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Understood. Okay. Cool. And then I guess I’m also thinking that, I guess, in some ways, different projects and different outputs that you’re shooting for sort of seem to align more readily to different folks. I guess I’m thinking if I’m trying to say, “Hey, manufacturing plant manager, I need you to optimize our outputs and shave off all the time associated with cranking out the widgets,” going on a visualizer style, or maybe just my bias as a prioritizer, but it doesn’t quite seem like that’s ideal but maybe all roads lead to Rome or something. Like, there’s multiple paths that will end up doing the same thing. What’s your take on that?

Carson Tate
All roads lead to Rome, and each of these styles has a strength. So, if we’ve got to optimize throughput on a manufacturing line, I’m going to strongly encourage that we have a prioritizer to think about that. If we need to redesign the line, then I’m going to suggest we have a visualizer to think about a new approach. And if it’s about, “Do we have a team that’s highly functioning on this line?” I’m going to ask the arranger to do that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then I suppose, tell us, how does one learn what their style is?

Carson Tate
So, we have the assessments on our website WorkingSimply.com, you can go and take it on the website. Then we also have multiple articles on our blogs that talk about these styles and questions you can ask to help you determine your productivity style.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, can you tell us, once we are aware of our productivity style, I guess what are some of the sort of top do’s and don’ts that we should keep in mind? Either things that are sort of universally applicable to all or the particulars, “Hey, prioritizers probably do this and don’t do that.”

Carson Tate
Yes. So, universal, I have two universals across the board for all four styles. One is the concept which, I think, Pete, you are 100% in alignment with, which is time is a commodity. And so, we talk about it with our coaching clients and our training clients that time is non-renewable resource, “We all have the same 168 hours in a week. How do you choose to invest it for your highest ROI?” So, that’s across the board best practice, “Can you make that paradigm shift to being as intentional and as thoughtful about your time spent as you are your money spent?” What you’ve done with your spreadsheet is you’ve quantified time. You know what an hour of your time is worth and you make your decisions based on that.

The second universal principle is around inboxes, and we believe that your inbox is the best personal assistant you’ve ever had.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you mean email inbox or…?

Carson Tate
Your email inbox, yes. And so, to use all of the technology tools that are available in your platform, to automate as much as possible of your email management.

Pete Mockaitis
Don’t even know we’re going to go here. Let’s go there now.

Carson Tate
You want to dig into email? Let’s talk email. Let’s talk inboxes.

Pete Mockaitis
So, there’s the tools. I mean, hey, I love my email tools. I like Superhuman to fly through them, and I like SaneBox to filter. I guess, what are the other tools, and what are the other just sort of approaches in terms of what you’re doing in there, kind of regardless of the software you got?

Carson Tate
So, regardless of the software, we suggest a process we call the email agility process. You read it. You decide what it is. Does it require action by you? If action is required by you, you do it, not channeling Nike. You just do it if you do it under five minutes. Delegate it if you can, if you don’t have the knowledge and authority. Don’t have the knowledge and authority, you delegate it or you convert it to a task. So, convert them to task in Gmail, Outlook, you can send it to Evernote, but you are making that decision around the action step because what we don’t want to do is re-read the email. And if no action is required, you delete it or you file it. And then the final step is to contain and think thoughtfully about how you want to store and retrieve your messages.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, how do I arrive with that decision, the containing?

Carson Tate
The containing, yes. And this goes back though, Pete, the containing piece is where it becomes really personal. So, for you as a prioritizer, it’s going to look different than my example Ben, the visualizer. So, he doesn’t use folders. His containment method is everything lives in there, and he uses search functions. It works great for him. You probably have some folders, yeah, or nothing in your inbox.

Pete Mockaitis
It depends on what day you catch me.

Carson Tate
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, search is the primary way I pull one up although I do have the labels and the archiving. Okay. And so then, you say it’s the best personal assistant we have in the sense that it’s kind of like bringing to our attention that which we need to deal with or…

Carson Tate
Right. So, I’ll take Outlook, for example. So, in Outlook, you can use a function called conditional formatting. It’s very similar to labels in Gmail. And we can set it up so every time Pete emails me, that email comes in in bright red. So, what I’m doing is I’m telling my assistant, “Flag Pete. Turn him this color.” And when you come in my inbox, I now have a visual prioritization. I’ll read red first, then blue, then I’ll deal with the black ones. So, my assistant, I’ve told my assistant what to do, and then my assistant does it over and over again with no input from me, saving me that step of getting in and prioritizing every time.

