KF #30. Self-Development

360: Five Principles for Accelerating Your Career with G2 Crowd’s Ryan Bonnici

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G2 Crowd Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bonnici shares his five steps for figuring out and advancing along your career path.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two core principles for mastering your craft
  2. How to get good at giving and receiving feedback
  3. Two LinkedIn tricks that make all the difference

About Ryan

Ryan Bonnici is the Chief Marketing Officer of G2 Crowd, where he’s driving growth of the world’s leading B2B technology review platform that’s helping more than 1.5 million business professionals make informed purchasing decisions every single month. Prior to G2 Crowd, Ryan held several leadership roles in some of the most well-recognized companies in the tech industry. He served as the senior director of global marketing at HubSpot, where his efforts led to triple-digit growth for the company’s marketing related sales.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ryan Bonnici Interview Transcript

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

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m looking forward to getting into both your story and your tactics. Maybe you could orient us a little bit to your career journey as it started as a flight attendant and then how that kind of progressed to a really cool trajectory.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, absolutely. Look, I was kind of one of those kids going through school that was just always told that “He has real potential. He just needs to work harder.” For some reason, I’m not sure what it was exactly, but in kind of year nine, back in Australia, something just flicked in my head and so years ten, eleven and twelve I worked really, really hard, got a really good GPA, a 4.0, worked my ass off.

Then I started doing university in Sydney, Australia and I was just super not interested in it. I, over the holidays, applied for a job at Qantas Airways because they were taking on international flight attendants. There’s huge interviews. It’s a really long process. Long story short, I got the job.

I did that for a couple years. It was always a short term thing for me because I ultimately just wanted to travel. I wanted to save up money, which allowed me to buy my first investment property when I was like 19. I was kind of really focused on traveling and just starting to make savings.

Always knew I’d get back to university and get back to my marketing degree. I had always kind of known weirdly from the age of maybe 18 that I wanted to be a CMO before the age of 30. Just after my 29th birthday, I actually joined G2 Crowd as the CMO, so it was really timely. I’ve been really lucky. Everything has gone to plan fortunately.

But, yeah, that’s kind of the background really on the flight attendant thing, bit of an odd job. Then I then went back to university and did flying on the weekends and did university throughout the week. It was kind of hard to juggle it, but it was fun. I learnt a lot. I’m someone that gets bored easily, so I need to be doing lots of different things, so it worked well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. While working as a flight attendant, did you form some connections or some skills or some insights that helped lay some good ground work for your future success?

Ryan Bonnici
I think I did. Qantas – for anyone listening – Qantas is actually the world’s oldest and most experienced airline. They had the first kind of commercial airline up and running. It was set in Queensland in the Northern Territory, which is what Qantas stands for.

I think one thing I learned that Qantas does incredibly well is customer service and just how your customers are the life blood of your business. Qantas did a really amazing job at training their staff and their flight attendants because at the end of the day, they’re really the main people that the consumers are interacting with.

I think I learned a lot about customer services and I learned a lot about word-of-mouth marketing and just the importance of having a cohesive message. That was one thing I think I learned from that early experience.

But then I also was able to eventually start to move and work more in our business class and first class cabins. I just started having fascinating conversations with different executives that were travelling different places for work. I had the CEO of Qantas on at one point in time. I had different celebrities on. I just had different executives and learned a lot from them.

Actually, I moved then from Qantas to Microsoft into my first kind of marketing role offer, kind of the insight from a marketing executive at Microsoft that mentioned to me that they were hiring. I learnt about that and then went through the hiring process and stuff and started my marketing career at Microsoft. It all worked out really, really well.

I’m just one of those business geeks that just loves to chat with executives and business people and learn ultimately about what gets them up in the morning, what they love about their business, what are they doing. I’m just innately fascinated by it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. I’m imagining when you say you picked up some insights from these executives, during the course of those interviews, you probably had some real smart things to say, like, “Whoa, we weren’t expecting that level of strategic insight from this kid.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, maybe. I’ve kind of always been one of those kids that I’m an only child. I think I was always around adults from a really young age. I’m not afraid kind of I guess to share my opinion. I have lots of opinions on different things and I’m really passionate about those opinions and those thoughts. I equally love to discourse and learn about other people’s opinions and kind of argue about our opinions.

I think that’s a little bit of an Australian cultural paradigm. That’s just something that’s kind of been in me from the get go. I think that’s probably helped me throughout my career, but definitely back then I was quite a bit younger and as I was getting to know these people.

I think it kind of made me a little bit more memorable and also it allowed me to stand out from everyone else because most other maybe flight attendants that were speaking to these executives probably felt like it was too personal maybe to ask them about their work or what they were doing for business, whereas I was just genuinely interested.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That’s cool. Well, so one of your other passions beyond business and strategy and marketing is helping young professionals figure out their path and move forward and progress. You did a real nice job as I reviewed your slides of crystallizing some key principles and perspectives on that at the Drift HYPERGROWTH 2018 event.

I’d love it if you could kind of just walk us through some of the greatest hits with regard to the five steps you shared there.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, sure thing Pete. The five kind of I guess high-level things that I talked through at Drift conference – I’ll just run you through them quickly first. The first one was mastering your craft. The second was solving big problems. The third was building your brand. The fourth was getting good at feedback. The fifth was just some advance hacks that I have kind of learned throughout the years that I wanted to kind of give folks as takeaways.

I think it’s worth maybe mentioning that I’m a big believer and I think you and your audience are fans of this too, but I’m just a big believer in really practical advice, so things that are really tactical that someone can immediately go and do themselves straight after listening to this.

That’s how I guess I built out my presentation for Drift conference, that’s how I build out all my presentations regardless of what the topic is because I think there’s so many people that can talk about the fluffy strategy. I really like to kind of marry that with really tactical things that anyone can do right now.

If we get to jump into a few of those, I think some of the things that I try and teach my team at G2 Crowd, and I have a team of about 30 marketers at G2, is that every single person on my team really needs to own a number and it needs to be an important number for the business.

It’s really my job and my leadership team’s job to help those team members actually know what their numbers are and to help them understand how those numbers actually roll out to the bigger business.

An example here might be if you’re a social media marketer and you might have been given a number of “Grow our followers from 10,000 followers to 20,000 followers a year.” A lot of social media marketers will be given a target like that.

It’s a pretty normal kind of thing, “Grow your followers,” and they will never ask for understanding of “Okay, cool. Yeah, I can grow my followers from 10,000 to 20,000, but how is this going to help the business?” A lot of people just do what they’re told and they never kind of stop and question why.

In an ideal world if they asked their boss, their boss would say, “Hey, look, we find for every 10 followers we have, every time we post that increases the number of likes that we get on those posts by 10% and that increases the number of people clicking through then to our site, which helps us drive more leads and MQL. By doubling the followers, we’re doubling the amount of traffic we’re going to get from social referral traffic over the course of the year, which will help us.”

Now, that’s just an example. But that’s, again, helping that social media marketer understand how their follower count ties into traffic count and that traffic count ties into leads and leads ties into MQLs and MQLs ties into sales revenue. I think it’s just really, really crystal important that everyone actually be able to know what their number is and how it rolls out.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of some additional numbers? I’m thinking maybe outside the marketing function, particularly I think a lot of time we think about “Oh man, owning a number, that’s for directors and vice presidents,” in order to sort of own that sort of thing.

But I like it sort of the social media follower count is an example of a number that someone maybe in the first few years of their career might have ownership of. Can you give us some other examples of numbers that aren’t too senior and are different functions?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Everyone in every role can have these numbers. I think that’s the key is to work out what they are.

You might be a junior recruiter and you just joined a company as a recruiting associate and it’s your job to run into these for example, right? Or to maybe source candidates for roles that you’re hiring, whether you’re an intern or whatnot.

The company’s role or the recruiting team might have a goal of say, “We have 50 open roles that we need to get filled by the end of this quarter.” Then they might divvy out all of those jobs across say their recruiters. Regardless of how senior you are or how junior you are, you kind of need to chat with your boss and work out “Okay of that big team number, what portion am I responsible for.”

If you’re really junior maybe you’re not responsible for that high level number, but you might be responsible for a leading metric that ties into that. An example might be-

Pete Mockaitis
Number of applications.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. Number of applications or the number of calls that you run with people or the number of kind of approved candidates that you hand through to the recruiting manager or anything like that. If you’re a BDR, so business development rep, your numbers might be the number of calls you do a day, the number of meetings you set for sales.

I’m just trying to think on the fly what different roles are in our team. If you’re in accounting and you’re a junior in the team, the accounting team’s metric might be, “Hey, we need to close out all of our invoices by the end of the month and get payment on 90% of them.”

You might have a metric of “Okay, I’m going to send three emails over the course of four weeks before the accounting payments are due so that we increase the number of people that pay us.” I would be monitoring “Okay, last month 80% of people paid us on time. Let’s change it and do a few more activities to try and get 85% this month and then 90%.”

It doesn’t really matter. There’s a number that you can apply and connect to everything. I think that really connects in with kind of the second big kind of core thing that I talked about with regard to mastering their craft and that was reverse engineering your funnel.

We just talked through some funnels then, like the number of people that apply for a job, the number of people that then do interviews, the number of those interviews that make it through to stage one, two, and three, and then other people you hire. Everyone has a funnel in every element of the business.

What I think most people don’t do a good job of is actually knowing what are the average conversion rates for my funnel and then working backwards. Let’s say your boss says, “For next month, hey little Jesse who does recruiting or is our recruiting intern, next month you need to generate five times as many people into jobs.”

Then when you would say, “Okay, well if I need to generate five times as many job fillings, then I probably need to run through five times as many different LinkedIn profiles at the top of the funnel.”

I kind of gave a lot of different examples of how you can think about reverse engineering your funnel, whether you’re an email marketer or a PR person or a sales rep. Everything can be reverse engineered. That’s just one of those tactics that not enough people in business do.

It sets them up for failure by not doing that because you might be trying to achieve something, like that 50 different heads to fill in a month might be really unrealistic, but you’ll just accept it and go after it and then you’ll fail.

But if you would have reversed engineered from the get go, you might able to then say to your boss, “Hey, I just ran the numbers for this and if we want to hit that number, we’re going to do 5X the number of applications. How are we going to get that? We might need help.” Does that kind of make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. What’s really nifty is – I’m taking a look at your funnels right now, and, I’m curious, you’ve sort of laid them out in the world of the email and PR and social media. How would you recommend – what would be some good sources that we might go to in order to identify what are some appropriate benchmark ratios in other fields?

Ryan Bonnici
I’m a big believer in there’s no such thing accurate benchmarks

Pete Mockaitis

Ryan Bonnici
Just because I think every single business is different. Every single role is different. If you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to recruit C-level executives, that’s going to take a lot longer. The funnel is going to be very different to if you’re trying to recruit junior entry level positions. If we change industries and look at a finance executive versus a marketing exec, it might be different again.

Those funnels in my deck that I ran through are more so kind of the methodology for how someone should think about … this for their own business. They would need to input their own metrics and then look at what their conversion rates are for themselves because I think you really just can’t apply standards here because a lot of these funnels, they’re purpose built for very specific things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s interesting if we’re talking about solving big problems here, one big problem could be “Wait a second, we’re converting at half of the rate somewhere that we should. This is broken and it needs to get fixed.”

I’m wondering if you have any intuition on how you might get a sense for if – you can know the way sort of that the ratios have unfolded historically. That’s very helpful in terms of kind of planning out, “All right, well then just how much activity do we need at each of these phases to get our end goal,” so that’s really cool. But I’m wondering further, any pro tips for zeroing in on, “Hm, this part is broken and needs to get fixed.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I definitely think you can zero in once you’ve laid out the numbers for your funnel for whatever it is, whether it’s a recruiting funnel or an email marketing campaign funnel or it’s an anything funnel ultimately. It could even be literally a simple funnel of generating employees completing the monthly net promoter score.

Every month I send out a survey to my team. It asks them a really simple question from one to ten, how happy are you at work? I know if I send four reminder emails to them versus two, I’ll get probably double the amount of people that fill it out at the end of the month.

Regardless of whatever the funnel is that you’re building, I think you need to just map out what are the different activities throughout it and what are the conversion rates. Then you need to start to look at some of the drop-offs.

If it’s that employee net promoter score survey and you’re sending lots of emails and only five percent of people are opening, but then of those people struggling that open you have like 50% of people completing it, then you’d probably say, “Okay, well the message in the email obviously is engaging people because anyone that opens is completing it, but we’re to get people to open it in the first place.”

Then we have to look at is it the time of day that we’re sending it, is it the subject line? What factors could be affecting that? Are we sending it on a busy day when they’re doing other things? That’s really how you then start to work out “Okay, where is my funnel leaking?” is how I would think about it. Where is water falling out of the funnel?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s just sort of the absolute number ratios can give you some hints. Then in some ways I guess you might think for like a cold email, you can be like, “Well, hey, we don’t really expect a whole lot of opens on a totally cold email to strangers.”

Ryan Bonnici

Pete Mockaitis
But, in the context you presented there, it is internal and that might get you thinking about having some sort of benchmark ratio in terms of “Well, hey, when you look at the other emails that get sent around our company, the open rates are triple this. What’s wrong?” It’s like, “Oh.” I think that’s where things get interesting.

Ryan Bonnici
100%, 100%. I think whenever you’re comparing funnels to marketing funnels, which there’s been lots of research done into them and you have a high volume of data that you can look at. Emails is a really easy example. Web traffic conversions is an easy example. Yes, you can definitely find some benchmarks. Again, I don’t know how important I would be leaning on those. I’d still be looking at your own data.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Ryan Bonnici
But once you start to get – most people aren’t marketers. That’s just one role in a company. Once you get out of those roles, the methodology and what I’m trying to help teach people to understand is you should just be reverse engineering whatever it is that you’ve been asked to do to work out how you can most successfully do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I think that within your own data, you can grab some good stuff. It’s like, “Hey, the other emails we sent internally, how do those compare here?” I think that gets really exciting when you discover, “Oh wait, this tiny little thing we’re doing is dumb. Let’s fix it. It turns out we’re using a tiny font that is really hard and obnoxious to look through. Let’s cut that out right away,” and boom, there you have it. It’s pretty thrilling, at least for me.

Ryan Bonnici
Absolutely. I think it’s when you actually stop and actually start to analyze the impact of the different things that you’re doing in a business that things get really interesting.

I find so often that businesses and employees never actually stop and properly analyze their activities to look at the impact. Everyone is running around. Everyone says they’re busy. No doubt they are, but being busy and working on unimportant things is very different than being busy and working on important, critical projects.

An example that I can think of that comes to mind from when I joined G2 Crowd is I noticed when I first joined that the company placed a lot of emphasis on having every employee do social sharing of content that we were creating as a company. Let’s say there was a news article about G2 Crowd or we created our own content, a lot of people would post it to Slack and everyone – every manager would say, “Hey, John, Jesse, everyone, please share this to your social channels. We want to get this news out there.”

I was doing some analysis when I joined and I basically was seeing that there was all of this activity being done. Everyone was taking out people’s time on their team to have them just share content on social. I understood why. Naturally you want to share happy news about your business. That makes your employees feel good. It’s an exciting thing.

But because most people at a company don’t really have many followers on Twitter or on LinkedIn, we were getting a very insignificant amount of net new traffic and engagement on this content purely because most employees are junior, most employees don’t have big networks. No one is clicking on their content.

It was just an interesting thing that I saw when I came in and I noticed wow, we spend so much time getting everyone to do this and no one has actually stopped and looked at how much traffic does it actually drive for us and it’s driving nothing, so let’s stop wasting everyone’s time. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s great. All right, so you mastered the craft, solving big problems. How does one build a brand?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah. I think this is a really interesting one that a lot of people sort of don’t really think enough about. I think to build your own personal brand at work is really, really key because that personal brand that you build, it doesn’t just help you today and in the future, it helps the company that you’re working for.

I always try and preface this hack or this tip with people on the basis of there’s no point trying to build a strong personal brand if you don’t actually have a unique point of view because if you don’t have a unique point of view, you’re not going to develop a strong brand. You’re just going to be sharing your opinion.

If your opinion isn’t unique or different or interesting or complex or has something unique about it, you’re just adding to the noise. No reason why you maybe shouldn’t do that if you want to and get that out there, but it’s probably not going to give you the effect that you’re hoping for.

I’d say that’s the key thing is to work out what is it that’s a unique angle that you have a unique perspective or insight into that you can share content of authentically. Once you know what that is, I think for people that are junior in their career or even more senior, the easiest place to start is with your company blog.

Most companies are doing content marketing or inbound marketing today, most of those content and inbound marketing teams don’t have enough time to create enough content, so they always welcome someone willing to create some content for the company blog.

My step one recommendation is reach out to your content team or your blogging team or your marketing team, if it’s a team of one, and literally say, “Hey, what’s a topic that you’ve been wanting to write content for on the blog that I maybe could create for you.”

Go ahead, do that, write it really well, have them edit it, and start to get some content up and live on the internet from your company because that’s automatically then starting to help you build your reputation and build a bit of an online footprint for who you are.

Then what I recommend people do is after they’ve done that a little bit, I’d suggest they start to reach out to maybe very kind of junior or small tier, low tier kind of press and media outlets in their city or in their industry and write a guest post for them.

In my slides – which if you head over to my Twitter account, it’s Twitter.com/RyanBonnici, just my name, you can download the slides that I’m running through because I have some templates … emails that I recommend sending to the editor of the different publications and what my follow-up emails look like.

