Tag

Self-Awareness Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

657: How to Stop Drifting and Start Directing Your Career & Life with Andy Storch

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Andy Storch says: "Nobody cares more about your career than you do."

Andy Storch discusses why professionals often feel lost in their careers—and how you can find your direction.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three mental shifts that turn challenges into opportunities 
  2. The ultimate tool for resolving your hardest decisions 
  3.  The subtle ways we waste time—and how to stop 

 

About Andy

Andy Storch is an executive coach, consultant and facilitator specializing in helping clients turn strategy into action and results. He helps leaders accelerate and grow their success through measurable improvements in their business and careers. Just as important, he helps them become the happiest, healthiest, most fulfilled versions of themselves. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Andy Storch Interview Transcript

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

Andy Storch
Pete, thank you so much for having me back on. I am flattered, I’m honored, I’m a big fan of yours and everything you do, and I’m excited to be back on here to talk with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, I’m excited to be talking with you. Now, boy, a lot has changed in the last two and a half years since we recorded an episode. And for you, in particular, you’ve dealt with an extra dose of changes and you seem to be holding up masterfully. So, could you give us a bit of the life update and sort of a little bit about how your mindset and how you’re thinking about things?

Andy Storch
Sure, yeah. Over the last year, I faced many challenges like many of your listeners and people you network with. At the time, early in 2020, my whole business was selling and running in-person training programs, I was flying all over the country and the world. And, of course, that got completely shut down by COVID, and I made some pivots in my business last year. I wrote and published a book which we’ll be talking about.

And around the time that I published my book in November of 2020, I was also diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was a complete surprise, not something I was planning on at all. I ended up having surgery two days after I published my book, and then spent December and January trying some different treatments, and basically on the couch, unable to work, and then started chemotherapy in January.

And you and I are recording this in March, it’s been a couple of months of treatments. There had been some really hard days, some ups and downs. I’m feeling pretty good now as I’ve gotten through a lot of it. And, yeah, mindset is something I was already big on going into this. In fact, I have a chapter in my book about the importance of having the right mindset, and it’s something that’s helped me get through this.

And I would say, to take it a step further, taking responsibility for everything that’s going on, accepting what I can’t control, focusing on the best path forward, and spending a lot of time focusing on gratitude, which is hard to do sometimes when you feel like everything is horrible. You feel horrible, you can’t walk, and you just feel nauseous and terrible, but I remind myself and I remind others that no matter how bad things seem, no matter what the challenges you’re going through, and we all have challenges, we always have things to be grateful for, reasons to be grateful, and that gratitude has helped me a lot. I write down in my journal my gratitude every single day.

The other thing that helped me, from mindset perspective, was remembering the nature of impermanence. So, that’s something I learned about through my time of meditation and mindfulness over the last few years. And a certain phrase that I learned from a friend of mine, that I kept in mind, when I was going through the worst of the treatment on those days where I just felt absolutely horrible, that hating life feeling, I can’t believe it’s this bad.

And I remember this phrase, I recite it often, which is, “This is how it is right now.” And that just kind of reminded me that, “I am going through this right now but it’s not going to be like this forever, and I’m going to accept the situation for what it is right now. I’m going to get through this. Tomorrow will be a better day.” And, sure enough, it almost always was. There were some days that were absolutely horrible, but then things would get better. Like today, I feel pretty good and a lot of that stuff is in the rear view, and we just keep moving forward day by day knowing that there are going to be challenges but we will get through them, possibly come out stronger. That’s my plan.

And I don’t know why this happened for me but I know it does create opportunities for me to share more of my story to inspire people and help people who may be going through similar challenges. And I know there will be plenty of those who come after me, and so I’m always happy to share my story. I’ve been sharing a lot on social media and on my podcast so people know what’s going on, and also to know that, hey, if I can get through this stuff, you can get through whatever challenge you’re dealing with right now, especially with that focus on gratitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for sharing that. And, yes, that is inspiring, just how you’re handling things. And I heard you even say, “I don’t know why this happened for me,” and then your Chapter 13 is called “Mindset Is Everything.” And that’s one of the distinctions you talk about there. So, I’d actually like to start with mindset and then rock and roll throughout the book. So, tells us about that phrase, “something happens for you,” as opposed to “to you.”

Andy Storch
Yeah, it’s a simple but a very big flip and switch in your mindset. It’s this idea of going from everything in life happens to you, to everything in life happens for you. And the “to you,” I see that as more of the victim mindset. In other words, “I’m waiting for things in life to happen to me,” “My boss did this to me,” “That person cut me off in traffic,” “Someone said something not nice to me,” “You made me angry,” or, “You made me happy,” instead of taking full responsibility and seeing everything in life as an opportunity.

So, from going from “everything in life happens to me,” to “everything in life happens for me.” When you believe everything in life happens for you, then you start to see the silver linings, you start to see the opportunities that come up. And so, I started even a couple years ago using that language and trying not to say that anything is happening to me or that this happened to me. Instead, I get to do this and this happened for me.

By the way, that’s another great switch you can make in your language. Stop using the phrase “I have to.” Like, “Oh, I have to do this podcast interview with Pete today.” No, “I get to do this podcast interview with Pete,” just like I get to go through cancer and I get to go through chemo instead of “I have to.” And that is simple, it’s a small switch but it flips in your mind, and you start to see everything in life as an opportunity as almost something that you’re choosing to do.

And most of what we do, we do choose to do, and I think a lot of people don’t realize it. They say things like, “Well, I have to go to work,” “I have this commute because I have to go to that place,” or, “I have to go to this meeting.” And the truth is if you live in most countries in the world, you have free will, you have the opportunity, you are making choices every day. You are choosing to go to work at that company that you work for. You are choosing to do the job that you’re doing. You could walk away and do something else if you wanted to. I’m not saying it’ll be the best option if you don’t like your job but you are making a choice.

And when you’re honest about that, then you start to realize that you have more control and ownership in your life than maybe you thought. And the whole idea behind this is I want people to take more ownership, to take more initiative, and be more intentional with what you’re doing and what you’re saying.

And when you’re honest with yourself about what you get to do and you’re able to make the switch and take that ownership mindset, it’s a lot easier to then turn challenges into opportunities by saying things like, “I get to go to this job,” “I get to deal with cancer right now.” Well, why? I don’t know. It’s not what I would’ve chosen but I get to do it and it gives me the opportunity to share my story and, hopefully, inspire and help more people when I’m done.

Pete Mockaitis
And I really like that notion about the “have to” because usually that’s not true. And I’m thinking about the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which is awesome. And it says, “Most often behind the ‘have to’ is a ‘because.’” Like, “I choose to do this because I don’t want to get fired.”

Andy Storch
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And, in a way, that’s still pretty coercive. It’s like if it’s all or nothing like that, and most things aren’t. If it’s all or nothing like that, it’s still your choice. It’s like, “Well, I could choose to not comply with these things and not have this job anymore or I could continue doing this.” So, your “have to” is still a choice even if it’s kind of a narrow coerced choice.

Andy Storch
Yeah. Another one that people do all the time that I think is a big switch, when you’re willing to be honest with yourself and others, is when people say, “I don’t have time to do that,” or, “I wish I could work on that project but I don’t have time,” or, “I would’ve stopped by your happy hour but I didn’t have time.” And the truth is you always have time to do anything you want. It’s just that you chose to do something else. And that choice may have been because you had a project that you felt you needed to get done, otherwise you’d get fired, or it may be just that you chose to go do something else.

