Tag

Networking Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

751: How to Decrease Loneliness and Increase Belonging with Ryan Jenkins

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Ryan Jenkins tackles the overlooked problem of loneliness in the workplace and shares expert tips for fostering connection and belonging for both yourself and your team.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you can still feel lonely around other people 
  2. Just how loneliness is harming our health and productivity
  3. The simplest thing you can do now to feel less lonely 

About Ryan

Ryan Jenkins CSP® is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and three-time published author. He speaks all over the world to companies such as State Farm, Salesforce, Wells Fargo, FedEx, Liberty Mutual, and John Deere. 

For a decade, he has been helping organizations create engaged, inclusive, and high-performing teams by lessening worker loneliness and closing generational gaps. Ryan’s top-ranked insights have been featured in ForbesFast Company, and The Wall Street Journal. 

He is also co-founder of LessLonely.com, the world’s first resource fully dedicated to reducing worker isolation and strengthening team connections. Ryan lives in Atlanta, GA, with his wife, three children, and yellow Labrador. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

Ryan Jenkins Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ryan, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Ryan Jenkins
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into your wisdom. But, first, I need to know, since you visited all 50 states in the United States here, is there one that you think is underrated or overrated that you want to share your hot take with?

Ryan Jenkins
I like them all, to be honest, and I feel so…

Pete Mockaitis
Even New Jersey? No offense. Just kidding.

Ryan Jenkins
The most underrated? I guess I’d say Alaska and New York because, I think, personally, every time I go to New York, I’m always taken back by just how specifically large New York City is. It always takes my breath away. And then Alaska is just…it’s my favorite state. It’s so beautiful and it takes my breath away for a completely different reason. So, those are two standouts in my mind.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. You’ve got quite the stretch. And we’re talking about loneliness. I imagine, I don’t know, you can be lonely in Alaska or New York City. Tell us, maybe before we get into all the particulars, is there a specific discovery you’ve made in your loneliness research that’s really surprising or counterintuitive to you?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, you mentioned you could be lonely in New York, you could also be lonely in Alaska, and that’s true. And that correlates to one of the…probably the thing that most rings true or stands out to folks the most, which is the definition of loneliness. And loneliness isn’t the absence of people; it’s the absence of connection. So, I could be in a busy city like New York City and be surrounded by people constantly, but still feel isolated and alone.

Vice versa, you could be in Alaska surrounded by nobody but not feel isolated and feel very connected to other things. So, again, it’s not the absence of people; it’s the absence of connection. And so, that always kind of gets people to start thinking. That’s true and that’s probably why there are certain times of your life or certain areas of your life or your day that you feel more connected and less lonely, and then other times you feel very alone. And so, that’s probably what stands out the most, in my mind, and what gets people pondering the deepest.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say connected, I guess I’m thinking connected to people. Are there other flavors of connection that you’re thinking here?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, great question. And the reason I wanted to attack work with loneliness and specifically address workplace loneliness, is I thought the workplace was the best place to eradicate or help to lessen loneliness amongst individuals. And so, if you think about work, there’s a lot of connection points. There’s connection to one’s self, there’s connection to your team members, there’s connection to a leader, there’s connection to your work, there’s connection to a purpose or the organizational cultures. There’s all kinds of different flavors, and in your words, of connections.

And so, if we start thinking about it from that standpoint, we really start to get a better understanding of all these different points that we have to nurture in order to feel less isolated in today’s very isolating world.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then I’m curious, can you sort of give us the state of affairs with regard to the research? So, how widespread is the state of loneliness? I guess, probably, everybody feels lonely at some point, so maybe I don’t know if it’s monthly, weekly, or however you’ve got it sliced and diced. Like, how widespread is loneliness? How deep is loneliness amongst those who are feeling it? And just how big of a deal is that? Is it just sort of like, “Well, yeah, everyone feels lonely sometimes, you know. That’s part of being human”? Versus, is it really bad news?

Ryan Jenkins
All of the above, really. And loneliness is a universal human condition. We all experience it. And the reason why it’s stuck with us for so long is because loneliness was helpful and it continues. It is a useful emotion. That’s why we still carry it throughout humanity. Think about our ancestors who roam the planes.

When you were excluded, when you’re isolated from a group, your survival rate plummeted. There was literally strength in numbers. We could pool our resources, we could watch each other’s backs, we could strategize and socialize to take down wooly mammoths to create some warm fuzzy slippers. There was strength in numbers and there was safety in numbers.

And so, when we get excluded from a group, our body goes into fight-or-flight mode. And that’s why that’s such an important conversation, especially, as we think about how to be awesome at our job, is we have to understand how to fill our cup up and how to boost our connections and nurture these connections because, if not, we’re in flight-or-fight mode and we’re not able to fully show up at work.

So, back to your question. It’s a universal human condition and, according to our research, we surveyed over 2,000 global workers, and 72% of them say that they experience loneliness at least monthly with 55% saying they experience it at least weekly, and that’s all across the organization, individual contributors to executives. Loneliness is no respecter of person. It’s a universal human condition.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, I’m curious, in your survey, did you…I don’t know if you can recall any particular word choices, but did you say, “Hey, did you feel lonely or lack of connection?” Or, how are we wording that, I wonder?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, we asked folks, “How often do you experience loneliness?” And we did our best to give them a little bit of context on how we defined loneliness, but it’s a tricky emotion. We experience a lot of emotions. It’s hard to pinpoint. And even today, the science around loneliness is really, really new. It’s pretty extraordinary. It’s only in the last five to six years that we really kind of really start to unpack it and figure out where it shows up in the brain.

I think part of the reason is loneliness has just been shrouded in shame, so even the neuroscientists and psychologists don’t want to touch it. but that’s changing, which is really exciting because, again, it can be useful. It’s literally our biological cue that we belong together and we’re better together.

So, we tried to give them the best idea of kind of what connection was so that they could, effectively, evaluate when and where they were experiencing feelings of isolation but it’s hard to pinpoint if “Does loneliness come first and then does that lead to depression? Or, does depression come first and that leads to isolation and loneliness? Do we get burnt out that leads to loneliness?”

It’s really hard to say which comes first. And, hopefully, as humanity becomes more open to talk about loneliness, we all become a little bit more aware and start being a little bit more in tuned with ourselves and how we assess it and when and where we feel lonely, and then also being able to identify it in others so that we can draw people in because the tricky thing about loneliness is that when we feel lonely, we do the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

We turn inward instead of turning outward, and we just start to go more inward and begin distrusting more folks, and we become less and less approachable. So, it’s a vicious cycle that creates a downward spiral. And so, that’s why it’s really important that all of us come together and really start to pull each other in and identify where folks may be feeling disconnected.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, that part really resonates because I moved from Chicago to just outside the Nashville area, and I do miss a lot of my great friends there, and have felt some more loneliness here. So, when in the area, you can contact me pete@awesomeatyourjob.com. But to that point, it does resonate. Like, sometimes if I feel lonely, I feel, for me, it’s like I’m not quite at my best because I’m also not feeling like, it’s not really dramatic in terms of depression. But it’s sort of like, “You know what, I don’t really feel all that funny, witty, fun, interesting, engaging. I don’t really know if I want to show up to a thing in this condition.”

I want to put my best foot forward, making first impressions and connections, and have people think, like, “Oh, this Pete guy is awesome. I want to hang out with him again,” as opposed to, “Oh, yeah, he was sort of lame. I don’t really care to spend any more time with him.” And so, that’s kind of where my brain goes.

And so, that point really does resonate in terms of when we’re feeling lonely, we can look inward and that’s problematic. And I think Shawn Achor discussed some of this exact phenomenon in The Happiness Advantage. And so, you reminded me of awesome stuff. So, I want to make sure we don’t move too quickly past the notion of the dangers of loneliness.

So, we have links or associations or correlations to depression, to more, I guess, you said kind of limbic, amygdala, fight-or-flight type stuff, stress things. Any cool experiments that come to mind in terms of, “Oh, hey, we subjected lonely and non-lonely people to a stress, and here’s what went down”?

Ryan Jenkins
There’s a number of studies that we put a lot of them in the book, and it’s all so fascinating. I’ll share a few of them. One is they took…there was this one experiment happening where they were actually trying to figure out how mice were reacting to cocaine.

Pete Mockaitis
Sounds like a good time.

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, it’s exactly where they found out kind of how the brain processes loneliness. And so, they began experimenting and isolating mice, and they found that the more that we isolate mice, the more that they crave connection. And not surprising, that’s the same with humans as well. Another really interesting research, I’m sure many of your listeners are familiar with, is the Harvard University study around adult development. It’s the longest study ever, continuous study of adult development.

It’s gone for 80 years, it’s still going on, which is incredible that there’s enough funds and enough staff who stuck around to keep this study going. But now they’ve studied over 2,000 people, and according to the director, the definitive answer to a long and healthy life, after this longest study ever done in adult development, is quality relationships, so it’s essentially our connections. And study after study after study just reveals how detrimental it is to the human body.

And I think we’re just now starting to realize that we need this more and more. And silver lining, and the pandemic really pulled the curtain back, we all experienced it. We, perhaps, couldn’t put our finger on it, and now we’re ready to talk about this, and I think we’re all in a good position to start absorbing some more of this new research and insights on how to better establish and nourish our connections.

Ryan Jenkins
One other study, I think, that could be helpful for your listeners, Pete, and it is recently they did an experiment where they excluded people and they put them through an experience of exclusion, and the monitored their brain, and their brain lit up, of course, not surprising, but where their brain lit up was super fascinating and insightful.

And they actually discovered that the same part of the brain that registers physical pain is the same part of the brain that registers exclusion. So, that’s what’s really important and that’s really the research that really got me super interested in this because so many of the audiences that I talk to in organizations I serve, trying to get them to understand some of these concepts so that they can create more engaged, healthier and high-performing organizations.

We talk about loneliness, seems like a very soft topic but, in reality, if we don’t address this, that means we’ve got folks showing up to work that, literally, the pain part of their brain is lighting up, and they’re not able to fully show up so that they can deliver exceptional work and show up for their teammates and deliver for clients and customers.

So, that’s why it’s important for all of us, whether you’re an individual contributor or you’re a leader, a manager, is we’ve got to understand this so that we can lessen loneliness and get people to show up more fully at work, and that creates healthier individuals, and, ultimately, higher-performing organizations.

You could probably tell in my voice I’m excited about this conversation, and it’s no longer a soft one. it’s really a dire one. And it’s not that difficult to overcome. We’ve just got to be aware of it and then equip ourselves with some intentional tools to pick away at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And that’s basically what your book Connectable is trying to do here. Or, how would you articulate the core message or thesis?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, it’s three parts. The first part, we talk about loneliness. We give our readers a better understanding of the science of it and how it’s impacting work specifically. Part two is we unpack belonging and how that’s the nemesis of loneliness and how that’s the antidote to loneliness. We talk about why humans need belonging, and then how we can start thinking about that in the context of work.

And then the third and final part is all actionable strategies. So, we created a four-step framework that folks can use to help lessen loneliness in themselves or the team around them, whether they’re involved in that team or they’re leading that team.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, I’m curious, when you mentioned earlier that loneliness being a complicated sort of a thing in terms of the human experience of emotions is broad and multifaceted and so many layers, are there any maybe clues or indicators or signs that you might highlight for us to tune into in terms of, “Oh, wait a minute, maybe you’re lonely”?

For example, I remember once I got dumped, it was a bummer. And then it was just before I went to San Diego for an event with Pat Flynn, and it was really cool, the 1-Day Business Breakthrough. And I remember Pat was so cool as to serve Chipotle burritos for the lunch at the event and I was chowing down, I had a big old burrito, and then had a bunch of chips and queso. And I thought I was still hungry, and I was like, “That’s really weird. Usually, this is plenty of food for lunch for me to not feel hungry,” and yet I’m still hungry. I was like, “Oh, wait, I’m not hungry. I just feel empty inside.” Sad face.

And then they proceeded to give me brutal feedback about my business, which needed to be shut down. It was fine. It was helpful. Thank you, guys. So, anyway, I guess I shared that story, not to make everyone feel sad and feel sorry for me, but to share that sometimes it can fly under the radar, it’s like, “We don’t even know that we’re lonely.” So, are there any things you might sort of highlight for us, like, “Oh, if these are the kinds of things that are going on, you may, in fact, be lonely”?

Ryan Jenkins
Yes, and not to be promotional, this is just a free tool that you can use, that we created. If you go to LessLonely.com, you scroll all the way to the bottom, we have a free assessment. It takes two minutes. It’s ten questions that’s been statistically validated, critically validated, to actually assess how connected you are to those around you. So, that can be step one, where you can actually test yourself and get a score as to, “Are you feeling lonely?” or, “How connected really are you?” So, that would be step one.

Step two is, specifically in the book, we looked at ten identifiers that show up in the workplace. So, you can think about these for yourself or you can start thinking about these as folks in your organization or on your team because, again, if we’re lonely, we tend to retreat. And so, it’s up to all of us, we’re only as unified as our loneliest team member, so it’s up to all of us to kind of be aware of some of these cues.

I won’t go through all ten of them but I’ll give you a few here, Pete. One is the idea of lack of learning and development. If your curiosity is waning, or your growth mindset, you don’t have that growth mindset like you had, that’s kind of a good indicator. If you have limited participation in training, disdain for extracurricular activities, you’re not asking questions, that could be a subtle indicator. If you skip or resent meetings, that’s a pretty good indicator as well because lonely people avoid others.

So, if you find yourself not apologizing for being late, or you keep your camera off all the time during virtual meetings, or if you’re just generally being disgruntled during meetings, that could be a subtle signifier. And then I think the one that perhaps is the most shocking to folks or perhaps the most unexpected, and the last one I’ll give you, is excessive working.

Someone that’s spending too much time working as a way to avoid personal responsibilities can certainly point to an imbalance in social relationships. So, if you’re volunteering for too many projects, you’re piling up your vacation days, you’re returning emails late at night, these are all subtle indicators that you might be intentionally going into overdrive to avoid other people.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, if we find ourselves in such a spot, what do we do? How do we get more of this belonging antidote going on?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, I think what the first step and we highlight in the book is to look at loneliness. And so, being involved in a conversation like this, listening to this, you could check that box. It’s really kind of being aware that this is a growing epidemic and we need to better understand it if we’re going to get our arms around it. If you were a psychologist, you probably heard the statement “Awareness is curative.“ So we, first, got to be aware of this problem.

And then second step, I’m not sure we’ll go through all four here, but the second step is, clearly, just to invest in connections. And one of the ways that we encourage in the book is to create safe spaces, to pursue psychological safety, because the number one burning question in all of us, in all of humanity, that research tells us our brain is asking it five times per second, and that core question of humanity is, “Am I safe?” Our bodies are constantly asking that, “Am I safe? Am I safe? Am I safe?”

So, most of the time, it’s unconscious, but our body is aware of our surroundings and if we’re safe or not, and we’ve got to start creating those spaces at work if, again, we want people to fully show up. Because if we want to quiet that voice in our head that’s constantly saying, “Am I safe? Am I safe? Am I safe?” We’ve got to create these safe spaces. And one way to do that is to create proportional conversations.

So, if you find yourself talking too much and stepping over the conversation of other people, dial it back. If you find yourself not talking at all, it’s time to start speaking up a little bit. And, specifically for leaders, this is for leaders, they can really start to help kind of orchestrate this. But, according to research, Google did Project Aristotle a few years ago, and they studied all these teams to figure out “What was the core element that makes up successful teams?” And they found that it was psychological safety, and the basis of that was having proportional conversations.

And it draws right back to loneliness. If you’re on a team and you don’t feel like your voice is heard, and you don’t feel seen on that team, then, of course, you’re going to retreat and you’re not going to put your best foot forward. So, it’s up to all of us to start creating these spaces, but, specifically for leaders, too, they have a great responsibility to start creating space where these proportional conversations can be had.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s interesting. When you think about proportional conversations, I’m visualizing, “It’s Pete’s turn now.” Like, if there are six of us at a meeting or something, I guess, is that the hope, is that each person would speak roughly six or sixteen-ish percent of the time, and that is associated with there being psychological safety because folks don’t feel the need to either retreat or dominate, and are aware and care about what’s going on here?

Ryan Jenkins
Exactly. Yeah, you want to speak equal amounts, and certainly there’s going to be more introverted folks that aren’t going to want to do that, but it’s up to the team and, specifically, again, the leader, to create other opportunities for those introverts can still feel like their voices being heard or they had equal opportunity to express their thoughts, ideas, etc. So, yeah, that’s it, exactly.

And the other thing that’s important if you’re a leader inside of an organization is to be speaking last. Too often, the clients that we work with and the leaders that we come in conversation with, they get excited about their ideas, they come to the table and they want to post the vision, and then ask questions at the end, or get the ideas from the team at the end.

And that’s too late because you’ve already projected what you’re thinking and the rest of the team is going to fall in line, and you’ve wasted that opportunity for those proportional conversations to be had and for other people to bring their bright ideas to the table. So, speak last is really important for leaders, again, to create that space for proportional conversations to occur.

Pete Mockaitis
We’re talking about leaders, and you mentioned orchestrating. I sort of literally imagined a conductor of an orchestra. I imagine I want to hear some, maybe, scripts or verbiage from you because I imagine you don’t want to say, “Okay, we’ve heard enough from you, Ryan.” Like, “Oh, okay, that doesn’t feel good at all.” So, any key suggestions to try to get that proportionality if you are orchestrating or leading that meeting?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, I think at times it’s you never want to shut down an idea because someone might have something similar but it could lead to the next big thing or the breakthrough that you’re looking for. So, keeping your responses neutral as a leader, like, “That’s an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing.” You don’t have to tilt your hand as far as…

Pete Mockaitis
“That’s certainly an idea.”

Ryan Jenkins
“That is something.” Or, spending time on the frontend creating that agenda and kind of creating the timeslots for folks to speak, kind of assigning it, essentially. Or, the other thing, too, if you have a hybrid team, it’s assigning different folks to run the meeting. That’s another opportunity to where folks that might not be as likely to participate, they can be the ones that actually kind of orchestrate the meeting. And then there’s another tactic that’s used in negotiations. If you say the last three words of someone’s statement…

Pete Mockaitis
The last three words of someone’s statement?

Ryan Jenkins
Exactly. There you go. Then the other person is likely to keep expanding on their thought.

Pete Mockaitis
Keep expanding?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, keep talking more and more, like what’s happening just right here. And so, for someone, that’s a little bit more reserved or quiet, that might be a good tactic to draw a little bit more out of those folks as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Draw more out of those folks as well. That is a fun one. I think Chriss Voss mentioned that on the show, who’s awesome, and it really does work. It’s like, if you’re not too overt, it’s like, “Okay, you’re being weird. Cut it out,” like within reason and normal conversationally. Okay. Well, that’s great. So, now we got a four-step less lonely framework, we’ve gotten into it a little bit. I want to make sure we get a little bit of an outline overview of it.

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, so we’ve covered those first two. Third is this idea of narrowing the focus, so it’s really trying to put your attention on really what matters and, for that section, we studied astronauts because those are the folks that operate in the most secluded parts of the universe. And so, it was really fascinating to figure out, “How does someone, 250 miles away, that only interacts with 11 people for an entire year, how do they keep loneliness at bay? And how do they make sure that they sustain healthy mental health?” And so, they do some really interesting things. A lot of it is around focus and clarity.

