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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

 

About Marcia

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Marcia Reynolds Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcia Reynolds
Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s clever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, maybe, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh.

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

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

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

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

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

Marcia Reynolds
That’s a great excuse.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I suppose I do, yeah.

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

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

Marcia Reynolds
Well, there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And those are fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I will order the food items today.

Marcia Reynolds
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite habit?

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

Pete Mockaitis
And when do you go to bed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcia Reynolds
Thank you.

545: What High-Performers Do Differently with Alan Stein Jr.

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Alan Stein Jr. says: "Fall in love with the fundamentals."

Alan Stein Jr. discusses the fundamental habits and mindsets that separate the best from the rest.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The universal skill every professional needs
  2. The secret to making remarkable change last
  3. A powerful mantra to keep you grounded and present

About Alan:

Alan Stein, Jr. is a keynote speaker and author who spent 15+ years as a performance coach working with famous, high-performing basketball players. He now teaches audiences how to utilize the same strategies in business that elite athletes use to perform at a world-class level.

Alan specializes in improving individual and organizational leadership, performance and accountability.  He inspires and empowers everyone he works with to take immediate action and improve mindset, habits and productivity which is what makes him one of the top motivational speakers around.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

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Alan Stein Jr. Interview Transcript

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
Absolutely my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. Well, let’s hear just a smidge about your background. So, you used to work as a performance coach for professional basketball players including Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. May he rest in peace. What exactly does that mean, a performance coach? What do you do and how does that translate into better results?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Sure. Well, the original moniker was strength and conditioning coach. So, I was always responsible for kind of the fitness and athleticism side of training. But, as that industry progressed, we, I say we as in I’m uniting all coaches, decided that strength and conditioning were just two of the pillars of performance that we actually worked on. So, most coaches today that are in that field go by performance coach.

And, yeah, I was responsible for every facet of performance except for the actual skill work. So, things like improving hand-eye coordination, and explosiveness, and acceleration and deceleration, everything that goes under the umbrella of athleticism. And I was able to work with some really good players and really good coaches who taught me every bit as much as I’d like to believe I taught them, and then decided I was going to take all of those lessons and pivot those to a new audience, which is what I do now.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, so can you tell us an example maybe of, hey, here’s something that you did in that realm, beyond just strength, and then what result that emerged there?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah. Well, I think the foundation of it all, and I know you had mentioned with the rest in peace with the very sudden and untimely and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, but one of the biggest lessons I ever learned was from Kobe at a camp that I worked for him back in 2007, and it’s actually how I open every single keynote with that story of meeting him. And the lesson that he taught me was that if you want to be great at something, you never get bored with the basics, that you fall in love with the fundamentals and you fall in love with the process of doing the basics over and over during the unseen hours until you come as close to mastery as possible.

That is incredibly applicable to every walk of life. I mean, that’s something that is very true on the basketball court. With a basketball player, you have to work on your footwork because your footwork is involved in everything you do on the court. And then I translate that same message to folks in the corporate world, about figuring out, “What are your basics and your fundamentals that you need to master to be awesome at your job?” And once folks have an understanding of those, then they just need to have the humility and the consistency to do them every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love it if you could highlight what are some of those basics that show up a lot for folks who want to be awesome at their jobs?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Almost unilaterally in any industry, I can’t think of anything where being a better listener wouldn’t serve you very well. If you’re in any type of leadership position, you’re a manager, or a director, or a supervisor, an executive, whether you’re in sales, whether you’re in customer service or customer experience, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be drastically heightened if you improved your ability to actively listen, to ask insightful questions, then listen to the response, and then make sure that either your response or your behavior pivots accordingly based on what they said.

And not only does this help you take in more accurate information and make better decisions, but anytime we listen to someone, it unconsciously shows them that we care about them. Because, in today’s day and age, our attention in the present moment is our most valuable currency. And when you show someone by listening with good eye contact and warm body language and nodding your head, you’re showing them that you’re willing to invest your most precious resource and your most precious currency into them. And that is a glue that strengthens human connection. And, regardless of what vocation you’re in, we’re all in the relationship and people business, and anytime we can strengthen those connections, it’s a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, yes, I’m on board. Listening sounds great and more of it would be good. We’ve had a couple episodes about listening and, boy, I think we’d have a whole lot more. So, let’s dig in a little bit here.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’ve put a lot of these insights into your book Raise Your Game: High Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best. What are some of the top high-performance secrets from the best of the best? One of them we talked about was basics. And I think we’re going to revisit that one some more. But what do you say is the big idea and some of those top secrets we should all know?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, what’s kind of funny is my publisher always gets irritated with me when they think I’m disparaging the subtitle, but I told them, in jest, “We’re going to use the word secrets because it’s something that attracts people, and we want to get as many eyes on this book as possible, but there really are no secrets to high performance.”

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve lied to us.

Alan Stein, Jr.
I have. What it takes to be awesome at your job, those pillars are readily available to anyone. In fact, there are things that most people already know intuitively and intellectually, but it doesn’t mean they’re doing them. That’s really the big idea of the book is what’s called a performance gap. And that’s the gap between what we know we’re supposed to do and what we actually do. And if you want to be awesome at your job, you have to learn how to close that gap.

A perfect example would be I bet everyone of your listeners right now knows what healthy foods are, knows that they’re supposed to get adequate sleep every night, and knows that they’re supposed to do some type of physical fitness workout throughout the week, a couple of times a week. I mean, I don’t think there’s a functioning adult on the planet that doesn’t know those three things to improve health, vitality, longevity, so everybody knows that but we can even look at the statistics, not very many people are doing that. Not many people eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and workout consistently.

And that’s a perfect example of, in health and fitness, performance gap. We all know what we’re supposed to do, but very few people do it. And when I bring that up, it’s never to disparage or diminish someone, it’s never to call them out or to make them feel bad, it’s simply to shine the light on the fact that you know what you’re supposed to do but you’re not doing it. And that’s where we have to start making progress.

I just use health and fitness as an example because it’s an easy one. We could easily say the same thing for our financial lives or for relationships. There’s not a person alive that doesn’t know what things they should do to continue to have a thriving marriage, yet many people, after 10 to 20 years of being married, they no longer do those things, and then they wonder why their relationship is on the rocks. Or financially. Does anyone know you’re not supposed to save some money and put some money away for the future? Everybody knows that but not very many people do it.

And, to me, I’ve always been fascinated why groups of really intelligent people, which is what we all are walking around as human beings, why would we not do the things that we know we’re supposed to do. And the answer comes down to these things aren’t always easy to do. And we all, as human beings, usually default to what’s easiest and most comfortable, yet that’s not very often the path to growth, is ease and comfort.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, there’s lots there. I like it. So, there’s quite the distinction there between it’s basic, in other words it’s not complicated, but it’s not easy. It takes some effort from you. So, they call it entropy or whatever the concept is. We like our comfort and kind of doing what feels good in a given moment and not maybe what seems super boring because it’s basic and you’ve done it a lot of times. So, yeah, I think you did a fine job of teeing up the challenge, there’s a performance gap, that we’re not doing the things that we know we should or could do to get the results that would be helpful.

So, let’s talk about some ways to push through that then if you want to do more of the basics. And I’m just going to say for being awesome at your job, boy, we could talk about a lot. I think sleep is a big one. Listening is a big one. I think maybe one would be not checking your email constantly but rather just take, I don’t know, a couple batch times a day. Email is easier and maybe interesting, like, “What I have to do now is kind of boring and hard, but my email might be cool and easy, so let me go over there.” Maybe making a list of things that are the most critical to do during this day or week or month, and then making sure that you attack them.

So, those are some of the basics. We’ve heard it from many guests many times. So, if you’re not doing it, you’re not feeling it, how do you start doing it?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, absolutely. I’ve got a basic process to follow but not necessarily an easy one. I’m so glad that you brought up the difference between those two because many people do use basic and easy as if they’re interchangeable, as if they’re synonymous, and they’re not. I tell folks all the time during my keynotes, “Everything I’m going to share with you today is going to be very basic. Nothing I’m going to share with you today is going to be easy to implement because if it was, you’d already be doing it.”