And so, it’s thinking through if you always file this email, well, write a rule. Don’t do it. Have the technology do it for you. Another example we use with all of our clients, a lot of the emails that we send, and I can imagine for you, a lot of these are the same thing, “So, here’s the logon, here’s the link, here’s what you need to do as a guest on my show.” You’re written it. It’s a template. Well, save it as a template in your email program so that you can just use it over and over again, just like you would a Word doc or an Excel doc. So, we want to eliminate rework and automate using the tools as much as possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, so then when we got the productivity style of your own self, and then you’re interacting with others, how do you play that game? Because I imagine some people are pretty kind of chill, “Hey, man, however you want to do it. Just get it done by this time according to these principles.” And others are going to pretty precise, it’s like, “Hey, I need you to do…” I’m thinking about podcast sponsorship now, “I need you to do an air check, and you download reporting at this time. And I’m on this platform and this system.” So, yeah, I imagine that can create either harmony or irritation when these things come together. How do we navigate that?

Carson Tate
You’re exactly right. So, harmony when you’re working with someone who has the same style as you or similar style. So, Pete, if I was a prioritizer, and you and I are paired up on a project, we end up speaking quite the same language. We’re focused on the outcome. We want the data. We want to be quick. We want to be efficient. So, it’s very easy for us to work together. We’re pretty aligned. We get it done.

But if you were working with an arranger who’s focused on the people and wants to get everyone’s opinion about what the objective is, that’s going to be pretty frustrating for you. Very frustrating. And for the arranger, they’re going to be frustrated because you just want to get to work, and they don’t feel like they’ve built the team and aligned around the team. The planner, detailed, organized, who wants to put together your project plan, when they work with a visualizer, the visualizer doesn’t like structure, they don’t want a project plan, they don’t want details, so that’s going to create a pretty predictable clash. So, when you work with someone like you, easy.

When we talk about going cross-quadrants, so prioritizer to arranger, that’s the most significant difference, the biggest clash. Planner to visualizer, going that way, other very significant clash. It’s just going to be harder to work together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, acknowledging that’s going to be harder, what do you do about it?

Carson Tate
What do you about it? So, first, you got to communicate. So, each of these four productivity styles has a central question they want answered. So, you as a prioritizer, you want the what, “What’s the goal? What’s the objective? What’s the data?” The planner, how, “How have you done it before? How do you want to do it? How do we need to produce this deliverable?” The folks on the process, the how. The arranger’s focus is on the who, “Who’s on the team? Whos’ involved? Who are the stakeholders?” And the visualizer is asking those big-picture questions, “Why not? Why are we thinking about this? Why does this matter? How does this connect to strategy?”

And so, if I’m a planner working with a visualizer, I need to be thinking about and answering those why questions, talking about strategy, talking about big picture, creating opportunities for innovation. And, vice versa, if the visualizer is working with a planner, they need to be comfortable talking about the how and the details and being willing to work through a sequential process with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Yeah, understood. And you also had a note associated with a master task list, an acronym, TASK. Can you unpack this for us?

Carson Tate
Sure. So, I’ll give you the why behind it and then we’ll unpack it. So, the why is because our brains are terrible at to-do lists, right? I mean, how often have you sat on your desk, like, “Oh, I forgot to do this on the way into my office.” Well, we all have this happen. So, the master task list creates one central repository to capture all of your commitments, both personal and professional, in one place. So, the T in task stands for think, and this is when we ask our clients basically do a brain dump, get it all out of your head everything you need to do.

The second step is the A, is the action because a lot of the stuff in our heads will be a project. So, for example, clean out the garage. Well, you’re not going to do that. That’s a big project. So, what we have to do is determine the next action step. Well, the first action step would be maybe to measure the wall. If you want to hang something up, we got to measure to figure out how many hooks so that I can start to create some organization.

And then the S is just sort. So, once you’ve done your brain dump and you’ve need to determine next-action steps, we have to create a list that’s actually manageable and that you can get in and out of. So, the sort is just a grouping or a classification of like items. So, it might be podcast prep, it might be calls, it might be research, it could be a project name, but you group all of those action items under that category. And then the last one is you keep one and only one list. So, we don’t have a list in this app, a list in your pocket, a list on your refrigerator. You’ve got just one master list.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And since you mentioned multiple lists and multiple places, I’m thinking about sort of the paper versus digital part of this all. How does that sync up to, do you find that some of the four styles prefer one versus the other? Or is it just sort of that’s a whole another dimension there, prioritizers who love paper, and visualizers who love computers, and it’s all over the place?

Carson Tate
it’s all over the place, absolutely, with an asterisk. So, all over the place. We have folks in each category that like paper or tech. The asterisk would be the arrangers. They tend to be kinesthetic, so they have very nice writing utensils. You will see them touch and feel objects. They’re very visual dashboards. They are more likely to use paper than the other four styles.