And then the fourth and final step in the framework is a circle. So, the fourth and final step is to kindle, it’s a momentum. You get some traction going and you got to keep it going, and we relate human wellbeing to a battery, in the book. We don’t charge up once and we’re fully charged forever. Same thing with our connections. We don’t connect once with someone or a team member and then are fully charged and don’t need to connect ever again. It’s a constant thing that we have to maintain and stick with.

And we all know that to be true. We can’t just make a friend in an hour and then call on them two years from now. If we want healthy relationships, we have to attend to them and we have to be consistent about it.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I must ask more about these astronauts. What are they doing with regard to combating loneliness?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, we looked at Christina Koch. So, she’s the female astronaut that spent the most continuous time in space, and for her, it’s all about regimentation. So, she has a very detailed outline of her day, and so she knows exactly what she’s doing on a daily basis. Astronauts, they have their days incremented down to the five-minute increments, so it’s pretty extraordinary.

But the other thing is big picture. They know the big picture and they’re doing important work. They feel very connected to that, and so that’s really important for folks as well. And one of the strategies that we share is this idea of, and this is specifically for leaders but I think there’s a lot of parallels for non-leaders, and that is to lead with context not control. So, how do you start painting the bigger picture for folks?

Because so much of what can drive loneliness is this absence of purpose, we don’t feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. So, how do we start connecting ourselves to this bigger meaning? And, of course, that seems pretty easy for astronauts because they’re doing some really extraordinary work and they feel connected to humanity in a much different way when they’re up there. They’ve always said that they can see the globe and it just gives them different perspective.

But for us down here on Earth, we have to work at this. And if you’re a leader, it’s really on you to start creating more of that context and that bigger picture, and constantly being the chief reminding officer of your team of what you’re doing and how each person’s role and their activities are connected to that bigger picture. So, giving them that context for them to then act with autonomy and not so micromanaged with just control.

Pete Mockaitis
And how does the regimenting of the day help with loneliness exactly? I got you on the connection and the purpose, and the mission vision, and what you’re doing and how that’s serving a bigger thing. And so, I guess I’m thinking back to the workaholism piece that we discussed. Like, in a way, that could be a warning sign, like, “Ooh, you’re doing too much, you’re like avoiding things.” So, how does the regimentation help exactly?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, it’s really around clarity, I would say. Think about clarity from the standpoint of clarity and direction. If you don’t have clarity and direction where you’re going somewhere, you’ll end up being lost. And what happens when you’re lost? You end up becoming alone and it’s frightening. So, this idea of having clarity and direction, so you can put your mind to it and you know exactly what needs to be done that day.

And, you’re right, you can totally plan or overwork yourself, but astronauts also have a really good balance of knowing, planning in their exercise and their sleep. They also have psychologists that they connect with on a routine basis, too, to make sure that they’re maintaining their mental health.

One other thing that I think might be helpful, Pete, is this idea around learning as well. Chris Hadfield is another astronaut, a Canadian astronaut, and he’s famous for doing the Space Oddity. Have you seen that YouTube video?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t remember.

Ryan Jenkins
He had a guitar and he lip-synched to Space Oddity in different environments that he did. Look it up on YouTube, it got tons of views, and it’s really well-done. It’s really cool. But one of the ways he lessened loneliness in extreme isolation was through learning. So, learning starves loneliness. And so, he was one that would always try to keep his mind active and to try things. It’s kind of the same idea of you can’t be angry and grateful at the same time. We can’t experience those two emotions.

So, the other idea is if you’re fully involved and interested in learning something, you’re not thinking about, “Woe is me. I’m so isolated up here in space.” And so, Chris would go around, and he called the International Space Station this old attic. And so, he actually found this old Japanese bell, and he became fascinated with how the sound would travel through the International Space Station. And then, of course, he was doing all kinds of other videos, like the Space Oddity on YouTube, just to keep himself occupied and learning as he was up there to kind of keep feelings of loneliness at bay.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, before we hear about some of your favorite things, I’d love it if you could give us just one or two or three immediate tactics or some do’s and don’ts. Like, what are some things we can do right now to decrease loneliness? And what are some things we should not do right now if we want to keep this fostering belonging going on?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, I think what you don’t want to do is beat yourself up. Loneliness isn’t shameful; it’s a signal. We all experience it and it’s useful. It’s a signifier and it’s our biological cue that we belong together, so don’t beat yourself up. Or, use it as a reminder that, “Yes, I need to go build a connection, or I need to start turning my attention outside myself.”

Something to do would be one of my favorite activities for individuals is to identify the beneficiaries of your labor. That kind of connects with purpose. So, they’ve done study after study after study, and they find that no matter what industry or line of work you’re in, if you can connect with the person that benefits from your work, for example,   actually perform better when they can actually see the people that they’re cooking for.

So, if we can get a better picture of the people that our work, that people are benefiting from our work. Straight of the line, we can draw from our work to those people and connect those two, we’ll see greater purpose and we’ll start to see loneliness lessen as well because, again, we’ve established those connections. So, that would be one don’t and do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I do that as well, which is why I have some cool software that will just sort of turn on the smartphone cameras on my podcast listeners so I can just sort of watch them and spy on them in the middle of their day, and it really helps keep me feel connected and motivated. Just kidding. Just kidding.

Ryan Jenkins
I’m sure. I’m sure.

Pete Mockaitis
I hope that’s impossible, and even if it is, I haven’t done it. Okay, so do’s and don’ts. Beautiful. Any final thoughts when it comes to loneliness before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Ryan Jenkins
One of my favorite quotes when it comes to loneliness is by the late Robin Williams, the comedian and actor, and he said this, I think it’s really powerful. He said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” So, whether ourselves are experiencing loneliness, or we know people around us who are experiencing loneliness, I think a universal relationship law for all of us is to never make someone feel alone, especially when they’re with us, or they’re with you.

And so, the research is clear that loneliness was growing before the pandemic. The pandemic put a spotlight on it and accelerated it, but because it’s increasing, it also means it’s malleable so it can decrease. And so, it’s up to all of us to start engaging with this. So, again, never make someone feel alone, especially when you’re with them.

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

Ryan Jenkins
One of my favorite quotes is by Dorothy Parker, who, she said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” And, of course, that’s been on my brain ever since I learned about that quote. And as a writer, I have three books, I can relate. The process is grueling but the end result is fueling, and I always am so excited to have written even though the process of writing can be so challenging. And I’m sure many people can relate. The process, whatever process might be, really tough and aggravating, that end result can often make it all worthwhile.

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

Ryan Jenkins
There was some really interesting research, a social psychology research done that proved that people who have time constraints are severely less likely to engage with others by a big, big percentage. And that really stood out to me because all of us tend to be busier and busier than ever before. We constantly keep putting more and more on our to-do list and plates are overflowing, and we got to be cognizant about it because the more busy we are, the less margin we have, the less likely we’re going to show up and connect with others. And so, a subtle reminder there, even for myself, to really be thinking about that margin is where we create some meaningful connections. So, make sure that we’re prioritizing margin.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful. And I’ve felt it even in myself, it’s just like, “Oh, I should give so-and-so a call but I only have eight minutes. That might be kind of lame.” Like, “Hey, I have some time. How about you entertain me on my schedule, and then I’m going to peace out?” So, I guess to some degree, how that might feel to someone. But, at the same time, it’s like, “Well, maybe schedule some time when you have some time.”

And sometimes, my buddy Connor and I, we just have an understanding that we might do a quick check-in call, and that’s just what’s happening. Like, that’s the normative, a six-minute call might be like, “Okay, cool. And now I know what’s going on. This was fun. Thank you. Good day.”

Ryan Jenkins
Those are great examples, Pete. I’m right there with you. Thomas Friedman wrote a book. It’s been years now, but he titled his book Thank You for Being Late. And the reason he came up with that title for the book is because he was at an important meeting at one point in a busy coffee shop, and the person was late. But when the person showed up, they’re like, “I’m so sorry I’m late.” He actually said, “Thank you for being late because, since you were late, I got to eavesdrop on that couple’s conversation. I got to connect with a couple of thoughts that I had and just kind of take in my surroundings.”

And so, one way for us to connect with others, even though we might be busier than ever before, is show up early for things, and just kind of be there and open the kind of whatever connections might come your way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Ryan Jenkins
I’m a big Seth Godin fan, and so anything he writes, I just eat up. I just love how simple he is yet profound at the same time. And so, I’ll say anything by Seth Godin.

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

Ryan Jenkins
I use Evernote consistently to dump any ideas I have for books and ideas, and so that’s probably the one I’m using the most. I also use Asana to track all of my to-do list and to make sure I’m nothing is going through the cracks.

And then the third tool I’ll give folks, this is probably the most groundbreaking tool and the one I think I cannot live without, and that’s Boomerang, which is a Gmail plugin that allows you to boomerang emails back to your inbox that folks haven’t responded to so that way you can make sure you keep track of folks that you’re trying to connect with.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to resonate with folks; they Kindle book highlight it, they tweet it back at you a lot, a Ryan Jenkins original quotable gem?

Ryan Jenkins
They say that authors write the books that they need to read themselves. I’m an introvert. My co-author is an extrovert. We’ve had some good perspectives in there. But the thing that I learned the most throughout this process is this. Meaningful connections don’t have to be lasting, and that’s something I always fell prey to, that, “If this person is not going to be an integral part of my life, I’m not going to take the time to invest in this relationship or this connection.” And that’s just false.

And so, now, whether it’s my barista, or someone in the elevator that I share, or someone that’s walking by, like I try to do my best to connect and simply just ask folks how their day is going or something else because it only takes about 40 seconds to actually lessen loneliness. And, again, meaningful connections don’t have to be lasting. They’re all around us and we should invest wherever we can.

Pete Mockaitis
Forty seconds. Good to know. I love a number. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point us?

Ryan Jenkins
Yeah, go to LessLonely.com. That’s kind of the one-stop shop for the book and all. We’ve got assessments and a digital course, so that would be the best stop. Check us out on social. We’re very active, even on TikTok @ryanandsteven. And then, finally, we also have a podcast called The Case for Connection wherever you listen to podcasts. And that’s where we unpack the research even further, and we have a lot of fun doing it. So, my co-author and I just having some deep conversations around connection. So, LessLonely.com, @ryanandsteven, or The Case for Connection podcast.

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

Ryan Jenkins
If you want to be awesome at your job, take connections seriously. Do not underestimate the power of human connection.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Ryan, this has been a treat. I wish you much good belonging and connection.

Ryan Jenkins
Thank you, Pete. Thanks, everyone.

747: How to Build your Career with Extraordinary Mentors with Patrick Kilner

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Patrick Kilner reveals why traditional networking methods no longer work—and shares his simple process for expanding influence.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why everyone needs to find six key relationships
  2. The simple secret to winning anyone over
  3. One question you should never ask—and another you should always ask

About Patrick

Pat Kilner has created and led three companies: two in the real estate space and one in the training world. He’s currently the CEO of the Kilner Companies which includes The Kilner & Kirk Group, The Indispensable Agent, and Tower Hill Enterprises. Pat is also the co-founder of the DC Accelerator, a young professional development non-profit. Pat serves on the boards of primary education initiatives and donates time to develop strategic plans for inner-city non-profits at the service of youth in the DC metro area. His companies support the special needs community in the DC areas as well as in Jamaica. He studied business and philosophy at The Catholic University of America and taught and studied economics at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, where he achieved a Master’s degree. Pat lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC with his wife, Elena, and their children.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

  • Lexus. Check out the lovely innovations in the all-new 2022 Lexus NX at https://lexus.com/nx 
  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease!

Patrick Kilner Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Pat, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Patrick Kilner
Pete, it’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Pat, I’m so excited to get into your wisdom of Find Your Six: Stop Lead Generating & Start Building Influence, which has plenty of applicability, not just for sales-type folks but anyone looking to build influence and have mentorship and good things flowing. But, first, we have to hear about your semi-pro athletic experience in Spain. What’s the story here?

Patrick Kilner
I played soccer undergrad, and I ended up having the opportunity to go and study in Pamplona, Spain, so running the bulls, which only happens, that’s a 10-day sort of event. That’s not what little Pamplona looks like all the time. But I was there, and the great news is there’s no NCAA in Spain but the university had a futsal team, which was just starting to make its way into the US at the time, futsal, but was really big in Brazil and Spain, and I’m looking for a way to get some exercise in, go try out for the team, and make the team.

And because there’s no NCAA, everything is semi-pro. There are just gradations of semi-pro, and this university team was a pretty high-level semi-pro team, and I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into, but that’s how I stumbled into it, is just through the extension of my academic career and being on a really cool campus, and friendships that led me to try out for this team. Total blast and learned some great new skills and meet some awesome friends in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. Well, we’re going to talk about building friends and allies and networking. Maybe to kick us off, could you share one of the most surprising, fascinating, counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made along the way when it comes to what we might call networking, what we might call relationship-building? What do you want to call it?

Patrick Kilner
Yeah. So, well, I want to talk about it as business development. So, every business needs to generate revenue, and what I want to propose to anybody who’s listening, regardless of whether you feel like you’re in the business development realm or not, is that you are contributing to that. You’re contributing to a business and its functioning, and so, in some ways, shape, or form, we’re all business developers.

And as I began researching this book, and frankly, actually before that, maybe I’ll tell a quick story about how I sort of stumbled upon this. I was teaching a class of entrepreneurs, business owners, business leaders, in the DC metro area, which is where I’m from, of about 40 people, and we’re doing a mid-year check in on their businesses.

And I said to them, “Okay, so you all had revenue goals. What are those goals? Six months ago, what did you set those goals at? Write that down.” Okay, they write that down. “Now, how are you trending towards those? We’re about six months in, how are you trending towards those goals? Write that number down. Now, you may have been a little bit overly optimistic at the beginning of the year, so that’s okay. We still have six months to catch up. Given that, what is the lead-generation tactic that you have in your back pocket that you can pull out and make that revenue come in the door.

I spoke about it specifically through the lens of lead generation at the time. And they all wrote that down. And I was treating this as sort of a mastermind. So, I said, “Okay, great. We’re going to get a few really good things here out of 40 people.” I said, “Okay. So, given that lead generation, I’m just curious, how many of you are really excited to do that lead generation, not just for the next six months but for the next three years every day, two hours a day, just go get it? Because I know that if you’re excited about what you’re doing, you’re going to continue to do it. It’s not just going to be a solution for this year but for future years.”

Pete Mockaitis
And if I may, so for examples of these lead generation tactics might be, “I’m going to get up in the Facebook ads, or the Google ads, or start calling people, or asking for referrals.” So, any number of those things might’ve been on the table.

Patrick Kilner
Smile and dial, pound on the phones, write scripts, dialogues, objections, handlers, all the stuff that you learn in that lead-generation sort of paradigm, knocking doors, whatever it is, speed networking, “How many networking events? How many cards can I hand out?” Those types of things. And when I asked that question in that way, and it wasn’t a scripted question, it was a live question, nobody raised their hand, nobody said, “I can’t wait to do this for the next three years plus.”

And so, now I didn’t have any content with which to sort of have the mastermind. And so, I said, “I’m just curious, how many of you who have kids would be excited to take that lead generation tactic that you wrote down and teach it to your kids so they will have more flourishing, more exciting careers and lives?” Not a hand.

And this began the process for me of thinking, “Well, if we’re not excited about how we’re going to make business come in the door,” and, by the way, these people, most of them had most of the skin in the game for their organization. They were the leaders of their organization. And if the leaders of the organization aren’t excited about that, they can’t transfer that skill to other people. It’s just something they’re trying to retire from as quickly as possible, and that’s not a sustainable reality.

So, there’s something broken about just how we think about business development. And it shifted my thought process. Business development is sort of the broader thing. Lead generation is really just a blip on the radar screen of the history of business development. So, to answer your question now, what was sort of the aha moment or that piece of evidence that really struck me, is after this, I went and I got on Google Ngram, which is really a cool tool if you played around with it.

And what you’re able to do is figure out when the first times we actually used certain language around certain ideas. So, it categorized all of the…Google has sort of categorized everything that’s ever been written. So, you can use this tool, and academics use it a lot, and what I found is that we didn’t actually use the word lead generation, the phrase lead generation, until around 1976.

If you’ve been in sales since the ‘80s, you think that lead generation is synonymous with business development. It’s actually just there’s been a turn of phrase. Things like smile and dial, things like scripts and dialogues around telephone, hitting the phones, all of those ideas, call centers. You can actually look at how these spiked in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, and then how they get taken over by technology and re-used. So, who does lead generation better than any human being now?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m thinking Facebook or Google.

Patrick Kilner
Right. Exactly. The really critical thing, and what I’ve begun to discover in my research is that if you are doing lead generation, eventually you get beat out by cheaper options that do it 24/7 and actually, ultimately, better than you because AI is just eating your lunch when it comes to lead generation, which actually makes us feel like cogs in a big wheel of our business instead of the indispensable drivers of our business.

And so, to get back to the story, that’s why nobody really wanted to continue doing this long term because, whether they realize it or not, they realize, “I am fighting a losing battle.” So, take travel agents, for example. How many travel agents do you know are in your phone?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know any.

Patrick Kilner
Right. So, if you know some one or two, there used to be travel agents all over the place. What happened? Lead generation was the thing, and they got disrupted radically by tech. So, Travelocity, whoever, has just cut out the middleman because they’ve, ultimately, really quickly done better lead generation than a human being could do.

So, what I talk about in the book is that if you’re doing lead generation, not only is it stripping you of your joy of working, but you’re also more disruption-prone. And so, let’s look at our relationships and where the relationships were…our relationships are really commoditized. Commodities are easily exchanged for anything else or versus the few relationships that are indispensably fundamental to our success that, regardless of what happens, they’re still going to be there for you, and we all have those in every aspect of our lives.

So, that’s the premise of the book. The question then is, “How do I go find those fundamental relationships, that are not commoditized, faster so that I can accelerate my career?” And the surprising thing to me is that people have applied this to mentorship, they’ve applied it to their sales, they’ve applied it to finding major accounts, to building boards of trustees because they realized, “Wow, in order to really accelerate my growth, I just need a handful of really amazing people.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. And this reminds me of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Who’s Got Your Back and some stuff I’ve done back in the day with accountability groups and folks who really support and challenge me in terms of making things happen. And so, yeah, it is broad and vast, whether you’re deliberately trying to get folks who you can sell stuff to, or rather you’re seeking out mentorship or other kinds of relationship goodies.

So, tell us, if that’s something we want, like, “Yeah, I would love that in my world,” how do we go about doing it? And maybe I start with you say “Find your six…” What’s up with the six? And why is six people the magic number?

Patrick Kilner
So, I went and started researching “Exactly how many people do you need?” If the lead generation paradigm tells us you need thousands in order to get a small percentage. That’s basically, “You need to make these many calls in order to have this sale or this conversion rate,” “You have to have these many likes in order to get…” whatever, that dopamine hit.

If that’s what it’s telling us, that volume is the key, how many actually do we need in your six? And so, the shift, just to sort of reveal it is you really need a shift to thinking about being in the talent game, that if you’re in business or just in life, you’re actually not in the lead generation game anymore; you’re in the talent-searching game. So, how do you go find that talent? How to do that?