But basically once you get a piece mentioned in one of those publications, then you reference that. Then you reach out to a tier two publication. Then once you get a few of those published, you mention those and then you reach out to a tier one publication.

I have done this myself over the last few years and worked my way up from small industry press in Sydney that no one in the US would probably know about to then being a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and now more recently I’m writing for The Telegraph and for Harvard Business Review and I think I have a post coming up for MIT’s journal tomorrow.

I’ve only done that through just working my way up and creating content. I wouldn’t have been able to work my way up if a) I didn’t start small, but b) most importantly, I had a unique opinion on different things. I think building your brand is key.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us a bit of an example in terms of what does it look, sound, feel like to have a unique point of view versus just to be everything else. Could you give us a couple examples of “Hey, not unique sounds like this, whereas unique sounds like that?”

Ryan Bonnici
Sure. I mean, look, I did an interview recently for The Telegraph. Basically it was all about how I kind of network on planes. An example of a boring article that The Telegraph wouldn’t have written is if I wrote them a piece of content that said “Here’s what you should do on a plane: go to sleep and watch a movie.” Everyone does that.

Instead I said to them, “Hey, I do something that’s different that no one else does on planes. I have a set of questions that I like to ask my neighbor. I’m good at gauging if they’re interested or not. I work out who they are. I research them on LinkedIn if I can see their name from their boarding pass,” blah, blah, blah, a little bit stalky. That’s different. That’s unique. Naturally now they want to write about that.

That was a flight example with regard to networking, but similarly I write a lot about marketing. A boring article that is not unique and no one would write would be an article for me saying digital marketing is important. No marketing industry press is going to publish that because obviously everyone that follows them knows that.

But if I wrote an article about how digital marketing is dying and here are some data points to back that up or digital marketing is transforming and here’s why, etcetera. Now we’re talking about something a little bit more interesting.

A unique angle really comes down to just building out what is the interest with the story and are you sharing something that’s new that people don’t know or is a different take on something.

If you look at the way Trump does media, he’s obviously very good at trying to have a unique angles for things that are very different, very I guess confrontational. That’s kind of a big part of what hooks press and gets them interested. You need to try and adapt that in the same way if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think in many ways it’s almost like you know it when you see it at the onset. It’s almost sort of just refusing to write something just because you should, like, “Oh, I write a blog post every month,” as opposed to, “Oh, now that’s something. Okay.”

Ryan Bonnici
Totally. Exactly. I take – throughout – I didn’t have a regular cadence because just to exactly your point, these ideas come up throughout the day, throughout the week. I find the best way to start for people that are new to this that are still trying to get their heads around what’s their unique angle is I always say the best place to start is think about what frustrates you the most at work.

You might do a regular meeting – you might be in a meeting and you might just be frustrated because meetings are always unproductive. That could be a unique angle, like saying, “Hey, most meetings are horribly unproductive and these are the five reasons why they’re unproductive. Here are the three easiest things that you can do right now to make your meetings at work more productive and to help you be better at your job.

Those things are a) require that there’s always an agenda written into the meeting invite, 2) if it doesn’t need to be a brainstorm and they’re just sharing content, it doesn’t need to be a meeting, and 3) blah.” That could be one example of the way you kind of find an idea through that frustration at work.

Or you might just have a regular meeting where you’re told in that meeting, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. You have a good viewpoint on this topic.” Whatever that topic might be, you then need to kind of quantify and kind of build out what that view is outside of just an opinion and formalize it and share it with people.

If we use just my presentation form HYPERGROWTH last week, I’ve been told by lots of people that I’ve moved up in my career pretty quickly to become a CMO by 30. I just thought about what has made me successful. That was what I got to kind of these five kind of key things that work for me.

A lot of that came from me just reflecting and working out what actually was it. What are some things that I do that most people don’t do? I think everyone can do that for their own domain, their own part of the business or their own skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that that that when it comes to the frustration, it means it’s resonating for you in the sense that your frustration kind of equals something is happening and it’s wrong.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. If you’re getting frustrated, then other people probably are too in those similar situations. You know you’ve got a hook, an interesting topic that’s going to be relevant most likely.

Then I think the next step is – this actually ties funnily enough really nicely into my fourth tip that is like get good at feedback is one thing that I always try and teach my team is it’s one thing to get frustrated with something, but if you’re just getting frustrated and you’re complaining, you’re not doing your job. You’re failing and you should be fired.

Great employees and people that get good at their career and move up is they give very good constructive feedback.

Instead of someone being frustrated because the meeting is unproductive, a really amazing employee would say – they might send an email around to everyone after the meeting and say, “Hey gang, I’ve been thinking about the agenda for our regular weekly meetings and I wanted to put together a potential draft agenda that we can use moving forward that I used maybe with a previous team that worked really, really well. Here is the agenda that I was thinking. What do people thing? Should we try this? Would it be worth doing or not?”

I’ve been in those meetings before where someone on my team has stepped up and been a leader and actually created a new agenda. It’s been brilliant.

A) that’s kind of a little bit of a meta example, but being able to kind of pull yourself out of the frustration and work out what could be done to fix it and then to drive that change is really key to moving up in your career and being a leader and just key for life really.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so that’s part of the feedback equation is delivering it, stepping up, finding some actionable improvement nuggets and courageously putting it forth in a kind of an appropriate, diplomatic way. How about on the receiving feedback side of things?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I’d say this is probably where most people struggle. Everyone says they want feedback, but it’s like until they get it about something that they weren’t expecting it for that they really struggle to accept it and then they push back and then it defeats the purpose because the person giving you feedback now can see that you’re defensive and just breaks the relationship down.

The first thing that I like to try and help my team kind of be more aware of is that when someone’s giving you feedback, you need to remember that they’re taking a risk in giving you feedback because people typically don’t like to receive feedback, but feedback is the only way we grow. We need to kind of a) remember that, but b) just like stop the first reaction that you have.

The first reaction that 99.9% of people have is to disagree or to give an example for why you did that or just to start to rationalize what happened. I think what people don’t realize is whoever is often giving the feedback doesn’t really care for why you’re doing it. They probably already know why themselves, but they’re giving it to you just so that you can be clear that this is something that needs to be improved on.

Let’s say as an example you give someone – someone gives you feedback that “Hey, you talked to fast in that meeting and that made it hard for people to follow, which meant that people left the meeting without really understanding what the goal of the meeting was.” A typical person might say, “Well, I had to rush because we had limited time.”

That’s not the point. The point isn’t that you had limited time. The point is that “Well, because you rushed because there was limited time, now the message was lost. The people don’t know what it is.”

Instead of refuting the feedback and arguing with it, the lesson there is “Oh, great. Thanks so much for that feedback, boss. What I might do next time is that if I see that we’re running out of time, I might just say ‘Hey guys, let’s take the 20 minutes back in your day and I’m going to schedule a new meeting to run through what I was going to run you through because we need more time.’” That’s how you respond in a proactive way and you learn from something.

Anyway, back on track, first thing to do I guess is stop that reaction. The second thing I recommend people do is remember that you asked for feedback. Feedback is something that you want. Third or fourth thing is just to say thank you. Thank the person for the feedback.

If it’s complex feedback that you really need time to deconstruct, then I always recommend my team just say to the person, “Hey, I really appreciate your feedback. I’ve taken down notes,” and actually write them down, say, “Hey, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to get back to you maybe tomorrow because I would love to really digest this info and get back to you with a full response. I hope that’s okay.”

No one’s going to say to you, “No, it’s not okay. You need to respond to my feedback immediately right now.” That will give you time to cool down, to think about it more properly and to realize that actually this is helpful, this is good.

Once you start to get into the good habit of doing that, a few ways I recommend people get better at this and get better at getting more feedback so they grow faster in their careers is just telling them that they need to ask for feedback regularly.

Some of my best employees, after every single one of our one-on-ones, they’ll just say to me, “Hey Ryan, thanks for this. This is really helpful today. What’s one more thing that you would like to see me doing more or less of?” Notice the open ended question there.

I’d say, “I can’t think of anything this week. You’ve done a really good job.” Or I might say, “Hey, yeah, you did this thing really well this week, although I felt like when you did this thing it kind of slowed you down and maybe next time you can do this.” Just teaching team members to not be afraid to ask for feedback is key.

Even if you’re meeting with like an executive or you’re in the elevator with the boss or someone more senior, maybe don’t ask them for feedback on yourself because they probably don’t know who you are or they probably haven’t been working really closely with you and so they can’t give you really helpful feedback.

But for those sorts of people what I would recommend asking is saying something to them like, “Hey, you obviously have an amazing leadership team. I’m curious when you’re building that leadership team, what qualities do you look for in those leaders or what are your best direct reports, what do they differently than everyone else?” At least that way now you can get insight from an executive that maybe can’t give you specific feedback. Does that make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. What you said about that – just note that the person who is give you feedback is taking a risk is excellent in terms of reframing the whole thing because your first reaction indeed can be like, “That jerk. Oh, spare me. Does this guy have a clue,” whatever, insert the defensive reaction or whatever as opposed to note that – unless of course, there’s a few sociopaths out there.

But for the most part, for the most part, when someone shares an observation about how you could improve, that is a kind act. I went to a leadership conference, it was called LeaderShape. They said feedback is love. I thought that was well said.

It’s a kind gesture. It does require risk because the person on the other end may very well think less of you for having provided it. If you start there, that just kind of puts you in I think a much more receptive place like, “This person cares enough about me to take the risk that I’m going to be mad at them. That’s pretty cool even if I don’t really like or agree with what they’re saying to me right now. I’m going to chew on it a little more.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly. Trying to think I think about the intentions behind the feedback is key. If it’s feedback that’s coming from your direct boss, out of everyone that gives you feedback, that’s the one person that you just shouldn’t push back on most likely because they know you intimately, they probably work with you very closely. If they’re giving you feedback, they’re only giving you feedback to try and help you, otherwise what’s the point?

But I’d say if you get feedback from someone else in the business and you disagree with it or something like that, maybe you chat with your boss about it. But also at the same time, I still don’t think you change the way you respond to it. I think the response is still, “Hey, thanks so much for that feedback. I really appreciate it. I’ll be sure to think about that and think about how I can respond differently next time.”

Whether or not you actually do it or not if you think it’s a load of crap, doesn’t matter. The way you respond is key. If you respond in a defensive way, you’re basically kind of voiding that relationship growth opportunity with that person.

If you respond in a really good way, regardless of whether you actually implement the feedback or not, you kind of by doing so showing and telling the person that you’re benefiting from the feedback and it was helpful. That will only help you in terms of your relationship with them and what’s the point in calling out to them that their feedback sucks or it’s inaccurate. Is it going to really help you? Sometimes you have to think about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And just that notion that if you make it really difficult, they’re like, “All right, not worth it. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and not share any useful tips in the future.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, Exactly. Then that person might also think that you disagree with them or now you don’t like them because they took that risk and gave you that feedback or a bunch of different things. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of how I think about that.

Then I think to wrap it up, I guess, Pete, with my presentation where I then went to kind of towards the end was really I wanted people to better understand what are some really small hacks that you can do really quickly. One of the things that I mentioned was helping people grow their network.

Something that I always do on LinkedIn and some people will probably disagree and don’t think this is the best strategy, but it works for me and I’m a big fan is whenever someone kind of looks at my profile on LinkedIn, I always add them to my network.

I just basically on my commute home or if I’m on the boss or if I’m doing – I’m bored and I’m somewhere, I’ll open up LinkedIn and I’ll just look at who has looked at my profile. Every single person that looked at my profile that I’m not connected with, I just tap the Connect button on them. All of those people always connect with you because they’re looked at you first.

Pete Mockaitis
They started it.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. They started it and they were interested in you.

The reason why that’s important is it helps you grow your network so the next time you change jobs or you share an article about yourself on LinkedIn or share anything, there’s more eyeballs that can potentially see your posts to then help like it and help perpetuate more people seeing it. That’s one thing I always recommend.

That’s worked well for me to the point where now I think I have something like 33,000 followers and connections on LinkedIn. …

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a particular message that you send them when you click, like “Hey, saw you looking at me,” or what is it?

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t send anything.

Pete Mockaitis

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t have time for that to be honest. Also, if that – yeah, some people do that and I think if you have the time to send a message, awesome, more power to you. I just haven’t gone down that path.

That would be the one thing I recommend. The other thing with regard to LinkedIn is what I’ve always done in my career is I always kind of work out what’s the company that I want to work for next. What I’ll do is I will basically do a search on the LinkedIn app and I’ll search maybe recruiter and then I’ll tag the companies that I want to work for.

Let’s say if you want to work at Facebook and Amazon and Snapchat, you would search for recruiter. Then you would search those companies in LinkedIn. Then I would then tap on the plus to all those people.

Now, what that’s doing is a) recruiters never say no to people that add them on LinkedIn because naturally their network is what makes them good at their job. The bigger the network, the better they are typically. They’ll always accept.

But the other great thing is not only have they accepted and you’ll probably get their email address and potentially their phone number through their LinkedIn profile, but they will now also be seeing your content.

As you do that tactic I mentioned about building your personal brand, where you’re creating that unique content for your company blog and for other articles, when you start to share that on LinkedIn, you’ll start to become more known as a thought-leader in whatever your space is.

Now recruiters that might in the future see you and recruit you for a job will start to recognize your name and know that you’re good at marketing or accounting or recruiting or whatever it is that you do. That’s just a very easy way to build your network.

That’s helped me now get to the point where I probably receive three to five different in-mails a day maybe on a good day from recruiters offering me board roles or interesting CMO roles at different companies. I don’t need to engage with them if I don’t want to, but it’s nice knowing that there’s options available if the time should ever arise where I need that.

There, yeah, I think it would be kind of broad set of really – some of those lessons that I think I’ve learned, Pete, over the last decade or so of my career. As you kind of mentioned as we’ve been talking about, I just think there’s so many things that you can do in your career to help you move faster and by doing so it helps your company move faster.

I think those two can always be aligned. That’s really the sweet spot. You shouldn’t be doing stuff that’s just good for your company and not good for you, like try and do stuff that’s good for both sides.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Gosh, no, I think that’s good background. For anyone that wants to connect with me obviously, my details I’m sure are listed in the podcast. Feel free to just search my name online. I’m very accessible via any social network really.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ryan Bonnici
I think something that I find really inspiring is just leaders that aren’t afraid to fill leadership voids. I don’t know if this is necessarily like a quote, but it could be.

I think of businesses as just being these organizations with holes within them kind of like Swiss cheese. I think a really strong leader starts to see those different deficits in a business and isn’t afraid sometimes to actually fill the gap and maybe step on someone’s toes that wasn’t filling the gap, which would have been filling the gap.

I think that’s been something that’s been an important thing that’s helped me grow in my career. It’s not easy to always do, but it’s worked for me. I’d say filling the leadership voids within the business is the fastest way to move up in a business and drive impact in the business would maybe by my self-created quote right now on the fly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. How about a favorite book?

Ryan Bonnici
The first one that I’d say probably, let’s focus on business, but I think there’s impacts that to me from a business perspective is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Absolutely love it. I think it’s a really good book. I try and reread it at least once a year if not more than that.

But it just kind of helps you really focus on what you can do right now and what’s important in the moment. Really good book I think for folks that sometimes suffer with feelings of depression or feelings of anxiety or feelings of trying to always achieve more and need more and not have enough. Really amazing book. Big fan of mindfulness and all of Eckhart Tolle’s work.

Maybe the other book that’s a bit more business focused is a book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott that I absolutely love. Kim published the book I want to say last year, maybe early 2017. It’s all about basically how to give you feedback to your employees so that you challenge them really directly, but while at the same time they know that you really care about them personally. That’s helped me I think become a better leader, but I’m always trying to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We had Kim on the show. It’s definitely powerful stuff.

Ryan Bonnici
Oh, fantastic.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite tool. There’s a ton. I’m a massive fan of HubSpot as a marketer, so HubSpot would probably be my favorite marketing tool. Then Asana would probably be my favorite productivity tool, like my whole team, our whole company actually at G2 Crowd, runs HubSpot for marketing and Asana for productivity and task management, so massive fan of Asana. Yeah, love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite habit. It’s kind of this is like a semi-tool slash habit, but I’m a big fan of light therapy actually. I’m a geek when it comes to bio-hacking and neuro-hacking.

For anyone that’s interested in trying to have more energy in the daytime or to work better throughout the nighttime or better attention, I tell them – I use a device called the Joovv, J-O-O-V-V.com. It’s basically kind of like this wall unit that hangs from a door. It’s got red lights and infrared lights on it. I will literally every morning and every night stand in front of it for ten minutes.

It’s good for resetting circadian rhythms. It’s really good for your skin. It’s good for kind of inflammation in your bones. I’m obsessed with it. Red light therapy/infrared light therapy is my biggest favorite habit knack.

The technical term for what it is for anyone that really wants to geek out, it’s called photo-bio-modulation. There’s a lot of research now coming out of Harvard and MIT that shows the benefits of what near infrared light and red light therapy can do for your brain and for your cells and your mitochondria. That’s probably my big habit and favorite fun thing.

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

Ryan Bonnici
I would say, gosh, the one thing I never see enough of in business is people just really owning their outcomes and committing to their growth. I think I’ve always had to throughout my career, I’ve never been given a promotion just because.

I’ve always – I earned it, but be like earned it and then told my boss that I’ve earned it and said, “Hey, this is what I need. If you want to hold on to me and you want me to keep driving impact in this company, this is what I want.”

