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615: How to Build Laser Focus in an Age of Endless Distractions with Curt Steinhorst

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Curt Steinhorst says: "Distraction at its core is confusion about what matters."

Curt Steinhorst reveals why we often struggle to take control of our attention—and what we can do about it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Surprising statistics that illustrate our level of distraction 
  2. The essential keys to accessing flow state
  3. How to improve your focus in three steps 

About Curt

Curt Steinhorst is the author of the bestselling book Can I Have Your Attention?, an expert on focus and distraction, and a regular Forbes contributor on Leadership Strategy. 

Diagnosed with ADD as a child, Curt knows intimately the challenges in keeping the attention of today’s distracted workforce and customer. Through Focuswise, the company Curt founded to help teams solve the problem of chronic distraction, Curt and his team apply the science of how the brain works to the reality of how we function in today’s world. 

He coaches founders and CEOs of multi-billion-dollar brands on how to effectively communicate and create focus when they speak to audiences, lead their employees, and engage their customers. His worldwide speeches and training have helped thousands gain the wisdom and practical habits to better manage their focus and put it on the things that really matter in life and work. Clients include Southwest Airlines, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, NIKE, and SAP, just to name a few. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Curt Steinhorst Interview Transcript

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

Curt Steinhorst
I’m excited to be here, Pete. Thanks for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom, and much of it is captured in your book Can I Have Your Attention? But, I understand, when it comes to you reading books, you love fantasy novels. What’s the story here?

Curt Steinhorst
I’m a nerd, really. No. So, I have always enjoyed this weird genre that is fantasy novels, and then Game of Thrones came out and revealed to the rest of the world that it’s not all Bilbo Baggins. Honestly, I have this part of my world where I work really hard, and then focus on the research, and what’s happening in trends in the markets, and workplace trends. And then I have this other side where I want to turn off my brain, and I want to just think about a world that’s not here. And so, fantasy novels are really awesome for that.

Pete Mockaitis
So, then, tell me, what makes a fantasy novel a fantasy novel per se? And what do you think is, like, the core stuff of it that makes it so engaging for folks, such that some of them are like 12-plus books deep in a series, and folks read them all cover to cover, front to getting to the end? What is it that glues people like yourself?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, I think it’s the same thing, I think, that makes anyone love any great story. And, officially, fantasy novels take place more in the medieval times where there’s swords and then there’s some form of magic, which sounds super nerdy. My wife thinks that I’m crazy to love it. But what makes them powerful is really great characters that have complex challenges.

And it turns out, when you release some of the great creatives in the world to not have to be constrained by the same parameters that are our world is constrained by, what you find is that people are really, really great at imagining things that are fascinating, and interesting, and make you think you enjoy the story just like you would any great story.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that is cool. And I think that I am thinking about sort of the hero’s journey stuff, it really seems like that is just…like, fantasy just plays into that dead-on it seems, but from my limited experience.

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, it’s funny. If you’re looking for something that’s fun and that is a healthy escape, they’re really just incredible stories. So, I didn’t know I was going to promote fantasy novels, but there are some great ones out there. The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, these are just some of the best novels out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, a few people know that the very first guest on How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast, Mawi Asgedom, he’s famous for a lot of sort of social and emotional skills development and communication things, but he also wrote a fantasy novel for The Fifth Harmony, The Third Harmony? oh, don’t tell him.

Curt Steinhorst
I’m going to have to get it.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, anyway, we’re talking about how fantasy novels have done an amazing job of capturing people’s attention for long stretches, but I understand that the world of focus and attention, here and now, Curt, isn’t so rosy. We are besieged by distraction. Can you paint a picture for just how bad it is right now?

Curt Steinhorst
Well, there’s two levels of bad news on this front. And one is what we’ve been experiencing over the last decade, which is this assault on our attention in, literally, endless ways. So, on average, you have 4,000 to 7,000 advertisements put in front of your face every single day, and $375 billion will be spent to get your attention. And, of course, there’s no safe place because the technology, it allows us to go anywhere and be reached.

And so, we get a lot of stuff for free, which is exciting, at Facebook and Yelp! and Google. And then we fail to realize that they’re actually charging us, and they’re charging us and our attention. And so, the challenge is that it doesn’t stay with us just when we’re at home or at any place. It really comes into work, and we end up in a situation where the volume of messages coming at us, the number of meetings that we’re expected to attend, the people outside of work who can reach us, put us in a place where we’re going back and checking our phones 150 times a day.

We, on average, stay on the same screen for 40 seconds at a time when at work. And if you have Slack or you have Microsoft Teams on a second screen, that number goes down to 35 seconds. So, needless to say, we’re really, really good at flipping based on all that’s coming at us. Unfortunately, that’s the one thing that will keep us from being able to do what we need to do to be able to thrive.

Pete Mockaitis
Curt, I love you dropped those numbers. It shows you’re a man who’s done your research, and that’s why we hunted you down. So, I’m excited to dig into all the more goodness here. So, that’s striking, 4,000 to 7,000 advertising messages every day, 150 times a day phone picks up, and 40 seconds average time. Yeah, that paints a picture in terms of attention and focus being scattered all over the place. And it’s tough.

I remember, so right now, the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma is pretty hot, and I enjoyed it. I think there are some good truths to be gleaned from it. So, the term that really struck me is that we refer to our phone as a digital pacifier that we pick up whenever we’re the slightest bit uncomfortable, like, “I’m a little bored.” And that kind of spooked me a bit, like, “Ugh, I guess I kind of do do that. And I’d like to…” Do-do, pacifiers. I’ve got toddlers.

So, what’s the consequence of this? It’s a lot. A lot of phone pickups, a lot of advertising messages, a very short window in which we’re kind of looking at our screen, but is that fine, Curt? Is that, “Hey, man, life in 2020”?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah. And The Social Dilemma did do a really great job of exposing some of the challenges, specifically, the adversarial technology, meaning technology that has different interests than we have, can have on us individually, and even deeper on society. I think the core challenge that we face, and there’s all sorts of quantifiable ways at work that we can show, the financial implications, the engagement implications, the tendency that people have to do less work and feel more overwhelmed.

But I think the core challenge, and what I really appreciated about The Social Dilemma is it spotlighted that we are losing control of what actually shapes and defines every single thing about our future, which is what gets our attention, what keeps our attention, how do we take control of our attention. And so, I think that’s the core consequence because you lose control of your own attention, and you lose control of everything.

Pete Mockaitis
You lose control of your attention; you lose control of everything. Yeah, I buy that, because instead of getting the results and outcomes that you really want and care about are important too, which would come from dedicated devotion of your attention to those pursuits, you sort of get whatever the algorithms have determined you should care about, and you get hooked into.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. The analogy that I would use is that we are in an ocean which has become a perfect storm. The pandemic, of course, just added an entirely new dimension, and we’re not going to be able to get out of that. And I think, so often, what we see when people immediately hear, “Oh, you think about focus and attention and distraction. Oh, I feel bad. I’m on my device when I shouldn’t be.” And it’s like that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Technology, being distracted isn’t being on your phone.

In fact, I was walking through an airport, and someone had heard me speak, and they walked up. I was texting my wife while walking to the gate, and they said, “Hey, aren’t you the distraction expert? Caught you. You’re distracted.” I was like, “You nailed it. I am distracted by you. You are distracting me.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yeah, I was crafting a beautiful note to my bride.”

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right, exactly. So, distraction at its core is confusion about what matters. And we’re living in a world where we’re increasingly confused because there are so many things screaming “This matters.” And so, we end up like a raft in the middle of a stormy ocean with no control rather than having the toolset to navigate within the world we live in to still assert control and, therefore, have the ability to get to a particular place.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so lay it on us, how do we pull that off? You zero in on four key elements that affect focus. Is that where we should start? Or how do you want to tee us up?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, I think the number one place to start is just by actually realizing that time is not your most valuable resource. Your most valuable resource is your attention. And so, I know that seems like, “Okay, we’ve already talked about that.” But how often do people really think about, “What’s getting our attention?” Like, when you woke up this morning, not, “What did you do?” Maybe you went on a jog. But it’s, “What did you think about?” Or maybe I’m optimistic, maybe you thought about your attention was, “I need to do a job,” but you didn’t do it.

So, it’s the thing that fascinates me at its core is like, “How do those decisions get made?” because I think where most people naturally go when they hear, “I’m distracted,” or they feel like they’re inefficient, they need to be more productive, which are downstream effects of being able to manage our own attention, being able to focus, is they go towards things, lifehacking tricks, that, for me at least, when I started this journey into the research over a decade ago, they worked great for me tomorrow but, at the time, they didn’t work at all. And it’s like, I just kept having perfect advice that I couldn’t execute on.

And so, the reasoning for that is because we actually don’t understand what human attention is for, and what we’re able to do and not do. And so, I would start by saying, like, “I’m going to value my attention and know that everything comes from that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, okay, so that point about those hacks, they work great for you tomorrow, by that do you mean you don’t yet have the fundamental core in place such that those can amplify your effectiveness, and it’s sort of like the cart-before-the-horse type situation?

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. We will seek quick tips which, by the way, are super helpful. They’re really important. I’m going to give several that I think are important. But we do it without really understanding, like, “What is it that’s driving underneath this? What is it that keeps me from actually doing those things?” So, there’s no strings, there’s no endless amounts of things that we can do. Bundle your email. Don’t check your email all the time. But people still do it. And I think the thing that I would say is, “Okay, so let’s change the equation to really understand, like, how I make decisions about my attention.”

And so, a couple huge mistakes. Number one, people don’t understand that their attention is always going to be driven by social influence, meaning other people, what they pay attention to. Like, I could be perfectly focused but if the person sitting next to me has different ambitions then I’m never going to get my work done. So, like, we have to say, “Okay, how do I change the equation in such that it doesn’t cost me more attention than I have when I’m trying to find ways to create more space so I can focus on what matters?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s huge. And, like, you really have to be in a pretty hardcore sense of isolation for those effects to not matter much. I think I’m just lying to myself, when it’s like, “No, no, no, this is my objective, and I’ve determined it, and this is the schedule. And, thus, this is what shall be.” But, in practice, no, my dear wife or advertiser or somebody needs something now, and here we are.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. And maybe if I were to say it’s really simply, often the great suggestions and strategies that we try to incorporate, they cost us the very thing we have the least of. So, like, “I’m going to implement a new project management system. I’m going to change the way I do my morning every morning. I’m going to do a gratitude journal. I’m going to do all of these things.” But the reason that we can’t is because we’re tired, and it’s because we have a lot on our plates, and it’s because that takes work. So, it’s like, maybe let’s think about how we do this in a way that we can actually get it done with our attention in mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so let’s get right into the core then, and it might take a while but I think it’s well worth it. So, you’re pointing to something bigger than the tips, and the tricks, and the hacks, and the strategies, and the tactics, to kind of fundamentally how do we go about determining what gets our attention? And I guess, for many of us, the answer is probably like, “I don’t know/It’s not that clearly defined.” So, lay it on us, like, how do we do that? Like, what are the main maybe archetypes, or modes, or flavors by which this happens?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah. And this is where it gets really fun, and there’s a lot of different frameworks that we can use but I’ll use a really simple one. You have two systems of attention in your brain, and one system of attention is more based out of your right hemisphere, and we would call it bottom-up, or right hemisphere attention. It’s complex. This isn’t the same as right brain, left brain pseudo-science. Then there’s another system of attention that is more top-down is what it’s called, and it’s more based in the left hemisphere.

And so, the right hemisphere is the baseline system of attention. Here’s what I mean by that. Right now, there’s literally endless things that are screaming for your attention. Like, you could be paying attention to this podcast, you could be paying attention to the football game that’s on, whatever, you have endless options.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s hot in here.

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, it’s hot. Exactly. And we flip. We’re constantly flipping. But most of it, it hits the right hemisphere first, and what you’re looking for is two things, “Is that thing going to kill me?” So, I am, primarily, like anytime, something is perceived as acutely threatening. Meaning, “Whatever that is could hurt me, I will focus on it,” and that’s when it flips into the other hemisphere, and we give nothing else our attention. Everything else disappears.

And so, the first thing is pain, fear, anxiety. Now, why it’s really important to realize this, is because this is exactly what makes technology so complicated because technology brings things that are far away and makes it feel right here. And so, all of a sudden, we can spend our whole day saying we want to get more work done, we want to get focused. Well, what inputs are coming your way that make everything feel extremely threatening?

There was a fascinating research that was done after the Boston Marathon bombing, and they looked at the stress and trauma levels of people that were at the scene of the crime, of this tragedy. Then they compared it to people who consumed media about it. And the acute stress levels were higher in those that were watching it than those that were there.

And so, that tells us, like when technology brings something to us, we perceive it wrongly, so our attention is always going to go towards stress. And the other thing, and I’ll pause after this one when it comes to our right hemisphere, is then we’re also wired to seek out new fun things, things that our past have said, “That is interesting. Every time I go there, it feels good,” or, “I have no idea what that is.” It’s new, it’s interesting, that’s why I’m always like, “What else could be on Twitter? What else could be here?” because you’re wired to explore. Your brain is made to go in search of things that are interesting.

So, that’s the foundation for what drives our attention, “Is it interesting? Is it threatening?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. Interesting. Threatening. Nice summary. So, when you say bottom-up, you mean in terms of just like there’s a stimulus, and, “Brrp,” as opposed to, “Here’s my masterplan, and I am enacting it.”

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. Yeah, it starts in the brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, that’s handy there in terms of threats, pain, fear, anxiety, and the novelty. And, well, I guess that’s why the news can really suck you in because it’s always new. By the definition, it’s the news. This is something that has happened recently that you probably are not aware of because it’s all across the world. And, by the way, it could be threatening you in terms of if the election outcome you find to be threatening, one way or the other, or COVID, or any number of natural disasters, or economic crisis. Yeah, that’s a real potent double whammy there. The news hits you both.

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah. And we’re seeing like a 79% increase in the amount of time people are spending checking news through digital channels. And so, like, why is this so important? Because we pay attention to what matters the most at any moment, and we say, “How do I get more work done? How I get more focused?” Maybe not a lifehack, it’s more of saying, “Okay. Well, you’re not going to focus on something that has to do with work if you don’t know that it matters a ton, and you don’t block out, you don’t spend less time on the threats that are far away that can be perceived really closely.” So, that’s kind of a step one, easy way to think about practical implications of attention science.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, that makes sense in terms of fundamentally, principally, that’s what’s up in terms of, like, biochemistry, evolution, the human condition, yeah, here we are, we’ve got some predispositions to go that way.

Curt Steinhorst
I can give you a few more layers because, clearly, we’re not monkeys, we’re not cows. I mean, cows, they eat the grass because it tastes good, they have an associated reward, and they run away from wolves. Like, that’s what they do. We’re not just that. So, that’s where the other system comes in. The other system of attention, it allows us to say, “I’m going to ignore that, that interesting thing, right now that doesn’t matter. I’m going to focus on something unilaterally.” This is the type of work people really want when they say, “I want to get focused.”

And some would say the ultimate state of that type of focus is what’s called flow. Now, what happens there is that when we have our attention prioritized by the left hemisphere, the things that are unfamiliar, literally, you don’t see it anymore, you don’t hear it anymore. It all disappears. Like, you can zoom in for periods of time, and it can be extended.