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

Carson Tate
Just excited I’ve got a new book coming out, October 6, called Own It, Love it, Make it Work: How to Turn Any Job into Your Dream Job. So, it is the roadmap if you do not enjoy your job or you want to enjoy your job even more. This is the tool to help you get there.

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

Carson Tate
I’m going to say, “Just do it.”

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

Carson Tate
My graduate research on cognitive thinking styles was my favorite research project I’ve ever done.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Carson Tate
The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve mentioned a few of them, but how about a favorite tool?

Carson Tate
Paper.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And with a paper, how specifically do you use it in a way that’s great for you?

Carson Tate
Yes. So, I actually have a paper to-do list because I have a little notebook I’ve created and leaves with me wherever I go.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Carson Tate
Early morning meditation.

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

Carson Tate
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. You must personalize it based on how you think and process information.

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

Carson Tate
WorkingSimply.com or on LinkedIn, Carson Tate.

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

Carson Tate
Yes. Figure out how you think and process information, and then align your productivity tools to support you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Carson, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and fun in your productive adventures.

Carson Tate
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate it. Thanks.

575: How to Coach More Effectively using Reflective Inquiry with Dr. Marcia Reynolds

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Master coach Marcia Reynolds talks about the importance of reflective inquiry and why to think twice about giving advice.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key questions to challenge your thinking 
  2. Why it’s more important to be present than perfect 
  3. The value of a coaching buddy 

 

About Marcia

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is a world-renowned expert on how to evoke transformation through conversations. She is the Training Director for the Healthcare Coaching Institute in North Carolina, and on faculty for coaching schools in China, Russia, and the Philippines. She has spoken at conferences and taught workshops in 41 countries on leadership topics and mastery in coaching. Global Gurus has recognized her as one of the top 5 coaches in the world for four years. Her books include Wander Woman; Outsmart Your Brain; The Discomfort Zone; and her latest, Coach the Person, Not the Problem. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Marcia Reynolds Interview Transcript

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

Marcia Reynolds
Yeah. Thank you, Pete, for having me on.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited because I think it’s true that you were the only guest, out of over 500, who told a story that made me cry. So, that was way back in episode 14, in a good way. In a good way. That was way back in episode 14, and the majority of our listeners weren’t with us then, so I’m going to put you on the spot. Can you bring us back to the time in which you were 20 years old, in jail, you instigated a riot, and then had a meaningful conversation with your partner in crime? I won’t give away too much. Go.

Marcia Reynolds
Well, you know, Pete, I was a rebellious teenager like many other people. I’ve since looked back at my life and realized that I had advantages a lot of other people didn’t have but I was throwing them away and it went down this dark rabbit hole of drug abuse, and ended up in jail. And I was told by many people, as well as myself, that that was it, that my life was over, that I had ruined everything that I had created, and there was no positive path out. Not a lot of people believing in me.

And so, you just survive in those situations, and that’s what I did. But I’d gotten to know my cellmates and helped them as much as I could because I was far more educated than they were, and I’d even motivate them to take advantage of whatever they could in the jail, but I never saw the advantages for myself. But I did want to make a difference for them.

And so, I was trying to get a reporter down to talk about bad conditions, and it kind of backfired, and we ended up, the whole cell block, on restriction, and I said, “This is crazy. We need to do a protest against this.” So, I didn’t see this as a riot. I saw this as a protest. Of course, my cellmates all thought I was crazy but they said, “Well, whatever. It sounds good. We support you.”

And it was in my mind, it was a non-violent protest. We were just making a lot of noise, and then when they wouldn’t listen to us, we threw our dresses off and tried to get their attention. Well, it did, and what happened was my cellmate and I who had kind of instigated this protest, they grabbed us and threw us in isolation. And it was like hitting bottom, not only figuratively but literally because they threw us on the floor and everything was ripped and bruised, and I just felt so badly that I had dragged her into this.

So, I looked at her, and I said, “I am so sorry. I’m sorry I brought you into my crazy scheme and my awful life. You shouldn’t listen to me.” She pushed herself up off the floor, she came over to me, she pinned me against the wall, and said, “You have no idea who you are.” She said, “You’re so smart, you’re strong, you care about people, you want to make a difference. You have to get who you are in here…” and she pointed to her heart, “…so you can make it out there.”

And it was at that moment that I recognized that I did have a spark inside of me, I did have the power inside of me to make a difference for my life and for other people, which was essential. But it was her and her courage and her seeing me where nobody else would. Everyone else said I was a failure, but she saw me and she brought that out of me. And I think that’s what I’ve spent my whole career, it was like, “How can we see each other and bring out the best in each other?” So, she launched me on that path.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is just…it’s powerful and beautiful and just deeply resonates, in particular, with what I’m about. And it’s interesting because just as I was prepping, I watched the scene from “The Lion King” in which Simba’s father appears and says, “Remember who you are.” And it’s like that same notion of when you see and you recognize and you call it, it’s powerful and beautiful. And so, well, I’m delighted to have you back. And thanks for sharing.