Now, where did six come from? I’m very fortunate to have built a business around great relationships, great professional relationships, and I found the 60 most impactful people who had had really long term and illustrious careers. So, these are folks typically 60 plus in all sorts of different careers, and I took them out and I interviewed all of them because really, really interested in “What are the keys to long-term success? And who are the people that made that happen for them?”

So, I was really curious in finding out the characteristic of these people. But, in so doing that, what I found is that the average number of people that had made really impactful contributions to really high performers in their careers was just six people. It wasn’t 600 people, it wasn’t thousands of people, it was just six people, and that kept happening as I’d have these interviews one after another.

And so, not only did I find the characteristics of the talent that they had saddled up next to, or who had invested into them, but I also found that you actually just need six of them. And they sort of accidentally found their six over the course of an entire career. So, my question was, “How could we go find those six in six months or a year? If you knew how to crack that code, what would that look like for you?” And so, that’s why six is from some of the ground research, if you will.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you talk about those six, can we paint a little bit of a picture in terms of “If someone is in someone’s six, it kind of looks like this. These are the sorts of things they do for them; they share with them; they talk about.” What does that look, sound, feel like in practice?

Patrick Kilner
Yeah. And you can apply this to, again, anybody in any career. I’ll give you sort of the principles that you can apply to anything, but then we can certainly drill into what that might look like for specific people depending on their career. But the first thing you’re looking for in terms of a character trait is longevity. So, I began looking for people who had clocked a lot of hours with others by virtue of their position.

So, why longevity versus sort of very transactional relationships? So, if somebody is in the habit of just having transactional relationships, they’re not typically going to be in the connection game, in the wisdom distribution game, that I’m looking for, for later on. So, that’s the first thing, is look for longevity. So, people who are spending more time than usual in relationship with folks. And we can drill into that a little more. So, longevity.

The second thing was implicit trust. So, for me, I was looking for people who, and this is what I found with others, people who worked in really big organizations, and they found people who were implicitly trusted, not just by them, but by the entire organization. Everybody that ran across them, these people actually, in many ways, their career and their income depended on the fact that everybody who encountered them was deeply implicitly trusting of them.

And then the final thing is finding people who have an ownership mindset to their work. So, these are the people that if the company is going down, they’re holding onto the rudder the whole time. They’re trying to make this thing go. Their DNA is part and parcel of the company. I had a great encounter with somebody who was in legal document storage, and he said, “I know exactly who you’re talking about,” and I’m thinking, “Okay, he’s going to talk about one of his clients. He’s a partner at a law firm.”

And he said, “It was the woman who greeted me at the front desk of the law firm. Her DNA was all over this place. She knew when the partners were having issues, if they were staying late, how the cases were going, if their professional relationships were good, or if she could angle me in to go help sell whatever I was bringing to the table.” And so, that type of person who, maybe isn’t actually on paper the owner, but also, but really is they own their job.

So, if you find people who have that type of longevity, that implicit deep trust, and an ownership mindset, you’ve basically found the right person. So, if I’m hiring for an organization, or when we’re hiring for…I own a real estate company. When we’re hiring people, we’re looking for people who, when we’re interviewing them, have established implicit trust with others around them, and how they do that, and how they think through those relationships.

We’re looking for people that have a true ownership mindset versus, say, what in the book I call a run-it mindset, or a work-it mindset, sort of that Fred Flintstone end-of-the-day, like the dinosaur gets pulled by the tail and he’s like, “Okay, I’m done. I’m washing my hands of this thing.” And that’s a commoditized relationship with the employer. That’s sort of working for the weekend.

So, those are the people that we’re looking for both internally as well as externally to advise us, to make connections to major accounts, to refer us business. And so, in the book, I go deep into how to apply those principles, but that’s sort of your talent profile, if you will.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, I’m thinking about it from two lenses. One in terms of like the sales business development, and another one in terms of sort of mentorship and growth and development. So, if we’re thinking about it on the mentorship side, so much time means much time in the career or the domain that we would like their wisdom in. Is that fair or how are you thinking about that?

Patrick Kilner
Yes. So, it could be, I would say, in general. And so, longevity really is the first indicator of whether somebody is trusted. You can’t be trusted unless you’ve spent time with folks. So, it’s a really quick filter. If you look at your list of everybody. Let’s say you work for a big consulting firm, and you’re up and coming, or you just got there, and somebody says, “You know what you should do is go find your mentors here.”

Look for the people who have the longest-standing client relationships and relationships within their teams, and who have clocked the most hours with those people. These may be managers but it could also be people in the regular mix of the organization. So, I’m looking for those people. That will limit your list pretty substantially. One of the things that I realized is I was getting frustrated in my business that depended a lot on referrals that people who have known me for a long time just weren’t giving me a lot of business. I was so frustrated.

And then I realized, actually, they don’t spend enough time with most people on a daily basis to build enough trust in order to send me business. And the same is true if you’re looking for mentors. These folks have to be in the practice of investing time into folks so that when they decide, “Hey, you know what, you should go talk to this person.” What do mentors do really, really well? They connect you to other wisdom through other great people. And so, that’s why longevity is really important. That then indicates the type of trust you’re looking for.

So, when you’re, let’s say, you’re looking for that mentor, you’ll know that you have somebody who’s implicitly trusted by asking them the right questions when you sit down with them. Maybe asking them who their mentors are. What kind of relationships do they still have in those mentor relationships? Or, they may be in peer mentor relationships. What kind of organizations are they involved in? What kind of board activities should I get involved in that you found really great?

People who sit on boards, oftentimes, they have to be implicitly trusted. They have a fiducia allegation. So, those are some of the indicators that I’m looking for when I’m looking for a mentor, is people who are really generous and who kind of know that this is going to come back around. All this stuff comes back around whether in the form of business or the right connections when it comes to sort of this game of life that we’re all playing.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe tie it all together in terms of perhaps a story? So, there’s a person who was looking to turbocharge their advancement, ascent, wisdom, and they set about identifying six folks who could be of great assistance, and maybe we don’t need the 20-minute saga, but just the general broad strokes of what happened, how they went about it, and what results came from it.

Patrick Kilner
Right. So, I’ll give maybe a personal one here. So, the first business I started was in real estate, residential real estate business, and I got into it prior to the 2008 bust. But then 2008-2009 happened, and there was blood in the streets. National Association Realtors went from 1.5 million people to 750,000 people in less than two years, so experienced people taking early retirement really quickly. And I’d been in the business for three years at the time.

And I remember thinking, “Okay, all the stuff that all of these people who have taught me, who are now getting out of the business and it was all lead generation stuff, I need to figure out how to do this better.” And so, I called somebody who I knew had weathered storms in his own career, and he was, at the time in his 60s, and I called him up, and I said, “Jerry, I’m trying to juggle all this. I’m looking for any wisdom that you have.” I was not pitching business. I just needed his advice.

And, unknowingly, and by going to him and saying, “Listen, I just…I’m coming hat in hand here. As you know, I got a young family, you’ve done exceptionally well, and I’m sure have weathered some storms. Would you be up for a cup of coffee or breakfast?” And he said, “No problem.” Two days later, on his calendar, one of the busiest people I know.

And 45 minutes of me taking copious notes, and I remember he turned to me at the end, and he said, “You know, Pat, these are great questions. I listened the entire time,” and he said, “You’re going to do really well in real estate.” And what was interesting was I hadn’t talked about myself the entire time. I just asked the questions.

And here I am, I feel like a total pseudo-professional, total impostor, that I should be getting kicked out of this industry as well. I’m holding on. And he said to me, “You’re going to do really well. Listen, I’m really good at this attorney thing,” he was an attorney, “but I don’t know anything about real estate. I like how you think. If you run across any investments, let me know. That would be good for me.”

I’m thinking, “Wow, that’s…” I wasn’t selling. I can’t believe that this person just did this. But then he said something even more interesting, he said, “When I get back to the office, I got to get to court here in a second, when I get back to the office, I’m going to make an introduction to three different people for you.” And he put his name, his professional name to me, a young professional who was just struggling. He knew that I was trying to figure this whole thing out, and made connections to other professionals who respected him enough to say, “Yeah, I’ll have a conversation with you.”

And from that, what I found is that the right people, so Jerry for me was my first, the first one of my six ever. And great people in his shoes, great mentors, these people who sit at your table, if you will, that I talk about in the book, they are great connectors, they’re great wisdom distributors. I got more wisdom in one breakfast than I could ever imagine, but then he connected me to others who could help me. And those others also put their name to me because he had shown them that he was going to do that as well.

And it was my job to research what I wanted to talk to them about, how I could help them, and to stop worrying about not knowing everything, and just get out there and have these conversations. But Jerry taught me that the right people will be amazing connectors and, what I call in the book, wisdom distributors for you as well. And so, that set me on a course to build a really big organization that has provided for my family ever since through a serious recession. And I never did lead generation again after that.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And so, alternatively, you just kept talking to great people who introduced you to other people, and then away you went.

Patrick Kilner
Yeah, I thought to myself, “Gosh, if I could have one of those conversations every day, what would my business look like? So, how do I go about doing that?” And so, I spend the last half of my book talking about how to have those conversations. What’s the art of that meeting? How do you land the meeting? How do you prepare for the meeting? How do you artfully have the meeting? What do you do to follow up? How do you add value? Can you even add value? I’m just starting out here.

Or maybe I feel like an impostor because I just shifted careers, but what I realized is, gosh, for the time that I spent those 45 minutes to an hour that I spent there was the most fruitful time, and I could imagine doing that for three, five, 15, 25 years every day of my career.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, so let’s hear it then. So, let’s say we got a professional, they want to meet some of these people, have some of these conversations, get it going, what’s sort of the step one, two, three of making it happen?

Patrick Kilner
Yeah. So, the first thing, and it sounds really simple, is make your list. Who do you know currently? And look at that list and ask yourself, “Okay, of the people who I know currently,” you can say, “Hey, I just arrived in a new town. I don’t know that many people. Who do you know, because you know some folks, somebody helped you moved, somebody recommended that you use this company for X, Y, and Z, so you know some folks?” And so, make that list. It can be short. It can be long.

Then ask yourself, “Of those people, what would I be if I could ask them one question? What would I be most interested to ask that person about?” Some people, you won’t be able to come up with anything. Others, you’re going to have three or four questions that you can’t wait to ask them. So, like a good podcast host, now you have really pointed questions specific to that person. And so, that’s the first step, is finding just a handful of folks who you want to go sit down with and have a cup of coffee with. That’s step one.

You can build that list in a number of ways. Chamber of commerce, directories, you can look up people. It’s so easy to find lots of lists of people to go sit down with, and to be interested and have these conversations with. It’s obviously better if you have connections to them prior, but if you don’t, okay, you can start somewhere and we’re really, really fortunate to have all sorts of networking opportunities online as well. These can turn into much deeper relationships.

So, second step is now you’ve got to get the meeting. So, ask for advice. The easiest way to do this is to ask for advice, and ask for advice authentically. So, here’s how not to ask for advice. Don’t call somebody – Pete, I’m sure this happens to you all the time, “Hey, Pete, you’ve got this successful podcast. Could I pick your brain?” And you’re like, “Gosh, if I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me to pick my brain, I’d be super wealthy.”

Here’s the problem with that. There’s a certain laziness to just saying, “Hey, Pete, can I pick your brain?” They haven’t actually dignified Pete with a little bit of research about “What specifically does Pete do really, really well that I know about, that I’ve really thought about so that he knows I’m not going to waste his time, and that he also knows where the direction of this thing is going to go? We’re not just going to sit down for a cup of coffee and this is going to turn into a two-hour long conversation, and we’re going to get nowhere. But I’ve got somebody who’s actually interested specifically about something that I’m an expert in.”

So, that’s the next step is research the person well enough to know why you’re asking them for advice. Then go have the meeting. Now, what does that do? That comes off very authentic because now it’s not a script. This is not lead generation. I’m not lead-generating this conversation with you. I’m being very specific. I’m authentically curious. And authenticity is really, really powerful in relationships, especially at the beginning.

And with that authenticity, now you frame the conversation that you’re going to have. Now, you’re going to go meet with the person. The conversation is framed. They know that you’re going to honor their time. They could be the busiest person you could possibly find. If you show them that you’re going to honor their time, and you’re authentically curious, they’ll have the conversation with you.

You go have that conversation, and if you ask the right questions, three, four really, really good questions, make sure that they know that you know about them. Again, you’ve given them the dignity of saying, “Listen, you’re really busy and I saw this and that, and I’d really like to know how you made manager. How did you go from here in your career to here in your career? That seems like almost an impossibility to me but I’m sure that you’ve got some insights in this.”

Or, “How was it that you landed that major account when you were pretty early in your career? How did you do that? Who were the people that made those connections for you?”

So, asking that, or you might be really…I remember going through a phase where I really wanted to know what made high performers tick and what their daily routine looked like because I really wanted to hone in my daily routine, and I was coming authentically to that in asking that question as well. So, those are some of the things, and now those are the bedrock for a much deeper conversation.

Here’s what I found with Jerry, is that because my conversation and my questions were specific and authentic, he liked how I thought, and he said it. He said, “Pat, I like how you think. You’re going to do really well in business.” We don’t work with people because of what they know. We work with people and we hire people and we want to continue relationships with people because of how they think.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Patrick Kilner
Think about your best relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that resonates. And I guess I’m thinking of what not to do. I received a LinkedIn message, like, “Oh, hey, I see that you’re a podcaster. Could you send me a link to your podcast?” This is on LinkedIn. And I’m thinking, “My LinkedIn profile literally says, ‘Pete Mockaitis, podcast host and trainer and chief at AwesomeAtYourJob.com.’”

And so, I guess it’s like, “Okay, you’re not a real human. You are a piece of software that is automating outreach because a real human wouldn’t do that.” And so, what you said is like when you do that bit of research upfront, it helps distinguish you from the vast majority of inbound requests that are just like, “Meh,” as opposed to, “Oh, okay, you’re a human being. You’ve spent some time looking at my stuff. Therefore, I have an inkling that if I were to invest some time in you, it’s going to be well spent.”

And I think Tim Ferriss has some good tips about how you show just that, like, “Hey, your time was well spent. You mentioned a book, I read the book, and here’s my key takeaways from the book you mentioned that I’ve already read two days after you told me about it.” It’s like, “Oh, this guy. Okay, you’re serious. Intriguing.”

Patrick Kilner
And be an active listener. Carry one of these things around and actually take notes because, again, you’re endearing yourself to this person who is honoring you by giving you their time. But flip this on the other side, when asked correctly for your wisdom, have you ever been offended?

Pete Mockaitis
No, I guess that correctly is the key word. But, no, I haven’t. It’s flattering. I guess the worst-case scenario is I feel guilty that I don’t have the availability to give them a little something. That’s like the worst but it’s always pleasant and uplifting because, most of the time, most compliments that come my way immediately precede a pitch to be a guest on my podcast, which makes them feel very insincere.

Of course, there are plenty of genuine compliments as well. They’re just outnumbered. But givers versus takers, right? So, yeah, that totally resonates. And so, if there’s any…I guess that’s sort of a good takeaway there. If there’s any fear, like, “Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to bother them. I wouldn’t want to inconvenience them. I’m little ole me. I couldn’t possibly….” Point well taken. It’s like if you do it well, they appreciate it.

Any other do’s and don’ts for that reach-out message? You do your research. You convey you’ve done your research. You don’t use the phrase ‘pick your brain.’ Anything else?

Patrick Kilner
Yeah, I think stop thinking that you don’t have anything to offer. So, you’re giving two gifts. One is the gift of actually having done your research and asking this person about what they’ve dedicated their life to most likely, “You’re awesome at this. If you have the time, I will inconvenience myself to make sure that you and I can sit down. I’ll meet you at the airport if you’re traveling all the time during your layover.”

So, that’s the first gift, really is that’s what gets me out of bed. Somebody says to me, “Hey, so and so told me that I should be in touch with you because you’re really, really awesome at this,” specific thing. “Would you have any time for me? Not next week maybe, but any time in the next month or quarter. Could I just find 45 minutes on your calendar? I’d love to take you out for a cup of coffee or whatever works best for you.”

And so, again, so that type of idea, and I go through a bunch of different ways to do that and endear yourself. So, that’s maybe going to look different within depending on your organization, depending on your career track, but really mastering that language, and that art of preparing, and the art of having a meeting is actually, frankly, a lost art because we hide behind screens so long that we’re actually not in this habit of connecting deeply with people and allowing them to have that in return, really, in an authentic way.

Now, that’s the first gift. The second gift is the gift that you give them afterwards. So, if you’re doing this, and I said if I could have this conversation every day, so if you said, “Part of my business plan or my career plan is to have one cup of coffee every single day with somebody who could be,” what I call in the book, “an influencer candidate, somebody who could be a candidate for my six. And those are just people who I have an authentic curiosity about what they do.”

So, because you’re doing this, you have a network, maybe not of people who are at the top of your list, your six. That’s sort of a sacred spot, but you have a lot of people who are at different places in what I like to call the influencer pyramid. So, they may be not as influential for you but really great folks. You can find a lot of those. And now you can be a connector of great talent. Again, you’re in the talent game. You’re looking for just a handful up here, but you will have…you do this for a quarter, you do this for half a year, you’ve got 50-100 people who know your name and who you can connect others to.

And so, even if you’re not somebody who’s old and wise and can give that wisdom, like Jerry did to me, you can certainly be what Jerry also was, which was a connector to other great minds and other great influencers, potentially. So, that’s the next gift. And so, those two gifts really are super impactful. And what it does is it reframes who you are in the mind of the potential influencer. They now see you in a totally different light. So, those are some of the hacks, if you will, of that conversation.

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

Patrick Kilner
Yeah. So, I’d say this, never leave a meeting without asking this simple question, “Knowing what you know about me, Pete, who else do you think I should talk to? If you were in my shoes, who else would you go talk to?” because not everybody is going to be your Jerry who’s just going to think to do that to make the connection. But if you prompted that, what I found is I had maybe a list of 25 people when I started out, who I was just desperate to learn from. That turned into a list of thousands over the years because I prompted that question.

And so, if you’re in these great conversations, again, you’re looking for a mentor, “Knowing what you know about me, who am I looking for?” What I found is also, just mathematically, you’re looking for, basically, a one in 20 talent. So, Pete, I’m sure you’ve hired folks before, and you go, “Gosh.” When you’re hiring out of desperation, you’ll take the first person who sends you a resume, when you’re looking for talent.

The same is true for mentors, the same is true for almost any person you’re looking for, external talent or internal talent to your team. But if you’ve talked to 20 people, gosh, you know what the landscape looks like and you can now choose who you’re going to go invest your time in, or time with, and who you want to forge that relationship with. You can talk to 20 people over the course of a month. Over the course of six months, you’ve found your six.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. I see how that math works there. Monday through Friday, hmm-mm. Thank you.

Patrick Kilner
Take off a weekend.

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

Patrick Kilner
This one is from Dostoevsky, so great Russian novelist. And he said…and this is really comforting too, a guy who got straight Bs through college. He said, “It’s not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them – the character, the heart, and generous qualities.” I love that. As a dad, that’s what I want to teach my kids. So, that’s one of my favorite quotes.