And there’s ways we can increase and decrease our capacity but, ultimately, we do those things when it’s challenging, it demands something from us, when the barriers to other fun things that give us a reward are not available, meaning, “I need to work on a research project for a bank that I’m working with right now, but I also would love to see what my Fantasy Football team is doing. Like, I’ll do the easier thing,” and when we see that we can make real progress towards it. Like, I feel some level of mastery.

If it’s just a list of tasks, then it’s not satiating. Like, we can’t make our attention go to things that are boring and uninteresting. They have to be challenging and interesting, new and interesting, threatening and interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, run that by us again. So, we got the mastery, we’ve got barriers to easier fun things. And what else?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, so it has to be challenging, meaning it has to demand enough of our brain that we won’t drift off. Like, boredom is the number one reason people leave jobs, like it doesn’t take enough, “Any machine can do this.” So, challenging, “This is hard.” It has to involve something that we see ourselves becoming an expert. Mastery, like, “By working on how to ride a bike, I’m going to be, like I can do that.” “By becoming a financial advisor by learning the markets, I’m going to be the expert in the markets.” Whatever it is. We have to see that connection. And then we have to have things that are fun, not available to us.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, there it is. All right. So, given that, let’s say we want to, at the very core, primal, fundamental level, focus in on something. What should we do?

Curt Steinhorst
So, start with space, decide where you’re going to do it, that’s really important. The largest neural connection between short-term and long-term memory is space, meaning, I walk into a place, and it says, my brain is cued to say, “This is what I’m supposed to do here.” So, we want to let our space work for us. Like, if I asked everyone, “Where were you when you heard about what happened at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?” Everyone remembers where they were.

And so, I would say if I want to zero in on something, I got to pick a place that the noise isn’t too loud. It doesn’t mean…coffee shops can be really great for this, by the way, for a different reason, but, “I’m going to pick this place as where I’m going to work and the other stuff isn’t available.” Like, we call it going into a vault, “That I’m going to…my phone isn’t going to be as available, my people are going to know I’m not available, this is where I do that.” So, space is the first thing I would always tackle.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. So, I like that metaphor going into a vault, which really…I’m thinking about Fortnite’s The Vault. It’s a huge iron enclosure with a big old dial, like, “Boom! We’re going in there,” and it’s secure, like you can put lots of gold bars in this vault.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, that’s good and clear in terms of others know, like, “Hey, I’m not to be disturbed right now.” Ideally, your phone is off or distant, you’re left in another location, and there could be any number of distractions not available to you. Like, the fridge is not there. Well, lay it on us, like what are best practices for vaulting?

Curt Steinhorst
And it depends on the type of work truly. Like, number one practice is clear barriers to entry in and out. Like, that’s the simple way to think of it. I use noise-cancelling headphones because it’s the random unexpected that you’re like, “Oh, that would be interesting.” Your line of sight is the next thing I would do. Turn off the background noise or put on classical music, and then make sure that what I see in front of me isn’t stuff that would make me want to do it instead.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, a PlayStation.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right, like a PlayStation.

Pete Mockaitis
Don’t have that thing.

Curt Steinhorst
Like, a TV. That’s right. Or, you’re in an open office, we’ll come back there eventually, and you work in the same space with someone you know. Like, we’re social, like, “I’d rather talk to them than do this.” So, we just remove, change our line of sight. Those are kind of the big areas that I would be thinking about. And then, from there, I think it really comes down to if you’re wanting to do more creative work than having the ability to see outside is really valuable. Like, the more distant the horizon is, it actually shows that it allows you to think more creatively. If you’re wanting to knock out an Excel spreadsheet, then it’s actually tighter rooms where the blinders are on are more helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I’ve got HGTV scenes running through my head right now in terms of they’re just running spaces for purposes, and it’s not just really stuff for designers to charge more. It has a huge impact in how well you’re able to accomplish whatever you care to accomplish in that space, whether that’s make food, or sleep, or crank out work.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. And I would say, okay, if you’re having to work from home, we need to move…once we hit a certain threshold, we get bored, we have to go somewhere else. So, it’s like just match the space to the task. If it’s cranking out a bunch of emails, or responding to quick messages, or just whatever work you’re doing that’s quick and easy, that you can bundle together, that doesn’t require tons of focus, do it wherever. But that work, that by being interrupted, you lose significantly in time and quality, and you know what that is that demands your full attention, just pick a place where that’s all you do. Like, that is the place where the hard work gets done.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I like that a lot. Okay. So, we talked about a vault. What else?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, so space first. And then the next piece I would say is like creating the clarity and removing the stuff that clutters your mind that you also feel like you have to get done. So, for instance, the number one predictor of how often you self-interrupt is how many people interrupted you the previous hour. Think of how often you’re interrupted because anytime you’re interrupted, someone is saying, “You should be paying attention to something else. There’s something else that you’re missing.”

And so, it’s really hard to say, “I’m going to focus on this,“ when your list of things that are on your mind that you know you have to get to is really long. And so, we start a couple really, really easy ways to solve this and make it easier on your brain is, number one, starting with, this is in every meeting, is, “What’s competing for your attention?” I’ll start by just doing a dump, a brain dump, anything that’s like, “Oh, I get to this. Oh, I got to do this. I got to do this.” And that’s why it’s really good at the beginning of the day kind of plan out your day by saying, “These are the things I have to get done. These are the things I could get done.” So, I start just by offloading everything.

And then the next really important piece, if you want to do focused work that’s in the vault, is you have to match the time to the task. So, you matched the space to the task, now you match the time. You schedule out, you say, “This is going to take me 45 minutes, and all the stuff that I have to do that I know is important, I’ve scheduled it. Like, I’ve given the time that is necessary for it so then I’m not burdened by, ‘What else I haven’t gotten to?’ I’m aware that there’s time allotted for it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s huge in terms of you can just rest easy knowing that that has a place and it’s going to get handled, as opposed to, “Might this not get done and calamity ensue? I hope not.”

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. And the other problem is I’ve had this, clearly, a client will say, “Well, if I look at my calendar, like there’s still all this stuff I can’t get done so I end up putting 15-minute increments for things to even out.” Okay, great. Well, then you know on the frontend, and you got to either dump it or delegate it. You got to trash it so that, at least at the end of the day, you have permission to be successful.

If your day is scheduled at such a level that it’s going to come apart at the seams at some point, that’s the fastest route to get to less of it. Like, when you’re overwhelmed, what do we do? Like, what do you when you’re already feeling guilty, and like, “Aargh, this is the worst”? We watch funny cat videos, like that’s what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s weird, huh?

Curt Steinhorst
We escape it completely because we want to alleviate that feeling of disappointment, shame, regret.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Curt Steinhorst
So, when it comes to changing that equation, you move from just a to-do list to a prioritized to-do list, and you then move from a prioritized to-do list to a calendared-timestamped approach. Let your calendar be your home screen, and let that guide what you work on, and that changes. I would say, most people have not implemented that. In my work, and if you just did that, you get probably 80% improvement, like you get a long way.

Now, there’s one problem that I have to mention on this, and it’s one of the reasons that people often struggle with this, is that it turns out people are really unreliable when it’s not what they want to do. And so, it’s like, okay, let’s put some breathers in here, and say, “I’m not a robot. At 4:00 p.m., if I put that huge project that I’ve been delaying, odds are I’m probably not going to want to do it right then.”

And so, I would just say, make sure you put the stuff that you hate the most at the times when you’re most mentally strong, which usually is more in the morning for most people. And, secondly, if you’re someone who really struggles with this, just put some gaps where you have like three different things, and let yourself choose which one you want to work on at the moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is good because I think that some resistance to this idea is like, “Oh, but then I feel boxed in.” Well, it’s sort of like, “Well, in some ways that’s sort of the point. You need a box in order to accomplish the thing that really matters that isn’t getting accomplished.” But, in other ways, hey, if it is flexible, like one task is not truly way more important than another, then, okay, game on. We can have some flexibility there.

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, you’re wired to explore. You’re creative. You do the unexpected. This is what makes us actually better than machines. Machines are always going to be more efficient than us. So, I just think rather than really being frustrated with yourself, you just say, “How do we put that natural curiosity, and interest in the unexpected, how do we put it to good use rather make it end up being debilitating so that we end up nowhere?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, this is beautiful. So, we’ve got the space, we’ve got the time. What else?

Curt Steinhorst
Then we got the people. Yeah, the people. In the work I do, this is perhaps the most underutilized piece of the equation, that when we look at it, organizations, if you work in a company, they want you to be productive. But then we put in systems, and we create culture, and we have teams that all but ensure it will never happen. And so, it’s like there’s 55% increase in the number of meetings and calls per week right now from before when COVID started.

Pete Mockaitis
Before COVID, okay.

Curt Steinhorst
From March until now, we’re seeing a 55% increase. I created this really fun program with Nike called The Focus Fit Challenge. It a four-week thinking of focus as a skill to develop. And we were looking at this team, and it turns out like seven hours of meetings makes it really unlikely that you’re going to be able to do anything else really well.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Curt Steinhorst
And so, yeah, I would say the next thing is to say, “Who steals my attention? Or, who needs my attention? And how do I have a conversation that says…?” because no one benefits from your partial attention. But the reason we all want each other’s attention is because attention is given to what matters, it says we matter. And it also helps other people help us know what matters.

And so, I would just say look at the people who are most likely to want to interrupt you, to want to take it from you, to deserve your attention, and set up some ground rules that says, “During this time, I’m not going to be available at all. During this time, I’m going to be only available to you, and let’s figure out what that needs to look like,” so that now you have advocates for people that previously would’ve been frustrated because it was only going to take a second. It’s like, sure, if we warp the space-time continuum, it’ll only take a second, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Okay. Yeah, that’s great. And then that can feel really good. And I guess that sort of gets to all of this, is that it’s kind about getting really real early instead of late in terms of like you’re not overscheduling, then the day comes apart at the seams, we feel like a loser, failure, because you ruined it. And not with people telling them, “You get this much time, or you don’t get this much time,” and then either disappointing them or you not following through. It’s like you’re making the calls in advance in terms of, “This is going to happen, this is what’s not going to happen, and I am comfortable and responsible with regard to the consequences of it,” as opposed to, “Well, I hope I can make maybe get lucky and get it all done. Let’s see what happens.”

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, that’s right. When we look and we see how people are feeling about work, there’s been an over 31% increase in burnout during this period, even though at the beginning we’ve got a lot of things cleared from our plates. There’s been this 48% increase in team chats, and it makes sense. It really does. Like, “If we can’t see you, then we want to hear from you more often.” But what’s happening is we’re creating a culture where responsiveness is everyone’s highest responsibility, and then we see and we wonder why this engagement occurs, frustration occurs, people feel like there’s less work-life balance, they can’t unplug. Home relationships suffer. At work, relationships are not being built because we’re dislocated.

And so, all I would just say is it’s about being proactive in this but it’s about really giving yourself permission to succeed. Like, this is the challenges when we react and don’t set clear agreed-upon expectations. What we end up doing is we allow the unspoken expectations of others to drive us, and then we actually teach them what they should expect. And so now, we’re emailing immediately back, and now they’re frustrated if we don’t.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Curt Steinhorst
So, if you reliably don’t respond to emails for a day, like the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, then guess what? No one expects it. Now, I understand some are like, “Tell my boss this.” Right. Let’s start with all the other relationships you have a little more power over, setting some healthier boundaries, and then we can have a conversation with your boss about saying, “I want to do this really well. Can we set some rules around how I know when I’m allowed to do the uninterrupted work?” You know what I mean? So, let’s start with the people that we care about, and just say, “Let’s figure this out together.”

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. Or, even just yourself in terms of, ‘No, 7:15 to 7:45, I’m not looking at any devices. I’m taking a shower, I’m journaling, whatever.” And then, yeah, start not at the hardest possible boundary to enforce but the easiest.

Curt Steinhorst
That’s right. And here’s the other thing, one of the reasons we’re like, “I’m not going to do it from 7:15 to 7:45.” Look, if the alternative, if you’re going to stop looking at your phone while you sit on the couch and watch TV, or the rule becomes about constraint, rather than saying, like, “What’s this replacing?” So, make sure that if you’re going to set ground rules, make it because there’s something better. You know what I mean?

It’s like, “From 7:15 to 7:45, we’re going to have a fun high-low day to talk about that,” or, “I’m going to take my kids on a wagon ride.” Like, have something proactive, and then before you get into it, mind a gap. Like, give yourself a gap that says, “I’ve just looked at everything in the world, nothing needs my attention now. And now I’m going to actually give myself permission to just be here.” It’s like close up before so you know nothing matters, and then do something fun, do something that does matter with that time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s perfect. Well, Curt, I think you’ve done a fantastic job of diagnosing what’s going on here and why we find ourselves in this spot, and what are some things we can do. Lay it on us, you’ve shared this wisdom with many people. I’m sure some have adopted it to tremendous effect, and many others have done nothing. Why? What’s sort of like the holdup, the roadblock, the mistake, the thing that you could help us overpower so that we’re in the group that transforms?

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, I think there’s a couple things that would drive our inability to see real progress here. One is that we actually don’t know why we’re doing it. And the point of efficiency and boundaries around these things always has to be founded in something worth focusing on. And so, people aren’t going to just be more efficient and productive if the end is just more efficiency and productivity, and climbing a ladder without a picture of where they’re headed. And so, I would say the biggest thing is like know what you’re devoting this extra uninterrupted energy to, and know that it’s worth it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, Curt, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Curt Steinhorst
You know, I would just say focus is possible but make the goal not to be an efficient machine. Make the goal instead to eliminate all the stuff that waste your time, distracts you, so that you can actually have a chance to really thrive in this moment. I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid, and so I’m all too familiar with distraction. And what doesn’t help us is an unrealistic expectation towards efficiency without a realization that we’re all capable of focus when we know what matters.

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

Curt Steinhorst
Yeah, my favorite quote is “Tell me what you pay attention to, and I will tell you who you are,” by Jose Ortega y Gasset, a Spanish philosopher.

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

Curt Steinhorst
Well, I already mentioned the Boston Marathon research. I‘ve been using that. I think that’s really, really interesting and fascinating. The interesting study out of Michigan State talks about how walking through nature actually restores your attention. It’s called Attention Restoration Theory. And I’m really fascinated by how subtle amounts of background noise actually increase our ability to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I can’t let that go. If I wanted to get me some of that, what do you recommend I do for my subtle amounts of background noise?

Curt Steinhorst
You know, the coffee shop, subtle background noise there. I would say the key is if you can get outdoors and into actual nature, that’s the number one thing you want to do. If you can’t, having the feeling of movement is good. You just don’t want it to be people that you know. So, you want to go places where the noise has a small amount of noise. It creates what’s called the inhibitory spillover. It forces the system in your brain to inhibit, block out everything, so you just kind of want a dull lull in a subtle stimulation through movement that’s in the background. So, coffee shops are actually probably the perfect place to be able to get that.

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

Curt Steinhorst
There’s a book called The Social Animal by David Brooks, that I think is the most entertaining and beautiful narrative on the fullness of human sociology and psychology right now. So, if you want to understand like all that’s out there in a really fun way, that’s the book I’d recommend.