Marcia Reynolds
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you got some new stuff coming out “Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry.” We’re going to talk about the…we’re going to use the word coaching a lot so maybe we should define that. What exactly do we mean by the word coaching?

Marcia Reynolds
Well, you know, I and so many people say, “Oh, I’ve been doing that all my life.” Well, when I really learned how to coach, I realized, “No, I haven’t,” because it’s a specific technology and it’s a learning technology. It’s where we help people take these stories out of their heads and put them out in front of them, and say, “Let’s take a look at your story and see where it works for you and where it’s not working for you. What are the beliefs that you’re holding?” Like, I believe my life was worthless. “And what are the assumptions about the future that you’re making? And if there’s a conflict of values, how is that holding you back? And what is it you really need?”

When we help people think about their thinking, then they can actually see beyond the stories that they’re holding. We always tell people to see outside of the box but they don’t know how to do that because they get stuck inside the box. So, in coaching, we’re helping them see outside of it by helping them, first, see the box. You have to see it before you can see outside of it.

And so, the book “Coach the Person, Not the Problem” is to help the person see their situation. It’s not about me solving it. It’s about them seeing their situation more broadly so they can see other possibilities and find a way forward on their own, and we use reflective inquiry. So, I’m just summarizing what I hear you saying, and maybe paraphrasing it in a way that you might see it differently, and then I ask questions.

And so, I get you to think about your thinking. I become your thinking partner. So, it’s totally different from therapy or consulting. It’s a technology in and of itself. And it works on the middle brain which is really where we learn and create behavioral change so it’s very effective. All the degrees I’ve earned since being in jail, and there’s been multitudes, has brought me to recognize the great value of when we help people think about their thinking, and expanding who they think they are and how they see the world, and their ability to solve their problems.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that all sounds grand to me. I’d love to follow up when you talk about value and effectiveness and results. Can you share, what are some of the most striking studies, results, case studies, that really illustrate, “Hotdog! Coaching delivers a whole lot”?

Marcia Reynolds
Well, it’s hard to measure coaching exactly to separate it out and say, “Okay, I did this and this is the result you got.” But I can measure it by impact, by what people say changed their life, which often they will say that, “Wow, you saved my life.” “You saved my marriage.” “You kept me from telling my boss off.” So, there are stories like that. Certainly, there are now ROI studies. The International Coach Federation has amassed thousands of studies that show that coaching in companies increases engagement, increases productivity, stops turnover, because when we talk to each other using coaching, we connect.

But on a personal basis, everything from I coached a bank president for years and I provided her the only safe space where she really felt she could show up totally as herself, and just say what was on her mind, and show whatever emotions and she wouldn’t be judged, and it wouldn’t have an impact and scare people, which helped her to sort through her problems. And she would always say at the end, “You are so important to my bottom line because you helped me to think through things.”

I had a client call me and say, “Oh, I’m so overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start. I need you to tell me how to prioritize.” And, certainly, I could’ve done that but I said, “Well, this is really interesting. You hold a very high position in this company. Prior to that, you’re a very successful attorney. You went to a big law school. I have to think that somewhere along the way, you knew how to prioritize. So, I want to know what’s stopping you now.”

And, after a long pause, which always tells me they’re thinking, she said, “I’ve lost my way. I used to have a vision. I don’t have it anymore. I don’t know why I’m here.” I said, “Well, that’s a different conversation if you want to have that than me telling you how to prioritize.” And, of course, for her to rediscover what was her path forward, where she wanted to go, what she wanted to do, why it was the value for her to be at that company, she knew how to prioritize. She just needed to get her path back in order.

So, it’s, again, simply that that I challenged her thinking. I didn’t solve her problem. I challenged her thinking that made her recognize what her block was and how to solve it. I have tons of stories where almost each session they think about things differently and have a different way forward. And I think that happens all the time with coaching.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to get your take then in terms of everyday professionals, if we would like to be helpful in this way to our colleagues and friends, and we don’t have years of coaching experience and training and certifications, what are your tips in terms of how we can be helpful, and what to do, and what not to do?