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

Patrick Kilner
So, that Google Ngram, I thought was I kind of nerd out on using that. I think it’s really interesting to understand how we use language and why we use it at certain times and how it impacts us. So, as a tool, I thought that was really, really interesting, and something that I think that I use quite a bit still.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Patrick Kilner
Okay. So, I’ve got two here. One is my favorite book of the year. I probably recommended this book more than any other, and it just came out this summer, a book called Wanting by Luke Burgis. It’s on the reason why we want what we want, and how people influence, how the people around us deeply influence why we desire, not just why we want things but why we actually form certain desires for things.

Totally made me shift how I see the people around me, and I’d wrote a book about the people around me. Fascinating book. He studies a guy named Rene Girard, who many people know was a mentor to the likes of Peter Thiel and others at Stanford. So, awesome book, a must read. And then David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. One of the coolest stories about entrepreneurship around, and I’m an entrepreneur, and this is like these guys totally bootstrapped it and figured it out after having a bike shop. So, really, really cool story.

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

Patrick Kilner
OptimalWork.com. These guys have been a total gamechanger. I would not have been able to crank out a book without OptimalWork. The thesis here is that I particularly like a tool that they have on their site called The Golden Hour. And what it allows you to do is to get into the state of flow. So, block out distraction, get into a state of flow on command. So, a pretty amazing tool. Highly recommend it. I’m having my high school kids doing this already and it’s changing their grades already.

Pete Mockaitis
Flow on command, that’s enticing.

Patrick Kilner
Yeah, and that’s the key. And they do this at Harvard, so they take kids who are already high performers, and they teach them to actually perform at an even higher level and actually enjoy what they do a whole lot more. So, Dr. Kevin Majeres is behind this. He’s a clinical psychologist and just a tremendous mind. So, OptimalWork.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And a favorite habit?

Patrick Kilner
For me, it is waking up earlier than my competition. I think it has to happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a key nugget you share, something that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you a lot?

Patrick Kilner
Yeah. So, I’ve got two from the book. One is simply trust is transferable. We can trust-transfer, and that’s a big part of the book is this idea that you’re really in the talent game and the trust-transferring game. And then the other is I didn’t actually expect as much resonance with folks, but folks who are trying to balance your family life and professional life.

This struck me that this idea that save your professional time, effort, and money for the most influential people so that you can save your personal time, effort, and money for the most vulnerable. So, whatever you’re in, like in my case, those are kids running around in diapers at a certain point of my life. But that’s why I work so that I can provide and really spend my time, effort, and money with them.

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

Patrick Kilner
So, really easy, FindYourSix.com or PatrickKilner.com will lead you to me, yeah. And it’s pretty easy. There’s forms on there. You can probably find my email on there as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Patrick Kilner
So, I’d ask, really, what’s, first, a reflective question, “What is the cost of commoditization in your business of your relationships?” So, if you’re in sales, lead gen, but fill in the blank. What’s the cost of that compounded over time for your career? I’d encourage you to take the Find Your Six challenge. I lay out a challenge at the back of the book, and it just says, “Here’s how to go about the challenge. Here’s how to find your six in six months or at least get to that point.”

If you want to totally reframe your business development and understand that, regardless of what your position is, you’re in the talent game. So, that would be the challenge. It’s really just built into what I have here. And here’s the idea, the business grows and your career grows and sustains and becomes disruption-proof only through the right talent. So, you’re in any position, “How do I disruption-proof my talent for my career so that I’m indispensably important?” It’s through the right relationships, and not just, “Hey, you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” but real investment into them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Pat, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck with your six.

Patrick Kilner
Pete, thank you.

691: How to Listen Like You Mean It with Ximena Vengoechea

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Ximena says: "Listening really can be learned. It's a skill just like any other."

Ximena Vengoechea breaks down the formula for effective listening.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The psychological trick to help you stay in the conversation 
  2. The questions that create better conversation
  3. The cues to look out for in a conversation 

 

About Ximena

Ximena Vengoechea is a user researcher, writer, and illustrator whose work on personal and professional development has been published in Inc., The Washington Post, Newsweek, and Huffington Post. She is the author of Listen Like You Mean it: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection (Portfolio/Penguin Random House). 

She is a contributor at Fast Company and The Muse, and writes Letters from Ximena, a newsletter on tech, culture, career, and creativity. She is best known for her project The Life Audit. An experienced manager, mentor, and researcher in the tech industry, she previously worked at Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

Resources Mentioned

Ximena Vengoechea Interview Transcript

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

Ximena Vengoechea
Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom about listening but, first, I want to hear how your experience in user experience research helped you understand and think about this whole world.

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. So, user research is a field and technology that I think not everyone is familiar with. I think of it as one of the more people-centric roles in tech, and my job as a user researcher is really to understand people and to get to know their needs and their motivations and perceptions, ultimately in order to help companies build better products.

And, for me, my specialty is in qualitative research, and so what that means is that the tools of the trade that I’m often using are conversations, workshops, interviews, and, crucially, listening. And so, a lot of the lessons that come from my experience in the UX lab, in the book, I’ve sort of translated them into everyday world, like circumstances and conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing and I imagine listening well can make or break the difference between getting that huge insight that makes the product fantastically better and just being blindly unaware that that is an issue for people. Go ahead.

Ximena Vengoechea
No, I was going to just agree with you. Yes, in the sense that when you are conducting a session and you’re trying to uncover a set of insights, if you are distracted by your own thoughts or if you believe too deeply in the product that you’re testing, and let that bias get in the way, then that’s definitely going to affect the outcome and what you’re able to learn in terms of that key set of insights that you’re trying to uncover.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you share with us a story, either from your own experience or someone you know who’s been working with your tools, where you saw such a transformation in terms of the listening got upgraded and, wow, what a cool result emerged from that?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yes. So, several years ago, I was conducting a study on meal planning, so I wanted to know, “How do people cook? How do they meal-plan? How do they budget for their meals?” And I remember that there was a really strong hypothesis on the team that certain features were sort of must-have features and others were less important. And, specifically at the time, there was a really strong interest in using things like voice activation in the kitchen, and it sort of made sense that you’re cooking and so you want to be able to tell Siri or Alexa or whomever, “Pull up that recipe. Tell me what to do next,” handsfree so that you can chop and do other things.

And, at the same time, it also kind of felt like a very “tech” kind of feature, like a very Silicon Valley desire. And so, one of the things that I did was I scheduled these sessions and we went out to Chicago, which felt a little more representative than the Bay Area of maybe the broader population, and we did cook-a-longs. So, I interviewed people but I also observed them in their kitchen. And we often think of listening as just using your ears but this was a great example of using your ears and your eyes, where you’re observing what someone is doing.

You have all of these questions in the moment that you want to ask them, but you have to really kind of catch yourself and learn to harness some patience because, if I were to interrupt a participant every time they moved from working on their phone to a cookbook or the back of the pasta box, if I had a question around, like, “Oh, do you normally do that?” that would totally change, it would completely alter the course of their actions. And, at worse, someone might begin to perform for me and think, “Oh, she wants me to cook in a certain way,” or, “She wants me to use my iPad but not my recipe cards,” which was certainly not the case.

So, in that study, that was an example of being able to go and immerse myself in an environment, crucially picked people who weren’t necessarily like me or my group of colleagues, and bring in both the aspect of listening, which is about asking questions and creating space for others, but also that observation piece and being patient and not letting that instinct, that I think many of us have in conversation, to say the first thing that pops into our head or ask that question right away, but instead just to take a beat instead and see what we can learn that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then so, in doing that, I’m curious, did you learn what you were seeking to learn? What was the takeaway, the insight, the aha? Are people into the voice-activated business or not as much?

Ximena Vengoechea
At the time, it turned out to not be a crucial feature and it was something that we didn’t pursue. I think the sort of less sexy but really basic features became much more important, like being able to filter and say, “I’m a vegetarian so don’t show me recipes that have meat in them,” for instance, or, “I’m lactose intolerant. I want to only see recipes that don’t have dairy.” Those kinds of basic but really important functionality end up trumping the sort of bells and whistles of anything like voice activation.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, having spent so much of your career doing listening and you’ve put some of your wisdom in the book of yours, Listen Like You Mean It, what are some of the most surprising and fascinating discoveries you’ve made along the way about how we listen and form connections here?

Ximena Vengoechea
Well, I think one of the biggest takeaways and maybe the most counterintuitive thing that I’ve learned about listening is that we have this idea, when we think about listening, that we’re there for the other person and that it’s all about the other person. And that’s true, we are there to learn about someone else. But we also, critically, are bringing in so much of ourselves into conversations. And in order to really be an effective listener, you have to build some self-awareness about exactly what you’re bringing in.

So, those thoughts that you’re bringing into conversations, the emotions you’re bringing into a conversation, your personal experience, your personal history either with that person or a topic, all of those things are part of what make us unique but they’re also part of what can prevent us from fully engaging and listening to another person. So, it’s an interesting dynamic when you want to be there for someone else, but you really also need to be kind of tracking what’s going on for yourself in any given moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then let’s hear it, the big idea with the book Listen Like You Mean It. To what extent do you think folks are listening like they mean it? What’s the state of listening today?

Ximena Vengoechea
I would say we could probably all be doing a lot better. I think most of us are typically engaging in what I would call surface listening mode. So, we are catching enough of what the other person is saying in a given moment to nod and smile, be polite, to keep our relationships more or less intact, but we’re only catching the literal, the surface level of what’s being said, and we’re often missing the subtext, the meaning beneath what’s being said, and also the emotions behind what’s being said.

And I think that that, when you’re able to go all the way down to the level of emotions, that’s where the real human-to-human connection occurs, and that’s where I think we could all be playing…we could be going much deeper in our conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, so then could you maybe give us a demonstration here between what surface listening looks, sounds, feels like versus the deeper listening that creates the connections?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, surface listening, that is something where you’re catching a little bit but you’re also engaging in those thoughts that are running through your head. You might be thinking about your to-do list, or maybe you’re in a meeting and thinking, “Okay, I’ve already heard enough. I know what I need to do. I can tune out now or start on my list of action items,” or maybe we are kind of missing that the other person is upset or is having some strong emotional response where we’re just not tracking that.

Whereas, empathetic listening is when that thought comes up that we’re distracted or we’re creating that to-do list, it’s noticing that and it’s going, “Oh, okay. I’m getting distracted, let me come back to center.” Or, it’s noticing that we’re having an emotional response to something, and saying, “Oh, you know what? I’m feeling my throat start to tighten up a little bit, I’m feeling my chest start to pound a little bit. I’m having an emotional response. Let me see if I can center myself before returning to this conversation.” So, it’s about tracking those things and then returning to the present and being there for someone else.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, in practice, if we’ve got other thoughts going on or emotional reactions and such, how do we just stop and return? Do you write them down, your extraneous thoughts? Or, is there a mantra or a trick either with your mind or your body? How do we return?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, it’s a good question. I think it’s less about trying to forever stop those thoughts because I think even meditation experts would say, “It’s not like you have a completely blank mind. It’s just becoming aware of those thoughts and acknowledging them.” So, I recommend a trick that psychologists are using in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is labeling.

And so, that is actually saying in your head, “I am being distracted by this thought,” or, “I’m having this response,” so you’re labeling it. That helps you release it. Other things that can be helpful, one mantra that can be helpful is reminding yourself that if it’s really important, the thought is going to come back to you. Typically, that’s the case. We sometimes get nervous and want to cling to every thought that comes into our mind, but the really, really important ones tend to come back to us.

And then I also recommend focusing on the emotions of what’s being said. Sometimes we’re so caught up in trying to capture all the details, like there’s a tendency to want to write everything down in a conversation, or take copious notes, but you will remember if someone is upset or confused or stressed, and that’s the thing to hone in on. And so, if you can give yourself the benefit of the doubt of, “Okay, if I can get the emotion, the rest will follow,” that can also relieve some of the anxiety around, “I have to jot everything down right now.”

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, how do we go about getting to the emotion? Like, are there…? Because, in some ways, it just seems some people just intuitively just do this and others don’t. So, if you don’t, then how do you start?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. So, part of it is coming into conversation with what I call listening mindset, and that’s bringing in humility, curiosity, and empathy, and that’s different than how we normally show up in conversation, which is often we’re bringing in our own assumptions or opinions or ideas, and this is really about creating space for someone else. So, humility is taking the position of a student rather than an expert, and reminding yourself that there’s something that you can learn from the other person.

Curiosity is taking that a bit deeper by asking questions, asking in particular open-ended questions that allow the other person to lead the way. And then empathy is tapping into their emotional experience, not in the sense that you have to have shared a given experience. Maybe someone has just been laid off and you have not been laid off so you don’t know exactly what that feels like but you probably have some idea of what it feels like to grieve over something that you thought you had and no longer have, or to experience something like shame over that. And so, it’s tapping into those emotions as well. And all of these are really about shifting the focus away from yourself and towards another person.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s nifty. And I think sometimes it’s tempting and it may even really be the case that you know way more about something than the person that you’re listening to does. But I imagine you’ve got some suggestions when that’s the case. What do we do there?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, it’s a great point. Because I think when we do have a given level of expertise, those are the moments that are often the hardest to set that aside and really listen to the other person. So, in that case, I recommend asking yourself, “What else?” Like, “What else can I learn here? Even if I have expertise, what else might I learn? And, specifically, what can I learn about this other person?”

So, maybe there’s a topic that you’re a wiz at, maybe it’s like personal finance or something like that. Okay, so maybe you’re not going to learn much more from this person about that topic, but what does they’re talking about this topic tell you about them and how they relate to you, to this conversation, to that topic at large?

So, it’s looking for other threads, it’s looking for understanding someone else’s expertise, and that expertise may just be their lived experience. That’s what they’re an expert in, and you can learn something from that.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And then with curiosity, it’s funny, sometimes I’ve got tons of curiosity and sometimes I just don’t care if I’m just going to be really blunt and honest about it. So, I’d like to be curious. I feel like that’s the person I aspire to be. So, if curiosity isn’t naturally bubbling up, what do you recommend?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. So, I think this is somewhat common. I think we all have topics that we’re not naturally interested in, and that’s okay. And I think, in this case, you’re looking for what’s the overlap maybe between the other person’s interest and your interest. So, to give a tangible example, in the book I talk about sports as not being my personal thing. It’s something that I struggle to and pay attention to and really focus. And if my husband is talking about sports, I have a couple of options. I could totally tune out, and say, “Hey, I’m not the sports type so we’re not going to talk about that.” That’s probably not going to go over super well. Or, I can try and find something that I’m interested in that overlaps with what he’s interested in.

And, in my case, something that I know about myself is I’m interested in people and I’m interested in their stories. So, if I can get the conversation away from the scoreboard to, “Tell me about the coaches. Tell me about the team dynamics. Tell me about their rituals,” that’s interesting to me and it’s interesting to him. So, you’re looking for that sort of overlap between two interests, and that’s where you can start to tug and have a pretty interesting conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that’s clever and what’s funny is that is I’m thinking about the Olympics. That’s exactly what they always do. So, we got this sport, and then we go to zoom in on the Olympian’s life and their childhood and their history and their dedication and their story and their difficulty. And I think they do it because it works, in terms of, “Okay, we’re trying to maximize the viewership. We’re going to need to do more than just fancy triple axel spins on the ice-skating rink or running really fast on the track. We’re going to have to go there to rope in all the more folks.”

Ximena Vengoechea
People like me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s a really lovely example. Let’s go with, I’m just going to put you on the spot here with another one. Boy, I get a little bit glazed over when we talk about like compliance-accounting things. It’s funny. Except, as I recall some conversations with my accountant, except when we’re discovering opportunities to save on taxes, I was like, “What, I can do that? Oh, wow, that’s amazing.” Like, I get really jazzed. So, I guess there’s one example there but I’ll ask you to do the same. And maybe you’re into that, I don’t know. But how might you curiously maneuver into a fun place there?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. Well, I think one thing I’ll caveat is that you’re not always going to maneuver into a fun place but you will maneuver somewhere. So, in the case of something like accounting and compliance, those topics that kind of leave you with eyes glazed over, if there’s not an obvious thread, if there’s not an obvious overlap that you can kind of pull at, and this is a conversation that you kind of need to have and you need to be present for, like it’s important, another thing that you can do is to look for the underlying need. So, what does the other person need from this conversation, need particularly from you in this conversation? And, in some cases, it’s going to be really obvious, in some cases it’s not going to be obvious, but you’re looking for, “What is the need and how can I meet it?”

So, maybe the conversation about compliance is super boring but there’s a need there for you to approve something or for you to sign off on something. The sooner you can uncover that need, the sooner you can meet it, the sooner you can have a different kind of conversation, or talk to someone else. And so, sometimes when you are looking for that common ground, it is about extending the conversation, sometimes it is about being more efficient with the conversation and just tuning in more quickly to, “What is the other person trying to get out of this conversation with me?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, as we’re listening for emotions, are there particular signs, indicators, that you’re on the lookout for in terms of vocal intonation or facial expressions? Like, I’m thinking about we had former FBI agent Joe Navarro who wrote “What Every Body Is Saying.” That was fun. So, I guess I’m curious, are there particular signals that grab your attention or you proactively look out for?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, definitely. I think the biggest thing that I look for is a change over the course of the conversation. So, if someone starts out speaking in measured tones or a deliberate even pace and then suddenly speeds up, or their pitch changes in some way, that’s something that I would want to pay attention to and try and figure out, if the topic is changed, or if they no longer feel safe in the conversation, or suddenly do.

So, we’re looking for or listening for a shift. Certainly, body language is part of that. So, I’m familiar with Joe Navarro’s work, and he talks about where your feet are pointing. So, someone can be looking at you eye to eye but their feet are pointing towards the door, and that’s a tell that maybe they’re ready to leave the conversation and just haven’t been able to articulate it.

He also talks about collar bone, like neck touching as a self-soothing mechanism. If you’ve ever seen somebody play with their collar, that kind of thing. So, you’re tracking voice and tone and body language, and also, obviously, what they’re saying as well. And I think it can be hard to do if someone is not explicit, if someone doesn’t explicitly say, “I’m really upset about X.” Sometimes it’s obvious that they are upset and we just need to ask about it.

Other times, we have to kind of feel around and they’re also feeling around in conversation, and so you’re listening for things like, literally, “I feel like…” when we place the word “I feel…” or if someone says, “I’m swamped with…” Okay. Well, that’s interesting. They’re underwater. They feel overwhelmed and under water. Do they feel under pressure and under water?

So, you’re listening for certain cues, signals in terms of what they’re saying as well that you can, again, get curious about, so that it’s less, “Oh, I’m swamped,” and you’re like, “Yeah, me too.” But, “Oh, you’re swamped. Oh, what’s that like? So, what’s happening? What’s on your plate? And how do you feel about that? How do you feel about having such a busy schedule?” That’s going to have a different outcome in terms of a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, let’s say, so you pick on some emotions, and I guess maybe talking about the connecting side of things, what’s the best way to work with that? I guess I’m just imagining, like you could say, “It sounds like you’re really upset.” Sometimes that’s the right thing to say and sometimes it’s not. But how do you think about that?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yes, that’s a good question in the sense that we’re not mind readers so we don’t always know what the other person wants, but this is where I think there’s two things that can be really helpful here. One is knowing what your default listening mode is, so how you usually how you tend to hear things in conversation. Maybe you’re someone who tends to hear things at an emotional level; or someone who is more of a problem-solver, they tend to hear things through the lens of a problem to be solved; or a mediator, someone who tends to hear things through the lens of, “Well, what does this person think? What did that person think? How can we make sure that everybody’s point of view is present here?”