Let’s say you invited me on this podcast and I said, “Oh, Pete, I’m sorry, I don’t have time,” or I asked to come on and you said, “Sorry, we don’t have time,” you really do have time. What you’re saying is, “I don’t see the value in having you on or coming on the show because I’m choosing to do something…”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, relative to my alternatives, it’s not valuable.

Andy Storch
Exactly, “I’m choosing to do something else during that time,” when you’re honest with yourself. Now, the hard thing is to be honest with other people because, when they invite you to something and you say, “I can’t come,” which is not true. What you really mean is, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to come because I’m choosing to go somewhere else,” that can sound kind of bad so you go to pick your battles but it really is about being honest, at least with yourself. And I think that also changes a lot because it brings a lot of awareness to how you are prioritizing your time, which allows you to think more about how you could be spending your time to maybe achieve more of your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s get right to the heart of that issue then in terms of you mentioned defining your unique purpose is, in fact, the ultimate productivity tool. So, I love productivity tools. Tell us, how do we get to that unique purpose?

Andy Storch
I know you do, Pete, and I know you’re all about helping people be awesome at their jobs. In the book, I talk about the importance of setting a vision and getting clarity on where you are going with your career and with your life. No one’s going to hold you to that. Things always change. You never know exactly what’s going to happen down the line, but the more clarity you have on where you’re going, the easier it is to make decisions when they come up, whether you get laid off or someone offers you a new job or a business opportunity or something like that. These decisions become easier when you have clarity on where you’re going, and then you use that to set the goals for accomplishing and achieving that vision.

But when we set big goals, if you are an ambitious person, like you and I, you know that challenges are almost always going to come up, some things are going to try to get in your way. And that’s where I think being connected to your purpose, understanding your why behind that goal and behind why you’re doing anything and everything can be that really motivating factor to help you get through things.

And the way you find that purpose and you connect to that purpose is through a lot of self-reflection. At least for me, it’s asking that question why over and over again, “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” “Why do I want to get that promotion?” “Why do I want to move into finance?” “Why do I want to achieve financial freedom?” or, “Why do I want to travel with my family?” Any goals, “Why do I want to lose weight?” or “Why do I want to pay off my debt?”

Whatever goals you have, asking yourself why and really getting honest and deep with it because, what I’ve noticed over time, and this is part of I talk about people drifting and operating in reaction mode, in the book, is that a lot of people are setting goals based on other people, based on things that they see out there on social media, or what their friends are doing. And when you truly set goals based on your own values and your own priorities, and connect with your own purpose for what’s driving you to do those things, you become a lot more motivated to go out and achieve those things and to overcome those challenges.

When you’re trying to lose weight and you set a goal to go to the gym three or four times a week, you need a good purpose behind that because challenges are going to come up, somebody is going to invite you to happy hour, work is going to run long, you’re going to feel tired one day and not feel like going to the gym. But when you have that purpose, “I want to have more energy to play with my kids, and I want to be around for a long time,” that’s the driving why behind your goals that’s going to give you more motivation to go out and overcome challenges to achieve those things.

You can also get ideas from other people as far as purpose is concerned, and then get feedback from people around you as well. So, in the book, I mentioned an interview I did with my friend Travis Jomer who used to run purpose programs in the organization where he worked where people would go to a workshop to discover their personal purpose, and then they’d go around and spend several days running that by other people, their colleagues in the company, and get feedback on that.

So, I might say, “Pete, my purpose,” and this is my life purpose that I recite every day, by the way. My life purpose is to love and support my family to continue to grow and improve, to model a healthy and intentional lifestyle and add value to the world. You could give me feedback on that, and say, “Well, I know you, Andy, and I don’t really see you doing those things,” or, “Could you give me a little bit more clarity on this one thing?” or, “Tell me more about this. Maybe you could hone it down a little bit more,” or you could say, “I love it.” But either way, if I get feedback from you, I might be able to hone it down and improve it a little bit more.

And then come back to that purpose on a regular basis. Write it down. Recite it as an affirmation, as I do mine every day, and it can be a really motivating factor in everything you do, just like mine has been for me, both with achieving big goals like publishing a book, and getting through cancer and making sure that I’m still there for my family and I’m still doing the things that I know are going to help me be happier and more successful in the long term.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, part of arriving at that, you need purposes, is bringing in feedback from other people. And then, I’m curious, prior to that, how did you land upon yours as you’ve articulated it?

Andy Storch
Well, to be honest, the initial spark of the idea came from hearing a couple other people talk about theirs, one of whom was Hal Elrod who wrote the book The Miracle Morning. I borrowed some of my affirmations from his when I started developing those. And hearing him, I think on a podcast once, even talk about his purpose, and then thinking through, “Okay, what do I want mine to be? I see what he’s doing, I see what other people are doing with theirs.”

And a lot of it also came from, going back to that self-reflection, what really motivates me. And what I realized in really reflecting on my life, especially throughout my 20s when I really felt like, looking back, was really drifting, I was having fun but I wasn’t really progressing, I was happy but I wasn’t truly happy.

And what I realized is, after college, I stopped learning, I stopped growing. And then when I got into my 30s later, and I got into personal development and I started investing in myself and reading more and learning and taking courses and going to workshops, I felt so much happier and more fulfilled. And I realized that growth has to be a big part of my purpose because it’s a driving factor for me. So, that’s something I built in that I must always be learning and growing.

And I’ve realized, through my own self-awareness and through reflection, that that’s something that’s a driving factor for me – growth and contribution. And it may be for other people, it might be something different for other people, but that reflection is so critical, I think, to really developing that purpose and understanding why you live the way you live, what truly makes you happy and fulfilled, and what’s driving you and going to help you go forward and achieve your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Well, so we’ve already got into a number of the key ideas inside your book Own Your Career, Own Your Life: Stop Drifting and Take Control of Your Future. Let’s talk about this. This title almost feels like it’s two topics, two podcast interviews – owning one’s career and owning one’s life. Tell us, what’s the same versus different when we’re going about owning each of these domains?

Andy Storch
Yeah, it’s a good point. And I often describe the book as a personal development book disguised as a career development book. So, for those listening, if you’re looking for straight career development with interview help and things like that, it’s not all in there. This is a lot more personal development.

Where the overlap is this idea of being really intentional with how you’re spending your time with the goals you set, with how you go and achieve those things, getting help along the way, and going after and achieving the goals that you want in your career, and not operating in reaction mode, waiting for other people to tell you what to do, doing the things just because you think society deems it, “I should be watching sports or Netflix,” or, “I should spend my time doing these things,” when you might really want to be doing something else.

And then, for your career, that’s where I really dive into how do you set yourself up for future success. The middle section of the book that kind of bridges the two is about planning for the future or owning your future, controlling your future, whatever you want to call it, by doing things like investing in continuous learning, building a network and building a personal brand. All those things are going to help you in your career but they’re going to help you in your life as well.

And then, on the life side, of course, talking about the importance of things like investing in your health, getting enough sleep, getting exercise, eating right, things like that, that are going to serve you well in your life, but I think they will also serve you well in your career as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And I’m intrigued, when it says, the subtitle, “Stop Drifting and Take Control,” I think that word drifting is resonant, that many people feel they’re adrift or they’re currently drifting or they’ve had seasons in which they’re drifting. What’s behind the drift? Where does it come from and what do we do about it?

Andy Storch
Yeah, I was worried, to be honest, that would offend people or people wouldn’t realize they are.