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

Curt Steinhorst
I’ve gotten really where I love the tool Notion. And the reason I love Notion is it’s a system that you can build on but it allows for me to have full visibility on all the tasks I need to do, but even deeper. It allows me to have content that gets linked and referenced across so it’s not me having 12 versions of Google Docs. I use databases and things like that to be able to consolidate research and consulting work and strategies into a single place.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Curt Steinhorst
I have a monthly note that is my idea, interesting ideas and thoughts. And so, I actually used to use Evernote, now I switched to Notion. And anything I’m thinking about, like, “Oh, gosh, that podcast. I really want to watch that podcast, or someone recommended an article, or a quote I came across, or I should use one kind of sunscreen versus another,” like anything. Rather than trying to file it, I throw it all in a single note, and then once a month I do a full review. Even when I read articles, I’ll keep the whole article if it’s for my space but if it’s not, I’ll just pull out the quotes and link it so that, at the very least, if it’s something I found interesting, I will review it twice. And then I’ll file it wherever it belongs later, but I feel no pressure. I just dump it in a single spot.

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

Curt Steinhorst
I think, I guess, the thing I see on Twitter more than anything is the very basic, that your attention is the most limited, valuable, precious, and misunderstood resource. And there’s no greater gift that you can give to someone than your undivided attention.

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

Curt Steinhorst
The website is probably the first place, FocusWise.com. And then, if they want to add an email, my email is CS@FocusWise.com. And then social platforms are complicated but if that’s your cup of tea, LinkedIn is definitely the place that I’m most engaged.

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

Curt Steinhorst
You make some simple changes. Don’t do it by putting more work on your plate. Do it by making your space help you out. And do it by just looking at your time, and saying, “I’m going to divide my time. I’m not going to divide my attention.”

Pete Mockaitis
Curt, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and success in all the things you’re attending to.

Curt Steinhorst
Hey, this has been my joy. I’m really grateful for the time.

607: How to Make Any Work Energizing and Motivating with Todd Henry

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Todd Henry says: "It's about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically."

Todd Henry explains how to tap into your personal motivation code to bring more energy and excitement to your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What it really takes to create lasting motivation
  2. How our motivations distract us—and how to curb that
  3. The 27 flavors of motivation

 

About Todd

Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He is the author of five books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and the longtime host of The Accidental Creative podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

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Todd Henry Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into your wisdom but, first, I want to understand, you’ve got a secret music album project you’ve been working on. What’s the story here?

Todd Henry
I’m really curious how you even know about that because I’ve only mentioned it very briefly, like a couple of times but, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
We have a prompt on the form when you booked the interview that says, “Tell us something nobody knows about you.” I stole that from Lisa Cummings, her Strengths podcast. It’s like I’m so thrilled.

Todd Henry
I guess I told you then I guess that’s how it happened. I don’t even remember that. Okay, yeah. So, I think maybe we talked about this the last time I was on the show, but I have a background in the music business. I spent a handful of years after college playing music and traveling and all that, and then, frankly, kind of put that on the shelf for a number of years.

And then, for whatever reason, about seven months ago, right before COVID, I picked up my guitar and I just started writing songs again. So, it’s been a really fun, what I call unnecessary creating project, that’s what I call that discipline, is having something in your life you’re creating that’s not your work, something that’s not about you, it’s not about your clients.

So, for the last handful of months, I’ve been putting together a music project, which is just kind of fun, which, by the way, is for my ears only, and maybe like family and select friends so it won’t be coming to a Spotify app near you anytime soon. But it’s just been fun to really explore that side of my creativity again after 20 years. And, to be frank, I’m like really blown away at how different it is recording now versus 20 years ago. What I can do now in my home office is the equivalent of what I would’ve spent 20 grand on in a studio 20 years ago just because of what’s available, app-wise. So, it’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is wild. I love playing that stuff, like the iZotope RX7, 8 is out now, just a few days ago in terms of…well, we can dork out. But I think it sets the stage well, like, hey, your expertise is creativity but your latest book is called The Motivation Code. Kind of what’s the connection or how did you scooch on over into the realm of motivation?

Todd Henry
Yeah, this was a very unexpected book for me to write, not just in terms of people who read my work but for me, it was very unexpected. About four years, a friend of mine, Rod Penner, who was a veteran of a management consulting firm, he had left the firm several years before but I didn’t know what he was working on, and he just reached out to me, he said, “Hey, I want you to take this motivation assessment I’ve been working on.” That was in 2016.

And I don’t know about you, Pete, but I’m sort of one of those guys who kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear, “Oh, here’s an assessment you should take,” because I always think like those quizzes in magazines are something like, “Which Harry Potter house are you a part of?” Like, that’s what I always kind of think, I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, this is different. You need to take this.”

And so, I did. And, frankly, what I discovered completely blew my mind. I mean, it just really, really amazed me how accurately this assessment described things like why I make the same mistakes over and over again in my life, why some tasks are unbelievably energizing for me, and other tasks are complete drudgery. Like, I would stay up four nights in a row until 1:00 in the morning to do some things, but then you ask me to file some paperwork, and it’s like it’ll take me three minutes but I’ll put it off for a week and a half.

I mean, just all of these patterns why I succeed in some leadership roles and I fail in other leadership roles, all of these patterns were just laid out before me. And this assessment was called The Motivation Code Assessment. And so, I thought, “I’ve got to figure out a way to get this into the world, to get this into other people’s hands,” because it really transformed so much about the way I see my day-to-day work, and I wanted to do that for other people as well.

The only problem was I was in the middle of writing a book at the time called Herding Tigers that came out in 2018. So, I’ve been working on this book in the background for about four years. And over the course of that four years, as I dove into the research, realized that this motivation code assessment is based on over 50 years or research, started in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the outcropping of that work has been developed into this assessment by a team of PhDs and researchers over the course of the last several years, and then I became involved in 2016, and we started working on putting together a book to try to bring this to market, and now the book is available.

So, it’s been a long time coming and an expected twist but it’s kind of one of those things, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, where when you come across something that is so unbelievably transformative, you just want to tell everybody about it. And that’s exactly what happened to me with this research.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is exciting in terms of, aha, the scales have fallen from your eyes, and you see and recognize patterns and explanations for what’s going on there. And, indeed, I suppose why you can accomplish some things quickly and go late into the night and other things if they’re really in a short of amount of time, you’re dragging your feet. Boy, I’ve had that same experience. And I imagine, when it comes to creativity, that’s huge with regard to, “Are you motivated to put in that time to do that in excellence? Or are you just sort of like, ‘Yeah, well, you know what, I guess this is a job and I’m contractually obligated to crank it out, so I guess I’ll do that now.’” And it shows up in both how rewarding you feel and meaningful as well as just how much you put in, and, ultimately, the quality of the work product.

Todd Henry
Right. Exactly. And we tend to think of motivation as being a binary thing, “Either I’m motivated or I’m not,” right? But what we’ve discovered is it’s actually where you get your motivational energy, that there are different flavors of motivation, or as we call them, there are 27 different themes of motivation, 27 different ways you can get your motivational energy. And when you’re consistently operating within your top motivational themes, or what we call your motivation code, you are more engaged, you are more creative, you will put more discretionary energy into the work because the work itself is giving you energy. You’re engaging in work that’s not draining you of energy. Instead, it’s giving you energy, it’s feeding you energy, which is a very different way, by the way, of thinking about motivation.

This is not the traditional way that we think about being motivated. We just need to get motivated. You just need to psych yourself up. You just need to go out there and make it happen. Well, the reality is often we’re working against the way that we’re wired when we try to amp ourselves up, we try to motivate ourselves. But if we understand those themes, if we understand what it is that really drives us, we can structure our lives and our work in such a way that we’re approaching it according to where we get our motivational energy, and that completely changes the calculation.

And the other thing we’ve discovered is that when you are operating, to your point about creativity, Pete, when you’re operating within your motivation code, you’re more likely to experience this phenomenon that we call flow, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed and made popular. And flow is that state where you kind of get lost in your work, where the work is challenging enough to kind of keep you engaged but not so challenging that you lose your interest in it. And we’ve all had those moments where we just get lost in the work, where we forget time and we’re just complete.

Well, what we discovered is that there’s a pretty high degree of correlation between operating in your core motivations, those top three motivations, and experiencing flow in your day-to-day life, which is when you kind of have that sense of getting lost in your work. And, of course, that’s going to lead to better work when you experience that phenomenon.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, so that all adds up conceptually. Could you maybe share a specific story of someone who they came to a new discovery via the motivation code, and then, wow, suddenly things were different? They tapped into something big that made a real impact in their work and life.

Todd Henry
Yeah, I’ll give you the example that I’ve been sharing pretty liberally because the example is me, and I’ll tell you how discovering this affected me. So, my top three motivations, my motivation code, are make an impact, meet the challenge, and influence behavior. Meet the challenge is pretty significant. So, make an impact, my number one, is related to the fact that I need to see the direct impact of my work. I have to be able to see that what I’m doing is leaving a mark on the world around me in some capacity.

Number two is meet the challenge. That’s a pretty close second to make an impact. So, here’s an example of how this helped me understand something that was going on in my life. So, in my entire adult life, Pete, I have probably played a grand total of maybe five hours of video games, since I was like 22 years old. So, I’m now 47.

And then about a year and a half a year ago, maybe two years ago, my son introduced me to a game called Fortnite. Are you familiar with Fortnite?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, I’ve played Fortnite. I played some Fortnite today, Todd.

Todd Henry
Okay, there we go. All right. So, for those who are not initiated, like Pete and I, Fortnite is a game where basically you’re dropped onto an island. You have to basically discover resources and find weapons, and then you have to eliminate other players. And the goal is to be the last person standing or, as they call it, to achieve Victory Royale. So, you want to be the last person standing on the island.

So, what’s great about Fortnite is that it’s challenging, it’s really difficult because you’ve got a hundred other players all of different skill levels. It’s predictable in that there are some pretty clear parameters, but it’s also random because what you do depends on what other people do within the game. And it’s pretty easy to just jump right back in if you get eliminated, so it’s easy access. And then it’s also finite. Like, each game, maybe if you play the entire game, it lasts about maybe 20 minutes, 18 to 20 minutes. So, it’s a really short defined thing.

Well, for somebody who’s wired to meet the challenge, Fortnite is like a narcotic. And let me explain why. So, my son introduced me to this game, he’s like, “I think you might like it. You should try it.” So, I loaded it up on my iPad, and I dive onto the island, and I land, and I think I lasted, like, I took two steps and, boom, I was gone. I was eliminated immediately, right? I was like, “That’s stupid. Play again.” So, I immediately go back into the game. This time I think I lasted maybe like 10 or 15 seconds. By the end of the night, I’d made it like maybe into the top 75.

So, I keep playing this game, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better. And, finally, about a month and a half later, I’m sitting on the couch, my wife is beside me doing something completely ridiculous, like unproductive, like reading a book or something while I’m sitting here playing Fortnite, and so I let out a little whoop. I just achieved my first Victory Royale, Pete. I let out a little whoop, and my wife said, “What happened?” And I explained to her, and her exact response was, “Way to beat that 7-year old, honey. Way to go. Good job.” I’ve never felt so small in my life.

But for somebody wired to meet the challenge, here’s why Fortnite is really dangerous. When I am doing a long-arc project, like let’s say writing a book, that might seem like a challenge to somebody who’s never written a book before, but for me that just looks like a big long-arc project. Something that’s due in a year does not feel challenging to me. It doesn’t feel like an imminent challenge that I need to tackle. So, it’s really easy for me, when I’m working on something like a book project, or something else with a long timeline, it’s easy for me to say, “I’m going to go find something right now I can do that’s  going to feel like a challenge for me.” Fortnite feels like a challenge for me. That’s a distraction that I could easily jump into but there are any number of other things. There are little projects, little things I could be doing that feel like challenges to me right now but are a distraction from the longer-arch work I need to be doing.

So, do you know what I’ve had to do, Pete, is I’ve had to say, “All right. Writing a book is a long-arc project. That takes like a year and a half, two years, from the time you agreed to write the book to the time it hits the market. I need to find ways of establishing little challenges in my work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that my work feels challenging to me.” So, for me, it’s, “I’m going to write 500 words before 9:00 a.m.,” or, “I’m going to write 500 words between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. today. I’m going to write 500 words. That’s my challenge today.” I have to find ways of instilling challenge in my work because if I don’t, I will get distracted by things that are maybe completely frivolous, maybe a waste of my time, but that are satisfying, they’re scratching that meet the challenge itch.

Another one that’s really interesting and unique is, and I hope it’s okay that I say this because we actually share this motivation, as I’ve seen your motivation code report, is make an impact as a podcaster because our podcasts are downloaded a million times a year, and I know yours is as well because I know what your stats are, right? So, as a podcaster, you put lots of stuff into the world but you don’t often get a lot of feedback about the things you’re putting into the world. So, one of the challenges for me, being wired to make an impact, meaning I need to see the impact of the work I’m making in the world, one of the challenges I experienced is that I put things into the world that people don’t respond to. And when people aren’t responding to what I’m doing, I start wondering, “Am I doing the right kind of work? Is my work any good? Should I maybe just sell everything and go move into a Trappist monastery or something? Does any of this make any sense anymore?” Because my motivation of make an impact isn’t being scratched.

And so, sometimes I will do things to achieve an impact just to see that I’m making an impact. I’ll do things that may or may not be helpful to other people just so I can make an impact, or just so I can get some kind of a response from people, because that’s one of my core motivations, that’s one of the shadow sides because you can sometimes try to create an impact where it’s not welcome, because that’s what you’re wired to do.

So, once I began to understand these things and how they play out in my life, and one of my other motivations, my number four is actually overcome. That means I like to work against an enemy. But that means, sometimes, Pete, that I invent enemies where they don’t exist or I invent obstacles to overcome where they don’t exist, and sometimes that can be a waste of energy or a waste of focus. So, once I began to understand how these motivations play out in my life, I began to structure my days, my life, my schedule in a way that was more meaningful. And it actually allowed me to scratch that motivational itch or to get my energy in the right place every day so that my work wasn’t draining to me as much as it was energizing to me.

Now, every motivation is positive but every motivation also has a shadow side. So, once I began to understand some of those shadow side tendencies I just described, I could notice, “Oh, wait a minute, you know what? I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Does my work feel challenging to me? If not, how could I create a challenge right now? You know what, I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Am I making an impact and seeing the impact in my work? If not, then maybe I need to find a way to get some feedback about what I’m doing right now.”

Or, for example, I started a folder of feedback letters that people would send me, or emails people would send me, that I can go back and review where people have written to me about what my work means to them. Because in those moments where I’m not getting, I’m not scratching that motivational itch, it helps me to see, “Oh, my work is having impact. I’m still having an impact on people. I just need to remind myself of that.” So, it’s allowed me to structure my life and my days and my work in a way that is more consistent with how I’m wired to get my energy, and this really made all the difference in the world in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Yes, I was just going to ask, and I’m glad you shared it. So, if you’re not feeling that make an impact with your invisible podcast audience, how are you getting there? And so, you check out the folders. And it’s true, like I have times where, well, I just naturally think it’s fun to chat with people like you and learn stuff. But sometimes I don’t think it’s so much fun to like hunker down, like, “Okay, what are the teasers? What’s in the opener? What’s in the closer?” Like, to actually take a conversation and get it across the finish line to, and this is an episode that stands alone and is consumable, digestible and friendly to pop up and listen to. Like, that is not as much fun for me than chatting with folks like you and learning stuff I like.