So, first and foremost, and this is just kind of the ground level, you have to have the self-awareness enough to know that you have a performance gap. Like, you have to be willing to look in the mirror and say, “I know I’m supposed to get enough sleep but I don’t. I know I’m supposed to save money but I’m not.” So, without awareness, then you just continue to go through life a loop. So, once you have the awareness then there’s a very distinct three-step process.

The first process is once you’ve narrowed it down to the performance gap that you’re talking about, and let’s just say it’s getting more sleep, then you just have to pick one habit or one behavior that you want to change. You see, especially with a lot of high performers and high drivers, they’re enticed into wanting to change several things at once, “I’m going to get blackout curtains for my room. I’m going to get an easy Nest Thermostat for my room. I’m going to buy a sleep mask. I’m going to take this cocktail of melatonin supplements at night.” And they come up with this long list of things they’re going to do, and then they up getting so stifled by it that they end up doing none of it. The key is just picking one thing to have hyper focus on.

So, if you realize that you’re not getting adequate sleep, pick one thing, and let’s just say that one thing is going to be, “I’m going to set a consistent bedtime.” So, that’s the only thing you’re going to focus on. You’re not going to worry about anything else right now, just the one thing. Then the next thing you need to do, so once you’ve established that one thing, is you want to aim to do that for 66 straight days. You want to start to build some momentum and some continuity.

Now, there’s nothing really magical about 66 except there is some research out there that says that when you do something daily for 66 days in a row, it starts to reduce the friction. So, I just like that because it’s an easy number to remember and it could be something very visual. I’m a visual guy so, for me, I’ll go get an old-school calendar from Office Depot and a big red Sharpie, and every night that I go to bed, at this bedtime that I set, I’m going to put a big red X on my calendar, and I’m going to be committed to doing this until there’s 66 red X’s in a row.

Now, anyone that’s into habits, I highly recommend you read James Clear’s book called Atomic Habits. Most of everything I teach on habits has come from James, and he’s got a lot deeper insight into that concept. But let’s just try to build some momentum, so that’s the second step. So, we pick one thing, we’re committed to doing it for 66 days. And then the third piece is you need to keep the spotlight of accountability on, and you do this by insulating yourself with an accountability partner or an accountability group of people that is going to hold you to that.

So, in this example, I might say, “Hey, Pete, I’m really trying to get better sleep at night. I promised myself I’m going to go to bed every night at 9:30. I’m going to make a commitment to doing this for the next 66 days, but would you mind checking in with me? Since you’re my buddy, would you mind texting me every morning and asking me if I did go to bed at 9:30 so that way I’ve got someone else keeping that light on me?”

And, statistically, if you’re willing to focus on one thing at a time, you’re committed to doing it for 66 days and you have some self-accountability, and you get people that you know want to see you successful hold you accountable, if you do those three things, you have a really good chance of changing that behavior.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Super. So, then I suppose that you lock one in over the course of 66 days, and then start another, as opposed to doing multiples at once. You focus on one at a time, and then you give it that amount of time before you take on another.

Alan Stein, Jr.
You nailed it. And, to me, that’s the main reason that most New Year’s resolutions don’t work it’s because of the plural part, because most people wake up on January 1st and say, “I’m going to eat better. I’m going to get more sleep. I’m going to start working out. I’m going to start saving money. I’m going to start doing this. I’m going to call on my…” and they want to do all of these things. While I certainly applaud how noble their intentions are, and I love that they’re trying to better themselves, statistically, by the third or fourth week of January, most of those people aren’t doing most of those things. And it’s because, as human beings, we’re wired to have that hyper focus. So, set yourself up for success by only picking that one thing and having hyper focus.

And that, in and of itself, is hard to do because most people think, “Oh, I can handle two or three changes at once. Oh, those statistics are for normal people. I can do it.” Well, you might be the exception, but let’s play the odds in our favor, let’s use the statistics and the research to say, “I’m going to do my very best to stay focused on this one thing.” Very basic in premise, very hard to do.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve fallen for that myself, “Oh, I can handle doing that more and more.” The compromise I try to reach myself when I’m having this argument is like, “Okay. Well, only one of them counts.” It’s like for the X, if you will, on the calendar, the points, or to report to the accountability partner, it’s like, “The rest are like extra credit. If you really feel like it or you’re in the mood, go for it, but I’m not bending over backwards to pull those off.” It’s like it’s the one thing that gets the point scored and gets supported out.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Exactly. And I think we can all fall victim to that. And, once again, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to change more than one thing at a time, and I’m not saying people can’t do it. I’m just saying we should all have the humility to go into it not thinking that we’re the exception and let’s do our best with this. And, of course, these, I’m throwing out a very general prescription.

I don’t think anything is one size fits all, but I think if you’re going to start, you’re better off starting conservative.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. So, then let’s talk about some of the basics that make a world of difference. Sleep, I think, is huge, and so we’ve given that as an example. What have you found, I’d say particularly for professionals, are some basics, some habits, that are often real top contenders for being things that unlock a whole lot of power for you?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, what I’ll do is I’m going to give you a framework so that your listeners can actually figure out what those things are for themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, what I’d say is, for your listeners, to take five or ten minutes, and I just want you to reflect on the four or five activities that really fill your own bucket, that charge you up physically, mentally, emotionally. Sit with pen to paper and think, “What things get me going?” Maybe it’s taking a yoga class or a spin class. Maybe it’s prayer or meditation. Maybe it’s quietly reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee, or taking a hot bath, or taking your dog for a walk. Whatever activities fill your bucket, I want you to come up with a list of those four or five things.

And then take another few minutes, and I want you to reflect on what your morning and evening routine looks like. Jot down what you do most mornings and what you do most evenings. Now, I’m aware that most people listening, if you work a conventional job, your Wednesday morning is not going to be the same as your Sunday morning, or your Saturday evening is not the same as your Tuesday evening. That’s okay. But I’m willing to bet that what you do most Wednesday mornings and what you do most Sunday evenings is probably fairly similar because, as human beings, we’re creatures of habit.

So, just start to etch out what you do on the bookends of your day, and then you’ve got these two sets of notes. And what I want you to do is compare those two sets. I want you to see if you’re actually making time in the beginning and end of your day to do the things that you know fill your bucket. And for most people, this is when they start to find some glaring performance gaps. They know that taking a yoga class or meditating or taking their dog for a walk are the things that jive them up, and yet they don’t make the time to do those things near as often as they should. And that’s why I want folks to start making the first little tweaks is using the bookends of your day, the first 60 minutes when you wake up and the last 60 minutes before you go to bed, to do things that refill your bucket, because that’s the only way for you to be awesome at your job, is if your bucket is full. It’s the only way you can serve others.

There’s an old adage that’s been around a lot longer than I’ve been breathing that says, “You can’t pour anything out of an empty cup,” which means if your cup is empty, you have nothing to give other people. So, in order for you to be the most awesome you can be at your job, you have to make sure your battery is always charged and your bucket is always full. And the last way I’ll illustrate that, since I’m a basketball guy, I don’t know if the Lakers are playing tonight or not, but I know if they had a game tonight and LeBron showed up, and he didn’t get good sleep, he wasn’t well-hydrated, he didn’t eat anything, he didn’t do his stretches or his corrective exercises, if he didn’t do all of those things, and he showed up tonight, he would give the Lakers less of a chance to win because he chose not to fill his bucket before he showed up.

And we all have to view ourselves as kind of the LeBron of our jobs in that, “When I show up, I need to show up as my best self. And in order to be my best self, I have to make the time to take care of myself.” And when we’re all willing to do that, that’s the most basic principle we should all be living by to become the best versions of ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, so much good stuff there. Thank you. Thank you, Alan. So, let’s talk about the game day, if you will. You talk about playing present, and so, I guess, part of the game was, hey, prepping in advance, and then another part of the game is really being present while you’re there. First of all, what do you mean by this term?

Alan Stein, Jr.
I’ve heard both Nick Saban, the head football coach at Alabama, and I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey, who I probably need to say her last name because she’s that famous. They’ve both used the term “Be where your feet are.” And I love that because, to me, it has such a strong connotation of being in the present moment. Be where your feet are.

Now, if anyone listening is going, “Well, how could you be anywhere other than your feet?” Now, I’m talking about the connection between mind and body, because in today’s day and age of digital distractions, there’s plenty of times where we’re somewhere, well, we’re not really somewhere.