Pete Mockaitis
“How dare you?”

Andy Storch
I know. Hey, I’m a friendly guy. I shy away from conflict but I do want to wake people up. And I’ve been there myself. As I mentioned, I was drifting through much of my 20s. I had a lot of friends, I had a decent job, but I was going up partying every night, I was watching a ton of sports, and there’s nothing wrong with those things, but I realized, after the fact, that they weren’t moving me forward, they weren’t helping me in my career, they weren’t helping me achieve my goals, and they weren’t contributing towards my growth or my fulfillment.

And I’d rather, now that I realized those things, I’d much rather be having a conversation with someone like you, investing in a course or a mastermind group or reading a book and learning than watching football and baseball all day. And, again, nothing wrong with those things if that’s how you choose to spend your time, but I want people to realize that how they’re spending their time can have a big impact on their life. And a lot of things we do are not really moving us forward. They’re just kind of static exercises that we’re often doing because we think, “Well, that’s what we need to do. That’s what society tells us to do.”

And this originally came from a book by Napoleon Hill that was all about drift. It was written some 80 years ago and it’s still resonant today as it was back then, the idea that the devil gets hold of us through drifting, through people just spending too much time drinking or smoking or watching TV or doing things that really don’t move them forward versus being really intentional with their lives and being intentional with how you’re spending your time and where you’re going and what you’re doing.

And I think this comes also down to you being honest. And I’m sure you’ve come across this all the time, Pete. You work with a lot of people in the professional world, successful and not successful, whatever, people who say things like, “Well, family is the most important thing to me,” but they’re working 60, 80 hours a week and then spending all day Sunday watching football. Again, nothing wrong with those things. It’s just about being honest with who you are, what’s important to you, and how you’re spending your time.

And does that time, how you’re spending your time, actually match up with what you say or your values and your priorities and what the most important things are to you? Or, are you spending your time doing other things? And do you need to maybe make some adjustments, kind of wake up, stop drifting, like I said, and take control of your future by being a lot more intentional with your actions and how you’re spending your time?

Pete Mockaitis
What’s interesting to me is some of those drifting examples you shared in terms of watching sports, watching Netflix, drinking, smoking, in some ways, I guess the theme I see there is it may be sort of societal messaging that these things are cool or fun or what to do. I think it also can be that those are some of the easiest ways to just sort of push the pleasure button. I might add video games into that mix as well.

Andy Storch
There’s lots of things you can add in there. Even like reading romance novels all days. Some people might say reading is superior to watching TV but you’re still just kind of spending your time doing something that doesn’t really advance you in any way. And society, we as men, especially, Pete, and I always hate to generalize, but men are supposed to be into sports and watch every tournament and championship game. The commercials tell us that. But we don’t have to live that way, we don’t have to do that.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with those things. And I spent all my 20s watching sports like 24/7. I was a huge, huge fan. And now, looking back, I realize that I gained almost nothing from that. And the funny thing is, what I always joke about now is that you could spend six hours or four hours on a night watching a basketball game or a football game and I can skip it and check the score and spend 30 seconds reading the recap the next day, and you and I have the same exact amount of information. So, you can save yourself a lot of time just by scanning the headlines.

You could be spending that time learning something or making progress in your career, working on a goal, working on a new project, spending time with your kids, with your spouse, with friends. There are so many things you could be doing that I think would contribute so much more happiness and fulfillment to your life than watching sports.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, there’s a theme there associated with it’s the easy thing, it’s the messaging you’ve heard elsewhere. It’s just sort of the rut that you’ve been into. It might give you a bit of a dopamine hit here and there but it seems like you’re really saying, “Well, let’s elevate the perspective and evaluate how we’re spending time in these ways,” in terms of the better criteria are not so much those but rather, “Is it advancing me into where I want to go and who I want to become?”

And what are some of the other key questions or criteria you use to evaluate whether something is a great or okay or bad use of time?

Andy Storch
Yeah. So, does it connect with your values? And this would require you to probably go do a values exercise. I’m not an expert on this but you can go Google values exercise. There are tons of them available out there and, usually, it involves looking at a lot of different words, and then eliminating and narrowing it down to the top five, and saying, “Hey, what are the most important things to me?” And that helps guide you in making decisions and how you spend your time.

The easy example is if you say health is one of the most important things to you. When 5:00 o’clock rolls around, you’re planning on going to the gym and your friends invite you to happy hour, what do you do? Do you go to happy hour or you go to the gym? There’s no right or wrong answer but if your value is that health is one of your most important things, you’d probably go to the gym. Whereas, if socializing or connection is one of your most important values, you’d probably go to happy hour and hang out with your friends, or get on that Zoom happy hour during a pandemic.

So, think about understanding your values and your purpose, which we talked about earlier, and then figuring out what are those goals, what are those things you want to achieve both professionally and personally. Is it a promotion? Is it moving from finance into marketing, or doing something different with your career? Is it starting or running a side business, maybe starting a podcast, you want to be cool like Pete, or maybe it’s losing weight, or getting a second degree, or learning another language?

And it’s easy to put those things off because you get sidetracked with some of those drifting activities we talked about, whether it’s watching TV or sports or whatever it is. And thinking about how you’re spending your time and being honest with how you spend your time.

And then, going back to the mindset piece, the mental bandwidth, we talked about that ownership mindset. The other thing I would say is when you focus your energy on things that are within your control and you try not to spend too much time worrying or thinking about things outside of your control, you can also get a lot more done.

We just came off of a very long and contentious election cycle here in the United States, and so many people spend all this time thinking about the election and who’s going to win, and the other people that don’t believe the thing that I believe, and yet there’s really almost nothing you could do about it other than casting your vote on that one day, which, honestly, takes like an hour or less.

The rest of the time, we’re spending all this time worrying about something that is outside of our control and there’s really nothing we can do about it so we’re much better served focusing on things in our control, like our job, our career, our business, our family, connecting with friends, working on that goal, learning that new language, whatever it may be that’s going to make you happier than focusing your time watching CNN all day wondering what’s going to happen with the election.

And I’m not saying I don’t get sucked into those things from time to time, especially in an election cycle, but I try to avoid it as much as possible because I know I have a very limited amount of time and I want to spend that doing important things that are going to move me forward in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s an interesting perspective and it sounds very simple and maybe almost obvious but it rings true, and I think it’s easy to forget or ignore. What you said there is that the more time we spend on things within our control, the better. And that sounds right. And I wonder if you have a good study on it, I love those, because I think it’s true, that the more we spend time on the here and now, the happier we feel. And I think, likewise, it adds up that the more you spend time on what you can control, maybe the more meaning or fulfillment or excitement is in your life. What do you think here?

Andy Storch
I think it leads to a lot more happiness and fulfillment because when you’re spending your time thinking about things outside your control, that’s when people get really anxious, they experience a lot of anxiety, worry. People spend a lot of time worrying about either things that happened in the past or things that might happen in the future, when you have no control over those things. You could be spending your time focused on the present, as you mentioned, which is the only thing that we can control, as how we act in the present, what we think and how we react to things in the present moment.

We can’t control the things that might happen in the future, and we certainly can’t change anything that happened in the past, but we can do things today to help set us up for success in the future. We can do things today to help influence our future, but we can’t do anything about a thing in the future. I heard a quote a long time ago that I loved, that, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives us something to do but it doesn’t take us anywhere.” And we really are not getting anywhere by worrying about those other things that are outside of our control. And this is not easy, by the way.