And all of these modes are good and useful but need to be matched to the current moment and situation, and that’s the need. That’s going back to, “What is this person’s need?” So, if you don’t know what the need is and you don’t know your default mode, then it’s going to be very hard. You are going to be taking a guess when you say, “Hey, it sounds like you’re upset.” You’re kind of going out on a limb there to see if that’s what they need.

But if you’re able to identify your default listening mode, then you have a little bit of a gut check. So, you can check with yourself, “Okay, my instinct is to offer advice here. Is that what’s really needed? What does this person need?” Sometimes it will be obvious to you because you have a personal history with them, and you know, “Oh, this, for instance, colleague always talks around their requests. They don’t say point-blank, ‘I need another resource for this.’ They kind of give you the long and winding road.”

Sometimes you won’t have that context, so here’s where asking clarifying questions is a great path forward and so you can ask things like, you can say, “My instinct is to offer advice. Would that be useful here?” Or, “I actually have a similar experience. Would you like to hear how I’ve navigated this in the past?” Or, and I think this is the most general clarifying question but really useful one, is, “Would you like me to listen or respond?” Because sometimes there is nothing for us to do, and I think that’s very hard for us to internalize. But the only thing to “do” is to bear witness to someone else especially when it’s emotional.

And so, if they’re sharing something and we’re not sure, we can be there with them and give them that space, and maybe reflect back what they’re saying because it’s affirming, or maybe just check in with them on what would be useful in that moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is a beautiful question because it’s like because you can respond any number of ways and that maybe you hadn’t even anticipated. Because I imagine, in my imaginary conversation I’m having, which you’ve said this to me, I can imagine saying all kinds of things, like, “What I need from you right now is to tell me I’m doing a great job.” It’s like, “Well, okay, that would not have occurred to me but, yeah, I’ve got tons of things to say about that, and so glad you asked. And here we go.” Or, it might be, “You know what would be awesome is if you could somehow just make hours appear in my life because things are insane.” It’s like, “Oh. Well, sure. Well, hey, how about you don’t bother with these three meetings that we got scheduled.” It’s like, “Oh, cool.”

And so, it feels actually kind of rare that someone would just ask that question and, an effect, is really giving a gift. That’s like, “Oh, all right. I am at your service.” And somehow it feels a little bit more specific and real and meaningful than, “Let me know I could be helpful to you,” which feels like that happens a lot in conversations of like a network-y format. And it’s funny because I never quite really know what I should ask for because it’s like, “Well, if you want to like, you know, promote the crap out of the podcast, that’d be great.” Whereas, when it’s seated in a conversation, you say it like that, it goes, “Okay. Well, yeah, here is really what I need from you.”

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, and I think those other questions that you’re mentioning are hard to respond to. They’re so broad. They’re so vague. I like the question of, “Would you like me to listen or respond?” also because it gives you two options. It gives someone something tangible to respond to. And, usually, the response, the actual need, is what they’ve been trying to say maybe implicitly.

Maybe they haven’t been able to explicitly say, “Hey, what I really need from you right now is to feel supported, and here’s how you can do that.” Or, maybe they thought they were saying that. Like, most of us aren’t very practiced at being explicit in expressing our needs. And so, offering this question is a really gentle way of saying, “I am here for you and you can guide me in a way that would be most helpful to you in this moment.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, so that was a lovely question there. Can you share with us any other favorite phrases, questions, that you just love and are very versatile and useful in many conversations or maybe some phrases, words, questions that you don’t love and we’d probably be better off losing them or using them much less frequently?

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, so I would say this is where the type of questions you ask really can make a big difference in conversations. So, we’re often not really paying attention to the questions we ask and they can be leading or biased in some way, and those questions, they don’t take the conversation anywhere. They end in one response or, yes or no responses, they tend to be close-ended in nature.

And so, that’s questions that start with do, is, or are. For example, “Are you nervous about tomorrow’s presentation?” “Are you nervous about this meeting?” That suggests that the person might have reason to be nervous, which maybe they should be, or maybe that’s your own, your nervousness being projected onto someone else. You’re going to get a very different response than if you start out with something more open-ended, like a how or a what question, “How do you feel about tomorrow’s presentation?” Okay, now the person can say, “I’m super excited about it. Like, I’m stoked and I’m ready to go,” which is a totally different response than we were leading them earlier. So, I think shifting from close-ended to open-ended questions is key.

And then the other thing I would say is to avoid having too open of a conversation, where the conversation is just like so broad and sprawling. You also do want to have handy follow-ups in your pocket. And so, those follow-ups if there’s a thread that’s particularly interesting or promising, you can say something like, “Oh, say more about that,” or, “What else?” or, “Tell me more,” or one that I really like is just to say, “Oh, and that’s because…” So, whatever it is they said earlier, I ask, “Oh, because?” and then the person will naturally fill it in. So, you have both the open-ended questions and then these gentle nudges that keep the conversation going.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what’s lovely about that, “Oh, and that’s because…” is that it, well, it’s much less defensiveness-provoking than “Why? But why?” It’s like, “Explain yourself,” like an interrogation. Whereas, “Oh, and that’s because…” is effectively a why without the threat. So, that’s cool.

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, and that’s why I don’t recommend asking why very often. Of course, we all want to know why but it does sound defensive to our ears. And so, you can ask the question of why in a different way using, “That’s because…” or even, “How do you feel about that?” or, “What do you make of that?” Again, those how and what to start to get the why without kind of grating on the other person’s ears.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. And then, I’m curious, when it comes to the third part of your book is about resting and recharging. Well, hey, I’m all about resting and recharging, but didn’t expect to see that in a book about listening. So, what’s the importance of this and how do we do it well?

Ximena Vengoechea
Well, I felt this was really important to include in the book because when you are practicing this type of listening where you are getting down to this emotional level and just really past the surface, it does take work and it is a natural side effect of this kind of listening to feel a little bit drained. It’s almost a sign of good listening at play. It’s like when you go out and you have a good workout, you’re excited but you’re also a little bit tired afterwards.

And so, we want to be able to take care of ourselves so that we don’t push ourselves too far because I think a real risk, if we’re not careful with this kind of listening, is that we start to create space for someone else in a conversation and we never take up space ourselves. So, become a sort of vessel for receiving everybody else’s feelings without having that same care and support returned to us, which really just means that the conversation has moved from a dialogue probably to a monologue where we’re on the receiving end of it, so we don’t want to go that far.

So, ways that you can take care of yourself in the process are thinking about things like what’s your magic number in terms of the amount of these kinds of conversations you can have a day, and how do they need to be distributed throughout your day. So, really concretely, when I was managing a team, I remember in the very beginning, I would try and stack my one-on-ones, like, “Okay, I’ll do all my one-on-ones on Tuesdays. We’ll just do them back-to-back and we’ll bang them out,” and I was exhausted by the end of it, and I also, frankly, wasn’t doing a great job of listening because I would be context-switching from one person’s challenges to the next without having taking a beat to pause and breathe.

And so, in my case, I learned, “Yeah, you probably shouldn’t have five back-to-back one-on-ones in a day. You should maybe try and spread those out over the course of a week or to a couple on one day and a couple on another day.” So, it’s about figuring out what is your magic number, how many of these kinds of conversations can you have effectively where you’re still listening and not exhausted, what kind of breaks can you have in between.

And I talk to a lot of people who say, “Well, I’m not in control of my calendar. Like, I am at the mercy of my calendar. So, what do I do then?” And to that, I say you can always take a 90-second breather in between meetings. Just you’re taking a little bit of a palette cleanser to reset, to say, “Okay, this person just gave me this. I’m going to put it aside, and now I’m going to be present for the next conversation.” So, even if it’s a microbreak, that becomes really, really important for helping you keep things running along.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m curious, in a 90-second, a microbreak, what are some great things to do that make a world of rejuvenation difference in just a few seconds?

I’ll do some sharing right now. I’m taking a look at my silent mini-refrigerator in my office, which is pretty wild. It emits no noise, which I like for recording. And I have a bin of water, a little Tupperware bit of water, that’s cold, and I will shove my face in it. That’s weird but there’s cool science behind it – the mammalian dive reflex. And when you stick your face in cold water, you’d wake up in a hurry. So, that’s one of my quick rejuvenation rituals. I’d love to hear what you and others do that makes for some great recharging for more listening in a short amount of time.

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. So, I think it could be something like that. It could be maybe a more toned-down version, like just splashing water on your face, like room temperature water on your face can also maybe give you a version of that. But, yeah, another thing that you can do is to take those 90 seconds and write down every thought that comes into your mind, just like brain dump it out because sometimes that’s what we’re holding onto in between sessions. So, you can just write it and release it that way.

Sometimes just our closing your eyes, like literally just closing your eyes. Set a timer if you want, think about whatever you want, that can do it too. Don’t use that 90-second microbreak for doom-scrolling, for news-reading, or social media. It’s not going to have the same effect. It’s probably just going to cloud things even further. And then I also think there are certain mantras that you can repeat, especially if you are in a profession or in a role where you’re going to be carrying something, kind of on someone else’s behalf, where you can say, “Okay, this isn’t mine to keep. This doesn’t belong to me. I can safely let this go.” That’s especially useful, let’s say, if you’re in a caregiving role or industry, something where you’re really taking on someone else’s emotions.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
I think the last thing that I’ll mention, and I hope this is is clear from this conversation, but I think we often think about speaking, presentation skills, effectively negotiating, influencing, those are things that can be learned and we think of listening as something that people are innately good at or not, and so we might write it off a little bit if we’re not one of those people who is just magically good at it, but it really can be learned. It’s a skill just like any other. And that’s, ultimately, what the book is trying to do, is to really explicitly lay out what are some of those techniques so that you can begin to take them up and practice them in your everyday.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
Yes, so a quote that I love is “Never judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his shoes.” And that’s from a book called Walk Two Moons. And it’s really about empathy. It’s about not judging someone, and understanding that people have rich lives beyond what we know, and making space for that to be the case, which I find helpful in general, but especially when you’re…the day someone cuts you off while you’re driving, or if someone is slightly rude to you in a meeting, it’s like, “Okay, something else is going on. It’s probably not about me.”

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

Ximena Vengoechea
I find myself often returning to Sherry Turkle’s work. So, she is the author of Reclaiming Conversation and several other books. She looks at the intersection of society and technology, and she’s done a lot of research on how devices are changing our conversations in person, things like how even having a cellphone on the table, even if it’s face down, decreases our ability to empathize with the other person in conversation. So, I find her work to be very interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Ximena Vengoechea
A favorite book, I mean, I do return to Reclaiming Conversation quite a bit so it’s certainly top of mind. And another book that I just finished, which is a totally different topic, is called Big Friendship, and it looks at maybe underrated relationship in our lives that doesn’t get much attention, but it talks about relationships, specifically in the context of friendship and how we treat those versus other relationships in our lives.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
I really love analog tools, so my favorite being Post-Its and Sharpies. I find that I’m far less precious with my thoughts and that I don’t get overly attached to ideas. If I start something where I’m just in a deck and I’m immediately trying to work on a presentation that way, things look better than they are if you just write them on a sticky note. You kind of know that that’s the rough draft and I find it easier to rework ideas that way.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you say precious, it means you’re more attached to it the more it’s all digitally dressed up and beautified. It feels like, “This is something that I cannot throw away or dramatically rework because of attractiveness.”

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah. And I think you also tend to rework in minor ways, so you’d be like, “Oh, something is off with the sentence. Let me move the comma or fiddle with this thing.” And it’s like, “Well, something might be off with the idea.” So, Post-Its allow you to work at the level of the idea and then, once you’ve gotten beyond that, then, sure, go and refine and prettify your deck and do all that stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. And I also find that when I’m in the constraint of a slide, it’s sort of like, “Well, this is the point I’m making, and this is the cool chart that I have, so I only have this box to do the thing.” It’s like, “Well, maybe it doesn’t need to be confined in that box in the first place.” And so, the format kind of pre-ordained or influenced the content prematurely. Well, I’m going to chew on that. Thank you.

Ximena Vengoechea
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ximena Vengoechea
A favorite habit, taking breaks in terms of taking walks. Like, if I’m stuck on a challenging topic or can’t break through, I have learned to step away from the screen and just take a walk. I think our brains will often noodle things, on things, on our behalf when we’re not paying attention.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
I think the default listening modes really resonates with people because they can easily identify a mode, and whenever you have a type, you feel like, “Okay, I get this now.” And then the other one, I would say, is the role of silence in conversations is something that’s come up a lot where I talk about waiting 10 seconds, waiting a little bit longer than is comfortable in order to give the other person space. And that seems to be resonating with people because it’s hard and it goes counter to what we usually think about silence in conversations.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
Best place to get in touch is on my website, so that’s XimenaVengoechea.com, and that’s kind of the hub for all of the offshoots, social media, and newsletter, book, all that good stuff.

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

Ximena Vengoechea
Yeah, I would say do your best to uncover what that hidden need is in conversation, especially in professional settings. The person’s job, function, whether they’re in marketing or sales or design, is a really good starting clue to uncovering that need.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Ximena, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you many great conversations.

Ximena Vengoechea
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

678: How to Win Trust and Connect Masterfully with Riaz Meghji

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Riaz Meghji says: "There's two teachers in the room in any conversation."

Riaz Meghji reveals the key behaviors that lead to more meaningful connections.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The one trick to becoming a better listener 
  2. Where to draw the line between vulnerability and oversharing 
  3. How to be assertively empathetic 

About Riaz

Riaz Meghji is a Human Connection Expert. He has 17 years of broadcast television experience, and, during his time as host on Citytv’s Breakfast Television, MTV Canada, TEDxVancouver, CTV News, and the Toronto International Film Festival, has interviewed thousands of experts about human connection and collaboration, undertaking critical training that helped shape the tangible takeaways he shares in his new book, Every Conversation Counts 

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

  • TheZebra. Quickly save on home and auto insurance at TheZebra.com/awesome
  • Care.comFind the perfect caregiver for your child, parents, and home.

Riaz Meghji Interview Transcript

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

Riaz Meghji
Pete, it is good to be with you, man. Thanks for having me on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to talk. And I also want to hear, you’ve got a story, you’ve got some Canadian TV background, and another Canadian star, Eugene Levy. I understand there’s a story involving you, him, and eyebrows. Tell us about it.

Riaz Meghji
I love it. This is what happens when you fill out the questionnaire beforehand, “Tell me some tidbits of where we can go.” Eugene Levy, a national treasure here in Canada, and he was filming a cameo role on a sitcom called Package Deal which was being filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I am right now, and we had a chance to go on set with Eugene, and, obviously, a legend in the comedy game. He’s honed his craft, you could tell the entire cast and crew respected him, we had 20 minutes to do an interview, and he was so generous, so gracious about how he’s achieved success, how his family succeeds. A lot of people know about Dan Levy in Schitt’s Creek.

And then, towards the end of the interview, he just took a moment to pause and say, “Hey, thank you very much for bringing the energy, the enthusiasm to the interview, but if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, if you want to succeed in this business, and if you want to play the long game, there’s one thing you need to know.” Obviously, when Eugene drops that, I just leaned in, I’m like, “What is it?” He’s like, “Make sure you insure your eyebrows.” I’m like, “What?”

I know we’re on the podcast right now but, hey, game recognizes game. He’s got those thick caterpillars, these south Asian roots are giving me those thick caterpillars too, and I said, “Eugene, awesome, man. I don’t know if they do that, but that is an amazing trademark to make it in the entertainment business. Game on.”

Pete Mockaitis
Insure the eyebrows, yeah. It’s hard enough to get an insurance company to do anything outside of their cookie-cutter legal boilerplate. That’d probably take some doing to pull that off.

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, they would put a new box to check, “Diva, yup. Correct. That’s Riaz. He wants his eyebrows insured. Let’s just focus on the mortgage and the home.”

Pete Mockaitis
There’s an extra premium for the diva. It’s like a young driver, they’ll slap you with that. So, we’re talking about you got a book here, Every Conversation Counts: The 5 Habits of Human Connection that Build Extraordinary Relationships. I’d love to hear you’ve done a lot of conversing and connecting in your years. What would you say is one of the most surprising lessons you’ve picked up along the way?

Riaz Meghji
That there’s two teachers in the room in any conversation. Two teachers in the room, and this was a great lesson that was presented to me by a very popular host in Canada. His name is Ron MacLean, a magnificent storyteller, and he has this gift of anybody he interviews, his primary gig is Hockey Night in Canada, but he is such a masterful interviewer with athletes, not just seeing what’s in front of us, but seeing what the story is behind the lens. And he really talked about the idea that the interviewers out there that can do their research and come in with the greatest intention, get asked their job to just stay as curious as long as possible.

But how somebody really listens, how an interviewer really listens to draw out the story that isn’t being told is the opportunity to be a teacher, because the person answering the questions, they’ve got the ideas, they’ve got the stories they’re going to share, but the art of listening and being the interviewer, you can be a powerful teacher to just be a mirror and create a heightened level of awareness that that subject might not even know about.

And when he said that to me, that there’s two teachers in the room, it always reminded me, whether you’re asking the question or answering the question, there’s a chance to learn from each other in just very profound ways.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Certainly. And listening is huge and I think a lot of my guests have commented, “It’s nice that you don’t just sort of move through a pre-set list of questions.” I mean, where’s the fun in that? In terms of the live back and forth is where a lot of the magic and fun is, so amen to that.

Riaz Meghji
You know, it’s so true. And I can say this, early on in my career, I’ve been doing television for almost 20 years now. Earlier on, I would do that exact same thing, Pete. I’d do all of the research, come up with a list of questions that I thought were brilliant, and then I would check the box of, “Was this a successful interview?” And the gauge on that would be, “Did I ask all of the questions I brought in to the conversation?” And then, slowly, I was realizing the moment was being missed to unlock something from that subject that you can’t Google. And one of the simple things I would do in the green room with any guest, no matter how much research I would do, which would give me confidence, I would slowly begin to over-prepare to improvise.

And the way I would do it is in that green room. I would greet the guests, we’d go past the formalities, but I’d simply start that by asking, “Hey, so what’s on your mind?” And the first thing that came out of their mouth would allow me to understand what the priority is for them. So, no matter how much research I did, I would park it, prioritize their priorities, and then lean in and listen and be ready to improvise. And I found that’s where some magical moments would really happen with the people in front of us.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool because, I’d imagine, if that’s their priority, and you give some love and attention up front, they’d think, “I like this Riaz guy. I can open up. I can trust. I can share a little bit more. I can not be as guarded,” and good things can flow there.

Riaz Meghji
Yeah. And that approach allowed me to really understand that there are three questions that stood out when you’re trying to unlock somebody and get them to open up and just truly share who they are. That the three questions we all ask ourselves, especially the first time we’re meeting somebody are, “Do you care about me? Are you listening to me? And can I trust you?” And simply recognizing the value of those three questions really allowed some beautiful moments to be shared not only in the green room but that trust to convey something really powerful when it was on live TV which can be nerve-racking for anybody involved.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, those are some great questions right there. And, I’m curious, I guess you’ll get the answers you want if you actually do care, you actually are listening, and you actually are trustworthy, so I don’t know if there’s any tricks or hacks that can be implemented there but, nonetheless, I’m going to ask you. How do you make it so that the person you’re talking to picks up the good stuff, assuming that you do have a good heart and intentions, and you really do care, and you really are listening, and you really are trustworthy? How can you make that all the more apparent?