Marcia Reynolds
Well, the first thing is just don’t jump in and tell them what to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Marcia Reynolds
Which is what we normally I do. I mean, I do it too. Somebody comes to you and says they have a problem. You turn around and say, “Do this.” Well, they’re not likely to do it, and that’s also annoying. And so, the first thing is just, “Okay, so tell me about the situation, how you see it. What is it you want that you don’t have? And what’s getting in your way?” And then just let them tell their story. And the best thing you can do is start by just summarizing, by saying, “So, you’re telling me this…” and narrow it down because they’re usually all over the place, “So, this is what it is you want, and this is why you think you can’t have it. Is that true?”

Right there, you’re already helping them to see through the fog of all the craziness that’s going on, and the fear, and the uncertainty, when they can really nail down what it is they want that they don’t have now, and what’s getting in the way, how valuable that is. So, we summarize, paraphrase, encapsulate key words, when they say, “What I really want is this,” to just give it back, “So, what you want to create is this.” Or we might even ask for a clearer definition. So, if somebody says, “I’m tired.” I might say, “Are you physically tired or are you tired of doing a job you don’t like?” There’s a difference. So, sometimes it’s just to clarify.

And we can all do that. We can summarize, we can be curious about the meaning of the words they use, we try to sort through if they name a number of problems. Just list them out and say, “Which ones do you want to tackle first?” Those are all, you know, three really useful tools that anybody can use.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that. And could you maybe expand a bit in terms of some, I don’t know, key phrases, or questions, or scripts that are really excellent and frequently yield good stuff as well as maybe the opposite, things not to say? And one of them, it sounds like it’s just a broad category of immediately dispensing advice, which Michael Bungay Stanier mentioned as well, the advice monster he called it.

Marcia Reynolds
Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. He gave me a nice testimonial for my book. Well, sometimes we ask questions that are really giving advice, like, “Have you tried this?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s clever.

Marcia Reynolds
Don’t do that. I say, “That’s just advice disguised as a question. Don’t do that.” I always say they have to beg me to give them suggestions, and then I’ll say, “Okay, I’ll give you a few ideas to consider.” But in terms of a script, I don’t like giving people a list of questions because the questions should be organic. But we always start with really trying to get clear on the destination, “What is it you really want instead of what you have?”

So, people come to you with a problem, and say, “Well, if you didn’t have that problem, what would it look like?” I need to know the destination of the conversation, “Where are we going with this?” Too many times, coaches get lost chasing clients because they don’t have a clear destination. So, be clear on where you’re going, “What is it you really want here?” and they’ll backtrack so you have to keep coming back to, “Are we still working on that?” So, it’s not the problem, it’s the outcome that we need to get clear on.

And so, I say it’s the bookends of coaching, we have an outcome. And at the end of a conversation, you need to say, “So, what is it that came up for you in our conversation? What did you learn? What emerged?” And when they say the insight they got, then you ask, “So, what are you going to do with that? What step will you now take?” to make sure there’s a commitment to action, to make sure there’s progress. And, “When are you going to do it? And is there any support you need?”

So, the bookends are far more structured, “Where are we going? What did you learn? What are you going to do with that?” But then in the middle, it’s a more spontaneous interaction where, again, I use a lot of summarizing. I start with, “So, you’re telling me this. Is that true? Did I get it right? So, you’re telling me…” And I don’t say, “I heard you say…” because it’s not about I don’t want them to agree with me. I want them to look at their story, “So, you’re telling me this,” or, “Can I see if I understand how you described the situation?”

A lot of times, again, I bottom line it, “So, you said you want to create this, and here are the three things that are getting in your way. Is that what you told me? Which one do you want to work on first?” So, again, I’m just trying to drill down to the essence of what they want and what they think is getting in the way. This is really critical, especially times like right now where everything is a mess in our heads even more so than outside, to help people sort through the fog so they can see clearly what they want and why they think they can’t get it. And maybe some of that is true but, oftentimes, some of it is not. They’re just making it up because it’s based in fear.

So, just laying it out, summarizing, paraphrasing, bottom-lining the distinctions, like I said, “Are you tired physically or are you tired of the work you’re doing? Or is it that you want to find more energy in the job you’re doing right now, or you want to find the energy to get a new job? What is it exactly that you want when you say tired?” So, I’m just trying to help them sort through their words that they use because we don’t do this on our own.

So, I’m having you become…turn on your observer mind to observe your stories. Or, as the educational reformer John Dewey said we get people to climb a tree in their mind, and look down on their thinking so they can objectively observe their stories, and see the gaps in their logic and the inherited beliefs they’ve been saying forever that, if you say it back to them, they’re like, “Huh, I wonder where that came from?” or the assumptions about the future that they have no idea if this is true or not.

And so, it’s really just, I receive what you say and what you express with no judgment, and I give it back to you to look at, and then I’ll ask you questions to help you sort through what is true, what is not true, what is real for you. And then I ask you, “What did you get out of that? And what are you going to do with it?”