I’m not saying you can just flip a switch and stop worrying about stuff that might be coming that are outside of your control. Like, if your company announces that, “Hey, we might be downsizing in a couple of months or something,” of course, you’re going to worry that your job might be eliminated, but I’m saying that the more that you can limit the time that you spend worrying about that and focus on what you can do today, which that might include making sure that your boss understand the value that you contribute in your role in your organization.

It might be starting to build your network or honing up your resume, calling a recruiter, going and talking to some people, and looking at future job opportunities, not sitting around waiting and worrying, “What happens if I get laid off?” Start taking action today, things you can do in the present moment that will help set you up for future success.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lovely. Well, we’ve talked about big picture things. Andy, could we zoom in, before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things, about just a few tactics like, “Oh, boy, here’s a quick trick or script or key question that makes a load of difference when it comes to owning your career and owning your life”?

Andy Storch
Yeah. One of those is investing in continuous learning. The days of relying on getting that college degree and then working for the next 40 years are gone. I think we can all agree easily on that. The future of work, work is changing all the time. Jobs that exist today, there are a lot of jobs that exist today that didn’t exist 20 years.

Pete, you probably have a podcast producer and editor. That job didn’t exist 20 years ago. There are tons of social media managers out there, that job didn’t exist 20 years ago. And that means jobs are going to change again in the next 10, 20 years, and the job you do today might not exist. You’ve got to be learning all the time to help you get better at your job and prepared for things that come up.

If you’re listening to this podcast, I’m not preaching to the choir, you are listening because you want to learn and better yourself, that’s why you follow Pete and listen to this podcast, of course. And, hopefully, you listen to others, you read books, you take courses, you hire coaches, things like that, because all of those things can be really helpful, as well as formal education.

The next thing is building your network. Nothing has been more critical to my success over the years than having a strong network, having relationships with lots of different people. Every opportunity I’ve gotten in my career has come through my network and through relationships. And you can be doing that whether we’re in a pandemic, in a virtual world, or in-person world, there are plenty of opportunities to do that by attending virtual summits, getting active on LinkedIn, reaching out to people inside and outside your organization on a regular basis to have virtual coffees, get to know each other sessions, and just chatting with people and find out what they’re working on.

Look for opportunities to give value and contribute and help other people around you because I believe karma is real. It does come back to you when you do that. And so, you can get really practical and tactical with that by saying, “Hey, I’m going to reach out to three new people a week,” especially if you have a specific goal, like, “I want to move from finance into marketing.”

Start reaching out to people who work in marketing. Build your network in that space. Make those connections. Ask them questions. Learn about how they get to where they did, learn about the mistakes they made, the things they made, they did, what helped them become more successful. And that’s going to lead to you being more successful. It might lead to job offers. You have no idea what might come from that.

And then the third piece that I mentioned there is building your personal brand. And a lot of people believe a myth that if you just do a good job of your job then you’ll be rewarded and promoted, when the truth is people often are rewarded based on their reputation, not on the job, the quality of the job that they do, or they did. And you’ve probably seen this a lot, Pete, as well. Reputation is huge. It’s everything.

And a personal brand, I talk about a personal brand or professional brand, it’s nothing more than your reputation amongst your colleagues, your peers, out in the marketplace. And the interesting thing about the personal brand and the reputation is that, whether you do anything about it or not, you have a reputation. So, I always say you might as well be intentional about building that. And I always recommend being authentic. I never want anybody to be inauthentic in their personal brand or the reputation they’re building.

But think about how you’re showing up at work, the types of projects you take on, the way you collaborate with others, the way you work with others. Are you easy to work with? Do you easily get along with? Are you difficult to work with? And then, do you put any content on social media? Do you post anything on LinkedIn? Do you go interact with other people’s posts, comment on things, send messages, connect with others? All of those things can contribute to your reputation and your personal brand and can help you get that next job that you might want, or that promotion. A lot of it comes down to the brand and the reputation that you’re building. And so, there’s a lot of things you can do on a regular basis to help set you up for success in that area.

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

Andy Storch
No, I think that’s it. We’ve covered so much great ground. It’s really about being intentional with your actions, being honest about how you’re spending your time, and remembering that nobody cares more about your career than you do so you’ve got to be the one to kind of take the reins to set your vision, set your goals, connect with purpose, and start doing the things that I talked about to set you up for future success and take control of your future.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, Andy, when you say that line “no one cares more about your career than you do,” I chuckle a little bit because, well, it’s so true kind of on the inside about how you feel about your own career. But I see it on the outside because, hey, I’ve got the show, I love talking about this kind of stuff. Nonetheless, when I’m in a meeting and people start introducing themselves, and they give me like a three-minute kind of a career story, “Well, I did a stint in marketing and then I went and came back to operations.” I don’t know about you but I’m just so bored.

Andy Storch
Like, “Why should I care? Why is this relevant to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
They just give me a theme, just like, “Hey, man, I’m the guy who always has the wild ideas, whether I was in marketing when I did this, or manufacturing when I did, or finance when I did that.” I was like, “Okay, got you.” But you see, I don’t know, I kind of understand what your thing is as opposed to just a chronology of things. Maybe I’m just…

Andy Storch
No, but it’s true. And you’re not going to care as much as they do about that career that they did. By the way, if you’re lucky, you might have a manager who cares a lot about your career, and a lot of people have…your mom probably cares a lot about you and your career, but nobody really cares as much about your career as you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, certainly. And I think that the “what you can control” side of that is, “Therefore, go ahead and take some big action to rock and roll because most other folks won’t.” Maybe friends, family, love ones, manager can nudge, but maybe not. So, seize the reins. All right. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Storch
One that resonated with me recently was from Albert Einstein, which is “Try not to be a person of success but try to be a person of value.” And the reason that resonated with me recently because I feel like, especially as you’re building a career and we’re in this tumultuous world, you see a lot of people out there that are kind of showcasing or talking about how successful they are on social media or wherever it may be.

But if you want to get far, if you want to build a network, or you want to build relationships, if you want to get promoted or find success in a job or career that you’re in, the more you prove to be valuable to the people around you, the more successful you’re going to be in the end because they’re going to want to work with you more, they’re going to want to promote you, they’re going to want to do business with you, they’re going to want to help you. So, when you seek to be more of a person of value than just trying to show that you are successful, not only are you going to be more valuable but you’re going to be rewarded, I think, across the board.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Andy Storch
One of the ones I mentioned in my book is the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It’s kind of changed my life and set me on this trajectory when I got into personal development in 2016. But another book that I love that I probably give as a gift more often than any other book is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

And so, that is kind of like my Bible. It’s a book of 366 quotes from the stoics, each with kind of an explanation for modern times, and I read it every day often with my kids. And, just, it’s always thought-provoking, always gives me things to think about, and helps me reflect in how I want to live my life, and has been really influential for me.

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

Andy Storch
I’m a big fan of the Google Suite. So, I use Docs and Sheets a lot. And I have an assistant who helps me integrate everything in my business to be able to easily share and have everything in the cloud for us to work together on. I’m a big fan of Zoom like anybody else. It became even more important during the pandemic to get on video calls with each other.