Riaz Meghji
I think it’s saying less and listening more and following their lead. And what I found is, over the years, a lot of the times when you look at any conversation or any interview, the person who controls the conversation is the one asking the questions. And sometimes that initial question that you ask, I would get caught up in the trap early on, Pete, where I would come in with, like I said, all of this information, and I would overcomplicate things, and I would unleash this overcomplicated set of I have like multiple questions in that first question where somebody is saying, “Okay. Well, hey, that’s great, all this research. I don’t even know how to answer this because you asked me like 10 questions in one.”

So, I think really getting to the point and simplifying things off the top, and then how you make it apparent to that person that you’re dialed in, is the value of the follow up, and those expansive questions that are starting with the what or how that have a high emotional component as well. Because I find a lot of the questions that happen, and maybe it’s because people are overwhelmed with, one, information; two, with stress; three, with the awkwardness, especially coming out of this pandemic of “How do we connect? This has got to be perfect,” is forgetting about the facts and putting the facts in the background and focusing on the emotional connection you can have with somebody.

And I find that’s, that feeling, someone could have where you’re asking a question that really taps into a feeling they’re experiencing, that’s where that magic happens where they begin to really appreciate that you want to be where they’re at, and you’re exploring that important space for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so let’s dig into some of the particulars then. So, you’ve said in your subtitle “The 5 Habits of Human Connection.” So, what are those five and how do we do them well?

Riaz Meghji
Yeah. Well, we kind of touched on the first one being listening, but the habit I really wanted to articulate is listening without distraction. And this culture that we’re in right now is one culture of convenience with technology. We’re flipping the camera and we’re flipping a microphone on, we’re having our meetings, and everything is moving so fast with this convenience, so it is easy. Looking at the science of our brains and how we connect, in many ways, I feel like we’re all just too smart for our own good simply because our brains can absorb 400-500 words per minute. Yet, the average person is speaking in a rate of 125 words per minute.

So, that means, with that extra capacity we have when we’re listening, we can easily get caught up in technology, in multitasking, in daydreaming, the emotional distraction of shutting down if we disagree with somebody. So, I think the first thing, if we’re going to listen without distraction, is listen to ourselves on a daily basis. And if you’re listening to this right now, auditing ourselves to say, “What are the distractions, on a daily basis, in your everyday communication that are pulling away the focus and gift of undivided attention you could give somebody?”

And not trying to remove those all at once because that can be completely overwhelming, but just becoming aware of what they are and then slowly starting to pick those off one by one, and that will allow us to be so much more present not only with our listening ear but, more importantly, with our curiosity to dive deeper with what somebody might be sharing with us, especially if it’s something quite vulnerable or real.

Pete Mockaitis
And that notion about being too smart for our own good and the word count differential, I’m intrigued with the awareness of distractions. Can you give us some big categories because I think it’s pretty obvious? Like, okay, the phone. You can look at your smartphone, you hear the dings and the buzzes, and you’re just, “Who was that? What was that? What’s going on just right there?” So, that’s one, and I think that’s kind of obvious. But what are some of the other ways that we fill that word count gap in between our ears that’s distracting and unhelpful?

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, if we’re feeling uneasy, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in our agendas. If we’re rehearsing our elevator pitch, or think about the interview process, you’re thinking about, “Okay, did I get to this question? Did I get to this question?” we’re missing out on what that person is giving us. So, it really comes down to, “How do we just let go of our agenda?” Let go of that pitch that you had and ask more and try to unlock something with someone.

It’s easy with our own biases to have assumptions unconsciously get in the way of thinking, “This is the way it’s going to go. This is the way it’s always been,” and missing out on an opportunity to have a breakthrough with somebody. And that really ties into the idea of judgment as well and our negativity bias. So, checking our bias, our judgment, our assumption, and even our agendas, on that emotional level, I think that’s one of the biggest, Pete.

I think the first thing people will say, “Oh, it’s technology. It’s our screens getting in the way.” But I also think it’s us. And with all of the mental game that could go on trying to achieve an outcome, we might lose sight on the opportunity of enter every conversation of how we’re going to build this pure and meaningful relationship as opposed to go through all of these mechanical or just methodical ways to achieve your objective, so to speak.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really good with the agenda there in terms of when you’re focused on that, you’re necessarily not focused on what is being said in the moment. And, it’s funny, I think maybe we have a suspicion perhaps that if we don’t give mental energy to remembering the agenda, it will be forgotten and catastrophe will befall us. But, in practice, I find that once there’s a pause, it’s just like, “Oh. And, oh, now this thing.” It doesn’t go away if you stop thinking about it. It’s still ready for you and you could just write it down.

Riaz Meghji
When all else goes, write it down. And you know what, that’s actually a very good point because one of the most important things that I’ve learned that has really helped, I mean, you asked an important point of, “How do you make this apparent in the conversation itself that you care, and that I am listening to you and I trust you?” Those things you write down, especially those uncommon commonalities that might pop up with unique passions, whether it’s maybe something in your career, something in your health, something in your relationships, but something that’s so specific.

If you’re able to write that down, and let’s be real, we’re not going to be able to remember every single detail, but if we write it down and we follow up with somebody a week, a month, maybe even a year down the line, instead of me emailing you and saying, “Hey, Pete, hope you’re well.” But if we can replace “Hope you’re well” with “Hey, Pete,” and then insert a moment we shared, immediately someone is going to say, “Wow! I can’t believe Pete remembered that,” and it’s going to start opening up that idea of, “Yeah, they listened. Yeah, they care. Yeah, I could trust him because he valued what I said.” And that takes effort on our part when we’re listening and also being real with documenting these moments, too, because, realistically, we can only remember so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. All right, so we have the habit of listening without distraction. And the second habit is to make your small talk bigger. How do you recommend we do that?

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, man. A lot of people dread the idea of small talk. I bet you, you just use those two words, small talk, people will think, “I don’t want to go there. I’m just going to dodge it. I’m going to avoid it altogether.” And looking at the exercise of small talk over the years, I’ve just come to realize that small talk is such a defense mechanism because what it really does is it prevents us from the embarrassment of getting emotional in front of someone we don’t know. Or, maybe hitting a nerve with somebody else and we’re not ready to process their emotion and be a witness to what they’re experiencing.

And I think with small talk, if we’re going to make it bigger, especially right now, the big change I feel we’ve all seen in the past year is that, in many ways, we’ve all been in the constant state of grief whether we realize it or not, and it’s grief over the loss of the way we used to live our lives. Like, those conversations of convenience at the watercooler, or dropping into somebody’s office, or maybe hanging out on the sidelines at a sports game with parents as you watched your kids. Those are gone. Temporarily, those are gone. But the conversation that’s top of mind for everybody right now is the psychological struggle of how they’ve waded through and kind of survived through this pandemic.

So, if we’re going to make our small talk bigger, here’s a real opportunity, and maybe this was a silver lining of this uncertainty being our universal commonality with the pandemic, is just, yes, less facts, more emotion. And if you have no context of the person in front of you, like as interviewers, we could say, “Hey, yeah, okay. We had time to research the subject. We have some ideas. It’s going to make this small talk go deeper a lot easier.” But if you have no context of that person in front of you, being a proud Canadian, I call this the happiness hat trick, and this is courtesy of the late great psychiatrist Gordon Livingston, who did terrific work on the happiness equation for people.

And he found the happiest people have something to do, they have someone to love, and they have something to look forward to. And if you have no context of the person in front of you, start there because all of those have a high emotional component of what matters most to the person in front of you, and that will start to unlock that sense of feeling of where somebody is at, and then, yeah, let them lead with that and be that teacher that ask those questions to help unlock where they’re at and where they want to go. And that conversation, that relationship, will deepen in a really meaningful way.

Pete Mockaitis
And that notion of the small talk being a defense mechanism, I think that really rings true though I haven’t quite thought of it that way. If someone says, I just walk in a place and say, “How are you doing?” I don’t think…well, it’s true. I don’t want to say, “Well, I feel really weird and restless because we moved and they have no idea what’s going on with the truck and all my stuff, and I’m just like, ‘Is it lost forever? Should I buy all new stuff?’ It’s very unsettling.”

So, on top of not knowing very many people, and so, I don’t know, I’m sad, I’m anxious, I am unsettled. It’s sort of like, “That’s how I’m really doing,” but I’m not going to say that. It’s just like, “How is it going?” when you walk into a Starbucks. And so, effectively, that is a defense mechanism. It’s like I guess just a nicer way of saying, “None of your business.”

Riaz Meghji
It’s so true. Yeah, our answer when somebody says, “How are you?” and you’re like, “Good. Thanks.” Translation, “It’s none of your business.” But if we could switch that question, because it is second nature, it’s just a greeting, it’s autopilot mode. That’s what that question is. But if we switch it with one word, it could provide permission and that opportunity to let that person know, “Pete, I really want to know how you’re doing.”

And it’s, “Hey, how are you really? Like, how are you really doing?” And that one word allows that person to know, “Oh, this person is really checking in. This isn’t just superficial BS of, ‘How are you? Yeah, let’s go through it. Now I’m going to order what I want from Starbucks.’” But there’s an intention of how we ask the question that can really break that autopilot mode so someone could say, “Oh, this is an authentic opportunity here.”

And by you sharing that and somebody being in that space, at any point on any given day, something powerful could happen, and that could change your life, that could change the listener’s life, and that’s up to us on how we engage with our small talk.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And it’s true in terms of what gets opened up and then where that goes. I was chatting with my barber and he started talking about how the Wim Hof breathing approach has transformed his life, and how he met Wim and did some stuff. All this stuff is like, “Well, okay.” He just mentioned that he’s winding down being a barber, it’s like, “Oh, what are you up to?” and he just got going. It was like, “Well, this is fascinating. I’m going to go. I’ve heard of this guy. I’m going to get the app. Whatever. And so, yeah, and we’ll see how transformational it is.”

Riaz Meghji
You said Wim Hof? Was that it?

Pete Mockaitis
Wim Hof, yeah.

Riaz Meghji
I’ve never heard of that. What am I missing?

Pete Mockaitis
He might be on the show. He’s famous for climbing Mt. Everest in his shorts and setting some world records for ice exposure, and there’s some cool science behind some of his breathing and stuff. So, yeah. Anyway, I learned about that in chatting with my barber.

Riaz Meghji
Well done.

Pete Mockaitis
You never know what’ll pop up. Cool. So, let’s hear the third habit there – put aside your perfect persona. What’s the story here?

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, this notion of us practicing imperfection through technology. We see it on social media. It’s kind of become a second nature habit. And the idea here is to really invite people to show up and have the courage to be themselves. And this is easier said than done. It’s an idea that came to me in a conversation with Darren Hardy, which happened a few years back. And, Darren, for those that don’t know, he’s the author of a terrific book, it’s one of my favorites, it’s called The Compound Effect, of how the small things can have a profound effect in your life.

And he’s a renowned CEO, coach, and mentor for leaders around the world, and he was in Vancouver for an event. We sat down for 20 minutes, and he’s interviewed some of the greats as well, like some of the greatest interviewers. And I said to him, I’m like, “Darren, what is your secret to having people truly open up and show you who they really are?” And he kind of smiled and he looked at me, and he said, “Two words.” And I said, “Lay it on me.” And he said, “Go first.” And I said, “Go first. Okay, tell me about this.”

And he said, “If you want to motivate somebody, find out what motivates them and help them achieve that. Say go first.” He said, “If you want somebody to trust you, go first and reveal something that’s raw and candid, and show them that this is a safe space. They have the psychological safety that you’ve given them a part of you, and it’s safe for them to return the favor.” And I thought this was so fascinating of the idea of going first because, and it’s maybe it’s the cautious or skeptic part of my mind, it’s like, “What’s the difference between going first and oversharing because that could backfire on you?”

And I know you had Jon Levy on the show and he was talking about the Pratfall effect, and that is a very important part to consider of conveying credibility before vulnerability, and establishing that responsibility and that point of authority, and then that reveal can really draw people closer. And if they’re questioning your competence to begin with, then you’re tripping over yourself and you’re flooring the gas pedal with all of this candid vulnerability, it can really backfire and create distance instead of that connection.

So, this notion of putting aside your perfect persona is really going first with a piece of yourself. And one of those examples that we recently saw, I’m a big Will Smith fan, and when I saw Will Smith pull stuff, “Hey, I’m going to be real with you all. I’m in the worst shape of my life.” I don’t know if you’ve seen his photo, but he put himself out there. He’s just in his boxer shorts showing that the guy that’s all muscles and cut in movies, for the first time, he doesn’t look that way. And it gave permission for people to talk about their bodies and their pandemic bodies, and celebrate the fact that, “Hey, we’re all in this together. We can all get through this together.” And he’s inspired people going on new workout routines and transformations just by going first with the challenge he has. So, I think it shows up in many ways.

Pete Mockaitis
That is powerful. And I do want to hear if you’ve cracked the code on that oversharing kind of complexity there because, I guess, what comes to mind is I was chatting with one of my podcast guests, and I guess he already had tremendous authority and credibility in my eyes because I’ve researched him, I know his bio and stuff. And I say, “How are you doing?” He’s like, “Oh, you know, it’s been a difficult week. I’ve got a son who’s been struggling with drug addiction, and we thought we had that kicked, but, unfortunately, this happened.”

So, he shared that and it only took maybe 20 seconds to reveal, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry.” And the way I received it, I did not find that off-putting at all. I felt for him, I thought, “Oh, man, this has got to be so hard. I’ve got toddlers today. I can only imagine struggling with that in the future.” And it really did, it made me like and trust him a bundle, and I’ve been sort of eager to connect with him whenever I’m in his city.

So, in a way, and that’s pretty darn vulnerable in terms of what’s going on in your life for real. That’s hard and that’s real. So, I did not receive it in, “Whoa, easy, fellow. Simmer down. Too much information.” I didn’t receive it that way. I don’t know, maybe some people would, but I don’t know, he just seemed so great, it would be hard to imagine.

So, I don’t know, how do you think about that dance?

Riaz Meghji
If I’m going to share something like that, the question I’m asking myself is, “Is the person or is the audience ready to hear this? Are they in a space where they’re ready and willing to accept the emotional intensity I could bring on them?” And I’m not surprised by your reaction. You’ve mastered your craft doing these interviews. This is what you do to bring out the best in people to see who they really are. But if we’re on the street and the circumstances, things are moving fast and there’s only a limited amount of time, and I’m dropping that on somebody, I don’t think I’ve set them up for success if, say, we’re walking and they’re trying to get to a destination, maybe they’re trying to pick up their kids. They’re not in the right space to be able to receive it and support me.

So, I think it’s important to pick the spot. And if the spot is right, and there is time, and somebody is willing to accept it, I think the flipside of that is if I’m going to share something that I’m struggling with, I really look at, “How can I share a bit of the transformation going on?” Because I find, as listeners, we’re always looking for that moment of, “How is this moment, how is this story, how could this make my life better?” And if I’m going to share a bit of the struggle and the conflict, I always think, “What is the point of reflection or lesson I’ve learned through this that I could share with somebody if they were to hit this roadblock too?”

So, it’s almost like the struggle becomes a share and point of service to be like, “Here’s what I’ve worked through, here’s what I’ve learned, and here’s what I’m still trying to get to.” And that awareness, that reflection, and perhaps a teaching moment, gives somebody a gift of real-life perspective as opposed to just an emotional dump where they’re thinking, “What do I do with this?” And I think Ray Dalio said this, and this really stuck with me, of pain plus reflection equals progress.

And I think that’s a powerful statement. And I also think about all the things we’ve individually gone through during the pandemic, when somebody asks, “Tell me about something that happened during the past year that had a positive impact on your life? Or, tell me about something that really changed things for you.” That’s on us to really absorb, reflect, write about these moments in our lives and, one teach ourselves, and then, two, have the opportunity to share in profound ways so people will be grateful for the share, not only because, hey, you trusted me with that but you’re teaching me as well about what the struggle really means and how to work through it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s great. And it’s handy and it is of service. And, in a way, it’s, I don’t know, maybe it’s a sort of a sad commentary on human nature. It’s like, “Okay, so you’re struggling but what’s in this for me?” And, yet, that’s kind of there, so if you serve that up alongside, it’s helpful. So, I’m all for it.

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, and to that point, Pete, if the audience is asking, “What’s in it for me?” If you are a close confidant, there’s an opportunity, maybe that person who’s struggling is not giving you something but maybe they’re coming to you for something, and that can light you up as well of that, “What’s in it for me?” “Here’s my chance to help you,” and that’s a powerful point of building a relationship too. Because I find a lot of the times, we’re just quick to interrupt or drop unsolicited advice, but if I’m surrendering and saying, “Hey, Pete, can you help me out with this? Like, you’ve interviewed so many people, what’s your take on this?” That’s a chance to celebrate your wisdom and that’s a powerful tool as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, let’s hear the fourth one – be assertively empathetic. How do we do that?

Riaz Meghji
When you hear those two words, assertively empathetic, does that strike you as odd, like those two can’t go together?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s different because the emotional vibe of assertive is like, “I’m stating this is my position and this is what I need,” versus empathetic, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I really want to understand.” They have a different emotional charge to them. So, yeah, when they’re side by side, it’s unique.

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, I asked that question because I find anyone that’s come across it, they say to me, “Well, is that an oxymoron? Like, how do you do both?” And the assertive side of things kind of touches on what we talked about in the listening without distraction of checking ourselves. In this time where it’s a polarized climate, whether it’s political views or just different ways of living life, it is so easy when we disagree on something to jump in, to challenge, to interrupt, to give that unsolicited advice to what we just talked to, and forget about the idea of acknowledging that person.

So, the assertive side really comes in checking ourselves and acknowledging, putting the focus on acknowledging that person even if you disagree with them, and allow them to express where they’re at and what they’re experiencing. And our philosophy really is, “How can we discover before we dismiss any type of idea and be curious longer?” And when we’ve acknowledged them and we’ve kind of heard about what’s going on, confirming, “Okay, our understanding is this. Here’s what you’re going through,” and then once the relationship has been prioritized, then it’s the opportunity to bring in logic and focus on what we can agree on.

So, like, “Pete, what’s the real challenge here for you? Like, what does your ideal scenario look like? And what would it take for this to work for you?” And the big goal of this, as we check our own emotional limitations and put that focus of “Look at you” is greater than “Look at me” in this, especially when things are heated, is we want to create a dynamic where it would be you and me, Pete, versus the problem instead of me versus you. And that takes assertiveness to check our own inclinations to jump in. And then the empathetic aspect to lean in, be curious, even when we disagree, to just give someone the opportunity to be understood.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I really appreciated those sample questions you were dropping there because I got the vibe. It’s like you were assertive in the sense of it’s like, “Oh, you’re really going for some territory here,” and how you’re approaching it. It’s like the heart of the matter, it’s the real deal stuff, and we’re not getting distracted by the irrelevant pieces. So, in that sense, it is assertive, but the content that we’re getting after is empathetic in terms of like the emotional stuff that we’re going for there.