I think more people can do that because there’s so many amazing people in business that are driving impact. It’s not that their bosses or their businesses are trying to intentionally overlook them and not give them that raise or that promotion or that new business opportunity. A lot of the time it’s just everyone’s busy and no one sometimes realizes it.

I think my one big thing in addition to kind of what we’ve been talking about all about this is just speak up and if you’re unhappy, tell your boss. If you want a new challenge, tell your boss. If you think that you’re undervalued, tell your boss and frame it in a way in which that it’s not a complaint, but that it’s a constructive thing.

Explain to them how much you love the business and how you want to drive more impact, but you don’t feel like you’re valued. Here’s why and here’s what you need to change. That would be my one big challenge and … for people.

In addition to just follow me on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Snapchat, and all the channels. Feel free to connect with me and share your challenges or your thoughts and feelings with me on this. If you agree/disagree or anything, I really am super sociable and I respond to everyone that messages me assuming they message me with nice messages that are constructive.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck at G Crowd and all you’re up to.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much Pete, really appreciate your time. Thanks everyone for listening.

336: Building the Mind of a Leader with Jacqueline Carter

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Jacqueline Carter reveals the three qualities of a good leader’s mind and how to build good foundations for those qualities in yourself.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What the American workforce looks for in a career and leader
  2. How to avoid power corrupting you as you rise
  3. The distinction between compassion and empathy–and which one is more helpful

About Jacqueline

With a Master of Science in Organizational Behavior and over 20 years of experience supporting organizations through large scale change, Jacqueline has held a wide range of leadership and consulting roles across a range of industries including transportation, oil and gas, insurance and government. Jacqueline has many years of personal experience with mind training and over the past 10 years has focused on embedding mindfulness practices into daily corporate life.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jacqueline Carter Interview Transcript

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

Jacqueline Carter

Thank you so much, Pete. Great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’d love to get oriented a little bit to what you’re doing. The Potential Project is a really cool name. What’s it all about and what do you do there?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, thanks so much. So, The Potential Project is a global organization and our passion is helping leaders and organoizations enhance performance and creativity and resilience through understanding and training the mind.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, that sounds awesome. So then, what do you do in there?

Jacqueline Carter

I am a partner with the organization. So as I said it’s a global organization and I work internationally, as well as oversee our operations in North America.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, we’re talking about the mind – your latest book is called The Mind of the Leader. What’s the big idea here?

Jacqueline Carter

So, Potential Project – we’ve been in operations for over a decade, and we’ve been very much focused on helping organizations, as I said, enhance performance. And specifically a lot of our work has been on training mindfulness. And I can define what that means, but just really simply it’s training the mind to be able to be more here, now. Less distracted and more focused.
And what we found about two and half years ago is that we were seeing with a lot of the leaders that we were working with that mindfulness training alone wasn’t enough. And we were just seeing that so many leaders we were working with were experiencing such a degree of pressure, they were feeling overwhelmed, there just weren’t enough hours in the day for them to be able to be successful.
And in addition to that, as many of your listeners know, and as I’m sure you know and you’ve had other speakers talk about – but the changing nature of the workforce today. And what we really saw is what we came to call a “leadership crisis”. And we wanted to put our research hats and get into it and try to understand more about what are the challenges that are facing leaders today, and what do they need to be able to be successful, to create more healthy, happy, productive organizations? So that’s the big idea behind the book.

Pete Mockaitis

I’m intrigued. So the mindfulness trainings weren’t quite getting the job done. And what was the root behind that? You said there’s just the sheer volume of stressors, or what wasn’t clicking and connecting for folks?

Jacqueline Carter

So the mindfulness training – and for those of you who don’t know, as I said, I can define it just to make sure that we have a common language – but it really is about training the mind to be able to be present. So it’s about being here, now. And what we found was that was critical. If you I aren’t both here, then we might as well not be having this conversation. So, mindfulness is really table stakes, especially for any leader. And certainly for any employee – if you want to be effective you have to be able to be present.
But what we found was certainly with the changing nature of the workforce today is that workers today were looking for more meaning and for more purpose. They were looking for a place where they felt more connected. And when we started looking at the engagement scores, only 13% of the global workforce is engaged, 24% actively disengaged. There was a survey that said that 65% of employees would forgo a pay raise to see their leader fired. And we looked at things like that.
Another survey – a McKinsey study – looked at, 77% of leaders thought they were doing a great job as leaders, but 82% of their employees, not so much. So what we saw was that more than just mindfulness, leaders also needed to look at qualities of being more selfless, and I can also define that, and also brining more compassion into their leadership.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, so that’s intriguing, some of those figures there. So 65% – almost two thirds of people would not take their 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% annual bonus if they could have their leader fired.

Jacqueline Carter

Yes. I’m sure nobody listening was part of that study. But it’s very depressing.

Pete Mockaitis

Is it their immediate boss or the CEO?

Jacqueline Carter

Their immediate boss actually, which is really interesting. But when you talk about CEOs, that’s the other thing that we looked at. The trust index shows consistently that our faith in leaders, and specifically in CEOs, has gone significantly down over the past years. So it’s combining all these things and saying, “What’s going on? What’s happening?” And that’s really what we wanted to find out and that was what our research was all about.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So you’ve identified these three forces there – mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion. So let’s discuss a little bit, in terms of, how does one develop each of these, and what are the benefits and results of deploying them?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, absolutely. And maybe just for a little bit of context in terms of our research, just to give it some weight, as it’s not just me and us folks at Potential Project with some great ideas. We interviewed over 250 C-Suite executives, we surveyed over 35,000 leaders from 72 countries, we engaged with leading researchers and did field work with companies including Accenture and Marriott and Cisco. So I just wanted to give it a little bit of context before I dug into it, because some of these concepts may seem soft or flaky, they may not seem like hardcore business. But what we were really inspired by is how the leaders that we spoke to saw these as being absolutely critical to being successful as a leader today. So is that a good enough backdrop?

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, thank you.

Jacqueline Carter

Okay. So, to start off, as I said, with mindfulness. Maybe just one other backdrop – you said how can they cultivate these? So I think the other starting place to look at that is what we know about the brain. And so we’re very much interested in looking at things from a scientific perspective. And what we know about our brain is that it is plastic, so we can actually develop new skills, because of something called neuroplasticity. And so I think that’s the really exciting thing. What we know is that for example even though we may feel distracted all the time, or we may feel stressed or overwhelmed, we can train ourselves to be able to be more relaxed, to be able to be more focused, to be able to be more calm. And there are specific training tools. And that’s really the starting point; that’s what mindfulness is about. And mindfulness training is training the mind to be able to manage your attention.
So one of the things that science tells us is that our mind basically wanders 47% of our waking hours. So what that looks like, just to make it practical for anybody that’s listening – during the time that Pete and I have already been talking, you might have found that you started thinking about what might happen next, or a meeting that you were just in. And basically that’s normal, that’s the way our mind naturally works.
And the key thing about mindfulness training is whether we can be aware that our mind has gone off on a little journey, and whether we have the mental fitness or attentional muscle to be able to say, “No, I really want to listen to this podcast. I’m going to manage my own attention. I’m going to be here, now.” So that’s mindfulness. It sounds simple. For anybody who’s practiced it, it’s simple. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s training the mind to be able to be more here, now.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so then, what are some of the best practices for building that muscle?

Jacqueline Carter

So you can go to the mental gyms, and that’s a lot of what we do at Potential Project, is we introduce 10 minutes of daily mindfulness training. Just like you would go to a physical gym to be able to develop better, strong physical muscles, you can go to the mental gym to be able to develop basically better attentional muscles. And 10 minutes a day has been shown from a research perspective to significantly help in terms of overcoming the mind’s natural tendency to wander.

Pete Mockaitis

So when we go to the mental gym, what does that consist of?

Jacqueline Carter

Well, in our work, the way we introduce mindfulness training is we like to keep it very, very, very simple and stripped down, because we know that most of us already have enough complexity in our lives. So actually our method is called ABCD – just as simple as you can get. And the A is basically to be able to look at your anatomy and make sure that you’re as relaxed as you can be. The B is about simply focusing on your breath. And again, that sounds simple but it’s not always easy. The C – we invite people to count. So they count their breaths 1 to 10, and then count backwards, 10 back down to 1. And the D is for distractions, and we know that our mind naturally wanders. And in mindfulness training when your mind wanders, it’s actually a good thing because it gives you the opportunity to flex that attentional muscle, to bring your mind back to the breath, and then just simply start counting from 1 again.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. And so, with that counting to 10 and then back – is that synchronized with breathing, in terms of one’s on the inhale, one’s on the exhale, or how does that go?

Jacqueline Carter

No. It’s simply you breathe in, you breathe out, count one; breathe in, out, two. Up to 10, and then count backwards. And one of the things that’s really key about the counting is, it’s not about… People, especially high potential, high achievers feel like, “I want to get to 10 and back down to 1”, and become almost competitive or put themselves under pressure. The key thing is the counting is just a way to make sure that your mind just isn’t wandering as you’re sitting there focusing on your breath and you start to daydream. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t get to 10.
They key thing is, how many times can you notice that your mind has wandered, and bring it back. Every time you do that, that’s really when you’re flexing your attentional muscle. And the cool thing about that is then when you’re sitting in that meeting and your mind starts to wander, because it does, you can bring it back, because you’ve got a stronger mental muscle. And so that’s the other thing that we look at, is not just the practice of mindfulness on its own and going to the mental gym, but how to apply it to practical things like being in a meeting and being effective, or apply it to emails, or apply it to priorities or to being more creative.

Pete Mockaitis

So, how might we apply it to email?

Jacqueline Carter

So, a couple of things. One of the things – such a simple tip, is to turn off all email notifications. And the reason for that is that we know that every time we get a pop-up on our computer or a pop-up on our device, it’s a distraction to us. And basically we know that from an efficiency perspective when we get distracted, it can take between a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes for us to bring our attention back to whatever we were doing. So we think that it’s helping us keep track of what’s going on in our day, and it’s really just losing you time, because you’re basically distracted throughout the day. So it’s such a simple little technique, but it can actually save you minutes, and those minutes add up. It can actually save you even an hour each day to just turn off those notifications. And only do emails when you want to do emails, as opposed to just being always on with them.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. So then, where does the “selflessness” piece come in?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, absolutely. So, selflessness – a simple definition is basically not letting our natural egoistic tendencies to get in the way of us being the best leader we can be, or even the best human we can be. And a fundamental way to look at it is that one of the things that we know is that – again, from a neurological perspective – we have a natural tendency to be self-referential. Everything that we are experiencing, we experience in terms of how I experience it. And that’s natural – like, “I am doing this right now” or, “I like this. I don’t like that.” And that is natural and normal.
But as a leader, if it’s all about me, it’s actually not very effective, it’s not very helpful. So, leadership is really about making sure that we’re looking at others and what is important to the team, and how can we actually support all of us be more successful? And it really is critically important. It’s trainable as well, but especially in leadership, and this goes back to what we found in the research. What was so important about cultivating selflessness is a lot of the research shows that as we rise in the ranks of leadership, our chances of becoming more rude, becoming more unkind, become more unethical, actually increase.

Pete Mockaitis


Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, exactly. It’s intriguing, and frightening. But it’s really interesting when you think about it. I’ll even say from my own personal experience – I do a lot of talks and presentations and I’m standing up in front of crowds of maybe hundreds of people. And I can feel that natural tendency of my ego wanting to say, “Jacqueline, aren’t you special?” And I need to constantly remind myself, no. I mean I’m not not special, but it’s not all about me. And so it’s just that natural tendency for us to start to get a big head as we rise in the ranks of power. And it’s so critical to bring that selflessness into our leadership.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so, now I’m just so intrigued. I guess we could spend hours talking about the “Why”. But what do you think it is? Is it just because they are accustomed to being treated well, and then it’s like you think that you’re special and you deserve it maybe? It’s sort of natural pattern-putting together there?

Jacqueline Carter

Well, it can be that, but it’s also how people start to treat us. One of the great stories that we just loved… We had so many great stories from the interviews that we did, but one of the CEOs explained it to us like this. He said, “When I became CEO, what I noticed is that people started to laugh more at my jokes.” He said, “I don’t think I’m any funnier. I can assure you, I don’t think I’m any funnier.” But we are social beings, and we look at how’s in charge, who’s the leader, and we treat them differently. And especially the research on power and how power corrupts us as we rise up the ranks. But it’s even simple things, like a leader is more likely to not clean up after themselves when they’re leaving a room. It’s simple things like that, but they can really end up… And you think, “That’s okay. They don’t have time. They’re busy.” But it’s about, are we out for ourselves? And of course it can lead to the ultimate, which is real corrupt behaviors, which we saw a lot in the research.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, it’s funny. I remember back in the day, when I was in high school we had our congressman, our U.S. House of Representatives. I don’t want to name names, but you can do the research if you want to, from Danville, Illinois, back when I was in high school. He visited, and I don’t know I was sort of fascinated, like, “Okay, let’s take a close look at this guy. How is he operating? What’s his deal? What was the key to his rise to success and fame or whatever?”
And I remember he requested tea. Why do I remember this? He requested a tea, and he had a teabag and some hot water and a cup, and he was steeping while the conversations were happening. And there was a napkin right next to the cup, and I noticed he did not place the teabag onto the napkin, but rather onto directly the table. And I was like, “Why would you do that? Someone’s got to clean the table now. You’ve got a barrier between the table and the teabag inches away that you could’ve easily utilized and you opted not to.” [laugh] I guess it made an impression. So, there you go – rising to power and not cleaning up after yourself.

Jacqueline Carter

It’s a great story. But what was so interesting about the research, and I did not know this until we got into this research – is that it can happen without you being aware of it. So that leader may not have even been aware that that’s a power play. That’s like, “You know what? I’m so important, I can put garbage on the table. But this is the thing – it was that it may not be intentional. And I think that that’s the space of where looking at you may become a jerk and you don’t even mean to. That’s I think a key message that we found from the studies.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so you can get sloppier and not even notice that it’s happening to you as you rise to power. So, what are some best practices for cultivating selflessness?

Jacqueline Carter

I think the first thing, and that’s one of the things we did try to do with the book is to create awareness. I think all of us should know that power can corrupt our minds. I think that’s just critical for all of us to know. And once we know that, we have to make a choice. What kind of leader do we want to be? And one of the simple ways to overcome it is to really practice humility and gratitude. At the end of each day, just think about all of the people that helped you be successful today. And one of the key things that we encourage is to look for the people that are unseen. So it could be the things that didn’t go wrong because there was a team of people that helped make sure that you didn’t even notice that nothing went wrong.
So look for those and really make sure that you have that sense of gratitude and appreciation. And a simple thing, and it’s a great thing, and actually the neuroscience around this says that a simple gratitude practice of every day thinking of, is there one person you could send a little note to say, “Hey, thanks. I really appreciate whatever you did.” It’s actually self-serving, because not only it’s great for them, but it actually helps us to cultivate a more selfless mind. So there’s great benefit in it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. So let’s talk about compassion then, and how would you distinguish and define selflessness from compassion?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, absolutely. So compassion then is the intention to be of benefit to others. And this was also really exciting, and maybe just to give a context – when we originally set out to write the book, we talked to our publisher, who we love – Harvard Business Review Press – fantastic organization to work with. Originally it was just going to be on mindful leadership. And so I want to say one of the things that was really exciting to us is, through the journey of our research, it was really through that that we kept on hearing leaders talk about the importance of selflessness, talk about bringing more humility and gratitude, and also talking about compassion. And that was really exciting to us, because for years we had always known that compassion was beneficial and important, but often times you don’t hear a lot of leaders talking about it. Especially in hardcore, tough business-minded people compassion is often seen as soft.
And what we really saw and what we heard and what we experienced, and then we again pulled back the research on, was compassion isn’t about being nice to everyone. It’s really about bringing a true intention to be of benefit to others. So just to give you a story of what that looks like, let’s say you and I were colleagues and I walked into your office and I saw that you had a heap of paper and you were just drowning because you had so much. Or a help of emails; maybe most people don’t have paper anywhere. But just like you were really under a lot of pressure.
And if I was just being empathetic, I might sit down and be miserable right alongside of you. That wouldn’t be helpful to you and it wouldn’t be helpful to me. But a compassionate approach is, what can I actually do to help you? And there are a couple of things. What I could actually do to help you might be nothing at all, because you’ve got to figure this out for yourself, and that’s going to be the best way to help you. Or it could be to help you look at your priorities. Or maybe if I was in a leadership role, maybe it would be to make sure that I haven’t been creating too much stress and overload for you.
So it’s really having an ability to step back, look at the person, look at the situation, and ask that question: “How can I be of best benefit?”, and doing it with wisdom. So it includes things like giving really tough feedback, which can be challenging, but really beneficial. Or even letting somebody go, because they’re just not performing, they’re not a good fit for whatever reason. But doing it with compassion, doing it with a great deal of care.

Pete Mockaitis

Got it, thank you. Could you maybe share a story or a case study that kind of ties it all together, in terms of an organization that had not a whole lot of the mindfulness, not a whole lot of the selflessness, not a whole lot of compassion, and then things got turned around in a cool way?