Pete Mockaitis
He was using his fingers on the phone since we’re not recording the video.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah, and that’s ultimately the problem. And I think a lot of us do that. You’re out to lunch with someone, and you’re so preoccupied with your phone that you’re not really with that person. And the key to high performance is making sure mind, body, and soul are all aligned right where you are. And, once again, very basic premise, very, very difficult to do, especially with all of these digital distractions that we have. So, learning how to be in the moment, not distracted by the past, not worried about the future, not worried about the play that just happened, but completely focused on the next play is vital to being awesome at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so I buy it. And so then, how do we get there? In terms of if we’re naturally distracted by our devices or other thoughts, worries, what else we need to be doing, how do we develop the capacity to be present?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Like anything else, it’ll take some practice. And, as I said before, it starts with awareness. So, first, you have to be aware of when you’re not present. You have to be able to catch yourself saying, “Man, there I go thinking about yesterday,” or, “Here I am worried about tomorrow,” or, “Here I’m constantly letting my phone own me instead of me owning it.” So, you have to have the awareness. And once you have the awareness, then you’ll start to catch yourself more quickly. And once you do that, the other part is really important, is giving yourself some grace and some compassion. Just know that even a Tibetan monk of 80 years isn’t present every moment of every day.

Now, they’re present more consistently than probably guys like you and I are, but nobody is perfect, and I don’t ever want someone to get stifled by perfection. I want you to be motivated and inspired by progress not stifled by perfection. So, just know that you’re never going to have a day where you’re 100% present every moment of every day. But can you be more present today than you’ve been in the past? Can you have a self-talk or a triggering mechanism that you catch yourself when you’re not present to snap yourself back into the moment?

I, literally, say to myself, not out loud, they’d have me committed, I’d say to myself, “Be where your feet are. Be where your feet are. Don’t worry about that, that one is over, Alan. Get back to the present.” And I really believe that the definition of mental toughness is the ability to refocus the lens on the next most important thing regardless of the environment. It’s the acronym WIN, W-I-N, what’s important now. And as long as you can always stay focused on what’s important now, you’ll be in the present moment.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I like that a lot, be where your feet are. I’ve heard some variations. I think it’s from Joseph Goldstein, a mindfulness teacher, talking about, “Sit and know that you are sitting.” I don’t know if he made it up but I think it’s really good, or just sort of breathe and know that you’re breathing. Because, in a way, it’s like, “Well, of course, I know I’m sitting. Of course.” It’s like, “Yeah, but you’re not really sort of there-there in terms of what’s going on.” So, be where your feet are, another way to convey that. I dig it.

And so then, I’d also want to get your view, if we’re kind of focused in the present moment, is it possible to lose sight of the bigger picture, the overall goal because we’re just, maybe, I don’t know, reacting, responding, we’re so in the now moment of what’s happening, we’re not sort of charting a course and driving to wherever we’re trying to go? Is that a risk?

Alan Stein, Jr.
That’s an excellent perspective, and it’s one that I’ve wrestled with numerous times, because we can look both ways on that. I mean, for one, even though I want to be focused on the present, I still want to make sure I’m learning from the past. If I step on a landmine today, I want to make sure tomorrow I don’t step on the same ones. So, part of us does need to have a system in place where we’re constantly looking at previous performances and finding ways to tweak those and move it forward so that we continue to get better.

And then, along the same lines, what you just brought up so insightfully is we also want to make sure we’re prepared for the future. I mean, right now I’m focused on the present moment, but I’m hoping tomorrow does come around and I want to make sure I’m ready for tomorrow. So, I think we want to make sure that we pay homage to both, that learning from the past and being prepared for the future, but we don’t live in either one of those spaces. We’re aware of them, we’re doing our due diligence on both sides, but we’re still in the present moment.

A perfect example would be somebody in sales. They’ve got a yearly quota, or a quarterly quota, of things they’re suppose to sell, and it’s okay to have that number off into the distance, “I’m suppose to sell a hundred whatever by the end of February,” and that’s great to know that but I don’t want to live there. What I want to constantly ask myself is, “What do I need to do today to get me closer to that 100 goal? What do I need to do this hour that will take me closer to that goal? What do I need to do right now, in this very moment, that will take me closer to that goal? And if I can stay in the moment and in the process, there is a very good chance that outcome of 100 will simply take care of itself.” Especially, if you have some analytics behind it.

If you know that every 10 prospects you reach out to, one of them buys, well, now it’s simple math. If every 10, one of them buys and you have to sell a hundred, well, it sounds like you need to reach out to a thousand people over the course of a month. Well, if we divide that thousand by a five-day workweek, four weeks by 20, that tells me how many calls I need to make every single day to be in the process of being able to reach that actual goal. Some days you’ll go higher, some days you’ll go lower, but then if I know that I have to make X number of calls today, I don’t want to worry about any of the calls except for the one I’m about to make right now. That is the only call that matters because it’s the only one that’s directly in front of me.

And then no matter whether this call goes well or not, it’s in the rearview mirror and now I focus on the next call. And this is very similar to building a brick wall. If you’re tasked with building a brick wall, the best advice I have for you is lay each and every brick with care and precision. And if you put your focus on laying each brick perfectly, there’s a very good chance that wall will just take care of itself.

Pete Mockaitis
And if you are an excellent mason in the Chicago area, get in touch with me because I need to hire one. Thank you.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Oh, perfect. And whoever that person is, you make sure you lay Pete’s bricks brick by brick.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, right. Well, that’s a whole another talk, that’s a whole another conversation, in terms of people being awesome at their job in the home renovation world. That could be hard to find at times. So, anyway, refocusing on here and now, huh? How’s that for presence and tie-in.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yeah. Oh, that was perfect. Look at you.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. So, I want to get your take on is there anything else you really want to make sure we mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Alan Stein, Jr.
No, those are really the big ones. And I readily acknowledge that there’s really nothing sexy about anything I’ve just shared. There’s nothing flashy, there’s nothing new, there’s nothing trendy. Master the basics and the fundamentals during the unseen hours. Do your best to stay present. Those things aren’t sexy, that’s why they’re not tons of Facebook memes or Nike slogans with those in them, but those are what’s required at being awesome at your job. And once you’ve found something that you love to do, if you can fall in love with that process and doing that work on a daily basis, you will be awesome at your job.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
“If you do the things others won’t do, you’ll have the things others won’t have.” And that really is something that piggybacks on everything that I just shared. If you’re willing to commit to the basics, which most people aren’t, you’ll have plenty of things that other people don’t have. If you’re willing to be an active listener to the people you care about, you’ll have deeper relationships than most other people have. If you’re willing to lay each brick with care and precision, you’ll probably build sounder and nicer walls than anybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ll get a lot of referrals.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Yes, absolutely. Without question.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
Well, there was an interesting on that goes back on that why I told your listeners to pick one thing. There’s a gentleman named John Berardi, who was the Founder and CEO of a company called Precision Nutrition, and he did a study and he found that when you try to focus on one behavior change, you have an 85% chance of being successful, that as soon as you try to split that in half and change two behaviors at the same time, rate of success drops to 40% to 45%, so almost cut in half.

And then if you try to focus on three things at once, it drops down to 4% or 5%. So, once again, the statistics will show and the research will show that if you want to change a behavior, just focus and get hyper clear on that one thing to change. I remember when I read that for the first time, that was eye-opening to me because at the time, I was trying to juggle many changes at once all of the time and was getting frustrated with myself that none of it was working.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

Alan Stein, Jr.
Leading with the Heart by Coach K. That was one of the first, like epiphanic books that I read from cover to cover in one sitting that just completely jolted the way that I look at building teams, and leading, and creating cohesion with an organization. It’s an old book but it’s still just as good as the day it came out.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
I use the Headspace, the meditation app, the guided meditation, and I use it daily. It’s a 10-minute guided meditation which allows me to start my day in a much more present way, it allows me start my day in a grounded and mindful way, and it just kind of, in a very soothing way, talks you through 10 minutes of keeping you present. And I really love it because I’m a pretty competitive guy, and there’s kind of a daily run clock on it which will say how many days in a row is your Headspace streak. And as of this morning, at the time of this recording, I have done this for 929 straight days without missing a Headspace daily meditation. And, for me, I just love that.