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Marcia Reynolds
And so, I don’t do like Michael, like, “Here’s the seven questions you should ask.” I think that’s okay but if you’re sitting there trying to remember questions, you’re not present with the person you’re with. I think my thing is they want you to be present more than they need you to be perfect, so they don’t need you to ask the perfect question. They just need to know that you see them, you hear them, you value them, and you’re going to help them think.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lovely. So, then can we hear more about what not to do? So, we say…your subtitle is “Coach the Person, Not the Problem.” So, what does “coaching the problem” look like? One is giving advice, or, “Have you tried this?” What are other ways that we may inadvertently go down the wrong path?

Marcia Reynolds
Well, coaching the problem is the external problem, not the person. And so, there’s tons of problem-solving techniques out there, the five whys, “Why? Why? Why?” or SWOT analysis, where we look at, “So, what have you tried? What do you think you’ll do? What are the consequences? What are the risks? What are the rewards?” That’s all fine but they could probably do that without you if they just took the time to do it, so that’s the external.

Or, somebody said to me the other day, “Oh, yeah, I had a leader once tell me to look at what it is that I want to stop doing, continue doing, or do more of.” And I said, “Yeah, that’s good advice, but that’s still outside of you. Why are you doing what you’re doing in the first place? What’s the value? Each thing you choose to do, are you not doing it because you don’t like it or you’re afraid to do it? What stopped you in the first place?” So, again, I want to help you think through your choices not tell you to go make choices.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so could you maybe bring this all together by maybe a demonstration? Like, here and now, if you would like to reflectively inquire with me, let’s see how it goes.

Marcia Reynolds
Well, do you have a situation that you’d like to explore a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
I think I am less energized, fired up, than I have been historically. And I guess I think I remember, not that I relish these days, but there were days in which I could crank out 13 hours of work in a day and just feel like unstoppably like The Terminator or something. And now I’m just like, “Whew! Half of that is challenging.” And so, yeah, that’s kind of on my mind, it’s like, “Hmm, what’s going on here?”

Marcia Reynolds
So, what I’m hearing, I heard a couple things. One is that it seems to be situational, it’s new for you to not have the store of energy that you had before. And I’m wondering if it’s just like are you worried about it? Or is just like, “Oh, I have to do something and I don’t know what to do”?

Pete Mockaitis
Am I worried about the lack of energy? I guess I just want it. It’s like, “Huh, am I…?” It’s like I guess I fear, “Uh-oh, am I on a trajectory in which I just sort of get old and lethargic and get sleepy all the time, and this is the beginning of that?” I guess that’s my fear in terms of, “What’s going on here? And what do I do about it?”

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. Isn’t that interesting how we do that though? We’re going to, “Oh, I’ve got this forever now and it’s not going to go away.” So, that’s an interesting belief that probably makes you even more tired.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, maybe, yeah.

Marcia Reynolds
So, when you say that though, Pete, I’m going to go back to what I asked before. Is this a sense of just physical tired that you just don’t have the energy for what you’re doing? Or is it because the routine has changed and it’s not as inspiring as it was before?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think it’s physical tired in terms of sometimes it can happen in the morning, in terms of, “Hey, seven hours of sleep and yet not feeling as zesty.” And, I mean, I’m excited to have this conversation, I was looking forward to it, and so, that’s still there. Yeah.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. So, you said feeling zesty in the morning. So, is this about how the energy you wake up with or the energy at the end of the day? Or all day?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s both in terms of I would like to have more energy left when the kids are asleep to have quality time with my wife and such, but it seems like, “Oh, man, just doing these dishes seems hard before I can fall asleep.” So, yeah, I guess it’s on both sides.

Marcia Reynolds
Hmm, all right. So, it’s an all-day thing. Okay. So, what you would like, what I heard you say, is you would like to not only have more energy at the end of the day, but you want to wake up with more energy. You know, I’m just wondering, is it when you say wake up with more energy, is it the energy to hop out of bed, or just to feel more excited about your day?

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s a bit of both but I think more about the hopping out of bed. It’s like I don’t wake up and go, “Ugh, I dread what I have to do today.” I don’t feel that.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. So, it’s a physical energy. Okay. So, what’s changed for you that would create this?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we got the whole coronavirus business, for one. We’ve got…yeah, and so with that I guess we would sort of don’t have as much support in terms of the nanny’s not coming by, so that’s different. I guess the diet has changed in terms of more packaged foods. So, yeah, those leap to mind there.