The reason I mentioned that, too, is I mentioned the importance of networking. And I think it becomes more important that we become intentional with how we build our network when we’re in a remote and virtual world, especially within your company. You’ve got to reach out to people intentionally. And it’s great to have a video tool like Zoom where you can still get on video with people, you can connect, and it becomes more intimate than just being on the phone. You could build those connections to help you build that network which becomes critical for you later on down the road.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that tends to resonate with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Andy Storch
Well, I already talked about the idea that nobody cares more about your career than you do. Lately, what we talked about at the very beginning of this podcast is about gratitude. And I’ve been sharing a lot of that lately as I’ve been going through my journey, that gratitude really is everything. And when you think about it, and I learned this from going to a Tony Robbins workshop years ago, that when you are fully immersed in gratitude, you really cannot experience anxiety or anger or any negative emotions.

And that’s why I think gratitude is so important, so powerful, that no matter what challenge we are going through, we can always find reasons to be grateful. And it’s also important when you’re an ambitious person. We talked about being awesome at your job, you set big goals, you want to get promoted, you want to do well, whatever it is you want to experience or accomplish. It’s great to have big goals but we never want to tie our happiness to the goal because there are always going to be more goals and it’s almost always going to elude us.

We also want to make sure that we’re enjoying the journey that we’re on, that we are grateful for the things that we have today. We always have things to be grateful for whether it’s family, friends, great weather, a great podcast to listen to like this, anything. You can be grateful for anything, a good cup of coffee, but make sure that you spend time thinking about reflecting on and immersing yourself in gratitude on a regular basis. And I think that tends to lead to a lot more happiness and fulfillment in life.

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

Andy Storch
Well, I’m pretty active on social media. LinkedIn and Instagram, I’m there all the time. I’ve got a couple podcasts, as you mentioned, including the Own Your Career Own Your Life podcast and the book “Own Your Career Own Your Life” which is available on Amazon and everywhere else. And I’ve got some free resources, including the five steps to owning your career, which is available at OwnYourCareerOwnYourLife.com/bonus. So, if you just go to OwnYourCareerOwnYourLife.com/bonus you can pick up all the bonus resources from the book, including five steps to how to own your career.

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

Andy Storch
So, the challenge, the final challenge is, and I have this challenge in the book, it’s the no complaining challenge. If you want to take on an ownership mindset of your life, and you believe that everything happens in life for you and not to you, and you take full responsibility in life, then I challenge you to stop complaining for a day or a week or a month. Some people may not do this already very much. Some people complain all the time and it’s going to be difficult to get away from that.

But I challenge you to stop complaining because complaining, while it feels good in the moment, and it passes the buck or responsibility to somebody else, it doesn’t ever really get you anywhere. So, if you want to take full responsibility, you take responsibility and ownership for everything going on in your life, and you try to eliminate all complaining, if possible, to try to do it for a day or a week, see if that works. And if it does, see if you can last longer. I try to never complain about anything and I find that I’m a lot happier as a result.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Andy, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with the book and your work and your recovery, and keep on inspiring.

Andy Storch
Pete, thank you so much for having me on. I love all the work that you’re doing. It’s been an honor to come on and talk with you and share, and I just really appreciate you having me on.

654: How to Tap Into Your Genius Zone with 34 Strong’s Darren Virassammy

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Darren says: "Be confident in where you sine and where you're blind."

Darren Virassammy shares his expert tips on how to make the strengths work best for you and your team.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How strengths can both be an asset and a liability
  2. The surprising sign of genius
  3. The trick to turn your blind spots into strengths

About Darren

Darren Virassammy is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of 34 Strong, comprised of a team that believes everyone deserves a great place to work and that any workplace can be great. A leading expert in the global employee engagement community, the 34 Strong team leverages the Strengths-Based approach to human development to create massive shifts within organizations, both culturally and on the bottom line. He and his team have created sustainable change in small microbusinesses, all the way up to large organizational teams at the FDA, Bank of America, and The California Department of Public Health. Darren is the co-host of the Leading Strong podcast and the host of The Nature Advantage podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Blinkist. Read or listen to summarized wisdom from thousands of nonfiction books! Free trial available at blinkist.com/awesome
  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease! Save $20 on a $150+ purchase with promo code AWESOME.

Darren Virassammy Interview Transcript

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

Darren Virassammy
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. What an honor to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear about so much of your wisdom. And, first, I want to hear, I understand you recently moved to Barbados. From where? What’s the story?

Darren Virassammy
Okay. So, yes, I am talking to you right now from Barbados. I moved from California, from Sacramento. I am a business owner. I’m the co-founder of a company called 34 Strong. That didn’t dissipate. We’re in a virtual world now so I have relocated here to Barbados. A big part of that story, Pete, was the fact that we wanted to give our kids a chance to live abroad. My family is originally from the Caribbean, from British Guiana, my parents and whatnot.

Barbados had a program called the Welcome Home Stamp, the Welcome Home visa, and that opened up over the course of 2020. Now, the interesting part, Pete, was we made the decision to make a move to the Caribbean in the summer of 2019 before COVID or any of that hit. So, 2020 was going to be the year that we planned on making that move to give the kids a chance to get a different experience, living overseas, looking into the United States, and really appreciating some of the things that we had there, and then getting a different appreciation from a global perspective.

One final piece I will say about that is a big part of that impetus as well was, for me, personally, outside for my family, was I really wanted to step into just leveling up into my strengths as a dad, and stepping into that place. I was personally ready to just shift into an environment like here that was going to force some of that because of some of the connections I had seen with my kids when we had been together on past trips to the West Indies, different islands.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a cool adventure, and so, kudos. You did it and you’re living it and you’re loving it. So, that’s cool. We’re going to talk a lot about strengths here. Can you orient us quickly, your company, 34 Strong, what is it?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, we actually do a lot of work in the space of organizational development and wellbeing. One of the tools that we’ve become very known for is our work with the CliftonStrengths Assessment. We’re helping to define what’s right with team members instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them. And then we really focused on focusing on moving the needle on employee engagement and wellbeing. There’s a loop connection between people’s overall wellbeing in their life, and employee engagement and their engagement in their work. So, we actually work in both those spaces, and we use strengths as a foundational. Foundation is kind of an anchor to build from.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, so we’ve talked about strengths a couple of times on the show and the difference it can make. Maybe, could you paint a picture perhaps by telling a story of just one professional who they were living their career life pre-strengths awareness, and then they came to getting an understanding of their strengths in a profound way, and then saw things take off as a result?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, when we think of playing to our strengths, let me start by giving this caveat. There’s this great question that Dr. Donald Clifton asked. He’s known as the father of the whole strengths-based movement and that perspective and this type of thinking. And he asked this question that ended up guiding his life, Pete, and it was simply, “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” And that guided his whole life’s work.

So, getting to your specific question about how did that create a shift, I’ll never forget early on in 34 Strong’s life cycle, in our career as a company, when we were building it, there was a scenario where there was somebody that was in kind of a managerial role. And they were managing a team, and what started happening, there was these two managers. There was a manager effectively and an assistant manager, and they had to work together. But here’s what had happened.

They got to the place where they were not speaking and hadn’t actually spoken for 18 months. They’d be in meetings together and they literally wouldn’t speak to each other. Talk about toxicity, right? What ended up happening was they both went through the StrengthsFinder process, and the manager went through it. And the reason I started with the question of “What happens when we focus on what’s right with people instead of fixating on what’s wrong with them?” when you talk about strengths, it’s easy to think of, “Oh, let’s just focus on our strengths and ignore our weaknesses.” That actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

We actually become highly aware of where we are strong so we own those elements, and we have to own where our weaknesses show up. And here’s the key caveat. Our strengths can be our greatest assets and our greatest liabilities. This particular manager, Pete, had an awakening. She came to understand that there were things that she was doing that were contributing to how her counterpart was showing up, that was triggering her strengths.