Back to the brick-by-brick analogy, most people will think, “Well, 10 minutes of meditation, what’s that going to do?” Well, I agree, a one-time 10 minutes slice of meditation will do nothing for you, but I’m living proof that 10 minutes a day, for 929 straight days, can have a seismic effect on your presence, and awareness, and mindfulness, and mood, and the way you start your day. So, it goes back to the brick-by-brick. One brick doesn’t make a wall. Several bricks laid perfectly, now you’ve got yourself a sound, sturdy wall.

Pete Mockaitis
This is intriguing because here you are, a case study, 900 plus days, so not a lifetime, under three years, but an awesome habit that’s locked in. So, you say it’s made quite a difference. Can you sort of lay that out for us? Because I think there’s a lot like borderline, fence-riding, half-meditators listening to this show, and I’m one of them in terms of, it’s like, “Oh, hey, I did that. That felt kind of good. okay, I’m glad I did that.” And then I got busy, it’s like, “Oh, I didn’t do that.” So, it’s up and down, and I’m generally on board that the data is clear, the research that the benefits exceed the costs, and then sometimes I just get wrapped up, and it’s like, “That sounds boring. I don’t feel like it, so I’m not going to do it.” I’m a little sassy or self-indulgent, and at other times I do it and I’m so glad I did. Other times I do it, I was like, “Okay, well, that happened.” So, let’s get your take so that myself and listeners may be convinced. What is different for you now as compared to 900 plus days ago?

Alan Stein, Jr.
I mean, the biggest difference I would say is kind of my mood and outlook in how I start the day. Like many people, I used to wake up and the first thing I would do would be check my phone, check text messages, email, social increase, and I started to find, like most people, that I was giving my power away, that. I was putting my mood and rolling the dice into the hands of anyone that text me, emailed me, or sent me something on social, and many times I was losing that battle. I would get something that would frustrate me, or irritate me, or upset me, and it’s the very first thing I’m putting on my hard drive in the morning, and I just decided that enough was enough.

And I wanted to make sure that that was not what I was doing to start my day, and I needed something else to replace it. And around this time, somebody that was a mentor and very influential to me, was talking about his own Headspace meditation journey and how much it had helped him, and I think it was just perfect timing.

Everything that you just said, I found true especially in those first few months. There were times I didn’t feel like doing it, there were times where, even in that 10 minutes, I couldn’t stay present for more than 10 seconds. My mind would start racing about all of the things I had to do that day. But over time, it just started to chip away, and, over time, I just found that I was becoming more mindful. I was becoming better with just sitting in silence for 10 minutes, that I was starting my day with a little more pep in my step, with a little wider smile because I was in this rounded fashion.

I also like the consistency of it. I travel a ton as a professional speaker and this is something that I can do whether I’m home or whether I’m traveling. It’s something I can do whether my kids are with me or they’re not with me, so I had some control over it. And then, as I mentioned, I’m rather competitive, so once I had done it for 10 straight days, I was like, “Well, let’s not stop here. Let’s keep it going.” And, yes, there were definitely a few times where I did not feel like doing it but I was like, “You know what, I can’t let my streak break.”

I started putting it out on social because that’s a form of accountability. I had people come up to me at my talks all the time and say, “Hey, Alan, what’s your Headspace streak up to?” because they remember a few months ago I posted how many days I had in a row. So, it’s kind of a self-accountability, like I mentioned earlier with that spotlight, but it’s definitely allowed me to start my day in a much more mindful and controlled manner. And I know that’s very hard to measure, once again it’s not super sexy, but I’ve found that it’s a great tool for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I think the most compelling there was you’re not putting your mood in other’s hands, so, I mean, it’s powerful right there. So, then, some meditation, Headspace is the tool. I was going to ask about a favorite habit. That might be it, but if you have another one, lay it on us.

Alan Stein, Jr.
You know, the longest running habit that I’m aware of that I have is probably going on 26, 27 years now, and it’s similar to the meditation. I make my bed first thing every single morning. I do that because I’m a firm believer that it takes discipline to make your bed. I mean, it might only take 8 to 10 seconds but it takes a little discipline, and that discipline is the key to freedom. Discipline is the key to everything that we want in life. If your goal is to be happy and fulfilled, well, self-discipline is what’s going to allow you to achieve that.

If you’re a hard-driver and your goal is success and significance in the board room, discipline is what’s going to allow you to do that. So, I love knowing that I start every single day with a very small simple act of discipline, and then I’d parlay that right into my meditation, and the first 11 minutes of my day, I’ve kind of set the groundwork for the rest of the day. And if the rest of the day is going to be filled with adversity and challenge and chaos, and I’m expected to respond and put out fires, I’m able to handle those things much better just by laying that foundation first thing in the morning.

Pete Mockaitis
And, tell us, is there a particular nugget you share that really resonates with folks and they quote it back to you, you’re known for it?

Alan Stein, Jr.
The number one, and this is not an Alan Stein, Jr. original, I think Coach K was the first to do it, but where I really learned it was from Mike Jones, who was the head basketball coach at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. I worked for him for six years, and was just phenomenal. And he always talks about this concept of next play, and it’s part of being present. And, basically, what he says, anytime during a basketball game when things don’t go well, Coach Jones says, “Next play.”

So, a player turns the ball over. No worries. Next play. You missed a wide-open layup. It’s all right. Next play. I know, the referee missed that call. Next play. And that mindset is what allows you to be in the present moment. You don’t worry about what just happened, you’re focused on now and what’s about to happen next. And I’ve had many people in my keynotes, you know, I’ll give a 90-minute keynote and they’ll say that was the stickiest most helpful thing I shared was the ability to move to the next play. And many people have told me, I mean, they use it with their children, they use it with their families, I know I use it with my kids all the time.

My kids would get into arguing about something, and I’ll say, “All right, let’s resolve this,” and then we’re moving to the next play. My kids will say they want a dessert after dinner, and I’ll say, “Well, not tonight,” and they whine about it. I say, “Hey, we’re moving onto the next play.” And that terminology, I found to be really sticky and something that’s been very helpful for not only myself but lots of people that I’ve worked with.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
They can go to RaiseYourGameBook.com if they want to learn more about the book. And if they want to hear more about my speaking services and what I do on social, they can go to AlanSteinJr.com.

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

Alan Stein, Jr.
I would say, actually, what you just said, is to put something that we talked about today into action, that knowledge without action is useless. I mean, it’s no different than the book on your shelf that you haven’t read. It’s doing nothing to help you. So, while you may have been sitting here listening to this episode and nodding your head, maybe even taking some notes and thinking, “Wow, this is great stuff they’re talking about,” if you don’t actually put it into motion, it’s not going to change anything. So, just remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Alan, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you lots of luck in your future adventures.

Alan Stein, Jr.
Thank you so much, Pete. I appreciate you.

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Laura:

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

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Laura Huang Interview Transcript

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

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

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

Laura Huang
How did you know that?

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Huang
Sure. Well, you never know.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

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

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

Daphne Scott Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, clever. Clever.

Daphne Scott
It’s very clever.

Pete Mockaitis
Risqué.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Your first book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daphne Scott
Yeah, exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daphne Scott
Yeah, me, too.

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

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

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

Daphne Scott
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

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

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

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

Daphne Scott
Yeah, totally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Well, certainly, yeah.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s hear it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
I have not read this one, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

448: Rejecting Nine Common Lies About Work and Embracing Human Individuality with Ashley Goodall

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Ashley Goodall says: "Get really fluent about your strengths. Get specific. Get detailed."

Ashley Goodall debunks deeply-embedded misconceptions about work and how fostering human individuality provides valuable possible solutions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How deeply-rooted misconceptions about work lead to inefficiency
  2. Why you should focus on being “spikey” rather than well-rounded
  3. How systematizing can remove the human essence from wor

About Ashley

Ashley Goodall is currently Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco. In this role he has built a new organization focused entirely on serving teams and team leaders—combining talent management, succession, coaching, assessment, executive talent, workforce and talent planning, research and analytics, and technology to support leaders and their teams in real time. Previously he was Director and Chief Learning Officer, Leader Development, at Deloitte. He is the co-author, with Marcus Buckingham, of “Reinventing Performance Management,” the cover story in the April 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ashley Goodall Interview Transcript

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

Ashley Goodall
Hi, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your book Nine Lies About Work but first, I want to hear a little about your musical talents and performances.