Jacqueline Carter

I would love to say that there was one organization that brought it all together, and I can’t say that. I can certainly say that what we’ve really seen and the experience that we’ve had, organizations that focus on these qualities, really enables them to be more effective, more kind, and actually lead to bottom line success. So, just maybe to name a couple out – Accenture is an organization that has really embraced mindfulness; it’s become core to their leadership development and they’ve got a whole program that’s around helping them be more focused.
Organizations that we really admire in terms of selflessness – LinkedIn is a great example, where it’s really not about “me”, but really about, “How can we bring more of a global perspective?” And you can see that in some of the things that they do. An organization that we love working with around compassion is Marriott. They have a very simple business philosophy that they’ve had since they were a nine-stool pop shop in 1927. And that business philosophy is, “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our guests, and business will take care of itself.” And that’s been their model since the early days. Now they’re the largest hotel chain in the world, over 700,000 people worldwide. And when we spoke with CEO Arne Sorenson and CHRO David Rodriguez they said that whole idea of taking care of their people, bringing compassion, is still the cornerstone of their philosophy, which is great.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely. And we talked about a few things that we should start doing, in terms of going to the mental gym and putting yourself in other people’s shoes and seeing how we can best be of service to them. But are there some things that we should stop doing right away in order to excel on these fronts?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah. I think that one of the things you should stop doing is stop multitasking. It’s just a really bad idea; it’s kind of the mother of all evil, in terms of being effective and having good relationships and being kind to others. There is just a ton of research and studies that shows it’s just a really bad idea. Another thing to stop doing is working late at night. One of things that we know is that most of us simply do not get enough sleep, and so we should all put a greater value on making sure that we get a good night’s sleep. And again, there’s lots of great research on that. I could go on, but I’ll let you see if those are good tips.

Pete Mockaitis

Good, thank you, yes. Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Jacqueline Carter

I think maybe one other thing that we found really inspiring and it was really important to us is just an idea of creating more people-centric cultures. It just came up again and again in our work, this idea of bringing more humanity, brining more of our true selves and being more authentic. So I think maybe one of the things that I would say is that a lot of these qualities are accessible to all of us; in some ways they just make good inherent sense. And what we’re really hoping and what we’re seeing is organizations and leaders that embrace them. It’s actually nice to be present with people; it’s nice for it all to not be about “me”; it’s nice to be able to bring more kindness and compassion into organization. And guess what? It also leads to better results. So yeah, that’s just the other thing I’d like to add.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool, thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jacqueline Carter

One of probably my favorite quotes is by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He says, “Compassion is my religion.” I think that’s a good universal one for me.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah. One of my favorite ones, because it was just so shocking – literally shocking – was research where they gave people a little electric shock and they said, “Does that hurt?” And people would say, “Yes, that hurts.” And then they put them in a room with no stimuli whatsoever – no phone, no technology, nothing – just white walls. And the only thing that they had in that room was that same little electric shock.
And what they were looking for was whether people were so uncomfortable being alone and so unable to just sit with themselves that they would actually shock themselves to entertain themselves. And they actually asked people, “Would you actually shock yourself on purpose?” People said, “No way.” Well, it turned out 67% of men and 25% of women would shock themselves, rather than just sitting there and being still and being alone. One guy shocked himself 190 times. That was really interesting and a little bit frightening about human behavior.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s wild. How long were they in there?

Jacqueline Carter

I can’t remember exactly. It was about five minutes, so it wasn’t a long period of time. Yeah, it’s really fascinating. One of the other things that I find so interesting is that all we have is our mind, basically. That’s how we perceive the world, that’s how we do great things. And if we’re that uncomfortable with sitting and just being alone with our thoughts that we would actually electrocute ourselves… I could look at it positively – there’s a lot of good work that we could do about making us more comfortable being alone with our own mind.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh yes, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Jacqueline Carter

That is such a tough question. There are so many that I love. I think from a business perspective one of the books that I really, really enjoyed was Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hanson. Just wonderful stories, great practical examples, and just very inspiring form an organizational and leadership perspective.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Jacqueline Carter

Well, one … that I love is actually something that we introduced as part of helping people to remember to be more mindful in their communications. And it’s basically when you’re about to engage with somebody, just … and STOP, standing for – S is just to be silent, because you want to make sure that you listen. And not only not talking, but actually try to silence your mind so that you’re not playing over too many things in your mind. The T standing for tune in. The O standing for being open to really listen and to try to hear what the other person is saying. And then to be present. And then when you do speak we use the word ACT as an acronym. And to make sure that it is appropriate, the C is for compassionate, and that it’s well-timed – you don’t say too much or too little, and it’s at the right time. So those are tools that I love to use in all of my communication.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. And how about a favorite habit?

Jacqueline Carter

Well, that is easy. It’s my daily mindfulness practice. I would not start my day with anything else.

Pete Mockaitis

And is that using those ABCDs, or you do something different?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, I do something different. I sit for longer than 10 minutes, but I do find that basic practice, I do basic breath awareness practices, focusing on my breath. But I also do specific practices around selflessness and compassion, which are also extremely beneficial, and again, just usually require taking a little bit longer time.

Pete Mockaitis

And as you think through your writing and speaking and working with folks, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they repeat it back to you frequently?

Jacqueline Carter

I think that probably the resonant nugget is around being more truly human. And this was one of the quotes from one of the leaders, senior executive with Audi-Volkswagen. He said that leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human. And I thought, “That’s a good nugget.”

Pete Mockaitis

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

Jacqueline Carter

So our website is www.PotentialProject.com. And you can find not only information about us and our work, but also we have information on the book. And as part of that as well we actually are creating a global leadership network. So if you’re at all interested in these practices of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion and brining them into your day-to-day work, your day-to-day leadership, there’s more information that you can find on the website.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jacqueline Carter

Yeah, I think it really is. Let’s all start a movement of being more present with each other, being less about us and being more kind. I think the world today needs it desperately and I think that not only will it help us be more awesome at our job, but I think we’ll be more awesome in our societies and have a more awesome world. So, that would be my call to action.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful, thank you. Well, Jacqueline, this has been so much fun. I wish you tons of luck with The Mind of the Leader book and all that you’re up to!

Jacqueline Carter

Thank you so much. It was really great to talk to you today.

319: How to Never Stop Learning with Bradley R. Staats

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Bradley R. Staats discusses the essentials of dynamic learning, the best practices of a compelling learner, and the value of mistakes and asking questions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 4 elements of dynamic learning
  2. How we are our own worst enemy when learning
  3. How to reframe how you think about mistakes

About Bradley

Bradley R. Staats is the author of Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, and is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School. His research examines how individuals, teams, and organizations can learn to improve their operational performance to build a competitive advantage, integrating work in operations management and organizational behavior to clarify how and under what conditions individuals, teams, and organizations can learn at their best.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Bradley R. Staats Interview Transcript

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

Brad R. Staats
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me as well. Excited to be here today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I am too. I am too. I wanted to start by hearing a little bit about learning in a different environment. I understand that you spend a good bit of time coaching baseball teams for your kids and others, so how’s that and what’s that teach you about learning?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s been a great experience. I have three sons who are 13, 11, and 9 now. A good way to spend time with them is out on the baseball field. I think baseball is a game, and probably coaching even more fundamentally, is an action that are both fantastic for learning.

The biggest thing for me is really around the process. Actually the book opened with a story from one of my son’s games, where he was facing a really hard pitcher, did everything right, and was a few years younger and unfortunately hit to a double play and came back kind of extraordinarily upset despite the fact that he did hit the ball incredibly hard. It all worked out. Yet, he was looking at it as failure.

I see so many things like that on the field of when we focus on the outcome, as an example, instead of what we actually did, the process, we fail to learn. There are those chances in working with the kids and helping them see kind of what’s going on around them that then import nicely over to other learning contexts.

I think the other big thing for me is that while I certainly played baseball as a kid, I’m by no means an expert, but thankfully surrounded by some head coaches that did a lot more than I did.

It’s a great reminder to me of the power of ‘I don’t know.’ Of getting asked questions that I could speculate as a coach, I could give them an answer, that they might nod their heads and believe that, but I realized there are other people that are more qualified.

It’s almost freeing that I don’t feel the need in that context to claim this is what you always do, but “I don’t know. Let’s talk to Coach John. Let’s talk to Coach Jim, Coach Tyler,” whomever and trying then to import that over to organizational contexts.

Pete Mockaitis
That is great. Particularly I think there could be some I don’t know if it’s context thing or an expectation thing or a macho thing in terms of “I’m a man and I’m a dad. These are my kids. I have the answers.” I think that that’s sort of an easy rut to fall into for some.

Brad R. Staats
I think you’re absolutely right. You certainly see it out in the field of people who playing games try to do that. The ironic thing of course is that eventually people catch on. Eventually you undercut your credibility in an attempt to stay important.

People are willing to accept. We don’t need to know all the answers. It’s a hard world. It’s uncertain. There’s a lot going on. You should know the basics. You know four balls get you a walk, that sort of thing.

But if there’s some nuance you don’t get, the same thing with umpires. It’s a great way to walk out, “I don’t know this,” and then having a really productive discussion around it, learning and moving forward to the next step.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Then let’s hear about some of this that you unpack and synthesize in your book, Never Stop Learning. What’s it all about?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s getting at in many ways these sorts of behaviors. It’s a recognition that I think with learning we know a lot of the things we should do. We know the processes we should follow, that should we fail fast, we should ask questions, we should follow the process, learn from others, etcetera and yet we don’t.

It’s a question that’s really bugged me for a lot of years. Why don’t we learn? What I’ve come to appreciate is that learning is a science but in a lot of ways it’s a behavioral science that when it comes to learning, we are in fact our own worst enemy. That’s the challenge.

The good news is research from diverse fields, whether it’s operations, psychology, economics, neuroscience shows that we can be the problem, but we also can be the solution.

In the book, what I try to do is look at some of those practices that we should be following, explore why we don’t, why do we have those behavioral issues, and then importantly, how can we overcome it, what can we do in order to get to a better spot.

Pete Mockaitis
Then let’s dig into this. You use the term dynamic learner frequently. First, can you define that for us and well, we’ll start there?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely. When I think about dynamic learning, it’s in part a recognition that I would argue we live very much in a learning economy now, that I kind of grew up thinking of a knowledge economy, an information economy, this recognition of all that’s out there.

I think the shift to learning as the motivator there is important because recognition, it’s not what we know right now that will determine future success. It’s how quickly we ….

Dynamic learning is getting to that. It’s an appreciation that we need to be really four things with our learning. We need to be focused. We need to be able to pick the right topics, right as best we can define it at the moment. We need to be fast. Our acceleration matters. How quickly can we get up to speed on those chosen areas? We need to be frequent that it really is an ongoing process, not learn a little, stop.

It’s kind of a … of lifelong learning, but nevertheless it is a truth. It’s fact I would argue. Then finally we have to be flexible, that just because we picked an idea, we accelerated, we’ve learned it, it doesn’t mean that’s where we stay. We have to be able to adjust off of that.

As I think about dynamic learning, it’s capturing those four elements of how do we be focused, how do we be fast, how do we be frequent and how do we be flexible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, lovely. I want to dig into that. What – I want to get your sense for a dynamic learner, sounds like a great thing to be, desirable. If you had to guesstimate or maybe you have some hard studies here, what proportion of people would say qualify as dynamic learners?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s a great question. I don’t have hard numbers around that. I think – I would probably twist the question around a little bit and highlight what I think the literature shows us is that effectively none of us are dynamic learners all of the time, but basically all of us have the potential to do it.

That is part of the premise of the book and certainly it’s somewhat introspective for myself with the book of as a quote/unquote learning expert, I still feel and see myself fall short on these dimensions. I’ve yet to kind of see someone who always does these things right.

At the same time, research is really compelling in that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The dog just has to want to learn. I think that’s kind of the encouraging message of broader research and certainly the book as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then along those lines, you’ve said elsewhere – I saw it on your Twitter – that most of us are actually pretty bad at learning. Can you unpack that a little bit and share what’s the big evidence that points to that assertion?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. I think it gets back to this behavioral challenge that so often we feel the need to go down a certain path when it’s actually fairly problematic. Lots of examples jump to mind. I think the sport’s world often provides an easy one that folks would know.

You can think about something like if you follow the NBA, Sam Hinkie from the Philadelphia 76ers and the idea of ‘trust the process’ has been pounded over again and again with this idea that it’s hard to win in the NBA, so you take an approach, you make measured bets, you play the probabilities and in the long run it will work out.

As part of that it was a bunch of losing upfront in order to get high draft picks and trade away talent to assemble future resources. If you look from 2013 when he was hired to 2018, this year, the 6ers made a playoff run. They’re kind of rated number four I think by ESPN on their power rankings looking to the future.

But a couple years ago he was effectively pushed out of the organization. While he took this process focus, thinking about or getting to that future outcomes, at the end of the day ownership decided enough was enough and got rid of him more or less. Even though, thankfully, the model he put in place is largely been followed with a few missteps and played out directionally the way he’d expect.

I think we see that sort of thing.

There was another research study looking at on the process point right there, NBA coaches and looked at a couple thousand NBA games over multiple years.

You can think about when you play a game, the final score gives you some information about how the team did, but if you won a game by one point, lose a game by one point, it doesn’t really provide dramatically different information. That was an incredibly close game either way.

The study shows that if we look at changing the starting line up, so kind of this belief that something’s wrong, you’re much more likely to change it if you lose by a lot than if you win by a lot. Big shock there.

But if you get down to that plus or minute one point difference, the coaches that lost by one point were far more likely to change their starting lineup than the ones that won by a point. Back to this challenge of we obsess about the outcome.

The coaches were likely to do that even when they were expected to lose. The results carried through even when they just got lucky, their team shot a remarkably high free-throw percentage that day. But on average this plays out kind of across the entire NBA.

In study after study where we can pick a given practice and a whole lot of the time kind of we play it out the wrong way. If we’re going to do better, yes we have to know the practice, but we also have to have some idea of kind of what goes wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really intriguing.

I’m wondering if that is purely self-imposed, like the head coaches have the autonomy and flexibility and authority to say, “I have considered all of the parameters and our goals and this is what I truly believe is the answer to make this happen,” versus, do you think that it’s more a matter of sort of outside influences saying, “You’ve got to change things up,” and they’re kind of reacting to external pressures.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think it’s some of both. I think you’re right that the outside both pressure and impression management that we just feel like well, we need to be seen doing something.

There’s kind of a related study that I love looking at soccer goalies. Looks at soccer goalies on penalty kicks. I might get the numbers slightly wrong, but basically about – in this study these were professional goalies. 94% of the time the goalies dove to the left or the right. Player gets ready to kick it, they make their decision, they dive one way and then most of the time don’t stop it, but occasionally do.

The data suggested that if they were to stay in the middle, it would dramatically increase their likelihood of stopping the ball. About 30% of the time, the … kicks it back right up the middle. Yet, the goalie … to dive, 94% of the time.

The researchers went back and they asked the goalies, kind of, “Hey, here’s this information. Why don’t you stay in the middle?” Their response was basically along the lines of, “Well, I’d really regret it if I stayed in the middle and a goal was scored, but if I dive the wrong way, I have a face full of dirt. I can feel like I have done everything.”

I think there are times that even when it’s counterproductive, we want to be seen doing something just so we can feel good about it even if it turns out, stepping back and looking at the big picture, it was the wrong thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting. The same thing with the fans too. If you stay in the middle then a goal is scored, it’s like that lazy goalkeeper.

Brad R. Staats

Pete Mockaitis
What is he doing?

Brad R. Staats
I know. What the hell? Why didn’t he try something? I can stand in the middle.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s really – that’s worth chewing on for a little while in terms of my own life, business, work. What are those instances in which we’re metaphorically diving instead of staying in the middle when that’s appropriate? I imagine you already have some ideas, so I’ll let you unpack a few of them.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think a lot of it is sometimes slowing down to go fast, that maybe we can look at some of the different things.

Take just the last one of not diving. Are we actually taking some time to think? Are we taking time to reflect? That if we look at research on learning, it turns out kind of we activate different parts of the brain when we learn by doing, kind of engaging in an activity versus learn by thinking about it.

As you would expect then, if we do the two of those together, we’re likely to learn more than anyone. But we’re so on, we’re so feeling a need to do things, that we don’t, in many cases, think enough about it.

We’ve done some research. We did a big field experiment with a technology company on their services organization. They were training workers, six-week training program. The end of it they took an exam to join kind of the firm fully, get off of provisional status and go start to serve customers.

In the middle two weeks of that program we did a 15- minute intervention every day of just at the end write about two things you’ve learned. Scribble down kind of two things you’ve learned that day. Then we had a control group. We randomly assigned participants to one versus the other.

What we found at the end of that six weeks that the group that reflected scored about 25% higher on that test that qualified them for the job. The first month on the job, they performed about 10% higher on their customer satisfaction scores. We’ve done a bunch of lab studies to follow up. Others have done work around this.

But actually blocking some time out for thinking, as simple as that sounds, somebody at the end of the day today take ten minutes, think about what you’ve learned that day, think about how you’re going to take it to deploy tomorrow. Getting in a regular habit of that, of slowing down just a little bit can be incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. You have the ten minutes, what a return on investment there. That’s huge. When it says, “Write about what you’ve learned,” is that sort of the entirety of the prompt or do you have some sort of juicy follow-up to help spark and provoke the good stuff to come forward?

Brad R. Staats
I think keeping it simple is a great place to start. In that experiment it was just write about two things you’ve learned. I think if we look we can see some ways, as you’re pointing out, to dig a little bit deeper.

One of those ways that’s important is thinking about when we failed, thinking about when we’ve tried something that didn’t work, thinking about how we need to push ourselves, taking more risk. That prompt can do two things.