So, it went from this lens of self-awareness to team awareness in terms of how they worked through. She came to an understanding of her own strengths and realized how that might be completely out of alignment with somebody else’s strengths on the team. And then that rippled well beyond just this assistant manager but to other team members as to how she was showing up.

So, a big piece of the puzzle that came here was this awakening of self-awareness in understanding, “How do I show up as I want to so I can be confident in where I shine? And how can I be confident around the areas where I’m blind where I might be stepping into it and not even understanding that?”

Long story short, that relationship synced up and that whole division synced up in the time that took place after that. And there was moving in the direction where it could’ve ended up very, very ugly from an HR perspective. All of that went down by the wayside and actually completely improved the overall performance of that whole division as a result of those two’s relationship falling out.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that is really cool. And so, I remember I’ve got Dodie Gomer, she was a guest on the podcast, and she told a story about she went through some strengths work and one of her top strengths was Positivity. And then she was working with someone who had another strength, I don’t even remember what it was, it might’ve something that was like Skepticism but that’s not one of them. I don’t know.

Darren Virassammy
Maybe Deliberative or Restorative where there’s a natural tendency to ask a lot of questions, like, “We need to prove first,” and going through looking at things from a very risk perspective, or seeing very, very solutions-focused but to get to solutions, have to identify the problem first. But go on.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, the facilitator said, “Oh, so you see the problem with this?” And Dodie said, “Not at all,” which is like, “Your manager thinks you’re full of it. He just doesn’t believe you with that Positivity that’s not kind of vibing or natural for them.” And, sure enough, that was on the money. So, that’s what I think is kind of interesting here is that I think many of us have taken CliftonStrengths or a tool that goes after it. And, listeners, if you haven’t, I just recommend every human do it. It’s great and fun and quick and you learn some things. But so, then once we’ve got sort of our report, “Okay, these are my top five strengths or…”

I went with the whole enchilada, one to 34 all ranked, so I’ve got all of mine. It’s kind of like, “Now what?” I think a lot of people say, “Okay, so my top strengths are Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, Input. Okay, cool, cool, cool.” And then I read a bit about what those words mean and I feel good and I say, “Yeah, I guess that’s kind of right. Okay, that kind of rings true.” So, I’m wondering, how do I go from, “Okay, I’ve got my report,” to, “I am going to build an exceptional career with this as my rock and foundation”?

Darren Virassammy
So, I think that’s a great question. That’s often the question that we come against here, and it’s, “So, what? Now, what?” and that’s a really important question to ask here because we have to switch the lens towards looking at it from, “How do I apply this?” So, some very practical techniques to go through.

There’s an exercise that we utilize at 34 Strong, it’s part of our series that we actually train our managers on, but we actually train staff on it. In fact, as a company, we’re going through this right now for Q1. So, this is how much we believe in it, and that’s everybody in the company. Myself as one of the founders and part of the leadership team, all the way through to every single member of our staff, and it’s a very simple exercise. We call it the triple G. And it’s called grind, greatness, and genius.

So, when we think of our grind, our greatness, and our genius, we have to think these in terms of the respective zones that we show up in here. So, grind, greatness, genius, when we’re thinking about our grind zones, Pete, these are the things that when you think of in your work, in your career just the thought of thinking about these things causes your stomach to go in knots. You get pits in your stomach just thinking about these things, “Oh, my gosh, I have to do these elements,” right?

Now, here’s an important caveat as you’re going through this. Everybody is going to have grind in your work. It’s called work. There’s going to be grind. The goal here is evaluating where your grind zone is, where your greatness, and your genius zones are, and then thinking of ways that we can shift towards spending more time in our greatness and our genius zone. And I speak of this a little bit more wider. If you’ve taken the CliftonStrengths Assessment, your knowledge from that will further deepen by going through this exercise. If you haven’t taken it, this is still a very applicable exercise. And this can, again, for all levels of your career.

The greatness zone, Pete, this is things that you do well. You enjoy doing them. There are some level of enjoyment and you feel pretty strong in it. You can do them really, really well. Now, here’s an important part to understand, and this is, again, whether you’re a leader or whether you’re an employee. You might have strengths that will allow you to get into the greatness zone to where you’re actually really good at doing something that’s actually in your grind zone. So, you’re grinding to do it but when others are looking in, they’ll say, “Pete, but you do such a good job at this,” but you do not love doing it. So, make sure you actually segment those things out. It’s really important for us to do that.

I’ll give you an example of this. For me, personally, in my old job that I had before I started 34 Strong, Pete, I was a senior project manager at a commercial construction company, and I would often get pulled into the fire drill projects where a project had gone sideways. And my thought process was constantly, to the owners of the company, “Hey, instead of having me parachute in and be the firefighter on these jobs to repair client relations and going through, why don’t we spend a little more time training the other project managers on this? I can spend the time doing that.”

And that never became an area of focus. It was constant firefighting that didn’t need to happen. So, I got really good at doing something that I didn’t love. I felt like I would’ve been much better in training and developing people. And then, lo and behold, I started the company that focuses on training and developing people. So, that’s an important distinction to make.

And then, finally, we get to the genius zone. So, when we step into the genius zone, these are the things that you do so well, Pete, and that people can do so well. Oftentimes, you personally might overlook them or be frustrated. This is a very important “or.” Or, be frustrated if somebody can’t do these things. Maybe you’re a person that very naturally, like you were talking about with your strengths, with Strategic, Ideation, you can very rapidly see where things are going.

Oftentimes, for those strengths, they’re sitting in a meeting, they’re sitting in a program, and they’re like, “Okay, I see where this going. Let’s move. Let’s get onto that place.” And many others need to actually catch up in going through. That’s a sign of genius and sometimes our frustrations can be a sign of our genius and the brilliance that we bring.

So, that can be something that we do so well that others come to us, and these are things that we often overlook and say, “Yeah, it’s no big deal. Anybody could do that.” If you ever catch yourself making that statement in any point in your career, I encourage you to pause because you’re overlooking a key area of value that comes to you so naturally that others see it as a huge gift that you’re providing and you’re just overlooking at it as no big deal. That’s a sign of your genius that you have to give.

So, again, grind, greatness, genius, spend some time over the course of a month, make a list of three columns. I think we have a resource on our website as well, 34Strong.com, where you can actually grab one of those, or message us for those and we can send you one of those links to be able to get that. And it’s an exercise that you can actually go through to take some inventory of that and think of that. And that can serve as a framework to start moving and asking yourself, “How can I spend more time in my greatness and my genius zones?” And we can think of ways that we can partner with others who might be in their greatness or genius zone when we’re in our grind zone.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share some other telltale signs for our genius zone? I think the frustration is great in terms of that can tell you something. What are some other indicators that are like, “Aha, this is genius territory”?

Darren Virassammy
So, genius territory is when you feel very energized by doing these things. And, again, it feels like second nature. You’re stepping into doing something, it felt like you have known how to do this your whole life. That’s one of the clues to talent. And there’s a level of not only energy but enthusiasm. After you’ve gotten through it, you want to do it again. You might be tired. At the end of the day, you might be exhausted, and you see this surge that can be rising to do it. You find yourself in positions where there’s third-party validation of excellence. This is not me saying, “Hey, I’m a great singer,” when I’m singing in the shower. It’s like I’m actually singing out where other people are validating that for you when you’re getting that validation.