Ashley Goodall
I started playing the piano when I was six years old, and it’s one of those funny things that I can’t remember very much of my mind as a six-year old, but I remember pretty clearly that there was this thing in the front hall and it had keys and they made noise and I wanted to play it, I wanted to learn how to make sound from it. And then that turned into playing the violin, and then I finally found these things called symphony orchestras, and they were fascinating, and so I took up the viola to be able to play in a symphony orchestra.

And then, after a while, I thought, “Well, there’s this guy in the front waving his arms around. That looks something like something I should give a go and looks sort of interesting.” So, when I was an undergrad, I finished up conducting a couple of student symphony orchestras. And that led to, I suppose, a fascination with how people play together, I mean literally, of course, how do musicians play together. Because, while you have the score, if you like, which tells you sort of basic bits of the performance. There’s a lot more to a performance than what’s written in the notes.

But, also, then of course more broadly in the world in which I finished up, in the world of work and leadership, how do people play together on teams, how do we play together at work, what is the essential magic that happens between a group of people when they get something done together? So, the music sort of led into that fascination which I think is going to keep me going for years and years.

Pete Mockaitis
And you made a number of discoveries about how people play together when it comes to the workplace, and you have documented those with your co-author, Marcus Buckingham, there, in the book “Nine Lies About Work.” I’m so intrigued. Well, first, what’s maybe the most shocking or startling discovery you made as you’re putting this together?

Ashley Goodall
Well, of course, the listeners can probably guess by the title. We uncovered a lot of things which are problematic in the world of work. There was one, I don’t know whether this is the most surprising, almost fascinating, but it certainly was surprising and fascinating. And, actually, it didn’t make it directly into the book, so maybe this is a fun nugget.

Pete Mockaitis
Too hot for “Nine Lies.”

Ashley Goodall
Or maybe too geeky. Let me explain it first and then you can tell me. I came across this thing I hadn’t come across before called the extrinsic incentives bias. Now, you tell me how exciting that sounds.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it all depends on how you apply it.

Ashley Goodall
Right. And what it tells us, the research is good, a number of different experiments, and the experiments always looked like you had to say, each subject had to say how they thought other people were motivated or incentivized, and then say how they thought they were motivated or incentivized. And the fascinating, for me at least, fascinating thing that comes out of this is, time and time again, people will go, “Okay, the other people are motivated by extrinsic things. Other people are motivated by money, by power, by promotion, by big titles, extrinsic motivations. I, on the other hand, I’m motivated by intrinsic things. I’m motivated by learning, by growth, by making my mark on the world, by living my values.”

And this happens time and time again. Whenever they do the study, the more distant somebody is from me, the more I believe that they are extrinsically motivated. Other people I believe are extrinsically motivated. I, however, am intrinsically motivated. Now, that might sound like that’s just a sort of fascinating and weird asymmetry of human reasoning until you think about the world of work. Because we’ve designed the world of work in many ways on the assumption that those other people are extrinsically motivated.

So, we design bonus schemes, and we design promotion schemes, and we do an awful lot of things which overlook the fact that if it we were designing it for ourselves, we would design a workplace that allowed us to grow as much as we can, that allowed us to express what we value the most, that allowed us to do the things that energize us the most. So, weirdly enough, this bias, I think actually explains a lot of what’s wrong with the world of work is that we’ve designed it for what we think other people need, and we haven’t designed it for what we need because we don’t think that we are a good representatives of the other people in the world, but actually we are.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s beautiful, and worth thinking about it for a good while. Well, maybe could you line up a few of the top intrinsic motivators that you and, by extension, just about everybody really respond to a lot?

Ashley Goodall
Well, I think there’s always something about, “I want to do things I value,” which is why purpose is so important, and talking about purpose and meaning is so important. But there’s also something about, “I want to grow. I want to get better at what I do.” And what that means is if there’s a system of work that tells me, “Here’s what you’re not good at,” I’m not nearly as interested in that system as I am a system —and by the way, this system very often is a human being —a system that says, “Here’s where I’m powerful, here’s where I can increase my impact.”

So, if you think about work as a system of attention or as a system that’s focused on individual growth, or individual strengths, or individual energy, or the things that we have in ourselves that we are happy to contribute and motivated to contribute, so much of that is ignored by the way that we’ve designed our world. It’s a little sad, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that’s intriguing, and thank you for sharing those. And so, then I want to dig into some of these nine lies to get at least a little bit of the overview of all of them, and then a little bit of depth on a couple of them. But, first of all, why are we calling them lies? They’re not just misconceptions or mistakes or boo-boos, but lies. What’s that about?

Ashley Goodall
Well, they are held to be true very strongly by the world of work . And we’ll get into them in a second and your listeners will maybe hear what I mean. But let’s pick one at random. The lie that “people need feedback” is very strongly believed in the world of work. Very, very strongly. So, firstly, because they’re strongly held to be true, we wanted a strong word to push back against them, and the antidote to that is just call it a lie and not to just say, “Well, it’s a little bit off.”

There’s an old quote, I’ll have to find out where it’s from, that “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has got its pants on.” And so, these things are lies very much in that sense, in that they zoom around, they don’t get looked at particularly skeptically. They are almost universally accepted. And before anyone can clear their throat and say, “Well, hang on a second, the evidence points to a very different thing,” all of a sudden, these things are halfway around the world, if you like. They’re the sort of fake news of work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then let’s dig into some of these lies. Maybe you can share with us, first, a quick overview in terms of what’s the lie and the antidote, maybe a couple of sentences for each, and then we’ll have some fun with our favorites.

Ashley Goodall
One of the ways I thought we could quickly go through the lies is I’ll read them out and then I’ll just turn each one into a sentence with “because” and that maybe won’t reveal what the truth is, but it’ll give maybe listeners a little insight into some of the things that we’re talking about here.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like maybe you’ve done this before actually.

Ashley Goodall
Well, there has been a lot of conversations about these lies, but it’s fun to think about different ways of sharing them. So, we’ll give this a go and if everyone thinks it’s horrible then I’ll shut up.

Okay, so lie number one. “It’s a lie that people care which company they work for because work doesn’t live in a company, it lives somewhere else.” “It’s a lie that the best plan wins because plans move too slowly for the real world.” Lie number three, “It’s a lie that the best companies cascade goals because people actually need to know the why of work more than the what.” “It is a lie that the best people are well-rounded because, well, have you looked at the best people?”

“It’s a lie that people need feedback because brains don’t grow when they’re threatened.” “It’s a lie that people can reliably rate other people because evidence, an awful lot of it.” “It’s a lie that people have potential because it doesn’t exist and, at any rate, we should figure out how to invest in everybody, not just a select few.” “It’s a lie that work-life balance matters most because balance is stasis, and health, on the other hand, is motion, and actually because there’s some other reasons too.” “It’s a lie that leadership is a thing because there aren’t actually any leaders who have it.” How about that?

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. There’s so much to say here. All right. So, let’s jump into “The best people are well-rounded.” Tell us, what are the best people if not well-rounded?

Ashley Goodall
So, what I just said was that “Best people are well-rounded because, have you looked at the best people?” And this is what’s so interesting. So, first thing, where does it come from?

Pete Mockaitis
I think college admissions is where it comes from.

Ashley Goodall
Yeah, or maybe even earlier. I mean, I think we start this one in school. There’s a classic experiment, a research that was done where they go to parents and they say, “Your kid comes home with an A, a C, and an F. Which grade merits your most attention? Which one merits the most attention?” And, of course, 75% of parents say, “Well, it’s the F, isn’t it?”

Now, the point is not that the F merits zero attention, but the question is, “Which merits the most?” And the question for the hypothetical parent is, “Is your kid going to build a career on the back of the F turning into an E, or on the back of the A turning into an A-star, if you like, or an A+? Where is that kid going to make their way in the world?” And, of course, it’s never going to be about turning the F into the E, so the F gets a bit of attention, but the A should get most attention.