Riaz Meghji
Yeah, and the power of questions really stands out. I found it fascinating, there was a study at the University of Wisconsin back, I think this was back in 2013 on difficult conversations. And they said, “Well, how do you create a safe space when someone has to convey negative news or you completely disagree on something?” And they talked about the notion of how we can own our own emotions. And it came down to the use of “I” statements. Like, “I’m feeling frustrated here,” “I’m feeling exhausted,” “I should’ve known better with this, Pete,” or even using the “I” statement in the question. Like, “Pete, how did I fail to show up for you here?” or, “Pete, what’s the question I failed to ask to understand where you’re at?”

All of that is a great deal of assertiveness to own the fact that something has been missed on my side, but, at the same time, the direction is complete empathy because you’re trying to get to the understanding of bringing somebody in so you show it’s us in this together and we can productively disagree as opposed to just have an unproductive confrontation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. Perfect. All right. I’m just going to leave it there. I have nothing to add. That’s excellent. Let’s hear about making people feel famous.

Riaz Meghji
This final habit really kind of touches on what I believe people need most right now. And given everything we’ve been through, I feel like what we benefit from the most is having a cheerleader, or some sort of champion in our corner, and someone that’s going to say, “I see what you’re doing, Pete. Like, I see the great work you’re doing in this podcast. That previous episode you had with that certain guest, that gave me something that made my days better.”

And it’s this point of appreciation, recognition, but above all, specificity. And when we talk about this generic, “How are you?” the easy thing you throw out, it’s autopilot. It’s also autopilot, if I’ve listened to an episode that you’ve done, and for me to just email you and say, “Hey, Pete, great job on that last episode.” It’s such a throwaway. It’s such a missed opportunity for me to make you feel valued in terms of the work you’re doing but, more importantly, hone in on what it was. Because I can say, “Great job,” but the question on your side might be like, “Well, what exactly made it a great job?”

And a simple way to make people feel famous is how we practice specificity and how we praise others, and how we make it specific to a certain moment, how we make it personal of like, “Listen, this is how it changed my life.” How we make it public and champion it and share it on social media, and say, “Hey, check this guy’s podcast out. You want to be awesome? This is it. This is the place to be,” but connect it back to purpose, and saying, “This is how I made a difference in my life and here’s what I’m trying to do.”

And if we can do that and practice that habit of specificity and lifting people up and making them famous, so to speak, above all, it creates this culture of feeling valued and appreciated when we have this opportunity now to start to go back to work, and organizations are going to try to retain talent, there are going to be some big factors when people are deciding, “Where do I want to work? How do I want to work? And who do I want to work with?” And this final habit really touches in the idea of being seen and having a powerful sense of belonging. And it’s a simple thing we can do but I think it can have a profound effect.

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

Riaz Meghji
I just hope, if you’re listening to this right now, that the opportunity of breaking out of autopilot mode is something we all can control. And the whole objective of this message, if every conversation counts, is just to encourage people to just be more intentional whether that’s with how we listen, how we get curious, how empathetic we could be, or how specific we could be when we’re trying to lift people up. Let’s break out of autopilot mode right now and find ways to just energize our relationships and lift each other up.

Insert sponsor: Care.com

Riaz is about to share some of his favorite things. One of my favorite things that’s helped me CONNECT to great caregivers is our sponsor Care.com Whether you’re working form home or headed back into the office this summer Care.com can help find reliable sitters and nannies to help make your day a little easier. You can feel much more at ease and focused at work knowing your kids, parents, pets and home are being cared for. Care.com provides a platform for finding all kinds of family care services. They’ve got the largest selection of local caregivers, and easy ways to find, manage and pay for care. They’ve got ample Tools and information to guide families through the hiring process from reviews and more. I found tons of caregivers on Care.com right in my zip code. The platform is easy and beautiful, offering many opportunities to segment and filter to quickly zero in on what I’m looking for. We ultimately chose Mel, who’s super smart and provided great care to our two toddlers. When you upgrade to Premium Membership, you unlock messaging with caregivers, including the private calling feature, and get access to background check options so that you can screen candidates. I have a premium Care.com membership and I encourage you to get one too! Visit care.com today to find your ideal caregiver. That’s care.com.

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

Riaz Meghji
This one was given to me by my editor of my book last year when we’re writing in 2020 because I’m totally the guy that overanalyzes and overthink things, and my editor said, “Look, you cannot edit a blank page.” And that really resonated with me because the notion of trying to get it perfect the first time, I mean, you put aside your perfect persona. The editor encouraged, “Just put it down on paper whatever idea that might be and then let’s go to work on it and make it stronger and poke holes in it. But we can’t do that unless you just have the courage to just put down that initial thought.” So, I love the simplicity of it. You cannot edit a blank page. If anyone has a writer’s block, just put it out there, test it, experiment with it, and that’s how we can make it better.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Riaz Meghji
I really dig The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. And the reason I dig it is the simplicity of the questions that he asks. I mean, sure, it’s a book about coaching, but it really demonstrates the power of curiosity to open up windows of stories and conversations and deepening relationships. Simple read. Digestible read. Memorable read. So, The Coaching Habit is one of my faves.

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

Riaz Meghji
Well, I like this Blue Yeti mic. How’s the audio sounding so far on the podcast?

Pete Mockaitis
Sounds pretty good. Not too echo-y which is the only downfall of the Blue Yeti. But when in a low-echo room, it’s just right. So, I agree, for what it’s worth.

Riaz Meghji
You know, building on the simplicity of technology, it’s funny, like working in the keynote spaces and when you have the chance to contribute, the TV side of me wanted to complicate things and think, “Okay, we need this high-tech studio. We need all these things.” But, at the end of the day, the value is the message and how we’re going to move people, make them feel something. And kind of simplifying things, somebody introduced this Blue Yeti mic, I’m like, “Don’t I need like a fancy Shure 570?” And I know those mics are gorgeous. But they’re like, “No, just get the Blue Yeti. They’ll do the job.” So, as a tool, this has helped me. And if it’s sounding good for you and it’s sounding good for you listening, then, hey, I’ll go with the favorite tool as the Yeti.

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

Riaz Meghji
I think two things. The first being that pandemics don’t change our identity. They reveal it. And the big reveal that came from the last year is that human connection isn’t an option. It’s a necessity. And we all felt it at a deep level when those conversations that we’re used to, social rituals of high fives, hugs, handshakes, those are gone, and we lost a piece of what made us a community. And that human connection, now, is up to us to bring that back in impactful ways. So, I think those two thoughts right there about how pandemics impact identity and reveal it, and just the value of human connection, are two thoughts I’d like to share that seem to resonate.

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

Riaz Meghji
Just to the website RiazMeghji.com. I’ll spell it out because who can spell that name just hearing it for the first time? It’s R-I-A-Z M-E-G-H-J-I.com.

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

Riaz Meghji
Reach out to somebody. If you’re listening to this, reach out to somebody in the next 24 hours. Maybe it’s somebody that gave you a helping hand, maybe it’s somebody that gave you a confidence boost over the last few months, look, maybe it’s somebody that gave you a wakeup call, and called you out so they could call you up, and maybe you didn’t let them know how much that meant. And if you’ve been thinking about somebody, my challenge is reach out to them. Get specific on how they made a difference for you and watch the dynamic that can create.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Riaz, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of enjoyable conversations in the future.

Riaz Meghji
Pete, love you, man. Thank you for inviting the message on and just being in conversation in the space.

677: Optimizing Your LinkedIn for Maximum Opportunities with Donna Serdula

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Donna Serdula breaks down her four-point methodology for getting the most out of LinkedIn.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The crucial first step to building a solid LinkedIn presence 
  2. How to dramatically increase your reach with keywords
  3. The simplest way to grow your network tenfold 

 

About Donna

Donna Serdula pioneered the concept of LinkedIn profile optimisation, realising early on that the LinkedIn profile was so much more than just an online resume.

A job change in 2006 led her back to LinkedIn as Donna looked for tools to help her build a sales territory. It was during this time she had her LinkedIn epiphany and forged her LinkedIn 4 point methodology. By integrating LinkedIn into her sales process, she found tremendous success.

In 2009, she walked away from her successful sales career and founded Vision Board Media and LinkedIn-Makeover.com.

She is the author of the book LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies, published by Wiley.

Donna has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Time’s Money Section, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, LA Times, NBC, SiriusXM Radio’s The Focus Group, and many other news outlets.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Donna Serdula Interview Transcript

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

Donna Serdula
Hi, Pete. Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about branding, LinkedIn profile optimizing, representing yourself well. And what’s fun because I was just on your LinkedIn profile and, right off the bat, you impressed me with your use of the pronunciation feature which most people don’t use. And you didn’t just say “Donna Serdula,” which is what I did but you said, “My name is Donna Serdula. I help professionals represent themselves or brand themselves on LinkedIn and beyond.” I was like, “That’s awesome.” Like, you got a few seconds to work with and so you, right there at the very beginning, you’ve made it count, and I was impressed. So, it looks like we’re talking to the right person.

Donna Serdula
Well, thank you. They give you 10 seconds and if they’re going to give you 10 seconds, I say use all 10 seconds. I will tell you, right when they first put that out there, I was using like a little bit of the Batman theme from the 1960s Adam West show, I had that as the introduction and then my name, but that was cute in the very beginning, and then I decided, “Let’s get this a little bit more professional.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, well done. And it’s funny, I listened to mine, it’s like, “I’m a little soft. I should do it again.” All right, so I’m already inspired.

Donna Serdula
But here’s the thing. With your name, I kept looking at it in my email, and I was like, “Mocca? Mikatitis?” and then I went to your profile, hit that button, got the pronunciation, and thought, “Why didn’t I see it immediately?” But it’s perfect, like for my last name, very few people know how to pronounce it. And for those people who have an ethnic name, I think it’s a great feature. It helps people and it makes everyone a little bit more comfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re going to talk about representing yourself on LinkedIn. And I’d love it if maybe you could kick us off by sharing what are some of the most wild ways you’ve seen people represent themselves maybe in terms of their titles or the headlines that made you go, “Huh?”

Donna Serdula
There’s a lot of ninjas out there. There’s a lot of ninjas, there’s a lot of rock stars

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, ninjas and rock stars.

Donna Serdula
But I like it. I have to admit when a person tries, I like it. I really like it. What I don’t like is when a person doesn’t try in any way and they upload a really just terrible profile picture and they just copy and paste old stuff that was developed years before, and they call it a day. To me, it’s a horrible, horrible thing. I really feel that people should think and really say to themselves, “How do I want others to perceive me? Where do I want to go in my life? Where do I want to go in my career?” and really be very thoughtful when you craft that profile because people are looking. They want to know what to think about you. And so, if you want to be that ninja, if you want to be that rock star, girl, go for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, could you maybe kick us off by sharing a cool story of someone who did kind of rethink how they’re representing themselves and tweaked some things on LinkedIn and beyond and saw some cool results from it?

Donna Serdula
This is what we do every day, our clients come to us and they have problems talking about themselves, telling their story. It’s really, really hard to write about yourself. I’m thinking of a very specific client who had come to us. He was 56 years old, and the writing was on the wall, his position was going to be eliminated. He knew it. He knew the end date was coming. He was in technology and he was scared because at 56, he felt he was so far over the hill. He didn’t know where he was going to go, where he was going to get hired. He’d been at this organization for years.

And I remember him calling me and the sense of fear and dread and anxiety that was in his voice, and I remember saying, “Let’s take the bull by the horns and let’s make sure that you’re presenting yourself as who you are, that you’re relevant, that you’re interesting, that you’re energized, that you have so much to offer.” And we worked on the profile and we told his story, and we talked about who he was and what he represented and what he did and how it helped others. We infused the right keywords throughout that profile, and we did the same with his resume.

And he called me back six months later that he had gotten a job closer to his home. He was making 40% more.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Donna Serdula
Why 40% more? Not because he did such a great job but because he’d been in that company for so many years, he had never truly gotten the correct upticks in salary that he would’ve gotten if he was in just the regular market. And he was so gracious and so thankful that that’s what happens when you decide to represent yourself and tell your story and put yourself out there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Very cool. Well, a huge success story, so that’s encouraging and hopeful and inspiring for folks who may want to do some things that shake things up. So, can you tell us how do you start thinking about this whole thing? How do you represent yourself? And then maybe let’s get into some particulars for LinkedIn as a platform to do that optimally.

Donna Serdula
Sure. I believe that the very first step, at least with LinkedIn and branding yourself on that platform, it’s really important, Pete, to say, “Why am I on LinkedIn? What am I hoping to achieve?” Not everyone is on LinkedIn for job search. Some people are on it because they want to prospect and sell more. Some are on it because people are looking at them and they want to make sure that they’re utilizing it for reputation management, that when a person looks at them, they see someone who’s impressive, someone who has earned their confidence.

Others are doing it for executive branding to tell that story, to be perceived at a different level, and there could be combinations. But it’s really important to know why you’re on LinkedIn because your goal is going to determine your story and how you present yourself. If you’re in sales and your goal is to sell more but your profile is written like a resume and that goal is more for recruiters that you love to prospect, you’re just going to turn off your target audience which is prospects and potential clients.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. So, could I hear maybe a little bit of those implications in terms of, okay, if I’m in a selling of products or services mode, as opposed to selling myself mode, what are some key things I do differently based on the pathway I’m going down?

Donna Serdula
Yeah, it’s so important to really envision that audience, that person who you want to be reading the profile. And think in terms of if they were searching for someone like you, if they didn’t know your name, what would those keywords be that they’re putting into the search bar in trying to find you, to get close to someone like you. Those words are words that you’d want to infuse through your profile. That’s how you’re going to get found more often. And very, very few people ever really think that deeply about LinkedIn, they go, “Oh, I copy and paste my resume and I’ll be done.”

But LinkedIn is a professional network but it’s also a search engine, and recruiters and hiring managers are using it, but not just hiring managers. People in the media are using it, people who are looking for talent, who have opportunity to provide, they want to find someone like you, so you want to make it really easy for them to find you. But knowing what you want out of it and what that person would be interested in, that’s what’s going to shape the story.

So, what does a recruiter want? What are you targeting in that regard? Or, what’s going to impress a person? What have you done that you’re proud of that would make a difference? And once you have that down, jot it down. That’s what’s going to start to shape your narrative within the About section of your profile.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Well, that sounds fundamental and yet often overlooked.

Donna Serdula
It’s so easy. Why doesn’t anyone do it?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you take some time. Okay, seriously. Who do I want to see this? And when they see it, what do I want them to walk away thinking? And so, you’re thinking through that. And so with that kind of bullseye in mind, what are some of the key factors that make a profile make a great impression in terms of, “Hey, this is remarkable. This person really seems like they could be a winner,” versus, “Oh, okay. Next”?

Donna Serdula
I hate bullets. I hate bulleted lists. I just despise that. I also hate huge blocks of impenetrable texts where there’s not a single line break. It could be the most warmest, engaging copy ever written but if it’s hard for an eye to scan through, you’re going to turn people off. So, it’s not just what you write but it’s also how you format it through the profile. Like, line breaks, that enter or return key should be a good friend of yours. Don’t think like the old-fashioned paragraph concept that we were taught in school. You can actually break it up a little bit more, into more of like ideas so the easier it is to scan, the better.

I would say first person narrative. There are certain times, I have some clients that come to me and they have done the most amazing things. They’ve lived these incredible lives. Their accomplishments are huge. And when they write in the first person, it feels weird to them. It just doesn’t feel right. Those are very few situations where I’m like, “Okay, let’s write in third. It’s okay if you write in third person.” But for most people, they know that you’ve written it yourself, or you’ve hired someone to write it for you. You should write in first person, and write it in a manner where it’s warm, it’s engaging, it tells that story. It’s who you are. Why you do what you do? What does it mean to others? What do you stand for? What do you represent?

And when you talk about that, ultimately, it’s your why. I think it really resonates with people and they love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I hear you there. And I’m looking at yours right now as you’re speaking. So, I hear what you’re saying in terms of breaking up the text so we’ve got some shorter paragraphs, maybe just a sentence at times, or, “Well, I do,” in the shortest. “Do you know what makes a LinkedIn profile stand out from the crowd?” New paragraph. “Well, I do.” That’s great. Okay, I’m intrigued. Okay. What are you about? So, I’m pulled in.

And then in terms of breaking up the text, you have a nice little bold, capital SERVICES, AUTHOR, SPEAKER, and then a little bit of an underline there, and that’s just easy-peasy to do, there’s no special tricks. You just push the bold button?

Donna Serdula
There’s no bold button.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, now you’re a ninja and a rock star, Donna. How do we do it?

Donna Serdula
So, that is actually faux text. It’s Unicode. And so, if you visit my website LinkedIn-Makeover.com and you go to the free tools, I have this little wizard or online app, whatever you want to call it, where you type in, and it will apply formatting, but it’s not real formatting. It just looks like text but it’s more of like code and you copy it and you put it into your profile. And, voila! You suddenly have italics, you have bold, you have underline. You can even have cursive if you wanted to.

The one thing though, Pete, to know is that it looks like the word but it’s not so you shouldn’t be doing everything in that because it’s not optimized for search. The other thing is if a person who is blind and they’re using a screen reader, they’re not going to hear the right words because it’s, again, it’s fake texts. But, in small doses, it’s fabulous.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Donna, I just love talking to someone who’s just delved deep into the details, they’re somebody like, “It’s not actually texts. It’s code. So, here are some implications of that. Noted. It’s going to look great with some tradeoffs so use it appropriately but just know that you can use it,” and just about nobody does because I don’t think I’ve seen it before. So, kudos, Donna.

Donna Serdula
Thank you. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay. So, that’s some of the particulars in terms of looking great and being friendly to the eyeball such that they’ll actually read it. And so then, what are some key thoughts for what we put in there? We want it to be friendly. We want it to make a good impression. Any particular do’s and don’ts?

Donna Serdula
I recognize that it’s 2021 and I shouldn’t have to say that the profile picture is important but, even to this day, it’s something that so many people really struggle with. So, a good do is work on getting a professionally taken photo. It does make a difference. Don’t just go with a selfie with weird things in the background. Don’t show your shoulders or your elbows. It’s a headshot for a reason, especially on a mobile phone which reduces it even smaller. You really want to make sure that it’s your face that’s filling that circle, so that’s a huge thing.

There’s a background graphic that very few people use, and this is a great place to really illustrate your brand and subtly suggest to people who don’t even have to read anything who you are and what you do and what you represent, so definitely utilize that. There’s a lot of areas to upload, photos and things like that, links to websites and whatnot. It’s now called the featured section. It actually provides like a carousel at the top of your profile, and that’s a fabulous place. Very few people don’t use it but I would definitely say it’s a do depending upon your job and who you are and what you do. It should be relatively easy to find something to populate that area.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we went right into some tactical stuff. Maybe I should zoom out a smidge. You’ve got a full-blown four-point methodology. Can you kind of walk us through that a little bit?

Donna Serdula
Step one, know your goal.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Donna Serdula
Know why you’re on it. We talked a little bit about that. Two, optimize your profile to your goal. Infuse your keywords. Tell the world who you are and why you shine. Three, start to grow your network. You need to connect. Have you ever seen that movie Glengarry Glen Ross?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, coffee is for closers.