So, then my motivation can fall a bit short. And it’s so true, when I just think about the impact that I make. One of my favorite comments from a listener was, “I wake up every morning early so I can listen to it twice.” Like, for me to think about…because there’s some content I love, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything that much. Breaking Bad was so awesome for me but I never woke up early to watch it twice.

So, that’s so cool. And then I had even a little printout in terms of, “Boy, hey, what does it mean to have like 20,000 folks, like demographically in terms of male versus female?” So, I just sort of had images, little icons, that would represent 20,000 people, and sort of look at it. And, sure enough, it helped, and then it got torn up by my toddler, so I should make another one.

Todd Henry
But, yeah, see that’s a classic behavior of somebody driven to by that motivation, make an impact, is you want to see a visible representation of the people that you’re impacting because you can’t see them, right? Even right now, people don’t know this because we’re not recording the video, but we’re actually looking at each other. So, typically, I don’t experience that when I’m recording an audio podcast, but I have no doubt that one of the reasons why you want that feedback is partly related to the way that you get your motivational energy, right, because of wanting to connect with the person on the other side in some capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And it seems like folks just…they can feel more that I’m on their side because I think I’m hopefully giving you some smiles here and there. Because sometimes I think it can sound like a grilling or an interrogation, like, “Give me your best wisdom now. Give me another example. Give me the data behind it. Have you really thought through that?” So, like if I’m coming across that way, I want to be able to reassure them, “Oh, no, hey, Todd, it’s just Pete here, and I’m really interested in your stuff so that’s why I’m asking these questions.” That’s what I’m going for.

Well, so then you mentioned a number of these themes in terms, and, boy, we could spend, I’m sure, multiple hours just laying those out. So, maybe why don’t we just do the list because they’ll tee up my next couple of questions? Could you take two or three seconds now to just name them all? And maybe they come into some clusters.

Todd Henry
They do, yeah. So, again, this research has been conducted over the course of 50 years. We’ve had over a million achievement stories shared. And the language that comprises The Motivation Code Assessment actually was parsed from those million achievement stories. That’s where we discovered the patterns of where people described what it is that was motivating to them about their achievements.

And so, they break down, generally, into six families, six families of motivations. What we say is while they are in a family because they share some DNA, they’re also very different in terms of how they play out in your life. So, even though they’re in a family, that doesn’t mean that they all behave the same. Just, for example, if you have siblings, you share DNA but you probably look different and you probably have different personalities and different things you’re interested in, and that’s kind of the same way that these motivational themes exist with one another but are very different.

So, the first family is what we call the visionary family. And, generally, the visionary family is focused on the future. They’re focused on what’s next. Sometimes they struggle to be present because they’re always thinking about what’s coming up. Actually, one of your top themes is a visionary family theme, which is experience the ideal. Another one is make an impact, which also is one of your motivational themes. And then achieve potential is the third motivational theme that falls in the visionary family.

And then we have the team player family. And, as you can imagine, team player family, themes are all about being with other people, being a part of something great. They really get their energy from the collective effort. That’s really where they get their motivational drive. By the way, these themes tend to be pretty low on my motivations. Generally speaking, I tend to be somebody who’s motivated to work by myself and to work alone, and I like that. It’s great. With the exception of our first theme, which is influence behavior which actually is pretty high on my list. So, influence behavior, serve, collaborate, and make the grade are the four themes that fall under team player.

The next family is called the optimizer family. People who are motivated in this way, tend to be people who are good at taking something and making it great. So, taking something that might be operating okay and making it great, perfecting it, tweaking it. They tend to love working with systems and trying to squeeze maximum efficiency out of systems. So, you have the themes improve, organize, develop, make it work, establish, and make it right.

And then we have the achiever family. The achiever family is driven about moving forward, about persevering, about accomplishing things. And the themes in the achiever family are bring to completion, meet the challenge, advance, and overcome. And then the final two themes, or two families, I should say, are the key contributor family. Key contributor family, these are the people who like to be at the center of the action. They like to be the people making stuff happen. So, you’ve got excel, bring control, be central, gain ownership, be unique, and evoke recognition.

And then the final family is the learner family, and these are people who love to explore, they’re people who love to ask questions. These are the people who often get into conflict with the achiever family when they’re working on a project together because they’re asking, “Why are we doing this? Let’s try seven other ways before we settle on one.” And the achiever family people are like, “Let’s just get it done.” But the themes that fall under the learner family are explore, master, demonstrate new learning, and comprehend and express. So, that is all 27 themes in a nutshell, and all of the six families along with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess where that leads me next is, so that’s a nice rundown, and we can see that, yes, those are different. And so, with mine, I’ve got them scored from the top ten: experience the ideal, and then make an impact 9.6, and then on mine on the bottom, evoke recognition 5.2, and make it right 5.1, which is true, I don’t really care about things the right away. In fact, I kind of like it if we’re breaking new innovative territory, and it’s like, “That’s not how it’s done.” It’s like, “Yeah, I know and I love it.” So, it doesn’t really motivate me when it comes to like accounting stuff, like I’m not going to commit fraud or anything, but that doesn’t fire me up, like, “Oh, man, we just really stated those financials perfectly in accordance with Gap.” Like, “Oh, I don’t care. As long as I’m obeying the law and not being a taker or a whatever, I’m all good.”

So, I guess my question is, well, I think it’s a mark of a good assessment is I read the top results, and I say, “Yes, but of course…” and, “Aren’t we all this way?”

Todd Henry
Right, of course. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to get your vibe in terms of is it fairly evenly distributed across the population? Or are there some folks who make it right is their number one, and there are just as many of them as there are of me?

Todd Henry
Oh, absolutely. No question. And not only that, but there are people…I mean, we’ve given this assessment now to tens of thousands of people. What we’ve discovered is there are people with every one of these motivational themes as their top theme in almost any role you can imagine, right? Because it’s not like, “Oh, if your number one is experience the ideal, then you should be a podcaster.” It’s about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically.

Now, let’s say that you are an accountant, as you just mentioned, and let’s say that your top theme is collaborate, which we have certainly had accountants who are high on collaborate. And let’s say during tax season, you’re stuck in a cubicle doing work, you’re cranking out tax returns in a cubicle by yourself for eight hours a day, you’re probably going to go into a funk and maybe not even know why. You might think you hate your job. You don’t hate your job. What you hate about your job right now is the fact that you have no human interaction for eight hours a day, and you’re fundamentally to get your energy from collaborating with other people.

So, where this is very helpful is in parsing the difference between, “I hate my job,” or, “I hate my tasks,” and, “I hate the way I’m approaching my job,” or, “I hate that I’m approaching my tasks.” Those are fundamentally different things. So, if that is your job, and, for example, you’re wired to collaborate, so you’re going to be in a cube cranking through tax returns all day for eight hours a day, you need to be disciplined about saying, “You know what, I’m either going to, A, find a way to maybe find another teammate that I can do these tax returns with, or in proximity with, or, B, I’m going to structure a social lunch every day. I’m going to take a break in the middle of my day, and I’m going to have social lunch where I get to interact with people, talk about things, we get to collaborate on what’s working, what’s not working, so that I, at least, have some motivational reprieve from these tasks that are going to drain me by the very nature of the tasks because of the way I’m wired.”

Now, somebody else, to your point, who’s wired, say, for establish or to make it right, they might love just being in a cubicle all day just getting it right. That’s all they care about, “If the number is balanced, I’m experiencing nirvana,” because that’s how they’re wired. It doesn’t matter if anybody is around them. They just want to experience getting it right or making things the way they’re supposed to be. So, this is where the difference is between motivational themes and how you score on the motivational assessment. This is how it makes a difference in terms of how you approach your work. It’s not so much about the task you do.

We spend so much time looking for the perfect job, Pete, and that is like chasing vapor. There is no perfect job. Any job you do is going to have tasks you don’t enjoy. But if you learn what drives you, what motivates you, you can begin to structure how you approach your job in a more meaningful way, in a way that will allow you to activate those core motivations more intentionally, more purposefully, and more consistently. And when you begin to approach your work that way, suddenly, you’re going to find, “I’m enjoying my job. I’ve always hated my job but, suddenly, I find that I’m enjoying my tasks more.” Well, it’s because you’re thinking about how to more strategically approach your work according to your motivational types instead of waiting for your job to scratch your motivational itch, which it’s probably not going to do with a few exceptions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it really is pretty eye-opening there in terms of what I’m drawn to and then what I’m not. And sometimes it’s sort of like, in running a business, it’s like for the goal of running a profitable business, I know that using the metric of expected profit generated per hour demanded of me is the optimizing metric to utilize to get the most of that result.

Todd Henry
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes that is quite motivating in terms of I say, “Oh, look, there’s a really big opportunity to make a big impact. Go after it.” And sometimes it’s just sort of like, “Yeah, I know there’s profit there, but I just don’t really care.” And so, it’s actually hard for me to find the discipline to do the thing that I “should” be doing when there’s not a lot of motivational code alignment embedded within them.

Todd Henry
As I’m just looking right now, because you gave me permission, I’m looking at your top motivations, that’s not what’s going to drive you. If you were driven to gain ownership, for example, or if you were driven by any number of the achiever family themes, you would be somebody who’s like, “I don’t care how many podcast downloads I have as long as I have more than that person over there.” Like, that would be what drives you, “I don’t care how many downloads I have as long as it’s 20% more than what I had last year.” That’s how you would be wired, but that’s not what your motivational themes tell me about what matters to you. Those aren’t the things that you’re measuring.

The challenge is the things that are motivating you are a little more difficult to measure. I have a feeling that you’re never 100% satisfied with any episode that you put out in some capacity. Is that true or is that false?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. Sometimes I don’t like to listen to them too closely because then I’ll start…

Todd Henry
Because you’re judging yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
…critiquing the bejesus out of them.

Todd Henry
Yeah. And part of that is the experience of the ideal motivation which is your top motivation, meaning that you are still chasing the perfect podcast episode, which is why your listeners love you, by the way, that’s why you have raving fans, it’s why you have amazing swag for your show, it’s why all of these things, is because you’re trying to create a best possible version of what a podcast could be, which is fantastic. The problem is that you can’t really ever get there because that’s sort of an idealized understanding of what podcast is. And so, as you’re chasing that, the goalpost just kind of keeps moving. But that also energize, I assume that really energizes you as well. The idea of chasing after the ideal version of a podcast is probably something that really energizes you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And so, experience the ideal, I guess this is maybe more for me, so that’s both about experiencing, making real my ideals, my values, and such, as well as experiencing the ideal – am I using this philosophy term right, the platonic form, huh, maybe – of podcast to make the ideal podcast that is part of the game, in addition to the fact that making this podcast speaks to the values that I hold dear.

Todd Henry
Yes, absolutely. So, what gives you joy is the process of creating the thing that was in your head and putting it into the world, and then obviously making an impact, that’s your number two, but seeing the impact of the thing that you’re putting into the world. But it’s the process of doing that that really gives you joy of chasing after those ideals, of chasing after the vision that you have in your head, right? That’s what really gives you joy.

And so, some of the traditional metrics that we use to determine success or failure, or on podcasting or any business, quite frankly, are not the things that give you joy. Whereas, somebody else, quite frankly, they don’t care what they’re putting out. Their numbers are going up. They’re great with it. Or if they have 20% more than they had last year, “Great, that’s all that matters. That’s what gives me all the energy I need.”

And so, when you ask the question, “Well, aren’t we all kind of like this?” Well, we’re all motivated by a blend of themes, and all the themes modify one another, but we each have sort of a unique code that really describes where we are when we’re operating in our sweet spot, right? And so, when we begin to understand that, and understand how these top three to five themes really play together in our life, it begins to explain some of these patterns, some of the things, the tendencies that we have, some of the ways that we maybe get ourselves into trouble sometimes, but also those moments when we feel really, really alive.

It explains, for me, why I cry every time I see The Pursuit of Happiness or Rudy or some of these movies, right? It’s because, well, overcome is one of my top themes. Of course, I’m going to be motivated and moved by some story of somebody overcoming the odds. Of course, I am. Whereas, somebody else thinks, “That’s really cheesy.” “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” But, like, yeah, that really…it doesn’t just move me. It moves me to my core, and I never had terminology to explain that before. But now, suddenly, I realize that’s because that’s how I’m motivated. That’s where I get my energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, when you talk about like movies and strong emotions, like, well, hey, I’m a big advocate for, “Hey, man, do some introspection or reflection on that stuff. It’s telling you something.” And it’s funny, so my favorite movie is Life Is Beautiful. And if you think about, oh, geez, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. If you think about the ideal of a father, wow, I mean, what that guy does for his kid, it’s hard to imagine a more challenging circumstance and an ideal response to it for a child. Wow, there you have it. I’m going to have some water, Todd.

Todd Henry
I have no reaction to that. See, that’s what’s interesting. You’re tearing up thinking about it, whereas I’m tearing up thinking about Rudy and all these overcomer movies because that’s such a core part of my motivation, right? And so, in many ways, these motivational themes help us define things that we’ve always sensed but never had language for, which is what makes it so powerful and also so practical, because then not only do we understand but we actually have some stuff we can do about it to make sure that we’re experiencing them more consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so Todd, let’s see, so if folks who want their motivation code, they get the book, or what’s the easiest cost or most cost-effective way to get as many of the goodies as they can get?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, there is a version of the assessment in the book, it’s a free version of the assessment that basically gives you your top three themes, tells you what your top three themes are when you take the assessment. So, if you go to MotivationCode.com or just anywhere you can get books, you can buy the book. In there, there’s a link to take you to the free version of the assessment to give you your top themes.

We also have, like you took, Pete, we have a full version of the assessment that you can take as well, but as a good starting point, I think the free version of the assessment will you your top three themes, and really begin the journey of understanding more of what it is that moves you to action.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, it sounds like, to summarize, the general parameter here is you get that understanding of what are your top motivational themes, and then you start looking for ways you can align more of your work and life with that, and it may involve trying to do different tasks, or may just be change the way you’re doing your existing tasks.

Todd Henry
Unquestionably. And there’s an entire chapter in the book that’s based on, “So, now what?” Again, we’ve all taken assessments, and then we sort of attach some letters to our name, like, “Hi, I’m an INTP. You?” That’s fine. Not always very practical. Not always very useful. So, really, what we wanted to do was make sure that the book explains to people, “Okay, what can you do about this?” And one of the things we know for certain is that we learn and we grow best in community.

And so, one of the things we recommend is talking to somebody else about what you’re discovering, “Hey, Pete, I just discovered that my top motivation is make an impact, and I’ve noticed that I’m in kind of a funk lately because I’m not seeing a lot of the impact in my work, and I just want to talk about that with you.” Or, “Hey, this thing came up and it didn’t really seem to make sense for me.” I mean, we do have that happen from time to time where people…I was a given a workshop a handful of months ago, and somebody was kind of arguing with me, like, the specific theme was be unique. And they said, “Yeah, but I don’t have a drive to be unique. Like, I don’t wear weird clothes and I don’t have like spiked pink hair. I don’t really have that drive to be unique.”