But, yet, we’ve constructed the world of school in a sort of remedial way which is to say that, and we do this at work too, of course, we like to measure people against a number of different things, and then we say, “Well, the things you should focus on most are the things where you are most broken, if you like, where you have the biggest deficit,” because then, by implication, you’ll be good across the board because the best students are well-rounded, and the best people are well-rounded, and the best employees are well-rounded, and the best team members are well-rounded.

So, whenever we encounter anything that starts off by saying, “Let’s measure you against a number of different elements, and then let’s use the gaps as the motivation for your development,” we are encountering this lie. That’s what it looks like in practice. And, funnily enough, we can do all of that without ever really pausing for very long to study the best people. And if you study people who are brilliant at what they do, you find out that they’re the antithesis of well-rounded.

They’re not well-rounded. They’re, in fact, spikey. There are a few things that they’re brilliant at and they figure out how to make those things more and more and more powerful for them, which is to say that growth isn’t really a question of adding ability where we don’t have it. It’s a question more of adding impact, growing impact where we already have ability.

Now, the example we give in the book of this is the soccer player, Lionel Messi, who is profoundly left-footed, uses one foot over the other more than any other soccer player that we encountered in hundreds of hours of watching YouTube videos of people playing soccer, and counting.

Ashley Goodall
So, that’s the work is all about.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it was a labor of, well, I don’t know.

Ashley Goodall
Working hard, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
It was hard to do until I discovered that YouTube has a slow-motion button which plenty got a lot easier. But, anyway, you watch Lionel Messi and it’s all left foot, left foot, left foot, left foot, left foot, left foot. Now, if you lived in well-rounded land, you would say, “Lionel, oh, my God, we’ve got work on your right foot a little bit. You’re only using the left. What’s with that? You’ll be predictable. The defenders will know that you’re always going to go left. You’re always going to go left and you’re giving up half the possibility so maybe it’s twice as easy to tackle you.”

That’s not what he does. He hones and hones and hones his left foot until it is the most brilliant weapon arguably in the world of soccer today. The defenders still know that he’s going with his left foot, he’s just so good at it that they still can’t stop him. And the lesson from that is that excellence is really, really spikey. It’s a few things done brilliantly well, not a whole bunch of things made sort of well-rounded and rounded over. That’s not what the best people look like at all.

Pete Mockaitis
And, now, when we talk about an example of a spike, so the left foot is one. Could you give us some more? Because I think, in a way, some people would say, “Oh, mine is my communication skills,” but that kind of sounds pretty broad in terms of a strength or a spike of excellence. So, could you maybe give us some examples of particular spikes so we can get our arms around what are we talking about here in terms of how narrow versus broad the spike is?

Ashley Goodall
Yeah, and you’re good to call that out. It’s a sort of good test is that if you think your spike is the sort of thing you would find on a competency model or a development plan, you haven’t defined it nearly precisely enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, even if you’ve got a Korn Ferry, what are we at, 37 nowadays, in the latest one?

Ashley Goodall
But if it’s a thing on a competency model, if it’s communication skills, or political savvy, or strategic thinking, and you say, “That’s my spike,” you are not nearly precise enough to be able to build on it. I’ll give you a few from leaders in history, maybe that’s an interesting place because we all know these people. If you think about Kennedy, J.F. Kennedy, his spike was making the future a morally uplifting place for all of us.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ashley Goodall
Okay. That’s not on any competency model. You don’t get feedback on making the future a morally uplifting place for all of us. If you look at Winston Churchill, his spike was being incredibly stubborn. That’s not a thing on a competency model.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, like never give up.

Ashley Goodall
That doesn’t show up at all. But if you look at Churchill as a strategic thinker, he wasn’t actually very good. He got chucked out of government in the ‘20s and ‘30s because none of his plans worked particularly well. But there came a moment where Britain needed somebody to stand their ground, and they found the guy who was probably the world’s most stubborn person, and he was brilliant at being stubborn. And, of course, it was more than just saying no. It was inspiring resistance. But I think stubbornness is somehow at the heart of that.

So, you might think, “Well, how do I articulate what my spike is?” And it’s a process, at least it has been for me, of thinking about, “Where am I most energized and what do I always run towards?” that’s if you like a strength. “What are the things I would do if I weren’t paid to do them anyway?” And then you have to hone it. Under what circumstances? What does it get used for? Does it matter if you’re doing it in this context or in this context?

And it’s a process of self-reflection and self-observation until you can write a sentence that says, “This is a spike of mine,” and you’ll know if you got it specific because it won’t feel like something that anyone else in the world could particularly have.
Pete Mockaitis
And so, Ashley, what’s yours? Or, if you have a couple, how many spikes do we get?

Ashley Goodall
Mine is looking out into a messy future and explaining to the rest of the world what I see clearly.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ashley Goodall
And, again, that’s specific. There’s not a model that says that. And if you were coaching me, you would never say from a standing start, “Well, Ashley, let’s talk about looking out into a messy future and explaining to the world what you see clearly.” That’s not a sentence anyone ever says. But if you look at the book I’ve written with Marcus, my goodness me, it is an extended essay in looking out into the messy future and trying to explain what we together see clearly. So, it does show up in places.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. And do you think that we, as humans, professionals, have one, two, three spikes? What do you think?

Ashley Goodall
I don’t know. I think it’s not 15, and it’s probably not six either. It’s interesting when it gets to leadership because actually there’s a connection between these spikes and leadership. It turns out that what happens in the world of leadership is that people hook onto your spikes, that’s what they see. And the spikes help them feel better about the world that they’re facing. They know what you’re going to stand for and where you’re going to go.

When you look at leaders, most leaders with any sort of renown, you come down to more or less one spike. Now, that might just be because we’re seeing it from a distance so we the one that’s the most powerful, or maybe there are another couple of things going on there as well. But, as I say, I don’t think it’s six.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s helpful. Thank you. Intriguing. So, now let’s talk about the feedback picture. So, what’s the story here?

Ashley Goodall
There is an awful lot of conversation in the world about how to give people feedback. And, recently, it’s taken a little turn for the sort of, I don’t know, the chest-thumping, if you like. We have to give people radical feedback, and we have to be super candid, and we have to be unvarnished, and all these words that somehow make this an exercise in macho truth-telling, which is just weird. I think we should just call it weird.

But, behind that, is this ongoing question of, “What’s the best way to give somebody feedback?” And what’s presumed in that, of course, is that giving people feedback is the best way to help them grow. Now, by feedback, what I mean is, and it’s worth clarifying, when I say feedback, I mean the sort of standard approach where it says, “You did this. I would’ve done this, or you should’ve done it this way. Or, it’s where I tell you what I think of your performance.” That’s what we could call feedback, right?

And we’re spending a lot of time saying, “Well, what’s the best way to do that? And should it be 360 and should it be anonymous? And should it should be on your phone and how frequently should it happen? And how radically candid the whole thing should be?”

But if you actually ask the underlying question, “How do people best grow?” you find out that as soon as the brain feels threatened, as soon as the brain feels that judgment is about to arrive, it measurably shuts down. It goes into fight-or-flight mode. And that’s not the mode of brain system, if you like, that’s not the brain system where neurological connections get made.

So, at a biological level, if someone feels threatened, they stop learning. And if your read the research on this, the research actually say that that brain state is best described as impairment. So, in all our efforts to help people grow, we’re actually impairing their learning, so that should give us pause. Then you say, well, as we’ve just been talking about, “Gosh, the best people are spikey, and the spikes are different from one person to the next.” So, it’s very difficult for me to tell you how you should move towards excellence because your version of excellence will be different from mine, and I can’t possibly guess what’s going on inside you, what your definition of your spike, or your growing edge might be. So, that makes it a little bit difficult.

And then, thirdly, if you look at the science in learning, and you discover that learning is actually an emergent thing. I can’t force you. I can’t compel you to learn. What I can do is give you some ingredients when your brain is ready to hear them. And, from time to time, you’ll find a different way of assembling, with some input from me, or mainly input from you, and you’ll go, “Oh, right. Oh, that.” But that moment is not what I told you to learn. It’s you figuring out an insight for yourself. So, learning is actually an emergent property.

So, given that, given that I’m a horrible judge of other people, which is another thing the science is very clear on, so I can’t judge you. You learn it idiosyncratically. Your excellence is idiosyncratic. And the second I start telling you how to do something and you perceive that as any sort of a threat, your brain shuts down. That would mean a lot of this feedback isn’t achieving an awful lot.