One is it can open us up to the possibility of where we’ve already gone wrong but we sort of pretended it didn’t happen.

Back to the behavior getting in the way, one of those challenges is around failure, that sometimes we try something, it doesn’t work, but we just deny the failure. “Oh, that’s what I wanted all along,” or “No one would have been successful there.” That prompt to, “Hey, why might you have been responsible? What do you need to learn out of that?”

I think the other piece is sometimes for fear of failure, we end up holding back. We don’t actually try enough. If you’re forcing yourself to think about kind of when have you tried and not had it work out and you can’t come up with any examples, it’s a pretty good indication we need to elevate our failure rate a little bit.

That’s not saying take it to an extreme, but for most people pushing a little bit more on the risk front is likely to be productive, not everyone of course.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I guess it’s interesting in terms of like the stakes of the failure.

Brad R. Staats

Pete Mockaitis
Crashing a commercial airliner is terrible.

Brad R. Staats
Yes, yes. Don’t do that. Yes, no, definitely not.

Pete Mockaitis
Never aim for a higher failure rate there.

Brad R. Staats

Pete Mockaitis
But I guess maybe speaking up at a meeting in which you share an idea that might be dumb or wrong or bad in some way is probably a prime time to amp up a little bit of risk and see what happens because you might say, “Wow, Brad, we’ve been waiting for this brilliance from you.” Thank you so much. It’s well worth doing with low down side.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think you’re exactly right that we need to define kind of the space that we have to play in. Your comment about you’re flying an airplane, you’re working in the control room of a nuclear reactor, by all means we’re not going to experiment there.

But most of us in the bulk of our lives have plenty of room where we can try some slightly different things. We can speak up to someone. We can introduce ourselves to someone. We can ask a question is one of the key elements that often we think we kind of need to keep our head down, we don’t understand something.

But it turns out, research tells us that when we ask other people questions, it’s not that they thing we’re dumb, “I can’t believe Brad had to ask me a question,” they actually like it. It shows engagement with them and it also allows us to turn to who we all think the expert is going to be, which is ourselves. We engage that other person in the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Sometimes the questions just make you seem way smarter, in terms of, “Wow, that’s really insightful,” or it’s like, “I’ve never actually articulated my thinking on this matter now that you ask and I probably really should have a while ago for you and everybody else who’s doing this task many times over. Thank you. I’ll write that up,” or here is the response.

Yes, I think I would love it if folks, I’m thinking about sort of in management context, if people would ask me more often. It really isn’t a hassle.

Brad R. Staats
No, it’s not.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s kind of fun and it brings about good things. That’s a great tidbit in terms of in that moment when you’re sort of worried, “Oh, I wonder about this, but I don’t want to look dumb,” so go there.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. I throw out one of the most powerful questions that I stumbled into kind of early on by accident and now as I watch I see great question askers will throw it out there, which is, “Is there anything I have not asked you about that I should have?”

What’s so powerful about that, frequently … conversation is we’re kind of giving the other person free reign of please teach me almost based on whatever the conversation has been about.

I’ve been stunned in all sorts of different contexts as an academic, before when I … as a student, on and on, of what comes out of people’s mouths when you kind of take the barrier down and it’s no longer transactional around these particular items, but let’s open it up. What should I know about this topic that I haven’t asked? Keep that one in our back pocket as we interact with others.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. I learned that in consulting with interviews of customers or for clients or employees or competitors. It really is amazing how often it’s toward the end that you get the goods. I have a variation of that Brad. I won’t spoil the fun, but one is coming your way.

Brad R. Staats
Okay, nice.

Pete Mockaitis
Build the suspense there.

Brad R. Staats
I like it. That’s good. Now I’m on the edge of my seat.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. You lay out a pretty comprehensive framework in terms of what one should do to become a more effective lifelong learner. We’ve already covered some good tidbits there. Maybe you could walk us through that in a quick overview pace and then maybe dig into a little bit more detail for some of the parts we haven’t gotten to touch upon yet.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely. As we kind of already pointed out in the book I lay out kind of eight different elements of things we should do for learning but we don’t and so kind of why is that. We’ve hit on a number of them. Things like value and failure.

That’s kind of learning 101 advice and yet I’ve really yet to work with a company that when we talk about that kind of … “Oh yeah, we’ve got that one covered here. No need to discuss. Move along.” There’s some real challenges there.

The second one is around focusing on the process as we kind of were discussing around the baseball coaching example, that we get so obsessed about the outcome that we don’t really dig into the process and keep our attention there.

Third is this point around asking questions that we end up being kind of so active. We feel the need to check a box, to do something when often that pull back, ask a question, and then get going, going slow to go fast is incredibly valuable.

The fourth is around the need for reflection and recharging, kind of contemplation that we live in a world of action. There’s been interesting research highlighting about kind of in the US at least, doing things that show you’re busy, that … you kind of on a Bluetooth headset suggesting you’re rushing around versus a corded phone or that you order groceries online versus at a store that give you higher status and some interesting experiments.

Pete Mockaitis
I didn’t know that gave you higher status, ordering groceries.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought that made me lazy that I order groceries.

Brad R. Staats
Well, I did too. Interestingly, the study looked at Italy and you did not get the same status there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I bet.

Brad R. Staats
There are differences in some of these factors around the world.

But that rushing, that kind of need for activity rather than real progress gets in the way of learning, so we have to take that time to step back, to reflect, and think about things.

A couple that we haven’t talked as much about are around really being ourselves, kind of to a pair of being yourself as opposed to fitting in and really playing the strengths not weaknesses.

I think, especially if we look at the latter one, so much of learning is built around in our minds what we’re doing wrong. If we think about kind of standard organizational feedback, advice is you give a feedback sandwich.

Thin veneer of positives, both to break the person down as they come in and kind of butter them up, get them ready to go, and then hopefully send them on their way, so they don’t feel as bad about themselves, but the bulk in the middle is laying out all the things that we did wrong and that need addressing.

The challenge with that approach is we’re not going to be good at anything, that every minute that we spend on a weakness is one that we’re not spending on building out our strengths.

As we work with organizations, as we think about how companies compete, lots of advice is given around play to your strengths, be focused, compete around those dimensions that you can win on, yet we often don’t do the same thing as individuals.

I would suggest for really compelling learning, we have to first identify those strengths, which is hard, and then really play to them, going back and filling in weaknesses as appropriate where there are critical weakness that would prevent us from succeeding at what we’re trying to do.

That’s a bit of a reorientation I think. While strengths are talked a lot about kind of on that learning side, appreciating why they’re so fundamental.

The last two are just around first how we build experience, that we often think about it as either become specialized, become an expert, very deep, or we think about kind of this value of variety as we switch moving across different elements. While each of those can be powerful tools for learning, they can work against us to.

I would suggest, what we find is that we really learn our best when we are both specialized and varied, so kind of a T shape in our portfolio of experiences, getting deep in something, but making sure we have enough breadth that we don’t end up missing the point.

That we’re so narrow in our approach that we have that problem of where the expert who’s got a hammer, so everything looks like a nail and we’re not able to deal with more complex problems.

The last one is appreciating that while individual learning, there are lots of things about us that matter and we need to dig into those, as I’ve been saying, that it’s not just an individual exercise, that others are incredibly important. Some of that is the value of the knowledge they bring and what we can learn from them.

But also, you hit on this earlier, the value for us of teaching others, when we get that question that makes us explain something, that makes us codify it, the real value that arises there.

We’ve done some research in a couple of different contexts looking at the power of learning from teaching. That when you teach someone else, hopefully you help them, but you actually help yourself interestingly enough. Really kind of seriously thinking about how others can help you in addition to how you can help them.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a nice lineup. Thank you.

Brad R. Staats

Pete Mockaitis
You can dig into a lot of things there. I guess I want to get your take on okay, value in failure is something that you say just about no organization says, “Got it. Yup. Covered.” I’d love to hear from you in terms of what are some of the best practices or what does it really look like in practice when a team or an organization truly does value failure? Because in some ways it’s just so hard to imagine.

What is that famous example? Is it – I think it was IBM. I’m so – I don’t have the details, but someone made a huge investment in a technology or business plan course of action that absolutely did not work and it may have cost a huge sum, like a billion dollars.

The executive is ready to tender his resignation, and the CEO famously said, “I refuse to accept this. We just invested a billion dollars in your education and we’re not about to let go of you.” That’s a nice little reframe, like, oh how kind and how sensible to think about it in that way. In smaller stakes situations, how does that unfold in real life?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. I’ve always heard that story told around I think it’s Thomas Watson Junior. It’s one of the Thomas Watsons in IBM and the threat of getting fired for that.

I think what’s important in the organizations that seem to have some more success with this is kind of two-fold. There’s one defining where is it a safe space to play. We’re back to avoiding that airplane problem or nuclear reactor problem. But also being open about it.

Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar talks about this in his book about we have to reframe how we think about mistakes, that mistakes aren’t unexpected, mistakes aren’t something rare. Mistakes are just a part of a process and that we have to sort of grow comfortable with them.

There’s a fast food company that I find really interesting called Pal’s Sudden Service. Pal’s is in the southeast, primarily Tennessee. The first restaurant to win the Malcolm Baldrige Quality award, a bunch of interesting kind of elements of the company.

But the CEO likes to tell people he’s very much out in front saying, “Look, as long as it’s not illegal, immoral or unethical, you’re allowed to make any mistake once, but you need to make sure your next mistake is a new one.”

I think in my mind that’s just so extraordinarily powerful that he is out there sharing what’s happening, how he’s trying things. It’s not, “Hey, be careless,” “Do whatever the hell you want,” but rather be comfortable that if you’re taking the right actions, where right actions is about the process, not about getting everything correct, that “I’m okay with that and I know in the long run the organization is going to be much better off for that as a result.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Brad tell me, is there anything else you really think is important to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of you favorite things?

Brad R. Staats
No, I think we’ve dug into the elements. Obviously these are things that I think we’re both pretty excited about. I can spend lots of time talking about each one.

I think that the – probably if I were encouraging folks what would you do right now, part of it would be take that time to think about wherever you are, what you’ve learned. I’m sure there are a lot of folks that listen to your podcast as they’re commuting to or from work.

We did a field experiment around commuters. We were interested in a couple things. We were interested in how to help them learn, but we were also interested in how to help them enjoy their commute a little bit more. It turns out kind of our morning commute tends to be our least favorite part of the day.

What we did across a few studies, but the biggest one was we randomized folks into three conditions. We had a control group. We had a group that was kind of the fun treatment and then a group that was the reflection.

We tracked them for a while. We sent them texts to take some surveys from them. But in the middle over a stretch of time, we texted the fun group and just said, “Hey, engage in some fun right now please.” We texted that reflection group and we asked them, “Think about your day. Think about what you have to do today and how you can tackle those tasks.”

Again, we followed them over an extended period of time. What we found is those folks that we nudged to think about their day, to think about learning, that interestingly they were happier, they were more engaged at work, they reported higher performance, and they reported enjoying their commute more.

I think some of these processes are hard to get us going in the right direction sometimes, but as we can build out those habits, we really can help ourselves in some neat ways.

Pete Mockaitis
That is intriguing. The text nudge occurred during the commute time?

Brad R. Staats
It did. Yup. They shared with us kind of when they were commuting, so then we would text them at the start of the commute or early on in their commute.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’ve engaged in texting while driving?

Brad R. Staats
We’re using a third-party provider and yes, this was much more about public transportation to be clear, not hopefully catching people behind the wheel of a car and running into trouble that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Just had to give you a hard time there.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. Again, with reflection, were there any particular prompts?

Brad R. Staats
It was think about your day and what you have going on. I think what’s interesting is there’s no one magic word. It really is forcing the discipline on yourself to take a few minutes and to focus, that our minds can easily wander to other things, so see what happens if you spend even five minutes.

Whether it’s in the morning, “Okay, what am I going to do today? How will today be a great learning day?” or at the end of the day, “What did I learn? What did I try that didn’t work that I can learn from?” that sort of thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well to do a little bit of reflection and to go meta here right now. The question I asked you earlier that was a variant of what’s something I should have asked but didn’t ask was is there anything else you think is important to mention before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things?
I would value your feedback on that question that I sort of have routinely in the interviews prior to shifting gears to the next segment and say are there pros and cons to asking it the way I asked versus are there any things that I should have asked but didn’t ask?

Brad R. Staats
No. I think I like that question a lot. As a general rule with questions, and you know this as a great interviewer, less is more. Once we get into the follow up after the follow up, there comes a point where you need to narrow someone in. But on that one, keeping it like you did as simple and open as possible, “Hey, what else,” is almost the best way, but I like it a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so true when it comes – I think I’m learning that myself. It takes about 300 episodes to get-

Brad R. Staats
Learning curves matter, right? We see it in all contexts.

Pete Mockaitis
Is that – I am because sometimes, and maybe it’s just the fear of dead air or whatever, even though we can edit it.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, exactly. ….

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, Hm, I need to be speaking, although I’m not yet done formulating what my question is.”

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s true. It’s funny, I hate to give away one of my favorite jokes, which isn’t necessarily all that funny, but it works exceptionally well when I teach.

That I’ll have dead time in class early on in a day perhaps. I’ve grown more comfortable because I’ve come to appreciate, like you were saying, sometimes we’re formulating whether it’s me asking a question or them.

I’ll typically when that happens, I’m looking at them and I’ll tell them, “Hey look, you need to know at my core I am an operations professor, so staring awkwardly at people in silence describes every cocktail party I’ve ever been to, so I’m quite comfortable here. Take your time thinking.”

It breaks the ice and lets people appreciate, “Hey, I don’t have to always be talking.” Talking and saying nothing isn’t actually helping the conversation here. But let’s pause, think about what’s going on, and then get moving to the next thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That reminds me. One of my favorite work moments, it was so short, but I remember I was working on a consulting engagement and then someone said something. I don’t remember what they said. Then the manager said, “Hm,” and then there was just like silence for about ten seconds. Then they prompted her like, “Steph?” She’s like, “I’m thinking.”

I thought it was awesome because it just created permission for everybody to slow down and think. It made me think that she was more brilliant as a leader than less brilliant.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. That’s the Franklin quote. Isn’t it Franklin about “Better to stay silent rather than reveal our ignorance,” basically? Staying silent gives us a chance to think and the often avoid ignorance in the first place.

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

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. One that jumped out at me from a young age and has stuck with me. It’s actually the quote I use in the conclusion. It’s a long one, but it’s from Merlin in The Once and Future King. It’s basically him kind of reflecting on the power of learning. I apologize for the length, but I think it’s worth it.

He says that, “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds, there’s only one thing for it then, to learn.

Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
We talked about a couple studies and experiments, but any other pieces of research that are among your faves?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. One, I think it was the one that was probably the most pleasantly surprising to me that it worked frankly. I joke about this with Francesca Gino at Harvard and Dan Cable, who is at London Business School now, although all three of us were at University of North Carolina at the time.

I had been spending the day in India, where I did for a bit of research, with a chief quality officer, a gentleman by the name of …. At the end of the day we had been talking about learning and this and that, asked him the same question, did he have any questions for me.

He said, “Well, Brad, do you know what could reduce our attrition, reduce our turnover?” and kind of went on a little bit about how he was interested in keeping people around, helping them learn more.

At the time a bunch of my work had been kind of learning by doing, experimental learning. It was clear that that wasn’t going to move the needle enough, so I kind of gave a, “Well, hold on. Let me think about it. We’ll go back.” I spent that 20 hour flight back reflecting. Dan and Fran and I kind of came together to brainstorm.

This is what led to the work for us around the power of the individual because we came back to them with an idea where we said, “Let’s come up with something that we don’t think they’ll do. We think would be really impactful, but is a big enough change that they’ll tell us no and see what happens.” We said “What we want to do is have you all give us an hour on day one for employee.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. We had Dan Cable. Keep going.

Brad R. Staats
Yup, yup. “With that hour, we’re going to change the onboarding process.”

We had kind of three approaches. We had a control group. We had an organizational intervention and an individual one.

With the individual one we did things like think about when you’ve been at your best, hear from a star employee about how they can be their best self at work, and then introduce yourself to everyone around this highlight reel that you’ve created for yourself.

For the organizational group it was how great this employer is, which it was highly ranked in India, great stats, employee coming in talking about how great the organization was, introducing yourself around kind of why you were excited to be here.

Then we gave the individual folks a fleece sweatshirt with their name on it and the organizational folks a fleece sweatshirt with the company name. Basically, the idea of promoting the individual versus prompting the organization.

What was so cool about that one we then tracked them for six months. Dan was back in town. Fran hadn’t moved yet, so the three of us kind of gathered in my office. Often we run these studies that take a long time to analyze. It’s kind of anti-climactic at the end bit the time you finally work your way through it. But this one was pretty straight forward.

We collected the data, kind of we gathered around my desk and there was finally that moment of hitting the enter button and seeing what popped up on the computer. We did that and the numbers popped up and it was one of those that all three of us were just in stunned silence because we saw folks who were in that individual condition were dramatically less likely to leave the firm, about 25% less.

They had learned more. They were about 10% higher in terms of their customer satisfaction scores early on in the job. It was literally that hour of the first day is all we changed and gave them that fleece with their name on it. Then everything else was the same.

But I think what was so exciting to all three of us was unlocking the individual is such an incredible opportunity. It really becomes a win/win both for the employee, but also for the organization as each can get more out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I love that story. That is how an award winning academic paper is made. Kudos again for-

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
-it’s one of my favorites. So cool. How about a favorite book?