Marcia Reynolds
All right. So, you named a couple of things. Diet has changed. You said the coronavirus thing. So, what does that mean? Is it because of the worries around that or just that it changed your schedule?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it changed our schedule and we have less sort of concrete support in terms of like the nanny doesn’t come anymore. And so, yeah, I think worries were a part of it, and I’ve kind of just conscientiously decided, “All right, we’re just going to dramatically reduce the news intake,” and that was helpful.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. Well, I want to point out, well, you started by saying you were worried, like, “Oh, is this the downhill road now in terms of age?” But then you named all the things that we’re dealing with right now, there’s situation, all that. Hopefully, at least in a year from now, we don’t be looking at life this way. Maybe it might take two years but it’s situational. So, now that you’re saying all this, do you think this is just a situational problem? Or do you really think that there’s a degradation physically?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you know, it may very well be. It’s interesting when you said, “Maybe two years.” It’s like I was feeling riled up, like, “I’m not going to live like this for two years.” Like this in terms of low energy. I mean, I guess I might be able to comply with safe practices.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. But I want to point that out, that’s great, “I’m not going to do this for two years.” You had a reaction.

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh.

Marcia Reynolds
So, if there was this, “Okay, this is going to go on longer,” what would you change right now to give yourself more energy?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s funny. I’ve sort of thought along those lines a bit. Well, you know, I guess more just sort of basic, like fruits and vegetables would be swell. I’ve made some headway in hydration because I kind of sort of forgot a little bit about that.

Yeah, it’s interesting. I think it’s like I’m kind of capable of generating a bunch of things here. And I don’t know, maybe that’s the answer, it’s like, “Hey, Pete, it’s not one thing. It’s a dozen things.” Most of the time I find that one or two things is way more leveraged than a lot of things.

Marcia Reynolds
Yeah, okay. So, what I hear is that you know what it is that you need to do, you just haven’t sat down and said, “This is what I need to do,” and done it. So, what’s going on, Pete, that you are not doing the things you need to do?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh. Well, in a way, it’s sort of a vicious cycle of tired, it’s just like, “Oh, that seems like a lot of work.”

Marcia Reynolds
That’s a great excuse.

Pete Mockaitis
Then you don’t do it, and then you’re tired because you didn’t do it, so I think that’s in the mix a bit. Yeah, I don’t know. Nothing else is leaping to mind. I guess sometimes it’s just sort of boring, you know, like eating a salad, or drinking water, and putting my time and attention and thought to those matters is way less interesting than preparing for this conversation we’re having, Marcia. Or exploring this really cool opportunity that just landed in my inbox, “Hey, Pete, why don’t we do a course where we…?” “Ooh, that’s interesting.” So, yeah, that’s part of it. It’s just kind of boring, mundane, not as interesting as all the other things I’d like to think about.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. So, that’s the belief that you have around it, that hydration and eating salads is boring.

Pete Mockaitis
I suppose I do, yeah.

Marcia Reynolds
Yeah, I’m wondering if there’s a way of making your salads interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there are these zesty tortilla strips which I love. I have run out of them. I have been out of zesty tortilla strips for a while.

Marcia Reynolds
Well, there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And those are fun.

Marcia Reynolds
Well, how important is it to you, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you calibrate me? Is there a scale? I’d say pretty important. I mean, I won’t die if I don’t do it but it’d be pretty lame to subsist like this for years.

Marcia Reynolds
Well, so I want to go back to, again, your first thing was you were worried that, “Well, what if this is it, that I’m just losing my energy because that’s the way it goes biologically?” to you’ve told me that, “Well, there’s just some things that I know that will help but I don’t want to do them.” So, what does that mean to you?

Pete Mockaitis
What does it mean to me? Well, on the one hand, it’s hopeful. Like, “Okay, cool. I’m not doomed.” On the other hand, I know shameful is the word, but it’s like, “Come on, man. What’s the deal?”

Marcia Reynolds
You know, it’s just changing habits, you know that. It’s not about torture. It’s just changing the habits of what you’re doing right now. You said, too, that’s part of what’s happened, is because of everything that’s going on. You’re eating more packaged food than normal. So, again, it’s changed your habits in a non-positive way. But since you’re aware of that, and you know what it is you need to do, what would you be willing to do just to test out if it would give you more energy?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I mean, yeah, we can get a good salad situation going here. I’ve got my giant salad container which I’ve used many times for a bulk salad prep in advance, which had been a nice habit that I kind of fell out of. So, yeah, that’s one thing I’m happy to do.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay. So, when are you going to do that?

Pete Mockaitis
I will order the food items today.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, there we have it. Thank you. You did not say, “Well, Pete, what you got to do is there’s this amazing energy drink. It’ll solve all the problems.” “I mean, hey, a lot of people, with the coronavirus, have been forgetting about the exercise, and so you need to do that.” So, that’s what you didn’t do, and we heard what you did do. Do you have any additional comments on the exchange we just had?