It’s okay for risk mitigation where you’re not worried about learning, you’re not worried about growth, you’re worried about, “Don’t do that because it will cause harm.” Okay, that’s one case where we can go, yes, by all means tell people how to do it differently. Just don’t expect them to learn a lot. Don’t expect them go get anything above adequate of the task you’re talking about because brains don’t work that way.

And then you find, “Okay, if we’re no longer in the getting to adequate business, but we’re in the fostering excellence business, what should we do, given all of this?” And what we should do is give people our attention to what works really well. We should help them realize and reflect on their moments of excellence so that they can build on those patterns in their brain and make them more pronounced and more powerful.

What that looks like in a nutshell is that when we say to somebody, “Good job,” we think today that’s the end of the conversation, right? Good job means, “You did it great. Well done. It’s not a risk for me because you’re good at that, so I’ll go back to figuring out where you’re next going to fall down and giving you all sorts of constructive,” as I suppose we call it, “or negative feedback.” But, in fact, good job is the beginning of a conversation.

And the conversation continues something like this, you start by sharing your reaction, okay, “So, Pete, good job. The thing, the way that you phrased that question really captured something important for me. Now, then, where did that come from? What were you thinking? Have you asked the question like that before? Could you take the thought that led to that question and inform different questions with it? Could you do that again is essentially what I’m asking?”

If I do that for you, some of the time a little spark will go off in your brain, and you’ll go, “Oh, yes, I could do it again. It would look like this. Or I could do it over here. Or I could do it maybe, when I‘m not asking questions but when I’m writing. Or I could do it here, or I could do it here, or I could do it here.” And, lo and behold, you have growth, and you have growth towards excellence, not merely remediation towards adequacy. So, people don’t feedback. People need attention.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. And so, then if you are in a spot where something needs to be corrected, what do you do?

Ashley Goodall
What you do is you talk about facts, steps, and outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, say more.

Ashley Goodall
So, very easy to say, “Hey, you did that and perhaps you didn’t know about this fact. Perhaps you didn’t know about this thing which is a factual thing in the world.” You can always point that out. “Maybe you hadn’t read this research paper when you wrote that article,” something like that. So, you’re going to want to say that.

When you have a process with a series of defined steps, there’s a series of defined steps, for example, for taking off in an airplane, or for giving a safe injection, and somebody misses a step. Then, by all means, you can say, “Oh, my goodness me, you missed a step. These are the required steps. Don’t miss that step again. You will create risks.” And that’s why, of course, we have checklists in the world. And two of the places we have checklists are in operating rooms and in airplane cockpits, because if you miss a step, you’re in trouble.

Most of the world of work, certainly the world of knowledge work, by the way, isn’t like an operating theater or a cockpit in that there isn’t a prescribed list of steps that everyone would agree to. So, the facts and steps things are a little limited but it’s worth just saying that those are real things. And then the other one is the most effective way I found to remediate performance is to say, “You missed on the outcome. The outcome we were after was,” I don’t know, “to close the deal, and you didn’t close the deal. Let’s talk about why.”

Now, in that, you’re still remediating but at least you are trying to talk about not, “Here’s what’s wrong with you through my eyes, which will get you, believe me, nowhere at all.” But at least, instead, you’re trying to say, “We missed. You missed. Let’s explore.” You don’t get a lot of growth by doing that because as soon as you say to somebody, “You missed the outcome,” their brain is already trying to get out the door pretty quickly. But you can at least come up with a plan for not missing again.

And so, what you get is, of course, “The deal might close next time.” What you don’t get is, “Is it a great deal?” So, there’s a difference between, as I said, there’s a difference between adequate performance and great performance. You don’t create a transporting piece of writing by fixing the grammar which is not to say that you can’t fix the grammar and that you shouldn’t fix the grammar. But it is to say there’s a big difference in the real world between getting the basics down and real unique excellence.

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. All right. Thank you. Well, tell me, Ashley, so given that these lies are around and they are pervasive, if you are, say, a rank-and-file professional, maybe you don’t have any direct reports or just a couple, what do you think are some of the top things that we should start doing right now that can help us get better results at work given that these lies are all over the place?

Ashley Goodall
Yeah, I’ll give you the one that’s absolutely top of the list for me the whole time, which is, “Get really fluent about your strengths. Get specific. Get detailed.” There are a couple of things that sort of lead us to that, if you like. The first is that, “No one else really cares about you as much as you care about you. No one else really cares about your strengths,” and by strengths I don’t mean what you’re good at. I mean what energizes you, what gives you, what you run towards. “No one else really cares about that as much as you do. And no one else is going to do the work for you. And, anyway, nobody else can because they can’t see inside your head, and they can’t see how it feels to be engaged in an activity when time is flying by, and you can’t wait to do it again.” So, firstly, no one will do it for you.

Secondly, we are very strangely and, to my mind, sadly much more specific about our weaknesses, about the things that drain the living daylights out of us, than we are about our strengths. It’s a sort of oddity of the way we’re put together as people, I think. And the example, of course, is if you say to somebody, “Name an activity that drains you.” Most people will think for four seconds and then talk for about three minutes. And the three minutes is a rant, “Oh, my goodness me, when they make me fill in this form, and then this has to happen, and then this have to happen. I hate that.” And they can give you enormous detail, they can tell you precisely when it last happened, they can tell you exactly what drains them about it.

And then you say, “Okay, very good. Tell me about what strengthens you, what lifts you up.” And a lot of the time, people will lean back in a chair, and they’ll smile, and they go, “You know what, it’s people. I’m a people person.” And that is woefully inadequate. Which people? Where? What are they doing? What are you doing? What’s your relationship with the people? Are the people professional people? Are they family people? Is it at work? Is it outside work? Do you know them? Are you reaching out to them for the first time? Are you forming long-lasting relationships with a few people? Are you forming light-touch relationships with hundreds and hundreds of people? Which people? Not, “I’m a people person.” More, more, more.

Because until you know those answers for yourself, you can’t do anything with them. And no one else, as I said, is going to do it for you. So, the piece of advice I would give for anyone in any walk of life is get really, really specific about the activities that give you joy, the activities that you love, because on that will be built, with luck and with effort, a great career and a great life. But if you don’t know what those building blocks are, you can’t get there from vagueness. It won’t work. If you’re going to find your winning edge, you need to get really specific about what it is that lifts you up.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. And is there anything that you recommend professionals stop doing, you know, they just cut it out right now?

Ashley Goodall
We over-rotate. I mean, it’s the flipside of what we were just talking about. We over-rotate on weaknesses and we beat ourselves up about not necessarily the things that, in the proper sense, the things that drain us, but certainly things we can’t do very well. And we can sometimes obsess over these and get very, very focused on trying to make ourselves more well-rounded, if you like. But you only have to think, and human kind are probably thousands and millions of things that a human being can do, and most of us suck at most of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Ashley Goodall
We tend to go all sort of narrow. But if you think about, when I think about the things I can’t do, goodness me, metal work, field hockey, also ice hockey, paragliding, I can’t paint. There’s an enormously long list of things that I can’t do. I can’t ride a motorcycle. I can’t speak Chinese. My Latin is very remedial these days. Okay, the list of things I can’t do is infinity things long practically.

The list of things I can do is very few, so I better not spend my whole time wallowing in, “I can’t do this, and I can’t do this, and I can’t do this, and I can’t do this, and I can’t do this,” because, as I said, that’s not where a career and a life is to be forged. Those are the wrong raw ingredients to start with. We come into the world with certain patterns of thought and behavior, and those only become more pronounced over our lives. They don’t change very much. They just get more and more clearly defined.

And the question is, “Are you accelerating the definition of yours or not?” And the place to start, therefore, is, “What are my patterns of behavior and thought? What do I run towards?” as I’ve said. Not, “What are some of the millions of things I can’t do?” So, it’s not that, “Where I don’t have a skill, I shouldn’t have a bother acquiring it,” but it’s the, “I shouldn’t hook my future to things that, seem very distant from my current field of endeavor, and I shouldn’t say that that’s the most important thing for me to focus on.” The most important thing for me to focus on is, “What works? And how can I do it more?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. Ashley, let me get your take. So, we had an overview of the nine lies, we had some depth on a couple of them. Would you say there is an overarching theme, or kind of underlying set of forces that draw all these together? Like, what are the nine lies have in common other than they’re all over the place and that they’re wrong?