Brad R. Staats
That’s a good question. The – let’s see, what – as I was quoting from it earlier, I really enjoy Ed Catmull book. I think he does a great job in Creativity Inc. as he tells his experiences of kind of moving through computer graphics and eventually Pixar and hitting on a lot of these themes of learning in an innovative environment.

Bringing up this role of failure, mistakes, talking about the importance of how do you have discussions with people and kind of data as a great equalizer as something that’s neutral that then we can really have a discussion around in my mind kind of translating to the process. That’s one that I certainly really enjoy.

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

Brad R. Staats
I think for me there’s probably two I would highlight. One is the reflection point of trying to do it, I do it a little bit more at the end of the day than at the beginning, but carving out just a few minutes at the beginning to think about what’s going on.

Often it’s on the move. It’s not kind of sitting there with a tomb, but rather five minutes of, “Okay, what’s happening today? What’s my priority? How do I get this done?” At the end of the day, “What did I learn?”

Ideally that’s around the dinner table with family as we go around with our kids and we all talk about what made us happy today, what made us sad, what we learn, what we fail at, those sorts of things, incredibly powerful.

The other one that I’ve certainly known the research for a long time. I’ve done a lousy job of practicing it. I think unfortunately, certainly in the US we often do a lousy job of practicing it, is taking a real vacation. That ability to disconnect and do whatever it is individually you need to recharge.

It likely looks different at various stages of life. What recharging meant pre-kids was far more active than post-kids, but has been, over the last few years as my wife and I have done a better job of incorporating in life, has definitely made a big difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that you share in your work with teams and folks that really seems to connect and resonate and gets them sort of quoting yourself back to you?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. The one that I probably get quoted the most back is something that Dave Upton told me. Dave was a great mentor. One day I was going to meet with him. We had 30 minutes. Time was tight. I probably had an hour and a half of material that I wanted to cover with him. As an operations scholar I could do the math there. Clearly the way to solve that problem was just to talk three times as fast.

I was trying to fly through things, doing pretty well about ten minutes in before Dave put his hand on my shoulder as I was taking a rare breath, looked me in the eye and said, “Brad, don’t avoid thinking by being busy.”

I think kind of advice has really stuck with me, that it’s easy for us to avoid hard problems. It’s easy for us to avoid some of that discipline by being busy, but it’s certainly not productive in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good stuff. Brad, tell me, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, my email, excuse me, my website is www.BradleyStaats.com or just check out Never Stop Learning. Hit me up as well on LinkedIn or whatever. I love to engage with folks.

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

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think it’s to take this mantra of never stop learning seriously. We’ve known that it’s out there. We appreciate at a high level that we need to do it, but asking yourself what’s getting in the way of me learning on a daily basis.

I would say just odds are it’s us. The enemy is us. How can we pick one thing out of the eight I discussed or if something else resonates more strongly with you, how do you pick that one thing to start working on today.

Pete Mockaitis
Brad, thank you for this. This has been so fun and interesting. I wish you and Never Stop Learning and your work all the success and luck in the world.

Brad R. Staats
Well, thanks so much. I really appreciate you making the time for me. Thanks again.

316: Maximizing Your Learning and Growth with Eduardo Briceño

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Eduardo Briceño discusses how to cultivate a growth mindset and maximize your learning.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The tremendous impact of growth vs. fixed mindsets
  2. Common misconceptions about improving your skills
  3. The best practices for operating at peak performance

About Eduardo

Eduardo is the Co-Founder & CEO of Mindset Works, the leading provider of growth mindset training services and programs.  He started it in 2007 with Carol Dweck and others to help organizations develop learning-oriented cultures and systems. Eduardo regularly speaks at conferences and trainings for professionals and leaders.  His TEDx talks have been viewed by millions of people. He studied engineering, business and education at Penn and Stanford, but most importantly, he continues to enjoy lifelong learning every day.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Eduardo Briceño Interview Transcript

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

Eduardo Briceño
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into some of your wisdom here. First, you shared something that’s near and dear to my heart. You said you consider yourself a master spreadsheet ninja. Tell us how that came to be and maybe some of your favorite Excel moves.

Eduardo Briceño
Sure, happy to share that. Why is that near your heart? I’m sure your listeners would love to hear that about you as well also.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, in strategy consulting at Bain, I did plenty of Excel spreadsheets. I really enjoyed learning the sort of ninja tricks in terms of all the shortcuts. It’s kind of like a little bit of a badge of honor if you never have to touch the mouse using all the shortcut keys.

One time I remember I met another consultant at A.T. Kearney at a party. It was funny. Her name is Kristen, shout out. She said she was a consultant. I said, “So, what’s your favorite Excel shortcut?” kind of like… flirtatiously. We ended up dating for almost a year.

Eduardo Briceño
That’s hilarious. That’s awesome.

I have a similar story. I studied finance in undergrad and the two biggest industries that people would go into are either consulting … data or investment banking. I went into investment banking and a similar thing.

It was very important to become really fast with the spreadsheet because we would spend lots of all-nighters in the office or we would go home and sleep for like three hours or less, so being fast was very important.

I also learned a lot of the shortcut keys and there are a lot of very simple things like for me, Ctrl + down arrow or ways to navigate the spreadsheet is important.

But when I was working in investment banking sometimes I would create macros. I taught myself how to program macros. Sometimes I would have to leave my computer on for like 30 minutes just you would see a screen doing all kinds of things, so people would walk into my office and see the computer working by itself and that’s kind of weird. But yeah, it was really helpful for me.

But for me the biggest tip for Excel and I think applies for other programs also that I think is helpful and I see some people not doing and it’s been helpful to me is starting with an already formatted document rather than kind of starting with a unformatted document and then needing to format it later because starting with a template that’s already kind of with the visuals that I like saves me a lot of time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is good. Yes. I think my favorite shortcut combination was Ctrl + Shift + 8 or Ctrl + * which would highlight a contiguous block of cells, which immediately preceded me pushing Alt + D P P for make pivot table and since I switched to a Mac it’s like – it’s just not the same.

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah, yeah.  I have a friend who the only reason he didn’t switch to Mac is because of Excel and the shortcut keys. I didn’t know that shortcut key though, so thank you for teaching me because what I would have done is Ctrl + Alt + left arrow + Shift + right + left, so that’s a lot longer than just Ctrl + Shift + F8, so thank you for teaching me that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh anytime, yes. It sounds like you have really adopted a growth mindset when it comes to learning Excel and all matters. Could you orient us a little bit? You’re the co-founder and CEO of MindsetWorks. What’s the story behind the company and Carol Dweck and how it got to be and what you’re doing now?

Eduardo Briceño
Sure. Our mission is to help create a more learning-oriented world. The way the company got started was through the research of one of the co-founders, whom you mentioned, Carol Dweck and also another colleague of hers, Lisa Blackwell.

Carol has been doing research for decades on psychology and on what leads people to react differently to challenges and to mistakes. What she discovered is that people tend to see abilities or human qualities in one of two different ways or somewhere in the middle.

But she has now – she used to call that incremental theory of intelligence and to this theory of intelligence right now she has coined the term growth mindset and fixed mindset, which has sort of taken off.

What it means is when we see human qualities or abilities as fixed, as things that people are either good at or not good at and you can’t do anything about it, now what’s what we call a fixed mindset. When we see it as malleable, as changeable, as things that we can develop, that’s what we call a growth mindset.

That has a lot of technological implications about how we think, what we pay attention to, what goals we set for ourselves, how we react to challenges, how we speak with each other.

Our work is about helping people understand these two mindsets and how we’re thinking, what our own self-awareness is, and then how we build growth mindsets and learning orientation in ourselves and in our environment, like in our work environment or in our school environment.

The way that the company started is Carol had done lots of research and then she started working with Lisa on could we teach a growth mindset to kids, to kids in middle school is where they started.

They created different studies to see whether if you taught kids that the brain’s malleable and can change, it can become stronger and be able to think better, whether that would have a difference in the motivation and in the grades. They found that it did.

They started wanting to create products and services for schools to be able to foster a growth mindset in the students and the teachers and their cultures. They started looking for somebody with a business background to co-found a company with. I was introduced to them and we started MindsetWorks ten years ago. That’s how we got started.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Eduardo Briceño
Today we serve schools, but we also serve companies to help them build more learning-oriented cultures.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Well, could you maybe unpack a little bit more the distinction in terms of what it looks, sounds, feels like when you’re operating in a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset?

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah. First of all, here’s an example of how this research is done because I think it’s kind of interesting.

In this particular set of research studies what the researchers did is they asked people through a simple survey, people of different ages, whether they thought that people could become smarter or whether they thought that some people were smart or not smart and that was that.

What they were trying to assess is whether people were in a growth mindset or in a fixed mindset about intelligence, whether they thought intelligence was something people either had or did or whether people could become smarter.

Then they put these people into a brain scan machine, a functional MRI machine, that looked at their brain activity while they were solving problems. These people were actually solving problems inside of the FMRI machine, while researchers were imaging their brains.

What they found is that the people who thought that intelligence was fixed, that people couldn’t become smarter, their brain was most attentive when they were getting information about whether they got the problems right or wrong. But the brain was in most attention or doing much thinking when they were getting information about what mistakes they made.

That was really interesting because the people who thought they could become smarter, their brain was most active and paying the most attention when they were getting information about what mistakes they made. They were most interested in “Okay, what did I do wrong? What can I learn from this?”

As a result of that, those people solved problems more effectively and more successfully for the subsequent problems. They actually learned something useful. They became better at problem solving. The difference between these two groups is one of them thought that intelligence was fixed and the other one thought that intelligence was malleable.

That’s one example of how this research is done and through research like that researchers have realized that people in a fixed mindset tend to have a goal of looking smart and talented in front of other people. They’re saying, “Okay, people are either smart or not or talented or not. I want to be in the smart and talented category. I want people to see me that way.”

The way they go about doing that is by doing the things that they’re already very comfortable with, that they do very well, quickly, perfectly, without mistakes, without effort. They keep doing that over and over again.

Versus the people in the growth mindset, they can become bored if they’re not being challenged. If they’re doing the same thing over and over again, they can become bored and unmotivated because what they want to do is do something that they’re going to learn from or they can get better at. That’s a different goal.

They see effort in a different way. People in a fixed mindset tend to see effort as a negative thing, something that only people with low ability need to put effort into things, people with high ability don’t need to put effort into things. As a result of that, when they need to put effort into something, it makes them feel badly about themselves. It makes them feel incapable.

Versus people in a growth mindset understand the best people in their field who become the most skilled, they work really hard to get there and they continue to work hard to get even better.

There are Olympic gold medalists, they continue – even though they’re the best in the world, they continue to work really hard to get even better. They see effort as something that’s good, something that we can all benefit from.

The people in the fixed mindset avoid challenges versus seeking challenges for those in a growth mindset.

When we make mistakes or face failure or setbacks, if we’re in a fixed mindset, we interpret that as saying, “Okay, this means that I don’t have the necessary ability and so I’m going to go do something else. This is not for me. I’m not meant to do this,” so they give up. There’s less resilience.

Versus people in a growth mindset understand that if we’re working on what we haven’t mastered yet, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to have setbacks. That’s part of the learning process. We’re going to learn from that. We’re going to try different strategies. We’re going to ask for help. We’re going to look for resources. They’re a lot more resilient as a result of that.

When we receive feedback we react differently. If we’re in a fixed mindset, we say, we act defensively, like we say, “This person doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” or “They’re just trying to hurt me.” Versus if we’re in a growth mindset we listen. We say, “What is this person saying? Can I learn from this? Is there some truth to this that I can learn from about what they think or how I can get better?”

When other people succeed we see it as a threat versus an opportunity. There are other differences between a growth and fixed mindset that affects how much we improve in our performance and also how we interact with each other, our relationships.

Pete Mockaitis

Eduardo Briceño
Those are some examples.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s – thank you for laying it out there.

It’s so intriguing when I was checking out your TED-X talks, you mentioned that brain scan piece about how we’re most engaged when we see how we’re doing if you’re in a fixed mindset.

That was a little bit of an alarm for me because I was – I’m familiar with this stuff a little bit. I thought, “Uh oh, growth mindset is where you want to be,” and I find that indeed like, let’s say I’m sending out an email to all the subscribers and I’m so darn curious I’ll click refresh, refresh, refresh. What’s the open rate? What’s the click rate? How did I do? Am I doing good at sending these emails or not so much?

It’s intriguing that I suppose even maybe how you approach it can tell you something is it’s like, I want to hear how well I did primarily in order to feel awesome about how great I am or because I’m using that as an indicator, a piece of feedback information to point to me doing better.

I think it’s intriguing how even how you receive the information about your performance is telling of what is going to happen to you in terms of your growth and learning.

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. In a growth mindset, it doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention to the scores or to our performance. The brain is also active for people in the growth mindset at that time. It is also active if it’s relevant information, right? Whether what we did worked or didn’t work is useful. We learn from that also, especially if we got the wrong answer. But even if we got the right answer, we know that what we did worked.

Also, when we have a great performance, when we do something really well, that’s motivating. Sometimes it gives us the motivation to continue to improve, to continue to experience that in the future at greater levels. It’s not like in a growth mindset we’re not – we don’t care about performance or those outcome metrics, but we’re more aware of the process and how kind of what the difference is between working to improve versus working to perform and that we need to do both of those things in order to do things and have a positive effect in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Understood. What’s been really encouraging as well as I think about – it kind of changes the way in a way see everything in terms of daily interactions.

I recently bought a home, so I’m a home owner. There’s not – I’m not super handy. Oh, that sounded like a fixed mindset sentence, eh? But I have not yet developed a lot of those skills.

I’ve been so encouraged because I’ve been seeing contractors and others actually crack open the instruction manual for the things. It’s like, oh, even this person who knows all about how to install a reverse osmosis machine or a TV mount or whatever it may be, are actually learning, getting better and it’s not like looking at the instructions is something for losers or those who don’t really know what they’re doing.

Eduardo Briceño
Right. Yeah. That makes sense. What you say resonates because I grew up in Venezuela in an apartment building where all the walls are cement. People are – homeowners are not usually working to improve their home. That’s not as common. That never happened in my home. I’m also – … learned any of that stuff. Living in the US, I’ve learned a lot more of it.

But what you’re saying is interesting that it’s – for me it changed – thinking about this stuff changes what we perceive, like you’re perceiving that person looking at the manual. You’re noticing it and then you’re interpreting it in certain ways. All of these kind of thinking and … that we’re talking about helps us kind of change our perspectives and our interpretations of the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. If you find yourself in a growth, I’m sorry, in a fixed mindset, can that be changed either in terms of internally in how you’re thinking and working on your own thoughts or externally? How is that in and of itself malleable?

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah, that’s great. Mindset can definitely be changed. There’s a lot of research that manipulates mindset. That is definitely something that – it can be changed and it’s what our work is about.

I would say that a really important kind of early step is not even try to change it too quickly almost, it’s just kind of sit in a fixed mindset and just notice it and just acknowledge it and become more self-aware, kind of try to catch ourselves when we are in a fixed mindset and how it’s affecting us, how it is affecting the way we think and what we do.

Because then we use that opportunity to learn more about mindsets and to really develop a deeper understanding of why they matter, how they’re affecting us, and then we become more motivated to take on the journey to shift our mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm, absolutely. Well, I also got a kick out of some of the research associated with the children doing puzzles and the external encouragement. Can you share that story?

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah, sure. One of the kind of surprising things about this research is that we’ve discovered that praise that we often as a society tend to see as positive can have really negative unintended consequences.

In this particular set of studies, children of about kind of fifth grade were asked to work on a set of puzzles. They’re kind of non-verbalized … tests and they’re puzzles. They work on them. They’re about an appropriate level difficulty for them.

Then after they work on them they were randomly split to receive one of two different types of praise. One type of praise is what we call process praise. They were told, “Wow, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” The other half were told intelligence praise. They were told, “Wow, that’s a really good score. You must be really smart.”

It turns out that the students who heard, “You must be really smart,” that the next thing that happened in the study is that the children were asked, “Okay, now we’re going to do a second set of puzzles. Do you want to do an easy one or a hard one?”

It turned out that more than 90% of the students who were praised for working hard, who heard, “Wow, you must be so smart. You must have worked really hard,” more than 90% of them wanted to do the hard set of puzzles, but less than half of the ones who heard, “You must be so smart,” chose to do the hard set of puzzles. The majority wanted to do the easy set of puzzles.

We tell kids, “You’re so smart,” and we do it with the best intentions and they feel good about themselves in the short term because they’re saying, “Wow, I am smart,” but the deeper message that we’re communicating is that people are either smart of not smart and that’s why they succeed and that’s what allows them to be effective and to solve problems.

Then what they want after that is to feel smart and to have people think that they’re smart. They know that the way to do that is to do things perfectly and without mistakes. That’s what they end up thinking that that will let people know that they’re smart, so they don’t want to take on challenges after that.

In the same study what the children were then told was, “Okay, we’re going to do a second set of puzzles. It’s going to be hard, but we’re going to learn from them.” They all did that puzzle.

Then they did a third set of puzzles that was of equal difficulty to the first one. Because researchers were trying to figure out would this different sentence that the children heard affect their performance between the first set of puzzles and the third set of puzzles, which were equivalent.

It turned out the students who heard, “You must be so smart,” actually performed worse in the third set of puzzles than they had originally. Their performance went down.