Donna Serdula
Yeah. A, B, C. Always be…well, I like to say always be connecting. Always be connecting. A lot of people say to me, “Ugh, I don’t get LinkedIn.” And then I look at their profile, they’ve got like 10 connections, or even just a hundred connections, and you really do need to have a network, so try to get that online network to reflect your offline network. So, connect, connect, connect. So, that’s three.

Four, so now you want to engage. Now, you want to start to go to that homepage and scroll through and comment and like and share, and start to post. That’s when you can network in your pajamas. That’s when things should start to come together for you. And that’s when you’re going to start to see that there is opportunity in those hills out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, so we’ve talked a bit about the first two. Let’s hit keywords for a bit now. Well, hey, if you’ve gone deep into Unicode, you may have some answers that I don’t know. So, I guess I’ve played just a little bit of the Google search engine optimization game. Boy, that is a full-time operation and many people have made that their careers in terms saying, “Okay, so what are the keywords? What’s a traffic associated with those keywords? What’s the competition for those keywords? Where can I win? How can I write content that hits those and gets me surfaced in Google?”

And hopefully it’s good as opposed to, “Oh, man.” Well, I think we’ve all read it in terms of, “You might be asking yourself, ‘How do I get a good price on a mortgage?’ Well, the answer to getting a good price on a mortgage involves three key things. The first step to getting a good price on a good mortgage…” You know, it’s like…

Donna Serdula
Yeah, the redundant, yeah, the repetition of the key phrase.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we don’t want to do that. But I’m wondering, like is there any keyword research tools that give us a sense for, I don’t know, like Python versus Django? I barely know what I’m talking about here, so apologies, Python coders. But you get the idea. It’s like there are some opportunities where I can describe a given skill or set of expertise with many different potential keywords. So, how do I know which ones to go for and optimize for?

Donna Serdula
And, sadly, when you’re on LinkedIn, in your account, looking at your profile, it really is almost like pin the tail on the donkey, wearing a blindfold. LinkedIn doesn’t give a lot of insight into how well your profile is performing for keywords, what are the most searched keywords. Those are things that they kind of hold in the back. They don’t show their cards very easily.

What I recommend doing is this. It’s knowing, “What do you feel would a person be searching for if they were looking for you?” And, yes, there is a whole bunch of different keywords. Choose the ones that you feel are the most obvious, the most used, and then use them organically through your profile. The fields that are most sensitive for search – your headline. That right there, if you can infuse top keywords in there, you will find that you turn up higher and more often for those keywords.

If you can use those keywords not in a repetitive or obnoxious way but you can organically use it in the narrative of your About section, that’s going to be very helpful. Again, not in a repetitive way, not in a bulleted list type of way, but you’re weaving them into your story. That’s a good thing. Job titles, again, perfect for keywords. Very few people do but that area does make a difference as does the job description.

So, if you could put it in those areas, and really think, “If I’m looking for a job,” look at the job description, look at a couple job descriptions, highlight. What are the words that you keep seeing repeated over and over and over again? What are those core competencies? What are those applications that you need to know? That will give you an idea. And then what you do, Pete, is you wait and then you watch, and you see. Are you getting hits to your profile?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And they’ll tell you, like, “You’re viewed this many times,” so you know that. And I think it also tells you, “You’ve shown up this many times in search.” So, views of my profile – 1500. I’m looking at mine now. And so, I could see that and then I can just peruse, well, you looked at me. Hi, there.

Donna Serdula
I like to do my due diligence.

Pete Mockaitis
And I can kind of peruse. It tells you, “Found you via LinkedIn profile,” and it will also say, “Found you via homepage,” and found people similar to you but it doesn’t also say, “Found you via search.”

Donna Serdula
I don’t think it does.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, you set it straight.

Donna Serdula
But when they say, “Found you through the profile,” you can almost surmise that it was either they were doing a name-based search or they were doing a keyword search, and you popped up.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think your point associated with just knowing your audience is huge because, well, I looked at this once back in the day when I was doing more Myers Briggs training, which I’m capable of doing but that’s not been my focus lately. And so, you find tons of profiles that will have MBTI in their headline as their title, which, as a type practitioner, I know, and many others do, that that stands for Myers Brigg Type Indicator, which is the name of the tool.

However, I have learned that most people, when they’re searching for that, do not search for MBTI; they search for Myers Briggs. And so, just knowing that and, for all you Myers Briggs practitioners on LinkedIn, here’s a free one for you. Just about no one says Myers Briggs in their title even though that’s what more people look for. So, you can sort of try that out and I guess just maybe ask your target audience, like, “Hey, so if you’re kind of looking for someone to do a personality workshop for you, like what might you type into LinkedIn?” It’s like, “I don’t know, maybe Myers Briggs, maybe DISC.” It’s like, “Okay. Yeah, I know she did not say MBTI.” So, that gets you there.

Donna Serdula
Yeah, sometimes you get in the weeds of your own knowledge and you have to break through and step out and look at it. I see that a lot of times when people say to me, “Oh, I’m a dynamic person and I do all…” they’re using these crazy words and crazy jargon, and it’s like, “Talk to me like I’m a three-year old. Talk to your audience like they’re a three-year old. It’s going to help you really simplify the message and make it so much more accessible to the world at large.” Of course, you weigh that because if your target audience really does talk like that then that’s great. Go for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true.

Donna Serdula
But I think sometimes people do get a little too caught up in the weeds. They’re so close they can’t gain that focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great because I’m thinking I just recently learned the term capital allocator. I didn’t know what that meant. But there may be times you want to call yourself a capital allocator based on who you’re attracting, at times you want to call yourself a financial planner based on who you’re going after, even though there’s a fair bit of overlap in capital allocators and financial planners, “Well, Pete, actually, there’s several distinctions much like Python and Django.” But that’s a great perspective there in terms of how they would speak. And it’s unlikely someone is going to search for a dynamic multi-potentialite even though you might be that.

Donna Serdula
You might be. I remember a very specific client of mine had said to me, “Donna, before the profile, I was getting a ton of hits. I was getting found and I was getting a lot more inquiries on LinkedIn.” And, of course, I heard that, I was like, “Do you hate me? This sounds bad.” And he said, “No. Since you worked on the profile, you really dialed in to the right audience. It’s much more qualified, so, yeah, I’m getting less but the ones that I’m getting really want me and I’m aligned to those opportunities that they’re presenting to me. Before, I was getting all types of opportunities that I wasn’t interested in and was a waste of time.” So, you do have to sort of weigh it. You want to make sure that it’s the right audience and you’ve got the right message, and what’s coming to is good opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so great. And, as you say it, I think all the little pieces are connecting here in terms of like your image and your banner, was the term I used there, you got your headshot and you’ve got your other image at the top.

Donna Serdula
Yeah, we call it the background graphic but banner works too.

Pete Mockaitis
Your headshot, your background graphic, and it all comes together in terms of telling the story, like the individual pieces, and you might optimize incorrectly. I remember in my early days, I got some headshots and I thought, “Oh, man, this one I looked really…” I thought I looked hot. I was wearing a black buttoned-down and a dark background, and I thought, “Oh, man,” there’s like a smouldering gaze, it’s like, “Okay, yeah, Pete, you do. Great job. They caught a good angle. But, really, we need you to show up as the friendly high-energy speaker guy and not a model.” So, I was like, “Oh, yeah, good point. Good point.”

So, I might look not as good in a, I don’t know, GQ sense of the word in one headshot but, for the audience and the impression I’m trying to give, it works better even though, “My rosacea is more prominent in that photo,” well, we’re going to go with that one because it’s going to get the job done that we’re looking to get done.

Donna Serdula
I know it sounds so strange but, I always say, people feel this need to, because LinkedIn is this professional network, they want to look serious. But when they look serious, they tend to look angry. And you want to seem approachable, you want to seem friendly, you want to make it easy for a person to want to reach out to learn more about you. And so, upload a picture where you do look more friendly. And that, of course, trumps the professional picture. If a headshot, it may be well taken, but if it’s not presenting you in that friendly light, it’s not going to work.

I’m going to tell you another thing, Pete. This is huge and it’s so obvious. People who don’t include their contact information, they don’t put their phone number in, they don’t put their email address, and they make it very, very hard to reach you. One of my biggest pet peeves.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think maybe some people have a worry or a concern, like, “Oh, I’m going to get all these spam callers or all these random calling me.” But I’ll tell you, I’ve got my phone number in there. Hello, listeners, you can give me a ring. My phone number is in there and just about never do I get super random calls that I think are traced back to LinkedIn. There’s robo spam callers but they hit everybody indiscriminately. So, I think, yeah, if anyone has any worries on that dimension, in my own experience, and you’ve got a lot more LinkedIn stuff than I do, it’s really not that noticeable. I don’t think I’ve suffered any negative consequences for having freely shared that contact info there. What’s your take?

Donna Serdula
I believe if you want opportunity to knock, you’ve got to tell it what door to knock on. It’s just that simple. Put your information out there. I actually wouldn’t mind if I got a random Telepass calling if I also knew that I was getting all these fabulous opportunities as well. It’s almost a balance. But I agree, I really don’t get a lot of garbage. I get people who want my services, who need my expertise, people that I can help. And, to me, that’s a win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. All right. So, let’s talk about build the connections and engaging. How do we get that well?

Donna Serdula
Yeah, I hate to say this. I really do. I feel like it’s been overstated but send connection requests, put in a nice little note, say something personable, let the person know why you’re connecting, unless, of course…and this is the thing. If you know the person, like I’m going to connect with you after this show. I don’t think I need to say, “Hey, we just talked an hour ago. I think you’re going to remember me.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, yeah, Donna.”

Donna Serdula
So, in that situation, I don’t have a problem not adding a personalized note, like, to me you don’t have to do it always across the board. But if you are kind of going outside of your real network and you’re connecting to people from maybe a long time ago, it is nice to add a little bit of a personalized note to say, “Hey, do you remember me?” And I think it starts that conversation off. So, hit connect, give a personalized note if the moment calls for it, and keep connecting. It’s just not something that you do once. It’s something that you do often. It should be a part of your normal business world that, as you meet people, as you go into meetings, connect.

There’s that quote, “Your network is your net worth.” And it’s something that I think a lot of people dismiss. And I remember years and years ago when I was in college, a woman came and was like, “Oh, you got to create a network.” Like it just sounded so intimidating and strange. And, really, all it is is keeping in touch with people, being friendly, popping up to say hello, making connections. That’s all it really is. And with LinkedIn, it’s a very easy way to connect and grow that network and continue to stay in touch with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah.

Donna Serdula
So, that’s it. It’s that simple but it’s something that very few people do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so let’s say you’re one of those folks who has a hundred connections on LinkedIn, and you and I know that such a person knows many more people on LinkedIn, and they could go ahead and connect with him, and then the whole world opens up to you. And that’s what I found in terms of one side said, “Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and find some people I know, and I’m going to connect.”

And then, I don’t know, I felt just like a surge of powerful feeling just in terms of saying, “Okay. Well, shoot, now that I’ve spent a little time on this, like a huge universe is now open to me in terms of secondary connections. So, if I have like a hundred connections before, and then built it out to a thousand, it’s like, wow, I could get introductions so readily to so many places now. That’s hugely cool.” So, if someone is at a hundred, how do you recommend they get to a thousand real connections relatively painlessly?

Donna Serdula
Well, they could certainly upload their email address book and allow LinkedIn to do like a match, un-match and decide who’s already there, and just mass connect. That’s one way. Another easy way is to go into the My Network icon and scroll down that page. There’s a People You May Know area where LinkedIn makes these connections, they say, “Oh, you’re connected to Pete, and Pete’s connected to so and so, then you might be connected to that person.” So, that’s an easy way to do it.

I actually kind of just like the old-fashion sit down and really start thinking about the people that you’ve met throughout your career and your school and life in general, and just keep jotting them down in a notebook and see who’s there, see who’s connected. And then if you know someone, you have like a history with a person, you could go to their profile and look at their connections, and plod through that, connecting with the people that you know in common. So, those are all ways that you can grow your network.

But what’s really important is when you grow that network, you’re going to be found by more people because when a person is searched in LinkedIn, when they’re doing a name-based search, yeah, they’re searching the entire database of users. But if a regular free user is doing a keyword-based search, think of yourself, when you do that, you’re seeing first-degree connections, you’re seeing second-degree connections, and you’re seeing third-degree connections. That’s what you’re searching. So, if you want to be found by more people, and you want to discover more people, you need to be in more networks. And that opens up and it really explodes being found and getting found.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that flywheel, that virtuous cycle really shows up because, let’s say, you have a hundred, you spend a little bit of time and then you connect with an extra 50. Well, now, LinkedIn has so much more useful information to share with more people you know, it’s like, “Well, as a matter of fact, I do know that person, and that person, and that person.” So, I find that it goes pretty darn quick in terms of getting there, it’s like, you make a bundle of connection requests, a week later, they’ve accepted. And now there’s a whole new bundle. Repeat, repeat, repeat, like, “Hey, what do you know?” In a couple of months, you went from a hundred to a thousand, and it didn’t take much time and it’s kind of fun, like, “Oh, what’s this guy up to? Oh, wow, it’s good time.”

Donna Serdula
Yeah, it’s true. And when you connect, use it as an excuse to maybe reach out and start more conversations. If you’re going to do a huge burst and you’re going from a hundred to a thousand, it might not be possible, but do try. As you’re connecting, see if they’re active on LinkedIn. And if they are, maybe just bookmark their activity and go back and check to see what they’re posting, and then engage with them.

And when you start to engage with certain people on LinkedIn who are themselves active, you’ll start to see that they fill your feed more often because LinkedIn likes to show their feed. They like their feed to be people that you know talking about the things that you care about. And so, follow the right hashtags, connect with the right people, engage with them on that feed, and you’ll start to find that LinkedIn is fun. It’s people that you know talking about the things you care about.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And then let’s talk about engaging. And, particularly, I’m curious about any pro tips on how to request an introduction? Like, let’s say, you’ve got your network, and you say, “Oh, wow, I’ve got second-degree connections and all kinds of places I’d like to learn about maybe to work or to sell or whatnot.” Any best practices for how we make that request, like, “Could you introduce me to so and so?”

Donna Serdula
Yeah, at one time, LinkedIn had a very structured process for doing that. They don’t now. If you’re looking for an intro button, you’re not going to find it. And the way you do it is more manual. You look at a person, you find them, you see who do you know that’s connected to them, and then you just send them a message. You can also go into More and, say, “Send profile,” and so you can send that person the profile with, “Hey, this is the person I want an introduction to.”

But certain things to keep in mind. I have 29,000 first-degree connections, so if you’re going to ask me to make an introduction to someone, there’s a very good chance that I do not know them personally. So, be aware that if the person has an excessive size network, the answer might be, “I can’t help you,” and that’s okay. Don’t get hung up on that.

But, at the same time, when you’re going to make that introduction, if you could give the person that you’re asking as much information, “This is how you can introduce me to them. This is what it is that I want from them,” and make it very clear who you are and how they can describe you and what you want so that person doesn’t feel like they’re helping a spam artist defraud someone. But make it as very clear as possible, I think you’re going to find that, even if that person doesn’t know that person very well, the introduction will take place and it will be successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Donna, tell me, any other key things you want to share before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Donna Serdula
I will say this, we touched a little bit about my formatter on the website and we talked about how important the LinkedIn headline is, and I will say to your audience, if you are sitting there and you’re looking at your profile, and you’re thinking, “I really do want to optimize this and I need help,” there is a free resources section on my website and there’s a LinkedIn headline generator. It’s a little app and they just fill out just a couple terms, put a little dot on different buckets that describe them, and it pushes out a headline that’s really awesome, and it’s optimized, and they’ll get more views and it’ll turn up more often in search. So, just know that there is a lot of free help out there and there’s an entire section on my website full of those types of tools.

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

Donna Serdula
This is a Tim Ferriss quote, and it says, “It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for realistic goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

And I just love this quote because I find it’s so true. In fact, right before my father died, he had said to me, one of his biggest regrets was that he didn’t dream big enough. And this is something that I’m seeing as I work with my clients, executives, and entrepreneurs, and professionals from all over the world, it’s seeing people who have decided to dream big and go a little further and do a little bit more. And it is scary but you can. You can reach for the stars and you can do it.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Donna Serdula
This isn’t like an absolute study but I found this fascinating. If you were to fold a piece of paper in half 42 times, it would reach the moon. And I really love that. Just thinking about it, folding it 42 times, I couldn’t imagine that this is true but I started doing some Google. And it’s true, it’s the exponential growth, and this inspires me because it really reminds me that it’s just these little steps will get you somewhere much bigger.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess that’s about a trillion sheets thickness there.

Donna Serdula
Oh, yeah. I think someone said you’d need like a sheet the size of the Earth, so you can get close to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, there’s so many parallel, well, takeaways in terms of compound interest or growth, or in terms of like what happens when something just grows and grows and grows. And a favorite book?

Donna Serdula
I’m one of those crazy people. I love the Think and Grow Rich and the Law of Attraction. I love that stuff. I love it so much. My favorite book is one where you either love her or you hate her, but I love The Fountainhead. I just loved it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool?

Donna Serdula
I just recently purchased a reMarkable 2 and it’s a handwriting tablet so you can write on a tablet so you don’t need a notebook after notebook after notebook. It’s just this great gadget and it allows me to just do what I love to do, which is just handwrite but not use any more paper. It’s all digitalized.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Donna Serdula
Which goes back to the reMarkable 2, which is I love journaling and I love to-do lists. And, to me, it’s so important to get what’s inside of you out, and I think there’s something very soulful and inspiring when you can take your pen and drag it. If it’s not paper, then you know the reMarkable 2, but really get your thoughts out there and know what you need to do, but also know what happens so you can start to see repetitions because our memories are so short. We don’t even know how short they are so it’s important, I think, to really record your successes and the record things that have happened so you can remind yourself, and you can stop making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

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

Donna Serdula
I’ve said, “Success on LinkedIn is getting off LinkedIn,” and I often hear people attribute that to me, and I did say it. And, to me, it’s about sometimes people hide on social media and they hide on LinkedIn, and they hide behind the messages and they hide behind the posts. And, really, I find that the best relationships I’ve had from LinkedIn are the ones where I’ve gone to the person’s profile, picked up the phone, and called them. And that’s where the real world is where the real relationships are formed. So, I’d like to say get off LinkedIn, call the person up, take them out for lunch or coffee, and I think you’re going to find that it’s an even deeper relationship that can be formed.

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

Donna Serdula
Certainly, LinkedIn. I always visit my LinkedIn profile but my website is LinkedIn-Makeover.com, and that’s got tons of free tools that talks about our services. Everything I do is transparent so you can see our pricing, you can see our examples, you can see our portfolio, everything is there.

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

Donna Serdula
Yeah, I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. Definitely, I challenge all of you to really think about who you are, where you’re going, and look at that profile, and don’t just align it to where you are. Align it to where you want to go. Make it more future-oriented. Tell people. Maybe not just show but really talk about what you’ve done, where you’re going. And if you need help, there is my LinkedIn headline generator and, certainly, we’re here to help as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Donna, this has been a treat. Thank you so much and I wish you much luck in all of your connecting.

Donna Serdula
Thank you so much.