Here’s another piece, Pete, that I will share. Think of the reasons that people seek you out as a complementary partner. And if you haven’t thought of, “Why is it that people come to you?” ask that question, “What is the value that I do bring?” because oftentimes, again, it’s staring us right in the face. We’re looking at each other right now through a camera, but if we were in person, I wouldn’t be able to see my face, so if I had a big giant mark on my face, I’d hope, Pete, that you’d say, “Hey, you might want to remove that blemish. You’ve got a leaf or something sitting on your face.”

Pete, my point here is, oftentimes, our talent, similarly that genius zone, lies so close to us we cannot see it. So, it’s when we actually seek that out and find out, “What is it that we bring? What is unique about the perspective that we bring?” You talk about your strength of Ideation. Oftentimes, people will come to somebody with the strength of Ideation, and really enjoy digging into things with them because they’re constantly and quickly able to see many, many different ideas, and bring out very, very fresh perspective, and not get stuck in the, “Well, we’ve always done this the same way, so we need to keep doing it that way.” That can be a huge tell for us to really grow in our career and in our job. Again, wherever you’re at in that cycle.

Pete Mockaitis
And let’s talk about, I don’t know if you want to call them weaknesses or lesser strengths or what’s number 33 and 34 on the CliftonStrengths report. For me, it’s consistency and adaptability.

Darren Virassammy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Fun fact. So, what should we do with those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, our bottom five, we like to look at, if you do go through the CliftonStrengths process and you take a look at your full 34 report, you really want to get to a place where you own your top ten and spend the time to understand not how they only exist individually but how they exist collectively. The reason for that is the likelihood of somebody having their top ten in the same order as you is one in six billion.

So, even though, Pete, you and I share Activator, you have Activator, you have Input, you have Ideation much higher. We share Activator and Learner in our top ten, you have those as your top five. But that Ideation that you share, that you have there, that’s a little bit lower for me. That’s not quite as high. I appreciate Ideation but what I’m getting at is the way that Activator and Ideation will pair versus the way that Activator and Self-Assurance might pair, the way that I have those. That’s going to be a slightly different brand of the way that that Activator goes.

So, we want to start in that top ten and understanding that. And that pivots right down to the next phase of understanding, getting into exactly what you talked about, the bottom five. So, we want to explore our bottom five, and here’s the reason why. It’s not to step into the place of deficit thinking. A lot of times, and when I say deficit thinking, we think that our greatest opportunity for growth and excellence lies in focusing in our areas of weakness. That’s not true.

What we’re getting at here is our greatest opportunities for growth and human excellence lie in those top ten. But when we look at the bottom five, what are we inevitably going to have? People that have those in their top ten, those are our blind spots. So, getting to a place where we can understand those strengths, we can also come up with an awareness of, “How do those strengths provide benefit? How can they give rise to the best ideas? How will they balance out my very own gaps of where I’m at to actually create a much stronger outcome overall for the team, for the organization and going through?”

And understanding them is not, again, to the lens to become them but spending the time to dig into that so we can figure out what those needs are, so we can figure out how those can play into a greater good, and, really, bring out the fact that, on teams, our differences can be our greatest advantage that we have.

The analogy I like to give with this is the Golden Gate Bridge. I mentioned to you at the top of our time together is the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ve all seen it, it’s absolutely beautiful, but the cables that keep those two towers standing are pulling in different directions. There’s a little bit of tension that’s there. And the healthy amount of tension is actually what gives rise to the strength of the bridge in and of itself. Much the same way, Pete, that’s what gives rise to the strength of teams where we go from self-awareness, and, “How do I grow in my career?” to, “How I then ripple that to my coworkers that we need to flow, work together, and give the rise to the best ideas?”

And we come to that understanding as opposed to just saying, “This person is difficult.” We start to understand where they’re coming from, what they bring that’s very unique, and that can be an advantage to getting to exactly where we’re collectively trying to go as our outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you share some of those tactical specific adjustments you’d make in your environment and with others to pull that off so more of us are spending more time in the genius zone?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, I love what you said with your bottom one, your 34 is Consistency. Let’s just use that. So, somebody that’s really strong in the strength of Consistency, they’re going to thrive oftentimes in creating and establishing systems and routines that we can rinse and repeat and then going through, and they’re naturally going to think in that sort of capacity.

So, for you, for instance, if you were working with somebody that was very strong in the Consistency strength, and your Ideation, your Strategic, your Activator might move in very different directions, but I might understand, if I’m in your shoes, you might understand, if I’m working with somebody that’s very strong in Consistency and then understanding that, they might have needs that are different than mine.

So, I’ll give you an example of this. Your Ideation might naturally go to a place where it’s going to communicate different ideas. And what we’re searching for is to give rise to the best ideas. We might throw six, seven, eight, ten different ideas on the board, and somebody with Consistency might be listening and saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, which one of these are we doing?” because their brain is not naturally thinking in the context of, “We’re throwing seven, eight ideas on the board to kind of wrestle with them and then see if we could push together and come up with a best idea out of that and maybe it’s not one of those ten. Maybe it’s one that merges together.”

So, when we’re communicating with somebody that might have Consistency high, when we’re looking at potentially disrupting that pattern, we give acknowledgement to the fact that, “Hey, consistency is going to bring the system.” I want a message to you so if I’m you, Pete, I might tell somebody with Consistency, just letting them know, “Right now, I’m in the process of ideating.” I might be very intentional in communicating that up front. So, “We have not landed a consistent place. In fact, the work that we’re doing now is to come up with the idea of what that could look like,” and leading the conversation with that.

Because if not, the way that they’re receiving that information might be through the lens of, “Let’s establish the system right now,” and where you might be at is working through defining what even the relevant ideas might be for the system. In a nutshell, you’re both working towards the same goal but you’re in different places as to where you might show up.

So, in spending the time to be curious not only about just reading the report but if you have somebody on your team that’s strong with that, get curious about them. Ask them, “Tell me more about Consistency. That’s one of my bottom ones. That’s in my bottom five. How does that show up for you? What does that mean to you?”

And learning about that and asking them if they have any specific needs that they feel like they have to be successful. What are the needs that they have to be successful? That might be very different than your need, and that will help you to grow your connection with direct teammates, with people that you manage, or if you’re managing up the chain with understanding what success looks like for them. And that will help you to nurture and strengthen those relationships, and, again, advance in your career as you’re continuing to grow in those techniques.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You know, Shane Metcalf, a recent guest, brought up those perspectives associated with the strengthen and the associated need. Can you say more about that and give us some examples? So, Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, those are some strengths. You say there are some particular needs that are often tied to them. And what might be some examples of those?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. Shane is a great guy. I’ve worked extensively with 15Five and with Shane since 15Five was like a nine-person company, so outstanding human being. Great friends with him. When we think of some of the needs, so you mentioned Activator, I’m going to talk about that particular strength and how it kind of falls into place here.

A need that some strengths might have, and some of these are known as our influencing strengths here, Pete, they might need to verbally process. They might need to, when I say verbally process, for verbal processors, some of our strengths, like Activator, like Communication, like Command, Self-Assurance, Maximizer, those are some of them, they might need to verbally process where they think by talking. So, the talking process is thinking.

Now, here’s the thing that’s fascinating. When we’re listening to somebody that has these strengths, when they’re thinking out loud and going through that process, because those strengths bring with them a certain level of presence to be able to influence others, one of the things that we have to be mindful of, if we have those strengths or if we’re working with somebody with those strengths, is when they’re verbally processing, they might be influencing us. We might be feeling like an Activator creates some urgency, “Gosh, we got to get going. We got to get started on this.” And an Activator might unintentionally be getting things started and getting people going on things when they’re still in the verbal processing phase.