Marcia Reynolds
Yeah. I mean, of course, there were things I wanted to tell you. I just had my salad right before our conversation. I exercise every day. I’m probably about twice your age. And I’ve found the things that I enjoy. But it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s what you do and what you want to do. And is there anything that you can create that would be acceptable that you’d stick to?

And so, I intentionally avoid telling you what I’d do. But that’s what most people do. They go into their own stories, and say, “Here, Pete. Here’s what works for me.” That’s okay if that’s what you want, but most of the time we don’t want that. It’s like, “Pete, you’re a smart guy. You know what it is you need to do. What’s stopping you from doing this? What’s gotten in the way right now? What has changed and what’s the rut that you have put yourself in that’s keeping you from doing some things that you know would be useful? That’s what I want to know. And I think, because that’s what I want you to know. Because as soon as you see that, you’ll know what to do.” So, that’s what coaching is about. So, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, thank you. Well, so now, I’d love to get your view. So, hey, if folks want more of this, well, one, we could hire a coach. But, alternative to that, how would you recommend that we kind of ask for and get more of this good stuff in our conversational life?

Marcia Reynolds
Well, short of hiring a coach, and you know there’s plenty of coaches out there that need to get their hours for their certification, so you can certainly find coaches that maybe haven’t been coaching for years but are working toward mastery. But you heard these skills are not hard. And we have coaching buddies when we go through coaching school. I think that if you could just get a good friend that you trust that’s not going to sit there and try to fix you, but that would want to learn how to do this, that you can be a coaching buddy for each other and practice the skills.

Short of the book, if you look on my website, I have all kinds of lists and videos of how to do this in an easy way. I’m creating a little video series of like two-, three-minute videos on these skills that you can practice no matter who you are. So, I just think, get somebody who’s interested in learning how to do it, and practice with each other.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Marcia, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Marcia Reynolds
Just to recognize that there’s great value in helping people think instead of just giving them good ideas.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

Marcia Reynolds
That they’d rather you be with them and listen to them than to tell them what to do.

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

Marcia Reynolds
There’s a quote right on my wall over here that says, “When I operate in the service of my vision, it no longer as important that which I’m afraid.” And so, if we have a vision, if we have a picture of where we’re going in life, and just keep moving to that, then, yeah, fear is going to be there but we move forward anyway.

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

Marcia Reynolds
There’s a lot of research out there in terms of the value of coaching, but there’s one that I always go back to that says your greatest coaching fears. And we’re always afraid that if we don’t give advice to people, that we’re not valuable. And that’s just not true. So, this guy did a study on the many coaching fears we have. And that was it, it’s that we think either we’re not valuable or we’re going to hurt somebody by coaching. And my mentor coach always said, “Nobody ever died from coaching.” So, I really like looking at, “What are the fears and how much of them are true and not true?” like in anything. Most of the time our fears are not true.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

Marcia Reynolds
I do like Michael’s book, Michael Bungay Stanier, “The Coaching Habit.” I like the way it’s laid out, and that it’s simple, and it’s very useful for leaders to really think through, “What is it that I’m doing in this moment that’s really helping someone to think forward?”

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

Marcia Reynolds
You know, a lot of what I’m talking about comes from, I mentioned John Dewey. He’s an educational reformer. But he wrote a book in 1910 called “How We Think.” And he really laid out coaching. To me, he was the father of coaching. And he said, he was trying to get teachers to get students to think more broadly for themselves, and he was the one that coined the term reflective inquiry. And I would say that’s the tool that I use, that it’s not just about the questions we ask, but the reflections we use. And so, his use of reflection, of summarizing, paraphrasing, encapsulating, bottom-lining, those are my favorite tools.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite habit?

Marcia Reynolds
Habit. I wake up like 3:30 a.m. every morning.

Pete Mockaitis
And when do you go to bed?

Marcia Reynolds
I go to bed at 8:30 p.m., but I love waking up early and getting work done, and talking to my clients in Asia and Europe very early in the morning. But I grew up…I was born in Arizona, and I still live here. And so, it’s just hot. If you don’t go out very early, it’s just too hot. So, that habit was created when I was a child.

Pete Mockaitis
And you say you’ve been quoting yourself a lot. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate, and get quoted back to you?

Marcia Reynolds
“Mastery is the deepening of presence not the perfection of skills.”

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

Marcia Reynolds
Well, my website is Covisioning.com, and I’m just Marcia@covisioning.com. I’m always online like everybody and answering questions. I’m on LinkedIn and everywhere else you can find me. So, happy to connect and answer the questions you have.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Marcia, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best in your reflective inquiring and adventures in Arizona and around the world.

Marcia Reynolds
Thank you.