And this person happened to be a pastor, and I said, “Well, tell me about what you do.” He said, “I’m a pastor, and I give talks.” I say, “Okay, tell me this, if I told you I’m going to write a sermon for you, and I want you just to kind of go out and read that sermon, or deliver that sermon, you’re going to deliver it however you want, but you’re going to use the words that I give you, and you’re going to use the terminology I give you. Would that be satisfying to you?” He’s like, “No, because what I say has to be a unique expression of how I see the world and who I am.” And I said, “You just used the phrase in describing back to me.” It’s like, “You’re arguing to be unique isn’t your motivation but you’re using that exact phrase to describe back to me what it is that drives you.”

And so, sometimes people, when they first discover what their motivational themes are, they don’t necessarily understand what it means to them, and then in the course of talking with others about it, they suddenly realize, “Oh, this does make sense,” because people can reflect back to them what they see in their life in a way that helps them contextualize what these motivations actually mean in terms of how they’re playing out in their day-to-day life. So, that’s one of the things that is really important.

And, listen, we learn and grow in the context of community in any way. I need you, Pete, you need me in order to really fully see ourselves. Like, we do because we all have blind spots. And so, that’s one of the main things I want to make sure people take away from this, is don’t just go do this and then say, “Okay, that was interesting,” and then walk away from it. But, instead, talk about it with someone else and invite them to speak into your life as well, and say, “Hey, where do you see this playing out in my life? How do you see these things playing out? And what do you think I can do to better position myself to experience these motivational themes more consistently?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Todd, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Henry
I think the main thing is just recognize that, especially if you manage people or if you’re somebody in a role where you have organizational responsibility, I think traditionally we have relied on blunt force methods to motivate people, whether that be pay raises, words of encouragement, flexibility, things like that, and the reality is those things work for a season and then everybody reverts to the mean. They don’t last because they’re blunt force.

If you want to engage your team, and if you want to engage the people around you, the absolute way to do that is they understand the specific code that unlocks their motivation, and you owe it to them. If you’re a manager of people, you owe it to your team to understand what it is that uniquely drives them and brings their best work out on a day-to-day basis.

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Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, my favorite quote in the world is actually from Thomas Merton. I don’t have it in front of me so I might get it wrong, but it’s, “There can be an intense egoism in following everyone else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they justify their haste as a species of integrity.”

So, what’s interesting about that is they want quick success and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. I think we have so many people around us who are in a hurry to become successful to the point that they forget who it is they are and what they value, and, in the end, they may achieve what they were going for and realize it’s hollow because they abandoned everything that they value in order to accomplish it.

And so, I’m a firm believer that who you’re becoming is much more important than whatever it is you’re accomplishing in your life.

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

Todd Henry
In the book, I talk about the work of Deci and Ryan and some of the work that they did in exploring motivation, and kind of how motivation plays out in our day-to-day life. And they were some of the first people to discover that any kind of extrinsic motivation imposed upon someone, extrinsic motivation meaning something that you sort of do to prompt motivation, so it could be a pay raise, or words of encouragement, things of that nature, is short-lived. Very short-lived and doesn’t last for very long. In fact, even words of encouragement, over time, eventually lose their impact on people because people grow used to them.

And so, if you’re going to use that, if you’re going to use either pay raises or words of encouragement, you better be prepared to continue doling out more and more raises, more and more words of encouragement over time because, eventually, they will lose their impact because that’s just the way that we’re wired as human beings.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Todd Henry
So, right now I’m reading a book called Why Information Grows, which is blowing my mind, but it’s about why information, specifically on earth, why information grows here but it doesn’t grow on other places in the universe. And it all has to do with, I won’t go into the specifics, but it all has to do with the fact that information is encoded much more readily in solids than it is in gases, and our planet is, the conditions are just right for the right kinds of solids to exist to allow us to encode information. So, it’s a really fascinating book. It’s a little technical but a really fascinating book.

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

Todd Henry
The Techo Planner by Hobonichi is my favorite little tool. I use it for journaling, I use it for tracking my dailies. It’s really like the perfect little notebook, a little paper planner to sort of carry around and use to help organize my life and my work.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit, something you do?

Todd Henry
So, I may have mentioned this in the last episode, but about 17 years ago, I began a habit of every day study in the morning. It’s the first I do in the morning. I get up and I read and I spend some time thinking and writing in the morning, and it has fundamentally transformed my life. If you want to learn how to think systemically, if you want to learn how to see bigger patterns, if you want to advance in your career, if you want to have better relationships, the absolute best thing you can do is make an investment in your intellectual self. And that begins by having a regimen of regular study in your life.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, it’s funny, the one thing that was like an off-the-cuff article I wrote like five years ago, the title was “Don’t Let Your Rituals Become Ruts,” and that is the most quoted thing on the internet for some reason, I think, because the Get.Momentum app on Chrome uses it as one of their screensavers, but I see it tweeted more than anything else.

But I think the thing probably that I’m seeing resonate most often is our early book called Die Empty, which is really about making sure that you’re not taking your best work to the grave with you. And I’m seeing that growing in momentum around the world. Actually, it’s fun. I’m seeing it, it’s been translated into, I forget how many languages now, but it’s really cool to see people talking about, like, “I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me. I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me.” And that’s been kind of a fun thing to see growing as a movement around the world.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah, if you want to know more about motivation code, just go to MotivationCode.com is the best place to learn all about the assessment and the book itself and the company. And you can find me at ToddHenry.com, and also my podcast, The Accidental Creative, where we list the podcast.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. Listen, the work that you do, the things that you produce, that really, really important project you’re working on right now, I mean, no offense, but nobody is probably going to remember that in a hundred years. I’m sorry, but they’re not. I’m sorry, Pete, nobody is going to probably remember your podcast, or my podcast, or any of my books, or any of that stuff in a hundred years. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that.

But, listen, the impact that you have on the people around you will resonate for generations to come. You don’t have a responsibility to change the world but you do have a responsibility to change the world around you. So, be the kind of person who makes echoes in the lives of others. And if you make echoes in the lives of others, those echoes are going to resound for generations to come.

And generations has a great quote, it says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees and whose shade they will never sit.” As you create echoes in the lives of other people, generations down the line, people are going to be sitting under a tree that you planted, that you had no idea was even planted, right? So, just be the kind of person and be the kind of leader who makes echoes.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, this has been awesome. I wish you all the best in your adventures.

Todd Henry
Thanks so much, Pete. And thanks again for having me on the show.

606: How to Learn Faster so Robots Can’t Steal Your Job with Edward Hess

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Edward Hess says: "If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward... you've got to be able to do tasks that technology can't do."

Edward Hess discusses how to stay relevant in the digital age via hyperlearning.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you need to rethink the way you work 
  2. The secret to achieving inner peace 
  3. How to redefine your ego 

 

About Edward

Edward Hess is a Professor of Business Administration, Batten Fellow and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business. He has spent twenty years in the business world as a Senior Executive and has spent the last 18 years in academia. He is the author of 13 books and over 140 articles and 60 Darden Case studies. His work has appeared in over 400 global media outlets including Fortune magazine, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Washington Post. 

His recent books and research has focused on “Human Excellence in the Digital Age: A New Way of Being; A New Way of Working; Humanizing the Workplace; and Hyper-Learning.” 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Edward Hess Transcript

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

Edward Hess
Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s wonderful being with you. I really admire what you do with your podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, I admire what you do here and I’m excited to talk about hyper-learning which is something I think I’m into and so are the listeners. First, can you tell us, what is that and maybe open with a fun story about a professional doing hyper-learning to see some cool results?

Edward Hess
Well, hyper-learning is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn at a continuous high-level rate. It’s the skill that’s needed in the digital age where the digital age is going to, basically, technology is going to transform how we live and how we work, and the technology is going to produce so much new data and new knowledge so fast that basically whatever we think we know, and we probably don’t know what we think we know, but even if we did know what we think we know, the shelf life of that is going to be estimated to be two to three years.

So, we basically, have to become very, very adaptive. We basically have to be a continuous lifelong hyper-learner, and the big challenge to that is that we’re not wired to be a hyper-learner. And we’ll talk about that, but a good story, well, I’ve worked with a lot of people, a lot of companies that are embracing this. And I think one of the best stories was a company who got their leadership team together, and I spent a week with them, and we went into the details. I’m very granular on behaviors, as you know, and so we got into, “How do you be a hyper-learner and what’s the highest level of learning?” It means you’ve got to be a great listener. It means you’ve got to be a great collaborator. It means you’ve got to basically calm of what’s going on in your mind and body. So, we focused a day on how to listen.

And this guy was a senior executive and was sort of quiet. He was a technology guy. Quiet, but he was engaged. In the next morning, one of the practices of this company is have a check-in every morning, “Where are you? How are things fitting?” So, everyone went around the table and came to this guy’s time, and he said, “Well, can I share something personal?” “Of course. Of course.” He said, “I called home last night and I had the reflective listening checklist that Ed gave me with me and I put it by the phone, and I talked to my wife and talked to my kids, and the conversation kept going on and I kept looking at the checklist. And, really, it was sort of amazing. We talked like an hour and a half.” And he said, “That’s not usual.” And everyone said, “Oh, that’s good. That’s good.”

He says, “Well, my wife called me back after she put the kids together, and this is what she said. She says, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing at that meeting, but keep doing it because that was the best conversation you’ve had with me and our kids in a long time because you really listened.’” And the guy broke down crying in the meeting. That’s a wonderful story about how, if you will, changing one’s behavior so you can really be present and listen with a closed mind which is necessary to learn. Not only can it impact you in the workplace, but impact you in the home place.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s beautiful to kick us off, and I want to talk about, indeed, how was that done. I love your first chapter, which is “Achieving Inner Peace.” And we’re just getting started after that with a subsequent chapter. So, that is a key roadblock for great listening. So, yeah, how do we pull that off, first of all?

Edward Hess
Well, I think, if I can, let me lead into it this way. I think that people have to go and embrace hyper-learning come up with their own why, “Why should I be a hyper-leaner?” and that’s pretty easy. If you want to stay relevant in the workplace going forward, to have meaningful work, you’ve got to be able to basically do tasks that technology can’t do. So, everybody sort of knows what that is. The higher-level thinking, higher-level emotional engagement, etc., and so we can figure out the why.

But then the question comes down to, “Why do I need to change anything?” And this is the thing that’s the hardest for people to basically accept. And, basically, we’re all suboptimal learners. We are wired for efficiency, all right? We are wired for speed, right? We basically go out in the world and we process information which confirms what we already believe. We go into the world wired to confirm what we believe, to affirm our egos, and to basically validate our stories of how the world works. We basically see what we believe. That’s a scientific fact.

So, if you think about it, if everything is changing, new data, new knowledge is coming, new ways of doing things, and we’re going in the world looking for confirmation, we’re not going with an open mind, we’re not going to explore, wow! What are we going to do inside of ourselves to help us rewire? So, instead of seeking confirmation and affirmation and cohesiveness, instead of being a reflective thinker, if you will, as you know Daniel Kahneman called as lazy thinker, instead of being that, being an active, engaged thinker, what can we do to basically help us be that way? And it all begins with inner peace. And I finally got there. I’m sure you were wondering, “When is he going to get to inner peace?”

But inner peace is the answer or the pathway to beginning to take ownership of what’s going on inside of us, to take ownership of it. Ownership of our mind. Ownership of our emotions. Ownership of our behaviors. Not to be a reflexive reactive, so reflexive and reactive. And inner peace, I define it, if you will, as this state of inner stillness or calmness that enables you to go out into the world and embrace the world with your most non-judgmental fearless open mind with a lack of self-absorption.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds great. I’d love some more of that. How do I do it?

Edward Hess
Well, inner peace has four blocks: quiet ego, quiet mind, quiet body, and positive emotional state. And it all starts out with the quiet ego and the quiet mind. And how do we do that? And the science is pretty compelling that the best way to start on this journey is mindfulness meditation. All right? And then as you advance to add, if you will, loving kindness, meditation or gratitude meditation.

It also quiets your mind. It allows us to basically learn, “We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. And there’s not an automatic link between our emotions and our behaviors.” I can remember early on, and understand I wasn’t born with inner peace, and it took me a long time to get to inner peace, okay? So, I’ve been a work in progress for decades. But I could remember in younger age, my wife and I were having a, I’d just say, a heated discussion, and she interrupted me, and she says, “Excuse me, do you understand that there’s not…because you feel emotional, you don’t have to behave in that way? Do you understand that your emotions are not hardwired into behaviors?” And I looked at her, and I said, “No, I didn’t know that.” And she says, “Well, I think you need to work on it because you have a choice.” And she was so right.

And so, inner peace is taking ownership and managing what’s going on. We have a choice. We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. So, how do you do it? I’d say start with meditation. That’s the best way to get there, and you’ve got to engage in daily practices: gratitude; visualization of how you want to behave; being very granular on coming up with “How do I want to go into the world? How do I want to behave today? How do I want to think? How do I want to listen?”

And the model is inner peace is the foundation. Then you need a hyper-learning mindset, the way to go and approach the world, then you’ve got to look at how you behave. And the book is really, the book plus a workbook, it’s an embedded workbook with lots of reflection times, with questions, and lots of workshops with deliverables. In fact, if people buy the book and they come to my website, the publisher will give everybody a free 140-page hyper-learning journal where you can take all the stuff, so it’s very action-oriented.

And so, there’s a whole chapter on hyper-learning behaviors, and there’s a diagnostic, and you would take…Pete, you’d take the diagnostic, the hyper-learning behaviors diagnostic, and grade yourself, and you would see, “Where am I the weakest?” And then you see how the behaviors fit into a format and to a pyramid, and you’d say, “What’s the building block I need to work on?” And the two building blocks that most people have, most males have to work on are quiet ego, and the second building block that everybody sort of has to work on is listening. Okay. Well, how do I listen?

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, just before we get in there, when you talk about mindfulness practice here, are you just talking about you sitting quietly at a relaxed and alert posture and focusing on your breath and returning your thoughts to your breath as they go elsewhere? Or what specifically are you thinking when you say mindfulness practice?

Edward Hess
Mindfulness meditation, yes. Mindfulness meditation, basically, focusing on your breathing, and, as you’re saying, when the thought comes into your mind, just let it go, don’t engage with it, and then take yourself back to focusing on your meeting. You can focus on your breath, you can focus on a body part, okay? Something that you’re basically, you bring yourself back to. So, mindfulness meditation, you can focus, if you wanted, on doing a meditation, a gratitude meditation, in effect, visualizing people that have helped you, etc. in expressing gratitude to them, or gratitude for people that are in your life that you’re thankful for. And then when your mind sort of wanders, you come back to that. But the key one is mindfulness meditation, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, let’s say we’re doing that, it’s great, we’re on our way…

Edward Hess
And I would recommend highly, when you do your mindfulness meditation, to also, at the same time, do deep breathing practices. And you can either do the coherent breathing practice, which comes out of Columbia University, or you can use, if you will, some people may not want to, but the Navy has got some good deep-breathing practices that, basically, you calm yourself, and then you basically do your breathing. But you basically try to get your breathing where you can breathe in very deeply and breathe out very slowly, and the number of breaths you take per minute. And the goal is to get to where you can basically breathe comfortably and get down to two breaths per minute.

Pete Mockaitis
So, two full inhales and outhales.

Edward Hess
That’s right, in a minute, okay? And five is good, five is very good. But if you work on it, yeah, it takes a year basically.