The children who heard, “You must have worked really hard,” their performance went up. They learned something useful about problem solving when they were working on those hard problems and they were able to become better problem solvers in the third set of puzzles.

Versus the first group was worried about what this person was thinking about them. They were kind of struggling in that second set, so they were thinking, “Oh, I must not be so smart after all,” and that actually kind of affected their performance.

… to how we speak with children. Instead of speaking about them being for example smart or natural leaders or natural anything, what we can do instead is focus on their behaviors, their choices, their strategies, ask them questions for them to reflect and share their experiences, focus on what they can control, and what they can do as opposed to labels of what they are and aren’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. I also want to get your take because we chatted with the CEO of Korn Ferry, Gary Burnison, earlier. Episode 273 I think. He shared that – they did all sorts of research associated with competencies and which ones are relatively easier or harder to develop.

I asked him to get a little bit of sense of the scale for how much easier, how much harder. He said that it was something on the order of 200 times harder to learn and grow and improve on the most challenging to grow competencies than the easiest competencies.

I would just like to get your take since you’re looking all about people learning and growing and developing in anything. How do you wrestle with that one when it comes to certain things being way harder than others to master.

Eduardo Briceño
Well, that’s interesting. I haven’t listened to that episode and I will. Thank you for pointing me to it. I look forward to learning about that. I’m not familiar with that research. But a couple of things that come to mind.

First of all in a sense of what’s hard or easy to learn, it tends to be easier to learn something when we are novices. We can learn faster and with not as advanced learning strategies as when we are experts. Like so if you’re in the top ten tennis players in the world, it take a lot of hard work to improve a little bit, yet that’s really important at that level to keep on that journey. That’s one thing.

Another thing is that there are domains where there’s a lot of knowledge about how people can improve and there are domains where that’s a lot fuzzier.

For example, in chess or in ballet or classical music, there are coaches and teachers who have done this for a long time and have learned from other coaches and there’s very established practices about the best techniques that each kind of learner needs at any level. Then there’s lots of fields where there’s a lot less of a tie in.

It seems to me that in those fields where we know more about how people improve in that field, it seems it would be easier for somebody working with a great coach to improve than in other fields.

If you think about medicine 200 years ago, George Washington died because they bled him. They thought that was a good thing. To improve as a doctor then, you would learn from a doctor who would teach you how to kill people. People didn’t know how to get better as a doctor. Now we know a lot more about that for example.

Also there’s a lot things that people care about and want to get better at that are not skills. If you ask a lot of people what do you want to get better at, some people will answer, “Well, I want to become famous,” or, “I want to become rich.” The correlation between being famous or rich and being skilled or an expert at something is very, very weak. Versus there are things that are more skill-based.

That’s a – not to say, I mean there are very skilled like, Warren Buffet is an incredible investor and he’s so skilled at it, so I’m not saying that there’s no correlation. But people who study the development of expertise don’t study things like being famous or rich because it’s not well correlated. Those are some of the things that come to my mind.

The other thing that I would say is that it’s not that in a growth mindset we should get good at everything. Like, you gave the example of becoming handy as an example. You can be in a growth mindset about the ability to be handy, meaning that if you took on that journey and you made the time to learn and to practice, you believe you could get better at that.

But yet you could make a choice of saying, “I’m not going to spend all this time learning to be handy because there’s only so much time in the day. Here’s where I want to focus my time. Here are my priorities and I can’t get great at everything. Even though I could become great at anything; I’m going to choose my battles and I’m going to become great at these things.”

As part of that thinking process we can think about how much work and resources would it take for me to get better at something and that can be part of the – and what are my goals. What do I want out of life? What do I want in my work? And all of that goes into that equation of where do I put my effort in terms of improving it.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. That’s good. You talk about the lack of correlation between fame and skills. I was just thinking about some certain I guess, very popular music that isn’t very skillful in … together so. That’s sort of what … there.

Eduardo Briceño

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Thank you. That’s really cool. Then what are some of your perspectives when it comes to if we do want to get better at some things, what are the top things we should do in order to fast track that learning growth development?

Eduardo Briceño
I think first of all, we tend to have this kind of vague notion that the way to get better at something is to work hard and to spend a lot of time doing it. That is I think kind of a misconception.

For example, if you look at studies of chess or the serious chess players, the more time they spent playing games of chess, the worse they are as chess players and the lower their ranking as chess players. The more time they spent playing games of chess, the lower the ranking.

The reason is when they were playing the game of chess we are performing. We are trying to do things as best as we can. We’re trying to minimize mistakes. We’re trying to win the game. Versus – that’s a different activity than an improvement oriented activities.

For example, in chess, and example of that would be to take a chess board position that happened in a game between grand masters and picking what move we would make. Then going back to what the grand master made and saying, “Okay, why did they make this move instead of the move I chose?” You might spend like 30 minutes trying to figure that out. That activity is a very different activity than just playing a game of chess.

We think about playing tennis or golf. If we think that the way to improve at those things is to go out and play tennis or play golf, what usually happens is we get better at the beginning when we’re novices because we’re so bad, anything we do will make us better. But then we stagnate and we don’t continue getting better if all we’re doing is playing games.

Instead what we need to do to improve in those things is to usually work with a coach and have them observe us and have them give us feedback on what to work on. Then we can kind of narrow down and say, “Okay, I’m having trouble with my top spin serve so that’s what I’m going to work on right now.” You do the top spin serve and you’re working on that and getting feedback from where the ball goes and adjusting your movement.

What Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice, which is being clear about what sub-skill we’re working on, having repetition and feedback from what we’re doing at high … level. It’s something that we do focusing 100% of the time or 100% kind of our attention on that high-level of challenge and that activity, ideally with the help of a coach.

Those are examples of something – an activity that’s improvement related versus an improvement that is performance related.

What often happens at work is that we are so busy, we have so many things to do that we spend all of our time just performing, just executing, just trying to get the job done, focusing on trying to minimize mistakes and that if we are not spending any time in what we call the learning zone, being deliberate about improvement, then it leads to stagnation and we don’t improve further.

The way to improve – then the specific activities vary by what it is you’re trying to improve, but I think what’s common is a) kind of being clear about what you want to improve, so are each of us clear on what it is that we want to get better at. Perhaps, you can consider that doing that with our teams, like is each team clear on what we’re trying to improve.

Then how we’re going to go about improving that. In the workplace it can include things like first like listening from people who have thought a lot about this stuff and done research. Your listeners in this podcast have learned lots of lots of people’s perspectives and look at different parts of improvement. That’s an example of that.

Experimenting, trying different things, not just doing the same thing with it yesterday, today, but doing something different and learning from that, consulting with colleagues, asking for feedback, reflecting, especially reflecting on our mistakes or what was surprising to us, what went well, what didn’t go well.

Those are examples of activities that are not just about getting the job done. I think it’s important to think about how improvement requires activities that are different from just pure execution.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Is there a sort of an optimal ratio, if you will? If we are sort of segmenting and clearly delineating performance zone versus learning zone, and you mentioned the best players got worse if they just played more, more, and more games. Is there a kind of a 60/40 or is it 80/20 kind of a balance or split that often seems to be about the sweet spot?

Eduardo Briceño
If you look at domains performance can be effectively measured and where people have one specific thing that they’re trying to become really great at, like chess, ballet, classical music, those types of things.

If you look at those types of fields, the people who become top world performers in those fields engage in deliberate practice anywhere between two and five hours per day, which is – so depending on the field.

That is a little surprising because one quick could think, well the person who spends eight or ten hours a day doing deliberate practice is going to become the best in the world, but that is actually not the case. These people spend between two and five hours a day doing deliberate practice.

The reason – and usually they do it in the morning when the brain has much more energy. They usually don’t do it for more than about an hour at a time before taking a break and doing something else. A couple of reasons for that.

First, when we’re engaged in deliberate practice, trying to do something beyond what we’re comfortable, where it’s requiring full concentration, our brain is getting tired. It requires a lot of concentration and then the brain needs to rest.

Also when we rest when we do something else, like we go play music or listen to music or go for a walk or do something else, our brain is working in the background. It’s making connections in the background while the mind is wandering or thinking about something else.

Also while we’re doing other thing or going about other things, that fosters creativity. Then we start making connections between things that are usually not connected and that leads to improvement in performance as well.

Also, what we see is that these people who become top in the world also sleep more than other people. First because their brain isn’t stressed, but also because while we sleep we are actually learning. Our neurons are making new connections. They’re disconnecting things that shouldn’t be connected together. They’re removing toxins from the brain. Sleep is also really important.

When we think back about – these are people who play violin for a living. They can afford to spend two to five hours a day doing deliberate practice.

In the workplace, for most of us, we usually can’t afford to do that. We have to produce. We have to get things done. We have a lot of things on our plate. We need to spend most of our time in the performing zone.

But for me kind of the most important thing is are we regularly spending time in the learning zone. Is that a habit that we regularly engage in? For me, especially kind of for people in the workplace, the habit of doing it regularly is more important than how much time we spend on it.

There’s a lot of kind of good performers in business like Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, and Opera. They have the five-hour rule. It’s that they spend at least five hours a week in the learning zone, deliberately learning something. That gives you a little bit of a measure of how much great performer in business spend time in the learning zone.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, excellent. Thank you. Eduardo tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Eduardo Briceño
No, nothing particular.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, sure. Well then could you start us off by sharing a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Eduardo Briceño
Sure. Favorite quote for me is “Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space there is the freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” That is a quote by Viktor Frankl, who is a psychiatrist and also a Holocaust survivor.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite particular study or experiment?

Eduardo Briceño
I think the study I described about the functional MRI machine, brain scan machine and how people in a growth or fixed mindset attend to mistakes or not. That’s a favorite study for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, how about a favorite book?

Eduardo Briceño
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. That was very impactful for me.

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

Eduardo Briceño
I love Poll Everywhere when I do kind of things or talks to engage people in reflection and interact with them. It’s a great kind of poll tool. Personally, I also love using kind of flashcard applications to help me remember and learn things that I want to remember and have in mind all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, how about a favorite habit?

Eduardo Briceño
Oh, my morning habit. The first thing I do every day, it’s like sacred for me, I do several things when I wake up. They include meditating, which I actually do upside down, in an inversion table hanging from my ankles.

Then – so I do a kind of a hanging routine and then when I get to the computer I do several things priming my day and setting the priorities for the day and reminding myself of, for example, what I want to be working on so that every morning before I get started I have, what they call a keystone habit, which is a habit that helps other habits form.

I have a way to remind myself of what it is that I want to be working on or what new habits I want to be building. That’s sacred for me. Throughout that whole period, I don’t turn on my phone. I don’t look at emails. I start my day by just internally generated thoughts and not by looking at the news or email anything like that because then that can derail me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate when you’re sharing this stuff?

Eduardo Briceño
Yeah, one that people sometimes quote is “Real confidence is about modeling ongoing learning.”

Sometimes we think of confidence as something that means that you know a lot of stuff and you’re sure that you know. But I think that it takes a higher degree of confidence to model learning and to really not be sure that we know, to be open to what other people are thinking and saying and to consider the possibility that we might not be right.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And do you have a preferred way if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Eduardo Briceño
Sure. We have our website, MindsetWorks.com. You can contact us through our website or I’m also on Twitter at EBriceño8.

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

Eduardo Briceño
Sure. I would encourage people who don’t have a keystone habit to consider developing one. Again, a keystone habit is a habit that enables other habits to form.

It could be as simple as setting up in your calendar a recurring reminder a recurring appointment with yourself once a week, 15 minutes, to think about what it is that you’re working to improve, how it’s going, whether you want to change anything in your approach. That can be an example.

For me, is the example of what I do first thing in the morning. It could be what you do when you get to work or when you get into your car. That is something to think about.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Eduardo, thanks so much for taking this time and sharing the goods here. I wish you and MindsetWorks tons of luck and success in helping young people learn and older people learn and all that you’re doing.

Eduardo Briceño
Thanks Pete. I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you for your work with How to Be Awesome At Your Job. It is so awesome to have a learning-oriented space that we can learn from lots of other people and from you as well. Thank you for what you do and keep it coming.

291: Deciding Whether to Stay or Go with Pete Mockaitis

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Pete inserts himself into the show format, sharing his approach to tackling your next career decision.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 8 step-by-step questions that determine whether to stay or go
  2. Whether the grass is in fact greener
  3. Pete’s favorite things

About Pete

Pete Mockaitis is an award-winning trainer and coach who helps brilliant professionals perform optimally at work.

He’s delivered 1-on-1 coaching to over 700 leaders hailing from world-class organizations (such as Google, FedEx, the United Nations, Anheuser-Buesch, and Apple), 50 countries, and every Ivy League university. His work has been featured in numerous publications including the New York TimesForbes, and Inc.

He began his career at Bain & Company and currently hosts the How to be Awesome at your Job podcast. The show receives millions of downloads from delightful people with excellent taste.

Pete lives in Chicago with his wife and new baby!

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Pete Mockaitis Solo Episode Transcript

I’m so fired up to dig into this stuff. I wanted to start by sharing a little bit about why is this something worth going after in the first place.

The reason is because I’ve done many coaching sessions with many folks and I found myself saying the same things kind of often and wondering, “Is this super cost effective for folks? Is there a better resource I might be able to point folks to?” At the same time I also found some gaps there in terms of the tools available or some questions I did not yet have great answers to and I had to dig in a little farther to come up with them.

Beyond that, in talking with listeners, it seemed like this was a strong issue that was recurring again and again for people, saying things like, “Boy, I have a stable job. It would be kind of stupid to leave. At the same time, I’m not really happy here. Well, isn’t that work? Is the grass really greener anywhere else? I don’t know. Oh, I wish I wasn’t so wishy washy. Oh I’ve got mortgage. I’ve got a family. I’ve got responsibilities. I shouldn’t entertain leaving, but at the same time I’m not happy here. But would it just be the same in another environment?” a whole lot of pain and consternation.

It’s a tricky question and one that cannot be answered with a quick Google search or an internet listicle and instead really requires going into some real depth. It has taken thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to craft a course that can aid in this tricky decision.

I want to share with you some of the greatest hits, tidbits, and those eight key questions that unfold step-by-step in order to aid you if you find yourself in this trick spot, trying to make the decision.

I’m going to talk through each of these questions, which build upon each other one by one.

You might have a decision by the end of this podcast episode or at least have some great things to heat up to take further action and finally make some good practice if you’ve been stuck on the matter for a while. Let’s get into it.

The first question to consider here is what’s the ultimate goal. The short answer on that is arriving at a decision with clarity, with confidence, with conviction.

I’ve already had folks share with me as they’ve worked through some of the modules that they feel so much better about their current work because they just didn’t just have a knee-jerk reaction, they didn’t just focus in on the part of the job that they hate and sort of bemoan it and say, “Oh, this sucks. I want to be out of here,” but they realize, “Huh, after having taken a look around, I realize things aren’t perfect here and I want to try and make some improvements, but it’s not so bad.”

That’s a great victory right there, a decision that for now I’m going to stay and that’s cool. I’ve got some clarity, some confidence, some conviction around that, so that’s handy.

The ultimate guiding light I suggest in terms of how do you arrive at reaching such a decision is to do so based upon happiness. Some of my favorite quotes are that ‘happiness is the ultimate is the currency.’ We heard Gary Burnison say, “Start with happiness.” And that with Shawn Achor all the research when it comes to positive psychology, conveys that happiness is linked to performance and then is broadcast to others and impacts them and the work environment.
That’s the fundamental guiding light I suggest that you look at if you’re making this decision is to start there. That sounds kind of obvious, but the challenge is that a lot of times our thought processes get derailed by a lot of shoulds and buts before you even really get started thinking about it.

It can sound like, “But I’ve got a mortgage and a family. It would be irresponsible to quit. But I’m not going to find this kind of money at another job. I’d be kind of stupid to leave. But I feel guilty abandoning this important work that we‘re doing here. But I don’t want to lose these precious relationships I’ve formed. Maybe it’s just me.”
Or, “Maybe things will get better. Maybe I’m just not good enough. But I fear the unknown. How do we know if the next job is going to be any better whatsoever?” I give some quick take answers to each of these concerns if that’s showing up for you in an upcoming video that is going to speak to them. You can get access to that by going to DoIStayOrGo.com to sign up for such videos.

For now I’ll just make a quick point about the money. When it comes to, “I’m not going to find this kind of money elsewhere,” I just want to plant a seed that it’s very possible, if you think of happiness as the ultimate currency, to switch jobs and get a different job that pays less and for that to actually be an upgrade for you.

I’ve got a friend of a friend right now who is taking on a bigger position. There’s a whole lot more responsibility, a whole lot more stress and substantially more money and yet she is miserable. She’s been crying and she’s been begging to get a demotion and to be paid less money. That happens.

In the professional preferences assessment results only about 9% of folks had an upgrade in compensation as one of their top three happiness drivers. It didn’t make the top three out of 15 compensation for 91% of folks.

Interesting paradigm shift there. It’s not just about the best job is the one with the best money. No, no. It seems that in fact, in our experience, that is clearly not the case for the majority, but, nonetheless, it can be sort of lodged into the brain as the thing that is to be optimized and maximized above all else.

The second big question is which elements of work drive happiness for me. The short answer is it is a combination of 15 happiness drivers across the area of rewards, experiences, and demands. These really do vary substantially person by person which we’ve seen time and time again when folks do the assessment, which you can do at DoIStayorGo.com.