Ashley Goodall
There is, and I think it’s been sort of hovering around our conversation today, Pete. And, I suppose, it’s got a couple of angles. Particularly in the workplace, we tend to focus on what doesn’t work and we miss giving at least as much attention, or properly much more attention, to what does work. So, we’ve sort of got the world of human prospering and human flourishing, we sort of got it backwards.

And the other thing that runs through the lies very, very strongly is that we think that the human individuality is a bug, not a feature. We think that human diversity is something to be rounded out, something to be made to conform. This is why we cascade goals so that everybody is singing off the same songbook, if you like. This is why we round people out. This is why we give people feedback against the prescribed model. This is why we sort people into categories of potential or not.

We’re trying to put people in buckets. We’re trying to make people conform. We’re looking for one-size-fits-all. And, as a result, we lose sight of humans at work, which is particularly ironic, because human is all there is at work, but we lose sight of it, and we lose sight of the beautiful and precious fact that what we prize most about the people we share the planet with is not how they’re the same as us, it’s how they’re different. It’s what they add that we can’t do. It’s what they see that we don’t see.

And the world of work, I think, as described through these nine lies, the world of work is, in its funny sort of way, annoyed by that, frustrated by that. Wouldn’t it be much easier if all the people were interchangeable, if they were all the same, or at least if we could describe their differences in a list of eight competencies? And then we could measure you all up against that and we could decide whether you’re an A, a B, a C, a D, an E, an F, a G, and we could treat you like that.

It’s wrong on the evidence, it’s not useful according to the science, and it’s also, in some way, immoral. So, I think the book, if you like, is a plea to get back to a world where we appreciate the local, the local team, we appreciate the weirdness of other people, and the wonderful weirdness of other people. And we put the human beings back in work because we’ve lost them.

Pete Mockaitis
This has kind of reminded me of Henry Ford had a famous quotation, and I might not nail it but it’s something like, “Why is it when I hire a pair of hands, I have to get a brain and a mouth as well?” Or something like that, in terms of, “Look, I’ve got a great system here. So, just don’t mess with it. Don’t bring your personality and your ideas and all of your complicated humanity into the equation because that just makes my job more difficult, and I just want to see my system run and get things cranked out the other side.” In a way, that’s kind of the whole industrial revolution in action.

Ashley Goodall
You’re exactly right. And that’s almost where it begins. I mean, by the time you’ve thought about Taylorism and you thought about Henry Ford, they’re all about the same era. And there was almost an explicit attempt to purge the humanness from work. And, yet, you look at work today, and most of us aren’t making cars step by step by step. Most of us aren’t at the Bethlehem coal factory, or wherever it was that Taylor was counting people moving wheelbarrows of coal backwards and forward. That’s not most work for most people most of the time.

We are talking about a world where our edge at work is innovation and creativity and collaboration across enormous complexity, using technologies that are more and more and more complex and sophisticated and incomprehensible by any single person, and all around the world with people, we sometimes know very well and sometimes we hardly meet at all. You can’t thrive in that if you think that the essence of a human being is a problem, not in fact the only thing that you have going for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Well, Ashley, tell me, any key things you want to mention before we quickly hear about a couple of your favorite things?

Ashley Goodall
Gosh, I think we’ve covered a lot. I suppose the one thing that we did, the one thing maybe we didn’t talk about a lot is, “Where do these lies come from?” And it’s interesting to talk about Ford and talk about Taylor. Some of the old lies start out as a small good thing, which then turns into a big bad thing when we make it into a system.

So, I suppose one of the morals of the book might be beware of systematizing stuff. And when anyone comes to you and says, “Can we scale that?” be very, very cautious because sometimes in scaling something, you wring the human essence out of it altogether. The best example I can think of that’s in the book is this idea of goals.

And, of course, we’re all very familiar with goals, and we’ve all had the experience where we set our self a goal about something we want to do, and it’s very helpful. And so, you go, “All right, goals. If I set one for myself voluntarily, that’s a useful way of expressing how I want to get stuff done in the world and what I value.” But then, of course, what we do is we go, “Well, if it’s good for one, it’s good for many.” And we’ll turn it into a goal cascade and, all of a sudden, you’re being told to set goals, and you’ll also being told what sorts of things go in them.

And in taking the beautiful, precious thing of “Ashley and Marcus set out to write a book because they felt they needed to express some ideas in the world”, and turning that into “There’s a great big cascaded-goal system, and Ashley is down at the bottom of it, and he’s got to fill in a form”, you lose everything that is valuable about the first sort of goal by turning into a sort of cascaded goal.

And there are other examples in the book of things that start out really small and really local and beautiful and well-intentioned, but then by the time we’ve turned them into a system, we’ve taken all the goodness out.

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

Ashley Goodall
I came across this one years ago, and if you hear rustling, I’m just going to grab my book of Richard Feynman. And Richard Feynman, I’m sure your listeners will know, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, but also, towards the very end of his life, was asked to put his feet in the inquiry into the Columbia, the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle Challenger. And as he went through the inquiry, and he pushed deeper and deeper into the workings of NASA, or at the time, he found a lot of cases where people were assuming that something would work a particular way because they really wanted it to, and they were turning away from the evidence, and were sort of buying their own PR, if you like.

And when the Challenger Report was published, he asked to write his own appendix, which people can go look up today. And if anyone is after a wonderful, wonderful, super rational, detailed, humble evidence-based analysis of something that’s happened in the world, go and read Richard Feynman’s appendix to the Challenger Report, and he ends it with a sentence that I have always adored, “For a successful technology,” he says, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Nature cannot be fooled.

And it connects to some of the ideas in the book because what we’re trying to do is, we’re saying, “Look, this is what the evidence is.” And the evidence doesn’t care whether you believe it or not. The facts don’t care whether or not who believes in them. They’re just going to hang around being facts. Nature will not be fooled. So, if we’re smart, we figure out what’s knowable about the world and build on that. We set aside our misconceptions and we reject the lies.

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

Ashley Goodall
I have, for years and year and years, I’ve used a particular propelling pencil. How funny is that?

Pete Mockaitis
Propelling?

Ashley Goodall
A propelling pencil, you know, an automatic pencil.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ashley Goodall
And I got it a few years ago. When I annotate a document, which I do a lot when I’m writing, I like to scribble on it by hand, and for some reason I’ve always liked to do that in pencil. It feels, to me, a little less judgmental than ink.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re not ready.

Ashley Goodall
Exactly. Pencils work on planes. Pencils don’t explode in your pocket if you take them on a plane, so they’re practical. But I’ve just always loved this particular pencil. And, actually, the one I have right now is the second identical one I had because I lost one, and I had lost one on a trip. And the second I got home, I went straight to the store and just bought exactly the same pencil again because I can’t live without it. So, there you go, my automatic pencil.

Pete Mockaitis
You got me so intrigued. What is the make and model of this pencil?

Ashley Goodall
Well, I think it’s German or Swiss. It’s Graf von Faber-Castell, and it is just this little beautiful…I mean, it’s a good question for a podcast, isn’t it? How would you describe a pencil to somebody who can’t see it? And so far, I’ve managed to say it’s a pencil and it’s silver.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s awesome.

Ashley Goodall
And it’s propelling. And it’s Swiss or German. I don’t know. I guess we’ll finish up being lame and saying we’ll look it up online. But that’s the one that fits my hand. I like the way it works beautifully. And I can’t live without it.

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

Ashley Goodall
So, if they’re interested in the book, the book is available on Amazon right now, anywhere books are sold. If they want to connect with me, I’d love to connect with anybody on LinkedIn, and there’s a bunch of us having a whole bunch of fun and debate over there on some of the ideas that we’ve talked about today.

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

Ashley Goodall
My final challenge would be don’t short-sell you. You’re awesome. Figure out how to share that with the world because we need you to.

Pete Mockaitis
Ashley, thank you. This has been such a treat. I wish you lots of luck with your book, the “Nine Lies About Work,” and all your other adventures.

Ashley Goodall
Pete, thanks so much.