Pete Mockaitis
I was going to ask about sort of like the dosage or time. So, that, I’m sure, it varies quite a lot but, hey, inner peace, mindfulness meditation, how much do we got to do and for how long till we get there?

Edward Hess
Well, it’s sort of like this, becoming a hyper-learner is like becoming a world-class athlete, or a world-class painter, or a world-class dancer. You got to work at it every day. There is no easy pathway to transforming us once we get to the age we’re at. And so, you start out with meditation, two minutes, you try and do it two minutes a day, and it’s hard, but you keep working at it. The book is based on daily practices, which you do rigorously every day, and then there are some practices that you sort of alternate.

But if you want to succeed on this journey, and many people have, and it is hard to express the power of what we’re talking about. It’s life-changing. It’s life-changing because you have this peace and you’re just not reactive. You’re able to sense things. Your thinking improves so much. You’re not so emotionally reactive. You can become a better collaborator, all of these things, but it’s going to be an everyday practice.

In companies that I worked with, I worked with some public companies. I can’t say their names, where every day before every meeting, they do a two-, three-minute, up to a five-minute meditation. In one company, worldwide, it’s a company that has blue-collar, white-collar, etc. workers, the first thing, every day, worldwide, there’s a 15-minute silence. And you can meditate, or you can think about the people in your life that you love, or you can give thanks to whoever you want to give thanks to, but it’s embedded. It has to be embedded in your life and embedded in the workplace to work.

And, yes, it takes time, but I do it with…some of my MBA students get into this, and they reach out years later. I just had one reached out. This was four years ago. He reached out and was just saying, “I just want you to know I’m still meditating like you said every morning.” And he said, “It is just unbelievable.” He says, “I’m so much more effective at work, a family life. This stuff is magic.” So, we’re talking about if you want to…we’re fixing to go into an era that is going to be as disruptive for us or even greater than the industrial revolution was for our ancestors.

In fact, I believe the era we’re going into where technology is going to take us, this is going to be every analogous to our ancestors long time ago who had to leave, if you will, the jungles of Africa because of, basically, mother nature, and earthquakes, etc. and actually go out into the fields, the savannahs. Our primate ancestors had to leave the jungles and go into the fields. The good news is the fields had big animals so there was lots you could eat. The bad news is the big animals were fast and strong and could eat our ancestors. They had to learn an entire new way of living in order to, if you will, not become extinct.

To some extent, that’s where we are. In order to basically have meaningful work and meaningful relationships and a meaningful life going forward, because automation is going to invade all of professions. Degrees are not going to protect people anymore. Nobody knows but very smart people say that people coming out of college today probably have six different careers, five or six different careers. We will have to continually be an adaptive human being. You don’t get that way being raised the way we were in our culture, survival of the fittest, and you don’t get that way by basically being wired the way we are.

So, the answer is, no, this is not easy. It takes self-discipline and practice but it’s not magical. It’s not hard. All you need to do, I mean, really and truly, if you spent, in the beginning, if you spent two or three minutes, I believe it’s very important to work up my daily intentions. My daily intention is my list of how I want to be today, how I want to behave today, and, “Do you want to be kind? Do you want to be caring? Do you want to be open-minded? Do I want to slow down once I feel my body going faster and faster? Do I want to, before I go into a meeting, take four or five deep breaths?” Whatever it is, you read those every morning, you visualize yourself doing it, and you go out. And then at night, you come back and you grade yourself, “How did I do? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot to do this in this meeting.” Okay, write this down.

Same thing with your meditation. If you start out at two minutes, then you go to three minutes, then you go to five minutes. It varies so much per person, but you can get to 20 minutes within, say, two months. And if you did 20 to 30 minutes a day the rest of your life, you’d be in good shape. You don’t have to do four hours a day like the Dalai Lama. Twenty to thirty minutes a day you’d be in good shape. If you really want to take it to a higher level, you do it in the morning, and you also do it in the evening, and you do a different type of meditation, either the gratitude meditation or the heart meditation.

And the other aspects of it are basically you get to be very behavioral. What behaviors, in order to be a hyper-learner, do you need to excel at? Well, you need to have a quiet ego because you need not to be defensive. We’re working on that with meditation. But what does that mean? Well, I got to be a good listener. Well, how does a good listener do that? A good listener is totally quiet when you’re speaking. He or she is not making up their answers. They’re not thinking about the next meeting. They’re not thinking about the last meeting. They are totally silent, listening to what you’re saying, fully, fully present. Well, that takes a while to get there. So, how do you do that?

Well, the first thing is keep your devices away from you. We have a way. I’m going to sit at the meeting, and both my hands are going to be on the table or I’m going to be sitting in this way. And you start figuring out, “How am I going to concentrate on what that person is saying?” And your mind is going to wander. Bring it back, that’s the meditation training. So, I’m fully, fully present. I call it the three R…the goal is 3RP: really, really, really be present.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, really, really, really be present.

Edward Hess
Are you having fun? Hey, you having fun, man? Huh? Are you having fun with this? I’m serious. How does it sound?

Pete Mockaitis
Very much, I am. I didn’t if you were demonstrating listening or if you’re asking me, Pete Mockaitis, real time. Yeah, I’m quite fascinated so I want to hear. So, being really, really, really present, you’ve said that listening conversation checklist was game-changing for that gentleman in the session. What are the things on this list that we should be doing?

Edward Hess
Well, this is from memory. One, don’t multitask. Two, make eye contact. Three, calm what’s going on, calm yourself. If you’re thinking about something else, take deep breaths, calm yourself. Smile at the person talking, and they’ll smile back at you. That basically generates positive emotions. When there’s positive emotions between people, you’re more likely to learn. When things come into your mind, if you start making up your answer, immediately try to turn back to listening. When your mind starts to wander, recognize it, go back, listen.

Very important. When the person stops talking, do not advocate or state what you believe. Ask a question. If you hold yourself to asking questions, that’s going to help you listen because you want to ask questions for two reasons. To make sure you understand what the person was saying so that when you respond, your response has a higher probability of being effective. But the other thing is, the most important thing, as we go into this digital age is understanding the concept of otherness. No one can excel at thinking in ways the technology can think. No one can excel in basically higher-order emotional engagement by themselves. We need others. We need others.

And we need others, a special kind of others. Others that trust us and that we trust. And trust comes from people feeling cared about. And the number one way that a person feels cared about is when you show that you have listened by asking good questions, when you say that “I want to make sure I understand you,” it says, “I care about you, I respect you. I respect you as a distinct human being.” And then you can have a conversation, if you will, if you disagree or you don’t disagree, why, but that conversation should be data-based and respectful.

The workplace is going to change in this area. If you work in a workplace that is a survival of the fittest, highly-competitive workplace, well, that organization is going to become extinct because you can’t optimize collective intelligence and people leaning together at their optimal level in teams in a very competitive workplace. I tell people, “Listen to learn not to confirm.”

And so, you go through this process. It’s a whole approach that, “Okay, wait a minute. I’ve got to learn how to think differently. Instead of seeking confirmation, I got to seek novelty and exploration and discovery. I got to actively go look for disconfirming information to test what I think.” How many people when they believe something go out and look for disconfirming information? Not a lot. I got to basically defer judgment instead of “yes, but” “yes, and.” I got to embrace differences and try to make meaning of those differences because, again, we process a very small amount of the stimuli that can come through our body from the world, and no one can process…it’s like less than 0.1%.

And so, in the digital age, we’ve got to be able to excel at not knowing and knowing how to learn. We’ve got to excel at going into the unknown and figuring things out. And that happens best with other people because they will see things that we don’t see. And so, a whole new way of working and a new way of being is what this book is about. How do you go out there with that new way of being? How do you bring your better self, work on your best self? How do I come to the table, to the meeting, to be off to Zoom, to whatever? How do I bring that best self here and be the most open I can be in order to learn but also to be a good teammate showing respect, and respecting the human dignity of the people that I’m working with, and understanding I’m not competing with them?”

The biggest competition in the digital age is Ed Hess, not Pete, not you, Pete, I got to compete. If I do my work on myself, I’ll be fine, and I know that I need you also, and I’ll help you work on yourself just like you help me work on it. No more is it Ed versus Pete. No more is it a zero-sum game. It all comes down to collective intelligence.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I love a lot of what you’re saying here in terms of, okay, so we start with the inner peace and the mindfulness, and we’re doing great listening and asking questions, and seeking dis-confirmatory evidence, and being curious and exploratory, and focusing on other people, and having sort of the multi-people intelligence enable the hyper-learning as opposed to digging deep on speed reading or memory tricks, the focus is on the human dimensions.

And so, I’m curious, so we’ve got “Chapter 8: Having High-Quality, Making Meaning Conversations.” So, we’ve already got a couple pro tips for the listening. Are there any sort of key questions or things that we should do in order to engage in these conversations that facilitate hyper-learning?

Edward Hess
Yes. So, let’s go back to the bases. First, we have the “come to the meeting with the right intentions about the meeting.” We have to come into the meeting as best we can with a quiet ego, a quiet mind, a calm body, not be stressful, and a positive emotional state. The highest levels of learning are enabled by a positive emotional environment.

The workplace people are going to need is, my good friend Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is a requirement. So, you got to ask yourself, “Okay, and if these not people that I work with all the time, how do I behave in such a way that Pete trusts me? Because psychological safety is built upon trust. I trust you’ll do me no harm. I trust that I can speak up, so it comes down.” And in the book, there’s workshops as to “If I want to basically engage in a caring manner with someone else, how do I behave that way?”

The book is very practical, “How do I have to behave so you care about me? How do I have to behave so you trust me? What would I do?” And when I do my work in this, I have teams of people that work together and they do exercises, such as “What does a person have to do for you to trust them?” And then you do the opposite, “If a person does X, how will that basically hurt trust?” And people have a conversation. So, they’re having a conversation, what caring means to them. How will they feel cared about? When would they trust somebody? And they’re learning from each other. And then they’re asking each other, “Okay, now how can I improve my behaviors? How can Jane improve her behaviors?”

Making meaning conversation is when people come together to learn from each other to basically make meaning of words which, in the workplace, we all take for granted. And so, for any conversation to make meaning together, you have to do what? You have to truly try to understand the other person’s point of view in a non-judgmental manner. You have to actually put yourself in their shoes. Then you have to evaluate their data, and they’ll evaluate your data. But the goal is to come to the best answer. And it sounds I know a little, I don’t know, soft. But you know what?

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s dead-on. I mean, Annie Duke, a professional poker player, talked about this.

Edward Hess
It is soft. And, basically, if you want to go out ten years from now and say, “What’s going to be the most important human skill or what’s going to be the thing that we add to the world that technology doesn’t add?” It’s going to be emotions, positive emotions. It’s going to be emotional engagement. Emotions are going to have to come into the workplace big time, and that’s going to challenge a lot of organizations, a lot of people, because people are going to have to be very cognizant of setting the right emotional environment. But also very important, cognitive or working on being emotionally the type of person that people want to help and want to collaborate, because I keep coming back to the words collective intelligence.

Collective intelligence is going to be the difference between winning and losing in the business world going forward for organizations. And that means it’s not any one person. It’s a group. So, am I the type of person that people are going to want to help? Do I want to be the type of person that people are going to help? Then I got to get down and I got to think about, “Okay, how do I come across? Am I consumed with myself?” And you learn real fast that in order to be your best self, you have to become selfless, and you have to define your ego in a different way.

Most of us, and that’s the concept of new smart in the book, most of us raised in the education system, and basically up to about age eight or ten, young kids are hyper-learners. They have no fears. If you remember how you learned how to ride a bicycle. Somebody may be holding, it may have wheels, but someone helps you on, or you get on, they say, “Move your feet,” and you fall off. What did you do as a kid? Most kids, somebody may cry, somebody may not, but it doesn’t matter. They get up, they dust themselves off, and they get on it again. And they keep getting on it till they move that bicycle a little bit. They basically have the courage to go into the unknown, they have the resilience to bounce back, and that courage is to figure out how to make this work. Well, that’s what we’re going to have to excel at doing.

But about eight to ten, it starts getting schooled out of us, and we all get focused on grades, all on grades. And I‘m sure you made the highest grades in your class, but in order to make the highest grades in your class, what did you have to do? You had to make the fewest mistakes. So, we were raised to avoid mistakes. We were raised on being smart, and our egos started being identified with smart. And once we identified, and the older we get, with being smart, and we go up in the hierarchy in companies, we think we know things. We’re smart, we got the big office, and we’re very protective of our ego, and the fact that we don’t want to be wrong. And we’ll argue to Timbuktu on anything.

Well, that’s a pathway to basically failure because, in the world we’re going into, the change in the philosophy, we need to redefine our ego from that definition of smart to new smart. And new smart has five principles, but I’ll just share one. The number one principle, I’m defined not by what I know or how much I know, but by the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating. I just changed the definition from a “how much” and a “what” to the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating.

And if people take that approach, it makes it far easier to be an effective collaborator. It makes it far easier to build caring, trusting relationships, which are caring, trusting relationships are the condition precedent to the highest levels of making meaning together. You can’t make meaning together unless you trust each other, and you believe that the other person is not going to harm you, or use your mistakes against you, or ridicule you to the boss, or whatever.

And so, what this really means is all the political gains in business is going to basically go out the door. Basically, you got to take all that stuff, you get a giant trash bag, and dump it all in, tie it up, very, very tight, don’t put it in the dumpster. Actually, take it to the trash place and watch it shredded.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s a powerful note there. And, yeah, I’d love to hear now if you could share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring.

Edward Hess
I think so much of it goes back to the golden rule. I think the other thing, I think what’s so important, and I’m paraphrasing here, we have to accept the fact that no one, and this is from professor Barbara Fredrickson, no one achieves excellence by themselves. That, to me, is very powerful.

I think the other powerful quote that I keep in mind now is from Daniel Kahneman who predicted, I think it was in the summer of July 2019, that by 2030, there will be no cognitive function that a computer will not be able to do better than a human being. And the reason that’s such a powerful quote, it basically alerts all of us that we’re going to have to develop skills that are different than most of the skills that we’ve been developing in the past. And all of those skills are going to be the soft skills because the human part is going to be the part that becomes so very important in society.

And so, I think that I’m old enough that back when everybody served in the military, the quote, “Leaders eat last.” “Always take care of your team before you take care of yourself,” I think all of those are still valid. Leaders eat last. You don’t go to the head of the line. And some of the best leaders that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with were the most humble people who basically were other-centric.

Herb Kelleher with Southwest Air, Horst Schulze of Ritz-Carlton, the senior leadership team back when I was working with them at UPS, and Mr. Casey at UPS, it’s recognizing the human dignity of the people you work with, and that people are not just a cog in the machine. I think the other thing is that the industrial revolution model of humans being machines doing the same thing over and over again, technology is going to do all that type of work, and we basically have to get out of this machine mindset, and we need to basically figure out how we’re going to create the environment where people can flourish and have meaningful work and meaningful relationships that raises the big challenges for big companies that are basically focused on a model that’s command and control.