Now some folks are all about the compensation, the security, the advancement potential, the prestige. Others are more into the people stuff, the appreciation, the warmth, the purpose, the trustworthy colleagues. Others are more into the learning, the compelling tasks, the styles of alignment, the autonomy or the time load or the flexibility.

It really does vary person by person. But the tricky thing is because no job is perfect and all jobs have these tradeoffs, you’ve got this bundle of tricky decisions with everything in terms of well, what really is most important here.

What’s cool about the assessment is we take each of those 15 happiness drivers and they all square off against each other. You are choosing between time load and appreciation or compensation and purpose. They are all squaring off so you can see ultimately having made 105 little decisions the aggregate results of what that looks like in terms of stacked top to bottom.

It can be pretty powerful and eye opening for people. We had a great kind, encouraging word from Jenny who said, “Wow, Pete, you’ve done it again. So many of the nagging desires that have been swirling around my head for years are now laid out neatly on your bar graphs.” Cool. Well, I’m so glad that was working for Jenny and for many others who have taken that.

It’s still available for free, so check that out. It’s at DoIStayOrGo.com, the assessment. Pretty cool stuff that can spark a whole boatload of clarity in a hurry and cut through a lot of the morass that might be in your head right now.

The third question is, is that grass really greener elsewhere. The short answer is a definite maybe. The scoop is it really goes both ways in terms of some people they are in their jobs and they get so caught up with the thing they don’t like when they stop and take a look and see, “Hm, how does this opportunity really stack up against alternatives.” You see, “Hey, it’s actually not so bad.”

Other times it goes just the opposite way in terms of folks are so accustomed to the toxic bad stuff that’s going on they think, “Oh yeah, this is just normal. This is just what work’s like.” Then you take a look around, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, not at all is that the case.”

Here we borrow a little bit of a page from Consumer Research in terms of saying for like a given brand, what are the most important features associated with it and then how is one brand performing on that.

If we were looking and comparing say fast food companies together, we’d first determine for consumers how important all the different factors like speed, health, cost, the freshness, the customization, the clean environment of the restaurant. Then we’d also take a look at and how well does this particular restaurant do, McDonald’s versus Wendy’s versus Burger King to kind of get a lay of the land and see where should we focus.

Likewise we do the same with happiness drivers in your current job versus others, and getting a little bit of benchmark context to say, “Okay, well, what’s this look like elsewhere,” and some fun facts like for learning. Well, 32% of people have a mentor at work.

For the alignment of work styles, about 52% of folks say their meetings are effective. For time load, well, hey, we’ve got quite a range with 13% working 7 or fewer hours in a day and 13% working 12 plus hours a day and then the bits in the middle you can see.

By getting a little bit of that context and then doing a rating, you can see, “Okay, on the dimensions that really matter for me, how is my job stacking up?” If it’s not stacking up so well as compared to what’s out there, you’ve got your answer. Yup, that grass is substantially greener elsewhere or, “Oh hey, it looks like we’re doing okay after all.”
The fourth question is how can I improve right where I am. The short answer here is by changing either your mindset or your extracurricular activities outside work there or reshaping the work situation itself.

You can make a world of difference giving yourself a boost in these areas of happiness drivers if you 1) just think about things differently. For example, instead of thinking about how this is all bull crap that you have to deal with all this stuff, reframing to who is this helping and serving and how and that can spark something.

Or when it comes to extracurricular activities, if you feel like you’re not getting enough purpose or warmth in your work environment, well, you can find that elsewhere, whether that’s volunteering or making more of a special effort associated with seeing your cool besties and getting those exchanges going.

Or when it comes to reshaping the work environment, talking about pushing back diplomatically, tactfully, how to make that happen successfully as well as prudently and shrewdly assessing are things likely to change here if I take a lay of the land and see how feedback requests and suggestions and those sorts of things have gone historically. We can just get a bit of a lay of the land for how that works.

Having established those three strategies, we then look to applying them across each of the 15 happiness drivers to generate over 100 starter ideas for inspiration. Just to zero in on one or two that you can truly commit to do to improve your work situation happiness right then and there.

One of my favorites is when it comes to compelling tasks, you can actually just proactively swap tasks with someone else at work. We heard this tip from Lisa Cummings in the Strengths episode. If you can zoom in on, “Hey, I like this and I’m strong at this and you like that and you’re strong at that, why don’t we just quietly, informally do a little switcheroo?” It’s a fun win-win for everyone there.

That’s just one idea. Maybe that works, maybe it’s doesn’t. But after cruising through the 100 and pondering you’re on, you come up with a few things, one or two at least, that will really make a world of difference for boosting your happiness right then and there in your current work environment.

The fifth question we tackle is what would be the most amazing work ever. The short answer to get there is we first release some constraints to thoughts. Secondly, we kind of dig deep into your youness and what makes you tick. Third we do a quick assessment for is that thing likely to be so amazing.

For releasing your constraints, often before an ideation, a divergent thinking, brainstorming process even get started, we tend to short change our self, like well the job has to have at least 80,000 dollars or it has to be in this location.

We go through a little bit of an approach for breaking that down which includes, thinking through well, why must that be the case, is that a valid value underneath the why and is there an alternative means of satisfying that. It’s kind of cool what can come up in terms of alternative means so that you feel a bit freer to dig and really think about what would be the coolest work experience ever.

From there we dig into your psyche, your personality, your youness asking provocative questions like, “What did you like to do as a kid? What made you weird as a kid? Describe your ideal day from top to bottom and how does that fit into it? If you think about some of the greatest days of work, what made them the greatest days of work?”

Getting that introspection going to see what is potentially an opportunity that would have all the cool goodies and lots of it and then to take a quick look and say, “Well, is that likely to really be the case or is that a fantasy land,” and just consulting the crystal ball or the time machine if you will by just imagining yourself in that scene. What do you see?

Getting a quick sense for what a day in the life looks like via some research approaches and just getting yourself, “Why was this the most amazingly awesome perfect decision ever and why was this a terrible decision? What did I overlook?” or, “What must be true for this to be a good move? Then how can I test that?”

We get a real quick sense for loosening up, coming up with the coolest work experiences you can conceive and then taking a quick look, “Huh, is that for real? Is that likely to be the case?”

The sixth question is who really has the answers about whether or not an alternative opportunity could be superior. The short answer is interesting, helpful people at interesting organizations. Here we talk all about how do we surface such interesting organizations and then people within them.

This is fun and I get to get dorky and tactical looking at databases and listings and services there, whether it’s the Hoovers’ Avention Dun & Bradstreet, … database that can surface all kinds of different organizations from different industries or it’s using GuideStar Foundation Center along the lines of NTEE codes to find the coolest nonprofits who are getting grants and are large and growing and substantial.

Or whether it is getting jiggy with the lists from the Fortune 500 or the Inc. 5,000 or the TechCrunch, Crunchbase …. Oh wow, there’s so many cool organizations out there I had never even heard of. They’re doing exactly what I want to do and have money and are growing.

Those kinds of things can be rather intriguing. It’s like oh well, then once you find them, how do I find the specific people who are there using things like a Tweeple search in the Twitter bios, like, “Oh, hey, here’s somebody who works there and says right in their bio that they work there and freely tweets things associated with it. Maybe they would be open to a conversation.”

Or getting jiggy with some LinkedIn approaches to surface folks and then related folks and your connection to those folks. Getting some specific names here associated with “Well, there is a person right there whose name is John Smith or whatever who would actually have an answer for me.” Then we end there by having a list of great names at great organizations.

The seventh question is how do I get such people to talk to me. The short answer is by finding their contact information and sending them an optimized digital message.

For finding their contact information, there’s a number of interesting tools such as Hunter.io, which will tell you specific names and emails associated with a given domain or URL or even just the structure. Is it first initial dot last name? Is it first name last name no dot? Is it first name dot last name? You kind of cut through that ambiguity, so you’ve got just the one.

Then we talk about what is the optimal message to send and some principals associated with making it super short, super easy to say yes to, and then some encouragement that even if you don’t have the optimized message, your response rate will be pretty good.

I share the full text of an email or LinkedIn message I got from someone who was asking about consulting, which was okay. I don’t think it was an optimal message. I provide some thoughts for how to tweak it.

But what is intriguing was this dude, Casey, ended up taking very close careful notes associated with what responses he was given when he was requesting total strangers to chat with him about career stuff. Casey’s results were that 28% of the time, total strangers agreed to say, “Oh yeah, sure. Let’s have a coffee. Let’s have a chat. Let’s discuss your career stuff and I will give you free advice along those lines,” which is pretty cool.

Over one and four complied and he had done this reaching out hundreds of times. One dude’s decent, acceptable cold message got the job done over one in four times.

I think that’s really helpful in terms of if you are reaching out to many folks, some of them will talk to you and they will give you the time. Then you just ask them the optimal questions that matter the most to you given your happiness drivers and you start to paint a picture for how these options are looking for whether you stay or you go, which is looking like a rosier, happier scenario.

The eighth and last question is what is the final answer, synthesizing it, putting it all together. This is fun. We consult both the hard data and the heart date, a turn of phrase I heard from a client I really liked.

The hard data is we put together this spreadsheet which is pretty cool in terms of figuring out a couple things. One taking a stab at quantifying your happiness at a given opportunity based upon your happiness drivers and how highly a given opportunity rates on each of those 15 happiness drivers. We can sort of consolidate that into a rough aggregate happiness number.

Also, a cool number called a give per take ratio in terms of jobs vary wildly in terms of the compensation they deliver as well as the time, the sheer hours they demand of you both on the job and commuting and maybe some extra expectations for social functions or whatever.

When you put it all together with the commute, and the compensation, and the value of the bonuses and your tax rate, and all that stuff, what is the give per take, the wealth created per hour demanded for a given job?

If you look at those side by side alongside the happiness drivers, you get sort of a hard data, a quantitative view for, “Hm, my current job looks awesome compared to these other things,” versus, “Wow, it is really falling short if I look at the projected happiness number as well as just what I’m getting for the time I’m investing there.”

Then we consult the heart data, what seems good and right and true for you in your intuition, in your gut, in your belly. We’ve got a number of really cool approaches to get a quick read on that.

One of my favorite little ones is – and don’t skip right to this. I think that it’s best done once you’ve sort of taken a good clear look around is you flip a coin and when you flip that coin, you can say, “Okay, heads I’m going to stay here, take it head on and tails is they’re going to see my tail as I walk out the door and say goodbye.”

You decide, “Okay, heads I’m staying, tails, I’m leaving.” You flip the coin, you turn it over and here’s a trick. Rather than look at it, see which one you are hoping for it to be. That tells you something.

Anyway, that’s just one fun little trick associated with consulting intuition and getting a sense for what’s deep down there. We’ll talk about a few other approaches for tuning and listening in to see what you see there.

Once you consult the hard data in the spreadsheet and the heart data deep inside, you’ve got a pretty clear sense. This is sort of what needs to happen. I am going to stay. I’m going to make the most out of it in these key ways or I’m going to begin pursuing opportunities in A, B, and C.

Even though you don’t have a job in hand yet there’s huge power in the decision and the conviction, in the clarity and the confidence that’s happening right then and there. Either way you win, whether you stay or you go by methodically working through these key questions.

Again, if you want some extra goodies here, you’ve got DoIStayOrGo.com. I’m releasing three videos shortly to discuss this and then inviting you to enroll into the course. I hope you dig it, whether you choose to enroll or not, this content is handy for you and it’s something you can reference back when the indecision is getting a little bit more intense and you’re starting to wonder all the more frequently.

That’s my story here. Now I’ll share a few of my favorite things, turn the tables a little bit.

For favorite book, I’m going to go with How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb. We also had her on the program and I like that it seems like she shares stuff that makes a lot of good sense, like, “Yeah, that makes sense,” she shares the research associated with it like, “Oh yeah, that checks out,” and she shares a very simple implementable step-by-step approach to tackling it and it’s all about how to enjoy a day of work more.

I’ve got many, many favorite books. I think this one is particularly applicable to the topic du jour and very enriching. I’ll say that one. I’ve been listening to it on audio and I’m thinking I just have to buy the real thing because there are so many notes and flags I want to highlight and underline that the audio alone is not doing it for me.

For a favorite quote I’ve got, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but the formula for failure is trying to please everybody,” by Herbert Bayard Swope.

I find that quote so helpful for me when I get a little bit hung up in terms of, “Uh oh, someone probably doesn’t like this.” Because I guess I am a little bit of a people pleaser and I do love feedback and sometimes I take it a little more personally than is super helpful.

I was actually recently even in a Subway, the sandwich shop, and I started to feel a little bit weird or bad or guilty because of the person behind me in line I thought, “Uh oh, I’m taking too long in selecting all of my condiments,” because I kept getting all of the stuff: the lettuce, and the spinach, and the tomato, and the green peppers, and the oregano, and the parmesan, and the pepper, and then the – I put a lot of things on.

I was like, “Oh boy, she’s probably getting irritated with me because I’m getting so many things. Oh, I feel bad about that.” It’s sort of funny. It’s like wait a second, Pete, that’s quite silly. First of all, she probably didn’t even notice. She’s probably focused on her own stuff. Secondly, that’s just sort of how sandwich making works in Subway.

This has been a source of a helpful reminder and touchstone for peace that trying to please everybody is a recipe for failure as well as recipe for anxiety I would say because it’s impossible and counterproductive to what your ultimate aims for true success will be for you.

For favorite study, I’m really in to the Walter Mischel Marshmallow Test. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s when the children were presented with a marshmallow or tasty treat of sorts, maybe it’s an M&M or a Reece’s Pieces or whatever, but it doesn’t matter, only that it is tempting and interesting to them.

The rules of the game go if you’d like, you can eat that any time you want, but if you hold out and wait for up to 20 minutes, when the experimenter comes back, you may receive two of that treat. It’s all about self-regulation, self-discipline, can you handle the wait.

Go figure, they discovered that the children who could handle the wait and were able to self-regulate and go the distance to get the two treats had all sorts of other positive life outcomes whether it comes to schooling or other things.

Very impressive how that little indicator tells so much. Also very interesting how it’s quite possible to build these skills.
He said that some of the strategies the high-performing children used in order to wait included, looking elsewhere, playing a game, covering their eyes, and what wasn’t such a winning strategy is looking very closely at the marshmallow, maybe tasting the powder off of your finger, smelling it deeply and repeatedly, sort of that was contrary. Environment shaping maneuvers you have available to you are powerful.

My favorite habit is something I do almost every morning and it is sort of like a multi-mega habit that merges a few things into one. That is I like to do a nice walk, usually on my treadmill, sometimes outside or sometimes just back and forth in my home.

I like to do a good walk for about 30 minutes in the morning and while drinking my Klean Kanteen 27 ounce bottle, while also getting some bluelight exposure in terms of whether it’s outdoors or with this Philips blue light device that I use. Also, engaged in prayer.

I particularly like to be thankful and express thanks for sort of the five great things that happened in the last 24 hours because there’s cool psychology research pointing that to putting you in a more appreciative, and grateful and positive mindset, as well as some other areas of coverage there.

It’s really great to in the first half hour of the day to get all of these things going. It upgrades my body from, “Oh, I’d kind of really rather still be asleep,” to, “Oh boy, let’s get after the day. What’s next?”

For a favorite tool, I’m going to have to say OmniFocus. I think it is super handy. It is a task management application that is so powerful, robust and full-featured. What’s cool is how I can ubiquitously capture anything anywhere in the app.

It is right on my homepage. I can push it, put it in there, include a photo, include an audio description or just make a Siri command to add an OmniFocus item and then from there it’s in my OmniFocus inbox, which can be processed associated with the context or the project and the deadline and then reviewed. It’s so cool.

I never miss anything cool when someone says, “I read a really interesting book,” it’s like, what is it? Bloop, then that’s there for later processing. I can continue the conversation, capture it, and then later on go investigate, “Oh, is that a book I should read?” Yes or no and make a good decision.

I’m having a world of fun with that as well as in the mornings for creative time it’s cool to see, “Oh there’s my OmniFocus inbox,” a bunch of random, cool ideas I had or suggestions I heard, which brings just a lot of richness to life in terms of in that creative time for me in the morning, here’s some creative seeds that I collected previously and let’s see what happens. It makes it kind of fun.

Favorite way to be contacted? Anytime, please. What are you thinking about the show, feedback, tips, suggestions, stuff you want to hear? Pete@AwesomeAtYourJob.com.

Parting challenge or call to action, I just encourage you, don’t accept just the default state when it comes to your job situation. Take a quick glance and think through, “Is this really the optimal spot for me in terms of happiness.” Not to spark discontent within you but just to make sure that you’re making a contentious decision as opposed to just reverting to the default, which is continuing to do the thing that you’re doing.

A great first step to that is to visit DoIStayOrGo.com. Take that assessment to see which of your happiness drivers is top for you, and then think through “How’s my job doing on these. You know what? Pretty darn good.” Awesome. You can feel good and just be grateful for that’s where it is.

Or, “You know what? There are a few things that are very important to me that this job is falling quite short of. Maybe I should start thinking a little bit more in depth about if it’s time to look around and explore that do I stay or go in a bit more detail.

That’s what I got. I look forward to catching you on the next episode. It is Oren Jay Sofer. I discovered him from the Simple Habit Meditation app and he just I think has got some little distinctions, some nuances about this mindfulness, this meditation stuff that are well worth hearing to bring a little bit more peace, a little bit more compassion, a little more ability to focus with intention with what you’re up to.

I hope to catch you there and peace.