So, if you understand the needs of somebody that might be a verbal processor, my business partner, Brandon Miller, for instance, he is very much a verbal processor. And when we first started 34 Strong, I was very much an Executor so I would hear a story that made sense, I would say, “Hey, we could get this done, we could get this done, we could get that done.”

So, I’d hear what he might’ve been verbal processing, and what did I do, Pete? I went right forward to the task and three days later we’d have a chat, I’d say, “Hey, I got this done, I got this started. We’re moving forward with this,” and he might say, “Why did you get all that started? Why did you do that?” And I’m thinking, “Well, we talked about it,” because in my brain the only reason you talk about something is if you’re going to do it, and that’s where we were missing. And, thankfully, that didn’t cause us to disconnect. We weren’t eating our own cooking and it came to the place of understanding, for him, he’d signal to me, “Hey, Darren, I’m just verbally processing.” So, that was my signal to just allow that to go, allow that process to flow.

And then, for me, if I wasn’t sure if, “Hey, do we need to be moving to task on this?” I could easily ask, and say, “Are you just verbally processing right now or are we getting ready to land the plane right now? Do we want to move to task on this?” That’s just one example there, but those little nuances in understanding those of different team members can be the difference between frustration and acceleration as opposed to having to do things one, two, three, four times and we’re just missing how we actually connect and how people best learn and go forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And that’s one huge win right there in terms of, “Is this a commitment or is this just sort of kind of thinking about some things?” And, folks, their feelings can be hurt, “Hey, I planned my whole day around this thing that we talked about.” It’s like, “Oh, sorry. It was just sort of one option among many.” So, great to zero in on that.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah, I think these are really powerful tools to be able to take advantage of in thinking through in framing our thinking. And I want to let everybody know as well, you can go beyond this in just your work environments. You can take this sort of thinking home. Think of if you do have children or if you have a spouse.

What was really revealing for me, Pete, early on was when my wife and I both got our 34 reports unlocked, and I realized that three of her top five alone were in my bottom five. Everything that I’m talking about of understanding where people are coming from, that made our relationship make so much more sense.

And we’ve even applied this into the vein of parenting with our kids, and there’s a whole platform and push forward for going through that as well and digging into that great book called Incredible Parent. It was released earlier in January, and there’s actually a parenting assessment on strengths as well. And that was written by my business partner Brandon and Analyn Miller. And our whole Barbados story is actually featured in that book as well.

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

Darren Virassammy
So, a favorite quote of mine that I have lived by for a long time, I have so many, but the one that really stands out that’s at the core of the life that we live within 34 Strong is this African proverb, Pete, “If you want to fast, go alone. And if you want to go far, go with others.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Darren Virassammy
So, my good friend, Joseph McClendon, III…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’ve seen him speak with Tony Robbins.

Darren Virassammy
He’s Tony Robbins’ business partner.

Pete Mockaitis
We did some power moves together.

Darren Virassammy
You did some power moves.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if he’d remember me. I was one of thousands.

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, Joseph is actually a dear friend of mine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Darren Virassammy
We share the space of bass playing, and we facilitated some workshops together on future-vision thinking and whatnot with the iconic bass player Victor Wooten, so him and I share that. But the story that he has shared, a study that he talked about was simply this. When he was doing his doctorate of neural science. When he was going through his doctorate in that, there was this stretch of highway in this two-lane road in southern California. And on one side of the road, Pete, there was light poles, telephone poles every hundred yards or 200 yards, whatever it was.

So, what was fascinating to Joseph was accidents would happen on that highway, and frequently over 50% of those accidents would end up with at least one vehicle hitting a telephone pole, which made no sense to Joseph because it didn’t just divot off and there was like these divots that went down. It was flat open dirt and fields.

So, what ended up happening for Joseph was he started doing studies, and he interviewed everybody that survived these, and there was a common theme that emerged, Pete, and it was simply this. Everybody said, “You know, Joseph, the last thing I saw coming at me was a light pole,” and that was it for him.

What happened for him, as he realized, people are what they focus on. They were so focused on not hitting the light pole, they never saw the wide-open fields that were there for them to go through. And that is at the core of a lot of what Joseph has gotten into his teaching as an ultimate performance specialist, and I love that story because you cannot hit what you’re not focusing on. How can you become strengths-based if you’re focusing on your weaknesses?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite book?

Darren Virassammy
Favorite book of mine, there’s many to mention. I love Think and Grow Rich, the classic version by Napoleon Hill. I read it at least once a year and it seems to constantly teach me something new on a personal level, on a life level, and on a business work level each time as well.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Darren Virassammy
I love the CliftonStrengths Assessment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Darren Virassammy
It’s pretty powerful. That’s an obvious one.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Darren Virassammy
One of my favorite habits right now is collaborating with nature. So, I believe that as we become more technologically connected, we become more nature disconnected. And nature has always been a catalyst for human excellence, human innovation, and so much of what we do is tied up in that place. So, I actually talk about that as I explore people just like Joseph McClendon. He was one of my first guests and I interviewed him on my show The Nature Advantage and he shared a lot of his takeaways of how he’s actually used nature to step into his own genius.

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 frequently?

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. So, one of the ones that comes back to me a lot is “Be confidently vulnerable.” And by that, I mean be confident in where you shine and where you’re blind. When we step into the place of being confidently vulnerable, we own who we are and we own who we’re not, and that allows for our self-awareness to grow and our team awareness to grow. That’s at the core of being strengths-based.

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

Darren Virassammy
I would tell them to check out 34Strong.com. You can find me as well on LinkedIn and you can find me at NatureAdvantageShow.com as well, and check out the Leading Strong podcast as well through 34 Strong.

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

Darren Virassammy
Yeah. I say go visit 34Strong.com and there’s a free download that’s right there on the power of setting clear expectations. This can be a valuable tool if you’re in a managerial role. I know with Shane, you talked about the importance of identifying recognition, what are the forms of recognition that people like. It’s just ten simple questions that you can ask of somebody that you’re managing or of a partner that you’re working with to understand their learning styles better, understand how they liked to be recognized, and what success will look like for them. That’s something that you can use immediately and put into work, so take advantage of that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Darren, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you and 34Strong lots of luck.

Darren Virassammy
Thanks a lot, Pete. Really appreciate being on here today. Thanks for the work you’re doing.

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Kathy

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

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Pitney Bowes. Simplify your shipping while saving money. Get a free 30-day trial and 10-lb shipping scale at pb.com/AWESOME
  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome 

Kathy Caprino Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
“Do you have an hour?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say, “Okay…”

Kathy Caprino
“She’s a narcissist.”

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Kathy Caprino
Right?

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beating it, Kathy.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I’m there.

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Does that seem right?

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Read it. Who is it?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s Rica.

Kathy Caprino
That’s who it is.

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

Kathy Caprino
What year was that, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s 2008.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
It’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Do we have seven hours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Right. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Interesting. Interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
It is. It is.

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

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

Kathy Caprino
Really?

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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:

Thank you, Sponsors!

  • Blinkist. Learn more, faster with book summaries you can read or listen to in 15 minutes at blinkist.com/awesome

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.

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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!

  • Empower. Save more money, effortlessly. Get $5 free when you reach your savings goal at empower.me/awesome with the promo code AWESOME

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.