You cannot command and control somebody that thinks at their highest levels. I cannot say, “Pete, I command and control and direct you to be innovative. I command and control and direct you to be creative. I command and control you to think clearly.” That stuff doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. And so, for your viewers, and you’ve got a wonderful viewing group, the thing that I leave with them is I invite them to basically consider to become not just a hyper-learner but to become an awesome hyper-learner. Because I think, based on what I know from reading about your listenership, I think many of your people will embrace, if you will, the challenge that’s here, but also, they’ll have the right mindset, the right growth mindset, to go out there and say, “Let me try some of these things. Let’s try and see if it works.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Ed, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you all the best in your hyper-learning adventures.

Edward Hess
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me in. I wish you all the best and keep doing the good work you’re doing, man.

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Kathy

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

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
“Do you have an hour?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say, “Okay…”

Kathy Caprino
“She’s a narcissist.”

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Kathy Caprino
Right?

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beating it, Kathy.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I’m there.

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Does that seem right?

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Read it. Who is it?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s Rica.

Kathy Caprino
That’s who it is.

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

Kathy Caprino
What year was that, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s 2008.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
It’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Do we have seven hours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Right. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Interesting. Interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
It is. It is.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Really?

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

602: Finding Greater Enjoyment and Fulfillment through Capacity Building with Robert Glazer

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Robert Glazer says: "You got to know your values."

Robert Glazer discusses his simple framework for achieving greater clarity and accelerating your development.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to know if you’re living below your potential
  2. How to clearly define your core values and purpose
  3. The small wins that lead to tremendous growth

About Robert

Robert Glazer is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, author of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, Elevate, and of the international bestselling book, Performance Partnerships.  He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Robert Glazer Interview Transcript

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

Robert Glazer
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to dig into so much of your wisdom. But, first, I got to hear, you biked from London to Paris within 24 hours. First, how is this possible with water? And, second, tell us the story.

Robert Glazer
Yeah, our London team created an industry event, it’s a fundraiser, to bike in 24 hours. I get to hang out with the London team, support the industry, so I flew on the first day of school. So, yeah, you bike from London to the south, and then we slept on a ferry for what I thought was three hours but we lost an hour, so it was even less than I realized. And then, basically, like pitch black at 5:00 in the morning, we were on the other side and started biking, and you wake up and you realize you’re in the middle of Normandy. So, it was pretty crazy. It’s technically 23 because of that hour. We finished right down the Champs-Elysees, and right under the Eiffel Tower, so it’s a pretty iconic finish. I had never done anything even half that amount of distance.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Very cool. And can you orient us a bit, for those who are less familiar with you, in terms of the London team and the industry? Where are you situated there?

Robert Glazer
So, yeah, I run a company called Acceleration Partners. I founded it, it’s a marketing agency, and we manage what’s called affiliate programs, large-scale affiliate programs, so kind of digital partnerships between brands and all kinds of different publishers. And we’ve been expanding in Europe, and I built up a Europe team. Our MD in London is a big cyclist so she had this crazy idea. But it was awesome. I mean, from a bonding standpoint, there were some people I was biking with in the middle of the night, in the middle of the morning, and had some great discussions. It was actually a really cool experience.

It’s not something you can do without the infrastructure, so there’s a company that sort of provided the infrastructure, but it was awesome. I tell a lot of people: good learning. I didn’t really read very much, like I’m not big on instructions, like I didn’t read a lot of the instructions and what we were doing until I was packing. And then I was like, “Crap. What have I signed up for?” So, it’s good learning there. Sometimes it’s better to just sign up and say yes and not know all the details because if I had read all the warnings and the things and the rest, I would’ve probably scared myself out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really true. I think in terms of if it’s…I guess if you don’t have to have a lot of technical knowhow, like just keep paddling or pedaling, that works in terms of if there’s a risk of you psyching yourself out, that might be wise. Well, very cool. So, let’s dig into you make great promotions happen and you pulled that off with your book Elevate. What’s the big idea behind this one?

Robert Glazer
Yes. So, Elevate came out of something called Friday Forward, which was a note that I started sending my team about five years ago every Friday. It was originally called Friday Inspiration. It had tips, self-improvement. I decided to improve my morning routine, and was told to read something positive, and a lot of the positive stuff I was reading was a little rainbow and unicorn-y. It didn’t do it for me.

So, I decided I would write something that would encourage our team to kind of want to get better, do better. It wasn’t about our business. And it started to get shared outside the company, I realized it, because…

Pete Mockaitis
Without your permission.

Robert Glazer
Without my permission. The teammates would write back and they’d say, “Yeah, I did that. That’s really cool. But, also, I shared this with my husband, and he shared it with his company.” And I sent it to a few entrepreneurs after a conference because I said, “I’d been doing this with my team and I’ve gotten really great feedback, and I’ve enjoyed doing it.” And they said, “Yeah, well, send it to us,” and it was like four entrepreneurs, “and we’ll take a look. Maybe it’s a great idea.”

And one started his own and has done it till this day, and the other three are like good entrepreneurs, said, “This is great. We’ll just send this to our teams on Friday.” That made me think that it might have value outside the company so I sort of opened it up so other people could sign up for it, and renamed it Friday Forward because it had been forwarding. And I look up five years later, and there’s a couple of hundred thousand people in 60 countries reading it on a Friday, which is just totally crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
That is awesome. Well, so then what are some of the main sort of themes and messages that are resonating so much and being useful for people here?

Robert Glazer
So, now, I realized I failed to answer the question. So, I went to write a book that was sort of a synopsis of Friday Forward and an agent sort of pushed me to what was the story. And what happened was I spent some time thinking about “What were we doing as a company to grow so quickly? And how were we investing in our people? What did I do? What have I done to really make huge changes in my life a couple of years since I’d started it? Why were these notes having an impact on all these strangers that I didn’t know? All these high-performing people I saw, like what do they have in common?”

It really all came down to the same thing, which is this concept of capacity building, about how you get better, and these four elements of capacity building which are spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional. And it was a framework that, for me, covered all of self-improvement and showed you kind of clearly like how it was connected and where you might be doing well and where you might be out of whack. So, I’d say nothing in it is new itself. I just think the framework has not been presented in that way for people to understand “Here’s how you can actually get better in service of what you want most.”

And that was, as I said, that’s actually the approach we took with our team which was “How do we invest in them holistically and build their capacity, and get them to grow along with the business rather than just trying to make them better at their jobs because their jobs would change as the business grew?”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, there’s so much in there that I love. So, let’s just sync up on a term for a moment. When you say capacity, I have a definition in mind for that. What do you mean by the word capacity?

Robert Glazer
There’s a long definition but I actually think capacity is how we get better, that ability to. One key though, it’s not more. I think one of the aspects of building capacity is like, intellectual, it’s like getting a faster chip, is that you should be able to do the right things faster and with less energy. I think people correlate it with volume versus it’s really more of ability. How do you increase your ability in these areas to do more, think smarter, and act faster. Physical capacity, we understand, like that bike race. If I trained an hour a day for 60 days, suddenly I have the capacity to bike 170 miles which I did not have before.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, it’s just sort of like your ability, what you are capable of pulling off, and so that’s exciting. Well, lay it on us then, you mentioned you get an understanding of where you might be doing well or not so well across each of these four dimensions. And how do you gauge that? Like, hey, spiritual is rocking and intellectual is lagging. How do I get to that conclusion?

Robert Glazer
Yeah. Well, would it help if I define them first?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Robert Glazer
So, spiritual capacity is not religious. To me, this is just your north star. It’s usually core values or purpose. Like, what is it that you want and who are you? And if you don’t have clarity on that, you probably are already very wobbly because you may not be going in the right…. You may not be wobbly. You may actually be doing a great job going in the wrong direction. So, to me, that’s first.

Intellectual capacity is how you plan, learn, think, execute with discipline, accountability, set goals. So, now we know what we want, and this is like, “How do we get smarter and faster and better in pursuit of that?” Physical capacity is kind of your health, wellbeing, competition, resilience. How does our body hold us up in this process? And then emotional are the things outside of you. So, your relationships, whether those drain energy or bring energy, and how you react to external events and things that you don’t control.

So, yeah, I think my example before, it’s probably more rare. But if someone hasn’t figured out who they are and what they want, they may be considered successful but they may be like crushing intellectual, physical and emotional capacity in a direction or something that gives them no enjoyment. They’re doing what their parents wanted them to do, what teachers and the society, and they’re just…they’re a world-class doctor and they want to be a writer and have a house in Montana and a cabin. And so, it just doesn’t provide them fulfillment.

But for most people, I think, you got to know your values because that drives your key decisions, then you get excited about what it is that you’re going to accomplish, then you pay attention to your emotional and physical capacity. So, physical capacity is the easiest one because this is out of whack I think when we’re tired, when we’re stressed, you think about that like you lose control of the big picture, you’re not learning as much, you tend to fight and argue with everyone. So, that’s when you can see it’s out of whack.

And if your emotional capacity is maybe out of whack, maybe you’re probably on an island, you’ve been kind of detaching yourself from the world and from other people and just trying to go at it, and you need those people in order to have the kind of success that you want to have. So, I think sometimes it’s easier to notice where we may feel a little bit out of whack. Intellectual capacity, COVID is a great example, right? Restaurant industry, you had people shut down overnight, and there are people who sort of give up their hands and say, “Well, guess we can’t be a restaurant.” And there are others who are like, “We’re going to figure out what we’re going to be to keep people employed,” and they learned delivery the next day, and they setup meal kits, and they just dove in and said, “We got to do what we got to do to keep our people employed.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, so then let’s see. So, thinking about our audience and your people in terms of professionals, is there an area you tend to see more often than the others popping up as needing more of a boost than the others?

Robert Glazer
Yeah, I think physical is the one that we particularly now that can easily get out of whack on. It’s like the chiropractic fix of getting back into that. Spiritual is not one you kind of fall in and out of. For most people, they just haven’t done the work. If you ask most people, “What are your core values?” 98 out of a 100 would look at you with a blank stare, or maybe sputter out a word. Two of them will say…

Pete Mockaitis
Integrity.

Robert Glazer
“My core values are A, B, C, and D, and my core purpose is X.” And I promise you, they’re on a really definitive path. So, I think a lot of people, they know it. I always say it’s self-discovery. They know when they get into situations where their core values are violated, but they don’t have the language to make those decisions and stay away from their electric fence until they cross it. And so, they make a lot of bad or wrong decisions on the journey. So, I encourage a lot of people who want to get better to make sure you figure that out because I think it’s really hard for you to live somewhere, have a relationship, have a job that’s fundamentally misaligned with your core values.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we talked about values a few times, and I love the different angles that people sort of approach it from. So, could you give us some examples of, well, I guess we can hear yours in terms of purpose and values, as well as where do people…? It sounds like you’ve done the research, 98% of people just sort of have nothing.

Robert Glazer
Better than scientific but, yeah, for most.

Pete Mockaitis
But we’re pegging you, we’re citing your name in studies with the parenthesis (Glazer 2020). So, yeah, let’s hear, like, how do you get there? And if you have 20 values, you sort of have none is sort of the way I view it.

Robert Glazer
Yeah, like if you have 20 goals, you have none, right?

Pete Mockaitis
And I think Brene Brown said in one of her books that she did some research that most superstars have like one or two or three, it’s a very small number, and then they have real directional power. So, lay it on us, some examples, and how we get there.

Robert Glazer
Yes. So, less is more in this, and we’ve done this with our leaders at Acceleration Partners for years. Actually, I had a hard time, I went to a pretty hardcore leadership thing. I was determined how values were important and to figure it out, but they actually didn’t tell us how. And so, I went through a process over a year or two, and then started doing that with my team and built it out. I’ve actually just turned it into a course that’ll launch in a couple of weeks because it’s the thing I get asked most about in Elevate. There are some tips in Elevate to get you started.

But my core purpose is to share ideas that help people and organizations grow. That’s why I’m on this podcast, that’s why I’m writing these books. And my core values are find a better way and share it, health and vitality, self-reliance, respect for authenticity and long-term orientation. And I think there are a couple principles to values. And there’s a way I figured out kind of how to get it out of people, but they need to be definitive. Like, things like integrity, it’s like a company. They actually need to describe how you’re different, and they also can’t be one word because I talk a little bit about in the course about the core validator, and there are a couple things like what makes it a good core value.

So, you got to be able to look at it and say, “I’m doing a good job with this,” or, “I’m not doing a good job with this.” It’s almost like your report card. You’ve got to think about the inverse value of that and it should really rub you the wrong way. And then, also, could you make a decision on it? So, when somebody says something like visionary, you’d say like, “Well, was I being visionary last month? I don’t know. If I have a choice, did I make a visionary decision?”

So, when I came up with a long-term orientation, I realized that was something that was really important. I was thinking about that. That’s usually a really good test. Like, if I have a choice of a partner, an investment, or something I can think about, how is this…what is the long-term aspect of this decision? Am I thinking about the long term? Have I done a good job doing that? And that counter core value. If I’m at a party, I always say, “Imagine the sort of inverse of your core value as a character.” And I’m talking to short-term Pete, and Pete’s talking about, “Oh, I’m making all this money on the…”

Pete Mockaitis
Bitcoin.

Robert Glazer
“…investment stuff, and I’m driving a bus through this…” and just everything Pete is doing is like taking advantage of the short term before it ends. Like, I need to get away from him as fast as I can. That’s a good test of that person actually. The archetype of that person embodies the violation of my core values.

So, one of the tests that we do when we’re trying to see if it’s a core value is we sort of tell someone to come up with that inverse person, “How do you feel when you…?” Some people picture a relative, literally, because the whole thing about a core value when violated, it’s just you’re not comfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I think integrity is sort of everything. When I think about values, I think my first kind of aha moment with values, it’s funny, from a business perspective, my company mission is kind of similar to yours – to discover, develop and disseminate knowledge that transforms the experience of being alive. And I really do. I get jazzed about that, and it doesn’t happen very often. And when it does, these interviews don’t air. Don’t worry, you’re going to make the cut. You’re good.

Robert Glazer
I had a couple of these, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
You know what, I don’t think we didn’t really discover anything, we didn’t really develop anything, this isn’t really worth disseminating. I’m just going to have to let it go. And that feels uncomfortable in terms of I’m a bit of a people pleaser. But it’s necessary, otherwise I would feel bad, I would feel very yucky if I created something lame, and consumed people’s time, which is so precious, on something that was inadequately valuable and they regretted spending that time. I regretted spending the time watching the movie Uncut Gems, personally.

Robert Glazer
I was just talking about that yesterday. I think it’s pretty dark.

Pete Mockaitis
It didn’t do it for me. But more to the point, I remember I was a senior in high school, and I was in my car, just parked, eating ice cream from the Custard Cup in Danville, and I came to realize that, yes, when I’m living in accordance with values, my sort of baseline how I feel outside of some really good news or really bad news, it’s good. I’ve just got kind of happy groove. And when I’m not, it’s just kind of blah.

And at the time, they were one words at the time. I think they were defined as integrity, service, growth, and optimality. And by integrity, it really means like not being sort of shady, or deceptive, or lying. And there’s many shades of dishonesty, like not just saying no when the answer is yes, but like what you omit and what you imply. What did Bill Clinton say?

Robert Glazer
“I did not…”

Pete Mockaitis
“I did not perjure myself. My answers were legally accurate but they were misleading.” I was like, “Okay. Well, you’re right. There’s many flavors of dishonesty here.” So, that’s great. So, in terms of the report card, I’d love it, so how do you, I don’t know, measure or score or quantify for your kind of reporting? Do you do check-ins? How does that work?

Robert Glazer
For reporting on like…?

Pete Mockaitis
Like, you do a report card on your values, like, “Hey, how am I doing this month or quarter?”

Robert Glazer
Oh, yes. So, to me, it’s actually when I say the report card, it’s if I had to look back on a decision, like could I have objectively used that as a decision point? And so, that’s why I kind of try to push people. Again, if I had time, I’d go through with you against the word integrity. I could probably get a little more out of you on that, and you could say, “Did my decision to go on that podcast or not have that personal podcast have integrity?” or probably some other phrase that really nails down what that is for you.

So, the report card is pretty binary, as you said. You’re going to feel really good when you’re doing things in service, and you’re going to feel pretty bad outside. So, if you’re in an environment, if you live in a place that people don’t share the values, if you’re in a relationship, or if you’re in an office environment, that’s a really hard thing to work its way around. But if I have a decision, if I’m looking…my decision to continue with Friday Forward when I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know how it would make money or anything, I sort of scanned across, I’m like, “Is this encouraging people to be healthy? Is it finding a better way in sharing it with them? Is it encouraging self-reliance? Is it about being respectfully authentic? Is it about long term?” Yeah, it’s all of those things. So, I should keep going with that.

And that was a huge inflection point when I said, “Why am I doing this?” Similarly, I think there are some other things you could look in your life and say, “Wow, it’s zero out of five for me. Like, I got to stop that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, how about we just, you know, let’s get into it a little bit, shall we, in terms of integrity and saying, “All right, we can do better than that”?

Robert Glazer
Do better than that? Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it live. See what we can do.

Robert Glazer
All right. So, you gave some descriptions but I always feel like it needs a couple words. So, when you say integrity, integrity is also really tricky because I think there’s cultural implications, and there’s people who have different definitions of what’s integral. So, what is the core aspect of integrity? Can you think of a situation or a story where you’re like saying with Clinton, but a personal one where you’d say, “That one is against my values”?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. I guess I’m thinking about times someone asked me a question, and I knew what they wanted to hear, and I told them a version of things that was sort of shaded than what they wanted to hear, as opposed to the most factual, clear picture of reality, and that felt yucky. I don’t care to do that.

Robert Glazer
So, I often gear people towards because mine is very specific, but the word authenticity has a modifier. It tends to work better than integrity, because I think a lot of people, it’s like mine is respect for authenticity. The core values is a unique blend of, and you can see this in my report card, I’m on five, and you can see some of the things we’ve done. I like being honest with people, I like being direct with them, but also respectful and in a way that is helpful and not like…so a lot of people who are direct, who sort of don’t mind hurting people or leaving them in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
“Robert, you suck! Fix it.”

Robert Glazer
Versus like, “You might not have a career in this. Let me figure out how you can have a career in something else.” So, it’s important for you to be authentic. It sounds like it’s important in your voice. Why, in that case, did you tell the person not what they wanted to hear?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s the temptation towards people-pleasing as well as sort of maybe there’s kind of opportunities that I want, and I don’t want to see it disappear.

Robert Glazer
You probably actually will have the rarer thing, and this is very similar with someone on my team that had…you’re going to have core values that are in conflict, and so you need to be clear about hierarchical.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Robert Glazer
So, being authentic, she had something very similar, “Like I like to please and make people feel good, and I like to be authentic.” And I said to her, “So, what happens when… What if telling them the truth means not making them happy in the short term, and she was really clear that if push came to shove, it’s the other one. So, probably similar for you in terms of verbiage but you have one around making people happy or making them feel welcome, or something like that. And, usually, that will tie to something childhood, like direct experience, or something maybe where you weren’t welcome, or your feedback wasn’t welcomed. But then that authentic piece will conflict with that sometimes a little bit too.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. So, let’s maybe completely shift gears in the sense of so we talked about values and purpose, and how that takes some deep reflection and work to arrive at it and get it. What are some of the quick wins, the tips and tactics and practices that can give us a boost to some of the other dimensions of capacity in a jiffy?

Robert Glazer
Yeah, like I said spiritual is one that requires some work. The other ones you can kind of make some quick wins each day. That one is kind of different. And I do think that’s a process you should go through each day. You make a list, you do that. In the book, I explain about how to start the list, building, and look for themes. But a common one in intellectual is just changing your morning routine. Getting up, not turning on the TV, not turning on the news, not turning on the phone, reading, writing, making maybe a list of the top couple of things you wanted to do today, kind of improve your morning so that you improve your day. I think that’s a quick win for a lot of people on intellectual capacity. If they haven’t tried journaling in the morning, or haven’t tried meditation, or just not waking up to the kind of onslaught of everything coming at you.

Physical capacity, similar to what I said before, one of my biggest hacks there, and not that people are joining gyms now, but the best investment you can make is put down 50 bucks on some event four months in the future, whether it is a 5K, a 10K, a London to Paris bike ride, because that’s going to create this future commitment for you that encourages you to do the work the next couple of months. And it’s actually the training and the practice, not the event, that gives you most of the value. And if you’re running or training or going to something that really helps build your resilience and your capacity, you’re going to feel better.

And then really easy one on emotional capacity is this concept called a relationship dashboard. One of the things I’m talking about is the notion of these energy vampires. Like, do you have people in your life, family, business, where you feel worse after spending time with them? You actually feel worse. And make this list. I wouldn’t leave this one on your desk necessarily.

Pete Mockaitis
“What’s this?”

Robert Glazer
I’ve done this with people. So, just five names on each list. Who are the people that you need to spend less time with? This doesn’t mean you need a breakup. This doesn’t mean you need to have a whole thing. It just means like, “I’m doing the thing every four days with this person and I’m fighting. I’m just going to slow down the cadence, remove some energy, kind of pull away from that.” And who are the five people that you feel awesome when you spend more time with, you learn, it’s great, and you just haven’t had that time? And you reallocate that, and you send them an email, and you set up a phone call, or you set up a coffee or beer with them outdoors, and you really just reapply that energy towards the people who are really pulling you up, not dragging you down.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s excellent. And so then, I’d love to get your take then, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Robert Glazer
No, I mean, it’s an ongoing process. I think one of the things about capacity building, and when you sort of read about how I describe it, is I don’t think you ever master it. I think there’s a shift, you get out of whack, you notice. Even COVID, I’ve had a really hard time with physical. Both times that I’ve gone to launch my books about capacity building, I’ve burned out my physical capacity in the name of doing that. So, you don’t win this. I think it’s this constant recalibration just to make sure your ball is gaining momentum and rolling down the right hill for you.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah, one of my favorite quotes is, and I heard it in a yoga class years ago, and I always gave credit to teacher in yoga class, but then I found out it was actually a pretty famous quote. But it’s, “How we do anything is how we do everything.”

Pete Mockaitis
Whew! Yup, I can sit with that for a while. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Robert Glazer
I’m fascinated with all the research on cognitive dissonance, and I think one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of real-world applicability is called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). It’s on cognitive dissonance. And it actually kind of explains I think a lot of what’s going on in society now with our entrenched positions and our sort of defense of the indefensible sometimes, which is that one of the things they show is that when you’re kind of in too deep on a position, you need an out because you don’t want to believe like you’re a fool.

So, cognitive dissonance is our inability to hold these two incongruous ideas at the same time. So, one of the things that she notes in her studies is that when these come out and predict the end of the world, you know they’ve done over time, and all of the followers sort of follow them, and then the world doesn’t end, and they say, “Oh, I got it wrong,” and they pick the next date, everyone doubles down on them.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Robert Glazer
Because it’s psychologically…when you think about it, your choices are, “Oh, they got it wrong and whatever verse is like. Oh, I was a total idiot, and I was duped by this person.” So, it’s really…I actually think that…

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s eye-opening.

Robert Glazer
…everyone should study cognitive dissonance because if you’re dealing with other human beings, and you understand…The other study from that book that I found equally interesting was that when DNA evidence came out, and they went back and let people out of prison who had been wrongfully put in jail for life, the prosecutors who were all retired, who put these people in jail, came out of retirement, doubled down and tried to prove that they were guilty even though there’s evidence exonerating them.

And it’s the same concept because they were saying these two ideas is like, “I’m not a bad person. I wouldn’t have put the wrong person in jail. Therefore, they have to be guilty,” right? That was the only way that they could reconcile that, not that they had made a mistake but that something was wrong with the DNA evidence so they were going to double down and try to prove that they were guilty.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, that’s such a wakeup call in terms of like our humility and being able to adapt and change our view, and to be able to say, “I was wrong.”

Robert Glazer
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s that, as a human species, we don’t do that so well. Like, that’s eye-popping, that stat. I thought half-ish of folks would say, “Oops, wrong guru. Boy, is my face red. I guess I’ll go find somebody else.” But, no, you’re saying just about everybody stuck with them.

Robert Glazer
They doubled down. And think about this, think about what we’re seeing now with COVID-19 and globally, there’s some pretty clear playbooks about what works. But how many leaders just want to make up their own thing and say that they didn’t know? It’s kind of fascinating how much reinvention of the wheel there is, and sort of denial of reality, and, “I didn’t know.” And you say, “Look, call Taiwan and ask them how they have 200 cases and 4 deaths in a country of 25 million and their plan.” I just think a lot of leaders have gotten themselves stuck in this rut of wanting to think that they know the better way to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, I think it might’ve been the movie or documentary The Fog of War which talked about like military leaders and just sort of the hard reality that you’ve got to face up to is that over the course of your career, you’re going to make mistakes that get people killed, and that’s the weighty responsibility that’s on you there. And to not sort of sugarcoat it or run from it or justify. Ooh, this is…you’re giving me a lot to chew on already from a quote and a study.

Robert Glazer
That is part of this thing called the Stockdale Paradox from Jim Collins, which is Admiral Stockdale who survived, I think, 10 years in a labor camp and tortured, and he just said he was resolute that he was going to get out, and it was going to be the defining part of his life. But he was always realistic as to that it was going to be bad. And everyone who didn’t make it through was overly optimistic. So, he always talked about the remaining optimistic in the long term but sort of accepting the brutal facts and the reality. Yeah, a lot of people have made mistakes in this, and certainly they should make mistakes in something that’s totally new. But very few have been willing to say, “We made a mistake and we’re switching it,” or, “That was wrong,” or there’s just that dissonance of “I wouldn’t do that.” I think we would understand how people who’d did something they’ve never done anything before would make some mistakes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think we remind them all the more for their courage and humility and honesty. Well, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Robert Glazer
I do love that book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). That’s the one I tend to recommend. Also, I like Atlas Shrugged, I’ve read it twice. It’s such an amazing story if you haven’t read Ayn Rand’s book. It’s just great. I know some people don’t agree with her philosophy, but I just think her writing and character development is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool? You’ve got a book about how to make virtual teams work, so I imagine you’ve seen a lot of tools. So, lay it on us, what are some of your faves?

Robert Glazer
I’ve always loved my OneNote or Evernote, I mean. It’s amazing how much if you organize something, you always go back and find it. But in the virtual world, I actually think some of these video software, asynchronous video, where you can send someone a note, reach out to them. People use it for sales and for marketing, and it’s always very personable. I’ve even used it because the need for communication in virtual environments goes up, and there’s things you need to communicate, and it’s nice to have the context of the meeting, but I don’t need to get everyone on that to listen to a monologue. So, sometimes I’ll just record the pitch I want to give and the note I want to give, and just send it out to everyone to listen at their own answer.

Or, someone wrote me an email a month ago about a really complicated issue. I had been doing more of this asynchronous email. I realized that that email reply was going to take an hour because it was like it had to be delicate. I just turned on the video and I said, “Hey, X, I know this is complicated, but I’ve been thinking about it. I really want us to do this. Here’s why I love it.” And it doesn’t have to be clean in a video. I’m not going to send an email with tons of mistakes or uhms or whatever. So, just that five-minute video, she went back, she’s like, “I got it. We’re on the same page.” And that’s when I started to realize just changing some of the modalities about how we communicate in that environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, totally. And from a word count perspective, most of us can speak about three-ish times faster than we type. Automated dictation isn’t the best. So, for asynchronous video, I’m loving Loom, my stuff. What is it that you’re using?

Robert Glazer
We use Loom. Vidyard is another one that’s popular.

Pete Mockaitis
Digger?

Robert Glazer
Yes, it’s called Vidyard.

Pete Mockaitis
Vidyard, okay.

Robert Glazer
I think V-I-D-Y-A-R-D. I might have the exact spelling or pronunciation wrong. Sometimes I’ll just pop on Zoom and record.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Robert Glazer
But, yeah, Loom. Our team has used Loom. And you stand out. I mean, think about all the sales pitch emails and the stuff you get today. And I’ve always laughed when someone sends me a video, or it’s interesting, or it’s personable. Look, in a tough time, it is better doing something quality at a lower volume than relying on low quality, high automation. It just doesn’t…

It’s funny, for about two months into COVID, I feel like people laid off their automation and felt a little bad about it. Then they just started like throwing, “I know these are difficult times for you, but are you interested in a blah, blah, blah?” You’re saying about the spirit and the letter of the law, I know you just threw the sentence in there, but you really didn’t seem very authentically like asking me how things are going for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. Very good. And a favorite habit?

Robert Glazer
Favorite habit is I think journaling or morning routine. And even for me the Friday Forward. Anything that can become that keystone habit in your life where you do it really well and improves all of your other habits.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known for, people kind of highlight a lot in your books, or tweet back to you frequently?

Robert Glazer
No, I think the one thing is they just appreciate, particularly in everything that’s going on, focusing on the aspect of building other people up and trying to help them be better. We just have a massive, and I just get lots of thank you notes, they take the time to do that. When you think about what’s going on in social media these days, it’s like everyone’s tearing each other down. And just think about how much energy that takes versus if you were to go online and actually try to prop someone up for a day, and the vicious circle versus the vicarious circle.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah, so I’ve got everything all integrated at RobertGlazer.com. You can get and try the Friday Forward there, see the books, join my podcast and some other articles and interesting stuff there.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah. I like “How do you anything is how you do everything.” I think, really, take the little stuff, the thing you don’t want to do, just do the little things better every day. And one of my favorite stories of Friday Forward is Ann Miura-Ko who’s actually going to come on my launch party, one of the top female venture capitalists in the world. She got a big break like as an intern in an engineering office, her dad was always about doing everything well. Like, I was going to make really good coffee, really good donuts, and she got asked to give a tour, and the guy turned out to be the CEO of HP, and he invited her to come for an internship, and it really like kicked off her whole career.

So, just always reaffirms to me, you have the ability right now in what you’re doing today to do a good job at it, or the ripple effect, or sort of mail it in and then have the ripple effect of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I love that so much. It reminds of my mom’s story. She worked at Credit Union, and then she noticed that the CEO of the Credit Union was vacuuming the floors after work, she’s like, “Why not? I vacuum floors.” And so, she volunteered to vacuum the floors. And because she showed that initiative, she was just like above everybody, and, thus, was sort of selected, groomed, to be the successor, and it just shows what that can do when you put in that extra effort and go for excellence there.

Robert Glazer
Absolutely. It’s actually often the little stuff that sort of builds our personal brand, and that we’re definitely living in a world of personal brands these days.

Pete Mockaitis
Robert, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with Elevate and all your adventures.

Robert Glazer
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.